NCAA Football News

Daniel Wright to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

Florida's best prep safety is staying in the state. Daniel Wright, a 4-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, committed to Florida State on Wednesday:

Wright chose the Seminoles over offers from Alabama, Florida and a number of other major southern programs. The 6'1", 187-pound safety is considered the No. 129 player overall, the No. 12 player at his position and the No. 26 player in the state of Florida, per 247Sports' composite rankings. He'll join fellow 4-star safety Cyrus Fagan, who committed to FSU in February.

”My ability on the field is something special,” Wright said in 2015, per Jason Higdon of Scout.com. “I give my all from the start to the finish 120 percent.” 

Like all early commitments, Wright's verbal is nonbinding. He can reopen his recruitment at any point between now and national signing day in February. While that's a point to note with all verbals, Wright's recruitment has not been much of a surprise.

247Sports' crystal ball rankings gave Florida State a 100 percent chance of landing him, and he's long been a target of head coach Jimbo Fisher. The in-state ties made trips to Tallahassee much easier than out-of-state official visits, and Fisher has been accommodating to Wright throughout the process.

“It almost is like another home so I can get along there,” Wright said, per the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo.

In the end, Wright choosing Florida State is a major early boost to its recruiting efforts. The Seminoles have been a recruiting hotbed under Fisher, bringing in touted recruits at rates only rivaled by Alabama and Ohio State. There's no question Wright will be among the building blocks of the 2017 class and could put FSU on pace for a ranking inside the top 10.

247Sports currently has the Seminoles 10th in its rankings.

As it stands, Florida State is getting a ready-made prospect who might step in immediately if he adds some bulk. He has the speed and understanding of complex defenses necessary to get the job done, so it'll be up to him to put in the work over the next year before his arrival.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

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Corey Robinson, Notre Dame WR, Will Not Play Senior Season Due to Concussions

Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson announced Wednesday that will not play his senior season for the Fighting Irish because of concerns over repeated concussions.

"After much contemplation and prayer, I have decided not to continue playing football due to multiple concussions," Robinson said. "I couldn't have come to this difficult personal decision without the incredible support from so many within the Notre Dame football program.

"I am extremely thankful to Coach [Brian] Kelly and his staff for the life-changing opportunity to play football at the greatest university in the world. I will continue to help our team as a student assistant and look forward to a great senior year." 

Robinson, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson, suffered three concussions over the past year. He suffered his most recent during spring practice and announced in April that he was considering his future in the sport. 

"This was an extremely tough decision for Corey," Kelly said in a statement, per Nick Ironside of 247Sports. "He's such a committed kid to everything he does—whether it be academics, football, community service or campus leadership initiatives—that he wanted to finish his four-year career on the field. He was so excited to lead a group of young receivers this fall."

Robinson would have been the Irish's second-leading returning receiver in 2016. He made 16 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown as part of a Notre Dame team that reached the Fiesta Bowl last season. Overall, Robinson made 65 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns over the course of his three-year career.  

The Irish receiver's decision is just the latest in a series of concussion-related early retirements from the sport. Texas quarterback David Ash and Michigan center Jack Miller have prematurely walked away in recent years due to concussions. In the NFL, the likes of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland and Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley have retired over their fears of their long-term health.

According to Jason M. Breslow of Frontline, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found that 96 percent of NFL players' brains they studied showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition linked to repetitive head trauma. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Josh Williams, Former Oregon State LB, Dies at Age 24

Former Oregon State Beavers linebacker Josh Williams died Tuesday in Inglewood, California, per Danny Moran of the Oregonian.

According to City News Service (h/t the Daily Breeze), authorities responded to a report of a shooting and found Williams, 24, at the scene with at least one gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.   

"It's just difficult right now to understand why this stuff happens," said Angelo Jackson, who coached Williams at Salesian High School in Los Angeles, per Moran. "He was always smiling and a loving person."

Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who was one of Williams' teammates in Corvallis, mourned his death:

Williams played in four games as a true freshman 2011 at Oregon State but was suspended indefinitely during his sophomore year for a violation of team rules. Then-head coach Mike Riley dismissed Williams from the team ahead of the 2013 season, and he transferred to Kentucky State, where he played 12 games between 2014 and 2015.

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3 Unnamed Women File Title IX Lawsuit Against Baylor

Three women who have remained unnamed filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor University on Wednesday, according to Rissa Shaw of KCEN News.

According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, one of the women alleged a football player sexually assaulted her in April 2014.  

Baylor has been the center of a sexual assault scandal, with an independent study by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton finding that the university failed to properly investigate and handle a number of sexual assault cases.

Baylor announced last Friday that the university "launched a task force to implement Pepper Hamilton's recommendations regarding sexual assault protocol," according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, which included "105 recommendations to improve Baylor's prevention and response to sexual violence." 

