NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

The weather finally broke in Ohio, and for the first time this spring, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes felt the sun on their shoulders as they ran through drills on the outside practice field this week.

It was a short-lived experience, though, as extreme winds forced Ohio State back into the confines of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center midway through Tuesday's practice.

Under roof or sunshine, however, the Buckeyes kept grinding through spring drills. Here's the latest news out of Columbus.

 

Biggest Storylines

Another week of practice produced another significant injury to a key starter.

It was announced on Tuesday that starting tight end Jeff Heuerman would be out for the remainder of spring practice after suffering a foot sprain and undergoing surgery last week.

It was Heuerman's second injury of the offseason—he broke his nose in a weight-lifting accident in March—but he's only expected to miss six weeks.

Heuerman joins a long list of walking wounded for the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller hasn't seen a bit of action as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Vonn Bell went down with an MCL sprain during the team's first spring practice, an injury that sidelined him until the summer. Two weeks later, Ohio State lost Jalin Marshall for the spring after he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Needless to say, it has been a tough spring on the injury front.

On the field, the Buckeyes are working through some dramatic changes defensively.

Meyer brought in Chris Ash to replace Everett Withers as co-defensive coordinator, and with that, the Buckeyes are adapting his aggressive pass defense.

Over the last two years, Ohio State had its corners playing off the line in scrimmage. The theory behind that strategy was to give the corner a better view of the play as it evolved, but the results weren't there. The Buckeyes ranked No. 110 out of 123 teams in pass defense last season, prompting Ash's dramatic change.

This spring, the Buckeyes' corners have played exclusively in press coverage.

If the secondary can pick up the new scheme quickly, there won't be as many holes for opposing quarterbacks to exploit this season.

 

Position Battles 

The backup quarterback competition has been one of the biggest and most important battles this spring, and with Miller sidelined, the contenders have been seeing a lot of action.

After four weeks, a leader has emerged.

Cardale Jones, a redshirt sophomore who played in three games last season, has pulled ahead of freshman J.T. Barrett. 

Despite having a bad practice this week, Meyer praised Jones, saying, "Without question he could play quarterback at Ohio State, and he's done a good job."

Jones is also gaining respect from his teammates.

With Miller's injury history, it's pivotal for the Buckeyes to have a viable backup. Kenny Guiton filled that role perfectly over the last two years, but Jones appears to be stepping up.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

The annual Orange & White Game is eight days away, and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is cramming just about all he possibly can into the limited sessions.

With the basketball team's Sweet 16 run coming to a heartbreaking end last week, all Volunteers fans' focus shifts completely to the football field, where position battles rule the headlines.

Even though major breaking news on the four-man quarterback race is hard to come by, there was still plenty to talk about in Week 3. Let's take a look at the main storylines being churned out of Knoxville this past week.

 

Jones Calls Defensive Front Seven "Soft"

Many of the biggest questions entering spring revolved around the revamped offensive line, but it's the other side of the football that's causing consternation.

Tennessee's defensive line has been the biggest concern of camp. Even with star defender Curt Maggitt shifting up a level to put his hand down regularly at defensive end, the Vols haven't been able to find consistency along the line.

That's a major concern for Jones—who called his front seven "soft"—and defensive coordinator John Jancek. It was echoed by Maggitt to Volquest's Brent Hubbs (subscription required).

We didn't have a good scrimmage as a defensive line… There were a lot of things that weren't good. We are far away (from what Jones is looking for). We know the expectation, and the defense he wants and Jancek wants. Our position coaches and us know we are far from it. That's why we can't take any days off.

According to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required), the line again had "trouble stopping the run" during the team's second full scrimmage last Saturday. It's a familiar refrain from a spring filled with UT's offense one-upping the D.

The Vols will get a major boost this fall when junior Trevarris Saulsberry returns from injury that has sidelined him this spring, and vaunted recruits like Dewayne Hendrix, Charles Mosley, Michael Sawyers, Derek Barnett and Joe Henderson get to campus.

For now, DL coach Steve Stripling is trying to piece together a depth chart that offers at least some resistance. That includes athletic midterm freshman Dimarya Mixon getting an extended look at tackle, according to Callahan.

There are talented players in the rotation, but they're virtually all inexperienced. That's really shown this spring.

 

Hurd and Lane on Top of Their Game

It doesn't matter that rising senior tailback Marlin Lane suffered a broken bone in his hand; he's still having the kind of spring that UT coaches have been seeking since he arrived on campus.

He and star freshman Jalen Hurd each had a very strong second scrimmage last Saturday, and that's a position the coaching staff has had a difficult time pumping the brakes on praising this spring.

Jones told Volquest's John Brice (subscription required):

I think that position group is really starting to come on. Marlin's been a warrior for us. He's playing with a cast, and to have him back and get some game repetitions and game-speed reps was big for us today. Jalen Hurd continues to develop, and he needs as many reps as he can. So that was extremely productive for us.

While Jones has to be careful dumping too many accolades on his players, media members don't. Nashville's 104.5 radio personality and former 10-year UT assistant Doug Mathews had some pretty high praise for Hurd on Thursday:

 

Tennessee Big Three: QB Recruiting Surging

Everybody wants to know how the four quarterbacks currently on campus are faring this spring, but the biggest UT QB news of the week had to do with the future.

After failing to sign a signal-caller in the 2014 recruiting class, it's essential UT plucks at least one elite quarterback from this year's class. In a little more than a week, the Vols have gotten extremely positive news on three top targets.

