NCAA Football News

10 Biggest College Football Recruiting Storylines This Spring

Enjoying the path college football recruiting has taken so far? It's only just begun.

Recruiting has given college football fans tons of commitments, a few decommitments, not enough pledges for some schools and more than most expected for others (Miami, we're looking at you). The recruiting circuit for the 2016 class has been entertaining to say the least—and we're only a little more than six weeks past national signing day for the 2015 class.

The next 11 months should have their share of stories that will shake, excite and surprise the die-hard recruiting followers. Expect something crazy to happen in and out of the Power Five.

As for now, let's focus on 10 of the biggest college football recruiting storylines for the spring.

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10 Under-the-Radar College Football Players Who Will Be Stars in 2015

Who will play the role of TCU’s Trevone Boykin in 2015?

Boykin came into last season battling for the starting quarterback job with Matt Joeckel and finished as the No. 4 guy in the Heisman race.

How did it happen? Boykin took a squad that returned 15 starters from its four-win team in 2013, including the top four receiving targets, and led it to a 12-1 finish.

Not many people saw that coming.

Here are 10 names to keep in mind in 2015. They may become Heisman short-listers before November rolls around.

Begin Slideshow

10 Under-the-Radar College Football Players Who Will Be Stars in 2015

Who will play the role of TCU’s Trevone Boykin in 2015?

Boykin came into last season battling for the starting quarterback job with Matt Joeckel and finished as the No. 4 guy in the Heisman race.

How did it happen? Boykin took a squad that returned 15 starters from its four-win team in 2013, including the top four receiving targets, and led it to a 12-1 finish.

Not many people saw that coming.

Here are 10 names to keep in mind in 2015. They may become Heisman short-listers before November rolls around.

Begin Slideshow

DeVante Parker Hype Is Too High, Louisville WR Still Well Behind Cooper, White

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker has been a hot name as the 2015 NFL draft approaches. The 6’3”, 209-pound receiver is coming off a spectacular but shortened season where he posted 855 yards in just seven games. He’s widely regarded by draft experts as a first-round pick.

He’s often listed as the third receiver behind Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and West Virginia receiver Kevin White. But is he being pushed up behind those two elite prospects because of class depth, or is he deserving of that company? I dove into Parker’s film to find how he wins and what skills translate best to the NFL.

It’s important to properly value Parker because of how the NFL is evolving. Receivers must be effective playmakers, but of the last five Super Bowl winners, only Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants was a first-round pick. Unless a receiver is going to be an elite difference-maker, a first-round selection seems rich for the return.

By comparing what Parker does well against each White and Cooper, we can determine whether he is talented enough to be in that conversation. Even if he isn’t, he can certainly be a great NFL player. But we are looking to evaluate how good of a prospect he is and how he projects at the next level.

 

Where Parker Wins

Parker is certainly an explosive athlete. His combine measurements were very good overall. His best athletic comparisons include Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon and Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

The most notable measurement is his leaping ability. At 6’3”, Parker posted an impressive 36.5” vertical jump. That explosiveness in his lower body is critical for him to win jump balls. He showed that ability on film as well, so the combine was able to check the box.

Winning at the catch point and reacting well to inaccurate throws is a must in the NFL. Even the elite quarterbacks struggle with ball placement on some passes, and receivers that can adjust mid-air are very valuable. Parker has the physical traits to execute on these plays.

There are times when Parker is absolutely brilliant as the ball arrives. Like the play above, Parker properly tracks the ball and leaps as it arrives into his catch radius. The throw was good, but Parker made sure the defender wouldn’t break up the pass.

Parker has the speed and frame to put cornerbacks in an impossible position. His 4.45 speed at the combine seems much faster than he plays, but Parker is quick off the line. Below is a good example of his quality quickness.

Parker’s go-to move with tight coverage is the stutter step. It was highly effective in college because he has the ability to get across the face of the defender and go over the top. His combination of speed and size was too much for many cornerbacks to handle.

He can shield the ball away from defenders with his length. Once he has that step on the cornerback, a pretty accurate throw is likely to be hauled in. Parker does struggle dealing with physicality, though, so a roaming safety can influence the play.

The most impressive aspect of Parker’s game comes after the catch. He is powerful as a runner and takes long strides. He eats up yards in a hurry and can move as well horizontally as he does downfield.

Defenders have to take great angles to keep up with Parker, and then usually struggle to bring him down. His field vision is obvious and natural. He’s a major weapon once he gets into space because of the broken tackles he creates.

 

Compared to Amari Cooper and Kevin White

Both Amari Cooper and Kevin White bring unique skill sets to the table. Cooper is a much quicker player who relies on perfect routes and great acceleration. His top-end speed is good, but it’s precision that creates his separation.

