NCAA Football News

Texas Football: Predicting the Starters for Each Longhorns Position in 2016

Down seven starters, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff enter a crucial 2016 season needing his recruits to continue their stellar play from last season.

Losing almost a third of their starters hurts on the surface, but the Longhorns should feel lucky. They lack obvious backups at only two spots and will keep most of the two-deep from last season. 

If anything, this is an opportunity to hand more responsibility over to Strong's 2015 recruiting class, which was last season's bright spot.

Unfortunately, the quarterback battle continues to be the biggest question mark for this team entering the offseason. If that doesn't get settled, there's little the rest of the team can do to make up for it.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With less than three weeks remaining until national signing day, Feb. 3, programs around the nation are scrambling to fill in the last few spots in their recruiting classes.

Included among that group is Oklahoma, who heads into the stretch run with 16 players committed in its 2016 class.

Last week, Sooners head coach Bob Stoops and his staff traveled to Texas to offer 4-star receiver Quartney Davis out of Langham Creek High School in Houston.

The 6’2 ½”, 181-pounder was once committed to Texas A&M before reopening his recruitment last month.

The Aggies are still contenders for Davis—who rates as the nation’s No. 27 receiver and the No. 145 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

Oklahoma State and UCLA are also in the mix with the Lone Star State playmaker and are tentatively scheduled to receive official visits from him.

However, as Taylor Hamm of GigEm247Sports notes, Davis may switch up his visit schedule—with Ole Miss and Texas A&M fighting to land his final two officials.

The Sooners are currently scheduled to host him next weekend (Jan. 22). If he makes that trip, Oklahoma will be firmly in the mix to land this pledge. 

The battle for Davis, who hauled in 88 passes for 1,862 yards and 18 touchdowns over his final two prep seasons, figures to be one storyline worth watching down the stretch.

 

USC Offers 2016 Louisiana DB

Despite occupying one of the nation’s most fertile talent bases in its home state, USC has shown a willingness through the years to recruit top prospects who reside in the SEC’s backyard. 

Last week, Trojans head coach Clay Helton and his staff went to Louisiana to offer 3-star athlete Clifford Chattman of McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans.

The 6’4”, 175-pounder, who could play safety or linebacker at the next level, decommitted from an early pledge to in-state power LSU back in November.

Chattman has official visits scheduled for Arizona (Jan. 15), Florida State (Jan. 22) and Texas A&M (Jan. 29). 

However, the Trojans could become a major factor in Chattman’s recruitment if they can get him to bump one of those visits in favor of taking a trip to Los Angeles before signing day.

 

Michigan Offers 2017 Florida DE

A big part of Michigan’s No. 2 recruiting class in 2016 has been the work that head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have done in the state of Florida—with five Sunshine State products currently slated to land in Ann Arbor. 

With that success in mind, the Wolverines figure to be a big factor with the state’s top rising 2017 prospects.

Last week, Michigan offered 3-star defensive end Guy Thomas.

Thomas, who racked up 54 tackles including 15 for loss and 14 sacks last season at Columbus High School in Miami, holds early offers from programs such as Alabama, Florida State and Iowa State.

The Wolverines could become a factor for Thomas if they can get him on campus during the spring or summer.

 

Florida Offers Brother of Star FSU RB

At one point in his recruitment, current Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook was committed to Florida. 

While Cook has found stardom in Tallahassee, the Gators will try to entice his brother—class of 2019 running back James Cook—to make Gainesville his home at the next level.

The Gators offered the younger Cook last week.

Alabama, FSU, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State are among the other schools that have already offered Cook—who figures to become a national recruit in the coming months.

 

Best of the Rest

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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

Notre Dame Football: Predicting the Starters for Each Irish Position in 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We’re within two months of the start of spring ball for Notre Dame football, and there’s still plenty to sort out before then.

But just over two weeks removed from the end of the 2015 season, let’s look forward and project Notre Dame’s possible starters for 2016.

Of course, this is one outlook and circumstances will change with injuries, outgoing players and incoming freshmen.

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Ranking Every Power Five College Football Conference by Head Coaches

The 2015-16 college football coaching carousel has officially ground to a halt. When Texas-San Antonio hired LSU assistant Frank Wilson Friday, the final FBS head coaching vacancy was filled. The NFL also filled its final head coaching opening when the Tennessee Titans hired Mike Mularkey as their new leader.

