NCAA Football News
The 2015 recruiting class is comprised of star performers from every part of the country, creating a compelling mix of future college football standouts. Just six months separate us from national signing day, and members of the group are set to embark on one final high school season.
It's an appropriate time to reassess a special collection of playmakers, from golden-armed quarterbacks to the disruptive defenders ready to spend their upcoming years chasing them down. Updated national rankings provide us with an opportunity to analyze the top competitors in this class.
We broke down their potential based on game tape and in-person evaluations at The Opening, an annual invite-only prospect showcase we attended at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, this summer.
Here's a look at the top 200 college football recruits of this 2015 cycle, with an eye on how each could impact the college game for years to come.
This article is part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite system, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores.
2014 will be a difficult year for the Trojans given their well-known depth issues due to the just-completed sanctions that cost them 30 scholarships over the last three years.
To make things even more problematic for USC is the fact that they will be playing a very difficult schedule this year in a Pac-12 conference that features no less than six teams ranked in the USA Today coaches preseason poll.
Along the way, the Trojans will face several top quarterbacks on their schedule and, despite having a top-notch defense, these gunslingers will present major challenges for the men of Troy.
This slideshow will take a look at the quarterbacks the Trojans will face in 2014 and rank them in terms of the obstacles they present to Justin Wilcox's defense.
Although USC will see many top quarterbacks this year and all will present hurdles for the defense to surmount, here are the five who are the best on the Trojans' 2014 schedule.
Note: Rankings are predicated on the quality of the quarterback, teams the quarterbacks play for and, to a lesser extent, the venue where the game will take place.
While they say defense wins championships, college football has become a quarterback league more than ever, and the position has made a massive impact on the outcome of the game. In other words, games a lot of times are only as difficult as the quarterback who is leading that particular team.
The good news is that the SEC lost a ton of last season’s starting quarterbacks, which should make life a little easier for the Florida Gators. No more AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray or Johnny Manziel. Instead, the quarterbacks the Gators will face this season have potential but aren’t nearly as accomplished as the guys who were just starting last season.
Besides a Heisman Trophy winner, the Gators have a rather easy slate of quarterbacks they’ll face this year.
The Pac-12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country.
Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will have to compete against quality signal-callers week in and week out. This piece will look at the best quarterbacks UCLA will face this upcoming year. The opponents will be listed in order starting with the fifth-toughest signal-caller, to the quarterback posing the biggest challenge.
Here's a look at the top quarterbacks the Bruins defense will have to go up against in '14.
Training camps are starting up all over the country for college football teams, the beginning of roughly four weeks of preparation for the opening games of the 2014 season in late August. It will be the first chance for coaches to see their returning players and a full crop of newcomers working together at one time, and the practices will help finalize lineups for those first contests.
The vast majority of starting jobs are locked up, either by returning starters or key reserves from 2013. In some cases, freshmen who enrolled early or transfers earned themselves a starting spot during spring practice. Whatever is undecided will get taken care of during training camp.
While every starting position is important for that specific school, there are a handful of unfilled jobs that are so critical to a team's performance and success in 2014 that they'll be the main focus of fall camp. And it's not just internally; it's from a national standpoint.
Here's a look at the 10 biggest position battles to keep an eye on during fall camp.
There will be plenty of Big Ten teams eager to make a run at a conference championship in 2014 and secure the likely resulting berth in the College Football Playoff. In order to make those dreams a reality, programs certainly need great coaching and steady on-field leadership from the upperclassmen.
Moving a team from good to championship-caliber greatness often requires some unexpected contributions from unexpected placed—like the freshmen.
Here, we'll take a look at each Big Ten football program and identify a first-year player (usually meaning true or redshirt freshmen) who can truly make a difference for his team.
Brady Hoke won't accept anything less than full cooperation and genuine dedication. Players are either in or they're out, and he made that clear while opening Michigan's fall camp.
Announced Sunday, via a press release, the fourth-year Wolverines coach has shelved wideout Csont’e York. According to the statement, due to rules violations, the 6’3”, 180-pound sophomore wasn’t invited to fall workouts.
“Csont’e York is suspended indefinitely for failing to meet team standards and will not report for fall camp,” Hoke said (via media contact Derek Satterfield). “We demand that every person in our program represent the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program the right way on and off the field. When people fall short of that, there are consequences.”
As of Sunday night, details of York’s transgressions hadn’t been made public. However, he’s allegedly "subject to an Ann Arbor Police Department investigation," according to Kyle Feldshrer of the Ann Arbor News (via Joshua Henschke of Maize n Brew).
Bouncing a likely contributor for who knows how long was the right move; eliminating the potential or probability of larger issues is the smart approach. Hoke needs his players and staff—not to mention the fans—to be focused on the guys on the field, not the ones screwing up away from it.
If you were looking for someone to immediately set the tone, look no further than Hoke, who is clearly all business as his team prepares to rebound from a disappointing 7-6 slide in 2013. By emphasizing the fundamentals, such as responsibility and chemistry, Hoke has the Wolverines in the position to move forward.
His players are developing, and he has Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, to assist in jumpstarting Team 135. Plus there’s Greg Mattison’s defense.
This could be Hoke’s year.
Devin's the Dude (at WR)
By now, you’re aware that Devin Funchess is now a full-time receiver and no longer a tight-end-turned-receiver. In terms of the swap, the 6'5", 230-pound junior says he's all-in when it comes to his new post, per MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn:
Game on. With 748 yards in 2013, Funchess returns as the team's leading receiver and has two more years of destroying defensive backs ahead of him. However, his collegiate future has been the subject of rampant speculation for months.
