NCAA Football News

2015 RB Recruits Ready to Make Immediate Impact

The leap from high school to college football isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a rare skill set and superior strength—physical and mental. Some star prospects are suited for the sidelines as underclassmen, gradually catching up to the pace and demands of heightened competition.

Here, we focus on a collection of backs who are prepared to hit the ground running at the next level, highlighting athletes who are ready from both a physical and fundamental standpoint. Expect to hear about these rushers early in their collegiate careers.

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Michigan Player's Mom Still Thinks Her Son Was to Blame for Jadeveon Clowney Hit

It's been over a year since  Jadeveon Clowney's explosive hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and one Michigan mom still thinks her son might be to blame.

The mother of Joe Kerridge, who was the Wolverines fullback on the play, still doubts that her son wasn't the one responsible for blocking Clowney on the play.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Irish's 5 Can't-Miss Games of 2014

After finals week ended Friday for Notre Dame students, it won’t be long before the Irish football team returns to campus in June for summer workouts.

The regular season is not far behind, and football is creeping back into the national spotlight with this weekend’s NFL draft.

Looking at Notre Dame’s 2014 schedule, there’s a strong slate of games.

Let’s spotlight Notre Dame’s five most exciting matchups in 2014. The rankings will take into account the quality of the opponent, history with the team, time and location of the game and time of the season.

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An Open Letter to Jim Tressel: Don't Close the Door on Coaching Just Yet

This is a heartfelt message to former Ohio State coach and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel. (Imagine Morgan Freeman is reading it to you. Why, you ask? Because everything sounds better—and is hopefully more convincing—when Morgan Freeman’s reading it.)

 

Dear President Jim Tressel,

Let me start by saying how weird that is to write; I'll get used to it, though.

We’ve never actually met in person, and that’s precisely why I’ve decided to reach out. Not with the hopes of meeting up—I know you’re a very busy man these days and will soon become busier—but because my fandom has company. And the coaching world still needs you.

Before I break into the begging portion of this letter—and beg I shall, unabashedly—I wanted to address some of the comments you recently made. Speaking to Karen Farkas of the Plain Dealeryou provided insight on your future and whether you planned to dabble back into the coaching world.

Your lead-in was lovely. “I did it for 38 years and enjoyed every minute of it,” you said. With your follow-up, however, you melted my smile into a cartoonish frown:

I do not wake up in the morning and say I wish I was coaching. Sometimes I read the paper and say I am glad I am not coaching. But on Saturdays or Sunday afternoons during playoff games it is exciting and I may yell ‘Call a time out!’ But I do not foresee any interest in coaching. I have got more important things to do. Not that it (coaching) is unimportant.

No need to justify your stance by defending your former occupation; you have very important matters to tend to—matters that now impact how a school is run.

As the Executive Vice President for Student Success at Akron, you made a difference in an area you know remarkably well. And now you will be able to make a difference as the President of Youngstown State University.

Youngstown has made it official that you'll be running the show, and I can't imagine what this must be like for you. Then I saw that you popped in on social media to share how you felt about the job with your many fans:

Excited about the opportunity at YSU! It’s all about student success. Going to miss all the wonderful Zips at UA.

— Jim Tressel (@JimTressel5) May 9, 2014

No, you didn’t ascend to the same role at Akron, but clearly you had other options. We here at Bleacher Report applaud your life-after-coaching rise and whatever might be ahead.

With all that said, let’s change subjects.

Please come back.

Don’t say no, at least not right now, and don’t rule out the possibility of coaching somewhere—anywhere, really—down the line. The game needs you—it misses you—and just fathoming the sweater vest being hung up for good is hard to stomach. Then again, so was your exit.

The treatment you received on the way out was nothing short of ridiculous. Given perspective and the current instability of the NCAA, it is even harder to fathom. You protected your players, and yes, you kept some really unimportant matters secret and lied to the NCAA.

You also rigged a raffle earlier in your career, but who hasn’t done that? And if every coach that kept something hidden from the NCAA were forced to retire, well, we would have no football. We also wouldn't have basketball, and the whole sham would be gone as we know it.

These were petty infractions in a system now accustomed to taking gut punch after gut punch. The fact that you still have a five-year show-cause penalty hanging over you until 2016 is incomprehensible.

I can’t blame you for wanting no part in a sport that turned its back on you. I also can’t blame you for wanting no part in a system still being “overlooked” by the NCAA. But by the time 2016 rolls around, things could look mighty different.

The NCAA will still exist, although collegiate athletics will have drastically changed. The people who oversaw and prompted your exit will likely be gone, and you will have your pick at a handful of marquee jobs. (I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, but quality jobs open up pretty much every other week.) 

More important than the nonsense that comes with this sport, however, was the experience. You loved coaching, and it’s clear you loved your players. In fact, one could argue that your protection of them led to your new life away from the field.

This love was reciprocal. The players loved you right back, and the college fan grew to appreciate your coaching style.

It wasn’t flashy—"punty" might be a better term to use—but goodness, was it effective. Your teams were deliberate and downright dominant at times, and your remarkable 229-79-2 record as a head coach speaks for itself.

As good as you are as a university employee—and as effective as you will be as a president—you will never be able to approach just how excellent you were as a head coach. That’s not a knock on your current occupational production; it’s simply pointing out that you were really, really good at your former craft.

It would be a shame to let one domino of unfortunate events derail that entirely. I don’t need a decision now, but think about it over the coming months and years. By then, "coaching" could be a foreign term for you. If that's the case, we wish you nothing but the best.

Keep us in mind, at least. The game will be waiting—with opportunities aplenty—and your services will be desired. The door is always open.

Also, have you seen some of the coaching salaries lately? You could buy a lot of quality vests and vest accessories with that.

See you soon—hopefully.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

1-on-1 with Former Alabama QB Greg McElroy on SEC Network, Title Races and More

ATLANTA — The talent roster for the SEC Network is currently being filled, and one member of the on-air team when the network launches on Aug. 14 will be a familiar face.

Greg McElroy, former Alabama quarterback and recently retired signal-caller for the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, was announced as a college football analyst for the network on March 24.

What will his new role be? How is he adjusting to his new life in front of the camera? How does he think the SEC will shake out in 2014?

Bleacher Report caught up with McElroy prior to an Alabama alumni event at Hudson Grille in midtown Atlanta.

 

Bleacher Report: How excited are you to join the SEC Network, and what do you feel will be its strong points when it launches?

