NCAA Football News

B/R Recruiting Notebook: 4-Stars Discuss Commitments to Ohio State, Clemson

Ohio State and Clemson have top-three 2017 recruiting classes, according to 247Sports' composite team rankings. Both schools landed key players to their classes on Sunday.

With those schools adding commits, the aftermath of last week's The Opening/Elite 11 Los Angeles regional and the big winners from Sunday's The Opening/Elite 11 Miami, it's easy to see that recruiting is in full swing for the 2017 class. Here are a few updates.

 

New Ohio State commit Dobbins ready to recruit

Ohio State added to its top-ranked 2017 class on Sunday when La Grange, Texas, 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins announced his verbal commitment. As the nation's No. 4 all-purpose back in the 2017 class added to an already impressive class, a big question emerged.

Who's next?

"I'm not sure yet," Dobbins said, "but we have a lot of talent in Texas, so I'm going to get one of those guys to come with me."

Three Texans who the Buckeyes are hoping to close on by next February are 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah, 5-star linebacker Baron Browning and 4-star linebacker Anthony Hines III. Dobbins said he is ready to do his part as a player-recruiter to bring the top players from the Lone Star State to Columbus, Ohio.

For Dobbins, choosing Ohio State was an easy pick. He chose the Buckeyes over schools like Notre Dame, Oklahoma and in-state schools Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor. He said the school's winning tradition and player development were major factors in his decision, along with the coaching staff.

Dobbins said he doesn't have a set time of when he'll visit Ohio State but plans on making the trip soon. For now, he said he will focus on persuading some of the best from Texas to make the move with him.

 

Clemson APB commit Richardson: 'It's a special place'

Clemson's 2017 class received great news Sunday afternoon when Memphis, Tennessee, 4-star running back Cordarrian Richardson gave his verbal commitment following an unofficial visit over the weekend.

In short, Richardson told Bleacher Report that it was easy to fall in love with the ACC power, which now has nine pledges in the 2017 class and is ranked No. 3 in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

"It's a special place," Richardson said. "Once I first got on campus, I felt at home. Everything was phenomenal."

At 5'11" and 220 pounds, Richardson is a big back who will follow in the footsteps of recent well-known backs. In the last five years, Clemson has signed Wayne Gallman (2013 signee), Tyshon Dye (2013) and, most recently, Tavien Feaster, the top-ranked all-purpose back of the 2016 class.

"It played a huge factor, especially with what Coach [co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott] does with the running backs," said Richardson, who is ranked as the No. 5 running back in the 2017 class. "I love how he treats those guys and how he respects them."

 

Recruiting on the rise for Elite 11 LA MVP

In one week's time, Chase Garbers went from a national unknown to one of the hottest recruiting names in the state of California.

After earning MVP honors at the Elite 11 Los Angeles regional, Garbers has watched his recruiting stock rise tremendously. The Newport Beach, California, 3-star pro-style quarterback went from four offers to 10, the latest coming Sunday morning from Hawaii. Garbers added offers from Arizona State, Wake Forest, Illinois and Ivy League schools Cornell and Brown following his Elite 11 performance.

"Recruiting has changed a lot since Elite 11. A bunch of schools from all over country have been trying to contact me," Garbers said. "It's really picked up after my first offer from Boise State, but I'm definitely going to wait to make a decision.

"It was huge for me to win [Elite 11] MVP," he explained. "I think it opened some eyes across the country. But with me, nothing's really changed. I think I'm just doing more interviews, but I'm still living the same life and trying to get better."

Garbers said he's looking into taking unofficial visits to Cal, Wake Forest and Duke sometime this spring. In April, he said he wants to take a recruiting tour that includes Washington, Washington State, Boise State, Colorado and Colorado State.

 

2018 Spina a versatile athlete to watch

St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, has its share of athletes. Some athletes even come in larger packages.

At 6'3" and 270 pounds, Sal Spina is, indeed, an athlete.

Spina, a rising 2018 two-way standout considered by Bosco head coach Jason Negro as one of the team's most important players, can line up as a defensive tackle, defensive end, middle linebacker, tight end and H-back. He's being recruited primarily at defensive tackle.

"Right now, I'm most comfortable at defensive tackle, but I'm also real comfortable at the H-back position," said Spina, who has a Fresno State offer and is hearing from schools such as UCLA and Washington.

"I feel like I can utilize my speed and my strength," Spina explained. "I feel like the combination of the two is what makes me go. I haven't really had coaches tell me what position they want me, but because I play defensive tackle the majority of the time, that's where they're seeing me."

"He's got an athletic skill set about him, but his pad level and the way he plays on the inside has been really impressive," Negro added. "He started for us as a freshman, which is extremely hard to do at this level, and he's also athletic enough to play tight end. He's physical and super strong."

