NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: 5 Stars Who Will Break out in 2014

When the Georgia Bulldogs take on Clemson, there will be some players who stand out from the rest. Some of those players will be veterans that are expected to excel, and the others will be young players who were stars on Friday nights not too long ago.

But there are the players who have seen their time on the field but have yet to break out. Well, for five Bulldog players, that will change this year, and it starts with a strong debut on Saturday between the hedges.

So here’s a look at the five players that will break out in 2014.

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Texas Football: 5 Stars Who Will Break out in 2014

Fall camp is just about in the books, and the season starts Saturday for the Texas Longhorns, who are counting on big breakouts from their offseason stars.

With David Ash back at quarterback and both running backs healthy, all three are set to have their biggest seasons yet. On the other side of the ball, defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs should thrive under the new system.

These players have done it before at this level, so calling them breakout candidates just undersells what they have done in the past. They have proven they are stars.

What the Horns need is some members of their supporting cast to come out and prove themselves as well. Based on opportunity and talent, these five Longhorns are the favorites to do just that.

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Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Auburn Tigers Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Auburn Tigers could not have played much better than they did during last year’s surprisingly good regular-season run, going 12-1 straight up and 11-2 against the spread.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Razorbacks could not have played much worse in 2013 with a 3-9 record straight up—including a nine-game losing streak to close out the season—and a 4-8 mark against the spread. Auburn has been awesome within the SEC, while Arkansas has been awful.

 

Point spread: Tigers opened as 21-point favorites; the total was 57.5 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.4-17.4 Tigers

 

Why the Arkansas Razorbacks can cover the spread

The Razorbacks probably wish they did not have to open 2014 against the Tigers after losing to them at home 35-17 last year in Week 10. Arkansas went 0-8 SU in SEC play and 3-5 ATS, covering two of the last three on the road at LSU and Ole Miss.

This team is just 3-12 ATS in its past 15 road games overall but has fared well vs the line at Jordan-Hare Stadium, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven trips there. None of the last three meetings between the teams have been decided by more than 20 points, so maybe Arkansas can keep it within the big number of three touchdowns.

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

Auburn may seem to have a bit of a disadvantage to start the game, as quarterback Nick Marshall was suspended for a violation of team rules. But while Jeremy Johnson will get the starting nod ahead of him, Marshall is still expected to play and will likely put up big numbers when he does get into the game in an effort to boost his early Heisman Trophy campaign.

In the last meeting, Marshall completed seven of eight passes for 118 yards and one touchdown and added nine rushes for 59 yards on the ground. Former running back Tre Mason was the star of the game with 168 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

 

Smart Pick

The Razorbacks will not need to deal with the NFL-bound Mason here, which means he will obviously not get the opportunity to chew up the clock. Instead, expect them to test Auburn’s defense, a similar one to the unit that got burned late by Florida State in last year’s 34-31 BCS National Championship Game loss.

While Arkansas’ offense will never be confused for the Seminoles, the team has a fresh slate in 2014, and the Tigers definitely overachieved in making it as far as they did last year. Look for the Razorbacks to do just enough to hang in this one and grab the cover, giving their fans some hope for the new season.

 

Trends:

  • Auburn 8-0 ATS past eight conference games
  • Arkansas 0-12 SU, 3-9 ATS past dozen games within SEC

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Texas A&M Aggies vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Betting Odds: Analysis, Prediction

The Texas A&M Aggies finished 2013 by dropping four games in a row against the spread, while the South Carolina Gamecocks were 5-1 against the line during their six-game winning streak to close out last season.

The Gamecocks have also seen the under go 4-0 in their last four SEC games. However, each team has undergone some major changes from a personnel perspective heading into their 2014 season opener on Thursday that could definitely impact whether or not those betting trends continue in the same direction.

 

Point spread: Gamecocks opened as 13-point favorites; the total was 58 at Williams-Brice Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 43.0-41.4 Gamecocks

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies will be facing a team with a new starting QB in South Carolina senior Dylan Thompson. While Thompson is 3-0 as a starter, he still gave way to Connor Shaw for a majority of his career. The Gamecocks could struggle to cover a double-digit spread at home against Texas A&M to open the season, even with Johnny Manziel no longer on the Aggies' roster.

The Gamecocks are also not that familiar with the Aggies, who joined the conference two seasons ago, so this game could be much closer than expected, allowing Texas A&M to cover the number.

 

Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

Texas A&M will need some time adjusting to life without quarterback Manziel, who left after two years for the greener pastures of the NFL. Losing Manziel will be tougher for the Aggies to deal with than the Gamecocks losing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Texas A&M will see sophomore Kenny Hill make his first career start after completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in four relief appearances for Johnny Football last year.

