NCAA Football News

Why Jeremy Hill Is the Most Talented Running Back in 2014 Draft Class

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the running back class for the 2014 NFL draft. It is an interesting and somewhat polarizing group, but a less discussed name is actually the best of the bunch.

LSU's Jeremy Hill is the clear-cut most talented back in the entire class. The true sophomore has some major red flags, but that does not take away from his natural ability.

Guys like Tre Mason and Carlos Hyde get a ton of hype and others like Lache Seastrunk, Charles Sims and Bishop Sankey are also mentioned as favorites.

But Hill seems to get overlooked too often, and it's clear after watching his tape that he's the most well-rounded and talented runner this class has to offer.

Let's take a look at what makes Hill so good.

 

Measurables

From a physicality standpoint, there is no more impressive back than Hill. He stands a bit over 6'0" tall and weighs 233 pounds.

He carries that weight very well, and is well-proportioned throughout his body. He's bulky and powerful without ever looking sluggish or soft.

Hill ran a little on the slower side at the combine with a 4.66 40-yard dash and 1.56 10-yard split, but combine numbers can be deceiving and his game is not about straight-line speed.

 

Statistics

In his two seasons at LSU, Hill was very productive.

He had 142 carries as a freshman and averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry to give him 755 yards on the year.

Hill also had 12 touchdowns that season, meaning he scored once out of every 11.83 carries. He also had four games over 100 yards, including 124 against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

As a sophomore, Hill saw his workload increase and stepped up to the challenge. Despite having 203 carries, he averaged an SEC record 6.9 yards per carry. 

That gave him 1,401 yards on the year, to go along with 16 touchdowns. He also pulled in 18 catches for 181 yards.

 

Power

There's a lot of power coming from Hill's strong frame, but it takes more than just raw strength to be a powerful runner.

Hill has an edge about him, a competitiveness and nastiness that is evident throughout each and every game. It is what allows him to pick up some extra yards and occasionally push the pile for a first down or a score.

He's got the ability to bounce off people, and will also use stiff arms or lower his helmet and drive a defender backward.

There are also plays where he just seems impossible to bring down, like this one against Florida (starts at 4:47).

Hill also has functional power, which means that he isn't just hard to bring down when he plants himself in the ground, but can also run through tackles and keep his momentum forward.

This takes explosiveness, balance and determination, and Hill has all three of those qualities in spades, which gives him the ability to pull off runs like these.

Hill stays up after the initial contact, works his way through the hole and then gets out of there already in full stride.

That type of balance and power is huge for running backs in the NFL, and Hill has proven himself in this category throughout the past two years. 

 

Athleticism

Hill has a lot of strength, which is not all that surprising considering his impressive frame and powerful lower body. 

But what will surprise people is how athletic Hill is and how light he can be on his feet.

He has outrageously strong legs and a solid core that allows him to be both powerful and quick in small spaces. His athleticism is impressive for a guy who weighs 233 pounds.

For such a big guy, Hill is surprisingly agile and explosive. A lot of that comes from his excellent balance and determination.

Check out this play (starts at 2:53) and you'll instantly see what I'm talking about.

His pass-catching ability is solid, showing soft hands and the ability to adjust and bring in catches coming out of the backfield.

But then on that play Hill shows how he can turn upfield and get on his horse, going for a (largely successful) hurdle over a defender who is not bent over that much.

Catching passes is not the only way to show off athleticism, however. Check out this run against Alabama's vaunted defense as a freshman.

His vision and quickness in tight spaces is solid, and his ability to turn and get some yards laterally is impressive as well.

He shows the ability to make guys miss and has some jukes in the open field. Guys also have to be wary of his trucking ability, as Hill can use that to his advantage.

If a running back can keep defenders off balance, he wins. Hill does this consistently. 

 

Speed

Hill is not a burner. He's not going to run away from faster defensive backs and some linebackers may track him down.

But anyone who thinks he does not have enough speed to make big runs or break out in the open field have not watched enough tape.

One of the bigger negatives about Hill does not really have anything to do with him: It's that LSU had a big, talented offensive line that opened some holes and made some runs "easy" for Hill.

But those holes also allowed Hill to prove that he's not a slow, short-yardage back. There are multiple occasions where he attacks a hole and explodes through it, and sometimes ends up outrunning everyone once he gets into space.

These two plays (first video start at 4:32 and second video at 0:33) show that Hill is capable of being a real game-breaker. 

Don't underestimate Hill's acceleration and speed in the open field. He has more than enough of it to be a legit threat and every-down back in the NFL.

 

Verdict

There is obviously a lot to like about Hill as a player. He's big, powerful, explosive, durable and gritty, which is everything a feature back needs to be.

But the red flags are prominent. Hill took the fall semester off after high school, which is why he can enter the draft as a true sophomore.

He has two arrests on his record, one for sexual assault and one for allegedly punching a man outside a bar. Hill has been proactive, writing a letter to all 32 teams about his arrests, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, but that doesn't change the facts.

Hill will be rightly looked at as a risk because of his past. He's a top-50 talent who won't be taken that high because of the character concerns.

But I would still probably take him in the second round, although I'd expect that he goes in the 80 to 100 (late third to early fourth round) range. Hill could end up being one of the biggest steals in the draft if he keeps everything in check as an NFL player.

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LSU Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of an SEC Championship

LSU tackle football can not come soon enough for Tigers fans. The season opener for Les Miles' squad against Wisconsin will be one of college football's most heavily anticipated opening week games.

The Badgers may not be a conference opponent, but BCS implications will certainly be on the line. No matter the outcome, it will help make Tigers battle-tested for SEC slate.

LSU has not been to the SEC Championship Game since 2011. Miles knows the road back to Atlanta will be arduous but achievable.

Here are five things that could keep the Tigers from hoisting the conference championship trophy in the Georgia Dome.  

 

*Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. 

Begin Slideshow

How Mark Helfrich Can Solve Defensive Issues Before the Start of the Season

If defense does indeed win championships, the tone Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich's staff sets now will define the Ducks' 2014 title pursuit.

Oregon built its strategy of overwhelming opponents on the offensive end in part on the contributions of its defense. The Ducks are at their best when a stifling defensive effort sets the table for their quick-strike offense.

With just five losses in the last three seasons, they have been at their best routinely.

However, late-season losses at Stanford and Arizona exposed deficiencies in Oregon's defense—specifically on the line. Solving the issues that vexed the Ducks is a process extending well beyond game day.