Greg McElroy: I'm thrilled about it. I think the biggest attribute is really the SEC itself. The entire country will be able to look and see what goes on day to day in the SEC. On game day, they'll see the pageantry and the things that make this area great. That's going to be the most special aspect of the network. Obviously, the people who are on board are first class, and we're really looking forward to having a great start in August.

 

B/R: How much pressure were you under to make the decision to retire and move to television right now as opposed to waiting out the offseason and seeing what happens in the NFL?

GM: To an extent, it was difficult. But at the same time, I realized all of the things that the SEC Network would allow. The fact that it really is football without having to play. Everything I'm doing on a week-to-week basis in preparation is really consistent, so I feel like those things, the lessons I learned in the NFL and college, will be able to translate to what I'm doing now.

It was a difficult decision because I've played the game for so long, but once I evaluated the pros and the cons of the situation between the NFL and the SEC Network, it was really no contest. I couldn't be happier with where I'm at and the resources ESPN is putting into it, and I haven't second-guessed it or thought twice about it.

 

B/R: When you were playing, was there a point when it sort of clicked and you realized that you could have a career talking football on television for a living when you were done playing?

GM: Never really when I was playing in college, but I would say the first inkling when I thought this might be something I wanted to do long term was when I was covering the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season, when Auburn was playing Oregon in Glendale, Arizona. I was on the field and did some work with [ESPN's] Jesse Palmer, and we broke down what Auburn's defense was doing and Auburn as a team in general. Having played them just a few weeks earlier, I kind of brought an interesting perspective. 

As I'm sitting there watching the film, I'm thinking to myself, "This might be something I could do and improve at." I can't say it was something I ever considered in school, but after having that opportunity to be able to talk about the game and having played the game, it was something that just sort of came natural to me.

 

B/R: At Alabama's spring game, you got into some hot water with some Alabama fans when you talked about AJ McCarron's complacency comments on WJOX (via AL.com) and when you picked Auburn as the favorite to win the West (via AL.com). Are you prepared for everything you say being about Alabama and Auburn being scrutinized through the Iron Bowl lens?

GM: Oh, of course. That's what makes the Iron Bowl rivalry as good as any in college football. No matter what, I can't please Alabama fans and I can't please Auburn fans. If I say Auburn is going to win the SEC, then Auburn fans are going to say, "Well, he has to say that" and Alabama fans are going to say, "He's such a traitor." If I say Alabama's going to win the SEC, well then Auburn fans will say I'm a homer and Alabama fans will say, "Well, of course we are."

You can't ever win in that particular case. My job is to be honest in the way I approach it, have an unbiased opinion and tell the people what I think. If that doesn't necessarily please everybody, then that's the unfortunate reality of what I do. 

I have love for every SEC school now. I played all of them. I have been around a lot of guys who have played for those schools, and that creates a certain appreciation for what they do and how each organization operates. 

 

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

 

 

B/R: What's going to be your typical week with the SEC Network during the season?

GM: I couldn't tell you any details right now of what I'm going to be doing. At this point, there's such a great lineup of cast members and analysts, I think everybody is still trying to figure out exactly what they're going to be doing. I'm excited to get going, and I know a lot of my week is going to be spent watching film and preparing, and whatever day or days I'm on television, whether that's on site or in studio, I'm going to do my best.

 

B/R: Assuming you're on site somewhere on game day, whether that's with the SEC Nation pregame show or otherwise at some point this season, what's the one thing you never got to experience as a player that you're most excited about?

GM: I never was able to go to Florida. We played there my redshirt year [2006], and I wasn't traveling at that point. I'm really looking forward to getting to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I'd also like to see The Grove at Ole Miss. From what I hear—my dad speaks highly of it and he just loves The Grove—I want to see it.

Those are the two places that I've heard a lot about and I'm really looking forward to seeing.

I've also never been to Faurot Field at Missouri. I'd like to also go see a game again at Texas A&M. I went to a game there as a kid, but it's been a while. The new schools would be nice to visit as well.

 

B/R: Speaking of Texas and you being a Texas kid growing up (Southlake-Carroll), was there anything that shocked you about the magnitude of SEC football once you came in as a player?

GM: It's interesting that you say that, because somebody asked me about that a few weeks ago. I played high school ball in Texas, which is about as big as it gets from a magnitude standpoint for a high school athlete. Coming from a big school in Texas—5A football, Friday Night Lights is very similar. It's not too far off the track. Then going to Alabama, and head coach Nick Saban is one of the most polarizing coaches in one of the biggest college programs. Then, on to New York City to play for the Jets in the biggest media market in the world. 

I've experienced three pretty unbelievable environments and been very blessed, and that's one thing I'm really grateful for. But it is kind of crazy to me to think that I've experienced football at that pinnacle in each level, and I think that's really helped me understand the game and the appreciation for the game.

 

SEC West Post-Spring Power Rankings

 

 

B/R: You said last month that Auburn is your favorite in the West, but what about the East?

GM: Still going through some film, but I think the East is wide open.

When Missouri QB Maty Mauk filled in last year when James Franklin went down, they have a lot of opportunities out there. They did lose some players on the defensive side in Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, but I think Gary Pinkel is a great football coach. He kind of changes how he coaches and treats every team differently. Most great coaches do that.

I do think, though, that the favorite in the East might be Georgia. Looking at how [quarterback] Hutson Mason played in the spring and how he looked in the spring game and the addition of [new defensive coordinator] Jeremy Pruitt and what he has coming back on that side of the ball, they're going to be good. I read a quote saying that there's not one job in that linebacker corps that's solidified, which I think is crazy. Georgia has some studs, including the first- and third-leading tacklers in the SEC (Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, respectively). And on the outside, they have Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. With the talent they have coming back and in that defense, they will be solid.

 

SEC East Post-Spring Power Rankings

 

 

B/R: Is there a player who either played well this spring or is coming in this fall who you think could emerge as a superstar in 2014?

GM: LSU running back commit Leonard Fournette, based on what I've read about that kid and watching his high school film. That kid runs hard, man. He is very talented. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is an obvious choice based on the offense that he's playing in. Another guy who I don't think gets enough credit is Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. He's outstanding. He's probably going to be a first-team All-SEC wide receiver this year. Him and [Alabama wide receiver] Amari Cooper, I would guess. The biggest development you make is between your freshman and sophomore year, and based on what they have coming back, that Ole Miss team is scary. With the amount of freshmen they had contribute last year and a senior quarterback in Bo Wallace who has improved from year to year, the sky's the limit for that team.

