NCAA Football News

Texas Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start

David Ash's progress toward a clean bill of health decrease the chances that we will see Jerrod Heard start a game in 2014, but the 4-star recruit is far from the only incoming Longhorn that could run with the first team.

"[Ash]'s not all the way back, but he's out there competing," a source told 247Sports.com's Jeff Howe. "He's throwing a little bit and looking good. He looks like he's going to be fine."

The health of Texas' fourth-year quarterback improves the outlook for the Longhorns and fans who are willing to wait for a little while on Heard. That said, it's too early to completely rule out seeing the future start as a freshman.

And for fans who are eager to get a look at Heard's 2014 classmates, there are three others with a chance to start in their first season on campus, listed in order most likely to least. 

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Nebraska Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

Nebraska football fans will be studying the depth chart, looking to see who will be making an impact. While the established stars look pretty clear, success in college football depends on a constant influx of talent. So a good measure of a program’s health is seeing what incoming freshmen will be able to compete for starting positions.

Now, I will admit to cheating a little on this particular assignment. I’m not limiting my discussion to true incoming freshman, but broadening the base to include players who will be new to Nebraska’s roster in 2014. Yeah, it’s not quite the barometer of Nebraska’s recruiting acumen. But if the idea is to discuss how new faces for Nebraska’s roster will help shape the team next year, this criteria should work just fine.

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SEC Football: 2014 Stat Predictions for Every New Starting QB

Whether SEC football can retain the mantle of the nation’s strongest conference will largely hinge upon the success of the nine new full-time starting quarterbacks.

Normally staunch SEC defenses watched helplessly over the past few years while high-profile quarterbacks such as Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray picked them apart.

This year those defensive coordinators might exact a measure of revenge while programs break in new starters at the game’s most important position.

At least eight, and possibly nine, SEC programs will feature new starting quarterbacks in 2014.

Some—like Missouri’s Maty Mauk and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson—have seen substantial game experience already but step into the primary starter role for the first time.

Other quarterback battles—like those at Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU, to name three—will continue when camps resume in August.

Today we attempt to predict the stats for the SEC’s new starting quarterbacks, which also means forecasting a starter in some cases.

One program that will be missing from this post will be Tennessee, which we are currently forecasting to return Justin Worley as the primary starter.

Since none of these quarterbacks have seen a full season of game action for one of these programs, it should go without saying that these projections are set for entertainment purposes only.

Here go our 2014 stat predictions for every new starting quarterback in the SEC.

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Power Ranking the Top 25 Elite 11 Alums of All Time

With the Elite 11 Finals starting alongside The Opening on July 5, it's time to be nostalgic. Without question, the Elite 11 camp is the most prestigious event and honor for a high school quarterback.

Some of the best passers of this generation are alums of the camp, and many of your favorite NFL teams and college programs have had an Elite 11 alum throw a touchdown pass for them. 

While arriving at just 25 for this list was a bit tough, it was done. A few field generals on this list are former No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, while a few others have a Heisman Trophy in their collections.

Plus, there are several interesting names on this list.

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Reassessing Notre Dame's Recruiting Situation After Commitment Frenzy

As the calendar turns to July, the structure of Notre Dame’s 2015 recruiting class is beginning to take shape.

Wednesday provided Notre Dame with both good news and bad news as the flurry of verbal commitments during the NCAA-mandated “dead period” in the recruiting calendar continued.

4-star New Lenox, Illinois, wide receiver Miles Boykin gave the Irish their third commitment in as many days and 17th overall when he chose Notre Dame over Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri.

The addition of Boykin comes on the heels of commitments from Warrington, Pennsylvania, running back Josh Adams on Monday and District Heights, Maryland, cornerback Ashton White on Tuesday.

The day wasn’t all positive for Notre Dame, as two consensus Top 100 targets from pipeline schools committed to Ohio State. Minnesota defensive end Jashon Cornell chose not to join fellow Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minnesota) products Michael Floyd and James Onwualu and attend Notre Dame. Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard’s high school, St. Xavier, is among the most represented high schools at Notre Dame. Like Cornell, however, Hilliard will also attend Ohio State.

Notre Dame has 10 seniors entering their final season this fall, while 14 others are seniors academically but are eligible for a fifth year in 2015. Among the junior class, only defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback KeiVarae Russell are realistic possibilities to enter the NFL draft after this season. The Irish are likely to enter the fall with 82 or 83 scholarship players.