With 27 vacancies now filled, it’s unlikely, barring a surprise, that we’ll have any more head coaching openings this winter. The college landscape has shifted somewhat, and it’s a good time to look at how each Power Five league shakes out following the changes. So that’s what we’re doing. The leagues are ranked by the collective power of their head coaches, with factors like recent success and national titles won factored in. Here we go...

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: Star Athletes Discuss Top Schools, Key Official Visits

In two weeks, college football recruits will put ink to paper and go from "commit" to "signee" status. National signing day is Feb. 3, and between now and then, college coaches will be on the grind finalizing their 2016 recruiting classes.

With the dead period now over, look for college coaches to go all-in on these athletes who are taking January official visits.

 

Alabama visit on deck for 5-star Juarez

Torrance, California, 5-star prospect Mique Juarez prefers playing outside linebacker, but playing inside linebacker isn't beneath him. Particularly if it means getting on the field early.

As the nation's No. 2 outside linebacker in the 2016 class, Juarez is preparing for his last scheduled official visit this weekend. Juarez, who tweeted his top three of UCLA, Ole Miss and Alabama last Wednesday, will visit Alabama this weekend.

Juarez visited Ole Miss in November. He visited Washington and Oklahoma in December. Ole Miss and UCLA have been battling for the lead, but this weekend's visit could be very beneficial for an Alabama program fresh off winning a national championship last Monday.

Or could it?

"To be honest, I'm not really looking for a team that always wants to win," Juarez said. "I'm looking for a place with the type of character that always wants to improve on and off the field—not just football. School and education is important, too."

"I'm trying to be coached in the proper way, but I'm also looking out for my future with my family," he added. "Football is going to always be there, but if football doesn't work out, I'll have a good education out of it."

Juarez, who said he will announce on national signing day, said he can get everything he wants out of his top three schools. He's looking to earn a degree in either kinesiology or business.

 

WR Fitzpatrick visiting Pac-12 school

Waterford, Michigan, 4-star wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick was scheduled to take an official visit to Mississippi State this past weekend. Unfortunately, he had to miss the trip because of illness.

That's bad news for Mississippi State, but it could mean good news for Arizona. Fitzpatrick told Bleacher Report on Sunday that the Wildcats will get his final official visit this weekend. Schools like Nebraska, Louisville and Indiana are considered front-runners in Fitzpatrick's process, but he's built a solid relationship with the Arizona coaches to where the Wildcats could be a dark horse.

"I just want to go and check everything out on the campus," said Fitzpatrick, a top-300 player who has nearly 20 reported offers. "I love everything about them [Arizona]. I've been close to their staff since they were at Michigan. I just want to feel comfortable with their campus when I visit."

Fitzpatrick visited Nebraska in November and Indiana in December. He was considering an official to Louisville next weekend but is planning on staying home to prepare for a signing day announcement.

 

5-star Jack Jones: Playing both sides matters

Long Beach, California, 5-star athlete Jack Jones released his top five of Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC last month. That top five still remains intact.

And after a successful official visit to Alabama over the weekend, the question now is: What's next?

Jones took officials to Arizona State and Texas A&M in September and October, respectively. With the Alabama visit in the books, he still has two visits available—if he chooses to use them—with two weekends left before national signing day.

Whatever Jones does in the next couple of days, he knows what he wants from his future college home. Even though he had eight tackles and an interception playing cornerback in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jones said he wants to be used as the super-versatile option to where he can benefit offense, defense and special teams.

"I really want to play both sides of the ball until they tell me I can't anymore," Jones said of his five finalists. "Consistently talking, they all have a program I'm looking into in college. They said I could play both sides of the ball, and they said they'd give me an opportunity to play as a freshman."

Jones is now ranked the nation's No. 3 cornerback after being ranked as an athlete for several months. He can still be beneficial at several skill-position spots, including cornerback, wide receiver, Wildcat quarterback and kickoff and punt return specialist.

 

Stanford pledge meets famous on-campus figure

McAllen, Texas, running back Trevor Speights committed to Stanford on Dec. 7. He received word over the weekend that he was officially admitted into the university. The icing on the cake: getting to meet one of Stanford's most well-known faces.

Speights and his family met political scientist, diplomat and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a return visit to Stanford. Rice holds several positions in and around Stanford's faculty, but she also teaches a political science course that Speights is very interested in.

"It was a great experience. She talked a lot about the government," Speights said of Rice. "I think I'm going to sign up to take her class first semester. Stanford is so amazing. It has so many things most schools can't offer."