 

B/R: Who's the one coach in the SEC who isn't really in that top tier but may elevate himself into that discussion his year?

GM: Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, without question. He's done a great job establishing their identity. He won a crazy Egg Bowl over Ole Miss last year with the fumble at the 2-yard line. This is a big year for the Bulldogs with all that they have coming back. When I was playing, they were always one of the most physical teams. They always had a chip on their shoulder, and they were a blue-collar team. I think this could be the year for them. If quarterback Dak Prescott puts together some good games and limits their turnovers, there's no reason why they can't make a run or be contenders in the West.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.

 


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Virginia Tech Football: What the Spring Revealed About the Hokies' 2014 Offense

In Scot Loeffler’s first season in Blacksburg, the offensive coordinator could only employ a small amount of his system for the Virginia Tech football team, but the program’s recently concluded spring practice showed a lot about what he’s planning in 2014.

Last spring, Loeffler had to struggle just to find dependable receivers and understand the strengths and weaknesses of his offense.

Because the team was still breaking in new starters at all the skill positions, Loeffler was forced to build the offense around Logan Thomas, a result that created some problems.

Thomas certainly carried the offense at times with his passing and running abilities, but his inaccuracy hamstrung the unit, and the sheer volume of his work wore him down over the course of the season.

Now with talented veterans and exciting newcomers at running back, wide receiver and tight end, Loeffler can build his offense from the outside in to help his new quarterback—whomever it might be.

The 15 spring practices and spring game didn’t reveal a huge amount about how the offense will look, and the fact that the team’s quarterback remains unsettled to this day complicates things further, but the spring does offer some clues about Loeffler’s plans for 2014.

 

Running Game Emphasis

Frank Beamer’s offenses have almost always put a heavy emphasis on the running game, but Tech really struggled to run the ball last year.

The Hokies only attempted 37.9 runs per game in 2013, good for 72nd in the nation, and averaged just 119.7 yards per game, the 110th-rated mark overall.

There’s no doubt Loeffler was unhappy with this result given his proclivity for running the ball. While his unsuccessful offense at Auburn had similar troubles with the rushing attack, his offense at Temple was predicated on pounding the rock.

The Owls finished fifth in the nation in rushing attempts with 48.9 per game and seventh in the nation in yards per game with 256.38. It seems like Loeffler wants to move back in this direction with the Hokies in 2014.

The offensive line struggled in run blocking in 2013, but the line was also blocking for an inexperienced freshman in Trey Edmunds and the perpetually injured J.C. Coleman. 

But things seem to be different heading into 2014. Edmunds still put up pretty decent numbers in his time and will have another year of experience, and with Coleman healthy, the development of Joel Caleb and arrival of talented freshman Marshawn Williams, Loeffler has the tools to craft a strong running game.

He’ll be looking to take the pressure off of the team’s inexperienced quarterback, and focusing on the rushing attack is a prime way to do so.

Running backs coach Shane Beamer noted that the team plans on rotating Edmunds, Coleman and Williams as its three main backs, according to TheRoanoke Times’ Andy Bitter.

Edmunds will carry most of the load as the starter, but Coleman and Caleb can contribute on passing downs, while Williams has the power to excel in short-yardage situations.

Freshman Shai McKenzie could get in the mix as well if he’s not redshirted—he just got cleared to resume practicing after an ACL tear sidelined him for his final year of high school—and Chris Mangus will likely contribute on some outside runs and passing plays as well.

While it will be key for the offensive line to improve, and the group of four returning starters will likely help in that department, Loeffler has the runners he needs to be successful. 

Based on the spring drills, it also seems likely that the offense will feature more read-option plays next season, specifically the zone-read play.

The two main contenders for the quarterback job, redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, both have some running ability, meaning it’s a near guarantee it becomes a crucial part of the playbook. 

Motley got several chances this spring to run the option, and he ran it particularly effectively in the spring game for the lone touchdown for Joel Caleb, as the video shows.

Motley runs the inside zone read to perfection, and after a few nice moves by Caleb, it results in a long run for the score.

Loeffler ran the inverted veer quite a bit with Thomas last year, but now it seems as if he has the right personnel to add this new wrinkle as well. 

But that’s not the only innovative decision he’s making in the run game.

 

Wide Receivers on the Ground

When Edmunds broke his leg in the final game of the regular season, Loeffler had to get creative to generate any sort of running game in the Sun Bowl.

To adapt, he began using more and more jet sweeps and end arounds to get the wide receivers involved in the running game, and he had some modicum of success. Carlis Parker was the main focus of this new tactic, as he ran six times for 40 yards in the game.

With Edmunds still healing, Loeffler turned to these plays once again this spring, and it’s been similarly effective.

In the spring game alone, receivers accounted for 94 of the game’s 127 total rushing yards.

Demitri Knowles nearly broke free for a touchdown on one 50-yard run, and Parker gained 26 yards on this big play.

With Edmunds’ health and the offensive line’s play still uncertain, it seems as if Loeffler will keep turning to these plays to keep defenses off balance.

Knowles, Parker and redshirt freshman Deon Newsome all flashed impressive explosiveness this spring that prove they have the talent to add to this dimension of the offense.

Similarly, veterans like Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn are capable blockers on the perimeter, giving Loeffler the players he needs to generate some easy yards on the ground.

 

Mid-Range Passing Game 

Although the team is still struggling to develop a downfield passing game, it seems like a strength of this offense will be on short- to mid-range throws.

Even though Thomas had a big arm, he had real trouble getting the ball down the field to this group of receivers.

Knowles has always been thought of as a deep threat given his speed, but he doesn’t have the necessary physicality to fight off cornerbacks on jump balls—a trait that caused multiple interceptions last season.

Instead, the trio of Knowles, Stanford and Byrn were extremely effective on mid-range concepts that don’t stretch too far beyond the first-down marker. 

Each player seems most effective when working post routes or curl routes. Knowles averaged 13.8 yards per catch last season, while Byrn averaged an even 13 and Stanford was at 15.8. 

Similarly, tight end Kalvin Cline averaged 12.3 yards, and redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges seems like an ideal mid-range threat given his size and performance this spring. 

While Loeffler would likely love to have some kind of deep threat to attack over the top of defenses, it has to be comforting to know that he has the personnel to spread a defense out and attack with short throws.

The quarterback running the system will make all the difference. Motley flashed a decent arm in the spring, but he’d surely be better suited to working with shorter routes as he gets comfortable. 