Spina was impressive at The Opening Los Angeles regional. He's hoping to gain additional interest throughout the spring and add to his offer list.

"I just want to get to a school and get better," Spina said. "I don't want to just flatten out. A good coaching staff is a big deal for me."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Rodney Scott Commits to Miami: Hurricanes Land 4-Star WR

The Miami Hurricanes have landed a significant recruiting win in 4-star receiver Rodney Scott, who has committed to The U over Florida and Alabama, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

"It's my hometown," Scott said, according to Bartow. "They kept in contact the most. Why put on for a team out of state when I can for my home state team?"

During a recent interview with Nate Adelson of 247Sports, Scott shared he was looking at the depth chart and academics as main factors in selecting a program—with a preference toward an in-state school.

Miami definitely checked off each of those boxes for the wideout rated 312th overall and No. 46 at his position, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters exhausted their eligibility after the 2015 season, Tyre Brady elected to transfer and D'Mauri Jones left the program. Following the 2016 campaign, Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis will graduate.

When the Southridge product arrives, his top competition will be Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and a trio of 4-star 2016 signees in Sam Bruce, Ahmmon Richards and Dionte Mullins.

Additionally, Miami—along with Florida—is considered a top academic institution in the state, per US News & World Report. Scott visited the Coral Gables campus on Feb. 20 for junior day.

Corey Bender of Scout highlighted the 6'0", 168-pound receiver's strengths.

Scott is slippery at the line of scrimmage, and does an outstanding job of sticking his foot in the grass and making defenders miss with a head and shoulder shake. He has nice length and flashes the ability to high-point the football away from his body as well. Scott also shows good concentration and awareness when making difficult catches and dragging his feet in bounds.

Scott tallied 23 receptions, 374 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. He snagged 21 passes for 270 yards and one score last season.

First-year Miami coach Mark Richt now has 11 verbal commitments for the 2017 class, which currently ranks No. 2 nationally.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Tennessee Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2016 Schedule

After three years of rebuilding and many more taking lumps during a four-coach decade that saw some of the darkest days in Tennessee football history, the Volunteers should be the aggressor in 2016.

With 17 returning starters, a slew of talented playmakers on offense and defense and a run-oriented system with experienced players up and down the depth chart, it could be a big season for UT. 

Catapulting off a 9-4 season that included six consecutive victories to end the season and a 45-6 exclamation point domination of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, expectations are high. But with an offseason that has included tons of negative off-the-field headlines, can the Vols avoid the distractions?

Today, spring practice kicks off on coach Butch Jones' fourth season in Knoxville. How focused the players are in the next couple of months may go a long way in showing whether they'll be affected by the ongoing Title IX civil suit that—according to the Associated Press, via the News-Sentinel—doesn't look to be going away anytime soon.

"There's a lot of distractions outside, a lot of misrepresentations going on outside that we can't control," senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs recently told GoVols247's Wes Rucker. "We can't read into that. We can't get bothered by that. We just have to focus on what we can control, and get better this winter, get better this offseason and prepare for spring ball."

All that said, Tennessee looks stout on the field. And, for the first time in several years, the Vols' schedule doesn't look so daunting. There's no Oregon or Oklahoma looming out of conference. Instead, UT gets a transitioning Virginia Tech in the "Battle at Bristol" early in the season.

Also, Alabama and Florida are at home, Georgia likely will be breaking in a new quarterback and coach, South Carolina and Missouri have new coaches and UT's West draw, Texas A&M, had all kinds of troubles last year.

Let's rank the Vols' toughest games in the upcoming '16 season.

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Ohio State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2016 Schedule

The Ohio State Buckeyes have been criticized recently for a perceived weakness in its strength of schedule, particularly in nonconference play, as headliners Cal (2012-13) and Virginia Tech (2014-15) failed to live up to the hype.

Those critics won't have much to say in 2016, however, because the Buckeyes will face one of the most difficult schedules in the country.

The non-Big Ten slate will be a challenge in itself as Ohio State faces reigning MAC champion Bowling Green and Tulsa, which ranked 13th nationally in total offense last season, before heading south for one of the most highly anticipated nonconference games of the year at Oklahoma.

After the marquee showdown against the Sooners, the Buckeyes will attack the newly implemented nine-game league schedule that features back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Penn State and closes with the brutal stretch at Michigan State and home against Michigan.

Which games will be the toughest for the Buckeyes to win this fall? 

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5 Top Performing Quarterback Recruits from 2016 Miami Elite 11 Regional

PLANTATION, Fla. — The Miami Elite 11 regional mostly featured passers from the talent-laden territories in Dade and Broward counties in South Florida.

However, a handful of passers from central Florida and even a few out-of-state signal-callers made their way to American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida, with eyes on clinching a spot in the Elite 11 semifinals later in the summer.

