NCAA Football News
Now that Nebraska football fans are preparing to go into the long summer before the college football season, it’s a good time to see how NU’s two-deep depth chart might look after the end of spring practice. Of course, much of this is conjecture, with injuries and newly arriving players doing much to change how this depth chart may look come August.
But let’s at least make our best guess as to what Nebraska’s two-deep depth chart looks like at this stage.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have a long tradition of fielding quality running backs. From Thurman Thomas to Barry Sanders, Vernand Morency, Kendall Hunter, Joseph Randle and all the other guys in between, the Cowboys have consistently produced 1,000-yard rushers and NFL draft picks.
However, 2013 was a bit of a regression from those lofty standards. Obviously, a slight downtick had to be expected with Randle moving onto the NFL, but many felt that Jeremy Smith could become another great Oklahoma State running back.
After all, he had consistently produced a high yards per carry and a more than respectable amount of touchdowns in backup duty.
That, as we now know, didn't come to pass.
In fact, 2013 represents one of the worst statistical seasons by Oklahoma State rushers since the 21st century began.
This past season was the first time since 2006 that the Cowboys' leading rusher didn't break the 1,000-yard mark. Further, it was the first time since 2001 that Oklahoma State's leading rusher averaged less than five yards per carry. Not the kind of stats you want to be remembered by.
The one bright spot was that the touchdowns were still there, as Oklahoma State rushers put the ball in the end zone 35 times in 2013.
All told, it was a significant downturn in performance from Oklahoma State's backfield.
However, there is a (potential) light at the end of the tunnel Oklahoma State fans. True, Mike Gundy's Cowboys aren't likely to go back to the days when the passing and rushing game were putting up nearly exact yardage totals, but this year's running backs might be able to make opponents fear the Pokes' rushing attack again.
You see, with Smith no longer in the lineup, that means Desmond Roland can take over as the lead back. Roland's 2013 campaign was a little up and down, but his time as a starter showed that his positives outweigh his negatives.
Roland looks like a starting running back, especially when you watch the tape of his performances against Iowa State and Oklahoma. If he can just become more consistent, the Cowboys might have an All-Big 12 rusher on their hands.
And Roland isn't the only guy who could be turning heads this year. We've already heard about how fast Tyreek Hill is, but it's his skill at catching the ball out of the backfield that should have fans really excited.
Think about it. If the Oklahoma State coaching staff can figure out a way (and I believe they will) to get Roland, Hill and J.W. Walsh in the backfield at the same time, they'll have one of the more dynamic backfield combinations in the Big 12.
In addition to these two big-time players, the Pokes have a bevy of players who could all contribute.
Rennie Childs showed that he has what it takes to compete at this level in limited time last year. And while Caleb Muncrief is less proven, he knows the scheme well and could see more carries come his way in 2014.
Then there's Jeremy Seaton, who will be attempting to replace Kye Staley at the fullback/tight end position. Seeing as how the young man checks in 6'2" and 250 pounds, I think it's safe to say that he'll probably do fine at that position.
And finally, there are two incoming freshman, Devon Thomas and Sione Palelei, who might have a chance to contribute. Thomas, in particular, looks like he might see quite a few carries in 2014.
Thomas is a big body who comes into Stillwater as a power back with some speed, making it easy to see him take over Jeremy Smith's role as the goal-line and short-yardage specialist in his inaugural season.
Palelei probably won't get quite as many looks during his freshman season as Thomas, but he does possess solid speed and might make an impact as a returner. (Though that position looks loaded for 2014.)
That's seven guys who all look like they could be contributors in 2014. Of course, "look" is the key word in that sentence. We'll only know how good this Cowboys backfield is once they finally take the field this fall.
However, the pieces are there for a return to the quality running back corps of Oklahoma State's past. Look for Roland to top 1,000 yards in his first season as the full-time starter, while Hill makes a bid to lead the team in all-purpose yards. And don't be surprised to see Thomas creep toward 10 touchdowns.
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Kyler Murray is a 5-star dual-threat quarterback from Texas who plays for powerhouse Allen High School. Although he lacks ideal size at 5'11" and 170 pounds, Murray makes up for it in other areas.
The Texan is a smart passer who has solid mechanics. Murray consistently delivers accurate strikes to his targets with above-average arm strength, and he also has the mobility to make plays with his legs.
Many schools are after him, but Greg Powers of Scout.com reported in April that Murray has narrowed his list to five finalists. Before he reaches a decision, he will have to look at the pros and cons of each of his top schools.
May is here, which means the month of April has come and gone. The 2015 recruiting cycle is moving along at a good pace, with summer being just around the corner.
April was a great month of recruiting for some programs. However, a few are more than happy May has started. A Big 12 program lost a couple of key commitments last month, while its in-state rival scored a huge pledge from a talented prospect.
A dominant SEC team delivered a strong message on the recruiting trail in April. Yet, its archnemesis also had a solid month of recruiting.