Simple math and projections of fifth-year returnees show that the Irish can probably sign 20-23 players in this class and stay at or under the 85-scholarship limit. With 17 commits already received, Notre Dame will be very selective going forward with who will fill out the remaining spots in the class, currently ranked No. 7 in 247Sports’ composite rankings.

After Anaheim, California, quarterback Travis Waller committed to Oregon on Tuesday, the likelihood of the Irish passing on a quarterback in this class increased. While some interest remains in Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham, the Irish may wait until 2016 to sign another quarterback with Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer all eligible to return in 2015.

Tight end also is not a need after signing four in two years, but the Irish would like to land two more offensive skill-position players after not signing a running back and taking just two wide receivers in 2014. Adams and wide receivers Boykin, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton are presently the only skill-position commits.

Offensive line is likely complete with Tristen Hoge, Trevor Ruhland and Jerry Tillery. A fourth defensive lineman, preferably an end, is sufficient given the five signed in the 2014 class, and the Irish probably need just one more linebacker to join Josh Barajas in the 2015 contingent.

White became the third cornerback in the class, joining 4-star Shaun Crawford and 3-star Nick Coleman. Two safeties, Nicco Fertitta and Prentice McKinney, round out a solid secondary group.

With anywhere from three to six spots still available, Notre Dame will be looking for two skill-position players, one defensive lineman and one linebacker. After that, any other spots will likely be reserved for premium targets without any stipulations on position.

Missing on Cornell and Hilliard is not without significance, but going head-to-head in recruiting battles with Urban Meyer are more often than not going to be losing propositions, even for prospects with built-in connections to Notre Dame.

As always, recruiting is fluid. Will all 17 current commits sign with the Irish on Feb. 4’s national signing day? History would suggest no. But working with the current state of affairs, Notre Dame is in a strong position entering the home stretch in compiling its 2015 signing class.

Filling remaining needs, avoiding any last-minute flips (that never happens to Notre Dame, right?) and landing one or two blue chips are the goals for Brian Kelly and his staff over the next seven months. Now it’s time to buckle up and enjoy the wild and mostly bumpy ride that is the final stage of the college football recruiting cycle.

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Miles Boykin to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Notre Dame added one of the best wide receivers in the class of 2015 after securing the commitment of Miles Boykin on Wednesday.  

Boykin tweeted the news himself:

Many college football fans had been waiting with bated breath to hear Boykin's decision. Just a few days ago, he tweeted out that he would be revealing his decision on Wednesday night:

Then on Tuesday, he teased fans on social media by revealing that he was heading out to buy a hat for his commitment ceremony:

Although Boykin had narrowed his choices to 10 schools, Bleacher Report's Tyler Donahue believed that Notre Dame was the firm favorite:

247Sports lists Boykin as a wide receiver/tight end, but he's almost certainly going to be a wideout right away at the college level. The website ranks him 23rd in its composite rankings at the position and has him as the second-best prospect coming out of Illinois.

At 6'4" and 220 pounds, he has the body of a tight end but the speed and agility a team looks for in a possession receiver in the passing game.

Boykin is fast, running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds per his 247Sports profile page. He may not be the kind of receiver who is going to beat a lot of secondaries over the top once he continues to fill out his frame, but he'll break his share of big plays. Most of his damage will come in the middle of the field, though.

What he lacks in explosiveness, he more than makes up for with strength and power: Boykin can outmuscle opposing defensive backs. That will come in handy when corners try to press him at the line of scrimmage. Boykin still needs to work on his technique, but at the very least, he has the physical tools to avoid getting jammed.

With his height, he doesn't need to be a high leaper in order to outjump defenders, either. Early on, he'll at least have value inside the red zone.

Down the line, Boykin could transition to tight end and be an Eric Ebron-like hybrid. In order to do that, though, he'll have to bulk up quite a bit, which would rob him of some of his speed. Still, he'd be more than fast enough to create mismatches inside against linebackers and safeties.

Perhaps a move to tight end might be the best thing for both parties since versatile, athletic players at the position are harder to come by than possession-based wide receivers.

Whether it's at wideout or tight end, Boykin should grow into a reliable pass-catcher. He's not going to be one of the most exciting playmakers, but his consistency will make him a valuable piece on offense.