  • The 247Sports Composite's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson visited Knoxville last week and told GatorBait.net (subscription required) about Butch Jones, "I believe in his dream." He went on to tell Bucknuts' Bill Kurelic (subscription required) that UT and Ohio State would "for sure" get official visits.
  • Another of UT's top targets, 6'7", 230-pound New Mexico high school standout Zach Gentry, told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan he was "blown away" by his visit to Knoxville last weekend. Gentry is expected to visit Oklahoma State and Alabama, but UT "set the bar pretty high."
  • Finally, Top247 athlete Jauan Jennings of Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman High is expected to choose between Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Northwestern and Ohio State on April 7, according to GoVols247. Most of his recent Crystal Ball projections on 247 have him going to UT or Auburn. While Jennings could get a shot to play QB, he is a versatile athlete who also could play several other positions.

 

Week 3 Big Orange Buzz

Even though there hasn't been much reported separation between the four quarterbacks, that doesn't mean Jones thinks the group has operated poorly. In fact, it's the exact opposite.

He told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that he is "very, very encouraged" with them and they're improving every day.

It may just be one of those spring fire-lighting sessions with junior college transfer left tackle Dontavius Blair, but the evidence gets clearer every day that Jones' decision to start fifth-year senior walk-on Jacob Gilliam over Blair may be more.

Gilliam has started all the practices since returning from spring break, and he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown he is treating every day with urgency:

You've got to come to work every day no matter how you feel or what it's like, and you've got to outwork somebody that obviously they've invested a lot of time and money into. That's what I just try to come with every day, knowing that at a moment's notice I could be replaced.

 

Tennessee held off some of the nation's top recruiting programs such as Alabama and Ole Miss to earn defensive lineman Jason Carr's signature.

Now, it may not be long until he moves to the other side of the football.

Jones told Volquest's Brent Hubbs, John Brice and Paul Fortenberry (subscription required) on Thursday that the 6'5", 300-pound Carr may be ticketed for offensive tackle.

"He still has some practices before we make that decision, but first of all it's where every individual can help you and help the team win," Jones said. "So we'll make that assessment, we'll continue evaluating him as we go."

Finally, here's a final photo that will make many UT fans cringe.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Can Brady Hoke Fix Wolverines' Defensive Line?

Brady Hoke is more than the head football coach at Michigan, he's also a D-line specialist. 

With that being said, the fourth-year man in Ann Arbor faces quite the workload in 2014. At this point, it's all about piecing together a firm game plan, from point A to point B.

Starting with Saturday's spring game, Hoke will finally have the chance to make meaningful adjustments to Team 135's defensive front with Mark Smith, a D-line coach. 

And the changes couldn't come any sooner. 

Not. A. Minute. Sooner. 

However, for as topsy-turvy as the Wolverines' D-line appeared to be this past fall, it wasn't actually a complete train wreck. That, of course, is a welcome sign—one that suggests that there is plenty of room for improvement. 

Think of it as a "nowhere to go but up" approach to revamping and re-energizing the ends and tackles. No longer the official, full-time, by-title D-line coach, Hoke will certainly have a say in matters as Smith and Greg Mattison, the defensive coordinator, devise strategy and tactics. 

 

Playing with Purpose

Pressuring the quarterback was the downfall of Team 134's D-line. 

Well, let's rephrase that: The lack of pressure was its undoing. 

In terms of sack production, the Wolverines were horrible—they tallied a lukewarm total of 25 sacks for negative-182 yards, despite having turned up their intensity as the season progressed.

Given the unruly nature of this past fall, that total shouldn't come as a surprise. But again, the end results were a mere fraction of expected returns. 

Due to talent levels, there is no reason why Hoke's D-line shouldn't compare head-to-head with any line in the Big Ten.

Ohio State pressured quarterbacks and finished with a respectable total of 44 sacks, a mark good enough for No. 3 in the nation. Nebraska came in with 39, putting it at No. 8 in that category. Michigan State, which had one of the most feared defenses in all of college football, had 32 sacks in 2013. 

That's where Hoke needs to be. That's where past Michigan lines have been. 

While together, the D-line can take over momentum and sway the outcome in Hoke's favor.

And really, it's not all about totals—it's about the quality of those numbers. Look at what the Spartans were able to do. Based on reputation alone, one would have thought they were averaging 10 a game; they made theirs count, despite being ranked No. 31 in that department.

Had there been increased pressure, Michigan could have forced more interceptions. That's a secondary issue—in both senses of the word—but the line and backs are interconnected by virtue of playing on the same side of the ball. 

Getting players to understand the concept of "more isn't always better...but it helps" has to be a top concern for the coaching staff, along with establishing links between the 11 on the field. 

Michigan doesn't have to lead the league in sacks. But being among the top netters just adds to perception. Teams that are known for getting at the quarterback tend to do just that—get at the quarterback. 

Creating a sense of calm confidence starts Saturday. 

 

Personnel

Well, now that the preliminaries have been completed, it's time to move onto the second part of the plan: Taking the "more isn't always better...but it helps" mentality and installing that very idea into the minds of players. 

Hoke's a hard-nosed, blue-collar kind of guy. That's been said over and over again; it'll continue being said for as long as he's at the helm. His attitude and work ethic are two of his selling points. He's a ball coach—nothing more, nothing less. 

Let's assume that players respect honest, down-to-Earth coaches. In turn, those players feel the urge to work harder and a little extra. Well, at some point, that work turns into measurables. 

The following table illustrates what Michigan's starting front four could look like this fall. 