It doesn’t take long to find Cooper’s excellent route running in his film. Even when facing zone coverage, Cooper can isolate matchups and destroy one-on-one matchups he created. Defensive coordinators have to scheme for Cooper’s whereabouts every play, or else one coverage gaffe can lead to a touchdown.

White is the bigger, faster and more physical player of the three. He’s the least experienced but the most dangerous downfield because of his tracking ability. He’s an elite playmaker in the mold of Julio Jones.

White’s ability to play the ball is unrivaled in this class. He has great vision and hands. His timing on jump balls is also standout. The consistency in which he plays is astonishing considering he has just two years of FBS experience.

Parker’s most dominant trait, his yards-after-catch ability, is not nearly as valuable as Cooper’s and White’s. He will be playing in less space in the NFL than he did in college, and defenders are better athletes. In terms of valuable traits, Parker just doesn’t have the top-tier consistency as a receiver to compete with Cooper and White.

 

Where Parker Struggles

According to Chris Brown of Smart Football, all receivers must master at least two moves that can break press coverage at the line of scrimmage. He recommends having three or more. Hand usage is also critical.

One of the biggest differences from college to the NFL is the level of professionalism. NFL cornerbacks study tendencies for hours so they can predict your route before it is fully underway. That’s why Parker must improve his release at the line of scrimmage.

Nearly every route I charted from five games that featured Parker facing on-man coverage, he tried the stutter step. He doesn’t use his hands at all. Instead he relies on going with some outside-to-inside foot pattern that is dependent on the cornerback guessing incorrectly.

Above is a good example of why Parker must learn to vary his moves. Although he does get on top of the cornerback with his acceleration, the cornerback correctly plays the trail position. The breakup that happens in the end zone occurs because Parker didn’t give himself enough space to come back for the ball. He couldn’t give his quarterback a big enough bucket to throw into since his release wasted too much time.

Another area Parker trails behind Cooper and White is route running. His routes are very inconsistent. He often produced on slant routes when facing off-coverage. Of all routes charted in five games, he faced off-coverage 64 percent of the time. That is highly unlikely to happen in the NFL.

It’s very easy to feast on slant routes. But when Parker was asked to do more, he struggled to create downfield separation. Part of that reason is Parker likes to tip his routes with his body.

Take a look at the play above. Parker lines up at the top of the screen and will run a simple curl route. But the cornerback easily smothers it and basically runs it for him.

It is easy to see why. Parker slows down a full three yards prior to reaching the apex of his route, and his body is halfway turned to the ball before he fully plants. This is an obvious route for even collegiate cornerbacks to defend.

There are many examples of Parker’s average route running in his film. Sometimes he is just blatantly passive in effort. See below for an example of where Parker doesn’t cut hard to the inside on his slant route.

The final area where Parker trails behind the elite two receivers in the class is his downfield receiving ability. Being a vertical threat is about so much more than speed. Tracking the ball, then competing for it are two huge factors for success once the ball goes further downfield.

Notable NFL receivers with great vertical ability include Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Dez Bryant, Washington Redskins’ receiver DeSean Jackson and Green Bay Packers’ receiver Jordy Nelson. Pro Football Focus’ signature statistics has each as a top-five deep threat. New Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Mike Wallace, Oakland Raiders’ receiver Andre Holmes and Tennessee Titans’ receiver Justin Hunter are among the league’s worst vertical receivers, per Pro Football Focus.

Parker struggles to play the ball downfield. He doesn’t locate the ball and will slow down at various points of his route. This is a major concern as he looks to become a downfield threat. If a quarterback cannot count on the receiver to get to the catch point, then chemistry will be next to nil between the two.

 

Compared to Amari Cooper and Kevin White

I previously evaluated Kevin White’s immense talents, and his biggest weakness right now is his route running. But, it is a different concern than Parker’s routes. White simply wasn’t asked to be a master of the route tree in West Virginia’s spread, and he only played two seasons.

Parker was a four-year contributor who was able to play with Teddy Bridgewater for three of his years. He was in a pro-style system that asked him to be a precise runner, and yet he is at best average there. That’s not an area we should assume would improve because he’s already had the repetitions needed to develop more.

Amari Cooper’s biggest weakness is that he is an “on the ground” receiver. He is not the type you’d throw many jump balls for. He isn’t very physical by nature and his leaping ability is poor. Thus, he wins on the ground.

Since Parker is bigger and has better leaping ability, he has the edge in terms of competitiveness in-air compared to Cooper. But, Parker is not nearly as explosive or consistent overall. He’s just bigger and can leap higher.

That’s not enough for Parker to bridge the gap between he and Cooper. Even if Cooper is more of a Jeremy Maclin-type, he brings immense value to any offense because he has near-elite traits like quickness and route precision.