Upon first glance at AJ McCarron’s Twitter bio, it’s hard not to notice one phrase he’s coined into a hashtag: #pissedoffforgreatness.
After all, the slogan aptly describes his football career up to this point and simultaneously provides a summation of his attitude toward critics who dismiss his potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
But can he find the same type of success he had in college, where he piled up a 36-4 record as the Tide’s starter and two national titles, in the NFL? That question is part of what makes him the most polarizing player heading into next week’s NFL draft.
Phil Savage, who serves as the radio analyst for Alabama football and doubles as the executive director of the Senior Bowl, had a front-row seat to watch McCarron over the course of his college career.
While he feels the best-case NFL scenario for McCarron—who redshirted in his first year in college and was a backup his second year before ultimately starting in his third season—is to sit and learn for at least a year before challenging for a starting job, Savage cited McCarron’s performances in the two BCS title games as evidence of his capability to shine on the biggest of stages.
“If you really watch Alabama’s games, when the chips were down, he seemed to rise up and make more plays than what he’s probably been given credit for,” Savage said.
There’s two vastly different viewpoints on the former Alabama star quarterback’s potential at the next level.
Either he’s an incredibly underrated passer who is a sound decision-maker that can make all of the throws and possesses elite intangible qualities, or he’s Nick Saban’s caretaker on a team loaded with NFL talent surrounding him.
For fans and draft experts alike, there’s simply no in-between.
Hence the ensuing banter after McCarron recently stated that NFL teams have told him he has a chance to be a first-round selection, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com. That nugget counters the opinion on his stock from outlets such as CBS Sports, which has McCarron projected as a fourth-rounder.
Savage said the mixed opinions on McCarron’s pro prospects likely extend to all of the front offices around the NFL.
“I’ve been saying this on the Crimson Tide Sports Network for over a year, that if all 32 NFL teams submitted a grade on AJ McCarron, it would look like a bell curve,” Savage said. “You would have maybe one or two teams that would have him in the first round. You would have maybe one or two teams that have him in the sixth round. The vast majority of the teams I’ve spoken to have him somewhere between the second and fourth round.”
Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports, who also spent time in the NFL as a coach and as an executive, feels McCarron’s strengths make him an attractive option for teams in the market for a franchise quarterback.
McCarron is better than a game manager, as he is often described. ... He throws a catchable ball and reminded me a bit of a Brad Johnson or Matt Schaub with his style. He does some of the subtle things like looking off safeties and lets coverage dictate where to go with the ball. He could run a traditional NFL offense and I don't think it's fair to group him with former Alabama quarterbacks Greg McElroy or John Parker Wilson.
In a quarterback class where none of the top passers—players such as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, all of whom have consistently been rated higher than McCarron—have separated themselves, McCarron’s resume and skill set should take a backseat to no one.
As an added bonus, his ability to handle the pressure at a football-crazed school such as Alabama and playing for a coach such as Saban is the closest simulation a college quarterback can get to being the face of an NFL franchise.
Saban, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, is on record warning NFL teams about passing up his former star passer in the draft.
I think anybody that doesn’t take A.J. in one of those earlier rounds is going to make a huge mistake, because I think he’s going to be a very, very good player. First of all, he has all the athletic talent to make all the throws that he needs to make at the next level. ... Guys who can make quick decisions, process the information and throw the ball accurately are the guys that usually end up being pretty good NFL quarterbacks.
Great quarterbacks often have a characteristic that separates them from their peers, and perhaps McCarron’s best attribute is the anger and determination he brings to the field.
Every touchdown pass and every victory he’s ever led his team to is the sweetest revenge to his naysayers.
Could the same fate await the teams who pass on him in the draft?
Maybe. Maybe not.
One thing that is certain is that McCarron has made a habit of achieving great feats on the gridiron in the face of doubters and adversity.
In other words, being “pissed off for greatness” has prepared him for the journey of finding success in the NFL.
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The Miami Hurricanes signed the No. 12 class during the 2014 recruiting cycle, and a few signees could steal starting spots during fall camp.
Not including Kc McDermott and the eight other players already on campus challenging for No. 1 jobs, the incoming prospects will compete with current starters.
Offensively, quarterback is the biggest question mark, and the 'Canes are waiting on a highly touted player to arrive in Coral Gables, Fla.
On the defensive side, a pair of linemen will help solidify important positions that are striving to overcome a recent history of underperformance.
Chad Thomas, Defensive End
It's no secret Miami needs consistent production from the defensive line. Highlighted by the emergence of Ufomba Kamalu, Earl Moore and Calvin Heurtelou, the overall unit appeared to improve steadily throughout spring practice.
But that doesn't mean a true freshman cannot and will not enter the fray, as evidenced by the post-spring depth chart listing 10 players as co-starters. If that's not the definition of open competition, I'm not sure what is.
The lone 5-star commit in the class, local Booker T. Washington product Chad Thomas is already subjected to enormous expectations.