Similarly, Brewer comes from the Texas Tech passing system, which favors short throws—the Red Raiders averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt last season, yet the offense finished second in total passing yards.

All of these things add up to point to what the Hokies will likely look like on offense next year. 

Expect a heavy focus on the running game, but that won’t only entail the running backs—the quarterbacks and receivers are bound to get involved.

But when the Hokies do pass, look for short- to mid-range throws that can move the team methodically down the field.

It’s impossible to know exactly how all this will come together until Loeffler finally selects a quarterback, but the spring gives Hokie fans a pretty good idea of what to look for in 2014.

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Georgia Football: How First-Round NFL Draft Picks Played Against Dawgs

The Georgia Bulldogs were relatively uninvolved in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, seeing as no Dawgs were selected.  That being said, there were still plenty of players of interest selected for Bulldog fans to keep an eye on.

With the SEC's strength and the success of several recent out-of-conference foes like Clemson and Michigan State, it's no surprise that a number of talented players who once faced off against the Dawgs heard their name called on Thursday night.

Here's how these first-round selections played against the Dawgs.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Jim Tressel Named President of Youngstown State University

Former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel's administrative career took another step forward Friday as he was named president of Youngstown State University.

According to The Columbus DispatchTressel was awarded the presidency after missing out on the same position at the University of Akron. Tressel previously served as executive vice president at Akron, but he is set to take on even greater responsibilities at Youngstown State pending contract finalization.

University board chair Sudershan Garg believes that Tressel has all the qualities necessary to thrive in this new role, per The Columbus Dispatch.

After fully examining each and every candidate and reviewing the input from hundreds of individuals across the campus and the community, the Board of Trustees believes Mr. Tressel is the right individual at the right time to lead Youngstown State University. Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation.

Tressel is best known for coaching Ohio State from 2001 through 2010 and leading the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002. Tressel also has a long history at Youngstown State, though.

He coached the Penguins from 1986 through 2000 and was welcomed back into the Youngstown State family by the YSU athletics Twitter account Friday:

Although Tressel had a great deal of success at Ohio State, his tenure there came to a controversial end as he resigned in 2011 in the midst of an improper benefits scandal.

Tressel served one year as a consultant with the Indianapolis Colts before taking on an administrative role at Akron.

There was some concern regarding Tressel being put in such a position after the way things unraveled at Ohio State, but Tressel has excelled by all accounts.

It has long been assumed that Tressel might eventually return to football, but he is now firmly entrenched in another level of collegiate administration.

Tressel already accomplished the ultimate goal in college football by winning a national title, which likely makes it much easier for him to leave that life behind.

From Youngstown State's perspective this seems like a great hire. Tressel has YSU roots and is well respected by those with ties to the school. In addition to that, he will help push Youngstown State to greater prominence on the national scale.

Tressel's image has seemingly been fully repaired since 2011 and this essentially completes his comeback story. Tressel did some great things at Ohio State in spite of the way things ended and there is reason to believe that he'll do the same at Youngstown State in a different capacity.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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2014 NFL Draft Re-Solidifies SEC's Perch Atop the College Football World

When Jameis Winston hit Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to play in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game to give Florida State a 34-31 win over Auburn, it ended the SEC's remarkable streak of seven straight national championships and called into question the SEC's status as the top dog in college football.

That question was answered, and the SEC's perch atop college football was re-solidified, during Round 1 of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

SEC schools produced 11 of the first 32 picks of the first round, including the first overall selection—former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney—the second overall pick—former Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson—and two former Texas A&M players in back-to-back top-10 selections—offensive tackle Jake Matthews (No. 6) and wide receiver Mike Evans (No. 7). 

Impressive? Yes.

Surprising? Not at all.

In fact, it's par for the course, according to SEC director of communications Chuck Dunlap.

SEC finishes with 1/3 of total NFL First Round picks. It's the 3rd time in four years SEC has produced double-digit first rounders.

— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) May 9, 2014

It wasn't just the SEC that dominated the first round of the NFL draft; it was the SEC West, according to Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com.

SEC West by itself produced more first-round picks (8) than any other conference.

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 9, 2014

That shouldn't be surprising either. The SEC West and the SEC East each had more players drafted than any other conference in last year's draft. 

While the streak of national titles came to an end in Pasadena on January 6, the SEC is currently working on a seven-year streak of having the most players drafted, and it got off to a great start in its quest to make it eight in a row.

But it isn't a new phenomenon. 

According to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star, the SEC had 630 players selected during the BCS era prior to this year's draft—127 more players than its nearest conference competitor (Big Ten at 503).

That matters from a college football perspective, and it is a big reason SEC programs routinely find themselves in the top 10 in recruiting every February. High school players want to play where they will be seen and get the proper coaching for their professional careers, and nowhere is that preparation better than the SEC.

It's a vicious cycle, and it's going to take more than one close loss in a national title game to knock the SEC off its perch as the top conference in college football.

Those "S-E-C" chants may have been quiet in Southern California in January, but that was the exception, not the rule. The talent gravitates toward the SEC, and that isn't going to change anytime in the near future.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

 


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Florida Football: Can Jalen Tabor Really Be the Next Vernon Hargreaves III?

At times it feels like people forget that Vernon Hargreaves III was a true freshman last season. The young defensive back was able to make a flawless transition from playing high school ball to starting in Florida’s secondary in no time. Hargreaves intercepted a pass in each of his first two games and is widely considered one of the top corners in all of college football.

While Hargreaves made it look easy, this rapid evolution doesn’t happen often. In fact, it’s almost unfair to expect it from other players just because somebody has done it in the past. There’s a reason redshirts exist in college football.

But with a young secondary, Florida is in a position to try their luck once again with a cornerback fresh out of high school. His name is Jalen Tabor, and there’s a pretty good chance he is starting on the opposite side of Hargreaves once the season begins. He’s another highly recruited player and in large part thanks to Hargreaves, the expectations are through the roof.

Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff have praised the young corners throughout camp. Still, making strides in shorts and a helmet in April is different than being asked to cover Amari Cooper for 60 minutes.

Can lightning really strike twice?

Absolutely. In fact, I’m not sure how it doesn’t work out for the Gators. Unlike Hargreaves, Tabor has elite size for the position at 6’1”, terrific length and is as physical as they come. Hargreaves relies a lot more on his explosiveness, quick hips and top-notch close-in speed to make plays. Basically, Florida will have the best of both worlds with the two on the field.

