NCAA Football News
The LSU Tigers announced Thursday that backup quarterback Anthony Jennings will transfer from the program.
Jennings was the team's 2014 starter but was supplanted last year by Brandon Harris. He will remain with the school until he graduates this summer, though will transfer to another football program to finish his college career, per LSU's release.
Graduating from LSU would make him eligible to be a graduate transfer, and he could play immediately this fall with whatever new school he signs with.
“This is an opportunity for Anthony to put himself in a position to help another team have success,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in a statement. "We wish him nothing but good fortune in the future and we appreciate all that he did while he was part of our program.”
LSU is now down to three scholarship quarterbacks—Harris, Danny Etling and Justin McMillan. Lindsey Scott, a 3-star dual threat-quarterback, will arrive this June.
If he's granted a graduate-transfer waiver, Jennings will become the latest to use the NCAA exception—one largely utilized by other upperclassmen quarterbacks who have lost their starting jobs and are seeking new opportunities.
Russell Wilson is the most prominent example, having left NC State for Wisconsin in 2011 after Sean Glennon was promoted to starting quarterback.
Georgia’s Greyson Lambert (transferred from Virginia) and Florida State’s Everett Golson (transferred from Notre Dame) are other examples of quarterbacks who have found new starting gigs after leaving Division I schools. Both were No. 1 on the depth chart by the start of last season.
Jennings’ next stop isn’t clear, but he should draw interest from, at the very least, some of the lower-tier Power Five schools.
He went 9-4 with 1,792 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions over two years as a starter, adding another 310 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Those numbers are respectable, but what might be concerning is LSU didn’t have faith in Jennings to keep him the starter in 2015.
They instead turned to Harris, who anchored the SEC’s third-worst passing offense in what was the Tigers’ Achilles' heel late in the season.
Jennings would fit nicely in another system that affords him a strong run game to complement his dual-threat ability. He’s not the strongest passer, but he could thrive with other talented pieces around him.
Recruiting rankings provided by 247Sports' composite rankings.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If there’s one thing that was indisputable about the University of Alabama’s most recent national championship season, it’s the Crimson Tide played a worthy schedule.
Alabama faced nine opponents that were ranked at the time they played, which was a record for the most ever by a national champion.
It had an impressive neutral-site win in the season opener against Wisconsin. With Florida reaching the SEC Championship Game, Alabama had to play the top three teams in the East Division, and it knocked off the teams ranked No. 1 and 3 in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama also played in the sport’s toughest division, with every team ranked in the Associated Press poll at some point during the 2015 season and all seven finishing above .500 for the second straight year. Both of those things had never occurred before in college football.
This fall, it will have another challenging schedule, featuring many of the usual suspects and some new ones.
Success in college football means different things to different teams. Some won't be satisfied unless they take home a championship, while others just want to see improvement of some kind.
But a good baseline for success across all conferences year in and year out is the vaunted 10-win mark. By reaching double-digit wins in a season, a program has secured its spot as one of the best in the country—no matter what bowl it reaches or what its strength of schedule is.
Last year, 29 teams won 10 games, ranging from the College Football Playoff and "New Year's Six" qualifiers to the best of the best in the "Group of Five" conferences. How many will get there in the 2016 season?
College football is wildly unpredictable by nature. Massive upsets and major injuries happen. Teams fall well below expectations. There are only a few "sure things" out there.
But here are 10 college football teams that should be considered locks to win 10 games in 2016, provided they stay healthy and play up to their potential. These selections were based on recent performance, number of returning starters (according to Phil Steele) and the teams they must face in my composite preseason Top 25.
Of course, more than just these 10 teams will win at least 10 games this fall. But these are the 10 safest bets on the board heading into the 2016 season. Give us your own in the comments below.
Recruiting is all about presentation. You're selling impressionable, young athletes on an experience, convincing them the one you offer is better than what they can find anywhere else. The sport in question is only a small piece of the package and might as well not even be included in the pitch.
In that respect, great recruiters could probably convince prospects to come to their schools no matter what sport they played (or what sport the coach was from), right? That got us wondering which coaches from the college football ranks would be savvy enough to haul in top-tier talent for their men's basketball programs.
There are quite a few that could pull this off, but we've put together a list of football coaches who could be a level above the rest when it comes to selling their schools to basketball players just as well. Check out our picks, and give us your thoughts in the comments section.
In other words, it's just another typical week in the Big Ten.
It also happens to be time for my weekly Big Ten Q&A, where you ask the questions, and I provide the answers. As always, you can send your Big Ten-related questions to me on Twitter @BenAxelrod each week for your chance to appear in the mailbag.
This week, we'll tackle the conference's new starting signal-callers, the Fighting Illini's new head coach, the Big Ten's most important position change and the wonderful world of professional wrestling.