Speights is excited about the opportunities Stanford will bring academically. Athletically, he's looking forward to becoming an impact player for coach David Shaw and his staff. Speights rushed for nearly 10,000 yards and 114 touchdowns in his high school career, including almost 3,200 yards and 50 touchdowns his senior season.

 

Sleeper alert: Can Northern Iowa keep Kansas POY?

It's around this time of year when 11th-hour commits become commonplace. It's also around this time where sleepers get last-minute offers. Christian Jegen is hoping to be an example by Feb. 3.

Jegen, a 6'2", 192-pound athlete from Shawnee, Kansas, was named the Kansas Gatorade Football Player of the Year after recording 65 catches for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns as a wide receiver for Mill Valley High School. He also rushed for 824 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensively, Jegen finished the year with 29 tackles and two interceptions at the cornerback position.

Jegen verbally committed to Northern Iowa on Sunday, but with a few days left until national signing day, don't be surprised if FBS programs try to sway him. He has an official visit set to Iowa next weekend, and schools like Kansas and UNLV have shown interest.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Projecting Every Big Ten Team's Quarterback for 2016 Season

When looking at the landscape of the Big Ten, there may not be a more interesting dynamic in the league than the current state of the conference's quarterbacks.

With nine returning starters and five players seeing the first significant playing time of their college careers, the Big Ten will feature a blend of well-known names and new players to know behind center in 2016. In some cases, incumbent starters will be looking to build on what they did in previous years, while others are simply looking to establish themselves as their teams' undisputed starters.

Not all quarterback battles in the conference have even begun yet, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the coming season. With that in mind, let's take a look at who projects as each Big Ten team's starting quarterback in 2016.

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College Football Teams That Will Have the Most Hype-Filled Offseason

College football has the longest offseason in major American sports, and with so much extra time to kill—and no meaningful results—we spend much of that time engaging in hype.

The elements of hyped teams can vary. For one, they couldn't have been too good the previous season. They need to be good-to-average and ready to leap to another level. And there needs to be reason to think they will.

Those reasons include ending the season on a high note, returning key players (namely quarterbacks) and enjoying the services of a respected head coach (especially one in his first three seasons).

Sound off below and let us know whom you would add.

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Nick Saban vs. Bear Bryant: Who Is the Best Alabama Coach?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Three questions.

That’s how long it took for Nick Saban to be asked about his legacy in comparison to Paul W. “Bear” Bryant's after winning his fifth national championship last Monday night.

Under different circumstances, it probably would have been the first question, but with the way things unfolded during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, where the University of Alabama survived its thriller against Clemson, 45-40, the onside kick and coaching his last game with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart opened the postgame press conference.

Saban skillfully responded: “I really haven't thought about it,” but his place in history is something the rest of the college football world has started to extensively debate, along with if the Crimson Tide's ongoing dynasty is the best the sport has ever seen. With Alabama having won an unprecedented four of the last seven national titles, it just might be.

The coaches are from different eras and the game has changed tremendously over the years, but Bryant and Saban are the only ones who have won at least five national championships during the poll era (since 1936). The school claims six for Bryant and four for Saban, who won his first at LSU.

When it comes to iconic status, historical significance and longevity, there’s no comparison between them. Bryant is one of the most beloved figures in Southern history, whose status transcends sports. 

“I don't think there's any question that there's probably only a few people in college athletics history who have had as great an impact, maybe John Wooden at UCLA,” Saban said about Bryant on what would have been his 100th birthday, September 11, 2013.

“I don't think you can really kind of put words into what it really has meant and how it has affected the University of Alabama.”

It’s when you look at their accomplishments that Saban starts to step forward. 

For the purposes of this article and consistency, the following figures are for the consensus national champions—meaning if there’s a split title, only the team that the majority of ranking services consider the titleholder is considered.

That removes from this discussion Alabama’s 1973 championship, when the coaches’ poll submitted its final rankings before Alabama lost the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

The timing of the Associated Press Poll was also instrumental in Alabama claiming the 1964 and 1965 titles, with one held before the bowls and the other after, and 1973 was one of three split national titles for Bryant (although, yes, on face value, the undefeated 1966 team probably should have been No. 1 in at least one poll). The others were 1965 and 1978.

Saban’s only split title was in 2003, when the Associated Press voted Southern California No. 1. However, LSU won the game that mattered most, against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and took home the crystal football.