As seen in the accompanying video, Thomas is an absolute force off the edge, and Miami will not waste a player of his caliber. Plus, at 6'5" and 240 pounds, Thomas is physically prepared for the next level but has plenty of room to add bulk.
Though he's not enrolled yet, Thomas is already mentioned behind Kamalu and Anthony Chickillo on the depth chart. Chickillo has been underwhelming through three seasons, and Kamalu is an unproven commodity, so Thomas will have a legitimate chance to overtake the current Hurricanes.
Opposite speed rushers Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord, Thomas showcases similar explosive burst at the line of scrimmage and the strength to drive offensive linemen backward.
If Kamalu and Chickillo struggle during the summer or fall, Thomas will be closing the gap even quicker than expected and may steal a starting spot.
Michael Wyche, Defensive Tackle
His road to Miami has been adventurous, but Michael Wyche will be joining the team in mid-May.
Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald noted Wyche decommitted from 'The U' due to an "obscure ACC rule" demanding three consecutive semesters at the same junior college. Much to the satisfaction of the Hurricanes, however, Wyche rejoined the 2014 class a few days later.
This season, Wyche will be classified as a junior, working his way up the depth chart behind Moore and Heurtelou.
While no one would complain, the Hurricanes are not requiring a Vince Wilfork-like D-tackle. They just want someone who demands a double-team blocking assignment once in a while, allowing the linebackers to make tackles as opposed to shedding offensive linemen of their own.
And with the rotation Miami employs on its defensive line, Wyche will receive numerous chances to demonstrate his worth in the trenches.
Brad Kaaya, Quarterback
If you are a regular Miami follower on Bleacher Report, you've heard me reiterate the probability—or lack thereof—that 4-star signee Brad Kaaya wins the starting job.
"For Kaaya to play he has to get to school this summer, gain a functional understanding of the playbook and push to pull even with Olsen," Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said.
In rare cases, true freshmen quarterbacks arrive on campus, immediately challenge for the position and win the competition, like Christian Hackenberg at Penn State last season. But in reality, Matt McGloin graduated, and the 5-star was simply handed the reins in State College, Pa.
The overlying factor is the proper opportunity presented itself for Hackenberg, and he capitalized. Fortunately for Kaaya, though, he is entering a relatively comparable situation Miami.
Stephen Morris? Graduated. Ryan Williams? Sidelined. Kevin Olsen? Learning.
"Given what we have seen out of Olsen, some good and some bad," Felder said, "there is opportunity for [Kaaya] to claw his way into the mix. He played some pro style looks in high school and will bring quality skills to Coral Gables."
Enough quality skills that Dieter Kurtenbach of the South Florida Sun Sentinel believes Kaaya is the type of player who returns the "Quarterback U" moniker to South Florida.
But, again, becoming a transcendent player under center upon arrival is extremely difficult—just ask Jimmy Clausen. Playing behind Olsen would not destroy Kaaya's potential; in fact, Felder believes it would be beneficial for both Kaaya and Miami.
"I don't think he passes Olsen," Felder said. "Ultimately, the best thing for the 'Canes is for Kaaya to redshirt, Williams to return and contribute and Golden's team gets to spring 2015 with Kaaya and Olsen fighting it out in the true quarterback battle that Williams' injury did not allow for this year."
Plus, if Kaaya manages to take a redshirt season in 2014, that means he's still around in 2018, when Williams will be long gone and Olsen's eligibility has expired. And that is certainly an intriguing thought at The U.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.
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It can't be ignored.
After years of hoopla claiming that the SEC is the dominant college football conference, the recent success of teams on the West Coast has folks starting to take notice of powerhouse programs in the Pac-12.
Over the last several years, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA have all stepped up, while sanctions have forced former annual national title contender USC to take a few steps back.
With the hiring and firing of several coaches, the dynamic within the Pac-12 continues to evolve, and teams that were once discounted as underachievers have begun to rise to prominence.
Let's take a look at the best and worst South Division teams heading into the 2014 season, as well my pick for the division winner.
Tennessee's spring practice closed with a whirlwind Orange-and-White Game where points were scored at a dizzying pace, and concerns were compounded about a defense already riddled with questions.
Even so, head coach Butch Jones noted on several occasions since that he was pleased with the team's progress.
The Vols are young, and they're more talented than they were a season ago, but there are still plenty of the potholes that come along the long road of rebuilding a program.
"It's like I tell our football team: The team that has the most talent doesn't necessarily win," Jones told The Daily Beacon's Dargan Southard and Troy Provost-Heron in his post-spring Q&A. "It's the team that has the best team…
"We only have 12 seniors on our football team right now, so leadership from everyone, every class is going to be at a premium."
The Vols are looking for leaders. They're looking for consistency. And they're looking for playmakers. Some of those were found this spring; some weren't.
Let's take a look at the Vols' post-spring winners and losers.
Quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.