Many of those incidents involved Baylor football players, and the university announced that it planned to fire head coach Art Briles in late May. Baylor's chancellor, Kenneth Starr, resigned, as did athletic director Ian McCaw. 

But surprisingly, "several high-profile donors have publicly floated the idea that Briles could be brought back after a one-year suspension," according to Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com. 

And that isn't a good look for the school, as Adelson wrote:

Almost everything else related to the football program hasn't changed. The school retained Briles' staff and has not approved eight players requesting NLI releases. And now we're seeing quotes like this from Bob Simpson, co-owner of the Texas Rangers and big-money Baylor donor with his name on a major athletics building on campus, about Briles' possible return: "We don't know yet. We'd like to see that."

Significantly, we have not heard a categorical denial from anyone in power at Baylor. How could bringing back Briles even be a consideration? And for that matter, why is the bulk of his staff—including two family members—still working at Baylor?

However, Jeff Caplan reported for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday that the school would indeed fire Briles and negotiations on a settlement are underway.

Certainly, any perception that Baylor is operating in a "business as usual" manner would be frowned upon publicly and, as Feldman noted, "would only make things messier for Baylor, especially in the wake of lawsuits in the pipeline."

This latest lawsuit is an indication that this scandal isn't going away anytime soon for Baylor, and more lawsuits could follow.  

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Alabama Football: Projecting Who Will Win Crimson Tide's Open Starting Positions

With a little less than half of its offensive and defensive starters set to return from a national championship squad, Alabama has some major questions ahead of it as the buildup to the 2016 college football season continues.

Before the Tide kick off against fellow historic powerhouse USC in September, they'll need to find answers at some familiar positions—starting with the all-important quarterback spot.

But replacing the likes of running back Derrick Henry, center Ryan Kelly, defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson and linebacker Reggie Ragland won't be easy, even for a program that lands the No. 1 recruiting class in college football year after year.

Some of Alabama's open spots on the depth chart, such as nose guard and outside linebacker, seem to already have clear-cut starting options. Others, especially the ones on offense, have tighter races as the Crimson Tide continue to work in the summer and into fall camp.

Let's take a look at 10 of Alabama's positions that will have new starters in 2016 and predict who will occupy the top spot on the depth chart when the Tide take on the Trojans in Texas. 

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D'Antne Demery to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart made a big splash in his first full year on the recruiting trail for the Bulldogs. According to Kipp Adams of 247Sports, 4-star offensive tackle D'Antne Demery committed to the school Wednesday.

Chad Simmons of Fox Sports South shared video of Demery's commitment:

Demery is the No. 16 offensive tackle and No. 101 overall prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. He also ranks 13th in the state of Georgia. Listed at 6'5 ½" and 319 pounds, the Brunswick, Georgia, native is a major presence on the offensive line:

In February, Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee identified signing in-state talent as Georgia's biggest objective in recruiting this year: "If Georgia can keep the elite athletes in this class in the Peach State, it will give head coach Kirby Smart plenty of options on how to formulate the roster for the next three or four years."

Mark Richt will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in school history, and at least part of his success is due to how well he recruited in Georgia.

Between 2006 and 2015—since Richt's firing last November had the 2016 class in flux somewhat—here are the schools that landed the top 10 players out of the state, using 247Sports' composite rankings:

If Smart wants to build on Richt's success and take the program a step further, he'll need to continue canvassing the state and attracting the top prep standouts. Securing Demery's commitment certainly helps his cause.

The foundation is there for Demery to become a standout offensive tackle in the FBS. He'd probably benefit from bulking up a bit so he can handle the quality of talent he's bound to face at the next level. At his current weight, he could be bullied around by bigger, stronger defensive ends and linebackers.

Demery's technique also leaves a little to be desired and can result in him failing to finish blocks, which this short clip from Dawgs247's Rusty Mansell perfectly captures:

The good news is the Bulldogs coaching staff can work with Demery to improve his hand position and his footwork. Also, as he grows into his body, he should be able to simply overpower some defenders irrespective of whether his technique is impeccable.

Georgia is going through a transitional period up front, with several starting jobs up for grabs heading into the 2016 campaign. Depending on how things work out this fall, the program's newest addition could have the opportunity to fight for a starting job immediately upon his arrival next year.

Unless he backtracks on his commitment, Demery will be joining Ben Cleveland—the No. 10 offensive tackle in 2016—in Athens, Georgia. Together, they should form the bedrock of the Bulldogs offensive line in a few years.  

 

Recruit information and star rating are courtesy of 247Sports.

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10 College Football Teams with Most Upside on Their Rosters

The offseason is all about potential. After the dust from national signing day clears and teams start to show off what kind of new-look talent they'll use during spring practices, it's time for fans to get excited about their respective programs for the upcoming season and beyond.