 

Outlook

DeVante Parker is a great athlete and solid football player, despite being picked apart in the previous sections. When comparing him to the top two receivers of the 2015 draft class, he’s not quite the same caliber. The level of consistency as a playmaker is yet to be proven.

When talking top-15 picks in the draft, receivers should be bona fide stars. Parker has the makeup of a star, but he hasn’t proved he is that reliable No. 1-type receiver. Thus, he shouldn’t be pushed up into the conversation with two potential stars like Kevin White and Amari Cooper.

 

All stats used are from sports-reference.com.

Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

DeVante Parker Hype Is Too High, Louisville WR Still Well Behind Cooper, White

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker has been a hot name as the 2015 NFL draft approaches. The 6’3”, 209-pound receiver is coming off a spectacular but shortened season where he posted 855 yards in just seven games. He’s widely regarded by draft experts as a first-round pick.

He’s often listed as the third receiver behind Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and West Virginia receiver Kevin White. But is he being pushed up behind those two elite prospects because of class depth, or is he deserving of that company? I dove into Parker’s film to find how he wins and what skills translate best to the NFL.

It’s important to properly value Parker because of how the NFL is evolving. Receivers must be effective playmakers, but of the last three Super Bowl winners, only Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens was a first-round pick. Unless a receiver is going to be an elite difference-maker, a first-round selection seems rich for the return.

By comparing what Parker does well against each White and Cooper, we can determine whether he is talented enough to be in that conversation. Even if he isn’t, he can certainly be a great NFL player. But we are looking to evaluate how good of a prospect he is and how he projects at the next level.

 

Where Parker Wins

Parker is certainly an explosive athlete. His combine measurements were very good overall. His best athletic comparisons include Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon and Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

The most notable measurement is his leaping ability. At 6’3”, Parker posted an impressive 36.5” vertical jump. That explosiveness in his lower body is critical for him to win jump balls. He showed that ability on film as well, so the combine was able to check the box.

Winning at the catch point and reacting well to inaccurate throws is a must in the NFL. Even the elite quarterbacks struggle with ball placement on some passes, and receivers that can adjust mid-air are very valuable. Parker has the physical traits to execute on these plays.

There are times when Parker is absolutely brilliant as the ball arrives. Like the play above, Parker properly tracks the ball and leaps as it arrives into his catch radius. The throw was good, but Parker made sure the defender wouldn’t break up the pass.

Parker has the speed and frame to put cornerbacks in an impossible position. His 4.45 speed at the combine seems much faster than he plays, but Parker is quick off the line. Below is a good example of his quality quickness.

Parker’s go-to move with tight coverage is the stutter step. It was highly effective in college because he has the ability to get across the face of the defender and go over the top. His combination of speed and size was too much for many cornerbacks to handle.

He can shield the ball away from defenders with his length. Once he has that step on the cornerback, a pretty accurate throw is likely to be hauled in. Parker does struggle dealing with physicality, though, so a roaming safety can influence the play.

The most impressive aspect of Parker’s game comes after the catch. He is powerful as a runner and takes long strides. He eats up yards in a hurry and can move as well horizontally as he does downfield.

Defenders have to take great angles to keep up with Parker, and then usually struggle to bring him down. His field vision is obvious and natural. He’s a major weapon once he gets into space because of the broken tackles he creates.

 

Compared to Amari Cooper and Kevin White

Both Amari Cooper and Kevin White bring unique skill sets to the table. Cooper is a much quicker player who relies on perfect routes and great acceleration. His top-end speed is good, but it’s precision that creates his separation.

It doesn’t take long to find Cooper’s excellent route running in his film. Even when facing zone coverage, Cooper can isolate matchups and destroy one-on-one matchups he created. Defensive coordinators have to scheme for Cooper’s whereabouts every play, or else one coverage gaffe can lead to a touchdown.

White is the bigger, faster and more physical player of the three. He’s the least experienced but the most dangerous downfield because of his tracking ability. He’s an elite playmaker in the mold of Julio Jones.

White’s ability to play the ball is unrivaled in this class. He has great vision and hands. His timing on jump balls is also standout. The consistency in which he plays is astonishing considering he has just two years of FBS experience.

Parker’s most dominant trait, his yards-after-catch ability, is not nearly as valuable as Cooper’s and White’s. He will be playing in less space in the NFL than he did in college, and defenders are better athletes. In terms of valuable traits, Parker just doesn’t have the top-tier consistency as a receiver to compete with Cooper and White.

 

Where Parker Struggles

According to Chris Brown of Smart Football, all receivers must master at least two moves that can break press coverage at the line of scrimmage. He recommends having three or more. Hand usage is also critical.

One of the biggest differences from college to the NFL is the level of professionalism. NFL cornerbacks study tendencies for hours so they can predict your route before it is fully underway. That’s why Parker must improve his release at the line of scrimmage.