Two passers who already competed in the Orlando Elite 11 Regional—4-star Jake Allen and 3-star Cade Weldon—came to South Florida for another chance to impress the Elite 11 coaching staff.

Additionally, one out-of-state prospect with some flair and an underclassmen who made it to the climactic pressure-chamber event highlighted the field-general segment.

Elite 11 quarterback coaches Craig Nall and Paul Troth shared a few things that stood out about the group as a whole.

“I think first and foremost, they had a great attitude. The quarterbacks, as a group, it seems like they came out here eager to learn—which is encouraging from a coaching standpoint. You don’t have to coach them so hard,” Nall told Bleacher Report. “We just gave them what they need, and I thought they responded well and competed hard. A couple of guys showed out, and I thought you saw that towards the end there.”

Troth echoed those sentiments.

“I think [the quarterbacks] came out strong in the beginning. There was a lot of energy,” Troth said. “I think they were very attentive to the finer details in the beginning with things such as drop progression and tying your feet to your eyes. The little things that we want to see that they should go home and practice on their own.”

Which quarterbacks stood out the most among the group?

Let’s take a look at the five top-performing quarterback recruits from the 2016 Miami Elite 11 regional.

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Highlights and Analysis of The Opening Miami Regional

PLANTATION, Fla. — A picture-perfect day in South Florida greeted hundreds of prospects from one of the nation’s premier hotbeds for talent who were on hand for the Miami Nike Opening Regional.

When the day’s festivities concluded, six players earned a coveted invitation to The Opening. Additionally, one quarterback—4-star Florida pledge Jake Allen—earned a trip to the Elite 11 finals in June.

The day belonged to the skill-position groups, as a trio of receivers and one defensive back were among the prospects who impressed the Student Sports coaching staff enough to make reservations for a trip to Beaverton, Oregon, in July.

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger storylines to emerge from the Miami Nike Opening Regional

 

St. Thomas Aquinas WR Duo Punches Ticket to Oregon

If Allen is fortunate enough to make it out of the Elite 11 finals and be one of the 12 passers selected to compete at The Opening, he will get a chance to throw to two of his primary targets at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale.

Between 5-star Trevon Grimes and 3-star Michael Harley, the duo showed exactly why the Raiders passing attack will be tough to slow down this fall.

Grimes was one of the headliners of the event, and while he had some tough stretches in one-on-ones and during the early pass skeleton drills, he also snagged a terrific touchdown grab in between two defenders that drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd.

Overall, the 6’4”, 201-pounder was one of more physically imposing receivers present, and he displayed the speed and quickness that make him one of the more coveted receiver prospects in the 2017 cycle.

Meanwhile, the 5’10”, 170-pound Harley was perhaps the smoothest receiver at the event. He displayed great speed, precise route running and sure hands throughout the day.

“I’ve been working hard for this, so I’m glad I came out and performed well enough to get invited,” Harley told Bleachre Report. “I just want to keep showing people what I can do at every event I compete in. Regardless of what happens, I just have to keep working hard and just be humble.”

 

FSU Pledges Show Out

Florida State is one school that has already gotten off to a quick start with its 2017 recruiting class—which currently checks in as the nation’s No. 4 group.

Two members of that class—4-star linebacker VanDarius Cowan and 4-star running back Zaquandre White—were decked out in Seminoles gear as they competed against the best talent in South Florida.

Cowan, who measured in at 6’4”, 218 pounds and clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.77 seconds, had a simple goal he wanted to accomplish at the camp.

“I just [wanted to] ball out and [show I’m] the best linebacker here,” he said.

Cowan, who could also play defensive end at the next level, showed he was fluid enough to drop into coverage against a strong group of running backs.

His good friend, White, who checked in at 6’0”, 203 pounds with a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash, displayed great short-area quickness and the ability to be a threat in the passing game as a receiver.

“[Getting The Opening invite is] something I’ve been wanting to accomplish,” White said. “I just felt good going through the drills. I wanted to focus on finishing everything the right way and to do what the coaches asked me to do.”

 

Herbert Only Lineman to Earn Invite

A small, but talented, group of offensive and defensive linemen were on hand at the camp.

However, despite big names such as 5-star offensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton and 2018 4-star defensive end Nik Bonitto, only one big man was able to put together a performance worthy of earning a trip to the summer’s premier camp showcase.

Three-star offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert—who is Slaton’s teammate at American Heritage High School in Plantation—got off to a slow start before settling in and dominating in his individual matchups throughout the rest of the day. 

“I messed up on my first two reps, and then I just came back after that and got after it and just played with good leverage and fundamentals,” the 6’5”, 275-pound Herbert said. “I just wanted to show how much I’ve improved from last year.”