One of the most fun parts of spring football season has always been ranking—and making a fuss about—which schools did or didn't get a good turnout at their spring game, which is how we know that (a) we are all certifiably insane, and (b) we need the regular season to get here pronto.
Alas, we are still four months away from having real college football games to talk about, which means spring attendance numbers are about the best we can do.
We need something to pass that time, don't we?
In truth, the spring attendance numbers are a good barometer of how a city feels about its program. Because the game means nothing, a team that draws significantly more or less viewers one season than the last is often trending hard in a certain direction.
Last year, for example, Kentucky was the story of the offseason after drawing 50,831 viewers to a spring football game at a basketball school. And even though that number came down a bit (to 35,117) in 2014, the trappings of support were enough to help Mark Stoops land a seminal recruiting class in Lexington.
Was there another UK in 2014? Here is the current top 10.
Note II: Oregon and Oregon State play their spring games May 3. We will update this list accordingly if/when their attendance numbers are released.
The 2015 recruiting class features a fresh crop of dynamic defensive playmakers. From front line to backfield, future college standouts are easy to identify when examining this latest collection of impressive prospects.
While some players require significant refinement and time on the sidelines during a transition to the next level, others already appear ready to make an immediate impact. We rank the top 10 defensive recruits who are prepared to hit the ground running when they face collegiate competition.
Take a look at Nebraska's 2014 schedule. Notice something?
It should become apparent pretty quickly for Husker fans. After a 2013 season with only one night game (the home opener versus Wyoming), Nebraska now has five prime-time games in a row in 2014. That's quite the change in schedule from one year over the next.
Since the game-time announcements, the reactions have been mixed.
For example, wide receiver Kenny Bell was not pleased. As College Spun reported, Bell took to Twitter to share his frustration over all of the night games. He eventually dropped the subject, but it definitely got fans' attention at the time:
As for the Omaha World Herald's Dirk Chatelain, he questioned what so many night games would do to ticket holders:
When the Huskers are hosting Illinois at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network, that’s asking too much of your ticket-holders. Those from Omaha or Grand Island, for instance, won’t be getting home until 1 or 2 a.m. Is it really worth it to watch Illinois?
Sooner or later, they’ll say 'Why don’t we just stay home?'
Both Bell and Chatelain make valid points, which led to a bigger discussion of the pressure prime-time games put on a program. A schedule full of them definitely ups the ante for head coach Bo Pelini and his team.
Prime-time games haven't been the friendliest to Nebraska in recent years. For instance, the 2012 season is the most telling. The Huskers lost in prime time to UCLA, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Nebraska also fell to Wisconsin in prime time in 2011, too.
And beyond just the prime-time games, there's always the chance ESPN's College GameDay may roll into town for the matchup with Miami. That's pure speculation at this point, but it wouldn't be crazy to assume the classic rivalry isn't on the short list of possibilities. If that were to happen, it would only add additional pressure.
After all, Nebraska hosted College GameDay in 2007, only to lose, 49-31, to USC. As for the Wisconsin game in 2011, the popular preview show was in Madison to watch the Huskers lose, 48-17. Needless to say, the prime-time factor has not been kind to Nebraska recently.
That has to put a little pressure on Pelini and staff. But like it or not, it's the reality Nebraska must face.
Additionally, it's important the Huskers get comfortable in prime time. At the end of the day, it's good for recruiting, and it's good for national exposure.
It's safe to assume the Miami game will entice plenty of recruits to town. The prime-time atmosphere will give those players a great opportunity to see Nebraska at its finest, and it will be imperative for the Huskers to win. As Pelini looks to secure one of his best recruiting classes in 2015, a big win at home under the lights can't hurt.
Needless to say, a lot of fans are concerned about prime-time games for more reasons than tailgating all day and staying up late. Many fans remember those prime-time games gone wrong and have found the Huskers tend to fare better in earlier time slots.
That may sound crazy, but after quite a few big losses in prime time, it's hard to not feel the pressure.
But there is good news. As the Lincoln Journal Star pointed out, the Huskers are actually in a much better position than fans assume, as "Nebraska is 39-5 in night games at Memorial Stadium since the first one against Florida State in 1986. The Huskers have won 13 in a row in such a setting."
That's right. Despite the losses in prime time on the road, Nebraska has performed well during that time slot at home. That means Miami and Illinois have the odds in the Huskers' favor.
As for Fresno State, Michigan State and Northwestern, Nebraska will be battling to overcome the prime-time curse (for lack of a better word) that follows the team on the road.
Prime-time games add pressure, regardless of the team. Pelini is in the same spot as any other team with a prime-time game. It just feels different for Husker fans because some of the biggest losses in recent years have come at the hands of a prime-time game.
So the pressure is on in 2014 as the season of early kickoffs is gone. Can the Huskers beat the pressure? Like it or not, they're going to have to.
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The 5-star quarterback is one of the nation's most coveted recruits. As the 2015 cycle gets heated with spring evaluations and revs up for the coming camp season, four players hold the distinction of being 5-star players, according to 247Sports: Josh Rosen, Ricky Town, Torrance Gibson and Kyler Murray.
