NCAA Football News

Kevin Dodd Declares for 2016 NFL Draft: Latest Comments and Reaction

Following a dominant performance in the Clemson Tigers' College Football Playoff National Championship Game loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, defensive end Kevin Dodd officially declared for the 2016 NFL draft Wednesday.

According to David Hood of TigerNet.com, Dodd released a statement explaining his decision to forgo his senior season through Element Sports Group:

After speaking with my family, I have decided to apply for early entry into the 2016 NFL draft. Leaving Clemson is an extremely tough decision, but I truly feel like I am physically and mentally ready for the next challenge. We had an amazing season. I am so proud of what we accomplished, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to play football here at Clemson. Thank you to my coaches, especially Coach (Dabo) Swinney, Coach (Brent) Venables and Coach (Marion) Hobby for all they have done for me. Thank you to my teammates and all of the academic and athletic staff here at Clemson as well. I will be staying in Clemson this spring in order to complete my degree and graduate this coming May. Clemson football has given me opportunities I never thought were possible. I am so proud to be a Tiger and will always be a Tiger! Clemson is truly a special place—thank you for everything.

Dodd finished the 2015 campaign with 62 tackles and 12 sacks, and he figures to be among the most highly sought-after pass-rushers in his class.

The Taylors, South Carolina, native dominated Alabama to the tune of three sacks on Jake Coker. While it wasn't enough to lift the Tigers to a national title, it undoubtedly improved his draft status.

Per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Dodd is a strong candidate to be selected within the first two rounds in April:

Dodd is somewhat of a late bloomer, as he didn't have a single sack in his collegiate career until 2015, but he broke out in a big way with 23.5 tackles for loss in addition to the 12 times he got to the quarterback.

While Dodd isn't quite at the same level as edge-rushers like Ohio State's Joey Bosa and Georgia's Leonard Floyd due to the fact that his resume is a fairly short one, his ability to perform on the big stage is something that should appeal to many NFL talent evaluators.

 

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Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Commits with Most Immediate-Impact Potential

Michigan football's highly rated recruiting class is full of untapped potential, but only a handful of currently committed players are ready to make an instant impact in 2016.

Now, expectations should be tempered. It's rare for a true freshman to perform well enough to immediately earn a rotational spot, let alone a starting role.

Enrolling early does help, however, and the Wolverines have welcomed seven new faces to campus during the spring semester. Not every player mentioned here is already in Ann Arbor, but most are.

The key factors used while creating the list were a given prospect's skill set, projected ability to adapt to the college game and roster need.

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Early Predictions for Biggest 2016 College QB Battles

As one college football season ends, we square our attention on another.

And where else to start but at quarterback?

Quarterbacks are football's leading men and make a disproportionate difference in an otherwise team-driven sport. Therefore, offseason quarterback battles are like casting decisions made public. It's an intrigue on par with almost any actual game.

Last year, I nailed most predictions, but also had big swings and misses. A lot of that concerned future transfer news, as Everett Golson joining Florida State (and leaving Notre Dame), Vernon Adams Jr. joining Oregon and Greyson Lambert joining Georgia changed the spectrum of those battles after my article was published.

This year, with pieces such as Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb and Pittsburgh transfer Chad Voytik on the board, I expect something similar to happen. Only this time, as it does, I will come back in and update my predictions to reflect the new battles.

Until then, this is based on the best information we have available at the time, plus my personal belief about certain quarterbacks.

Sound off and let me know where you disagree!

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Way-Too-Early 2016 SEC Football Power Rankings

Alabama is fresh off the airplane after toppling Clemson 45-40 in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night, but it's never too early to start breaking down the 2016 season.

Will the Crimson Tide win their third straight SEC title? Who else will compete for the playoff? Which teams will regress?

Our way-too-early 2016 power rankings based on talent, returning starters and trajectory are in this slideshow. 

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Ohio State Football: Looking Ahead to the Buckeyes' Brutal 2016 Schedule

It feels like an annual tradition for fans of other teams to criticize the perceived weakness of Ohio State's schedule, but with the brutal slate that lies ahead of the Buckeyes in 2016, that custom should come to an unceremonious end. 