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Michigan Football: Over, Under Stat Projections for Devin Funchess in 2014

As a freshman, Devin Funchess showed glimpses of greatness. As a sophomore, he solidified himself as one of the Big Ten’s premier pass-catching threats. Today, Funchess, who is now known as one of the country’s best, could be months away from being a first-rounder in the 2015 NFL draft.

After being asked about the hype surrounding Funchess’ potential pro status and if it surprised him, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke tilted his head, paused for a brief moment, smiled and said: “No. He’s physically gifted, you know. But he has to keep maturing as a player…”

According to WalterFootball.com, the former Farmington Hills Harrison phenom is the No. 1-ranked draft-eligible tight end. However, as of last year, he’s now considered a wide receiver by collegiate standards.

Statistically, Funchess’ numbers have been on the rapid ascent. Of course, switching to wideout helped matters, but his experience is beginning to pay dividends.

In 2013, Funchess’ 49 catches were second to Jeremy Gallon’s 89. Now that Gallon’s gone, the offense, which returns just three receivers with 15 or more catches, will need to see next-level Funchess; Sunday Funchess—The real Devin Funchess. Judging by his progression, expecting anything short of a national-level, SI-cover-bound type of star would be aiming far too low.

This slideshow will examine key statistics such as receptions, total yards and, among others, touchdowns, before setting the over/under on what will probably be Funchess’ final year in Ann Arbor.

 

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The Opening 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

If you enjoy elite athletes going toe-to-toe on the football field, you're going to love "The Opening." Nike's annual showcase in Beaverton, Oregon, takes center stage during the second week of July, offering competitors a chance to test their skills against fellow high school standouts.

The 2015 class will be well-represented in Beaverton, as more than 150 players received invitations to attend. Most of these prospects rank among the most elite recruits in this cycle, so the spotlight will shine brightly with bragging rights on the line.

We examined the event roster, ranking participants based on past performances and collegiate potential. Here's a look at the top 25 players, who can count on plenty of competition from those left off the list.

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Texas Football: Why Quandre Diggs Will Be the Longhorns' X-Factor in 2014

The spotlight on the Texas Longhorns is brighter than it has been it many years. Head coach Charlie Strong has a lot of players on his roster who have the opportunity to be important contributors toward the Longhorns' success in his first season.

It's obvious that a lot of attention will be on senior defensive end Cedric Reed, who ESPN's Mel Kiper projects as the No. 1 defensive end in the 2015 NFL draft. But one player who will be an X-factor for Texas is cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Diggs earned a starting role as a true freshman in 2011, and his growth has been evident since his first season. 

He is a bit on the small side, measuring in at 5'10", but he plays like a much bigger guy and earned the nickname "Quandre the Giant" because of his giant playmaking abilities.

Seeing the field in all 39 games during his three seasons at Texas, Diggs set the bar high during his freshman season when he was awarded the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award and a variety of other All-American honors.

Opponents tried not to throw it in his direction as a sophomore, but he still managed to rack up a combined eight interceptions during his first two seasons.

In 2013, Diggs was moved to the nickel position, where he showed he could cause disruption in both the run and pass games. Although he did not gain an interception last season, Diggs managed to pick up 2.5 sacks and 10 pass breakups.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has commended Diggs for his toughness and said the defense needs more players with his attitude.

"Diggs has been a four-year player here," Bedford said. "He has that type of swagger, as a player would say. We need more guys with Diggs' attitude."

Whether he is playing at corner or nickelback, Diggs will always be a vocal leader for the defense, which is a trait he has carried since his freshman season. 

"Being a senior, it is my time to step up and be the leader for this team," Diggs said during spring practice. "Coach Strong has given us the reign to be senior leaders, and if we have something we need to say, we can say it."

It is typically the goal of defenses to force opponents to be one-dimensional. Strong and Bedford's defenses show a lot of aggressive traits and heavy rushes, which is part of the reason why Louisville was ranked as the No. 1 rush defense in the nation in 2013.

If the defensive line lives up to its hype and puts pressure on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, the backfield will have the opportunity to get turnovers. And that's where Quandre the Giant will have to step up and be the X-factor for the defense.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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USC Football Recruiting: How Much Does the Loss of Petite Hurt the Trojans?