The thing that really sticks out to be when watching Tabor is his physicality. He loves to jam guys at the line of scrimmage, knock them off their routes and really rough them up.

Here you see Tabor forcing a receiver towards the sideline with his size and a little bit of legal hand action. Tabor knows the sideline is an extra defender and will require the quarterback to make a perfect throw to complete the touchdown. Of course, the pass was incomplete, as the receiver had little chance with this coverage.

One of the underrated parts of Tabor’s game are his instincts, as he’s able to diagnose plays quickly and has a solid natural feel for the game.

Before the quarterback has even secured the snap, Tabor already knows that this is a pass towards the slot receiver. He’s already breaking on the ball and planning to make the tackle, pretty much ignoring his assignment.

He blew up the play so quickly, the receiver had absolutely no chance of blocking him and it resulted in a loss on the play. These quick decisions and ability to read the offense prove that’s he’s already ahead of the curve and can be a confident starter for the Gators this season.  

So, is Tabor the next Hargreaves?

Those are certainly big shoes to fill, especially considering he led the Gators with three interceptions and 11 pass deflections. Keep in mind that was with other talented defensive backs such as Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs on the roster. However, Tabor is an extremely polished corner and has a truckload of upside.

Let's just say the Gators will have the best cornerback tandem in college football if those unreal expectations are met this season. 

Note: Pictures were attained from Youtube videos from user UFalumni11. Click here for the specific video. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet the Replacements for Every 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick of 2014

With the first round of the NFL draft in the books, college football has now officially said goodbye to some of its best talents of last year. 

From the CFB perspective, this summer is dedicated to finding the proper replacements for those first-round picks. 

While the quarterback battle at Texas A&M to see who will replace Johnny Manziel rages on, other teams have already replaced their superstars. 

With that, let's check out the replacements for every first-round pick of Thursday's NFL draft. 

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USC Football: Latest Recruiting News and Rumors

Another week has come and gone at USC, and while a handful of Trojans are looking to make their departure from Troy by way of the 2014 NFL Draft, the next generation is on deck to replace them. The recruiting trail is starting to heat up for the Trojans, so it's going to be an exciting summer as more and more athletes buy into what Steve Sarkisian is selling.

As noted in last week's recruiting roundup, it's still a bit too early to get excited about any commitments, as some will, without a doubt, waiver before next February. 

With that said, here's a quick recap of the latest recruiting news at USC, followed by some other tidbits of what's to come in the fall.


New Commits

USC welcomed Roy Hemsley to the ranks on Tuesday, when the 3-star offensive tackle committed to the Trojans over their rivals, UCLA. He's the fifth commit in the Class of 2015 (Which, for the first time in three seasons, can be the full 25) and the second-straight OL commit. Last week, 5-star OT Chuma Edoga gave his pledge to the Trojans as well. 

The 6'6", 280-pound offensive tackle is a big boy and he's still growing. Should he stay aligned with the cardinal and gold, he will be an important asset for the Trojans come next year. 

After committing, he spoke glowingly about why he chose the Trojans:

 

New Offers

This week, USC offered another standout JUCO athlete3-star defensive end Ulric Jones. The 6'6.5", 283-pound defensive end originally committed to Mississippi State out of high school but ultimately went a different route. Now a standout talent at Butler Community College in Kansas, Jones is rated the No. 9 DE in his state and No. 44 nationally. 

Aside from USC, Jones also picked up offers from California and Texas A&M this week. 

As previously noted, the Trojans are also pursuing JUCO standout Marquavius Lewis, a 4-star DE also attending a junior college in Kansas.  

 

Other Notes

The Trojans are looking to continue shoring up defensive-line talent this recruiting cycle, and another top prospect has USC high on his list. 

4-star defensive tackle Jacob Daniel is reportedly down to two schools, USC and Oregon. The Clovis, Calif. native is ranked the No. 8 prospect at his position and No. 6 overall in California, so a commitment from this 6'4", 310-pound tackle would be a huge early get for the Trojans. Per Rivals.com, a decision from Daniel is expected in the near future. 

Daniel has an interesting history with Sarkisian, as he was committed to the Huskies while Sark was still the coach at Washington. That being the case, it's possible that USC has a competitive advantage in terms of earning his verbal pledge this time around. 

3-star defensive end Jason Scrempos (Milpitas, Calif) has created a list of his top colleges as of May, and USC made the cut: 

While the 6'6", 240-pound prospect is high on the Trojans, he is still waiting on an offer from USC at this time. Other Pac-12 schools like Cal, Arizona, Washington and Washington State have extended him offers, however.

The jury is still out on Scrempos, but Sark and his staff are expressing interest in offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton. The 3-star OT out of Newport (Wash.) is also expected to be pursued by UCLA, in addition to currently holding offers from Washington and Oregon. 


One More Thing

While not a recruiting update, there's been a development regarding blue-chip signee Adoree' Jackson. The heralded incoming freshman has been assigned his jersey number for Fall 2014:

Jackson discussed his childhood admiration of former Trojan Reggie Bush, and he told Lindsey Thiry of Scout.com that he wouldn't exactly mind getting to be the next No. 5. Even though the number has been unceremoniously brought out of retirement, USC does not seem to have any intention of distributing it just yet.

So while he won't get to be the next great No. 5, Jackson will get to carry on the tradition of being a star at No. 2. On either side of the ball, a Trojan donning No. 2 has excelled.

In the past decade, three TrojansSteve Smith and Robert Woods on offense and Taylor Mays on defensehave earned All-American status while wearing No. 2 on their backs.  Smith and Woods developed reputations for themselves as electrifying wideouts that put up crazy numbers, and Mays was a fearsome safety in the Trojan secondary who earned notoriety for bone-crushing hits.

This is a fitting number for Jackson, as he will likely be spending time on both sides of the ball next season.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: It's Only Fitting That C.J. Mosley Ended Up with Ravens

Word quickly spread through the University of Alabama football complex that day, and linebacker C.J. Mosley couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

It was last fall, and part of Nick Saban’s routine during training camp is to always have a daily speaker, some of whom the players will never forget.

They’ve included Dewey Bozella, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, talking about never giving up; New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi on handling expectations and success; former NBA player Chris Herren on how he overcome his drug-abuse problems; former player and director of football operations for the NFL Gene Washington about life after a career in sports and Michael Franzese, a former New York mobster with the Colombo crime family.