Let's get started.
Quarterbacks in the Big Ten have always fascinated me, particularly as the league's offenses have evolved into more modern styles. Some programs have managed to keep up with the times, others have even taken it a step further and then there are still some head coaches who prefer to play it safe with a game manager.
This season, the makeup of the league's signal-callers will be even more interesting, as there won't be many new ones, but four of the five the QBs who will be starting for the first time will do so at prominent programs.
Presumed conference title contenders Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin will each be breaking in new starters this season, which will throw a twist into divisional races that will see Ohio State and Iowa each return their starting quarterbacks.
In terms of new starters, the player I find most intriguing is Wisconsin's Bart Houston, who completed 22 of his 33 pass attempts for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while subbing in for an injured Joel Stave during the Badgers' 24-13 win over Illinois last season. Houston was so impressive that calls came for him to be named Wisconsin's new starter midseason, but Stave ultimately resumed his role in the Badgers lineup.
After Houston, I'm intrigued by Michigan's John O'Korn, presuming he takes the spot in the Wolverines lineup that Jake Rudock vacated. Of the quarterback competitions in the Big Ten this offseason, Michigan State's is perhaps the most intriguing, with Tyler O'Connor, Damion Terry and Messiah deWeaver battling it out to replace Connor Cook.
And then there's Penn State, which finds itself without a blue-chip prospect ready to step in for Christian Hackenberg. It could, however, be argued that either Trace McSorley or Tommy Stevens may ultimately be a better fit in head coach James Franklin's system than Hackenberg was in the past two years.
So to answer your question, my ranking of new Big Ten starting quarterbacks looks like this:
- Bart Houston, Wisconsin
- John O'Korn, Michigan
- Michigan State's new starter
- Penn State's new starter
- Indiana's Zander Diamont
But it's the Nittany Lions I have the most concern about—for reasons that extend beyond the actual quarterbacks themselves.
When I first wrote about Illinois' stunning hiring of Lovie Smith earlier this week, I was convinced the former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach would make the Fighting Illini instant contenders in the Big Ten West based on a surprising amount of talent—including star wideout Mike Dudek—returning in Champaign and Smith's pedigree.
But the more I think about Smith's hiring at Illinois, the more I view this as a move that could revolutionize Fighting Illini football for years to come.
I mean, think about it: This is an NFL-caliber head coach already putting together an NFL-caliber staff in what is inarguably the weaker of the Big Ten's two divisions. Who knows what will become of Iowa after quarterback C.J. Beathard and cornerback Desmond King graduate, and even at 10-3, Wisconsin was steady but unspectacular in its first year under head coach Paul Chryst.
I actually like what head coach Mike Riley's doing in Lincoln—at least from a recruiting standpoint—more than most, but even then, I have a hard time seeing Nebraska building a division dynasty. The reality is the Big Ten West is there for the taking, and all of sudden Illinois has arguably the coach with both the biggest name and the most credibility.
In more than a year of covering the Big Ten, I wrote about Illinois twice—both times relating to former Illini head coach Tim Beckman's unspectacular downfall in Champaign. In the past four days, I've now written about the Fighting Illini three times, which is indicative of the buzz Smith is already building at his new job.
I don't expect Illinois to win the division this year, but I wouldn't be shocked if it's in contention until the very end. Come 2017, however, I expect Lovie's presence to be in full effect with both his recruiting and his player development potentially paving the way to a new powerhouse in the Big Ten West.
Of all the things that have been said and written about Michigan's spring practice this year, Jabrill Peppers' move to linebacker has somehow flown under the radar.
When it comes to position switches in the Big Ten this season, you won't find a more important one than Peppers' move to the front seven—and not just because he's now played close to 10 positions in his college career. In new Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown's defense, there isn't a more important position than outside linebacker, as evidenced by the numbers his past outside linebackers have posted in stops at UConn and Boston College.
Don't believe me? Here are the numbers accumulated by the lead outside linebacker in Brown's defense in each of the past five seasons:
Like Peppers, Keyes and Milano were both converted safeties, but neither possessed the type of ability Michigan's 5-star jack-of-all-trades does. Primarily playing safety, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year managed to post 45 tackles—5.5 of which came for a loss—in his debut campaign.
Under Brown and now at linebacker, those numbers will only amplify if the new Wolverines defensive coordinator's history with the position is any indication. Peppers has always had the talent, and now he might just be in the proper scheme to harness it and turn into one of the most dynamic defenders the Big Ten—and college football—has ever seen.
Ohio State: Brock Lesnar
The Beast Incarnate. The Buckeyes have been on a roll under head coach Urban Meyer, just like Brock Lesnar's been since ending The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania two years ago. Neither seems to be slowing down anytime soon.