On a day when the recruiting bag offered mixed results, USC found out that one of their primary tight end targets will be taking his talents to North Carolina to play for David Cutcliffe and his Duke Blue Devils.

Tyler Petite, a 6'5", 225-pound smooth-running prospect, was thought to be a Trojan lean but surprised many with his decision to go east to ply his trade.

With tight end being a need for this class, it begs the question of how badly the loss of Petite hurts in this recruiting cycle.

Well, it depends.

USC still has offers out to others, such as Scout.com 4-star prospects Will Gragg and Devonaire Clarington, though both would have to be considered long shots to sign with the Trojans.

There is one other possibility, though, and it comes in the form of Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a Rivals.com 4-star tight end who made a trip out to USC not too long ago.

Wheatley is a 6'6", 260-pound beast whose upside is almost off the charts. Blessed with a college ready body, nice hands and an NFL pedigree, Wheatley would look great in the Cardinal and Gold of USC.

As of this writing, Michigan probably has a lead in his recruiting, but the Trojans are also in the mix, and, to be certain, if I had a choice between Petite and Wheatley, I would take young Tyrone all day long.

Don't get me wrong, Petite is a nice player, but, after looking at his videos, the Trojans can do better, especially if they can land a guy like Wheatley.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Wheatley will sign with USC, and this is not a great year for prep tight ends, so the loss of Petite does hurt to some extent.

This is especially true given the depth of the unit in 2015, when only Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and incoming freshman Bryce Dixon will remain after Randall Telfer graduates after this year.

Still, the fact that Petite did not give USC a verbal commitment may work in their favor.

Recruits at the position will undoubtedly note that the Trojans are thin in the unit and that early playing time is likely to come their way.

And, with that in mind, the prospects of going west to play for USC should become even more attractive for those considering the Trojans.

So in the final analysis, the loss of Tyler Petite may not be a bad thing after all.

We'll know for sure after national signing day, right?

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

 

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10 College Football Players Who Can Best Help Their NFL Draft Status in 2014

The 2015 NFL draft is nearly a year away. Naturally, now's the time to start talking about who could help their draft stock next spring.

America's out of the World Cup. What else are we to do? These are indeed trying times. 

As you'll see, the players on this list are mostly highly regarded, but for one reason or another, have something that could hold them back in next year's draft. Maybe it was an off-field issue or a poor/injury-filled season in 2013. Or, perhaps a player just hasn't lived up to his potential.

The idea is that a big 2014 could alleviate any concerns and help that player's draft stock.

So which players could use a big season the most to help their draft stock in 2015? The answers are in the following slides. 

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LSU Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

LSU head coach Les Miles adores his 2014 recruiting class.  

Miles will not be bashful showing off his new toys right away. He said to expect at least 15 true freshmen to play this season, per Ross Dellenger of  The Advocate. For comparison's sake, the Tigers played 13 in 2013.

With the mass exodus of talent leaving the program, Miles will have to call on some freshmen to start. Here are the five players with the best chance to eventually crack the lineup this season. 

 

 

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Which SEC Powerhouse Gives Versatile OL Javon Patterson Best Shot at Success?

Javon Patterson, a 4-star offensive lineman, is one of the top recruits in the 2015 class and has yet to decide where he will play college football.

The 6'2" 290-pounder has a unique combination of size and athleticism that will make him a serious threat at the next level.

Bleacher Report's CFB Analyst Michael Felder broke down what school would provide the best fit for Patterson to excel at the next level.

Which SEC powerhouse will it be? Watch the above video to find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Wisconsin Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

Last season, the Wisconsin football team found themselves with more seniors than could start, leaving them with a bevy of experience and a dearth of spots for freshmen.  Cornerback Sojourn Shelton was the only one to crack the starting lineup as a freshman.

This season, the Badgers' collection of seniors have all graduated, leaving nearly every spot on defense up for grabs.  The question then becomes will anyone from the Badgers' highly-touted recruiting class step in and fill a starting role right away?

While I believe most freshmen will have a chance to see the field this season, it's unlikely more than a couple of them will start.  With that being said, let's take a look at which freshmen can crack the starting lineup this season.

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Florida State Football: Kareem Are Latest of 'Noles JUCO Success Stories

Few Florida State football players impressed Jimbo Fisher this spring more than junior college offensive lineman Kareem Are.