South Carolina has won 16 straight home games SU, but can they cash a ticket ATS?

 

Smart Pick

How well each of these squads adjusts to playing without former stars Manziel and Clowney will likely dictate the tempo of the game. While both sides have outstanding offensive minds on their respective sidelines in Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, it’s too hard to overlook the inexperience at QB and how that will limit them on the scoreboard.

Expect the Gamecocks to make a strong defensive statement out of the gates, win their 19th straight home game and extend their under streak on Thursday nights to 7-1-1.

 

Gamecocks vs Aggies Trends:

Aggies were 0-4 ATS on the road last season

South Carolina won 18 straight home games since Oct. 2011

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Projecting Week 2's Top 25 Teams

The Top 25s that you've come to know over the last 10 days will not exist by the end of this weekend.

The Associated Press' preseason poll came out on Aug. 17, a few weeks after the coaches' poll from Amway was unveiled. Such early rankings are often flawed because they're based on past performances and expected results. It's not until games have been played that we can start to get a sense of how good—or bad—certain teams are, and future polls will reflect those observations.

The AP and Amway will release their first regular-season polls shortly after Week 1's action ends on Monday night. But we can't wait that long to see the next rankings, so we're putting together our own projected poll now.

Using the initial poll as a guide, and taking into account expected results from this weekend's action (you can find our predictions for every Week 1 game here), we have projected what the rankings will look like for Week 2. Consideration will be given to the margin of victory and strength of opponents, things that can affect how the AP's 60 voters and Amway's 63 pollsters go about ranking their Top 25.

Here's what we are projecting the future Top 25 to be: 

 

Teams on the Rise

Florida: The Gators received the second-most votes of any team that didn't begin the year in the Top 25, and more voters will come on board after seeing what Kurt Roper is able to do with quarterback Jeff Driskel. Sure, it will be against Idaho, but if the offense looks crisp and efficient, Florida will start making an early push to be this year's comeback kid. 

Georgia: The Bulldogs will move into the top 10 after taking down Clemson in a nip-and-tuck game that shows how well quarterback Hutson Mason has a grasp on the offense. Georgia's defense will give up a lot of yards, but it will also make some big plays and swarm with an intensity not seen from last year's porous unit.

LSU: While the Tigers will win the war over Wisconsin in Houston, the most notable thing to come out of their victory will be the first salvos in Leonard Fournette's battle to vie for the Heisman as a true freshman. The expectations for greatness have been there for a while, writes ESPN.com's David Ching:

"Nobody seems to doubt that Fournette will become a star at LSU. The only question is how quickly he will join the likes of Marshall Faulk, Warrick Dunn, Kevin Faulk, Matt Forte and Joe McKnight among the best backs to emerge from the talent-rich state of Louisiana."

Though he'll share carries with Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, it will be Fournette's touches that prove most memorable.

Ole Miss: A hard-fought win over Boise State on Thursday night in Atlanta, combined with losses above them, will help the Rebels climb into the top 15.

Navy: The opening week's biggest upset will come in Baltimore and by the hands of the Midshipmen, who will knock off Ohio State. Junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who ran for 31 touchdowns last season, will score at least twice in taking down the Buckeyes.

 

Teams Falling

Clemson: The Tigers' inexperienced offense does well, but not well enough to keep up with Georgia in Athens. Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt looks good and will get better as the season goes on, though Clemson's defense fails to make the impact it needed to in order to come out on top.

Ohio State: It won't be the absence of Braxton Miller that hurts as much as the Buckeyes' inability to contain the option run game of Navy. OSU's vaunted defensive line can't get push up the middle, and Navy's Reynolds will be able to run at will, dropping the Buckeyes 10 or 11 spots. Only because some voters may give OSU credit for the loss being almost like a road game will keep it from falling further.

Texas A&M: The first game of the post-Johnny Manziel era won't be as horrible as some might predict, but the Aggies also won't look like a team that deserves to be ranked. A convincing Thursday night loss at South Carolina will knock A&M out of the Top 25 for the first time since Sept. 2012.

Washington: The Huskies will come up short in Chris Petersen's coaching debut, losing a shootout to Hawaii late Saturday night. Washington will start 0-1 for the first time since 2010.

Wisconsin: The Badgers' losing streak will extend to three games dating back to last November after losing a close one to LSU in Houston. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon will gain 100-plus yards, but he will need far more carries than he usually would to get there.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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The Mount Rushmore of College Football Head Coaches

Immortalizing coaches and/or players by carving their likeness into metaphorical rock may be a common theme in the offseason, but what's one more Mount Rushmore before the 2014 season gets underway?