Chris Wormley is a possible option for nose tackle, and he's also a candidate for defensive end. The same goes for Matt Godin, who is also a redshirt sophomore. Taco Charlton, a sophomore who is due for his long-awaited arrival, rounds out the list of potential top starters/contributors. 

Unproven talent can become proven goods this fall. However, in order for the maturation process to take place, Hoke's upperclassmen and those with the most experience have to anchor down and allow for roster flexibility. 

If the "proven" crowd isn't getting the job done, don't expect Hoke to run with the less-qualified players. If he's going to win, he's going to win with experience and execution, not a rag-tag assembly of relatively "green" linemen making lucky plays. 

Check out Michigan's full roster on MGoBlue.com

 

Philosophy

Cries for the "old Michigan" are heard loud and clear. Not even Hoke could have anticipated such a slippery slope. After starting 11-1, he's posted 8-5 and 7-6 records...not exactly what the Maize and Blue faithful bargained for following the ouster of Rich Rodriguez in 2011. 

He's had three full seasons to recruit, which is something he does incredibly well, and educate players on the traditions of Michigan football. The process won't just complete itself due to time. But time certainly helps. 

Carr's public approval is worth its weight in gold, just ask the Lloyd Loyalists. However, it's difficult to imagine one of the Wolverines' most respected coaches blowing smoke for Hoke. 

What does Carr have to lose by giving his honest opinion? He, perhaps better than anyone, knows about transition phases. Hoke's staying afloat, but a poor D-line could sink his career in Ann Arbor after 2014. 

Another year of mediocrity in the trenches wouldn't be acceptable. 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: 5 Ways 2014 Will Look Different Than 2013 for Huskers

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

(Turn and face the stranger)

Ch-ch-Changes

Just gonna have to be a different man”

- David Bowie, “Changes”

Nebraska football fans saw the 2013 regular season end with a thud, with the Huskers losing two of their last three games (both at home), missing out on a conference title game and once again ending the season with four losses. Hope springs eternal, however, and Nebraska fans are hoping to see changes that will result in more success on the field.

Here are five things that you can expect to look different for Nebraska in 2014—some helpful, others not so much.

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Is New Coaching Staff Turning Michigan into Alabama of the North?

Once upon a time, Michigan fans mocked Nick Saban—before LSU, before Alabama and before the national championships that established him as one of the premier coaches in collegiate football.

But if Brady Hoke returns Michigan football to the upper echelon of college football, fans may owe a debt of thanks to Saban.

After the retirement of Lloyd Carr, Michigan successfully wooed Rich Rodriguez a year after he had passed on the Alabama head coaching job. Yes, there was a time when the head coaching job in Ann Arbor was considered superior to leading the Crimson Tide.  

But since that time, the programs have gone in drastically different directions, and now it appears that Brady Hoke is following Saban’s blueprint for building a national championship contender.

After a disappointing 7-6 season, Hoke dismissed offensive coordinator Al Borges, replacing him with Doug Nussmeier from Saban’s own staff. With the offensive line in shambles, he also admitted that Michigan “would investigate” potential transfers, the main candidate being center Chad Lindsay, who has graduated from Alabama and would be immediately eligible to play.

Hoke, who rode into Ann Arbor espousing the “Michigan Man” mantra, has changed the course of Michigan football and is retooling his team in Alabama’s image.

 

Rebooting the Offense

During Brady Hoke’s first season, the offense successfully meshed players recruited for Rodriguez’s sprint-option offense into a hybrid pro-set attack. Quarterback Denard Robinson still ran—a lot—but he passed enough to keep defenses honest. The Wolverines finished 11-2, and while the team didn’t win the Big Ten championship—the goal for every Michigan team, according to Hoke—it did win a BCS bowl game.

After Denard Robinson graduated, Hoke declared that power football was returning to Ann Arbor, but the Michigan running attack was still powered by quarterback runs. The commitment to a power running game was hampered by a poor offensive line and the tentative running style of senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

By the end of the season, Hoke had seen enough. Borges was fired and replaced by Nussmeier, who wasted no time in overhauling the offense.


Fast and Perfect

With limited practice time and lots of new material to teach his players, Nussmeier has revved up the pace of practice to get in as many plays as possible. Hoke says that the new pace has increased the number of teachable moments for his team.

The coaching staff also began spring practice earlier in the semester than past seasons, starting the week before spring break. This gave players time to acclimate to the new terminology and plays before putting on the pads.

“It’s a new style of practice,” said senior quarterback Devin Gardner. ”I’m loving him [Nussmeier] so far. I love the way he coaches.”

The offense is also configured to attack downfield on a regular basis while streamlining the number of plays and formations. The emphasis is on running fewer plays better while executing with a high degree of precision.

“Coach Nussmeier is really aggressive,” said Gardner. “He demands perfection and nothing less.”

Running back De’Veon Smith echoed Gardner when asked about the new offense.

“It seems a lot easier than last season’s offense,” said Smith. “It’s very high tempo, lots of energy.”

While the players are consistent in not making direct comparisons between Borges and Nussmeier, the new offense has generated genuine enthusiasm. Practice videos posted on mgoblue.com also show Nussmeier jumping in drills to show players exactly how he wants things done, an added benefit of having a coach who was a record-setting collegiate quarterback and played in the NFL.

In addition to a sense of urgency on offense, Nussmeier communicates in a different style than Borges.