The 6'6'', 335-pound guard was quick to learn the Seminoles blocking schemes. Are, a former Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College standout, saw extensive work on the second team and also on the first-team offensive line with Tre' Jackson slowed by injury.

"I think Kareem Are has a chance to be one heck of a player," Fisher said in March. "I think he's doing a great job of coming along very nicely. I'm very pleased."

Are could be the next junior college prospect to make an impact at FSU. Three recent JUCO standouts—defensive back Mike Harris, defensive end Cornellius Carradine and defensive tackle Anthony McCloud—weren't on campus four years like most recruits, but they contributed from the start and are all in the NFL now.

Harris, who played at El Camino (California) Community College, didn't start at FSU in 2010 but saw significant playing time as a nickel corner and had 41 tackles while grabbing four interceptions (tied for the team lead). He started seven games as a senior and finished with 58 tackles and an interception. Harris is now in his third season with the Jacksonville Jaguars after making a combined 74 tackles in 2012 and '13.

Carradine, who played at Butler (Kansas) Community College, made 38 tackles and had 5.5 sacks as a backup in 2011. He stepped into the starting lineup in week 2 of 2012 after a foot injury to Brandon Jenkins, and Carradine was one of the ACC's top pass-rushers (11 sacks) and had 80 tackles. He was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers but missed his rookie season with a knee injury.

McCloud, who spent a season at Itawamba (Mississippi) Community College, was a backup in 2010 and then started 23 games in 2011 and '12. He had 84 career tackles at FSU. McCloud spent 2013 on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

The Seminoles also had fullback Debrale Smiley, a former Itawamba prospect who saw most of his FSU playing time at fullback. And offensive lineman Jacob Fahrenkrug, who played at North Dakota State College of Science, started 12 games in 2011 for FSU before moving into a reserve role.

FSU has a few other junior college prospects on the roster. Desmond Hollin only had four tackles and a sack as a junior in 2013 but will likely see more playing time in the defensive tackle rotation this fall. And offensive lineman Chad Mavety, a junior college prospect from Garden City (New York) Community College, told 247Sports' Josh Newberg (subscription required) that he was completing an online math class and would be in Tallahassee in July.

With four returning starters on the offensive line and senior center Austin Barron taking over for Bryan Stork, Are will likely see playing time on the second-team line. But if FSU has any injuries, Are is versatile enough to play guard or center and would be able to fill in capably.

"He is a big boy," FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett said on national signing day. "He will put you on your back. I really like this kid."

So do FSU's defensive linemen. Are may have been one of the new kids on campus, but he has already been a tough matchup for Mario Edwards Jr.

"He's definitely aggressive, that's one of the good things I've noticed about him," Edwards Jr. said. "He loves to pile you in the ground if you let him, and he has strong hands."

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of seminoles.com and NFL.com. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Have College Football Fans Become Completely Jaded to NCAA Investigations?

The most striking thing to come from the announcement that the NCAA will revive its investigation of North Carolina wasn't the news itself. It's that it wasn't perceived as news at all.

In fact, no one—outside of handful of North Carolina brass breaking back into the bourbon it only recently tucked away—seemed to care. Perhaps it's because we're sanctioned-out, or perhaps our perception of the investigated (or the investigators) is so skewed, so far gone, that we no longer know how to feel when handed matters like this.

We are, in many ways, numb to the process, for better or for worse. Make no mistake about it, however; this is news. Or at least, it used to be.

The original investigation into UNC—which began in 2011—centered on academic misconduct. The fallout from Round 1 of the NCAA's involvement included a postseason ban for the 2012 football season, vacated wins, a reduction of 15 total scholarships and three years of probation (which the school is still serving).

The university also took on the academic criticism head-on, launching an independent investigation focused on the "academic irregularities." Ken Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, recently provided an update on the ongoing investigation, a reminder of sorts that it is a work in progress and will be free of university influence when completed.

Even before it was able to peruse Wainstein's final report, however, the NCAA announced on Monday that it was reopening its investigation in a statement released on the NCAA website.

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was cited by the Division I Committee on Infractions in 2012 for violations in its athletics program, including academic misconduct. As with any case, the NCAA enforcement staff makes clear it will revisit the matter if additional information becomes available. After determining that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might be willing to speak with the enforcement staff, the NCAA has reopened its investigation. The enforcement staff is exploring this new information to ensure an exhaustive investigation is conducted based on all available information. The NCAA will not comment further to protect the integrity of the investigation.