Bleacher Report selected four coaches to be on its Mount Rushmore: Bobby Bowden, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Tom Osborne and "Pop" Warner. 

What makes the following four coaches worthy of such a distinction? Primarily, they're among the winningest coaches in college football history. Beyond those wins, their contributions to the game in various forms make them icons of the sport. 

Paul "Bear" Bryant

Picking four of the great coaches in college football can be tough, but this seems as close to a no-brainer as they come. 

In 38 years as a head coach, 25 at Alabama, Bryant won 323 games and six national championships. Along the way, he cemented the Crimson Tide as one of the premier programs in college football.

Beyond the wins, though, Bryant was iconic and remains the standard to which all Tide coaches, including current coach Nick Saban, are held. From the houndstooth hat, which has morphed into its own art and inspired an awesome sports bar in Tuscaloosa, to his memorable quotes, Bryant was revered by Alabama.

"I left Texas A&M because my school called me," Bryant famously said about his return to Alabama. "Mama called, and when Mama calls, then you just have to come running."

Being depicted in multiple movies and television commercials doesn't hurt his legacy, either. 

"He was simply the best there ever was," former Nebraska coach Bob Devaney said in an interview with Mike Puma of ESPN.com

 

Tom Osborne

It's an amazing fact to this day, but it took Osborne 22 years and 206 of his 255 wins before he won his first national championship in 1994-95 with Nebraska.

But by the time he retired after the '97 season, Osborne had three national championships to his name and had the Huskers in dynasty mode. For context, Chase Goodbread of NFL.com recently ranked the '95 Nebraska team as the best of all time (ESPN ranked them as the third-best team ever). 

Osborne was a part of memorable games as a head coach on both the winning and losing ends. Perhaps Osborne's most memorable moment, unfortunately for Nebraska, was his failed two-point conversion against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl. 

Win or lose, Osborne is remembered for remarkable consistency with which he coached. In 25 years, Osborne never lost more than three games in a season. Of course, the recruiting landscape has shifted significantly since Osborne coached at Nebraska. Today, the Huskers rely heavily on out-of-state recruiting, which can make it difficult to compete at a national championship level. 

As an athletic director, Osborne oversaw Nebraska's transition to the Big Ten and was selected to be on the first 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee. The respect he's garnered from around college football is unlike any other coach. 

 

Bobby Bowden

Few coaches in college football had a longer tenure of maintained success than Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. Following the NCAA's decision to vacate wins under former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, Bowden became the all-time winningest coach in major college football. 

Bowden got his coaching feet wet during six years with West Virginia (1970-75) but made his coaching mark on college football with the Seminoles. It was only appropriate, then, that Bowden's last game came in the 2010 Gator Bowl in a win over the Mountaineers. 

In 34 years with Florida State, Bowden guided the program to a pair of national championships (1993, '99) and an unprecedented 14 straight finishes in the Top Five in the Associated Press poll. According to ESPN's Mark Schlabach, Bowden coached two Heisman winners—Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke—26 consensus All-Americans and more than 150 NFL draftees. 

But perhaps Bowden's greatest accomplishment was putting Florida State on the map as an athletic powerhouse.

The popularity of Bowden's football program helped Florida State grow into one of the country's largest public universities. From 1909 to 1947, FSU was known as the Florida State College for Women until it returned to coed status. FSU didn't field its first football team until 1947 -- more than four decades after the University of Florida fielded its first team -- and didn't award athletic scholarships until 1951.

Does Bowden deserve a spot on this Mount Rushmore? You're daggum right. 

 

Pop Warner

Pop Warner's 336 all-time wins tell only a fraction of the story. Yes, he won national championships. Yes, he coached at historical powerhouse Pitt. But Warner's greatest accomplishments come in the form of a question: Is there anything Warner didn't have a hand in when it comes to the game of college football?

Of all the coaches on this list, no other one played as instrumental role in the development of the game of football like Warner did. 

The screen pass, the single- and double-wing formations, the three-point stance, the use of shoulder pads and tackling dummies—Warner was on the forefront of it all. In other words, if you like college football, you can thank Pop Warner.

And when you have a little league named after you, you know you did something right. 

 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of the NCAA and individual athletic departments.

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5 Bold Predictions for Virginia Tech's 2014 Season

Fall camp is history and football is finally here. Finally. No more media prognostications about where teams will finish. It will now be settled on the field.  

For the Virginia Tech Hokies, a new season brings a fresh start. The Hokies could use a fresh start, having lost a combined 11 games over the last two seasons for the first time in over 20 years. 