 

Stanford Samuels III and Jerry Jeudy Push for 5th Star

Two 4-star prospects who are about as close as one can be to earning a fifth star are corner Stanford Samuels III and receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Samuels currently rates as the nation’s No. 32 overall prospect, while Jeudy checks in one spot behind him at No. 33 in the 2017 cycle.

Both prospects were at their best on Sunday—with each netting a spot reserved for them at The Opening.

Samuels was able to be physical with most receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he was able to make a beautiful red-zone interception on a pass intended for Grimes.

“[Getting to The Opening was] always something I’ve dreamed about and always something I’ve wanted to do,” Samuels said. “I never got a chance to go to Oregon before, but I’ve always watched it on TV since I was a kid. Just getting a chance to go up there and getting a chance to compete against the top guys, it’s going to be awesome.”

Meanwhile, the 6’1”, 174-pound Jeudy showed off a well-rounded game that saw him consistently win routes off the line of scrimmage and attack balls in the air with his hands.

“That [is] a wonderful opportunity. It’s been a dream of mine to get open,” Jeudy said of his reward for his day’s work.

 

Quick Hitters

Among the camp’s position MVP’s were a pair of underclassmen with great bloodlines: 2019 running back James Cook and 2018 corner Patrick Surtain Jr

Cook is the younger brother of Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook, while Surtain’s father—who coaches his son as the head coach at American Heritage—was a former star defensive back in the NFL for more than a decade.

Another college football star showed up to the camp to give pointers to quarterbacks in attendance. Current Miami star quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is an Elite 11 alum from the 2013 class, watched the passing segments with a keen eye.

A player who could potentially catch passes from Kaaya one day is 3-star tight end and current Hurricanes pledge Kemore Gamble. The 6’3”, 220-pounder had the catch of the day after he snagged a one-handed touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone in red-zone drills.

With the camp taking place at American Heritage High School, former Patriots star and Florida State signee Brian Burns was on hand to support a number of his former prep teammates in action. Burns has added more than 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 16 Most Exciting Early Enrollees to Watch in 2016 Spring Practice

Spring practice isn't simply the return of college football. This year, the offseason workouts provide an initial look at some of the most exciting early enrollees from the 2016 recruiting class.

From quarterbacks with their eyes on a starting job to highly rated prospects hoping to join the rotation immediately, there's no shortage of premier talents to watch.

The following weeks are an important time for the true freshmen who were able to graduate from high school in the winter because they'll be immersed in the program and fast-tracked into the learning curve.

Whoever performs well this spring—and all of the following players are entering favorable situations—will have an excellent chance to rise up the depth chart during fall camp.

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Lovie Smith Reportedly to Be Illinois Head Coach: Contract Details, Reaction

The Illinois Fighting Illini football team will reportedly name former NFL head coach Lovie Smith as its next head coach, per CBS in Chicago (via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports).

The 57-year-old Smith, who was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, will replace Bill Cubit.

The Buccaneers fired Smith on Jan. 7 after going 8-24 in two seasons. The Buccaneers won four more games in Smith's second season with No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston starting all 16 games, but that wasn't enough for Smith to keep his job. 

This is not the first time Smith will be among the college coach ranks. He was a linebackers and defensive backs coach for six different schools before finally reaching the NFL level in 1996, being hired as Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach under Tony Dungy.

Smith will return to the state where he received his first head coaching gig when he was the Chicago Bears head coach from 2004 up until 2012. He led the Bears to three NFC North championships and an appearance in Super Bowl XLI.

As the Bears' coach, Smith went 81-63 and finished below .500 in only three of his nine seasons.

Cubit was named the interim head coach at Illinois a week before the season began after then-coach Tim Beckman was fired amid allegations of player mistreatment. Illinois went on to finish 5-7 last year. New athletic director Josh Whitman dismissed Cubit on Saturday, Whitman's first official day at the AD helm, per FightingIllini.com.

If Smith is named the next coach, he will take over an Illinois team that has been in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten for the last eight seasons. Since making the Rose Bowl in the 2007 season, Illinois has not won more than seven games in a season. The Illini have made three bowl games during that span, however, winning two of them. He'll also have two offensive building blocks in senior quarterback Wes Lunt and sophomore running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

A leader with NFL head coaching pedigree might be just what Illinois needs to return to Big Ten prominence. 

 

Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com. Follow Danny Webster on Twitter.

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Illinois Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Vacant Position

A tumultuous time for the University of Illinois football program may have a promising ending as the athletic department opens its search for a new head coach. 

Continue for updates. 

Illini Targeting Lovie Smith  Saturday, March 5

According to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, citing two NFL sources, Lovie Smith "will be [a] candidate" for the Illini's head coaching vacancy. 

Per Ryan Baker of CBS 2 in Chicago, citing "credible sources," he will be named Illinois' next football coach. 

It's been an interesting day for the Illini, as new athletic director Josh Whitman announced the firing of Bill Cubit. The 62-year-old took over as Illinois' football coach on an interim basis in August before he received a two-year contract to remain the head coach in November. 