But when Mosley, who had come back for his senior season and to get his degree, found out that Ray Lewis was in the building, he got excited.

“People started whispering around like, 'I heard Ray Lewis is going to be here. I heard Ray Lewis is going to be here,’” Mosley said to Alabama reporters at the time. “For me he’s one of my role models and one of my idols growing up as a linebacker and as a football player. Just to have him here was very exciting.”

It's only fitting that Mosley will be going to where Lewis was a seven-time All-Pro, and where he established himself as a future Pro Football Hall of Fame selection.

Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens made him the 17th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, one of two Crimson Tide first-round selections. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went 21st to Green Bay, prompting Packers general manager Ted Thompson to quip, "We've had good success with the Crimson Tide kid we took last year," about running back Eddie Lacy, the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They were Saban’s 15th and 16th first-round selections with the Crimson Tide, the most for a coach in program history, and 20th and 21st overall, tying him with Mack Brown and Lou Holtz for the fifth most ever. Although Alabama remained tied with Southern California (1993-97) for the longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections during the common draft era (since 1967, with five), it became the first program to have multiple first-round picks for five straight years.

The player who was selected in Mosley's slot last year, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones by Pittsburgh, signed a four-year, $8.705 million contract. 

“He’s smart, very smart, relentless player, fast,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said during a press conference in Baltimore. “Always involved."

Although Baltimore had bigger needs at offensive tackle and free safety, the team’s long-standing policy is to usually take the best player available in the first round. DeCosta revealed that the Ravens had Mosley rated 10th overall, but he was one of three players they were targeting as their turn approached.

When Dallas was on the clock at No. 16, Mosley’s agent told him that Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin was probably the only player remaining who might make the Ravens think twice about him. After the Cowboys ignored the temptation to take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and opted for Martin, there was no doubt.

Baltimore fielded some last-minute trade offers, but General Manager Ozzie Newsome said it would have taken a “bonanza” of picks to change their minds. Granted, the Crimson Tide legend had previously selected six Alabama players since 1997, including trading down to the second round and still getting outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw in 2012, yet none had been in the first round.

“I know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays, but I know we got better as an organization because of the person that he is,” Newsome said about the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s best linebacker who was prouder about being named a Crimson Tide captain.

“You’re our kind of player,” owner Stephen Bisciotti told Mosley over the phone while other people in the Ravens’ war room started high-fiving.

“He’s the one guy you can’t find anyone to say anything negative,” added scouting director Joe Hortiz—an Auburn graduate.

While the versatile Mosley can play either inside or outside linebacker, he’ll be groomed to be the eventual heart of the defense and make all the play calls just like Lewis. But that’s where the similarities end.

"I'm not trying to be the next 52,” Mosley made sure to tell the Ravens reporters on a conference call.

During his 17-year NFL career, Lewis made 227 starts, was twice the Defensive Player of the Year, and he was named the most valuable player after Baltimore beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

About the only thing they have in common is that they’re the only two interior linebackers the Ravens have ever selected in the first round. That’s it.

“I wish I was as vocal as him,” Mosley said about Lewis' address to the Crimson Tide last fall, which was about doing your job and being accountable.

“I don't really think there are too many linebackers who can meet with his emotional side.”

Mosley also disclosed something that has stuck with him about Lewis' attention to detail. 

“Usually when you wake up the first thing you do is look at your phone,” Mosley described. “He said when he wakes up he just takes a deep breath and clears his mind.

“Who even thinks about that when they wake up in the morning? Just the start of his day, is his thought process that fast?”

There's no better place to work on that than in Baltimore.

 

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

How Auburn Freshman RB Roc Thomas Is Changing the Iron Bowl Recruiting Rivalry

Months before Chris Davis returned the "Kick Six" to win the 2013 Iron Bowl, Auburn recorded a victory off the field against in-state rival Alabama.

Last August, four weeks prior to the kickoff of Gus Malzahn's first season as Auburn head coach, a shift in Alabama's football rivalry began to take shape thanks to one tweet:

Racean "Roc" Thomas, a 5-star running back and one of the state's top offensive recruits, made a verbal commitment to play for Auburn instead of Alabama.

At this point in 2013, the Tigers were coming off a 3-9 season in which they failed to record a single SEC win.

The Crimson Tide were the two-time defending national champions.

But Thomas stayed firm in his early decision to play at Auburn, a choice that he told the Anniston Star's Joe Medley received ample criticism from those around him:

Everybody doubted me. Everybody was, ‘Why are you choosing Auburn right now? They had a terrible season, a terrible staff. But you know, it’s good, because I can just rub it in everybody’s face now. They went all the way to the championship.

As his future college team went on a historic turnaround from conference cellar-dwellers to champions behind a top-ranked rushing attack, Thomas also racked up monster numbers on the ground that earned him comparisons to some of the greatest running backs in Auburn history.

“He’s almost like Bo Jackson how he could finish a run,” Thomas' high school coach Ryan Herring said. “You thought for sure he’d be caught, but he’d end up in front of someone who had a great angle on him."

The speedy and powerful Thomas shot up the recruiting rankings in his senior season with the Oxford Yellow Jackets as he ran for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Rated the No. 5 running back in the country in 247Sports' final Composite Rankings, Thomas later became the second consecutive Auburn signee to win the state's Mr. Football award, joining 2012 winner Jeremy Johnson on the Plains.

"When he had the football, he was the ultimate game-breaker," Herring said. "At any time he can break a run and either win the game or keep the game close and give you a chance to win it."

Throughout the 2013 season, Herring said Thomas was "a hard commitment" to Auburn, and he "told people that up-front."

But rival Alabama, who was considered the leader for Thomas during his junior season, would not let the 5-star running back go to the Plains without a fight.

Shortly after he was named Mr. Football, Thomas was paid a visit from new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and famed recruiter Lane Kiffin

The last time Alabama tried to flip a 5-star running back from the Tigers to the Tide in the offseason it was successful.

In December 2011, after months of staying firm with his Auburn commitment, T.J. Yeldon shocked the state by announcing he would enroll at Alabama the following month.

Although Kiffin's visit brought up bad memories for Auburn fans, "Roc" stayed solid with his decision to play for the Tigers and sent his letter of intent on national signing day.

"[Thomas] was very loyal to us," Malzahn said. "He could have gone anywhere, but he chose to not go anywhere and stay with us. We really feel like he has the ability to come in immediately and make a huge impact."