Nearly every route I charted from five games that featured Parker facing on-man coverage, he tried the stutter step. He doesn’t use his hands at all. Instead he relies on going with some outside-to-inside foot pattern that is dependent on the cornerback guessing incorrectly.

Above is a good example of why Parker must learn to vary his moves. Although he does get on top of the cornerback with his acceleration, the cornerback correctly plays the trail position. The breakup that happens in the end zone occurs because Parker didn’t give himself enough space to come back for the ball. He couldn’t give his quarterback a big enough bucket to throw into since his release wasted too much time.

Another area Parker trails behind Cooper and White is route running. His routes are very inconsistent. He often produced on slant routes when facing off-coverage. Of all routes charted in five games, he faced off-coverage 64 percent of the time. That is highly unlikely to happen in the NFL.

It’s very easy to feast on slant routes. But when Parker was asked to do more, he struggled to create downfield separation. Part of that reason is Parker likes to tip his routes with his body.

Take a look at the play above. Parker lines up at the top of the screen and will run a simple curl route. But the cornerback easily smothers it and basically runs it for him.

It is easy to see why. Parker slows down a full three yards prior to reaching the apex of his route, and his body is halfway turned to the ball before he fully plants. This is an obvious route for even collegiate cornerbacks to defend.

There are many examples of Parker’s average route running in his film. Sometimes he is just blatantly passive in effort. See below for an example of where Parker doesn’t cut hard to the inside on his slant route.

The final area where Parker trails behind the elite two receivers in the class is his downfield receiving ability. Being a vertical threat is about so much more than speed. Tracking the ball, then competing for it are two huge factors for success once the ball goes further downfield.

Notable NFL receivers with great vertical ability include Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Dez Bryant, Washington Redskins’ receiver DeSean Jackson and Green Bay Packers’ receiver Jordy Nelson. Pro Football Focus’ signature statistics has each as a top-five deep threat. New Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Mike Wallace, Oakland Raiders’ receiver Andre Holmes and Tennessee Titans’ receiver Justin Hunter are among the league’s worst vertical receivers, per Pro Football Focus.

Parker struggles to play the ball downfield. He doesn’t locate the ball and will slow down at various points of his route. This is a major concern as he looks to become a downfield threat. If a quarterback cannot count on the receiver to get to the catch point, then chemistry will be next to nil between the two.

 

Compared to Amari Cooper and Kevin White

I previously evaluated Kevin White’s immense talents, and his biggest weakness right now is his route running. But, it is a different concern than Parker’s routes. White simply wasn’t asked to be a master of the route tree in West Virginia’s spread, and he only played two seasons.

Parker was a four-year contributor who was able to play with Teddy Bridgewater for three of his years. He was in a pro-style system that asked him to be a precise runner, and yet he is at best average there. That’s not an area we should assume would improve because he’s already had the repetitions needed to develop more.

Amari Cooper’s biggest weakness is that he is an “on the ground” receiver. He is not the type you’d throw many jump balls for. He isn’t very physical by nature and his leaping ability is poor. Thus, he wins on the ground.

Since Parker is bigger and has better leaping ability, he has the edge in terms of competitiveness in-air compared to Cooper. But, Parker is not nearly as explosive or consistent overall. He’s just bigger and can leap higher.

That’s not enough for Parker to bridge the gap between he and Cooper. Even if Cooper is more of a Jeremy Maclin-type, he brings immense value to any offense because he has near-elite traits like quickness and route precision.

 

Outlook

DeVante Parker is a great athlete and solid football player, despite being picked apart in the previous sections. When comparing him to the top two receivers of the 2015 draft class, he’s not quite the same caliber. The level of consistency as a playmaker is yet to be proven.

When talking top-15 picks in the draft, receivers should be bona fide stars. Parker has the makeup of a star, but he hasn’t proved he is that reliable No. 1-type receiver. Thus, he shouldn’t be pushed up into the conversation with two potential stars like Kevin White and Amari Cooper.

 

All stats used are from sports-reference.com.

Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: 10 Juniors Who Will Declare for the 2016 NFL Draft

Three years after he graduates high school, a college football player can declare for the NFL draft. Whether they're ready or not, a good amount of players take advantage of this opportunity.

Many of the players who decide to come out early are from the SEC. Nineteen juniors and one redshirt sophomore from the SEC have waived their remaining year of college eligibility and entered the 2015 NFL draft.

Which rising juniors in the SEC will undoubtedly do the same in 2016?

The total might be higher or lower 10 months from now, following the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, but the 10 players mentioned here are the safest bets to make the jump. There will probably be more than 10 SEC juniors who do declare early, but with the NFL Draft Advisory Board changing how they do things last year, we won't get near the record for underclassmen in the draft anytime soon.