Cubit originally took over after Tim Beckham was fired in August following an external review of the program brought up allegations of player mistreatment, including forcing players to play despite injuries and efforts to discourage injury reporting. 

Smith, who was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, is familiar with the Illinois area and program after coaching the Chicago Bears for nine years from 2004-12, leading the franchise to an NFC championship in 2006. 

Illinois' football program can certainly use a spark after posting losing records in each of the last four seasons and not winning more than seven games in a season since 2007.  

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Cam Cameron, LSU Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

The LSU Tigers have extended offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with a new three-year contract, according to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate

Financial figures were not immediately disclosed, though Dellenger reported Cameron's new deal will be in the ballpark of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's contract, which will pay him $3.75 million over three years.  

Cameron’s contract was set to expire at the end of the month. He made $1.5 million per season in his first three years, and it’s unclear if he’ll be getting a raise. 

LSU also promoted defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to recruiting coordinator and will give him a raise and extension, per Dellenger. The Tigers have been working without a recruiting coordinator for almost two months after Frank Wilson took the head coaching job at Texas-San Antonio. 

The LSU board of supervisors must approve the contracts at its next meeting on March 18, per Dellenger.

Under Cameron, LSU ranked seventh in the SEC in total offense last year but led the conference in rushing behind workhorse Leonard Fournette. However, Cameron and the Tigers couldn’t match their success through the air. They ranked ahead of only Vanderbilt and Missouri in passing offense at 173.1 yards per game.

This will be the first spring Cameron enters with an upperclassman under center. Incumbent Brandon Harris (junior), Purdue transfer Danny Etling (junior) and Anthony Jennings (senior) will get reps.

Cameron came to Baton Rouge with an extensive NFL background. He was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers from 2002-2006 when LaDainian Tomlinson thrived in his prime. He then replaced Nick Saban as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2007, lasting just one season. After that, he spent four years as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, winning Super Bowl 47. 

The Tigers started 7-0 last year and were No. 2 in the College Football Playoff committee rankings before losing three straight. The late-season slide led to reports head coach Les Miles would be fired before the season even ended. Had that been the case, Cameron likely would’ve been jettisoned as well. 

But the decision to keep Miles was made at halftime during the Tigers’ regular-season finale against Texas A&M. 

Now with the futures of Miles and Cameron secure, the Tigers can focus solely on football when spring practice begins Monday. 

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4-Star Stanford Samuels III Talks Recruitment, FSU Legacy and Decision Timeline

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Stanford Samuels III doesn’t have to look far for an encouraging word when things aren’t going right on the football field. 

After all, his father—former Florida State corner Stanford Samuels Jr.—coaches his son at Flanagan High School in Hollywood, Florida, as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. 

Around campus, father and son are known as “Boosie” and “B.J.”—an ode to the elder Samuels’ childhood nickname, with B.J. being the shortened version of “Boosie Jr.” 

The younger Samuels, who is the nation’s No. 4 corner and the No. 32 player overall, acknowledges his dad’s presence as an advantage that has helped him learn the finer details of playing the game. 

“[It’s great] just having somebody who has been there and who has the experience at the position that I play,” Samuels told Bleacher Report. “Just being able to get pointers from him when I’m stuck in one place, having someone who has the expertise helps me out a lot.” 

Their football bond was forged while Boosie was in college at FSU. He fondly remembers bringing his son around practice when he was a defensive back in Tallahassee from 1999 to 2003.

Back then, former ‘Noles receivers such as Anquan Boldin would be throwing passes to B.J. in between reps of one-on-one sessions between the receivers and defensive backs in the offseason. 

“The receivers took to him for some reason, and they would take turns throwing to him,” Boosie recalls. “[B.J.] would imitate them with the way he would make catches, and they would be amazed at how he caught the ball. He was advanced back then. You could tell he was really into the game.” 

Fast-forward to present day, and the 6’2”, 175-pounder has earned a reputation as being one of the nation’s top corners in a loaded 2017 class, which is a spot he always expected to be in growing up.

“I’ve been playing football since I was born,” B.J. said. “[My father] put a football in my hands. Since I was born, that’s what I’ve loved to do. I always expected to be here because that was what was expected of me growing up.”

With more than 40 offers to his credit entering the spring, colleges from coast to coast are coming after him hard. 

Of course, Florida State—who had him on campus for its junior day last month—is the school that most observers feel is the heavy favorite to land him, according to 247Sports' "crystal ball" predictions. However, he’s in no rush to proclaim a favorite at this time.

“I don’t have a top group. But a couple schools [are pushing hard for me],” B.J. said. “I would say Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, Oklahoma and Clemson.”