Can the Hokies eclipse the eight wins they had in 2013? It won't be easy, but a soft schedule outside of Ohio State does help things. 

Predicting a team's record can sometimes be monotonous, so we decided to take a fun look at five bold predictions for the 2014 Virginia Tech Hokies.

 

Isaiah Ford Will Be a Star

If you've followed the Hokies throughout fall camp, this will come as no surprise. Ford has been terrific all camp, and it led to the true freshman's placement at the top of the depth chart for this week's season opener against William and Mary. 

Former starter Demitri Knowles has battled an ankle injury this summer, allowing Ford to seize his opportunity. It's rare a freshman receiver is as polished as Ford. Yes, Ford is a dynamic athlete with game-breaking ability, but he also runs sound routes. That is what earns the trust of quarterbacks. 

Look for the Hokies to try and find ways to get Ford the ball in space early in the season. He also possesses the ability to change games on special teams. The question is if head coach Frank Beamer wants Ford returning punts if he's also a starting receiver.

Ford, also a basketball player, wants to play hoops at Tech, too. He has the blessing of the legendary head coach, per Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times:

"There’s been a lot of football guys that have wanted to play basketball. But he’s the first one I ever thought that ever could play basketball too. And he’s just a gifted athlete, got a great head on his shoulders and is smart and keeps everything in perspective. So I think he’s the real deal."

Get used to hearing Ford's name. 

 

Defense Dominant Again

There are certain things in life you come to expect. Virginia Tech—under longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster—playing great defense is one of things.

The Hokies are coming off one of their best statistical seasons defensively in several years. Tech was No. 4 in total defense and near the top in sacks and takeaways.

However, they lost six starters and two more injured stars—Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum—who were starters before their seasons ended.

So, is Foster worried?

Probably not. He's faced these issues before and came back even stronger. In 2008, after losing seven starters to the NFL, Foster engineered Tech to another top-10 finish in total defense. 

With all of the issues on offense in recent years, it's tough to imagine how many games VT would have lost if not for Foster and his defense. 

Expect more of the same in 2014. This group has its hands full in Week 2 when it travels to Columbus to face Ohio State. On the bright side, at least it won't be against Braxton Miller.

 

Michael Brewer Won't Finish the Year as Starting Quarterback

It's really unfair to say Brewer, the Texas Tech transfer who was named starter last week, won't make it through the season as the starting quarterback. 

But there are several reasons to assume it will be difficult for Brewer to start all 12 regular-season games.

Remember, Brewer's time at Texas Tech essentially came to an end once he got hurt last summer. Yes, he came back and played, but his chances of starting were gone. That's just one injury, but it was a back injury.

Then there is Brewer's size. At 6'0", 200 pounds, he isn't the biggest guy. Sure, Michael Vick was of similar size when he played for the Hokies, but that's not a fair comparison. While mobile, Brewer will not remind anyone of Vick, Tyrod Taylor or Logan Thomas. 

And behind an offensive line with some question marks, he will likely get hit—a lot. 

There will be an adjustment period for Brewer, too. He just started practicing with the Hokies this summer, so he is learning his receivers. If he struggles will Beamer, will he quickly pull the plug and go with his fifth-year senior Mark Leal?

Brewer has a fairly strong arm and accuracy is his biggest asset. However, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler cannot run Brewer frequently or he won't make it past the first month. 

Keep an eye on freshman Chris Durkin and sophomore Brenden Motley. Both are big, athletic signal-callers. 

 

Virginia Tech Will Win the Coastal Division

Who else did you expect? Virginia? 

Seriously, Duke was a nice story last year and David Cutcliffe has that program on the right track, but the Blue Devils aren't built to compete with Virginia Tech or Miami on the football field on an annual basis. 

The Hurricanes are a program on the rise, but they, too, have quarterback issues. From a talent standpoint, the 'Canes and North Carolina may be the top teams in the Coastal. But when was the last time you could trust UNC football?

This division, as it has several times before, will come down to Virginia Tech and Miami. Only this year, people are sleeping on the Hokies. Many media folks believe in the Hurricanes and the Tar Heels.

In the end, it will be the Hokies, led by a strong defense and surprisingly efficient offense, who will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game.

 

Kendall Fuller Will be a First-Team All-American

Virginia Tech's most-hyped recruit in years, Kendall Fuller didn't disappoint in 2013. From the very first game against defending national champion Alabama, where he locked up with Amari Cooper, Fuller more than held his own. He was outstanding.