But here’s a snapshot of how a good of a coach Bryant was:

From 1946 to 1953, his teams enjoyed eight straight winning seasons to go with appearances in the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls, and he captured his first Southeastern Conference title in 1950. His team capped that season off with an invitation to face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, which may have seemed like a looming execution considering Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners were riding a 31-game winning streak.

Only Bryant came out on top, 13-7...with Kentucky.

Yes, the Wildcats, who have since won just one other SEC title, in 1976, and that was shared with Georgia. Bryant also made his mark at Texas A&M and was closing in on the 1957 national championship when the Tide lured him away and he made his famous statement: “Mama called, and when Mama calls, then you just have to come running.”

During his amazing 25 years with the Crimson Tide, Bryant lost just 46 games compared to 232 wins. No program in the nation won more than Alabama in the 1960s and 1970s, as he’s considered the only college football coach to successfully lead not one but two dynasties.

"He wasn't just a coach," former Southern California coach John McKay once said. "He was the coach."

“Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach in college football in terms of what he accomplished, what his legacy is,” Saban once said. “I think the biggest thing that impacts me is how many peoples' lives he affected in a positive way, players who played for him, because they all come back and say how he affected their life.

“They don't come back and say, ‘We won a championship in '78, '79, '61,’ whenever it was. They come back and say how he affected their lives. There's a lot of Bear Bryant stories that I've learned a lot from, that have made me a better person.”

Now Saban is taking what Bryant helped build to new heights. Consider the following:

• Alabama played nine teams that were ranked this season, the most ever of any national champion.

The most ranked opponents that Bryant’s championship teams faced were five in 1978. His 1941 and 1965 teams only faced one each. Only three of his title teams faced an opponent ranked in the top five (1964, 1965 and 1978), and none played more than one. 

• The victory against Clemson was Saban’s sixth against an opponent ranked No. 1. No one else in college football history has more than four (Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson and Jack Mollenkopf). In all his years, Bryant’s teams only beat three.

• Alabama extended its streak of being No. 1 at some point in a season to an incredible eight years.

He’s done all that while not only participating in the Southeastern Conference but in the game’s toughest division.

With each of the seven teams finishing above .500, the SEC West went a combined 65-27 this season for an incredible winning percentage of 70.6 (and average record of 9.3-3.9). Of those 27 losses, 21 were to other division opponents. It went 13-2 against East Division teams and 31-4 versus everyone else—one bowl loss and the other three in non-conference play.

Every team in the division was ranked at some point of the season, a first for the sport, and during a time when the spotlight has never shined brighter on college football or Alabama. There are more games, an 85-man scholarship limit and recruiting has become bigger than ever.

Besides, have you seen Alabama’s massive trophy case for individual awards lately? The number of players who have been named All-Americans? The recent success in the NFL draft?

Saban stands alone in all of those areas in addition to annual recruiting rankings.

“He's one of the greatest coaches of all time in my opinion, in a lot of guys' opinions,” junior tight end O.J. Howard said after being named the offensive MVP of the National Championship Game. “Just to be able to play for him is truly a great accomplishment, a blessing, and I think Coach Saban is going to go down as one of the greatest of all time.”

Choosing between Bryant and Saban is like trying to pick between your two favorite ice creams—there probably is no wrong answer. To many, the preference is a generational thing, like Gene Stallings telling The Opening Kickoff on WNSP-FM 105.5 (h/t AL.com) that he still gives a nod to his former friend and colleague. 

But Saban's five trumps Bryant's sort-of six, as this latest title put him over the top. For now, it may be that Saban is No. 1 and Bryant is 1A in the hierarchy of college football's most successful coach, but the gap can only grow from here because Saban's legacy is still a work in progress.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer and author of Nick Saban vs. College Football. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Projecting Every SEC Team's Quarterback for 2016 Season

The College Football Playoff National Championship Game is in the books, and national signing day is still around the corner. However, it's never too early to start looking forward toward the 2016 Southeastern Conference football season.

For the third straight season, quarterback battles will dominate headlines around the south, with only two jobs—Ole Miss and Tennessee—etched in stone.

Who will be the starting quarterback for each SEC team when toe meets leather in early September?

Our picks based on talent, compatibility and experience are in this slideshow.

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Michigan Football: Predicting the Starters for Each Wolverines Position in 2016

Returning starters are a primary reason the Michigan football program is already a trendy College Football Playoff and Big Ten Championship pick for the 2016 season.

The Wolverines return eight starters on the offense as well as six starters and six key rotational pieces defensively.