Still, B.J.—who noted that he’s spent time in the offseason studying film on Seminoles defensive backs Derwin James and Jalen Ramsey—admits that Florida State has his attention because of the program’s recent success under head coach Jimbo Fisher.

“[FSU] are used to winning. They are always going to win and produce great players. They always develop guys that go on to the NFL. They have a great coaching staff. It’s a lot of things that stand out with their program,” B.J. said.

He’s also in the process of planning out his visits in the coming weeks and months ahead.

“I know sometime in the near future, I will be going to Georgia. I think I will get up to Maryland sometime soon. I am trying to get up to Michigan, and I think I will go up to Alabama soon also,” he said. 

One program that could be a legit threat to pull him away from the ‘Noles is Michigan—who landed Seminoles legacy and former Flanagan teammate Devin Bush Jr. in the 2016 cycle.

Additionally, the Wolverines recently hired Devin Bush Sr.—who was the head coach at Flanagan from 2013 to 2015—as a defensive analyst. 

“That definitely helps just knowing that I can always feel at home with Coach Bush already there and those guys I grew up with. That would be great if I do decide to go to Michigan,” B.J. said. “But at this point, I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t affect my decision.” 

Similarly, his ties to FSU may loom large to outsiders, but B.J. and his father maintain that it won’t play a role in his decision.

“He has to choose the best path for him,” Boosie said. “Because it was the spot for me doesn’t mean it will be the right spot for him. Our family has history at the school. It would be great. I’m sure my family is rooting for it [to happen], but again, it goes back to the understanding that this is a business, and he has to make the best business decision for him. This is the most important decision that he will make.”

B.J., who reports a 3.7 GPA with plans to enroll early at his school of choice, hasn’t decided on a potential major yet, but business management is a possibility.

Academics is just one part of the formula he will be looking for in the school he ultimately decides to commit to. 

“It’s not one main factor that will be the most important in my decision. [There are] several things that will tie into which school I choose,” B.J. said. “Right now, I’m just looking at all the schools interested in me and getting all the information I need on them. When it’s time to make a decision, I’ll be ready for it when the time comes.”

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Trevon Grimes Updates Recruitment, Talks Calvin Johnson-Inspired Nickname

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Calvin Johnson’s days playing in the NFL may be over, but his influence is alive and well in the form of 2017 5-star receiver Trevon Grimes

In fact, the nation’s No. 2 wideout and the No. 10 player overall in the 2017 cycle has even used the former Lions legend’s nickname of “Megatron” as inspiration for a nickname of his own.

“Calvin Johnson is a guy I’ve always looked up to and admired. If I had to choose a receiver to be like, I’d pick Calvin Johnson,” Grimes told Bleacher Report recently. “I have a nickname I call myself. I call myself “Tregatron.”

Getting bigger to match his idol on a physical level has been on the top of Grimes’ offseason to-do list, as he now checks in at 6’4”, 201 pounds.

“I just hit the 200-pound mark. I’m trying to get to 210 [before the season]. I just want to add some muscle. I look forward to displaying that during my senior season,” he said.

Grimes is just one of several prospects from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—one of the nation’s premier prep powers.

Raiders head coach Roger Harriott said Grimes has many qualities that make him one of the nation’s most coveted skill talents in the 2017 class.

“He has a great work ethic in the weight room. He pushes himself hard and inspires his teammates,” Harriott said. “Obviously, he’s physically gifted with a big, strong body and a substantial amount of speed. He has an ability to stretch the field and make explosive plays. From an intangible standpoint, he has strong character. He has a very positive attitude. He has a will power and drive that is uncanny.”

Originally from Indiana, Grimes has thrived in the football hotbed of South Florida since relocating.

He’s landed more than 25 offers heading into his senior season, with schools such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State among the programs aggressively recruiting him.

However, there’s no secrecy involved in identifying the school in the driver’s seat for one of 2017’s most explosive prospects.

“I always keep in contact with [Ohio State head] Coach Urban Meyer. He’s a great guy, and they have a great staff. That’s one of the reasons Ohio State is my leader,” Grimes explained. “I just feel like they don’t look at me like a regular recruit they just want. They look at me more as like a son and they want to mentor me in life and help me with my life goals. I feel like those are the two coaches [Meyer and receivers coach Zach Smith] that stick out to me the most.”

Another school is positioning itself to pose the biggest challenge in preventing Grimes from eventually landing in Columbus.

“Right now, Florida is chasing Ohio State. That’s probably the biggest threat to Ohio State,” Grimes said. “I like a lot of things about Florida. My quarterback here, Jake Allen, he’s committed to Florida, and he’s on me everyday in class about Florida, this and Florida, that. I got to get up there and see what he was talking about and since then, I was amazed. I like everything about it. I like [receivers] Coach [Kerry] Dixon. I like the atmosphere and facilities. Everything is good there.”