He finished his first year on several freshman All-American teams and picked off three passes in the Duke game. He had six on the season, good for the second in the ACC. He also finished with 58 tackles, showing a willingness to play physically. He is poised for even bigger things in 2014. 

Now, Fuller's older brother, Kyle, and Exum are in the NFL, and Kendall is ready to take the next step. Not only can he be a dominant cover corner on the outside, he can move inside and play the slot. His strong tackling ability also enables him to line up at "Whip" linebacker on occasion. 

Alongside fellow sophomore Brandon Facyson, this could be one of Tech' better cornerback tandems. And that's saying something. The pair they just replaced were pretty good, too.

Fuller will make an impact on a weekly basis, just don't look for him to intercept six passes again. Quarterbacks will know better than to throw in his direction. 

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Alabama Has LB Depth to Overcome Trey DePriest's Absence vs. West Virginia

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama defense was dealt a significant blow Wednesday when Alabama coach Nick Saban announced that preseason All-SEC linebacker Trey DePriest will miss the Crimson Tide’s season opener against West Virginia due to a “minor NCAA infraction.”

Saban did not disclose the infraction or any more details but said that DePriest would only miss Saturday’s game and will be back for Florida Atlantic.

It’s a significant loss, to be sure, as DePriest was named to just about every preseason All-SEC team, including the media’s and coaches'. But Alabama has the depth and talent at inside linebacker to overcome this loss and shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball against the Mountaineers.

“We’re not worried too much about it,” linebacker Denzel Devall said Wednesday. “We have a great personnel and great players. We’re going to be ready come Saturday.”

The Crimson Tide are already prepared for this, though they didn’t know they were preparing for it at the time.

DePriest was nursing a minor knee injury throughout fall camp and never seemed 100 percent in terms of speed or health in practice. Saban on Thursday declared him “close to 100 percent” but still behind on conditioning.

His injury, though, means Alabama has experience running its defense without him.

"It gave us a real opportunity to be able to prepare if the guy who was the signal-caller, that called the defenses and all those types of things and gets the signals to the front wasn't there. Because we needed to train somebody else to do that," Saban said.

"Even though this wasn't something we anticipated, certainly it was something we were able to prepare for."

DePriest’s injury puts the burden solely on Alabama’s other two starting inside linebackers: junior Reggie Ragland and sophomore Reuben Foster. All three were essentially listed on the Crimson Tide’s depth chart as starters, with Foster in the “/” designation for both spots. All three would have likely played at some point depending on the situation.

Ragland and Foster are both plenty talented and experienced to handle full-time roles.

Ragland was the No. 1 inside linebacker in the class of 2012 and has learned for two years behind C.J. Mosley, DePriest and Nico Johnson in the middle. He was already in line for a lot of playing time this year and will definitely have to take on much of the load Saturday with DePriest out.

He plays a little bit quicker and is more athletic in space than DePriest and can be pointed to as a prototype defender for stopping spread and hurry-up attacks like West Virginia will bring to the Georgia Dome.

“Reggie is a good player for us,” Saban said earlier in the fall. “He’s really had a good camp, had a good spring, a very athletic, explosive guy that has really good size, the kind of inside ‘backer that we like. His knowledge and experience has helped his consistency and performance, and I think Reggie can be a really good player for us this year.”

Foster is the up-and-comer of the bunch.

The top inside linebacker of the 2013 class (Alabama really has it rough these days), Foster’s recruitment was one of the more dramatic for Saban, as the Auburn native flipped from the Tide to the Tigers then back to the Tide.

Foster is plenty talented, but his obstacle has been a poor tackling form leading to frequent injuries. He’s plenty athletic and a monster hitter, but he leans into his hits with his head down, which has led to a couple of neck stingers during his career.

You can see that on one of his bigger hits from his high school career:

That doesn’t work when tackling grown men in FBS college football. He had a similar play to the above one at A-Day on Kenyan Drake, got up looking woozy and was taken back to the locker room with what Saban called a mild concussion.

Saban says he’s overcoming those technique issues.

“Some guys just have habits that are not good in terms of their health and safety,” he said. “Reuben is one of these guys that loved to duck his head when he tackled. I'm not saying he wasn't an effective tackler. That's what created a lot of problems with his stingers. We've had to re-, sort of, teach him how to take on blockers, how to tackle, so that he is not doing that. Now he's been able to stay healthier and he's been able to make it through scrimmages, and he's not had the same issues."

Ragland and Foster are two more-than-capable options to handle full-time duties in the middle of the defense in DePriest’s absence. The defense won’t miss a beat, and Alabama will get a bulk of reps for two of its promising young linebackers.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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