Following the Stanford loss on November 7, 2013, former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti told reporters blame for the Cardinal offensive line's dominance rested on the coaching staff:

I hate to say that they dominated the line of scrimmage because I don’t want to sell my guys short. That’s the only reason I hate saying that. They dominated me because my guys are awesome and warriors and they fought to the end...But they didn’t dominate my guys.They won the game, they won the line of scrimmage. 

Aliotti left on a high note and turns over a defense still in good shape to new coordinator Don Pellum. 

A 30-7 rout of Texas in the December 2013 Alamo Bowl set the right precedent for the Ducks defense in 2014. It was quintessential Oregon at its best, thriving off turnovers. Both interceptions of Longhorns quarterback Case McCoy went for touchdowns, including the game-sealing return by linebacker Derrick Malone. 

Though the Alamo Bowl was notable for Oregon's defense outscoring the Texas offense, the underlining development was the Ducks' inspired play up front.

Texas was limited to 180 rushing yards, including just 55 in the second half.

"Made some schematic adjustments coming into it to combat their bigger bodies with one of our slightly smaller bodies than them," Helfrich said in his postgame press conference following the Alamo Bowl.

Defensive lineman Taylor Hart was vital to that effort, overpowering and outworking bigger Texas offensive linemen to make a game-high 11 tackles. Hart is gone for the NFL, and filling his void is among the program's primary offseason challenges.

But as the line comes together, it will have plenty of support behind it.

Oregon's linebacker corps will be the defensive foundation, particularly in the early weeks of the 2014 slate. Despite losing outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo, this is the team's most experienced defensive unit and certainly its deepest.

Malone and Tony Washington were breakout stars in 2013, each leading the Ducks in various statistical categories: Malone in tackles with 105, Washington in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (12).

Rodney Hardrick is also coming off a solid 2013 and a cast of candidates are making their case for prominent roles during spring practices.

Washington touted the performance of Christian French and Tyrell Robinson to ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings.

Rahim Cassell, Tyson Coleman and Joe Walker should all see expanded roles, and Oshay Dunmore is an intriguing talent.

The many capable linebackers should help take some of the pressure off the oft-criticized line. The 2014 linebacker corps is reminiscent of the Ducks' standout 2012 unit. That group gave Oregon a fearsome look up front, both containing the run and blitzing from a 46 base.

Football Study Hall broke down how the formation overwhelmed Kansas State in Oregon's 2013 Fiesta Bowl romp, and opposing offenses can anticipate a similar look next fall.

Washington told Jennings that the defense's collective mindset is more aggressive this offseason than in years past.

"You can just tell the defense is different: different mindset, different attitude," he said. "Guys are attacking more."

Pellum said at his introductory press conference in January that the principles of Aliotti's hybrid 3-4 would remain intact. Rather than dramatic change, the new coordinator promised tweaks.

Instilling a more aggressive philosophy may be the No. 1 tweak this coaching staff can emphasize between now and kickoff of the 2014 campaign.

By bringing the fight to the offense at the point of attack—and not vice versa, as was the case in last year's losses—Oregon's defense can take the next necessary step toward returning to the pinnacle of the Pac-12.

 

Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com

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With Maty Mauk, Mizzou Will Challenge Auburn for Best QB in the SEC

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk has only started four games, but you'd think he was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year if spring games meant anything—which, obviously, they don't. 

Still, Mauk has a lot of hype heading into the 2014 season thanks to an eye-opening performance in Saturday's Black and Gold Game. The redshirt sophomore, already announced by head coach Gary Pinkel as the starter for this year, completed 64 percent of his passes for 446 yards. Additionally, he ran for a three-yard touchdown. 

Stats can be misleading in spring, especially if they're against second-string defenses, but Mauk's leadership and grasp on the offense have coaches excited about his potential. 

"I'm way more comfortable with him calling plays, where his eyes are at, where his reads are at and him understanding what's happening on the field," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said via David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune. "He's worked hard at it. He studies the game. I think it's showing in his improved efficiency."

Mauk is more of a risk-taker than former starter James Franklin. Though he only threw two interceptions last year, he completed just 51 percent of his passes trying to make plays happen when they weren't always there. That's not going to be sustainable for an entire season. 

However, big plays are borne out of taking risks. Mauk has shown that he can make big plays with his arm and his feet, extending plays and drives. Anyone watching the Tigers' Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State would probably agree that Mauk deserved more playing time for that reason alone. 

Either way, his upside, not necessarily playing experience, puts Missouri near the top of the SEC at the quarterback spot for 2014. The biggest question for Mauk, and the Tigers in general, is how the passing game will fare with the loss of receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the team following an alleged domestic incident. 

The current seat at the throne belongs to Auburn's Nick Marshall. That's the reward for leading the team to a BCS Championship appearance in his first year as a starter and accounting for more than 3,000 individual yards. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated elaborates: 

However, it seems all but certain that Marshall, barring injury, will be one of the premier players in the SEC. That would've sounded implausible two years ago, when the Pineview, Ga., product -- who began his career as a defensive back at Georgia -- was one of three players dismissed from the Bulldogs following a dorm-room theft of a teammate. In the frenzy to figure out his next stop, Marshall said he had only a few days to decide whether to pursue an opportunity at cornerback or quarterback. Ultimately, he wanted to return to his native position.

Because of turnover at places like Alabama (A.J. McCarron), Georgia (Aaron Murray), LSU (Zach Mettenberger) and Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel), the top of the SEC quarterback list is thinner than it was a year ago.

There's no doubt Mauk can challenge Marshall to be the best quarterback in the SEC, even though his experience is lacking behind guys like Ole Miss' Bo Wallace. The Tigers, quietly, also have a solid quarterback situation behind Mauk. Redshirt junior Corbin Berkstresser had four starts of his own in 2012 when Franklin was sidelined with a shoulder injury. 

Recently, the Tigers got a commitment from Drew Lock, a 4-star pro-style prospect, according 247Sports Composite rankings. Should Lock honor his verbal and sign with Mizzou in 2015, the program could have one of the best quarterback situations in the SEC for years. 

That's all based on potential, of course, but it's hard not to be excited if you're a Missouri fan, especially considering the vibe a year ago coming off a 5-7 season. 

Having a good quarterback situation alone won't win a conference or national title, but it's a start. The confidence shown in Mauk is a big reason why the Tigers are an early favorite, along with South Carolina, to return to the SEC championship game next year.