Sophomore quarterback Shane Morris has noticed the change, saying, “Coach Nuss is lot more in your face—very demanding," a trait that Nussmeier shares with Nick Saban and a tool he's using to drive player development at Michigan.

Hoke is pleased with the changes Nussmeier has brought to Michigan, explaining, "He's not doing anything I didn't expect him to come in and do—from the intensity of how he coaches, to developing quarterbacks and paying attention to the details that you have to at every position on offense."

Multiple Running Backs

Unlike his predecessor Borges, Nussmeier seems to genuinely prefer using multiple backs in his offense.

“You look at the pounding the running backs take these days and how physical the game is,” said Nussmeier. “One back carrying the load all the time makes it awful difficult to stay healthy and sustain success over a season.”

The commitment to multiple backs has fostered a sense of healthy competition among Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, the players most likely to be battling for carries next season.

“De’Veon and I are brothers, but competition is what will make this team better,” said Green. “Coach Nussmeier is all about having a one-two punch.”

Fans might not recognize Derrick Green, who has dedicated himself to dropping weight (20 pounds so far) and being in top condition for the upcoming season.

Ideally, both running backs will see significant playing time, but each is working hard to be the “one” in the one-two punch that Nussmeier envisions. The key to the top of the depth chart will be which player can be most successful at the inside and outside zone-running plays that Nussmeier brings with him from Alabama, and each player looks capable of breaking out next season.

Nussmeier won a national championship at Alabama with two running backs getting significant carries on offense. Last season, Alabama fell short when the team relied too much on a single back. The development of Green and Smith signals that he doesn't want to make that mistake again.


Freshmen in the Mix

Brady Hoke has always said that the best players will play, but Nussmeier has players on offense believing and, most importantly, performing to compete with more experienced players.

Both wide receiver Freddy Canteen and offensive lineman Mason Cole are getting rave reviews from teammates, and Hoke has already said that top defensive recruit Jabrill Peppers may be slated for reps on offense next season.

Hoke sometimes has favored experience and loyalty over potential during his tenure at Michigan. The late appearance of running backs Green and Smith last season when Toussaint struggled was puzzling. 

Nussmeier has brought a culture of open competition with him from Alabama, where even though he had the luxury of talented, experienced players at virtually every position, he was still open to freshmen getting major reps—like Amari Cooper during the 2012 season.

At Michigan, that open competition may result in freshmen taking over spots on the depth chart next season. 

Offensive Line

The offensive line must improve if Michigan hopes to bounce back from last season’s disappointing 7-6 finish.

Nussmeier’s Alabama teams all had top talent on the offensive line. The rebuilding of the Michigan offensive line has been hampered this spring by center Graham Glasgow’s brief suspension and the loss of Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski (injuries) as the team works to replace tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, who have left for the NFL.

Nussmeier may bring one more thing with him from Alabama.

Hoke has said Michigan “would investigate” the possibility of transfers joining the team for the fall season.

Center Chad Lindsay has graduated from Alabama and under NCAA rules would be immediately eligible to play for Michigan. He started four games for the Crimson Tide last season, would bring needed experience at offensive line and already has a relationship with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

The last time Michigan faced Alabama, it wasn’t much of a contest, but the next time the teams meet, they may be the mirror image of each other.

  

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Vanderbilt Football: Playing Ole Miss at LP Field a Smart Move

The Vanderbilt Commodores are looking to stay in the spotlight despite the loss of head coach James Franklin to Penn State.

To help remain in the spotlight, Vanderbilt will use one of their eight home dates in 2014 to play Ole Miss at LP Field, which is just a couple of miles from Vanderbilt's campus in Nashville.

This is the perfect game for Vanderbilt to choose to do this because it will be the only SEC game scheduled on that day.

Even if the game essentially turns into a neutral location after all of the Ole Miss fans spill into LP Field, it's still a smart move for Vanderbilt's football program.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams has done a superb job at trying new ways to elevate the Vanderbilt football program and commented that this is a great way to do that by playing at LP Field.

DM: It's a growing city and a growing brand and it puts us on a national stage as the only @SEC matchup playing that day

— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) April 3, 2014

Playing "home" games at the larger LP Field gives Vanderbilt and their fans the chance to prove that they're ready to take the next step. They'll never do it playing in Vanderbilt Stadium, which seats fewer than 40,000.

It's fair to say that Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are equal competition to each other, giving Vanderbilt a decent chance at pulling off a big early season SEC win in front of a large crowd.

Vanderbilt has won four of the last six meetings with Ole Miss, and it's turned into a decent annual rivalry that will be magnified at LP Field.

Clay Travis of Nashville's 104.5 The Zone tweeted that he thinks it's just about the money for Vanderbilt.

Vandy will play Ole Miss at LP Field. Money grab is only reason I can think of. Will be 55/45 Ole Miss crowd.

— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) April 3, 2014

That may be true, but exposure is ultimately what Vanderbilt has to keep getting if they're going to continue to rise up the college football ranks and gain more of a following in the local community.

However, this does mean that Vanderbilt fans have to prove that they can support their team like every other SEC team enjoys in bigger stadiums.

Even if Ole Miss splits the attendance with Vanderbilt, it's still more beneficial to be playing at LP Field. 

Vanderbilt also still has seven other home dates to work with in what is a very favorable 2014 home schedule that should lead to another bowl berth.

It also helps in recruiting when potential prospects see that the opportunity is there to play in an NFL stadium when coming to Vanderbilt.