Michigan: Roman Reigns
Love Jim Harbaugh or hate Jim Harbaugh, Michigan's new head coach draws a reaction, much like WWE's new force-fed golden child. But after spending the better part of the past year in the spotlight, it will be crucial for each to deliver in 2016.
Michigan State: Dean Ambrose
I love you #SpartyNation, but you guys can truly be The Lunatic Fringe sometimes. Still, neither Michigan State nor Dean Ambrose always receives the respect it deserves, as each has arguably been its respective league's top performer for the past three years.
Penn State: Randy Orton
Like Penn State, Randy Orton was a big deal five years ago and an even bigger deal a decade ago. But lately, each of their acts have gotten stale, as both are in need of some sort of reboot to maintain relevance.
Wisconsin: Bray Wyatt
A steady contender you can always add to the mix for a much-needed quality win. Do either Wisconsin or Bray Wyatt have what it takes to be the top dog? That's to be determined.
Iowa: The New Day
The success of both the Hawkeyes and New Day in 2015 left us wondering the same thing: Where did that come from, and can it be sustained? Bonus points on this one, because New Day member Big E (Ettore Ewen) was a defensive lineman at Iowa in the mid-2000s.
Nebraska: Big Show
Need to look strong? Defeating Nebraska or Big Show can still accomplish just that. But the unfortunate reality for both is that the win against either would have looked a lot stronger had it come in 1996.
When in need of freshening things up, a new head coach or a much-needed heel turn can do wonders. But despite both seeming to possess plenty of upside, it remains to be seen what Lovie will accomplish in Champaign and what The Big Guy will get done with his latest turn to the dark side.
We saw a spark from each back in 2014, signaling that both the Golden Gophers and The Swiss Superman had potential as consistent contenders. Coming off a coaching change in Minneapolis and an unfortunately timed shoulder injury for Cesaro, both, however, still have plenty to prove.
While Northwestern made an unexpected push for the Big Ten West title in 2015, Kalisto became the unlikely United States champion with his upset victory over Alberto Del Rio this past winter. And while both will always be fan favorites, neither has the upside of one day becoming a world champion.
Indiana: Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze's move set is fun, much like the Hoosiers offense under head coach Kevin Wilson. Neither, however, has led to many wins for either to this point.
Purdue: Zack Ryder
When Zack Ryder's in the ring on Monday Night Raw, it's a safe bet he's about to get beat. And when Purdue takes the field each Saturday—well, you get the picture.
Rutgers and Maryland: The Social Outcasts
Both the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins seem to be having fun with their new head coaches, much like Bo Dallas, Adam Rose, Heath Slater and Curtis Axel have been with their new gimmick. All, however, have limited upside—and I'm not sure they truly make sense in their respective leagues.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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University of Miami offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones were arrested Wednesday night after allegedly impeding traffic and "resisting officer without violence."
Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald reported an arrest affidavit shows the men were arrested after ignoring multiple requests by two officers to leave a roadway in Miami Beach.
The affidavit for Jones states the Hurricanes player acknowledged the police request but did not follow their orders: "The defendants were arrested and removed from the roadway. Once in custody, the defendant [Jones] acknowledged he was being asked to move, yet he refused to move after being asked several times."
The Miami Herald also noted a separate affidavit filed for Darling provided further information about the incident:
Darling's arrest affidavit said the sergeant give him "five lawful orders to remove himself from the middle of the roadway. The defendant was impeding traffic and was a safety hazard to himself and others…The defendant also refused to obey two lawful orders… The defendant was arrested without incident. Once in custody the defendant stated that he was in fact ordered by a law enforcement officer to remove himself from the roadway but continued not to follow orders."
Miami athletic director Blake James later issued a statement on the arrests, via Degnan:
"I am aware of the reported incident involving two student-athletes last night and we are still gathering information. I have very high expectations for all of our student-athletes, as I know Coach [Mark] Richt does for his team, and any misconduct will be addressed."
No other information about why Darling and Jones were in the roadway was included in the report.
Darling emerged as a key cog in the Canes offensive line over the past two years. He started all 13 games at the crucial left tackle spot last season for the nation's 29th-ranked passing offense. He could establish himself as a high-upside NFL prospect with a strong 2016 campaign.
Jones didn't play last season. The 6'4", 320-pound lineman opted to redshirt in order to retain an extra season of eligibility. He'll look to earn a spot along the line as a sophomore next fall. He was a 3-star JUCO transfer from ASA College early last year, per 247Sports.
It's unclear what type of punishment the Miami players could receive as a result of the incident.
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Heading into the 2016 offseason, each Top 25 college football team has a shortcoming on the roster that can be considered the program's Achilles' heel.
Losses are hard enough to bear. However, dropping games because of a known weakness or particular individual struggle that wasn't addressed or overcome is even more painful.