 

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: 10 Juniors Who Will Declare for the 2016 NFL Draft

Three years after he graduates high school, a college football player can declare for the NFL draft. Whether they're ready or not, a good amount of players take advantage of this opportunity.

Many of the players who decide to come out early are from the SEC. Nineteen juniors and one redshirt sophomore from the SEC have waived their remaining year of college eligibility and entered the 2015 NFL draft.

Which rising juniors in the SEC will undoubtedly do the same in 2016?

The total might be higher or lower 10 months from now, following the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, but the 10 players mentioned here are the safest bets to make the jump. There will probably be more than 10 SEC juniors who do declare early, but with the NFL Draft Advisory Board changing how they do things last year, we won't get near the record for underclassmen in the draft anytime soon.

 

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Texas Football: 4 Longhorn Starters on the Hot Seat in 2015

Charlie Strong addressed the media Monday, using one last formality to update the status of the team following winter workouts. The quarterback battle keeps the headline, but far more stands to be settled before the summer.

With the teaming having to replace 10 starters, not many incumbents stand to lose their jobs. More so than anything, the team needs the next guy to step and take over for those who have moved on.

For the most part, it sounds like that's happening. Strong was complimentary of running back Johnathan Gray, receiver Daje Johnson and his linebacking corps. That's great news in three areas that will be relied upon heavily.

But coming off a 6-7 season, there must be casualties. The quarterback battle is fully on between junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, and it sounds like Strong is especially fond of his new offensive linemen. 

Before too long, he might feel the same way about another redshirt freshman on the opposite side of the ball.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: 4 Longhorn Starters on the Hot Seat in 2015

Charlie Strong addressed the media Monday, using one last formality to update the status of the team following winter workouts. The quarterback battle keeps the headline, but far more stands to be settled before the summer.

With the teaming having to replace 10 starters, not many incumbent starters stand to lose their jobs. More so than anything, the team needs the next guy to step and take over for those who have moved on.

For the most part, it sounds like that's happening. Strong was complimentary of running back Johnathan Gray, receiver Daje Johnson and his linebacking corps. That's great news in three areas that will be relied upon heavily.

But coming off a 6-7 season, there must be casualties. The quarterback battle is fully on between junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, and it sounds like Strong is especially fond of his new offensive linemen. 

Before too long, he might feel the same way about another redshirt freshman on the opposite side of the ball.

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Lokeni Toailoa to UCLA: Bruins Land 4-Star LB Prospect

UCLA added some punch to its defense and 2016 recruiting class on Monday in the form of linebacker Lokeni Toailoa.

Greg Biggins of Scout.com reported the news and pointed out that it was a particularly difficult decision for Toailoa between two local schools:

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Toailoa is a 4-star prospect and the No. 1-rated inside linebacker in the nation. The 6’1”, 212-pound recruit is the No. 6-rated player in the state of California and No. 59 player in the nation.

Not surprisingly, Toailoa received plenty of interest from West Coast schools in the Pac-12 throughout the recruiting process, including UCLA, USC, Oregon and Arizona State, among others.

Notre Dame and Oklahoma were also squarely in the mix as national powers and recognizable football schools with recruiting footprints throughout the country.

Ultimately, he chose to stay home for a Bruins squad that finished 10-3 last season and beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.

Toailoa has a number of strengths, but his ability to defend against the run is what immediately stands out.

He is a physical force who loves to pursue running backs in space and deliver a big hit when he gets there. He sheds blocks with relative ease and uses his athleticism to get involved in pass coverage as well, but his playmaking abilities against the run will help him earn playing time right away.

There may be plenty of pressure as the top-rated inside linebacker in his class playing near home, but he has the talent to deliver on the big stage.

The Bruins certainly hope that is the case.


Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lokeni Toailoa to UCLA: Bruins Land 4-Star LB Prospect

UCLA added some punch to its defense and 2016 recruiting class on Monday in the form of linebacker Lokeni Toailoa.

Greg Biggins of Scout.com reported the news and pointed out that it was a particularly difficult decision for Toailoa between two local schools:

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Toailoa is a 4-star prospect and the No. 1-rated inside linebacker in the nation. The 6’1”, 212-pound recruit is the No. 6-rated player in the state of California and No. 59 player in the nation.

Not surprisingly, Toailoa received plenty of interest from West Coast schools in the Pac-12 throughout the recruiting process, including UCLA, USC, Oregon and Arizona State, among others.

Notre Dame and Oklahoma were also squarely in the mix as national powers and recognizable football schools with recruiting footprints throughout the country.

Ultimately, he chose to stay home for a Bruins squad that finished 10-3 last season and beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.

Toailoa has a number of strengths, but his ability to defend against the run is what immediately stands out.

He is a physical force who loves to pursue running backs in space and deliver a big hit when he gets there. He sheds blocks with relative ease and uses his athleticism to get involved in pass coverage as well, but his playmaking abilities against the run will help him earn playing time right away.