Thinking outside of the box is critical for Vanderbilt to sustain the recent success that it has enjoyed, and opening up the SEC schedule at LP Field is a good start.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down Florida's Jalen Tabor's Highlight Tape

Jalen Tabor is a talented 5-star cornerback from Washington, D.C. who signed with Florida in February. At 6'1" and 182 pounds, Tabor has excellent size and length for the cornerback position.

Tabor is not just a tall cover man, he also has terrific instincts and athleticism on the perimeter. He can play press coverage well, plus he is an asset in zone coverage.

The Gators are getting an impact player in Tabor, who shows great potential throughout his solid highlight tape.

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2015 College Football Recruits with Famous Parents

The 2015 college football recruiting class features another talented crop of prospects. Among this year's class are several recruits who have famous parents.

A 4-star receiver is a nightmare for defenses, while his father is one of the greatest musical entertainers ever. A 4-star defensive tackle's father is a general manager of an NFL team, plus a 4-star quarterback reminds a lot of people in Texas of his dad.

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SEC Football: Biggest Remaining Questions of Spring Football

It seems like national signing day was just yesterday, but here we are in April with spring practice winding down and some spring games kicking off over the weekend. 

We went through some of the biggest spring practice battles before camps opened, and some of those questions remain unanswered. 

Which issues facing SEC teams are the biggest problems as spring winds down? The top nine are in this slideshow.

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What the World Looked Like When Class of 2015 Recruits Were Born

It's easy to forget just how young college football prospects actually are, as media exposure and incredible access create a more professional approach for star high school players than ever before.

Prospects who make cross-country trips to visit high-profile coaches and feature hoards of fans on social media are still teenage students, even though they're challenged to handle pressure well beyond their years.

To keep things in perspective, we took a look back to the time period when America's latest crop of recruits joined the party here on Earth. Most members of the 2015 class were born in 1996 or 1997, a fact that will undoubtedly make many of you feel old.

It's a span that featured technological advancement, unforgettable sports storylines and the return of America's greatest athletic icon. We explore the people, events and decisions that helped shape the narrative.

 

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6 Bold Predictions for 2014 College Football Spring Games

Starting this weekend, college football begins to come out of its winter hibernation. That's right: Soon we'll see official spring football games take place. 

Who's ready for quarterbacks not being hit, screwy scoring systems and new schemes debuting to the public? It's what we're anxiously waiting for here, especially since it's been months since we've seen college football on TV. 

One thing that we can usually count on coming out of spring football is that a surprise player or situation. 

So, as we enter the beginning of spring games for 2014, let's take a look at some of the more shocking things that could happen by the end of it all. 

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Johnny Manziel Looking to Secure Numerous Trademarks

Former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel could potentially be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft come May 8. But for now, the 21-year-old superstar is focused on building his brand.

According to ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, Manziel has filed for several trademarks in addition to the "Johnny Football" nickname, including "The House That Johnny Built."

On Wednesday, TMZ Sports reported that Manziel filed documents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in an effort to secure the rights to multiple modifications of his name and number. Some of them include "JFF," "JMAN," "JMAN 2" and "ManzIIel."

According to TMZ, who obtained Manziel's application, the polarizing signal-caller intends to use the different monikers for athletic apparel, sleepwear and gloves, among other products. 

TMZ and Rovell both report that Manziel is currently facing opposition in his fight to claim the rights to "Johnny Football." According to Rovell, Fitch Estates Sales, a company owned by the family of Manziel's friend Nathan Fitch, was the first to apply for the trademark back in December. 

The family's attorney, Gerald Fowler, states that Fitch and Manziel were expected to pursue and capitalize on the "Johnny Football" trademark together. "My guess is that there was a lack of communication here," Fowler said, per Rovell.

Although the status is still pending, it's likely that Manziel will win out. As Rovell points out, trademarks referring to a living person typically require approval by that individual.

Regardless of whether Manziel is successful in his trademark pursuit, his latest business venture is sure to create a stir among NFL experts and analysts who have spent countless hours discussing his work ethic and dedication to football.

Even Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who holds the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, has chimed in on the subject. 

Of course, we won't know the full effects of Manziel's off-the-field behavior and activities on his overall stock until draft day. But while it's difficult to blame Manziel for trying to cash in on his fame and success, there are some who will attempt to prove a correlation between Manziel's business savvy and his passion for football.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football RBs Who Can Score from Anywhere on the Field

The best offenses in college football are machines.

Teams like Florida State and Oregon break a defense's will in systematic rhythms: They take what they're given, pick up small chunks of yards on every play, move the chains, control the clock and eventually punch in a touchdown.

But doesn't that just seem like too much effort?

Why go through such methodical motions when a touchdown could be one play away? Why risk fumbling or having the momentum curtailed with a holding penalty when certain running backs can take a carry to the house...from anywhere?

Big plays are a keystone part of college football, more so in the passing game than the running game but not endemic to one and not the other. There are tailbacks throughout the country who have proven the ground game to be nearly as explosive.

These following eight are the shiniest examples.

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Michigan Football: Realistic Expectations for Wolverines' Spring Game

Michigan officially unofficially kicks off the 2014 season with the Mott Spring Football Game this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET, hoping to chase the burn of the 2013 campaign and see some much-needed improvement from its players.

This will be the public's first proper look at first-year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who came to Ann Arbor from Alabama this offseason; and as befitting for a new, high-profile coach and a unit that struggled historically a season ago, the offense is what most fans are eager to see this weekend.