 

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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Attendance at Georgia Tech's Spring Game Was Really Bad

Georgia Tech football held its spring game on Friday night. Just by taking one look at the above photo, you can tell they had some trouble filling the seats. 

While the official number is unclear at this time, some have speculated that 117 fans attended the game. 

A Georgia Tech spokesman said the actual number was closer to 2,000: 

Bad weather may have played a factor in the embarrassing attendance, as the temperature was in the 40s and there was heavy rain: 

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson called the weather conditions "miserable" and "as bad as I can remember." 

For comparison, Alabama, Penn State and Auburn all drew over 70,000 fans at its spring games. 

[Twitter, h/t Reddit

 

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Will Michigan or Florida's Revamped Offense Be Better in 2014?

What happens when you combine losing football, nationally recognized programs and coaches on the hot seat? At Florida and Michigan it means throwing up a coaching Hail Mary and changing course offensively. 

Both Will Muschamp (Florida) and Brady Hoke (Michigan) saw significant pressure following disappointing 2013 seasons, and as the saying goes—desperate times call for desperate measures. 

It led to offensive coordinators being fired and hot names being hired as replacements at both schools.

Florida replaced Brent Pease with Kurt Roper from Duke, while Michigan replaced Hoke's longtime friend Al Borges with Alabama's Doug Nussmeier. 

There's no doubt both hires are meant to quickly turn around the biggest trouble spot at each school, but will one be more successful than the other in that task?

If spring was any indication, one school may have an easier time of making a big jump than the other.

At Florida, Roper will have Jeff Driskel returning at quarterback, which is a great place to start from for a new coach who happens to be one of the more flexible coordinators in the country. It's a point Muschamp made sure to hit when he hired Roper. 

"I'm excited to have Coach Roper join our staff," Muschamp said, via the school's athletic website. "He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced."

Part of Florida's decline offensively last season could be directly pointed at losing Driskel after just three games. He had completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns in those three games. 

Driskel is a good starting point for a coordinator like Roper, who has coached three NFL quarterbacks in his days as a quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator. 

Speaking of coaching quarterbacks, Doug Nussmeier is no slouch in that category either. He's coached players like Keith Price (Washington), Jake Locker (Washington), Drew Stanton (Michigan State) and A.J. McCarron (Alabama). 

It was that quarterback reputation that was highlighted by head coach Brady Hoke in announcing the hiring of Nussmeier in January, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:

Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists. Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience.

Nussmeier is in a different situation than Roper, as there is a heated three-way battle for the starting quarterback spot—one that won't be decided until well in to the fall. 

Outside of the quarterback spot, there are even more similarities between the two programs. Both programs are looking for multiple replacements along the offensive line and both are looking to find wide receivers who can make plays this fall.

The difference between the two comes in what we've seen this spring from all three areas. 

The most worrisome area for Michigan coming in to the spring was the offensive line. It was a unit that couldn't get things going downhill (a pretty big requirement in the pro-style offense) last year, leading to a rushing game that averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. 

Nussmeier recognizes what Michigan's offensive line needs to become to solve that problem at the very least.

"We want to play physical and be a balanced team," he said, via Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "And that all starts with what you’re doing up front in the trenches and on the line of scrimmage."

As great as that is, after spring ball it appears Nussmeier may have a lot more work in molding those recruited players in to a capable offense though.

The offensive line showed little to no improvement from a season ago in the spring game, struggling to open holes for the running backs and allowing the quarterbacks time to go through progressions and get in a rhythm.

It's led Michigan to do something it very rarely does—recruit a transfer player. According to Baumgardner, Hoke and Nussmeier are seriously considering bringing in former Alabama center Chad Lindsay.

Lindsay may be help to a very young offensive line, but it is also a group that had a ton of experience last season and appears to have grown very little from it so far.

That's the challenge facing Nussmeier, and it's an important one. If the offensive line can't turn the corner it's doubtful the rest of the offense can either.

Roper had no such issues this spring with his offensive line, which is full of upperclassmen with plenty of experience. 

The challenge that group faces is not so much one of experience, but rather making sure it can handle the uptempo style the Gators will play under Roper.

That kind of conditioning happens only with time, something everyone recognized this spring. 

“We want to be ready to go when the defense is not ready to go, and at the tempo we’re going, they’re not going to be able to do that,” Garcia said, via the Gators athletic website. “That’s going to give us an edge and it’s something we’re going to pride ourselves on this year.”

Despite the roster differences that may favor a quicker turnaround for Florida under Roper, there is one big advantage for Nussmeier at Michigan. 

He isn't looking to completely reinvent the way the Wolverines play offense. Instead, Nussmeier will look to further Michigan's transformation to a true pro-style offense once and for all. 

Nussmeier should have more of the players who fit his thinking than having to mold his thinking to the players he’s surrounded with, and that can be to his advantage over time.

However, we can only judge by what we've seen and heard through 15 practices this spring, and by all indications Roper's offense is far and away ahead of where Michigan is. 

Roper's offense looked far more in sync during the respective spring games, even if Driskell completed just 56.2 percent of his passes in front of the public.

According to Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com, Florida's offense racked up over 400 yards, 36 points and had 69 plays between the first- and second-team units in just one half of football. 

No fewer than 20 receivers caught balls in the spring game, and Florida also averaged 4.6 yards per carry on a day that was more focused on the pass game.

The confidence and efficiency with which the Gators ran the offense was in stark contrast to what Michigan put on display for the public a few weeks ago.

Just listen to how Driskel summed up spring ball, telling Barlis that confidence is the key to what is happening within Roper's offense. 

"It felt like we were really efficient," Driskel said, via Barlis. "We moved the ball really well. We only turned it over one time and we only had one penalty on offense. I think when you’re not beating yourself up, you can really, really gain momentum and gain confidence."

Contrast that with what was being said by Hoke following the spring game. 

"We missed a couple guys during the course of spring with (Joey) Burzynski and (Erik) Magnuson and Chris Fox on and off," said Hoke, via Baumgardner of MLive.com. "But I think the improvement is coming. Is it where we want it to be? No. I'd be lying if I told you we were exactly where we wanted to be."

As the teams focus shifts to fall, progress in front of the public is important—if for no other reason than to alleviate some of the public and private pressure on your job.  