There may be plenty of pressure as the top-rated inside linebacker in his class playing near home, but he has the talent to deliver on the big stage.

The Bruins certainly hope that is the case.


Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have wrapped up the first week of spring practice, and by the looks of things, they have a chance to have a successful 2015 season. The quarterback battle is off to a hot start, the wide receivers look healthier, and the linebackers are still as strong as ever.

But just like any other team after the first week of spring practice, the Bulldogs still have a lot of things to work on before they can finish the season and move on to fall camp. They will have plenty of time for that because there are still a couple of weeks before G-Day take places at Sanford Stadium.

Here’s the Week 1 practice stock report for the Bulldogs.

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Georgia Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have wrapped up the first week of spring practice, and by the looks of things, they have a chance to have a successful 2015 season. The quarterback battle is off to a hot start, the wide receivers look healthier, and the linebackers are still as strong as ever.

But just like any other team after the first week of spring practice, the Bulldogs still have a lot of things to work on before they can finish the season and move on to fall camp. They will have plenty of time for that because there are still a couple of weeks before G-Day take places at Sanford Stadium.

Here’s the Week 1 practice stock report for the Bulldogs.

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UCLA Football Recruiting: Top 5 Offensive Skill Targets for '16 Class

In order for the UCLA football program to take the next step in its goal of winning a Pac-12 title, it has to improve at the skill positions—specifically in terms of speed.

While the Bruins' wide receiver corps has been productive under head coach Jim Mora, the group collectively has lacked a game-breaker with the ability to take the top off of a defense. 

This piece will look at multiple prospects with the ability to upgrade the amount of athleticism within the skill positions. It includes three receivers, a very fast running back and a local quarterback with the potential to add depth behind Josh Rosen. 

Here are the top five offensive targets in the 2016 class for the UCLA Bruins. 

  

All star rankings are courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football Recruiting: Top 5 Offensive Skill Targets for '16 Class

In order for the UCLA football program to take the next step in its goal of winning a Pac-12 title, it has to improve at the skill positions—specifically in terms of speed.

While the Bruins' wide receiver corps has been productive under head coach Jim Mora, the group collectively has lacked a game-breaker with the ability to take the top off of a defense. 

This piece will look at multiple prospects with the ability to upgrade the amount of athleticism within the skill positions. It includes three receivers, a very fast running back and a local quarterback with the potential to add depth behind Josh Rosen. 

Here are the top five offensive targets in the 2016 class for the UCLA Bruins. 

  

All star rankings are courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted.

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Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Who Could Surprise People This Spring

Spring practice begins this week for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. Head coach Frank Beamer enters his 29th season in charge of his alma mater, as Tech looks to get to the top of the ACC for the first time since 2010.

According to Tech's official depth chart at the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Hokies have eight starters returning on offense, seven on defense (not including Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson) and both specialists. 

The biggest openings for VT on the offensive side of the ball are on the offensive line. The Hokies must replace three starters from a year ago; that is, if you consider Augie Conte—who started the bowl game at right tackle—as a returning starter.

On defense, longtime coordinator Bud Foster must replace four starters, but no stars. Replacing safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner—both three-year starters—is Foster's biggest challenge.

Who could surprise during spring practice? Here is a look at four players who could surprise folks this spring.

Begin Slideshow

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Who Could Surprise People This Spring

Spring practice begins this week for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. Head coach Frank Beamer enters his 29th season in charge of his alma mater, as Tech looks to get to the top of the ACC for the first time since 2010.

According to Tech's official depth chart at the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Hokies have eight starters returning on offense, seven on defense (not including Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson) and both specialists. 

The biggest openings for VT on the offensive side of the ball are on the offensive line. The Hokies must replace three starters from a year ago; that is, if you consider Augie Conte—who started the bowl game at right tackle—as a returning starter.

On defense, longtime coordinator Bud Foster must replace four starters, but no stars. Replacing safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner—both three-year starters—is Foster's biggest challenge.

Who could surprise during spring practice? Here is a look at four players who could surprise folks this spring.

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2016 Recruit Tony Jones Jr. on Committing to Notre Dame: 'It Just Felt Right'

Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment in its 2016 recruiting class when 3-star Florida standout Tony Jones Jr. announced his pledge to the Irish.

The 6’0”, 212-pounder was on a visit to South Bend last weekend, and he committed to Irish head coach Brian Kelly in his office Sunday before departing. 

“It just felt right to me,” Jones told Bleacher Report. “The coaches are really good. I felt at home. The players are cool. The tradition is second to none.”

Jones—who earned an offer from the Irish earlier this month—selected Notre Dame over offers from Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, among others.

According to Jones, Kelly couldn’t contain his excitement when he told him that he wanted to become a part of the Irish program.