Fans want to see "upside," or potential for the future, on their rosters. Even in the years in which a team is loaded with returning talent, there's a desire to get the younger classes of playmakers into the fold so that they'll be fully ready when it's time to lead the way.

Let's take a look at 10 teams that have the most upside on their rosters for the 2016 college football season. In order to determine upside, I picked out programs that are doing the best on the recruiting trail—the best indicator of future championship contention, as Bud Elliott of SB Nation explains—and getting the best early returns out of their young talent. The three main factors are:

  • Underclassmen in projected 2016 two-deep: Based on the offensive and defensive depth charts from Our Lads, this is the number of freshmen and sophomores expected to either start or back up in 2016. While the depth charts aren't official or perfect, they're good guidelines for how much teams will be relying on young talent this fall.
  • 247Sports composite three-year average: This is an average of a team's 2014, 2015 and 2016 composite team rankings from 247Sports. The lower the number, the better the young talent on the roster right now.
  • Contributing freshmen in 2015: This is a count of how many freshmen, either true or redshirt, contributed to a team last season, according to info from CFBStats and Our Lads.

This process produced quite a few blue bloods in the final rankings, but not every team expected to compete for a championship made the cut. Remember, this is a countdown of the teams that are doing the best at bringing in talented players and getting them established early in their careers.

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Michigan Football: 2016 Summer Enrollees to Watch for

The summer has arrived, and soon, class of 2016 recruits will funnel onto campus to begin their journey with the Michigan football program.

While a couple of freshmen are certain to contribute, a few others are worth monitoring throughout the upcoming campaign.

Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff won't burn a redshirt for no reason. However, the Wolverines showed last year they're not afraid to insert freshmen talent.

The following six players could provide the largest impact—but only if they earn the playing time first.

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Kirby Smart Building Major Recruiting Momentum Through 6 Months at Georgia

Behind the scenes for nine years, Kirby Smart helped orchestrate a dynastic Alabama Crimson Tide run in Tuscaloosa. Now competing against longtime boss Nick Saban, he appears primed to lay a significant foundation for his own sustained success as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

Following 15 seasons of football efforts in Athens led by Mark Richt, a new regime inherits immense expectations to vault the team into national championship contention. 

Smart, who won four titles as defensive coordinator with Alabama, should understand as well as anyone what consistent recruiting victories can do for a program's long-term outlook. The Crimson Tide have signed six consecutive No. 1 classes in the composite rankings, stockpiling talent that helped Saban become the first head coach to qualify for multiple College Football Playoff appearances.

"It's huge for him to bring such an amazing background to Georgia because that makes it much easier for players to buy in," Bulldogs commit Richard LeCounte III told Bleacher Report. "He helped put a bunch of guys into the NFL at Alabama and was a big part of that culture of winning."

The in-state standout, rated No. 2 nationally among safety prospects, initially grew familiar with Smart as a freshman. The two developed a bond as Alabama pushed for his pledge, though LeCounte ultimately became his first commitment at Georgia on Dec. 13.

At the time, Smart was still juggling duties as defensive coordinator at Alabama, where he needed to ready the unit for a semifinal matchup against Michigan State. A championship clash with Clemson and Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson would follow.

"He came in and got to work immediately, while preparing for the national championship game. That's big time," LeCounte said. "It was really impressive to see him quickly build ties with top recruits who were already committed to Georgia or considering a commitment."

We've witnessed recruiting classes crumble in the aftermath of postseason coaching changes, but Smart and a freshly assembled staff managed to keep grips on longtime quarterback commit Jacob Eason—the 2015 Gatorade National Player of the Year—and sealed the deal with pivotal targets. When the dust settled on national signing day, the new Georgia regime claimed college football's No. 7 talent haul, per 247Sports composite rankings.

Smart picked up a pair of 5-star prospects down the stretch, landing No. 1 tight end Isaac Nauta and No. 1 athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. Both players, considered top-15 overall recruits in the 2016 class, were previously targeted in some capacity by the coach at Alabama.

As Nauta explained on VSporto's SEC Recruiting Buzz (via Kipp Adams of 247Sports):

I have known Kirby for a long time, just going through the recruiting process, so I am comfortable with him. I like the vision that he has. They have really been emphasizing, me, throughout the time that they have been in office, that they really want to use the tight end, and they got big plans for my position.

While Smart emerged as the face of Georgia's signing-day success, his efforts to assemble a competent and accomplished corps of assistants resonated extremely well with recruits. 

"I think the marriage between [Hardman] and [defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker is critical, because Coach Tucker is a great developer of DBs and can teach Mecole a lot of things that he needs to learn as far as defensive back," Smart said on signing day, according to Dawg Nation's Michael Carvell.

Tucker, who served on the Crimson Tide staff alongside Smart last season, spent a decade calling defensive plays in the NFL and stepped up as the Jacksonville Jaguars' interim head coach in 2011. He's hardly alone as an impact personnel member in Athens.