For that reason alone, it is advantage Roper and Florida’s offense. Yet, there’s more to it than that.

The combination of returning players, a quarterback situation that is already settled and a coordinator with a lot more athletic talent to build around gives Roper and the Gators the overall edge. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see Florida’s offense doing some impressive scoring this season given what we saw this spring already.

Combine that with a defense that should be one of the SEC's better units and the Gators could be in for a very quick turnaround, at just the right time for Muschamp to keep his job. 

 

Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB

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2015 CB Recruit Kareem Ali Reveals Top 5, Talks NFL Player Comparison

New Jersey junior Kareem Ali is an explosive cornerback who has commanded interest from college football programs across the country. The Timber Creek High School star has collected scholarship offers from dozens of teams and is considering several options.

Ali, a 5'11", 175-pound prospect, is a playmaker on both sides of the ball. He helped Timber Creek (Erial, N.J.) reach the South Jersey title game last season, securing postseason honors and a U.S. Army All-American Bowl invite along the way.

The physical defender is a speedster who also shines on the track. Ali is clocked at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports.

He is rated No. 33 nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings and No. 8 in the state. Ali received offers from Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Wisconsin, Clemson and Pittsburgh prior to the start of his junior season.

More opportunities arrived at a rapid pace during the 2013 season and the months that followed. His list expanded to include Nebraska, North Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan State and Florida.

Ali recently spoke to Bleacher Report, revealing significant changes to his list of favorites. He also spoke about practicing against two of the country's top receivers and revealed which NFL player he models his game after.

 

Bleacher Report: Your recruitment has really heated up since last fall. How are you handling all the attention?

Kareem Ali: I'm not really focusing on it. Enjoying the time with my family and teammates right now. I'm focused on next season and not paying (recruiting) much mind. My coaches and my parents are telling me "Let it all fall in place and keep doing what you're doing."

B/R: Last month, you announced a list of your top eight college options (Michigan State, Louisville, Rutgers, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Temple and West Virginia). Does that list of favorites look different these days?

Ali: It's kind of cut down a little bit. Rutgers is out of the picture. Temple—they're still in the picture but they're on the border. I really like Temple. I don't really want to count them all the way out. Pitt is counted all the way out right now ... Michigan State is also out of the picture. I have a couple more visits left—Florida, Louisville, North Carolina and West Virginia. Those four, including Maryland, are my top five.

B/R: You've made substantial changes to that list in the past month. What exactly are you looking for at the next level?

Ali: Just a place that's a good fit for me, during college and after college. Whatever city it is, whatever state it is, I want to make sure that it's a fit for me and my family. A place that feels like home that's not too far from home. I've got to get my little brothers and my mom and my dad up to the games, so I don't want to be that far. I just want to feel comfortable and feel at home wherever I'm at.

B/R: When do you plan on visiting some of your favorites?

Ali: North Carolina is going to be pretty soon, just because I'm on my spring break right now. Louisville and West Virginia will be in June. I'm trying to get down to Florida soon too, but I kind of doubt that one. That's a little pushing it. It won't hurt to go visit, though.

B/R: What stands out about Florida? You've eliminated some closer regional options but still have the Gators and Gainesville as a top choice.

Ali: Just their history with defensive backs. They've put a lot of defensive backs in the league, especially (players) from up north. Joe Haden and his family. Jalen Tabor, who's also from Maryland. I talk to Jalen Tabor a lot and he just tells me, "They make it feel like home. They make it feel like I'm one of their sons." That's all the feedback he's given me. I think that's kind of why I still have Florida in the picture.

B/R: You've spent significant time defending Timber Creek teammates Adonis Jennings (4-star 2014 Pittsburgh signee) and Cam Chambers (4-star 2016 prospect, MaxPreps National Sophomore Player of the Year) during practice. What have the battles with those receivers been like?

Ali: Me and Adonis used to go at it. I think I got the upper hand on him by probably two reps, but we always went at it. Me and Cam haven't gone against each other as much, but whenever we do I always teach him a lesson. It's never an easy catch. I don't remember the last time he had a catch actually.

B/R: Is there a cornerback in college or the NFL who you really try to replicate on the field?

Ali: It has to be Darrelle Revis. Just because of the fact that he's a small DB like me and he doesn't back down from any challenge. He'll go against any receiver, any day. He's up for it. He plays the ball, he plays the man, he's a Pro Bowler trying to win a Super Bowl. He plays hard, came back from (an) ACL injury and went to the Pro Bowl this year. That says a lot, especially at DB. It tells me that his drive is repetitive. He doesn't stop.

B/R: You mention the size comparison (Revis is also 5'11"). How do you respond when people question if you're big enough to succeed in college as players get larger at the position?

Ali: I play like (a big cornerback). I'm all 5'11", 175 pounds of me. That's that but I can play up to size no matter who the receiver is, no matter how big they are or how small they are. I go up against 6'3" receivers every day in practice. That right there just gives me a hint of what someone else could be like, someone bigger. A small DB (has an edge) because we get in their chest, and they don't know what to do. You need someone small and gritty to get inside of you. Receivers don't really know how to (match up with) me. I understand people say they don't want small corners...but we're feisty. It's not going to be easy.

B/R: Are you still waiting to see if any other programs offer a scholarship, or are you locked in with what you have now?

Ali: There's no school I'm actually waiting on. I received every offer I actually wanted. I'm blessed to have that opportunity. Every school that I have in my top five are all my top schools—every one that I want to be in the equation and where I could see myself at. I couldn't see myself anywhere except for my top five.

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Meet Nick Bhardwaj, the 25-Year-Old CEO Who Won a College Football Spring Game

Nick Bhardwaj will always remember the Powerade bath at Arkansas State. Not because of how cold it was on the back of his neck—or the fact that the sideline cleared out shortly before he was dosed in liquid ice—but because his defense, on his call, gave up a touchdown before the victory celebration began.

“I was pissed,” Bhardwaj said with utmost seriousness. “The guy came over to take my headset with two minutes left and I didn’t know why. Then everyone next to me started to clear out and I had an idea it was coming. To be honest, though, I was still thinking about the score we gave up.”

Such mentalities are typically acquired over time. It has taken Nick Saban decades to master the art of the unhappy sports drink shower, but not the 25-year-old CEO from San Francisco given the keys to a football Ferrari.

It took him just one afternoon.