Urban Meyer's squad is already facing the mountainous task of replacing a load of NFL talent—an undertaking that will require finding eight new starters on each side of the ball. Many of those holes will be filled by underclassmen, so Ohio State will take on one of the most challenging schedules with one of the most inexperienced teams in the country.

Will Meyer be able to get his young Buckeyes ready for this gauntlet? 

 

The Nonconference Slate

Even the gimme games aren't really gimmes. 

The Buckeyes will open the season against Bowling Green, the reigning MAC champion and a team that knocked off two Big Ten squads in 2015—Maryland and Purdue. The Falcons will have to replace quarterback Matt Johnson, who piled up an incredible 5,105 yards of offense and 50 touchdowns as a senior.

A week later, Ohio State will host an explosive Tulsa team that ranked 13th nationally in total offense (averaging 507.4 yards per game in 2015) and 21st in scoring offense (37.2).

But those games will serve as a warmup to one of the most highly anticipated nonconference games of the year when Ohio State heads south for a showdown with Oklahoma. 

The Sooners—who were knocked out of the College Football Playoff by Clemson on New Year's Eve—are projected by Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report as the No. 2 team, and they are expected to make another playoff run in 2016. They return seven starters on both sides of the ball, highlighted by quarterback Baker Mayfield, who exploded for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns (against just seven interceptions) to complement 405 yards and seven scores on the ground last season.

Facing that veteran squad on the road in what will most likely be a prime-time game will be a stiff challenge for a green Ohio State team.

 

B1G Play

2016 is the year the Big Ten shifts to a nine-game conference slate, so Ohio State won't be able to squeeze in a tuneup game before league play.

Fortunately for Meyer, Ohio State will have a bye week following the big showdown with Oklahoma, then the Buckeyes open conference play against a rebuilding Rutgers team and an Indiana squad that's losing a ton of offensive firepower—namely quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard.

But things take a decidedly hard turn after the Indiana game, when Ohio State makes back-to-back road trips to two of college football's most hostile environments—at Wisconsin and Penn State. The Badgers surged under new head coach Paul Chryst, winning 10 games in 2015, and they'll be geared up to host Ohio State for the first time since 2012.

The Northwestern Wildcats aren't the walkover they used to be, and Ohio State will have to deal with them before kicking off November with a home bout against Nebraska. A week later, the Buckeyes will hit the road to take on Maryland before the most difficult stretch of the schedule.

Like in 2015, Ohio State will close out next season with back-to-back games against Michigan State and Michigan. Of course, with the alternate venues, it'll be the Buckeyes traveling to East Lansing to face the Spartans before coming home to host the Wolverines. 

Both Michigan State and Michigan will be breaking in new quarterbacks in 2016 but by the time November rolls around, both should be fully entrenched in their respective offenses. The Buckeyes will be looking to avenge the lone loss of their 2015 campaign, while the Wolverines will be gunning for revenge after the humiliating 42-13 blowout loss they suffered at the hands of Ohio State last November.

With these two games at the tail end of the schedule, it's likely that the East Division will come down to the wire—again—in 2016.

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Dark-Horse Playoff Contenders for 2016 College Football Season

The 2015 college football season roared to a close Monday night with Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 national championship victory over Clemson. But if we’ve learned one thing about college football, it's this: The game never stops.

Recruiting bleeds into spring practice, which leads to summer workouts, which leads to preseason practice, and before you know it, the 2016 season will be here. So it’s never too early to start speculating about which teams will make a charge toward the brass ring next fall. Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel already offered his extremely early preseason Top 25. 

This season, we saw unexpected teams like Iowa fall just short of the College Football Playoff, with newcomers Clemson and Michigan State breaking through and Oklahoma rebounding from a down 2014 season to make the top four.

Which teams will surprise us all in 2016? Here’s a quick look at five teams that could be dark-horse playoff contenders. They’re teams that figure to begin the season outside the top 10 and the playoff picture but could make a case thanks to strong experience and favorable scheduling.