For his part, Allen acknowledged being in his teammate’s ear about teaming up again in college.

“That’s my guy. Everyday. I have math with him, so I’ll be like, ‘Tre, what’s up? Go Gators,’ or something like that just to let him know we want him up there,” Allen said.

Grimes visited the Gators in January for the program’s junior day, and he recently took a trip to Miami for a similar visit.

In addition to a return trip to Gainesville, there are a pair of college football titans he wants to visit in the near future.

“One of my major schools I want to get up to soon is Florida State. Another one I want to see is Alabama, and I want to get back to Florida,” he said.

Two things Grimes noted that will be critical in his decision are his relationships with the coaching staff and his comfort level on campus at his school of choice.

He’s not in a rush to make a decision, although he admits it could come at any moment. 

“I really don’t have a timeline, but I’ll do it when I feel comfortable. It could be within the next couple of months if I feel right, but I have to talk with my mom and see when the time is right,” Grimes said. “Whenever I feel like I’m ready to get this thing over with, that’s when I’ll do it.”

 

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

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College Football Programs with the Weirdest Mascots

College football is a game steeped in tradition. Many fans are born into their allegiances, given their rooting interests by their parents at birth. Six to seven times per year, they head to their stadium of choice, taking the same route, setting up in the same tailgating spot and sitting in the same seats they’ve had for generations.

One important part of those traditions is the team mascot. Mascots play a key role in college football fandom. They adorn the gear fans wear, elicit emotional responses and provide sideline entertainment. While many programs have classic mascots such as Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my!), others have more of an eclectic nature. While the University of California at Santa Cruz doesn’t offer football, it’d be worth it just to see the Banana Slug mascot (immortalized by John Travolta’s T-shirt in Pulp Fiction) sliding along the sidelines.

Weird mascots make college football fun. Here’s a look at some of the game’s strangest mascots, both by name and by the actual mascots themselves.

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Bill Cubit Fired by Illinois: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

The University of Illinois announced the dismissal of head football coach Bill Cubit on Saturday following one year as the program's interim boss. 

The team's official Twitter account relayed a statement from new athletic director Josh Whitman: 

Freshman quarterback Eli Peters expressed his shock at the decision:

Meanwhile, offensive lineman Joseph Spencer thanked the coach for his work:

Cubit took over as interim head coach last August after former head coach Tim Beckman was fired in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the reporting of injuries and the medical treatment of members of the football team.    

The Illini went 5-7 under Cubit during the 2015 season, and as USA Today's Erick Smith noted, the dismissal came on Whitman's first day as the school's athletic director. 

However, ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg theorized Whitman may not have made the move in hasty fashion: 

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel provided another perspective through the prism of Cubit's appointment to the position of head coach: 

Illinois also announced Ryan Cubit was relieved of his duties as the program's offensive coordinator, while all other assistants currently with the team will be afforded a chance to retain their jobs via interviews with the next head coach. 

The school's statement mentioned that Bill will receive the remaining $985,000 on his deal, while Ryan will take home $361,000. 

With the 2005 MAC Coach of the Year out in Champaign, the team will need to find a replacement fast. As Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer noted, the Illini are scheduled to start spring practice in six days.

And with the personnel shuffle just beginning, Illinois could be in for another long year as it searches for stability that has long been elusive. 

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Shilique Calhoun Among the Best, and Safest, Pass-Rushers in 2016 NFL Draft

In NFL draft discussions, there’s occasionally a rift between a player perceived as "safe" and a player who has "upside." Too often, players narrowly fit into one of these categories, grouped as either NFL-ready with limited growth potential or prospects who need ample work before their teams can trust them.

Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun is proof a prospect can be both. Teams don’t have to sacrifice upside and production for relative safeness all the time in the draft process.

Calhoun isn’t the sexiest of athletes and may never be a top-five pass-rusher in the NFL, but it’s his reliability, future impact and persistent activeness as an edge player that should force NFL teams to ignore their desire for pure “upside” and draft the future long-term starter in round one. 

 

Run Defender: Active Yet Controlled

In today’s NFL, the focus is on defensive ends or outside linebackers who can rush the passer. Sacks and tackles for loss are the gold standard for edge-rusher success, which has some merit; there aren’t many pass-rushers who can consistently cause consistent pressure, just like there are few NBA players who can effectively create their own shot.

It’s a rarity, and when you find a Von Miller or a Stephen Curry type who can win on their own, it’s important to properly appreciate it. 

But few college edge players enter the NFL with as refined and consistent run-defending skills as Calhoun boasts as he departs Michigan State. Working as a strong-side defensive end the last three seasons, Calhoun has dealt with all types of offensive focuses against him in the running game. 

Calhoun has grown into a complete edge run defender, offering remarkable consistency in two key areas: edge setting and in-space finishing.