 

The Head Coach

To put it bluntly, Bhardwaj’s resume is much more interesting than yours or mine. Still in his mid-20s, he’s now embedded in the app world, leading a tech company—Beyond Games—that is hoping to make a splash in the mobile and tablet arenas.

Before that, he was a college dropout at San Jose State after dabbling with the idea of practicing law. “It wasn’t for me,” Bhardwaj said. “So I made a change.”

From that change he turned his focus to online poker, putting his analytic prowess to good use and even playing full-time for a while. Once he got tired of that, he tried his luck as a part-time high school teacher—just your run-of-the-mill transition.

Eventually he touched down into the tech world, which is where his current professional interests lie. For a weekend, however, he put those duties aside, picking up a headset and putting down the endless stream of code.

He was the head coach of a college football team, at least for one day.

It was an opportunity made possible by Arkansas State. The Red Wolves auctioned off a coaching spot in their annual spring game on eBay, a move that drew significant attention and intense bidding.

The posting caught the eye of Bhardwaj as he stumbled upon it while searching for his daily dose of sporting news. A junkie of all sports, the possibility of coaching a major college football team in its spring game was instantly attractive.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bhardwaj said. “A lot of my mentors and people close to me have stressed the importance of building experiences. There’s no materialistic thing that could replace something like this.”

As the bidding increased—starting at $2,500 and bumping up throughout the week—Bhardwaj kept up the ante. He didn’t quite know when he might stop, because how do you put a cap on something so unique?

“My brother sent me a message telling me to check out this awesome opportunity and included a link to the Arkansas State eBay page,” Bhardwaj laughed. “I responded, ‘Dude, I know. I’m the leading bidder right now.’”

When the auction finally closed, Bhardwaj’s bid of $11,700 was victorious. With his date on the sideline sealed, it was time to get to work.

This was not a publicity stunt for him or a means to get more eyeballs on a business he hopes to grow. This was a young man with means, a passion and the chance to do something no one else had done.

Instead of focusing on the way to seize the opportunity and market the business he runs, Bhardwaj took this time to prepare. He spent the next few days learning about the Arkansas State program, the offense and the style.

“Madden and NCAA are one thing, Bhardwaj said of the popular video games. “But I wanted to know what would happen when you got into the thick of it.”

There’s a reason for this, a mentality that explains why someone with no affiliation with Arkansas State—let alone someone who had never stepped foot in the state of Arkansas before the weekend—would spend a generous down payment on a luxury car for access to a program he didn’t live and breathe.

It’s in his blood to coach, to lead and to love sports. It’s why when asked about his sporting idols he fired off the names “Belichick” and “Walsh” rather than the players were accustomed to hearing.

Perhaps the leap from head chair to headset is smaller than one might believe. At the very least, Bhardwaj was anxious to find out.

 

The Experience

Let’s start with the home movie theater capable of seating 20 people in the booster’s home. That might seem like an odd place to begin when discussing the opportunity to coach Arkansas State’s spring game, but it’s also a perfect place to begin. 

Bhardwaj’s experience in Jonesboro, Ark., included accommodations at the home of a nearby Red Wolves’ booster. This home—or perhaps compound is more appropriate—included access to a home theater, golf simulator, popcorn machine and just about every whiskey you could ask for.

The infinity pool? It’s under construction. In case you were curious.

He was there for the game, but as he soon found out, his experience included so much more. There was the wining and dining, the handshakes, the press conferences and endless amounts of free swag in his very own locker. But he was there to work.

Once he dropped off his luggage, he became a sponge.

In the days leading up to the spring game, Bhardwaj followed first-year head coach Blake Anderson everywhere, asking questions and pushing his involvement in the process as far as they were willing to allow.

“Wherever coach Anderson went, I was there,” Bhardwaj said. “They were handing me the exact same things that they were handing every other coach in the meeting. It was fantastic.”

His desire to learn led to access the average college football fan would die for.

He sat in with offensive coordinator Walt Bell—a coach he guarantees will be leading his own team sooner than later—and he absorbed the offense, the calls, the checkdowns and the mindset that comes with a high-power spread offense. One night, after he came back from dinner, he and Bell spent time watching tape well past midnight. 

Watching film breakdown with @NickLukan and ASU Offensive Coordinator, Walt Bell. pic.twitter.com/RdJsR55XR7

— Justin Lewis (@JustinLewisLR) April 18, 2014

If he wasn’t learning about the spread or getting a crash course on special teams, he was likely in the defensive room. Defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen spent hours with Bhardwaj, breaking down the various coverages and blitz packages at his disposal. It would come in handy later on.

“When they weren’t busy, I wanted to learn,” Bhardwaj said. “Anyone I could have access to, I listened to. They were really open to helping me.”

Such help included plenty of hours in the film room. Altogether, Bhardwaj tallied roughly 10 hours of film in Jonesboro: Three hours with coaches, three hours by himself in Arkansas State’s state-of-the-art viewing chamber and four more hours ‘after hours’ as he vacuumed up more knowledge heading into the game.

He loved every second of it.

 

The Game 

His pregame speech could have been better, at least by his own accord. But with his moment in front of his team shared—and with the film room sessions behind—it was time for Bhardwaj’s sideline debut.

His team, the Black team, was going up against the Red team. In a surprise move, former Arkansas State coaching legend Larry Lacewell was on the opposing sideline, hoping to spoil the young man’s coaching debut.

Lacewell wasted little time putting the new head coach on his heels, running a fumblerooski out of the wishbone in his very first drive for big yardage. The game was moving fast, and he had a hard time staying with it at first.

“It took me a bit of time,” Bhardwaj said. “The whole first quarter I felt like I was 10 seconds behind on everything. I wasn’t seeing the right play immediately, and it was frustrating. I’m not a guy who likes to feel lost like that.”

Soon, however, the Black team took over and Bhardwaj settled in.

As part of the experience, Bhardwaj was able to communicate through the headset and identify certain matchups he thought his team could expose. He also made play suggestions and had the final say on all fourth-down calls.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, video-game fans. But he did not decide to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 19-yard-line in the first quarter.

His call sheet—which he brought home with him—included roughly 60 plays, 30 on offense and 30 on defense. As more plays were called from this sheet and he logged more on-field minutes, the game started to slow down.

The Black team’s offense got rolling—in large part because of quarterback Fredi Knighten’s big afternoon—which meant it was time to change it up. It was time for a trick play.

The situation, one Bhardwaj identified before the game, called for it.