This surprising revelation hit social media mid-Monday. After a flurry of tweets from college football writers and fans, discussion hit a wall shortly after. The update that the NCAA would conduct a major investigation into a major program came and went without causing more than ripple.

Regular programming resumed.

Two years ago, when we were less numb to the process, that wouldn't have been the case. When news of the Miami, Ohio State and USC sanctions hit the wire—and the NCAA stuck its flag in the ground to say it would stay a while longer—the sporting world stopped spinning on its axis.

Granted, these were high-profile teams, and the issues featured high-profile players. Yahoo Sports' lengthy investigation into the Hurricanes' copious amount of program disobedience read more like a feature film than a few years with a football team.

But over time, regardless of the severity, our intrigue in these cases has slowly faded. And the Miami situation, in many ways, could be the catalyst for our disinterest.

It took the NCAA 798 days to reach a decision on sanctions following Charles Robinson's detailed report. In that time, information had to be tossed after the NCAA obtained it illegally, and the NCAA had to launch an investigation into its own investigation. This undoubtedly hindered the time and delivery of the decision.

Miami applied some self-imposed sanctions on itself while it waited—most notably, sitting out two bowl games—and the NCAA basically offered up a "you're good" when it was finally down with its assessment.

That case has single-handedly altered the way we view enforcement. The NCAA, by its own admission, realizes a dramatic overhaul is necessary on the front. President Mark Emmert alluded to this very notion on the stand when he testified in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit a few weeks ago. This lawsuit, which could alter collegiate athletics in its entirety, is also playing a role in our response.

After a stretch of turbulent PR, why should we care about another enforcement case when the NCAA is seemingly fighting for its life in court? The stakes have changed, the tables have turned, and the NCAA is viewed profoundly different than it once was.

While the situation at Chapel Hill could turn nasty if once-quiet voices decide to speak up, recent history tells us that nothing is a given. After all, here we are, ready for another cycle with North Carolina. It's the lack of defined checkmarks that make this difficult to comprehend.

But perhaps it's something more, something we can't truly define. It's not as if we endorse academic wrongdoings. These are serious allegations on the spectrum of university misconduct, certainly more so than the wide-ranging "violations" that have been addressed in recent years.

It's that we're simply tired of caring.

The infraction cases are exhausting, regular reminders of the flaws in the sport and an overall lack of procedure. Instead of emotionally investing ourselves in the unsettling details, it's become much easier to push it aside, keep far away from behind the curtain and wait for actual football.

This callous, wave-the-white-flag approach is a product of overexposure. We've been handed an industrial-sized serving of Novocain, and the effects simply haven't worn off. 

From the players, to the schools, to the fractured system watching over it all, the press releases and press conferences are no longer newsworthy. They are almost assumed. 

We should be more interested in the latest developments at North Carolina, and perhaps—eventually—we will be. For now, however, we'll go about our football lives, business as usual, waiting for the actual games to return.

It's what we've been trained to do.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Notre Dame Can Move on After Missing on Jashon Cornell & Justin Hilliard

It wasn't unexpected, but that doesn't mean it didn't hurt.

Notre Dame finished runners-up in the recruitment of defensive end Jashon Cornell and linebacker Justin Hilliard on Wednesday morning, missing on two of their top defensive prospects. According to ESPN Big Ten, Cornell and Hilliard both pledged to Ohio State and Urban Meyer, a huge recruiting victory for the Buckeyes. 

The Irish had both prospects on campus multiple times. They hosted Hilliard two weekends ago, where he was spotted riding around on Brian Kelly's golf cart. While Cornell's Cretin-Derham Hall High School has produced multiple players, including Irish greats Ryan Harris and Michael Floyd, and his cousin James Onwualu plays on the current roster, he just never came around to the recruiting pitch that worked so well in the past. 

There's no question that missing on two priority targets stings. But in case you've been under a rock the past month, the Irish recruiting machine is rolling along with or without the dynamic duo, and don't expect it to stop for Kleenex to dry the tears now.

Since Memorial Day weekend, the Irish have doubled the size of their 2015 recruiting class, collecting the pledges of eight targets, including six on the defensive side of the ball. Keeping the focus on stocking new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's coffers, the Irish staff has eyes on several elite replacements for both Cornell and Hilliard. 