Perhaps the necessary adjustments are made or breakout players emerge to fill the gaps during spring practice or fall camp, but these problems are expected to linger into the regular season.
Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval's "Super Early Top 25" was the ranking used to create the list.
Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey is one of the elite prospects in this year's draft class, appearing as high as No. 2 on some media draft boards.
ESPN's Kevin Weildl, for example, recently stated that he views Ramsey and Ole Miss lineman Laremy Tunsil as the two premier prospects in the draft:
As the draft class is starting to take shape it's Ramsey and Tunsil, then everybody else. Good bit of a drop after those two IMO.— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) March 2, 2016
The fact that Ramsey is so highly regarded isn't a shock. He had a stellar career at Florida State, and we've seen similar prospects, such as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, earn elite grades and land in the top 10 in recent years.
But Ramsey has a realistic chance to accomplish something that hasn't been done in nearly two decades.
No defensive back has been selected higher than fifth overall since future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson in 1998.
In fact, dating back to 1970, only six defensive backs have had that honor—five of which went on to be selected to at least one Pro Bowl.
So what makes Ramsey worthy of such a high pick while playing a position that is typically passed over early in the draft? Let's take a look at a few factors that make this possible.
Unfortunately, the first piece of this scenario isn't all that interesting, and it has nothing to do with Ramsey.
Since the latest collective bargaining agreement set a rookie wage scale, the odds of a defensive back being selected inside the top five have skyrocketed.
When Sam Bradford signed his rookie deal as the No. 1 pick in 2010, he was guaranteed $50 million and was set to earn over $10 million per year in the final years of the deal, according to Spotrac.
That would be an absurd contract for even the best defensive backs in the league, let alone a rookie. As a result, cornerbacks and safeties simply weren't in consideration for these high picks.
The rookie wage scale, however, puts all rookie contracts at a reasonable level, regardless of their position.
For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Dante Fowler third overall in 2015 and signed him to a four-year deal worth just $23 million. Even in the final year of his contract, Fowler's cap hit will only reach $7.4 million—compare that to a peak of $17.6 million for Bradford.
With this wage scale, NFL teams can now safely select prospects at any position and be guaranteed to pay them a reasonable salary for up to five years (all first-round contracts come with a fifth-year team option).
Ramsey enters the NFL with a rare level of proven versatility, having played at an elite level in college at both safety and cornerback.
On a basic level, this increases his odds of being a top pick because it opens up more opportunities. Any team with a hole at safety or cornerback can consider him an option.
However, it also makes him a safer selection.
Draft picks who flame out completely often do so because they have no fall-back option once they begin to struggle in their initial role. But players who can shift positions can often extend their careers.
Take former Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Robert Gallery as an example.
Gallery was a first-class bust as a left tackle and appeared to be on his way out of the league before even wrapping up his rookie deal in Oakland.
However, the Raiders shifted Gallery inside to guard, where he established himself as a quality starter.
Despite falling well short of expectations as the No. 2 overall selection in 2004, Gallery ended up starting over 100 games in his eight-year career.
Obviously no one hopes or expects Ramsey's career follows the Gallery path, but the fact that he can play multiple positions dramatically increases the odds of him being a productive player in the league.
The money and versatility are two major factors in making Ramsey a potential top-five selection, but obviously his raw talent is what really sets him apart.
Ramsey went to the NFL Scouting Combine needing to prove he had the athleticism to play cornerback, and he came away proving he was in an elite class as an athlete, more than capable of playing any position in the secondary.
Among all cornerbacks who performed the 40-yard dash and the vertical leap at the combine since 2004, Ramsey is the only prospect in this year's class who ranks in the 80th percentile in both categories.
It's a remarkable feat, most recently accomplished by Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby in 2015 and San Diego Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett in 2014—two cornerbacks who each ranked among Pro Football Focus' top-10 corners in 2015.
Two traits stand out when watching Ramsey, specifically during his time as a cornerback.
The most noticeable of these traits is his ability to get physical with receivers in press coverage. This is a skill that typically sets the elite cornerbacks apart from the rest of the pack in the NFL, and Ramsey has shown flashes of ability to dominate in this area.
The other favorable trait Ramsey possesses is his start-and-stop ability.
This skill often goes overlooked when evaluating a cornerback, but it directly correlates to their ability to stay with a receiver in coverage. Inevitably the cornerback will take false steps in coverage from time to time—it's a receiver's job to make sure that happens—but the corners with elite start-and-stop quickness are the ones who can overcome these minor missteps.
When looking at Ramsey the athlete and factoring in his versatility and the low-risk contract given to high draft picks, it's hard to make an argument that he isn't worthy of a top five, or even a top-three selection.
Each of the five teams sitting at the top of the draft has room for Ramsey in its secondary, so it's likely a question of where in the top five he lands, not if he'll land there.
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