In 2014, Kyle Allen was the only quarterback to draw the 5-star distinction. The Arizona quarterback, who enrolled early at Texas A&M, is the front-runner in many minds to win the starting job over Kenny Hill, his lone competition.
Max Browne, a 2013 5-star recruit, is playing the backup role to Cody Kessler at USC in his second season, while fellow 2013 5-star Christian Hackenberg is the starter at Penn State and tracking for big success.
While the jury is still out on those young men's futures, a look at the previous five seasons shows a truly mixed bag when it comes to the cream of the quarterback crop in recruiting. From 2008 to 2012, 10 quarterbacks earned the distinction of being 5-star players, an average of two per year, although no players garnered the accolade in 2010.
The 2008 class all sits in various stages of the NFL. Dayne Crist, who started at Notre Dame before transferring to Kansas, is currently a free agent after being waived by the Baltimore Ravens prior to the start of the 2013 season. The Seattle Seahawks recently acquired Ohio State alum Terrelle Pryor as another backup to Russell Wilson, something Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times noted, despite discussion of Pryor changing positions.
EJ Manuel, a first-round pick in the 2013 draft, is 10 games into his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and has posted 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 1,972 yards passing. While his NFL future remains to be written, he left college as a success, winning an ACC championship and the Orange Bowl in Florida State's return to the BCS stage.
Although Crist never truly got going in college, both Pryor and Manuel had solid collegiate careers. Pryor helped the Buckeyes win the Sugar Bowl in 2011 following the 2010 season and the Rose Bowl following the 2009 campaign. The kid was a decorated collegiate player, earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award after starting nine games in 2008 as well as the Rose Bowl MVP the next season.
Scandal will accompany Pryor's name, but on the field the former 5-star certainly came close to living up to the hype. He helped his team to three BCS bowls, was a productive player and, had he been around for his senior year, would have likely been mentioned in the Heisman discussion.
Of the 2009 class, two are currently on NFL rosters, while the third 5-star, Garrett Gilbert, is hoping to be selected in May's NFL draft.
Matt Barkley was a collegiate stud who saw his draft stock take a hit during a senior year where his USC Trojans team struggled to string together wins. Although he is an NFL backup, at USC and in the Pac-12 Barkley found his way toward the top of many career achievement lists.
As a four-year starter who was the heart and soul of the USC program during his time, Barkley certainly lived up to the 5-star billing.
Garrett Gilbert seemed poised to do the same on the wings of his freshman performance for Texas in the BCS National Championship Game. However, his next year was disastrous and ultimately led to Gilbert transferring to SMU after he missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.
The former 5-star finished his career throwing for over 6,000 yards with the Mustangs and 36 touchdowns. Gilbert missed the last two games of 2013 with a knee injury, but he is an interesting commodity in the draft, as ESPN's Kevin Weidl notes:
For his part, Gilbert is realistic about his chances.
"I've got no idea. I really don't. … In all honesty, I'd really just love the opportunity to continue to play this game somewhere, and that's what I'm looking for," he told the Houston Chronicle.
Russell Shepard, the third 5-star in the mix for the 2009 class, never actually played quarterback in college. Shepard spent time as a running back-wide receiver hybrid before settling at wide receiver with the LSU Tigers. Whether scored as a receiver or a converted quarterback, Shepard struggled to find his way, some of which can be attributed to LSU's lack of inventiveness on the offensive side of the ball.
The undrafted quarterback turned receiver is now a special teams contributor and reserve receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2011 class boasted two 5-star quarterbacks, both of the dual-threat variety: Jeff Driskel and Braxton Miller. Although draft-eligible, both are back at school for their senior campaigns, Miller the only one of the two who had serious prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.
Driskel, who was injured for the bulk of 2013, has struggled to show the skills that made him the nation's No. 1 quarterback. The Florida Gators QB has been inconsistent, inaccurate and not as swift on the move as expected upon enrollment.
Meanwhile, Miller has lived up to the top billing associated with 5-star recruits. He came in and stole the Ohio State starting job as a freshman, and despite being limited in his passing ability, the kid was clearly the Buckeyes' best option at the position. The last two seasons have seen Miller lead undefeated regular-season campaigns and wow observers with his ability to heave the deep ball or go the distance on both broken plays and designed runs.
Miller's upcoming senior campaign is all about getting his team a Big Ten championship and a spot in college football's inaugural playoff. Individually, Miller is a Heisman front-runner and a name on every college football fan's short list of elite players. As he polishes the throwing elements of his game, the NFL is certainly a viable option. Depending upon his performance and improvements in 2014, he could find himself pushing into the first round.
Driskel's goals are not quite as lofty. The quarterback has to work with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to develop an efficient offense and hopefully return to the ball-control team that went to the Sugar Bowl following the 2012 season.
Finally, the most recent class worth noting is the 2012 duo of 5-star quarterbacks: Jameis Winston and Gunner Kiel.