Many names—like Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis—are obvious starters, but Michigan will have a couple of new and important faces in the lineup.

Broken down by position, this list identifies leading candidates, top competition and possible developments before offering a final prediction for 2016 starters.

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Predicting Every Power 5 All-Conference Team for 2016 College Football Season

College football's annual exodus of talent, either through graduation or players turning pro early, leaves behind major voids for nearly every team in the country. It also does a number on the all-conference teams each season.

These teams honor the best players in a given conference and place added emphasis on how they performed against conference rivals. Some are chosen by the coaches, others by members of the media, but in either case, it's a reflection of who stood out most during the season.

It's never too early to predict who might get recognized during the 2016 season. Check out our picks for who will be make the all-conference teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.

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B/R CFB Recruiting 200 : Top 6 Dual-Threat QBs

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the 2016 class. Here, we present the Top Dual-Threat Quarterbacks.

We've seen mobile quarterbacks dominate college football at different stages, with versatile athletes such as Michael Vick, Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson leading their teams to national championship games. These players have the ability to obliterate defenses through the air and on the ground.

Plenty of high school quarterbacks can run or pass with authority, but few are known for their high-level consistency in both aspects of the game. Here's a look at the most highly regarded dual-threat recruits of 2016, graded on arm strength, accuracy, pocket presence, mobility and the ability to orchestrate an offensive attack.

 

All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.

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A.J. Epenesa to Iowa: Hawkeyes Land 5-Star DE Prospect

Class of 2016 defensive end prospect A.J. Epenesa announced on Twitter that he has committed to the University of Iowa on Sunday.  

Per 247Sports, Epenesa is the No. 1 rated strong-side defensive end in the nation.

Coming out of Edwardsville, Illinois, Epenesa is also the top prospect in his state as well as the 13th-ranked recruit in the nation. 

At 6'5", 230 pounds, the high school senior already has the stature of a fully grown man. His physique creates a hulking presence on the defensive line, and he uses it to his advantage. 

Epenesa isn't the quickest defensive end out there, but he makes up for it with superior strength and athleticism. He is able to shed blocks with ease and has shown the kind of football sense needed to diagnose plays early. 

Iowa gets its second defensive end commit in Epenesa along with 3-star in-state recruit Coy Kirkpatrick. Epenesa is the Hawkeyes' fifth 2017 commit so far, per 247Sports. But Epenesa is Iowa's greatest prize so far, as the other four are 3-star recruits. 

HawkeyeNation.com's Rob Howe liked what he saw from Epenesa:

2015 was quite a season for the Hawkeyes, who rose through the ranks of college football and enjoyed a brief spell as a top-four team. They had a chance to compete for a national championship in the College Football Playoff but fell one win short in the Big Ten title game to Michigan State. 

Getting 5-star-caliber players like Epenesa will ensure that the Hawkeyes continue to build on the momentum they gained last year as they try to take that next step toward a national championship.

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2016 NFL Draft: Why Jalen Ramsey Is the Next Eric Berry

The NFL features many of the best athletes in the world competing on the highest level of professional football. The standard for playing certain positions is higher than others based on the supply of elite playmakers.

Quarterback and safety are two positions that stand out the most as lacking quality.

Rarely do teams have the chance to acquire a top-end talent at safety. The last elite free safety prospects to come out of college were University of Tennessee's Eric Berry in 2010, when he was selected fifth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs and Earl Thomas out of the University of Texas at Austin, who went 14th overall to the Seattle Seahawks.

Florida State Seminoles defensive back Jalen Ramsey has the ability to be as good as either of those players.

The versatile playmaker has experience at safety, outside cornerback and nickel cornerback. Ramsey spent a majority of his time as a safety and nickel cornerback in 2014 then moved to cornerback full time in 2015.

The Seminoles desperately needed a talent boost there. Ramsey sacrificed for the team to make the switch and responded to the move as well as any player could.

It can take years for a cornerback to master the proper footwork, timing and feel for the position, if it ever comes. Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals is a good example of an athlete who mastered his body control and fulfilled his potential at the cornerback position. 

Ramsey was a terrific athlete playing cornerback throughout 2015 and would probably be a first-round prospect if teams look at him there.

But Ramsey should be viewed as a coverage safety, the value of which is so much higher than that of an outside cornerback. The chasm of talent at free safety is enormous, with most starters either being average or less. There is a small handful of great, impactful players at the position who defenses can morph around.