Shortly after the second-string team was giving way for the third-stringers, Bhardwaj called for a halfback pass. After throwing to running backs in the flat all day, he felt the opportunity for something more was there.

“I wanted to ensure that there was a change on the field with the players and that we had a down where they wouldn’t be sending pressure,” Bhardwaj said on calling the trick play. “So we ran it on first down.”

The result was a picture-perfect 70-yard touchdown pass from the back, one Bhardwaj knew they had well before the pass was ever thrown. The film hours had paid off.

“The corner and the safety bit and the closest defender was 25 yards away,” Bhardwaj said. “It ended up working out perfectly.”

On defense, Bhardwaj called five blitzes on the afternoon. The first four worked out brilliantly, ending in three sacks and a batted pass. The last blitz called, which came as the game was winding down, ended up resulting in a long score for the Red team—one of their few big plays of the day.

Moments later, the Powerade waterfall engulfed the man who was still dwelling over his decision to send pressure.

Nick Bhardwaj just got the Powerade bath... https://t.co/edkx0Q2Fk2

— Chris Hudgison (@ChrisHudgison) April 19, 2014

Despite his mixed emotions at the time, Bhardwaj led the Black team to a comfortable 48-17 victory. It wasn’t even close. His experience—one that proved to be much more than a fan simply enjoying life on the sideline—was complete.

“It was one hell of an experience,” Bhardwaj said. “These guys at Arkansas State were willing to help and were truly genuine. I hope this is a relationship I can continue with the school.”

As for the prospects of coaching and a life in sports, Bhardwaj didn’t completely close it out. His obsession with numbers and analytics certainly has a place in all sports, especially in an era where numbers rule. He also could see himself getting into high school coaching if the opportunity ever presented itself down the line.

For now, however, it’s back to the real world—back to San Francisco. Back to lead a company on the verge of breaking through in a crowded market. The college dropout turned poker player turned teacher turned CEO can officially add head coach to his resume, although it’s off to his next endeavor.

“I am retired,” Bhardwaj said. “For now.”

All quotes obtained firsthand unless stated otherwise.

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SEC Football: Things We Learned from 2014 Spring Games

Eleven of 13 SEC spring games are already in the books (Texas A&M will not play one, due to renovations at Kyle Field), and the two that aren't, at Arkansas and Kentucky, involve teams that went 0-16 in conference play last season and are 2-30 in that regard since 2012.

So now feels like a fair enough time to reflect.

With so much turnover within the conference—especially at quarterback—the SEC feels more wide open in 2014 than it has in years past. That holds doubly true after the spring game at Alabama, where AJ McCarron was sorely missed under center.

But other offenses did not look quite so rusty, and some looked downright impressive in their first public sample before the season.

How much that means is up for debate (and different in every case), but after Jameis Winston parlayed his great spring game into a Heisman Trophy and national title at Florida State last season, we would be remiss to ignore any big-time performances.

Here's what spring season has taught us. 

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Arkansas Is the Latest SEC School to Have a Mascot-Themed Car

We have already seen a half Alabama/Auburn car driving around SEC states, now we have this wonderful masterpiece from the University of Arkansas. 

[Clay Travis]

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Alabama Signs Multimedia Extension with Learfield Sports for Up to $160M

According to a report by Michael Smith of SportsBusiness Journalthe University of Alabama is set to sign a lucrative new multimedia extension with Learfield Sports, which is worth between $150 million and $160 million over the next 10 years.

Per the report:

The University of Alabama is set to capitalize on its success over the last five years by signing one of the nation’s most lucrative multimedia rights deals with Learfield Sports worth at least $150 million to $160 million over 10 years.

...The new financial terms of $15 million to $16 million a year double Alabama’s guarantee previously and put the Tide among the top three schools in multimedia rights revenue behind Texas and Notre Dame, both of which have unique TV arrangements that boost their overall figure.

Learfield has worked with Alabama since 1998 and is now set to continue that relationship until 2024. The Crimson Tide's success over the past five years, when they have won three national titles, make this raise and extension understandable for both parties.

"A lot of things have changed since the last time we negotiated a deal," said Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, according to Smith's report. "This option gave us a chance to look around the marketplace and see how things look now versus five years ago.

"Alabama has been on a pretty good roll since then."

Even before the arrival of Nick Saban (in 2007) and the run of success he has found the past five years, Alabama has long been a name-brand program whose multimedia rights are ostensibly coveted. However, the Mike Shula era in the mid-2000s was one of the most average in program history, which helps explain why the Tide were hitherto so far behind the highest-earning multimedia deals.

Now Alabama will reportedly be one of the top three schools in America in this respect, alongside Texas and Notre Dame. However, both of those programs are bolstered by their TV arrangements (with NBC Sports and ESPN, via The Longhorn Network, respectively) which inflate the bottom line.

Alabama has no such unique arrangement, although this fall it will begin its relationship with the forthcoming SEC Network. Per the report, the only difference between this deal and the previous one between Alabama and Learfield—other than the annual guarantee increase—is that "third-tier" football and basketball games are now controlled by the SEC Network rather than Learfield.

Because each contract is unique and includes different rights to different things, it is difficult to compare them straight up. According to Smith, however, Alabama will now be the clear leader for traditional arrangements (as opposed to those of Texas and Notre Dame), with Ohio State and Georgia both trailing at close to $11 million per year.

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Are College Football Spring Games Becoming Irrelevant?

As spring football games wrap up this week, think about what the biggest, most memorable story of college football’s spring was.

Think about it, and think hard. Was it a player emerging as a superstar? A key position battle? A team that looked lost?

Or was it a cat?

If you said a cat, you’d probably be correct. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini blew up Twitter during the BCS national championship game when he interacted with parody account @FauxPelini, famous for its avatar featuring Pelini and a cat.

And the Huskers’ combustible coach took the joke to the next level last week, when he entered Nebraska’s spring game holding his cat over his head, Lion King-style.

Was it funny? Yes. Did it show wry, self-deprecating humor? Absolutely.

Did it have any impact on what the Huskers will become or could become this fall? Nope. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

The fact that Pelini and his furry, feline friend were the biggest story of spring games shows just how irrelevant those games truly are. Sure, they create buzz and serve as an oasis in the middle of spring for pigskin-starved college football fans. But the stories that come out of them are few and far between.

If college football programs really wanted to reward their fans, they’d end spring football with real, meaningful competition, something that doesn’t truly exist.