While the high-caliber Thomas may make that immediate impact on the field in an offense looking to replace Heisman finalist Tre Mason, he has already made an impact for his new school off the field.

His commitment in August set the tone for a 2014 recruiting cycle in which the balance of power shifted in the state of Alabama.

Alabama finished the season with another No. 1 recruiting class, but the Crimson Tide did not have a dominant grasp of the state's blue-chip players like they had in years past:

Although Alabama has had recent success in flipping players from Auburn such as Yeldon and former Auburn High School star Reuben Foster, the Tigers were the ones doing the flipping in the class of 2014.

Stephen Roberts, a 4-star cornerback from nearby Opelika, changed his commitment from Alabama to Auburn last November, days before the legendary 2013 Iron Bowl.

The number of former Auburn commitments who later signed with Alabama in the class of 2014? Zero.

"One of the big things I really appreciate also is the loyalty of our commitments," Malzahn said. "In this day and time, that’s very rare. We had guys that were committed to us even before the season that could have taken other trips, and they chose to stay very loyal to help us recruit."

After in-state 5-stars Thomas and linebacker Tre Williams stayed true to the Tigers and signed in the 2014 class, the state of Alabama's 2015 class looks to be an even battleground between the two SEC powerhouses in Auburn and Tuscaloosa.

Auburn has picked up commitments from the state's top offensive recruit, Kerryon Johnson, and 4-star linebacker Darrell Williams. Both players had Alabama high on their list of schools.

Alabama is said to be leading in the race for No. 1 recruit Daron Payne, but Auburn is still in the hunt. Auburn is reportedly the leader for No. 5 recruit Tyler Carr, who spoke highly of the authenticity of the Tigers staff in recruiting.

"At Auburn, they are not all flash or show," Carr told AL.com's John Talty. "The faces they put on at these junior days, you feel like it's really like that. It's not made up; it's not just to lure kids in. They aren't just trying to trick kids into coming."

While Alabama may still lead the country in securing top-ranked classes, the power is shifting thanks to blue-chip talent like Thomas committing their future to Malzahn and his Auburn staff.

The Crimson Tide no longer have the complete control they once had on the conference—or their own backyard.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Kicking Game Could Cost Cornhuskers Wins Next Season

Nebraska football fans watching the spring game last month saw all kinds of promise on both sides of the ball. But they also had to avert their eyes to the grease fire that was Nebraska’s place-kicker performance.

Sure, there wasn’t a lot to see, only six extra points. Grant Schumacher was 2-2 on those extra points, and Spencer Lindsay was 1-1. But with all due respect to Schumacher and Lindsay, those guys are not going to be seeing the field next year absent an emergency.

Mauro Bondi, the scholarship kicker, was 1-3. As in 33 percent. On extra points. You know, the ones from the 2-yard line that are so automatic the NFL is considering abandoning them altogether because they are so routine.

But that was just the spring game, you might say in response, one practice out of 15. We shouldn’t overreact to any one performance, even on a stage like that.

A fair point, certainly, one that has been made frequently about quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s less-than-stellar spring game performance. But there is more data than just the spring game to make one question the status of Nebraska’s placekicking game.

Bondi’s performance as a place-kicker when the games count is far from reassuring. Bondi has made his only field-goal attempt and is 8-9 in his career for extra points. Or, put another way, Bondi is 88.9 percent on extra points, which would have been good for No. 122 nationally in that category (courtesy of cfbstats.com).

Indeed, last year Nebraska had to bring on Pat Smith, a transfer from Western Illinois, because the coaching staff had such little faith in Bondi’s ability to put the ball through the uprights. Smith beat Bondi out for the place-kicking duties and had a respectable 2013 campaign, going 12-13 on field goals, including the game-winner against Penn State.

Smith is gone, though, leaving only Bondi, Schumacher and Lindsay on the roster. Nebraska does have a true freshman kicker in Drew Brown arriving in the 2014 class. Brown, the younger brother of former Nebraska kicker Kris Brown, looks to be in line to at least compete for the starting job as place-kicker this season.

While it is good that Nebraska at least has another option, asking a true freshman to come in and be the place-kicker on a team that hopes to contend for a conference title is a big ask indeed. Nebraska has road games this year against Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin. All of those games look to be tough, and any one of them could be decided by a long field goal in difficult conditions with a hostile crowd roaring. Nebraska looks to be pinning its hopes for winning a tight game in those conditions on a kid who will be less than a year away from his high school prom.

And it’s not just those dramatic walk-off kicks that are affected. Having a reliable kicker who will put points on the board is such an advantage, both tactically and psychologically.

Tactically, knowing your kicker is likely to convert shortens the scoring field, making an offense need to take fewer risks—and thus be less likely to commit turnovers. Psychologically, converting on scoring opportunities relieves pressure on a defense, allowing them to play knowing they don’t have to pitch a shutout for Nebraska to be successful. Also, more points are better than fewer because, duh.

Let’s be clear on one thing. Bondi, like Adi Kunalic before him, is a top-flight kickoff specialist, and the value that brings to a team should not be ignored. But all the evidence before us suggests Bondi is not the answer as a reliable place-kicker and that Nebraska will have to hope a true freshman can arrive on campus this fall and fill those shoes.

A smart and particularly handsome analyst referred to Nebraska as “Kicker U” for its history of producing great place-kickers. Nebraska seems to be in a lull right now in kicker production, and that lull could cost NU dearly in 2014.

 

If you'd like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Top 5 NFL Prospects on the Roster

With the NFL draft slated to begin Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, the dreams of many will be realized. In terms of former UCLA football players, Anthony Barr and Xavier Su'a-Filo will likely find themselves in the first round. 

What about the Bruins on the current roster? Which ones are regarded as future NFL draft choices?

Jim Mora and his staff have done a masterful job of building viable depth from within the program. Multiple underclassmen—such as Poasi Moala, Alex Redmond, Tahaan Goodman, Craig Lee and Caleb Benenoch—have the potential to play at the highest level one day. 

There are also multiple upperclassmen with the ability to be NFL players in the future. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Eric Kendricks, Randall Goforth, Devin Lucien, Kenny Orjioke, Malcolm Bunche and Ellis McCarthy (among others) all figure into this mix.

This piece will rank the top five Bruins in terms of NFL potential. These rankings will primarily be based on potential draft position. Both production on the collegiate level and overall potential go into this list. A player without any collegiate experience will not appear. 

Here's a look at the top five NFL prospects on the roster for the UCLA Bruins. 

