NCAA Football News

ACC Football: Ranking Conference's Best Rivalries

Over the past few seasons, the Atlantic Coast Conference has served notice that it’s not just a basketball league anymore. Once thought to be a serious target for raiders during the recent round of conference realignment, the ACC instead expanded itself, formed a scheduling alliance with Notre Dame and gave doubters reasons for respect.

In 2013, Florida State won the league’s first national title since the Seminoles did so in 1999, taking the final BCS crown over Auburn. The Seminoles made the first College Football Playoff a year later, and this fall, Clemson was ranked No. 1 from the first CFP Top 25 poll to the national title game, before dropping a hard-fought 45-40 decision to Alabama.

The ACC plays good football, and the league has an improving list of rivalries that are meaningful on a regional and national scale. Here’s a ranking of the best ACC football rivalries. These rivalries made the list for their history as well as the significance to the league race and the national picture at large.

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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.

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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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