Make no mistake, fans do care about spring football, which is borne out just by looking at attendance figures. Alabama’s A-Day game attracted 73,506 fans (which was 19,000 below the program’s previous high of 92,310, set three years ago). Across the state, Auburn drew 70,465 fans, and Penn State drew 72,000 for James Franklin’s first spring game as Nittany Lions head coach.

25 programs attracted at least 10,000 fans.

But what do those who show up get for their troubles? Not much.

With most spring games televised or available online, cautious coaches have little reason to give their fall opponents anything to study. Offenses are vanilla, with few flashy plays or new concepts.

Defenses are basic as well.

Due to fear of injury, quarterbacks are rarely “live.” Clemson’s defense piled up 14 “sacks” in its spring game without ever tackling a quarterback.

Squads are often mixed and matched, with some programs “drafting” their teams from the available roster and others pitting their No. 1 offense against their No. 2 defense and vice versa.

By the middle of the third quarter, the clock is running, the fans have decamped to their tailgates and players who make even the sharpest of beat writers say “Who?” are in the game and making plays. Better get a look at them now, because they won’t have any impact in the fall.

The final score is often utterly meaningless as well. Maryland, for example, saw the White team defeat the Red team by a final score of 187-143.

How did that happen, you ask? Coach Randy Edsall used a scoring system that counted plays from previous practices and scrimmages, rewarding both the offense and the defense for big plays.

Here’s a hint: If you need a scorecard to keep score in your spring game, those in attendance are going to be lost, too.

How do you fix spring games, you ask?

Make them matter by turning them into outside competition.

How much fun would it have been to see Clemson-Auburn this weekend? How about Alabama-Florida State? Is that something you might be interested in? Of course it is.

Giving teams an opportunity to finish spring with a controlled scrimmage against a regional rival is an idea that would give college football fans something special to savor in spring.

With college football moving toward expanded conference schedules and the need for many programs to play seven home games to maximize revenue, regional rivalries are few and far between.

A home-and-home series like Clemson-Georgia is the exception, not the rule, and both programs had to work hard to fit the series into their slates. Neutral-site games like the Chick-fil-A Kickoff and Cowboys Classic are far more common. They’re exciting, but they’re typically one-game contracts, keeping rivalries from blooming.

Even with restrictions, seeing Alabama travel to Florida State for a spring showdown (Jimbo vs. Saban) would be fascinating. Fans could surely handle quarterbacks not being “live” if it meant seeing Jameis Winston squaring off against the Crimson Tide’s stingy defense.

Programs could sign two-year home-and-home contracts. ESPN would froth at the mouth to televise the concept and add revenue to programs’ coffers (ideally, programs could charge a reduced rate and split the gate).

But what of the fans who’d be robbed of a chance to see their local team on their turf? Simple. The spring game is the 15th practice of spring. Turn the 10th or 14th practice into a stadium practice and throw open the gates, inviting all inside.

It’d increase visibility and goodwill for programs and give fans something to truly get excited about during spring.

Outside competition would be fun and meaningful, and it is the best way to fix a concept which is quickly becoming irrelevant.

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Texas vs. Baylor Rivalry Heating Up Is Just What Big 12 Football Needs

The best postgame comments are the ones you least expect. On Saturday, no one was expecting Texas linebacker Steve Edmond to take his shot at Baylor. 

Following the Longhorns' spring game, Edmond, apparently unprovoked, told reporters he still felt the sting of last December's 30-10 loss to the Bears that helped decide the Big 12 title. Interestingly, he didn't actually play against Baylor last season because of a lacerated liver he sustained the previous week in a win against Texas Tech.

Here are Edmond's comments from Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News

I really don’t like Baylor. I still feel they’re trash.

Y’all think it’s funny, but I’m dead serious. They’ve had some good players. … But I don’t understand how we lost to Baylor.

Baylor gets a win and act like they haven’t won before. They won it. So what? They still suck to me.

Not surprisingly, Baylor's players weren't impressed by Edmond's comments: 

For anyone curious, Baylor and Texas will meet Oct. 4 in Austin, so get your popcorn ready, because it's going to be spectacular. 

First, a hearty congratulations to Baylor is in order. It's not often you draw the ire of someone from Texas, so the Bears have truly made it to the top of the mountain. And, as B/R's Adam Kramer previously wrote, they are there to stay

Secondly, Edmond's comments weren't the smartest if recent history is taken into consideration. In three of the past four meetings, Texas has lost to Baylor by an average of 17 points. Edmond's tired of it, though, and he's calling his shot.

If you're a Texas fan, the past three years have angered you too. No team in the Big 12 moves the interest meter like Texas, especially an angry Texas. The Big 12 needs that to generate interest coming off a season when conference perception was bad. As Travis Haney of ESPN tweets, Baylor vs. Texas is turning into a fun rivalry that could move into Texas vs. Texas A&M's old slot:

Texas and A&M won't be playing anytime soon, despite their own war of words, so the conference needs another lively rivalry besides the Red River Shootout Rivalry Showdown.

Head coach Charlie Strong will likely get in Edmond's ear about his comments. He's also likely to tell Edmond to channel that anger in a constructive way this offseason to give his team an edge. The biggest knock on the Horns from the past three years is that they haven't played with one.

The same couldn't be said about Strong's Louisville Cardinals, especially in bowl wins over Florida and Miami. For Strong and his players, those bowls were extra personal. 

Now, Strong is working from the inside-out to change the culture at Texas. Edmond's comments are only a reflection of that, but it would appear the "nice guy" days in Austin are over. 

The term "class" is overrated anyway in a game where the objective is to violently hit the opponent. Besides, Baylor players could have been classy and refused to dignify the comments. Instead, some pointed to the scoreboard, and you can bet head coach Art Briles is going to have those quotes posted around the locker room.

Now there's a juicy storyline for the next several months. 

 

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

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How Brian Kelly Can Solve Quarterback Problem Before the Start of the Season

Fifteen practices later, Everett Golson is still standing. The quarterback entrusted with the Irish football program made it through spring practice after failing to make the grade last May, an academic casualty that derailed the Irish before the 2013 season started.

Now he's tasked with a different challenge: winning a quarterback battle not many people saw coming. 

Golson rejoined the program in January, returning to Notre Dame as he pledged he would. He did his best not to throw away the 2013 season, spending 10 weeks with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego. But while Golson's return had him looking like a savior to a program without a quarterback that's taken a competitive snap, he returns to a battle far more competitive than many expected. 