Eason, who seriously considered the Florida Gators and Washington Huskies after Richt's departure, was also won over by a staff hire. His father, Tony Eason, told Jeff Sentell of Dawg Nation the addition of offensive line coach Sam Pittman played a pivotal role as their decision-making process progressed:

The best O-line coach coming to Georgia was huge. You look at what’s going on right now in football with concussions. You get three of four concussions and Jake is playing baseball. We don’t want that. He’s a football guy. Getting Pittman really put the nail in the coffin. After that, that was it. We were there. He was going to Georgia.

Still months away from leading the Bulldogs into SEC battles, Smart's exuberance and staff selections resonate on a widespread level in a hotly contested recruiting landscape.

"Guys are following Coach Smart. It starts with him," 2017 quarterback commit Jake Fromm told Bleacher Report. "He's really personable and hands-on with everything. The energy and enthusiasm he brings really trickles down to the staff and to us commits. It gets everyone excited to go out and recruit top players."

Fromm, who flipped his pledge from Alabama in March, is another Peach State product. Like Nauta, Hardman and LeCounte, the Elite 11 finalists found a fit near home.

"We have an opportunity to win a ton of games if guys from Georgia decide to represent their state," Fromm said. 

The region routinely produces some of America's premier prospects and boasts a deep stockpile of talent. Naturally, it's become fertile territory for coaches in Athens and beyond.

"When you look at all the rosters in the SEC, that’s the one common theme is every team in the SEC is coming to the state of Georgia to get players," Smart said on signing day. "It’s critical for us to be successful to get good players out of our state."

LeCounte and Fromm give the Bulldogs two of the state's top four prospects in the composite rankings, and Smart presently claims commitments from five top-20 Georgia recruits.

Smart is still the same fired-up recruiter he was in Tuscaloosa, according to LeCounte, but his outlook adjusted slightly since relocating to an SEC rival.

"The message was pretty much the same as it was at Alabama—come make big plays and compete for national championships—but it became about representing my home state," he said. "There are a lot of guys who've left home and won championships somewhere else in the SEC, but I think with this staff we can capitalize and make sure they stay here to build something special at Georgia."

LeCounte and fellow Georgia pledges are well underway with peer recruiting. The state's top uncommitted targets include Pace Academy offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, Vidalia Comprehensive High School linebacker Nate McBride, Norcross High School edge-rusher Robert Beal, Newton High School receiver Jeremiah Holloman and Grayson High School defensive backs Deangelo Gibbs and Jamyest Williams.

"It's a new era at UGA. Coach Smart is doing something exciting," Williams said. "I've talked to Georgia's players about it. It's the whole demeanor of the team. They're more physical and more motivated to work hard."

This echoes the sentiment of LeCounte, who believes these fresh vibes were necessary for progression toward title contention at Georgia.

"It's time to get over the hump and consistently win more than 10 games a year," he said. "We need to amplify the intensity compared to past years and I think that's exactly what's happening now. Coach Richt was more of a laid-back type coach—and that's not a bad thing—but I'm ready to see how Coach Smart handles the team."

Richt registered double-digit victory totals during nine of his 15 seasons at the helm, and won fewer than eight games just once. However, the proverbial "hump" LeCounte referenced was never quite cleared while SEC opponents Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn claimed national championships.

Philadelphia running back D'Andre Swift, a 5-star talent who is high on the Bulldogs, expects university environment will enter a frenzy if Georgia is able to elevate in conference hierarchy.

"Everybody in Athens loves Georgia football. It's easy to tell. You can't beat that atmosphere for a spring game," he said. "Coach Smart is doing some great things with the program right now. I believe they're up-and-coming."

For nearly a decade, Smart's sales pitch centered around recently fashioned championship rings at Alabama. He still has his hardware, but that bling was earned elsewhere, and Smart understands it's imperative to sell a new brand with the Bulldogs, especially when he's butting heads with his old boss for potentially program-altering athletes.

"I’m not going to sit there and attack [Saban] and his character when he’s got four out of the last however many national championships. I don’t think that’s the way [to recruit]. You sell what you have. You sell your strongest points. I think that’s what we sold in recruiting," he said shortly after putting a bow on a well-balanced 2016 recruiting class.

Smart accomplished quite a dual feat this past winter, securing both a national title in Tuscaloosa and an immensely promising group of players in Athens. Now operating with a full cycle and an acclimated staff, expect more building blocks to come into place for 2017 and beyond.

"This is just the beginning," LeCounte said. "If guys keep buying into what Coach Smart wants to do and decide to join us at Georgia, we have big things coming."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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College Football Schools That Belong in Different Conferences

The Big 12 helped fill the void this offseason by reviving the college football realignment/expansion discussion, prompting the wheels to start turning about which schools the conference might seek to add and how that will affect other leagues. As of now, the Big 12 has made no definitive decision, but another round of movement seems inevitable.