Starting with the quarterback competition—waged primarily between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris—it is reasonable to expect some good things from both sides. Gardner is ahead of schedule in rehab for the foot he broke at the end of last season, so don't expect to see him scrambling around the field, but he has worked well from the pocket all spring and is ready to display his new-found competence to the masses. He thinks this job should be his.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee disagrees:

From Morris, it is unrealistic to expect Jameis Winston from Florida State's spring game in 2013. It's not that unrealistic, though, once you really think about it. Morris is as far removed from high school as Winston was at the time, and he was just as highly regarded as a prospect. Why shouldn't he come out and light Michigan Stadium aflame?

There is almost nothing Morris can do on Saturday to make himself the front-runner for the job. That will be Gardner's role heading into fall camp. What he can do, however, if he shows more confidence and less check-down tendencies than he did against Kansas State, is pull more or less even with Gardner and make this conversation feel less media-contrived for the rest of the summer and fall.

It is reasonable to expect (or at least hope for) that to happen.

Elsewhere on the offense, it is unfair to expect a raised-from-the-dead running game. Nussmeier did a great job with running backs and offensive linemen at Alabama, but these things take time. It is fair to expect improvement—a unit that's a work in progress—but crazy to expect a group that was so bad in 2013 to lose Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield and (for the time being) Graham Glasgow, then come out in the spring game and bash skulls.

Having said that, anything other than marked improvement from running backs Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith would be disheartening. According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, head coach Brady Hoke praised both for their form in spring camp and remarked on Green's improved fitness after a slow freshman year.

"(Green is) in shape, and just experience (has made him better)," Hoke said. "He understands the expectations a little more with clarity. And that's part of it."

The other big question on offense, of course, is at receiver. Drake Harris' injury puts a damper on what would have otherwise been a massively important day, but a first glimpse at fellow early enrollee Freddy Canteen should keep the audience compelled.

If he's as good (and as confident) as the reports coming out of camp seem to indicate, Michigan might not struggle quite so much to replace Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. 

And boy, wouldn't that be a relief?

The defense is far more stable than the offense, so we'll spend less time speculating what things we might see on Saturday.

Greg Mattison's unit held the team together in 2013 and stands to get better this season, though watching Jake Ryan transition from outside to inside linebacker should be interesting.

(Because he is Jake Ryan, however, it is fair to expect the best.)

One more realistic expectation: There will be a palpable feeling of incompleteness in the stadium, and it won't go away for the better part of the summer—until Jabrill Peppers arrives on campus.

There will be signs and a genuine aura hanging about the crowd in anticipation of his arrival. And with good reason, too. Michigan always recruits well, but it seems like eons since it's landed someone this highly touted. Peppers is the kind of player who can change a program from the first snap of his first day of practice. Especially after Vernon Hargreaves III's freshman season at Florida, Wolverine fans can justify expecting an immediate All-American in the secondary.

You'll be able to feel Peppers' absence on Saturday, but it won't be a sad sort of feeling. Not in the slightest.

It will be one that is oozing with hope.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Which Returning College Football QBs Throw the Best Deep Ball?

Few things are prettier than a football caught in a well-placed downfield throw. Since there are still five months before the start of the season, all anyone can do is look back at highlights from last year. 

You know, to bide the time and all. 

Inching toward the 2014 season, it's time to examine which returning quarterbacks throw the best deep ball. Obviously, this is a matter of opinion based on what your eyes tell you. Stats and completion percentages don't tell the whole story here. In some instances, they may not even tell part of it. 

Rather, this is based on things like arm strength and accuracy. In other words, if you had to get down the field in a hurry, who would you want throwing the ball?

Which returning quarterbacks throw the best deep ball? Prepare yourself for a montage of quarterback porn. 

 

Bryce Petty, Baylor

Unquestionably, Petty threw the prettiest long ball in the Big 12—not that he had a ton of competition. Still, his arm strength is perfectly suited for Baylor's ability to stretch the field. 

Petty had help from two wide receivers who specialized in yards after the catch: Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. Not only could both receivers pick up big yardage on short-to-intermediate routes, but they could simply run by defenders. 

All Petty had to do was put it where Goodley and Reese could catch it in stride on their way to a touchdown. And Petty did so quite often as part of 4,200 passing yards last season. And even if Petty missed the first time, head coach Art Briles had enough faith in his quarterback to try again. Petty's second-highest passer rating (235.5, per ESPN) came in second down and long situations (eight to 10 yards). 

Baylor's vertical passing game suffered a bit when Reese was sidelined for the last month of the season with a wrist injury. But even on a so-so day, Baylor's downfield passing game was better than most teams on a good day. 

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Mariota is a quarterback who doesn't get to throw downfield nearly enough given his arm strength. When he does, though, it can be a thing of a beauty. With 3,665 passing yards last season, Mariota has shown he can sling it around. 

Mariota's two favorite targets, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison, were excellent deep-ball targets in 2013. How Mariota fares without Huff will be interesting to watch. Still, he was remarkably efficient on fourth down and long situations (more than 10 yards), completing all three passes for two touchdowns. 

If there's one thing Mariota needs to work on, it's his downfield accuracy. He tends to throw high or behind, and there are a few big pickups that could have been touchdowns had he hit his receivers in stride. As long as he keeps improving, though, his passing numbers should border on absurd in 2014. 

 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Though Miller is known for his legs, the guy has an absolute howitzer of an arm. Wisconsin—very, very sadly, mind you—will agree to this. Miller has burned the Badgers twice on late-half touchdown throws (2011, '13). 