Winston has already etched his name into history with a Heisman Trophy, an ACC championship, a BCS National Championship and a host of other awards to his name at Florida State. The 2014 campaign is about repeating for the redshirt sophomore, as well as elevating his NFL stock from "one of the best quarterbacks" to "the best quarterback" for the 2015 draft.
The other 5-star, Kiel, will finally get to show what he can do after two seasons of sitting on the bench. The Notre Dame enrollee was buried on the depth chart in South Bend in 2012 and then forced to burn a year waiting to play after transferring to Cincinnati. Kiel, as Tom Groeschen of The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, looked ready to play in the spring game, and folks will get to put eyes on the former top-ranked quarterback recruit.
Quarterback is a mixed bag, not because stars do not matter, but rather because it is a position that requires incredibly favorable conditions for players to succeed. Natural talent is great, but if coaching changes or injuries occur, not to mention the struggle to adjust to the collegiate landscape, natural talent does not solve the problems.
Of the five players during the time period who could be drafted into the NFL, only three were selected: Barkley, Pryor and Manuel. Pryor, of course, was a supplemental draft pick by the Oakland Raiders. In that same group of five, four are currently on NFL rosters, while Crist sits as an unaffiliated free agent. Although only Manuel is a true starter, the 80 percent roster rate is still quite high, and Gilbert hopes to add his name to that list, making it five of six on NFL rosters.
In 2014, the nation will be watching all seven of the active 5-star players, each of whom is set to start for his current program, except for Browne at USC. The quarterback position is not an easy one, and as guys jockey for team and individual success, even the big names are not guaranteed to produce.
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Florida State star Jameis Winston recently found himself in trouble with the law after he was caught shoplifting crab legs from a grocery store in Florida. Now, an Alabama grocery store is using the situation to take a shot at the dual-sport star.
The Internet had fun Wednesday creating memes mocking Winston for the incident. Now, one company has taken it upon itself to sell "Jameis Winston King Crab Legs."
It's understandable that people in Alabama want to take a shot at the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner after he led the Seminoles past the Auburn Tigers in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game. This opportunity was too good to pass up.
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COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier Jr. is not saying he doesn’t want to succeed his father as the next head football coach at South Carolina.
He’s also not saying he does.
What he will say extends beyond "no comment" but falls short of answering the question.
“That’s certainly a question I won’t answer,” Spurrier Jr. said when asked about the possibility of taking over when his father eventually retires. “It’s something I don’t worry about, something I’m not talking about, something I’m not politicking for. I don’t want to have a comment either way about that.
"Certainly South Carolina is a great program and has gotten better every year. Whenever my father does decide to retire it’s going to be an excellent job, a wonderful opportunity. We’re going to have good players. We’re going to have some momentum versus a lot of teams we play. Whenever that day comes, it will be a good job. I’ll talk about whatever I’ve got to talk about when that happens.”
The truth of the matter is that Spurrier Jr. is quite content in his present assignment as South Carolina’s recruiting coordinator, co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of kids. I’ve got a great job making a lot of money. Anytime you hear somebody talk about security in coaching football, it doesn’t happen very often. I know eventually something’s got to happen and I’ll deal with it when it comes. Certainly in coaching, you have to have your eye looking forward, but you have to press on and do the best you can in the job you have right now.”
Spurrier Jr. has spent nine seasons at South Carolina and is the only remaining coach from his father’s original staff.
South Carolina’s coaches received across-the-board raises in January, and Spurrier Jr.’s raise took him from $325,000 to $380,000 a year.
Only defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward ($700,000 per year) and co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Shawn Elliott ($430,000 per year) make more.
Born in 1971 in Palo Alto, California, during the period when his father was playing quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Spurrier Jr. has grown up around the game.
Spurrier Jr. played at Duke as a walk-on wide receiver (after his father had left his coaching job at Duke to take the head coaching job at Florida), eventually earning a scholarship.
He has coached under his father at Florida, with the Washington Redskins and at South Carolina, but he also spent two seasons under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and one season under Mike Stoops at Arizona.
Spurrier Jr. has had nibbles for offensive coordinator jobs and at least one head coaching job—at Coastal Carolina.
“Coastal Carolina called me,” he said. “That didn’t get very far, but that was certainly a very interesting opportunity. It’s a good program and a good team. The athletic director was a good guy, the president was a good guy. It’s a program that’s got every reason to be successful.
“I’ve had people contact me about different things. I don’t know what my next move will be, whether its offensive coordinator somewhere or I got the opportunity to be a head coach somewhere.”
Either way, Spurrier Jr. says he’s not obsessed with being a head coach.
“No,” he said, when asked if that was a burning ambition. “Certainly there are people like that who think, ‘What’s my path? What’s my strategy to be a head coach?’ I don’t have an agent. I know people every time I see them, they’re shaking hands with somebody giving them their resume. That’s something that, when the day comes, I will have earned the right to whatever option I get.”