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National Signing Day 2016: News and Predictions for Top Available Recruits

With the college football season over following Alabama's triumph over Clemson, the college football world turns its attention to the recruiting battle. Winning a national title starts with finding and molding the best possible young talent. 

Alabama under coach Nick Saban is a prime example. The Crimson Tide have consistently brought in top-flight classes of recruits. The work done assembling all this talent clearly pays off, per Scout.com's John Garcia Jr.:

Many of the nation's top recruits have already made commitments well in advance of national signing day on February 3. However, quite a few guys from 247Sports' top 50 have yet to make a decision.

Here's a rundown of the latest news surrounding some of the best uncommitted players, with predictions on where they might sign in a few weeks' time.


Rashan Gary, Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.), DT

Rashan Gary is the most coveted prep star in the nation. In fact, according to 247Sports' composite ratings, he's the consensus top prospect. Naturally, some of the top programs are in pursuit of him, but only one will win out. 

Michigan is leading the way, with 64 percent of analysts predicting he will sign with the Wolverines, per 247Sports. Scout.com's Yancy Porter reported Sunday that Gary isn't making any unofficial trips in January:

However, ESPN.com's Tom VanHarren reported later that day he is indeed making an unofficial stop in Ann Arbor:

Gary isn't planning on revealing his decision until signing day, so it's possible a program other than Michigan could sway him in the meantime. Predictions that Gary will sign with Ole Miss have rolled in at 247Sports this month.

It appears USC will have a chance at a late pitch, but it's tough to see any program prying him from coach Jim Harbaugh. Gary's lethal blend of power and agility would make him a dream fit in Harbaugh's aggressive defensive schemes.

Considering Harbaugh showed in 2015 how quickly he can transform a program, especially its defense, there probably isn't a more exciting program beckoning this elite prospect.

Prediction: Michigan


Lyndell "Mack" Wilson, Carver (Montgomery, Ala.), OLB

It seems inevitable that Lyndell Wilson is going to break an SEC program's collective heart. According to Amos Morale III of NOLA.com, Wilson is down to three choices: Alabama, Florida and Georgia. 

Since he's from Alabama, the Crimson Tide would appear to be the obvious, even inevitable, choice. Saban is clearly determined to keep Wilson from venturing out of state for his collegiate career, as Wilson tweeted that the esteemed coach gave him a call Tuesday, fresh off winning the national title: 

It's hard to beat Saban's persistence, though Florida would appear to have a good shot. According to GatorCounty.com's Kassidy Hill, a couple of Alabama recruits who are heading to Florida have been trying to convince Mack to join them in Gainesville: 

Lyndell, as his Christian name reads, is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and a native of Montgomery, Alabama.

In his own backyard is safety Jeawon Taylor and not far across the state is running back Lamical Perine, both of whom are committed to Florida already.

"Lamical Perine and Jeawon Taylor they tell me like ‘we need you’,” says Wilson.

Published on January 2, this little exchange between Hill and Wilson might worry some Bama fans, per Hill: 

When it comes down to it, that’s what matters most for Mack Wilson. Can he create a home and his own name with the Florida Gators? Can he become a part of a Bama takeover in Gainesville? Perine and Taylor say yes; and Wilson is starting to agree because two words said more than an entire visit or stage of recruitment could.

“If signing day was today, would you be a Florida Gator?”

His reply—“Yes mam.”

The pull from Florida is strong, but 71 percent of analysts in 247Sports' Crystal Ball believe he's headed to Alabama. Saban's program is the superior one at this point, as evidenced by the national title and Bama's big win over Florida in the SEC title game. Plus, Saban is clearly paying attention to the kid. The lure of all those championships is likely strong enough to keep Wilson in state.

Prediction: Alabama



Brandon Jones, Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches, Texas), S

It wouldn't be a recruiting article without a prep from the Lone Star State. Brandon Jones is the No. 1 safety and No. 15 overall player in the 2016 class. On 247Sports, 76 percent of experts predict Jones will go to Texas A&M, with the other 24 percent projecting Texas. 