Why wait?

We've got a slew of suggested conference switches that would make great sense for a variety of reasons. Most of them probably won't ever happen, but a fan can dream.

And since we're dealing in hypotheticals, our proposed moves include teams that are currently (or soon will be) independent, as well as ones that should consider going that route. We won't be making any recommendations involving the FCS ranks, however, since Idaho seems resigned to dropping down a level in 2018 and North Dakota State appears quite content winning FCS titles every season.

Disagree with our suggestions or have others of your own? By all means, join the conversation in our comments section.

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Every Top 25 Team's Must-Win Game of 2016 College Football Season

Spend enough time around college football coaches and you’ll become well-versed in cliches. Football coaches, by nature, are cautious, paranoid, close-to-the-vest creatures, and some speak entirely in platitudes, afraid to mention anything of value to reporters. One of these kind of coaches’ favorite cliches is “the most important game is the next game.”

Sure, it sounds fine, but here’s the thing: It’s not true. The gimme game against an FCS foe does not mean the same as the conference opener. SEC teams often schedule “paycheck” games in late November. Are you going to argue those games are as meaningful as Alabama-Auburn or Florida-Florida State the following week? Of course not.

Some games are just more important, the kind of games fans circle on the schedule the moment it comes out. They’re must-win games, contests that can shape, make or break a season. They’re the games that truly matter. Here’s a look at every Top 25 team’s “must-win” game for the 2016 season. Games were selected for their overall importance to a team’s momentum or overall success this fall. The Top 25 is compiled by Bleacher Report using the latest available preseason polls.

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Why Urban Meyer Is College Football's Most Versatile Recruiter

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A week before Ohio State saw 12 of its players—including five first-rounders—picked in the NFL draft, I asked Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith what plays better on the recruiting trail: national championships or the ability to put players in the pros?

"I don't know that either sells better," Smith said. "They all want both."

Having played wide receiver for Urban Meyer at Bowling Green before serving as his graduate assistant at Florida and eventually rejoining him in Columbus, Smith knows that with his boss, he has the luxury of not having to pick just one pitch.

With camp season in full force, recruiting currently rules the college football world and no coach in recent months has had more success at luring talent to his program than Meyer. On Sunday, the Ohio State head coach bolstered what was already the nation's top-ranked 2017 class when he received a commitment from 4-star quarterback Tate Martell, the country's No. 1 dual-threat signal-caller.

Any short list of college football's top salesmen undoubtedly includes Meyer, who has signed four top-five classes since arriving in Columbus in 2012 and is well on his way to a fifth. But unlike his recruiting contemporaries—Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Jimbo Fisher and that might be it—the fifth-year Buckeyes head coach doesn't have to stick to one script.

Much like his explosive spread offense, the key to Meyer's approach on the recruiting trail is an unmatched versatility, which allows him to shuffle around his pitches like chess pieces based on any one prospect's given desires.

Want rings? Meyer's got eight of them—five conference titles and three national championships that span a 14-year head coaching career.

Hoping to win the Heisman? Meyer's coached one winner of college football's most prestigious award—Tim Tebow in 2007—and has seen his quarterback finish in the top five of Heisman voting in six of his past 11 seasons as a head coach.

Looking to land in the NFL? Meyer's penchant for putting players in the pros dates back to Alex Smith being selected first overall out of Utah in 2005, continued through his time at Florida and has only amplified at Ohio State, including a 2016 class that Chase Stuart of FiveThirtyEight.com deemed "the most impressive in modern NFL history."

"We're pretty creative around here," Meyer said in the lead up to this year's draft, where recruiting staffers documented the Buckeyes' big weekend on social media as Meyer served as an analyst for NFL Network, only increasing his program's already abundant visibility.

But what separates Meyer's pitches to prospects most has been his ability to adapt to the ever-changing recruiting landscape.

Saban and Fisher can sell championships too, Harbaugh is on the cutting edge of a recruiting revolution and all three have developed numerous pro prospects over the course of their careers. But none have the ability to mesh those draws as Meyer has, using a modern approach to tout his multipronged resume.

Consider Meyer's willingness to take part in several satellite camps this summer, a Harbaugh-staple that Saban and Fisher have been reluctant to embrace. Per Ryan Donnelly of Rivals.com, Meyer and his staff are slated to take part in nearly a dozen satellite camps this month, including stops in Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia and Michigan.

But rather than use the platforms to emulate Harbaugh, whose fashion choices at such camps have kept him front and center in the college football news cycle, Meyer has been able to deliver his own messages—as was the case during the speech he gave at the Buckeyes' stop at New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson earlier this month.