Spurrier Jr. looks like his father, talks like his father and has a lot of the same mannerisms and patterns of speech.
Whether or not he can coach like his father remains to be seen.
Spurrier Sr. has made it clear he will have no involvement in selecting his successor.
“I would have no input whatsoever on who follows me here at South Carolina,” Spurrier said. “I have never thought a head coach should even make suggestions. We have two men here very capable, Ray Tanner (athletic director) and Harris Pastides (university president). The athletic director and the president, they make the call.”
Maybe so, but when reading the tea leaves, there are a lot of factors that appear favorable for a Spurrier-to-Spurrier Jr. transition when the senior, who just turned 69, decides to resign.
Spurrier likes Columbia and plans to stay here after he gives up coaching. Both sons, Spurrier Jr. and Scott Spurrier, live here—as does one of his two daughters.
He has already agreed to stay on at South Carolina in the role of special adviser after he steps down as head coach.
Almost certainly, Spurrier Sr. would enjoy the post a lot more if Spurrier Jr. was head coach.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, having been elevated to his position from head baseball coach, would likely prefer an in-house hire for the continuity it would provide.
Tanner has hired two head coaches since taking over as athletic director and both have been in-house hires: Chad Holbrook, who took over for Tanner as head baseball coach, and sand volleyball coach Moritz Moritz, who was an assistant coach on the indoor volleyball team.
Granted, selecting a head football coach is a much more serious matter than selecting a sand volleyball coach or even a baseball coach, but if the Gamecocks keep on winning, it will be hard for Tanner to go outside the program when selecting a successor.
Both Spurrier and Spurrier Jr. have paid their dues, and Tanner will respect that.
In the meantime, with South Carolina having unprecedented success in the form of three consecutive 11-2 seasons and three consecutive top-10 finishes, Spurrier Sr. is in no hurry to give up coaching.
Likewise, Spurrier Jr. is in no hurry to succeed him.
“I do think it’s neat that everything he enjoys in life comes from being a football coach,” Spurrier Jr. said. “I don’t think I’ve ever once heard him say, ‘When I retire, I’d like to do this.’ He has never mapped out a plan or things he would like to do that retiring would permit him to do.
"Everything he likes to do, everywhere he likes to travel, all the things he does are through being the head football coach at South Carolina. He’s got a lot of momentum going, the program does, I’m very fortunate to be a part of it. Right now, we’re going to worry about getting ready for Texas A&M.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.
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The Texas A&M football team completed its 2014 spring practices on April 13. The Aggies had a few players step up and a few who hurt their standings on the team during the spring.
Spring practice is a time for coaches to work on the fundamentals with the players and to experiment with new ideas. Coaches will switch players around to different positions to see how they respond, and the spring practices allow them to get a closer look at some of the younger members of the roster.
The coaches moved some players around during the spring with success. They also left the spring season with some lingering questions at certain positions.
This is a look at the winners and losers from the Aggies' spring practices.
The forthcoming SEC Network, which will launch on August 14, has announced its schedule of live football games for the first four weeks of next season, and it's a list that should make all 14 conference teams happy.
Per a release from the SEC Digital Network, eight SEC teams' openers will be broadcast on the network, and each program will be shown at least once on its home field during the first four weeks.
Here is the full released schedule:
The first game broadcast on the network will be a good one, an All-SEC affair between Texas A&M and South Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 28 that doubles as one of the best games in Week 1.
The Aggies are one of three SEC teams, along with Arkansas (at Auburn) and Kentucky (at Florida), that will have a road game broadcast in the first four weeks, and as such, each school will be on the network a second time, at home, before the first four weeks are through.
"The fact that the SEC Network will originate a game from every stadium in the conference in the first four weeks of the 2014 season is testament to the depth of coverage fans can expect from the network," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive, according to the release.
"The schedule includes quality and depth from across the conference," chimed in Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president, college networks. "The full breadth of teams and stadiums showcased in the first month alone speaks volumes on the type of programming sports fans should expect on the SEC Network."
This is a good first step for the network, showing a concerted effort, at least at first, to give teams such as Kentucky as much play as blue bloods such as Auburn and Alabama.
Clay Travis of FoxSports.com, who has been all over the SEC Network coverage from the onset, agrees that this is a good move:
How do you feel about the opening four-week schedule?
Chime in with some comments below.
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Gil Brandt, the legendary former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys (1960-89) who now works for NFL.com, offered one of his annual pieces of advice on Wednesday when tweeting: “Always tell prospects this time of year to lock themselves in a room and don't come out until draft is over.”
This spring it’s especially true with the NFL draft bumped back a couple of weeks to May 8-10, giving it even more of a buildup. Combined with the extremely talented pool of players, resulting in probably the widest range of opinions ever about who should be selected when, the rhetoric is at an all-time high.
Take, for example, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s conference call with reporters last week, during which he took aim at the University of Alabama’s defensive players.