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Texas Football: 7 Recruits Every Longhorns Fan Should Be Following This Summer

Summer recruiting is about to heat up for the nation's top football prospects. And if you're a Texas fan, every development with players like Kendall Sheffield and James Lockhart is a crucial one that must be followed.

Currently ranked 13th in the country, the Longhorns' class of nine commitments is incomplete until further notice. Charlie Strong and his staff have glaring needs in the secondary and along the defensive line, where impending graduations and failed recruiting endeavors have left the team dangerously thin.

Those needs make chasing the talents of Sheffield, Lockhart and Du'Vonta Lampkin no-brainers for the Longhorns. On the other hand, trying to snatch up similar elites like 5-star Damarkus Lodge and Malik Jefferson is almost a matter of principle.

No matter the motivation, these are the seven players whom the Longhorns will pursue because of their potential to be immediate difference-makers. If you have yet to start following their every move, now is the time.

 

1. CB Kendall Sheffield

As much of a long shot as he is a game-changer, 5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield should be a household name by now.

One of the top players in the country, he plays at a completely different speed from his competition. In coverage, he lives in the receiver's back pocket and possesses the athleticism to attack the ball as if he were the intended target. And he is every bit as lethal with it in his hands.

With Quandre Diggs entering his senior year, Sheffield is as must-have as it gets for Texas. The Longhorns will have just three cornerbacks on scholarship in 2015, which would offer immediate playing time for this electric prospect.

Sheffield's crystal ball points heavily in favor of Texas A&M, but Strong and his staff get a great chance to make up some ground when he visits over the weekend.

Per SB Nation's Wescott Eberts, Sheffield will not make his decision until the Under Armor All-America Game in January, so Texas has plenty of time to lock up its biggest commitment of the cycle.

 

2. DE James Lockhart (@James_Lockart9)

Cedric Reed will move onto the NFL draft after the 2014 season, and the Longhorns already missed on possible replacement Solomon Thomas. That, and the scarcity at the position, makes James Lockhart one of the summer's most interesting prospects. 

He is the only 4-star defensive end prospect in the state and would give the 'Horns a strong-side end who excels against the run, according to Eberts.

Though he is considered a heavy Baylor lean, Lockhart recently told Horns Digest that he is interested in visiting Texas and called current commit Charles Omenihu "a good friend."

If that visit doesn't prove fruitful, the Longhorns will have to explore an out-of-state option or pull an impact player from the JUCO ranks.

 

3. OG Patrick Vahe (@PatrickVahe)

Not only does Patrick Vahe's family make him an interesting story, but the 4-star offensive guard is emerging as one of the best players in the state.

After earning MVP honors at the Nike Football Training Camp, Vahe is on his way to The Opening to continue his torrid offseason. Once considered a flight risk after his cousins, Sione and Maea Teuhema, flipped to LSU, he says that he is still "110 percent" committed to the 'Horns, per Horns247.

For as long as that remains true, the Longhorns are going to be glad they got a head start on this surging recruit.

 

4. LB Malik Jefferson (@Official_MalikJ)

Malik Jefferson is considered the nation's top outside linebacker by 247Sports and is one of the state's can't-miss prospects.

Also earning MVP honors at the Dallas NFTC, Jefferson looks ready to step on a collegiate field. The 6'2", 225-pound athlete earned the fifth-best rating at the Nike SPARQ combine, according to Eberts, and Rivals.com lists some testing results that shouldn't belong to a 17-year-old.

Like many of the state's top prospects, he has admitted that the Aggies were leaders for his services. He has since backed off that inclination and told Eberts he was impressed when he visited a Charlie Strong practice this spring. "Harder hitting. More intense. Better coaching," Jefferson said of what he saw.

Similar to Sheffield, the 5-star linebacker is taking a very level-headed approach to his recruitment. That should work in Texas' favor and give the coaching staff time to climb his list of favorites.

 

5. DT Du'Vonta Lampkin (@DeeChilllin)

Daylon Mack, the state's top defensive tackle, has committed to Texas A&M. That eliminates Texas for all intents and purposes and shifts the program's focus to recent Oklahoma decommit Du'Vonta Lampkin.

At 6'3" and 291 pounds, Lampkin would fill a dire need for Texas at tackle. Desmond Jackson is entering his senior year, while Malcom Brown could elect to go pro as well, which means Lampkin would get every opportunity to break into the two-deep rotation as a freshman.

He released his top three earlier this week, including the Sooners even though he decommitted from them last month. Unless he makes the surprise decision to recommit, the Longhorns are in good standing with the 4-star prospect.

 

6. RB Soso Jamabo (@Soso_Jamabo3)

With Jordan Stevenson expected to join Johnathan Gray and incoming freshman Donald Catalon, Texas will have plenty of speed in its backfield for years to come. What it needs next is a pile-pusher like Soso Jamabo.

Bruisers Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron graduate after the 2014 season, which will cost Texas two of the most reliable power backs in the Big 12. Jamabo has some weight to add first, but his 6'3" frame lends itself to such a role, while his nifty feet give him the potential to be an every-down back later in his career.

The 'Horns have lost some ground with Jamabo, and he is now considered a favorite to go to the Sooners. Running backs coach Tommie Robinson has his work cut out for him here.

 

7. WR Damarkus Lodge (@DaMarkusLodge18)

Texas has done a good job of recruiting long, speedy receivers such as Lorenzo Joe and Montrel Meander. But Damarkus Lodge is a whole different animal.

Busting out with 1,255 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, per 247Sports, he has shot up to the top of the state's receiver rankings. The 6'2" athlete is a fluid runner with strong hands and the ability to high-point the football with the best of them. Once he fills out, the Alshon Jeffery comparisons will start pouring in.

He won't make or break this class, but Lodge would give Texas a true No. 1 wideout with the ability to get deep as well as finish off drives in the red zone. Though his crystal ball is trending downward, he remains a priority target until signing day.

 

Note: Star rankings and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down Clemson's Trevion Thompson's Highlight Tape

Trevion Thompson is a 4-star receiver who signed with Clemson in February. At 6'3" and 188 pounds, the North Carolina native has a long frame and above-average speed.

Thompson is a solid route-runner who can separate from defensive backs at junctions, plus he has excellent ball skills. The talented receiver should also be able to make a big play or two for the Tigers after the catch.

A preview of what's to come from Thompson at Clemson is shown on his highlight tape.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings. Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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

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

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

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

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