At defensive end, Notre Dame's still after a handful of elite prospects. That's after landing Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill, Andrew Trumbetti and Jhonny Williams in the last recruiting cycle, all freshmen who profile at the same position.

Top among this group is Florida's Byron Cowart. A 5-Star prospect who's Rivals.com's No. 1 player in the country, Cowart visited campus in June and plans to have an official visit for October. Another top Irish prospect at defensive end is Georgia's Austin Bryant. After attending the Irish Invasion camp, Bryant plans on having an official visit this fall as well. 

It's no easy task pulling elite talent out of the Southeast. (The Irish staff is also making a charge at Alabama commitment Mekhi Brown.) But Notre Dame's also got eyes on the West Coast, with California pass-rushers Keisean Lucier-South and Joseph Wicker also planning official visits. 

Lucier-South is among the nation's elite, and Notre Dame will battle USC, UCLA and Michigan for his services. Wicker's a bigger body like Cornell who could slide inside or play on the strong side. Utah's Porter Gustin is another player who could be a great edge-rusher for the Irish. He'll be among a handful of Irish targets at Nike's The Opening. 

Finding a linebacker to replace Hilliard might not take long, as Indianapolis' Asmar Bilal looks like an Irish lean. Over 90 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions have him heading to South Bend to play college football. 

Another top target for the Irish on the interior is Florida's Tevon Coney. One of the headliners at the Irish Invasion camp, Coney has offers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn but plans to get back to South Bend for an official visit, seeing clearly the opportunity for playing time in front of him. 

Again, linebacker was another position that the Irish recruited hard in 2014, with top signee Nyles Morgan joined by early Irish target Greer Martini and Nile Sykes. And as the prototype changes as VanGorder's defense demands different skill sets than the previous scheme, expect the staff to see what happens with Bilal and Coney before extending any new offers. 

Since Kelly and his staff came to South Bend, they've chased after some elite prospects. While they've landed their fair share, more than a few have gotten away. That's life in the big leagues. 

So while Irish fans are likely smarting over the loss of two prospects that appeared perfect fits for Notre Dame, it's back to the grind for the Irish staff. And it won't take long for Notre Dame to get back on track.

 

All recruitment information courtesy of 247Sports.

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The One Unit That Will Decide Auburn's College Football Playoff Fate

Robenson Therezie had it in his fingertips.

In his first season as the "star" in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense, the hybrid safety/linebacker and the rest of the Auburn secondary had a national title within their reach, containing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the rest of the Florida State wide receivers for the majority of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game following the 2013 season.

Then the fourth quarter happened, and one final drive where it all became unraveled.

Cornerback Chris Davis and safety Ryan Smith missed tackles on wide receiver Rashad Greene, as he scampered 49 yards down the sideline to set up the game-winning score—a perfect strike from Winston to Kelvin Benjamin that Davis couldn't get to.

Thirteen seconds remained on the clock. Therezie and the rest of the Auburn secondary aren't going to forget about them.

WE FELL 13 SECONDS SHORT... EVERY MORNING I WAKE UP AND THINK ABOUT THIS.. WONT HAPPEN AGAIN.. #GRIND#TOGETHER#AUpic.twitter.com/4XWwuVTlXj

— ROBENSON THEREZIE (@cadilac_34) February 27, 2014

The pass defense that finished next-to-last in the SEC (257.7 YPG) showed up in the final frame of the national title game, and it cost the Tigers a title.

Davis and Smith are gone, but Therezie is back along with boundary corner Jonathon Mincy (assuming his recent arrest doesn't cost him too much time) and safety Jermaine Whitehead. The trio has lot of help alongside them and, perhaps more importantly, depth.

Josh Holsey is back after injuring his ACL last year, and will likely push for playing time at boundary safety along with junior college signee Derrick Moncrief. Holsey could also move around to boundary corner or "star" if needed according to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, via AL.com's Joe A. Erickson.

"Josh is big enough to play boundary safety and big enough to play star," Johnson told Erickson this spring. "Boundary corner, that’s the really critical spot in our roster. Mincy has made a good transition so far, but Josh may end up moving back to boundary corner if we have to move Mincy around. We’ve got a lot of flexibility and moving parts."