According to ESPN's Gerry Hamilton on December 28, two other schools are still in the mix: Baylor and Oregon. The Ducks are probably the long shot here as they try to pry away Jones from three of the biggest programs in his home state. Jones still has official visits on the docket with Texas (January 11) and even Auburn (January 29). He is reportedly still looking to visit with Baylor, per 247Sports' Colt Barber: 

It's possible Baylor is in position to score a major coup here and sign Jones. Texas has played losing football in each of the past two seasons and has reached nine wins just once since 2010. The Aggies have undergone some upheaval as of late, most notably watching quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen transfer to Oklahoma and Houston, respectively.

The Bears can pitch Jones on a track record of recent success and potentially add him to what's shaping up to be an excellent recruiting class.

Prediction: Baylor



Mecole Hardman Jr., Elberton County (Elberton, Ga.), ATH

No matter what position he ends up playing, Mecole Hardman Jr. is going to make an impact at the next level. Hardman is the No. 1 athlete in the nation and No. 21 overall, with 68 percent of 247Sports experts predicting him to stick close to home sign with Georgia.

However, Hardman recently named Alabama as his top choice, per Raul Dominguez of USA Today. His reasoning was simple.

“They’re already at the top,” Hardman said. “Why not stay at the top with them?”

Alabama fans shouldn't be too quick to celebrate his words, as Hardman tweeted Tuesday that he is set to make something of a surprise trip to another powerhouse program:

Ohio State was at the top of the football world just one year ago, so it could be that Hardman is considering the Buckeyes for the same reasons he likes the Tide. It's also possible that Hardman sees himself as more of a wide receiver, especially after making casual plays like this one while prepping for the Army All-American Bowl, per Rivals.com: 

Ohio State could offer a quicker path to stardom at wide receiver, considering Calvin Ridley is set to command most of the attention in Alabama's passing game and the team is a run-first school year in and year out. Plus, according to Dominguez, Alabama wants Hardman to play defensive back. 

Tennessee is also apparently still in the mix, with Hardman telling SECCountry.com's Dave Hooker : "They've been there since the beginning." Hooker writes that the Volunteers give Hardman the chance to make a mark on either side of the ball.

"Tennessee could offer Hardman the opportunity to do both since receiver and defensive back are positions of need in the Vols’ 2016 signing class," Hooker wrote. "Most have Hardman pegged as a receiver. However, he has the ability to excel as a defensive back."

Alabama is on record as the top choice, but this trip to Ohio State is interesting considering it was mostly SEC schools on Hardman's radar. Ohio State is going to send tons of talent to the NFL in this year's draft, including potential first-rounders in wide receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Eli Apple. Maybe Hardman wants to follow their path.

Prediction: Ohio State

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R CFB 250: Top 250 Overall Players in College Football

Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R Experts Matt Miller, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top 250 Overall Players.

 

CFB 250 Positions

 

The previous 12 installments broke down the top 250 players by position. This final installment is the big one. 

The capital-T Top 250.

Remember that these players were graded as college prospects, not as NFL prospects. You'll see markedly different rankings on draft boards. Undersized or "system" players might not project well to the pros, but college performance was all that mattered here.

Actually…not all that mattered. They also had to play enough. If they appeared in half of their team's regular-season games, they were eligible for this list. If they missed more than half of the regular season—e.g., Laremy Tunsil—they were omitted from the rankings.

Sound off at the bottom and let us know what you think! 

 

Note: If two players finished with the same grade, the authors made a subjective call on which player they prefer.

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Georgia Football: 5 Reasons the Bulldogs Should Be Optimistic About 2016

The 2015 college football season has officially come to a close, and the Alabama Crimson Tide are the national champions. That's exactly where the Georgia Bulldogs want to be a year from now, so starting this week, head coach Kirby Smart will be hard at work trying to nail down more recruits by national signing day.

The Bulldogs finished the 2015 season with a 10-3 record, but all three losses came in conference play, which led to them missing the SEC title game for the third consecutive year. And of those three losses, two of them came against Alabama and Florida, the two teams that later faced off in the SEC title game.

However, as disappointing as last season was for Georgia fans, 2016 looks very promising, and the Bulldogs have a great chance to make a lot of noise next season.

Here are five reasons why the Bulldogs and their fans should be optimistic about 2016.

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