"You want to get noticed? Work really hard. Shut your mouth, do the right things, be selfless," Meyer said in a video of the speech posted by NUC Sports. "Be a great teammate, don't draw attention to yourself. You want to draw attention to yourself? Be the hardest working guy out there."

Meyer's ability to sell his own message on the camp circuit is reminiscent of his decision to join Twitter three years ago after realizing its value as a recruiting tool to promote his program. Despite not having college football's most-talked-about social media account—that distinction belongs to Harbaugh—Meyer does lay claim to the most followers, with more than 514,800 users subscribing to @OSUCoachMeyer's tweets.

And much like his presence at satellite camps, Meyer has made his Twitter account his own, as evidenced by a recent tweet promoting an endorsement from his most famous former player, Tebow—a reminder of all the recruiting tools that remain at his disposal.

Looking for a celebrity coach? Meyer can do that, having sat courtside at each of the past two NBA Finals thanks to his relationship with NBA megastar LeBron James.

Want someone entrenched in X's and O's? Meyer's your man, as evidenced by a combined 50-4 record in the past four seasons at Ohio State, a career .851 winning percentage and a trophy case only Saban can claim to match.

After the Buckeyes won the first-ever College Football Playoff championship in 2015, Meyer was well aware of the impact his time in the limelight had on the recruiting trail.

"I tell people it was like a 30‑day infomercial," Meyer said on signing day in 2015. "Go pay for a positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like."

And after Ohio State's heavy presence at this past NFL draft?

"It was like a three-hour infomercial for our program," Meyer said during his NFL Network coverage.

For the past four years, the Buckeyes have had plenty to sell and have used as many means as possible to promote their pitches.

And on the recruiting trail, there hasn't been a product more popular with prospects than Ohio State and the "buy one, get them all" deal its head coach allows it to deliver.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

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Is Florida the Best SEC Team That Nobody's Talking About?

One look at the odds from OddsShark.com on teams likely to win the College Football Playoff National Championship, and you'll see plenty of the usual suspects. 

Alabama and Clemson—last year's participants in the title game—are near the top at plus-700 and plus-750, respectively. Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan are at plus-700 and plus-750, respectively, as well. Tennessee (+1400) and Georgia (+3300) are the two top teams in the SEC East, while LSU (+1400), Ole Miss (+2500) and Auburn (+3300)—yes, that Auburn—all are getting some Las Vegas love as well.

Where's the love for Florida?

You know, that team—despite some massive issues that included the suspension of former quarterback Will Grier in the middle of the season and injuries to a young and inexperienced offensive line—that managed to win the SEC East and remain on the periphery of the playoff discussion until rivalry weekend?

At plus-4000, the Gators are the best team that nobody's talking about. 

Why?

Because of last year's offensive struggles in the month of November? Because of the three-game losing streak to close the season? Because of quarterback issues that plagued head coach Jim McElwain's crew after former starter Will Grier was suspended midway through his redshirt freshman campaign?

Those aren't good enough reasons to ignore McElwain, who recognizes that last year's late-season fade route has forced some instability that will help the program.

"Every day, you wake up and there's a new something going on," he said at SEC spring meetings in May. "I don't think you ever get comfortable. Usually when you get comfortable, that's when you get your tail beat."

Florida got its tail beat in those three losses—by 25 to Florida State, by 14 to Alabama and by 34 to Michigan.

Don't bet on that happening again.

With a stellar defensive line that features tackle Caleb Brantley and former hot-shot recruit Cece Jefferson at end, a linebacking corps that includes potential All-American Jarrad Davis and a secondary that not only has stars in Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye, but upgraded at defensive backs coach when McElwain hired Torrian Gray away from Virginia Tech.

No, that defense didn't help the Gators down the stretch. But you'd probably get worn down too if you carried a team for three months.

Should the absence of a solidified starter really make a team an afterthought? Nope. Six of the last seven national titles have been won by first-year starting quarterbacks. Plus, if you consider Cole Stoudt as Clemson's starter in 2014, 10 of the last 14 starting quarterbacks in the national title game were in their first seasons as starting quarterbacks.

"It has more to do with the supporting cast around that person," McElwain said. "We were pretty fortunate when I was at Alabama [as offensive coordinator] to have Greg McElroy, but he had been in the program for a while. Same thing with AJ [McCarron] when he became a starter that first year. I don't know that it has as much to do with that particular position as it does with—what have you done for the other 10 guys on the offense."

To win in college football, regardless of how exotic your offense is, you have to run and play defense. Florida has the latter part of that equation locked down.

The former should be just fine as well.

Junior college transfer Mark Thompson rushed five times for 46 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. While many will compare him to former Alabama running back and 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry because of his 6'2", 242-pound frame, the 26-yard touchdown run from the Orange and Blue Debut (1:45 mark of the video below) suggests that he's a little more nimble than Henry.

With Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite already in house, the Gators should—at the very worst—create a formidable running back committee that will ease the transition to the new quarterback.

That quarterback will likely be former Alabama and Oregon State signal caller Luke Del Rio, who sat out last year while learning the system. He completed 10 of his 11 passes and tossed two touchdowns in the spring game and looked fully capable of moving the chains and keeping the Gators defense well-rested on the bench.

Antonio Callaway is back in a limited capacity this summer and can workout at the complex, and a full-fledged return seems to be in the cards at some point either prior to the season or shortly after it begins. Dre Massey is a junior college transfer who looked solid in the spring game with 29 receiving yards and a touchdown, and an incoming receiving class that includes Freddie Swain, Joshua Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland should bolster depth and give Del Rio (or Austin Appleby, if he springs an upset) options.

What's more, Florida has a kicker now. It got so bad in Gainesville last year that McElwain held open kicker tryouts. But junior college transfer Eddy Pineiro made a splash when he connected on three of his five attempts in the spring game—with the three made field goals all coming from over 46 yards and the two misses being from 52 and 53 yards, respectively. 

A solid defense, the ability to create a functioning passing attack off play-action and a sound kicking game is a recipe for success.

If Florida can get by Tennessee for the 12th straight season—a game which will be on Rocky Top—a return trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game should be in the cards. Florida owns the series with Georgia, and the rest of the schedule outside of LSU—which comes to "The Swamp" and has offensive issues of its own—is relatively easy.

Don't sleep on the Gators.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Projecting Who Will Win Volunteers' Open Starting Positions

One of the best things about the Tennessee football program having so much talent stockpiled this season is there should be healthy competitions all over the field.

While a lot of players such as quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, cornerback Cameron Sutton, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and defensive end Derek Barnett have some starting spots wrapped up as long as they're healthy, there will be battles.

Head coach Butch Jones is trying to build a program that will have sustained success, and while there could possibly be a temporary dip in production after what is expected to be a stellar 2016 season, who wins the position wars this fall will go a long way in determining if that actually happens.

If some underclassmen step up and do what they were recruited to do, this should be just the beginning of the Volunteers being back in the thick of things in the SEC.

There is a ton of optimism all over the national media regarding the Vols, and it has reached a fever frenzy on Rocky Top.

"This is going to be the most anticipated Tennessee football season probably in at least eight years," AM 1340 The Drive radio personality Russell Smith told WBIR's Kendall Morris

The star power and incumbent starters lend to the buzz around the program, but with the newcomers and some talented players who are getting their opportunities to play their way into the mix, that makes the upcoming season exciting, too.

Just how good those players are who win the open position battles will go a long way in determining just how tough the Vols will be. Let's take a look at who should win some of the top position tussles this fall.

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Notre Dame Football: Projecting Who Will Win Irish's Open Starting Positions

Notre Dame football celebrated seven NFL draft picks and 13 players who signed professional contracts, but that success also means the roster has plenty of vacancies to fill.

Fortunately for the Irish, their unfortunate trend of injuries last season means a few open spots already have proven options available for the 2016 campaign.

Consequently, each position highlighted will be occupied by a new full-time starter. The lone exception is one spot where a replacement player is projected to maintain his season-ending job.

And it won't be a surprise where that position is found.

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Isaiah Bolden to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Class of 2018 cornerback Isaiah Bolden made an early college choice Tuesday, announcing his decision to play for the Florida State Seminoles. 

Bolden made it official with the following tweet:

According to 247Sports, the Jacksonville, Florida, native is a 4-star recruit who ranks as the No. 15 corner, No. 20 player from the state of Florida and No. 135 overall prospect in his class.

Per 247sports, Bolden chose FSU despite offers from myriad other high-profile programs, including Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Prior to making his announcement, the Bartram Trail High School standout told Robert Judin of CampusInsiders.com what he was looking for in a school: "Early playing time, a winning program, and [someone who] would think about changing some things. Maybe allow a player to play a little bit of offense—kinda what Miami did with Devin Hester."

While it is unclear if Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher has plans to play Bolden on both sides of the ball, he seemingly has the speed and athleticism to do so if called upon.

Every indication is that his primary position will be cornerback, and since FSU has had at least one defensive back selected in every NFL draft since 2012, Bolden is set to land in a situation that should allow him to reach his fullest potential.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Top Defensive Backfields for 2016 Season

With college football becoming a pass-heavier game season after season, the importance of having a fantastic secondary cannot be overstated. It's the No. 1 weapon in slowing down a modern offense.

Some teams have the reputation of recruiting elite defensive backs every year and developing them into fantastic defenders for the next level. These "Defensive Back Universities" are guaranteed to be among the best in controlling the skies, no matter what the depth chart looks like in the preseason.