“He just started smiling and he was really happy,” Jones said.

So what are the Irish getting in the standout from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and what factors helped him pull the trigger? 

If the spring camp circuit is any indicator, Kelly and his staff are getting a back who is motivated to prove that he is one of the nation’s most talented backs in the 2016 class.

Jones attended the Adidas Georgia Showcase in February and the Nike Orlando Regional Camp earlier this month and was a standout performer at both events. He earned an invitation to The Opening at the latter event.

His running backs coach at IMG Academy, former Alabama running back Roy Upchurch, spoke earlier this month about what makes his star pupil a special back. 

“Tony’s a very hard-working guy,” Upchurch said. “He wants it. He wants to be the best back in the country. He wants to be a big-time back in college. That’s what he’s working toward. He tries to elevate his game every time he touches the field. Even on the practice field, he tries to take his game to another level. When it’s time to perform, he’s going 100-percent all the time.”

Jones becomes the fourth member of Notre Dame’s 2016 class, and the first running back to join the fold.

Education and the Irish’s graduation rates under Kelly were pivotal factors that Jones mentioned helped him make the decision to commit. 

Also, his connection with running backs coach Autry Denson—himself a Florida native and the school’s all-time leading rusher—and associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock—who coached Tony’s father in college—weighed heavily in his thought process.

With his commitment out of the way, Jones—who is also a standout baseball player and plans to play both sports at Notre Dame—said he will now turn his attention toward his senior season and preparing to get ready for the college level.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 Recruit Tony Jones Jr. on Committing to Notre Dame: 'It Just Felt Right'

Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment in its 2016 recruiting class when 3-star Florida standout Tony Jones Jr. announced his pledge to the Irish.

The 6’0”, 212-pounder was on a visit to South Bend last weekend, and he committed to Irish head coach Brian Kelly in his office Sunday before departing. 

“It just felt right to me,” Jones told Bleacher Report. “The coaches are really good. I felt at home. The players are cool. The tradition is second to none.”

Jones—who earned an offer from the Irish earlier this month—selected Notre Dame over offers from Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, among others.

According to Jones, Kelly couldn’t contain his excitement when he told him that he wanted to become a part of the Irish program.

“He just started smiling and he was really happy,” Jones said.

So what are the Irish getting in the standout from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and what factors helped him pull the trigger? 

If the spring camp circuit is any indicator, Kelly and his staff are getting a back who is motivated to prove that he is one of the nation’s most talented backs in the 2016 class.

Jones attended the Adidas Georgia Showcase in February and the Nike Orlando Regional Camp earlier this month and was a standout performer at both events. He earned an invitation to The Opening at the latter event.

His running backs coach at IMG Academy, former Alabama running back Roy Upchurch, spoke earlier this month about what makes his star pupil a special back. 

“Tony’s a very hard-working guy,” Upchurch said. “He wants it. He wants to be the best back in the country. He wants to be a big-time back in college. That’s what he’s working toward. He tries to elevate his game every time he touches the field. Even on the practice field, he tries to take his game to another level. When it’s time to perform, he’s going 100-percent all the time.”

Jones becomes the fourth member of Notre Dame’s 2016 class, and the first running back to join the fold.

Education and the Irish’s graduation rates under Kelly were pivotal factors that Jones mentioned helped him make the decision to commit. 

Also, his connection with running backs coach Autry Denson—himself a Florida native and the school’s all-time leading rusher—and associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock—who coached Tony’s father in college—weighed heavily in his thought process.

With his commitment out of the way, Jones—who is also a standout baseball player and plans to play both sports at Notre Dame—said he will now turn his attention toward his senior season and preparing to get ready for the college level.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former Auburn LB Khari Harding's Family Still in the Dark on Tulsa Eligibility

"This has just been so crazy, that it's unbelievable. The timing and everything is just mind-boggling. It really is."

The frustration of Corie Harding has clearly reached a boiling point after an NCAA rule change, which the family didn't know about until The Oklahoman reported it last Wednesday, suggests that his son, Khari—a junior linebacker who transferred from Auburn to Tulsa—would be ineligible in 2015.

Corie Harding and his son, Khari, didn't sign up for this kind of struggle when Khari chose to leave the Plains in order to be closer to his father, who's undergoing chemotherapy in his second battle with cancer in Edmond, Oklahoma.  

Corie Harding is awaiting a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan that will determine what stage the cancer is in.

"If that comes back where I have spots over my lungs or my liver, there's nothing they can do," Harding told Bleacher Report. "If I don't have those spots, I still have to go through chemo to ensure things are going well."

That plan for Harding to transfer and play immediately apparently has changed.