He's a projected first-rounder. Will he decide to enter the 2015 NFL draft? If he chooses to do so, Wolverines fans should sit back, enjoy the ride and expect their team to get the most out of the former Farmington Hills Harrison star.
While the onus is on Funchess to produce, he's not the only one who's in line to flourish: Freddy Canteen, a true freshman, seems like the best option for the slot position; Amara Darboh, a redshirt sophomore, could be a breakout contributor; and Jehu Chesson could get some serious playing time this fall, too.
The video is dated, but it reinforces the idea of getting more in 2014.
After falling flat during its 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State, Michigan turned to Nussmeier, then Alabama's OC, for guidance.
Renowned for his touch with quarterbacks, not to mention his success with the Tide's Grade-A running game, Nussmeier faces the task of turning Devin Gardner into a reliable leader and pushing the backfield to new (old Michigan) heights.
To say that Wolverines fans expect the world from him would probably be accurate. After watching Team 134 struggle mightily just to score a few touchdowns, fans want to see Team 135's Nuss-infused offense properly utilize its talent and blow the doors off the opposition.
During Big Ten media days, Gardner was praised by opponents as one the Big Ten's best. On top of that, Nussmeier has two highly rated running backs (maybe a third if Ty Isaac is cleared), a group of solid but generally untested receivers and a bunch of big guys up front.
Needless to say, fighting just to get 17 or 21 on the board should be a thing of the past under Nussmeier, who has streamlined things in Ann Arbor.
Want to hear Nussmeier at work? MGoBlue recently provided an inside look at one of his practices.
It's still under construction. What's new? With freshman left tackle Mason Cole in the mix, expect to see healthy competition for one of college football's storied positions. There are certain responsibilities that come with being a Wolverines blindsider. Whether Cole gets the job is entirely up to him.
After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Graham Glasgow should be the No. 1 center. Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch are likely in line for the guard posts.
There will be more as camp rolls along. However, tying up loose ends and tightening up all the moving parts prior to full immersion seems to be Michigan's No. 1 priority.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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Ohio State may not play in the SEC or face the toughest schedule, but in 2014, the Buckeyes will take on a number of quarterbacks capable of derailing their title hopes.
The Buckeyes had a hard time defending the pass a season ago, allowing 268 yards per game. That ranked 110th nationally, and their deficiencies in the secondary ultimately cost them a shot at Florida State and a national title.
New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought in to overhaul Ohio State's pass defense. His ability to do so could determine whether the Buckeyes make a run at this year's College Football Playoff.
Some of these quarterbacks have hurt Ohio State in the past, while others are ranked mainly because of their elite skill set. One runs a unique and proven offensive system, while another has a supporting cast that makes him a dangerous threat.
Here are the five best signal-callers Ohio State will face in 2014.
The Georgia Bulldogs are a mere three practices into fall camp, but already concerns are being addressed, new stars are emerging and injuries are taking a toll. Here are some first impressions from the Dawgs' 2014 fall practice.
Jay Rome Establishing Himself at Tight End
When he signed with Georgia in 2011, Jay Rome was supposed to be the next great Bulldog tight end. The progression of Arthur Lynch and a series of untimely injuries derailed that destiny for Rome—at least temporarily. Now, the redshirt junior is battling back to good health and a prominent role in the Bulldog offense.
I’ve basically been working in and doing what I feel comfortable doing. I’m getting a lot better. I can see a whole bunch of improvement. Still a little rusty, a little shaky on a few different things but it’s just some stuff that I’m going to have to work through and just keep getting better every day and just monitor.
No other tight end on Georgia's roster boasts Rome's experience, and that will serve him well once he's back to full speed. He told Weiszer that his play will "speak for itself."
Freshmen Here to Play, Especially on Defense
Several of Georgia's newest Bulldogs are already making an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Lorenzo Carter, the prize recruit of this year's class, has already made an impression on his teammates. Offensive tackle John Theus had nothing but praise for Carter when speaking to Seth Emerson of the Telegraph, pointing out the outside linebacker's speed, size and "nasty streak."
In the secondary, freshman Malkom Parrish and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng are turning heads in the early parts of fall camp.
Parrish is playing both the cornerback and star position, and as Jake Reuse of UGASports.com points out, fellow defensive back J.J. Green thinks the freshman can play:
Meanwhile, Green told Emerson that size and length really set Fenteng apart at the cornerback position. "You see his size and think: He plays corner? He’s rangy, he’s lean. He can make plays that short people probably can’t make."
Injuries Still a Factor
Just a few short days ago, optimism surrounded Georgia's deep wide receiver rotation thanks to the return of Malcolm Mitchell, arguably the most talented playmaker of the bunch.
As Chip Towers reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitchell is now expected to miss at least "the first part" of training camp.
Last year, Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the Dawgs' first game. Now, his future is yet again unknown. As a result of Mitchell's latest setback and an unknown timetable for the return of Justin Scott-Wesley, some fans fear the Bulldogs may once again be without a truly elite deep threat.
In reality, a number of Georgia players are capable of going the distance and getting behind opposing secondaries.
Storylines to Watch This Week
Georgia will move into full pad practices this week. A few developments worth keeping an eye on:
- Physical Freshmen: How will talented youngsters hold up against collegiate hits for the first time? Look for Carter and running back Nick Chubb to use their unique combinations of size and athleticism to make an impression.
- Offensive Line Lock-in: John Theus continues to rotate between left and right tackle and both guard positions remain somewhat up for grabs. With real pressure and real banging taking place in the trenches, a starting lineup should soon emerge.
- Defensive Secondary: Similarly, pads should bring some separation in the secondary, where new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has thus far utilized a deep rotation with little differentiation.
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