Other programs are experiencing major turnarounds in pass defenses and are bringing back Thorpe Award contenders for the 2016 college football season. Those playmakers will be cornerstones for secondaries that should receive more and more attention this fall.

Here's a look at the top 10 defensive backfields for the 2016 season. These selections are based on a number of factors, which combine last year's success with returning talent for this year:

  • Success in 2015. This comes down to the performance in categories such as yards allowed per pass attempt, yards allowed per game, opposing completion percentage and opposing QB rating/pass efficiency.
  • Returning starters for 2016. This is the number of projected starters coming back for the 2016 season. Teams that return a fifth "starting" defensive back, such as a nickelback, are marked accordingly.
  • Key players for 2016. This is a look at the five best defensive backs on the roster for the upcoming campaign. The more star power a team has, the better off it will be on this countdown. 

Tell us who you think has the best defensive backfield in the country and which ones will break out for 2016 in the comments below.

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The Opening 2016: Breaking Down Each Top 25 Team's Commits, Targets in Beaverton

The Opening annually attracts America's most impressive high school football talent to Beaverton, Oregon, where premier prospects compete on the campus of Nike's world headquarters. Widespread action takes place July 8-10, while Elite 11 quarterbacks begin work July 5, with 12 passers vying for MVP honors.

Recent alumni of The Opening include top-10 2016 NFL draft selections Jalen Ramsey and Ezekiel Elliott, along with 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary. This summer, our attention turns to a new crop of potential national football stars, as 166 athletes received invitations to Beaverton.

Most members in this collection of dynamic playmakers and powerful linemen caught attention from college football coaching staffs early in their high school careers and remain major recruiting targets nearly eight months shy of national signing day. Here's a look at prospects of interest for each program featured in Bleacher Report's post-spring top-25 rankings, including those committed to schools and several still searching for the right fit.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

One of the crown jewels of UCLA’s 2017 class is 4-star defensive end pledge Hunter Echols.

The 6’3 ½”, 231-pound pass-rusher from Cathedral High School in Los Angeles pledged to the Bruins in February. 

However, a number of programs remain in hot pursuit of the nation’s No. 6 weak-side defensive end and the nation’s No. 90 player overall in the 2017 class.

Last week, fellow Pac-12 power Oregon jumped into the mix by offering Echols:

Despite his pledge, Echols has taken visits to schools such as Arizona and USC. He’s also planning to visit Notre Dame later this month. 

The Ducks are another program looking to earn a visit from one of the top pass-rushers in the current cycle. 

Even though two of the four current Oregon commitments are from defensive linemen, Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich would love to add another player who happens to be one of the elite prospects on the West Coast.

With Echols not completely shutting the door on his recruitment, there appears to be a window of opportunity for the Ducks to get involved with him moving forward.

 

Florida Targets In-State WR

Florida already has one of the top in-state receivers in the 2017 cycle committed in 4-star Daquon Green.

Now, Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his staff have their sights set on another talented Sunshine State playmaker in 3-star athlete Jordan Pouncey—who received an offer from Florida last week:

The 6’2”, 185-pounder has more than 40 offers to his credit—with fellow SEC power Auburn offering him earlier this month.

However, with the Gators now in the running, the trajectory of Pouncey’s recruitment could change moving forward.

 

Florida State and Texas Offer Big-Time 2018 CB

Florida State and Texas battled over a few prospects in the 2016 cycle, and they are among the schools in the running for coveted 2017 standouts such as 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.

It appears that the Seminoles and the Longhorns will continue to battle for touted prospects in the future, as both titans offered 2018 corner Anthony Cook last week. 

The 6’0”, 168-pounder has more than 20 offers heading into the summer before his junior season at Lamar High School in Houston, Texas.

Alabama, Baylor, Clemson and LSU are among the other programs in the running for Cook in the early stages of his recruitment.

 

Nebraska After 2018 California RB

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and his staff have targeted the state of California hard since their arrival in Lincoln.

Last week, the Cornhuskers continued their gold rush into the Golden State by offered running back T.J. Pledger:

Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee and UCLA are among the schools who have offered the 5’9”, 188-pounder in the last few months.

As a sophomore, Pledger rushed for 1,300 yards and accounted for 26 touchdowns on the ground for Chaminade High School in West Hills, California.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

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

Projecting 8 College Football Players Who Will Soar Up NFL Draft Boards

Carson Wentz epitomized the term "late-rising prospect." The lead-up to the 2017 NFL draft will feature similar ascents—albeit not as meteoric.

Some college football players are stepping into larger roles this season or were overshadowed in the past, while a few others are established names who aren't yet consensus first-round talents. If the 2016 campaign goes as expected, though, that will change.

The list only includes draft-eligible prospects, although there is no guarantee the underclassmen highlighted will choose to forgo their final seasons of eligibility. But the following eight players could become darlings of the 2017 draft cycle.

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