Like Mariota, Miller isn't the most accurate vertical passer, but he can get the ball down the field in a hurry. Here's what quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. said about Miller last year via Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch

Braxton has one of the biggest arms in college football... I know people see his speed and his playmaking ability. But I am talking about, he’s got rare, rare arm talent.

If you're running a two-minute drill, Miller is probably the guy you'd want leading the offense. 

 

Jameis Winston, Florida State

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner may have the prettiest release in the game. He makes it look utterly effortless. 

Winston isn't just dangerously throwing from the pocket. One of the best parts of his game is his ball placement on downfield throws while on the run. Winston's vertical passing game still looks great even when he doesn't plant his feet. Frankly, it could be confused for sorcery. 

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Winston is absurd on down-and-distances longer than 10 yards, averaging about a 78 percent completion rate. On third down and long situations (eight to 10 yards), Winston completes about 72 percent of his passes. 

Again, this doesn't account for yards after catch, but it does provide a glimpse into scenarios that call for longer passes—and how well Winston performs. 

Coming back for another, and likely a final, season should have defensive coordinators shaking their heads in disgust. 

 

Honorable Mention: Connor Cook, Michigan State

Cook really didn't take over until the third game of the '13 season against Youngstown State. By the end of the season, though, he turned into one of the best pure passers in the Big Ten with back-to-back 300-yard games against Ohio State and Stanford. 

Cook doesn't always set his feet when throwing the long ball, but it gets there all the same. His ball placement on some of his deep throws is astounding. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of ESPN. 

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Big 12 Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

The Big 12 is the land of gunslingers. Bryce Petty rewrote the record books last year, Trevor Knight toasted Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Davis Webb is poised to be the next stat-sheet stuffer at Texas Tech. 

But not every school in the league has a bona fide starter. Teams like Iowa State and West Virginia are in search of who will lead their offenses next season. 

Now that we're in the heart of spring ball, let's update each Big 12 school's quarterback situation. 

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston, Teammates Reportedly Investigated by Florida State

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winstonavoided criminal charges late last year stemming from a rape accusation, but the star Seminole may not be out of the woods yet.  

According to Adam Weinstein of Deadspin.com, Winston and teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby were investigated in the weeks following Florida State's national championship triumph over Auburn in accordance with the university's code of conduct.

Winston, Casher and Darby were part of a Title IX investigation stemming from the alleged rape. While Casher and Darby have reportedly been charged with five code-of-conduct violations, Winston has yet to be charged with anything.

Later on Thursday, Rachel Axon of USA Today reported that Florida State is now under federal investigation for how they handled the case:

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation of Florida State University into whether its handling of the Jameis Winston rape allegations violated Title IX laws, according to a letter confirming the decision that was obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Winston's accuser claimed he raped her on Dec. 7, 2012. The allegations put the Heisman Trophy winner in jeopardy of missing the BCS National Championship Game, but he ultimately wasn't charged.

Per Schlabach, Florida state attorney Willie Meggs didn't feel as though there was enough evidence to lead to conviction at the time:

We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case. ... We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction. After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.

Both Casher and Darby admitted they saw Winston having sex with the accuser, and Casher said that he took video of the sex act on his phone, although he eventually deleted it, according to Weinstein.

With that in mind, the university charges against Casher and Darby are as follows:

Both Casher and Darby face FSU charges of "conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person" and "acts that invade the privacy of another person." Casher faces an additional charge of "recording of images without consent." If found responsible in a university hearing, they could receive punishments ranging from a letter of reprimand to expulsion from the university.

While Casher and Darby came forward with their side of the story, Winston was advised by his legal counsel to refrain from answering questions, per Weinstein. That resulted in no charges being levied against him, although the door isn't shut provided new information becomes available.

According to Weinstein, the accuser's attorney, Baine Kerr, believes Winston should face repercussions if he doesn't speak up:

We're pleased that the university is finally attempting to meet its Title IX obligations, but it shouldn't be well over a year (after my client's assault). ... If Mr. Winston continues to refuse to discuss what happened that night, it's difficult to see how the university can avoid taking action.

Winston is set to enter his redshirt sophomore season at Florida State, which means he will be eligible to enter the 2015 NFL draft if he so chooses.

After a spectacular freshman campaign, Winston is the odds-on favorite to be the top prospect in the 2015 class. Should anything come of this investigation, that could affect Winston's decision to enter the draft and also affect how NFL teams view him.

Winston was able to effectively block out distractions last season and lead his team to a national title, so there is reason to believe that he can do the same this season.

Even so, it seems as though these accusations will continue to loom over Winston's head for as long as he stays at Florida State.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Miami Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Miami Hurricanes are soon entering the final week of spring practice, but competition is heating up in the limited workouts that remain before the end of the session.

It was a slower week in Coral Gables, Fla., as an intrasquad scrimmage and a single practice were the main headlines. Miami also held pro day on April 3 while the current 'Canes prepared for a second scrimmage on April 4.

A few players stepped up during the first scrimmage, earning status as offensive or defensive team leaders. Other teammates, however, were brought back from the highest ranks and must work their way back toward a coveted orange-black jersey.

Miami has a pair of practices on April 8 and 10 before the spring game, which takes place at Sun Life Stadium on April 12.

 

News & Notes

Following the first scrimmage of the spring, sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad was seen wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Muhammad is the leading candidate to replace departed senior Shayon Green on one edge of the defensive line, bringing more intensity to the position.

Jamal Carter, who had been wearing a coveted black jersey, donned a yellow limited-contact get-up. Carter had been performing well in the absence of incumbent starter Rayshawn Jenkins before the setback.