The NCAA voted to eliminate the hardship waiver that previously allowed players to transfer without sitting out a year in favor of simply granting them a sixth year of eligibility. The rule was approved last year and enacted earlier this month for all undergraduate student-athletes looking to participate in the 2015-2016 season, according to the NCAA.

"The NCAA needs to look at this rule a little more and make some adjustments," Corie Harding said. "That's what we want this out there. It's not right."

Tulsa issued the following statement to Bleacher Report regarding the waiver process and its effort to prevent Harding from sitting out the 2015 season.

It has been The University of Tulsa's interpretation that the Legislative Relief (SLR) policy specifying that immediate eligibility no longer be provided for undergraduate student-athletes who are not eligible to use the one-time transfer exception would enter into affect beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. The NCAA DI Board of Directors Report from April 24, 2014 states "the change would be effective for those undergraduate transfer students who transfer and enroll during the 2015-16 academic year and thereafter."

The recent NCAA Question & Answer dialogue relating to the 4-4 transfer directive that was issued on March 16, 2015 indicates differently. The University of Tulsa has been operating under the interpretation of the Board of Directors Report of April 24, 2014 indicating the change would not affect those students who enrolled in spring 2015. 

Student-athlete Khari Harding enrolled at The University of Tulsa during the 2014–15 academic year. The waiver seeking immediate eligibility for Harding for the 2015 football season is currently in progress. 

The University of Tulsa understands that the document issued on March 16th is not legislation, but instead an NCAA "Q&A" unpublished standard and not an official interpretation. The university will seek further clarification and will continue the waiver process.

The rule change came as a surprise to the Harding family, but it isn't just the NCAA that the elder Harding is upset with.

It's Tulsa.

According to Harding, Khari received a voice mail from head coach Philip Montgomery on Saturday as he was traveling back from Panama City Beach, Florida, stating that the two would discuss the situation at a team meeting on Sunday. The school confirmed in a statement to Bleacher Report that, since Khari arrived on campus, all communication has been with the student-athlete.

During that meeting on Sunday night, Khari, who's known as "Mookie" to his friends and family, was told that Tulsa didn't hear about this until Friday evening. 

"I said 'Mookie, do you honestly believe that?'" Corie Harding said on Monday. "'You went to Panama City, and you found out down there. You're trying to tell me that they didn't hear about any of this till Friday?'

"Wow. That just blew my mind."

The only people Corie Harding has heard from out of Tulsa are media members looking to tell their story.

"I heard from the Tulsa World. I heard from John Hoover and some of those people, because evidently they've been talking to compliance," Harding said. "What I told them was, 'no disrespect, but the things that you guys are telling me should be coming from the compliance office or the University of Tulsa. Not you.'"

"Family," Corie Harding exclaims. "At Auburn, they are a family. They called me. They checked up on me. They checked up on other people. They called, they emailed and did whatever they had to do to stay in touch and have some sort of relationship and rapport with the parents. When your kid's in college, that's all they have. Here at the University of Tulsa, I haven't heard from one coach. Not one. Not one. Period. Khari told me that he needed my medical records in January, and that's it."

Not only has Harding been fighting his own battle with cancer and hoping to see his son play football in 2015, but he's been traveling to Tulsa between treatments to visit his son and enjoy his family.

"Me and my daughter went down there because she leaves for the Air Force on April 28," he said. "I went down there on March 3 and took a kid down there to meet the recruiting coordinator, and I didn't see one coach. Not one coach. I was down there for two or three hours, I was on the field, I was in the offices, locker rooms and went everywhere. Nobody."

According to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, there was a chance that Harding could have returned to Auburn to play for the Tigers under the Return to Original Institution without Participation or with Minimal Participation Exception within 14 days of spring practice starting.

That window, according to Harding, closed on Sunday, leaving the family few options on what to do next.

"If push comes to shove, honestly, I'd rather him go back (to Auburn)," Corie Harding said. "This is our home state, and we're putting up with this?"

"I'd rather for him to sit out at Auburn. I can make adjustments like I did for the past two years to get to Auburn. Or if I have to move to Atlanta, it wouldn't be an issue because we thought about that the first time. Wouldn't be a problem. This is just mind-boggling."

How likely is a return to Auburn for Khari?

When asked about it last week, head coach Gus Malzahn was noncommittal on the possibility, according to Crepea, which isn't the most surprising development since Khari is a member of the Tulsa football program now.

"I don't want to get into hypotheticals," Malzahn said. "His dad is extremely sick and I was wanting him to get closer back to his family. That's important to him and so that was unfortunate. I'm disappointed for him because Khari is a fine young man, his dad is a fine person, too."

Even if Khari can't play in 2015, Corie's true dream for his son is still intact.

"Our motivation as a family was for him to get his degree. His grades are good, and he's probably going to be graduating in a year-and-a-half. He's been in summer school since graduating high school. He's on track."

On track, despite the detour.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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