If you're looking for a sign of program strength, viable options at quarterback is a good indicator. But that asset can turn to a liability pretty quickly, and Irish fans witnessed something similar just a few years back. 

It may feel like an eternity ago, but the last time Notre Dame had two scholarship quarterbacks in spring practice, Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees were learning Brian Kelly's system together. There couldn't have been more disparate quarterbacks on a roster. Crist, a well-put-together junior, was a 5-star recruit handpicked by Charlie Weis who looked the part of an NFL quarterback. Rees, a scrawny early-enrollee freshman, looked like a kid plucked from the dorm league with scholarship offers only modestly better. 

But pitfalls early in the 2010 season had Irish fans grumbling about Crist, even before a second major knee injury ended his first season as the Irish's starting quarterback. And while Kelly kept the status quo intact by naming Crist the team's starting quarterback entering the 2011 season, the decision lasted exactly 30 minutes, with the Irish head coach pulling the plug at halftime after Crist completed less than half his passes and threw an interception in the end zone against South Florida. 

To compare Golson to Crist is a major stretch. Golson led Notre Dame to the BCS title game in his debut season, while Crist completed just 10 passes as a redshirt freshman backing up Jimmy Clausen. But Malik Zaire's strong spring game made it clear that the sophomore quarterback plans on doing more than just talk about winning the quarterback job, even if it appeared that Golson was entrenched at the position. 

We will hear nothing official between now and August about a position battle that may or may not be open. But leadership is needed out of the quarterback position, and while Kelly owes nobody a decision on his starting quarterback, his team will be looking to the position to run the offseason workouts that will continue to build the foundation of this program.

That balance has made things interesting in summers past. And in a program that stresses competition, fostering a battle while maintaining stability is a delicate balance, one that Kelly hasn't always navigated properly. 

Crist left the program after 2011, choosing to play out his fifth year under the head coach who recruited him to South Bend. Andrew Hendrix did the same this winter, heading to Miami (Ohio) to join Chuck Martin. Gunner Kiel left the program when he didn't believe he had a chance to play. While Irish fans feel certain that says more about the quarterback than the head coach, it's another datapoint that shows a rocky evolution at a position critical to overall success. 

In 2012, Golson was beloved by some fans for being the quarterback he wasn't. He wasn't Dayne Crist, the prototype who struggled processing the information presented to him on the field. He wasn't Tommy Rees, the overachiever who got every ounce out of his talents but made too many mistakes. 

Golson isn't the new kid on the block anymore. And he's used up any goodwill after his self-inflicted mistake cost him last season. Viewed as the missing link in 2013, he's going to need to play like it. 

Because at a program like Notre Dame, the backup quarterback is everybody's favorite player. And after flashing plenty of talent in the Blue-Gold game, Zaire is gaining fans quickly. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Football: QB Nick Marshall Ready for Monster 2014 Season

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall jumped onto the scene in 2013 as he led the Tigers to a 12-2 season and an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. The senior is gearing up for a big 2014 season as he hopes to lead Auburn back to the title game and this time walk away a champion.

What kind of stats will Marshall put up in 2014?

Watch as B/R's Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down what to expect from the dual-threat QB this upcoming season.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Will Oregon Ducks Steal 5-Star Dual-Threat QB Kyler Murray out of Texas?

Dual-threat QB Kyler Murray recently took an unofficial trip to Oregon. The Ducks have had some success recruiting nationally, but it would be huge if they could land the 5-star, Allen, TX native. 

Murray is a true dual-threat, throwing for 46 touchdowns while running for 19. The 5'11" 170-pound athlete is a little undersized, but he makes up for it with incredible playmaking abilities. Can Oregon land Murray and does he have what it takes to be Marcus Mariota's replacement?

Check out Andrew Greif from The Oregonian break down the latest on Kyler Murray with Adam Lefkoe

 

Highlights courtesy XOs Digital

All rankings from 247 Sports Composite 

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Is Tarean Folston Unquestioned No. 1 RB for Irish?

Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel will be the top returning running backs for the Fighting Irish in 2014. As a freshman last year, Folston improved every week. Look for him to continue building on that success this season. 

Folston has great potential in South Bend, but he may need to split time with Notre Dame's other running backs. Will Folston be the clear leader at the running back position and put up huge numbers his sophomore year? 

Check out Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down what to expect from Tarean Folston in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOs Digital.

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Auburn Football: Top Performers from the Tigers' Spring Game

AUBURN, Ala. — The Auburn Tigers elected to go with a starters vs. reserves game last Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which led to one of the most lopsided A-Day Games in school history.

The Blue Team starters, as expected, had no problem moving the ball and playing defense against their White Team backups. Auburn's starters put up 657 yards of total offense and led 44-3 at halftime, when most of the first team was pulled for the rest of the afternoon.

So what can you gather from a spring game that featured a 55-point margin of victory and a running clock for the entire second half?

While broad statements on the quality of the starters are probably not the wisest takeaways from A-Day, Auburn fans should focus on the individual playmakers from the high-scoring spring game.

Here are seven of Auburn's first-team players whose stock rose with their impressive performances in the defending SEC champions' spring practice finale.

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Karlos Williams: FSU RB Will Explode, Challenge for Heisman in 2014

FSU running back Karlos Williams is preparing for a monster 2014 season. The 6'1", 219-pound senior rushed for 730 yards and 11 TDs least season, but he had to split carries with former Seminoles RBs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. 

What will Williams' stats look like this upcoming season? Could he compete for the Heisman?

Watch as B/R's Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down what to expect from the the star running back in 2014.

 

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

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Virginia Tech Football: 4 Players to Watch in the Hokies' Spring Game

The Virginia Tech football team has just one week of practice left before the team’s spring game, and several players have really started to make it clear that they deserve attention in the spring’s final scrimmage.

The Hokies are still trying to replace quite a few playmakers from last year’s squad, and they’ve been fortunate that some guys have started to step up and fill those roles.

However, the quarterback position remains unsettled, making the spring game a crucial proving ground for the players vying to get consideration for the top job this fall.

Between the players that have the potential to evolve into stars on the field this fall and the two main competitors for the QB spot, there will be plenty of players to watch on April 26 when Tech takes the field.

Read on to find out exactly who deserves the attention.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes come from the team’s media availability immediately after the Hokies’ third spring scrimmage.

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