According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, expect Anthony Chickillo and Ufomba Kamalu to play defensive tackle on third down while Muhammad and Tyriq McCord prowl the outside.

As reported by InsideTheU, the 'Canes are adding a tight end, but he isn't traveling a far distance.

Raphael Akpejiori, a 6'9", 241-pound forward on the Miami basketball team, has been watching practice over the past week and will join the team sometime this spring.

 

Stock Up

Dallas Crawford continues to be more impressive on a weekly basis, earning a black jersey in just his fourth week after switching to safety.

Per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said Dallas has been physical and is "not making mental errors, doing a good job of putting his eyes on his keys and reading run-pass and showing up."

Sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace also impressed coaches and was given a black jersey of his own.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald notes D'Onofrio said Grace "made a lot of plays [in Saturday's scrimmage]. Didn't have mental errors. Has a ways to go, but [he is] doing a good job."

Defensive tackle Earl Moore was certainly the biggest surprise of the past week, becoming the first D-lineman to earn a black jersey. According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Golden said the junior is ahead of JUCO transfer Calvin Heurtelou and Corey King.

The timing of Moore's emergence is perfect because returning starter Olsen Pierre has been sidelined for a few weeks due to a head injury.

 

Stock Down

Tracy Howard, the No. 1 cornerback on the team, had his black jersey taken away following what was apparently mediocre performance in the scrimmage. Additionally, Alex Figueroa also lost the black, but it is not clear if the sophomore's injury was a contributing factor in that.

Per Jackson, D'Onofrio wants the pair to be more consistent because they were "not up to the standards" during the scrimmage.

As discussed earlier this week, I believe head coach Al Golden and D'Onofrio are attempting to send a message with the shakeup.

Thurston Armbrister was rewarded for his performance late last week, but the black jersey was quickly taken away from the linebacker. Armbrister is the second-most experienced linebacker on the team and may occupy a larger role than many anticipate.

 

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Alabama Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

After a week off due to spring break, the Alabama Crimson Tide got back down to business and began their second full week of spring practice.

Nick Saban and his staff continue to work on developing the entire roster, with experiments along the offensive line and at linebacker headlining the newest developments this week.

 

News of the Week

The shifting of players to different positions continued on both sides of the ball this week, as detailed by Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star.

The biggest change was inserting sophomore Brandon Greene—who saw action last season at tight end—into the starting group at left tackle. Burnett reports that Leon Brown, who was taking reps with the ones at left tackle last week, worked in the same spot with the twos.

The other move that may pique the interest of Tide fans came on defense, where Reggie Ragland took snaps at outside linebacker. The junior has spent most of his first two seasons working at the two inside spots in the middle level of the Tide’s defense.

On the negative side, Andrew Gribble of AL.com reported that sophomore running back Altee Tenpenny was arrested over spring break in his home town of Little Rock, Ark., and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

"I’m aware of the situation with Altee and this is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players," Saban said. "In addition to any punishment he may receive from a legal standpoint, we will have some internal discipline as well as education that he will be responsible for working through."

 

QB Competition Update

Saban has often stated that the quest to pick AJ McCarron’s successor is unlikely to end any time soon. With that caveat in mind, getting quality information on the five quarterbacks currently competing for the job is a chore.

However, perhaps the most revealing information about the spring competition came from an unlikely source—senior safety Nick Perry.

“It's going to be a good competition,” Perry told Gribble.

We have four or five good guys who are getting the reps. You have Blake Sims who is an experienced guy. Then you have Alec Morris who is a gunslinger. You have (Cooper) Bateman, who's more of a Greg McElroy type, AJ McCarron type. It's going to be a good competition so be prepared for it.

 

Saban Being Saban

It’s not exactly uncommon for Saban to express displeasure during the spring, and with one question about the perceived depth along the defensive line, the Tide’s head coach quickly tempered any budding enthusiasm about that unit’s progress.

“They’ve got a long way to go,” Saban told Marc Torrence of BamaOnline

“I’m not satisfied with the way any of them are playing, if you want to know the truth about it. They’ve got to be more aggressive, physical, play with better leverage, hold the point better, rush the passer better.”

As Travis Reier of BamaOnline points out, the lack of experienced bodies at defensive end and the recent pectoral injury that will keep nose guard Darren Lake out for the rest of spring have Saban bristling at the idea of that unit being anything except unsettled.

Alabama fans and reporters who cover the team can identify with the trouble of figuring out an accurate depth chart—and that’s because Saban himself says that the team doesn’t have one yet.

"Well we really don't have a depth chart,” Saban told Michael Casagrande of AL.com. “Really what we're trying to do is coach every guy so they can be the best player they can be and nobody should judge anybody and nobody should pout about anything. Everybody should be focused on getting better."

 

1st Scrimmage Looming

Even though Saban despises the idea of having a depth chart in spring, that doesn’t mean players can’t make a move to position themselves for playing time in the fall over the course of the next few weeks.

The best chance for that to occur is to perform well in scrimmages and the Tide are scheduled to hold their first one of the spring on Saturday.

With these practices representing the closest simulations to the type of atmosphere the team will see during the season, it represents a great opportunity for players to show the improvement they have made in the offseason.

“The first scrimmage you want to get out there and see what you know without the coaches being right there in your ear, telling you plays,” senior running back Jalston Fowler told Torrence.

“Everyone’s looking forward to that first scrimmage to get that coach out of your ear and see what they can do on their own,” he said.

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