For months he’s been saying that Calvin Pryor of Louisville and the Crimson Tide’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the two best safeties available. Since Pryor is more of traditional strong safety and Clinton-Dix more of a free safety, they’re very different in style.
However, Kiper is using Alabama’s recent draft history as part of his reasoning for preferring Pryor.
"Alabama's defensive players in general have struggled in the NFL,” he said. “Not just one or two, it's a pretty good list of names you can throw out there of guys who have not gotten it done on the defensive side of the ball. Mark Barron still hasn't played up to the level you thought he would with Tampa Bay. That's a concern to me, and it has to be factor in here."
Barron, the No. 7 selection in 2012, was selected to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team after finishing eighth in tackles and seventh in passes defensed among first-year players. He’s started 30 games for the Buccaneers as part of an outstanding secondary.
Kiper also touched on it when asked about the possibility of Pittsburgh selecting linebacker C.J. Mosley with the 15th pick (“I don’t see Mosley as a Steelers type of linebacker,” he said), leading to a direct question about his sudden distaste for the Crimson Tide.
“In terms of the Alabama players, is it a trend? Is it one or two, no, it’s more than that,” he explained before specifically mentioning cornerback Kareem Jackson, Barron again, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, linebacker Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody.
"There is a concern about that, and it's probably because they're coached up so well. They're in a great system. They all complement each other. They come into the league thinking they're pretty much as coached as they can be ... and basically they've hit their ceiling. They're as good as they're going to get. There's not that upside that you see with all the other guys. Maybe that's a factor.
“But it is something that you have to look at because there's been a number, a host of players out of that Alabama defense, over the years that have come out as high draft choices and, frankly, have been major disappointments."
At this point, there’s no denying that McClain, who was the eighth selection in the 2010 draft, was a great college player but an NFL bust as he recently retired a second time, and in terms of draft value Kiper may have an argument. Was Jackson worthy of being the 20th pick in 2010? Probably not.
But too coached up? Is there such a thing?
Just three years ago that very thing clearly helped Alabama players in the 2011 draft. Due to a labor dispute that wasn’t resolved until July, there were no offseason camps or free-agent signings, with rosters locked in place during the four-and-a-half-month lockout.
Players who could step in and potentially contribute immediately were highly coveted, with four Crimson Tide players selected in the first round.
It also wasn’t too long ago that former Crimson Tide offensive tackle Andre Smith was being called a draft bust. Last year he got a new three-year, $18 million contract from Cincinnati.
Targeting Alabama just before the draft isn’t anything new. Go back to a year ago, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter questioned the durability of Alabama players in general, suggesting that they were too beat up and had too many surgeries. The other vocal “concern” was specific to the running backs, as neither Mark Ingram Jr. nor Trent Richardson had lit up the NFL as hoped.
Nevertheless, after having eight players selected in 2012, nine were picked in 2013, including running back Eddie Lacy, who went on to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Alabama could top that this year, with most of the selections on the defensive side.
Overall, from 2009-13, Alabama led all college programs with 14 first-round selections after not having any between 2000 (Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander) and 2009 (Smith), and no draft picks at all in 2008. The 11 first-round picks from 2011, 2012 and 2013 alone equaled the output of the previous six Crimson Tide coaches and 22 years combined.
Last fall, Alabama had 30 former players on NFL rosters for opening weekend, not including those on injured reserve or on practice squads. That was seventh among college programs, with Southern California edging out Saban’s former LSU Tigers for the top spot, 40 to 39.
That’s roughly twice as many as Alabama had when Saban took over in 2007, and the Crimson Tide weren't listed among the top 25 programs in that category until 2011.
Meanwhile, with former linebacker Jerrell Harris recently signing with the Denver Broncos and cornerback DeQuan Menzie with the Detroit Lions, every starter on the national championship 2011 defense, which led the nation in every major category, is under contract with an NFL team.
Consider that rhetoric, empty rhetoric, especially since every prospect gets judged and evaluated on his own.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
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As long as he can stay out of serious trouble this offseason—lest we forget last year's "Summer of Johnny"—Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will return to defend his Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore in 2014.
Competing to best him is a field of candidates who didn't come close last season, as the other five finalists who joined Winston in New York for the Heisman ceremony have all entered the 2014 NFL draft.
But that doesn't mean there's a lack of quality options.
Four quarterbacks who could have entered the NFL draft—and whom many experts were surprised to see return to school—highlight the cast that could knock Winston off his throne, along with some other talented QBs and running backs.
Or maybe the man to unseat Jameis will be a dark horse—the exact title Zac Ellis of SI.com gave to Winston at the start of last season.
Here are some names to keep an eye on.
The Big 12 is a league known for its prolific gunslingers. But 2014 may be a different year, particularly with all the quarterback battles going on this offseason.
Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and even Texas and TCU don't have a solidified player at the most important position on the field.
But nevertheless, spring practice is over, and it's time to power rank each of the Big 12's likely starting quarterbacks.