Trovon Reed, once a 5-star wide receiver prospect, moved over to cornerback for his senior season on the Plains and played well as a starter in the spring game. He may not stay as a starter, though, because T.J. Davis, Jonathan Jones and three 4-star freshmen—Kalvaraz Bessent, Nick Ruffin and the versatile Stephen Roberts—could all push for playing time.

In just one offseason, Auburn has found depth and created flexibility in a secondary that lacked both during the SEC championship season of 2013.

These guys don't have to be great. They have to be opportunistic. Auburn's going to move the football and put up points, and in this day and age of fast-break football, simply putting your offense in a good position once or twice a game changes the landscape of the game entirely.

They can do that. The Tigers notched 13 interceptions last year, which placed them in the middle of the SEC pack (seventh). That was nearly good enough to get the job done, and that was without the depth and flexibility that the Tigers have in 2014.

Plus, they'll get help up front. 

Auburn's defensive line is loaded with talent and, like the secondary, is remarkably flexible. If the Tigers want to drop defensive end Elijah Daniel down to tackle in passing situations, they can do that. If they want to move defensive tackle Gabe Wright to defensive end to create mismatches, they can do that. Auburn will be able generate pressure with four, which will be a huge benefit on the back end.

The Tigers will be in the mix for a College Football Playoff berth regardless, and if the secondary takes just a small step forward, it will go a long way toward securing one of those four coveted spots.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Ranking Big Ten Football Teams Now That Maryland, Rutgers Are Official Members

Maryland and Rutgers became official members of the Big Ten Conference Tuesday afternoon, pushing the total number of programs in the league up to 14.

With their arrival, the conference will realign its divisions from the farcically named Legends and Leaders to the geographically based East and West. It joins the ACC and SEC as the third power conference with 14 overall members and two seven-team divisions.

Because of this official transition—and even more so now that the season is less than two months away!—now seems like a fitting time to take stock of where each football program stands heading into an important Big Ten season.

Based on how they performed last season (and in previous seasons) and whom they return in 2014, here is a power ranking of all 14 current Big Ten members. This does not take the future into account, and it disregards the schedule. It is not a ranking of which teams are most likely to win the conference but an order of which teams would stand the best chance against another on a neutral field.

Can't wait to look like an idiot for these come December!

 

Note: All references to F/+ rating courtesy of the numbers at Football Outsiders. All recruiting information via the 247Sports composite rankings.

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What Programs Like USC and Texas Can Learn from Oklahoma's New Uniforms

Safety isn't guaranteed for tradition. Not even a little bit. 

Oklahoma, one of college football's perennial powerhouses, has had a classic uniform that went hand-in-hand with those of Texas, USC, Penn State and Alabama. The Sooners will continue to sport the traditional crimson and cream, but have added an alternate uniform to their wardrobe. 

The university released a photos and videos of the new unis, which feature a pair of new helmets, jerseys and pants. It's not a huge departure from the traditional look, and the unis will only be used in a supplementary role, but Oklahoma has nevertheless joined the uniform party.  

The reaction on social media has been amazing. Yes, it may be fueled by the offseason, but opinions on the new unis have been polarizing. If nothing else, it gets folks talking about the Sooners in July. 

In the end, what matters is that the players love them. And this sort of thing appeals to recruits. 

"I think recruits are always excited about uniforms, helmets and any of the looks that you might put on the field," said head coach Bob Stoops in a statement through OU's website. "(The additional uniforms) won’t be something we do constantly, but it will be a nice changeup and will be positive in recruiting, with our players and with our fans.”

Players and recruits simply don't view tradition through the same lens as fans do. Unless a recruit grew up in an Oklahoma household, he probably has little interest in the Bud Wilkinson era of the 1950s. While the unis pay homage to the program's history, the bottom line is they also look sharp. 

That's all that really matters to the players. 

As George Schroeder of USA Today tweeted, the time has come for other traditional programs to tinker with their threads too. 

It's not necessarily about abandoning ship on tradition. It's about adapting to what's hot. Alternate uniforms are in, and players from Texas to Minnesota enjoy things that are new and different. 

The changes can be subtle, like Alabama's Nike Pro Combat uniforms in 2010, or they can be louder, like Notre Dame's and Michigan's in 2011. 

It matters little if a school has a deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas. If programs like Notre Dame or Oklahoma have shown us anything, it's that no classic uniform is safe from change. But, as long as the players like it, that's all that should matter. 

 

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

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