The 23-year-old is rarely pushed off balance when working on the perimeter, utilizing a strong core to re-engage after the initial block and work toward the running lane with momentum. As in the play below, Calhoun plays with a violent activeness with his hands while also maintaining balance and meaningful steps as he works down the line:

Notice how he erased the tight end's hand placement, baited and slipped underneath the pulling center and eliminated any hope of a cutback lane for the running back. He not only eliminated the value of two blockers but also inhibited any potential cutback lane for the running back. With so many teams valuing the outside zone run as a part of their horizontally stretching offense, having a strong-side defensive end who can neutralize it like this is supremely valuable. 

The second aspect of Calhoun’s game that makes him an NFL-level run defender is his ability to finish in space. Too often, defensive ends can get to their spot and eliminate blockers, only to be just a minor delay in a running back’s big play. Calhoun, who may be considered by some teams as a 3-4 outside linebacker, is able to evade second-level blockers, stay linear in his pursuit and breakdown to finish in space.

In the play above, Calhoun effectively read the underneath screen thanks to the right tackle pushing upfield after the snap. Calhoun dips into the flat, evaded the receiver’s poor block and worked to get into position. His tackling form and finishing here should be the go-to play when considering whether Calhoun can play 3-4 outside linebacker.

As in these two instances, Calhoun has displayed effectiveness as a run defender who's more than just being physical, active or having the inherent skill set to do so. The upside is there to add bulk, improve hand alignment and diagnosis even quicker, but he’s NFL-ready in the two areas that generally give rookie defensive ends trouble in the NFL.

 

Pass-Rusher: Impact Without Risk

As alluded to earlier, the breadwinning skill of any highly valued edge player is his ability to rush the passer. Calhoun doesn’t dominate with elite athleticism or explosiveness, as some of his 2016 draft counterparts are able to. But Calhoun can win with refined technique, hand placement and positioning, as well as with dynamic counter-rush moves and straight-line bursts to the quarterback. 

For a strong-side edge player as a pass-rusher, Calhoun needs to prove he can take advantage of one-on-one matchups without blitzing support, can counter rush to maximize the handful of opportunities and still generate disruption against double teams. Calhoun, especially as a senior, has consistently displayed all three of those pass-rushing dynamics.

Despite rushing a bit high at times and not playing with a consistently low-centered pad level, Calhoun is able to dip on the perimeter initially and work underneath edge-blockers with plus-shoulder technique and an underneath rip. Calhoun’s ability to run the arch, get position on kick sliding tackles without giving up ground and finish in the backfield is exemplified in the play below:

Along with winning on the perimeter in his senior year, something he’s drastically improved upon since his 2013 and 2014 seasons, Calhoun has also become more effective as a counter rusher inside. He’s developed well-defined and effective outside-in rip move setups as well as a sharp spin move, both of which should translate nicely to the NFL level in time.

As in the play below, Calhoun works outside initially, gets the left tackle to overcommit only slightly, then uses a push and inside rip move, coupled with a balanced, linear approach to the quarterback, to finish the sack. Staying linear and more under control as a pass-rusher allowed Calhoun to be a far more effective backfield tackle finisher than in the past.

Finally, Calhoun has willingly accepted double teams in his time at Michigan State. In the past, it was to support the host of NFL prospects at linebacker and defensive line to generate their own pressure with as many as one-on-one opportunities as possible. This season, as the defense’s feature defender, he was asked to continue to generate pressure despite the added attention, and he answered the call.

In the play above, Calhoun first executed a perfectly stepped (though a tad high) spin move, keeping his back exposure minimum and stepping the blocker’s full width in his footwork. He moved past the blocker with upfield penetration, split the aiding running back block and forced the quarterback into a throwaway.

Calhoun’s aggressiveness was on display throughout the 2015 season, and his campaign to prove to NFL teams he could be a feature pass-rusher has paid off based on his play as a senior.

 

Worth a 1st-Round Pick?

After producing middle-of-the-road NFL Scouting Combine numbers—4.82-second 40-yard dash, 23 reps on the bench press and a 6.97-second three-cone drill— Shilique Calhoun’s performance reiterated to NFL teams he’s not an elite-level athlete. But that was expected. He won’t have the terms "high upside” or “developmental” tied to his name, and that’s great news. 

More than few teams should be coveting an NFL-ready strong-side edge defender. While there are a handful of free-agent options to fill the void, such as Chris Long, William Hayes and Courtney Upshaw, they’ll cost a pretty penny and may not be much more effective in 2016 than Calhoun.

Just because a prospect such as Calhoun doesn’t possess elite upside as a pass-rusher doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be considered a first-round pick. First-round values are players who can make an impact early in their NFL career and grow into one of the cornerstones of the team.

Calhoun could provide immediate starting capabilities in the NFL, and his growth as a senior along with completeness as a prospect should make him a key cog in any defensive line.

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