Ramsey has that ability, even if he’s often been more of a switchblade for Florida State. He spent 2014 playing the star position, which is a hybrid safety and slot cornerback role, and it showed off his skill repertoire and athleticism.

Similar to Berry, Ramsey is a quality player no matter the task he’s asked to perform. Berry has been a top-five NFL free safety since entering the league, largely because of his coverage talent and efficiency as a run defender. Kansas City doesn’t ask him to be a playmaker in the run game because of its other talent, but Berry was that type of player in his first three seasons.

Evaluating the single-high capability of a safety comes with the limitation of television broadcast angles. The NFL offers NFL Game Pass, so it is much easier to see how well cornerbacks and safeties perform. Collegiate games do not offer such an outlet, so we have to put a premium on plays the defensive backs are involved in.

What makes Ramsey so great as a prospect was encapsulated in his 2014 performance against the Miami Hurricanes Although it was just one game, I’ve seen only one better single performance in five years of draft analysis, and that was by University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack (now with the Oakland Raiders) against Ohio State in 2013.

Ramsey tallied three tackles, one interception, four passes defensed and one forced fumble in that game against Miami. Most impressively, he understood when to be aggressive. Knowing the perfect timing to play the ball or stick your nose into a running play comes from instinct and body control.

It’s usually not hard to find the best few players on the field. Ramsey is quite often one of those few, despite being in the defensive backfield. He is a tremendous athlete, with fluidity, quick feet and speed despite being 6’1”, 205 pounds. Take a look at this near-interception and defensed pass below.

Ramsey gives Miami tight end Clive Walford a two-year advantage on his cut inside, but Ramsey is never in danger of allowing a big completion. He shows impressive acceleration to close on the ball and should have secured it for the interception. His length and speed were paramount on this play and will continue to be a major asset in man coverage opportunities.

And covering a large amount of space quickly is critical for free safeties.

The ability to foresee how a play will develop and reach the catch point before the completion is the rarest of skills. Ramsey has enough examples of closing speed and instinct throughout his film to convince NFL teams that he will be able to execute that role in the pros.

Ramsey showed an incredible knack for finding the football throughout his college career. He had just three total interceptions, but he forced four fumbles. His blitzing acumen led to five sacks and played a part in his 22 passes defensed.

When flying in from the secondary, Ramsey has distinct skill at clogging passing lanes. His length and timing force quarterbacks to second-guess their passing attempts and throw off the designed play. These types of plays don’t always result in a statistic but can greatly affect the outcome of games.

Ramsey’s physicality has stood out many times. He’s a solid tackler who is willing to challenge bigger ball-carriers around the line of scrimmage. I’d like to see him be a little more aggressive working through blockers, but this was a bigger issue at cornerback than safety.

He certainly has the ability to set the edge and dictate where a running back can go. He plays well within team defense—even filtering the ball-carrier back inside to his teammates on occasion. Again, this is a team-defense function and not something that shows up in the stats. Nonetheless, it is impressive.

While some teams that play Cover 3 press schemes may view Ramsey as a cornerback—and he is no slouch at the position—he is a much better safety prospect. He is a rare playmaker at a position that desperately needs more like him in the NFL. His great athleticism, feel for the game and impact on the field make him a clear top-five pick.

It is important for teams selecting high in the 2016 NFL draft to stockpile as much elite talent as possible to hasten the rebuild. Filling needs is nice but often causes teams to pass on more impactful talent. The supply and demand of certain positions must also be a factor for each selection.

Obtaining the next Eric Berry will likely cost a top-five selection, but Ramsey is a premium talent. He’s a fit for any system and will be well worth the investment.

 

All stats used are from sports-reference.com.

Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Brady Hoke Named Oregon Defensive Coordinator: Latest Contract Details, Reaction

Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke was named Oregon's new defensive coordinator Saturday, the school announced

"We are extremely excited to welcome Coach Hoke to the Oregon family," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said, according to the school's press release. "He's passionate, knowledgeable and tough, and has an outstanding track record of success from a defensive standpoint."

Hoke's four-year stint with the Maize and Blue ended in 2014 after Michigan went 5-7 following three straight winning seasons. 

Before moving to Ann Arbor in 2011, Hoke spent six years as Ball State's head coach before he was hired by San Diego State in the same position. The 57-year-old also has ties to the Pacific Northwest after serving as an assistant coach at Oregon State from 1989 to 1994. 

As Oregon's press release noted, Hoke was renowned for turning around a fledgling Michigan defense. During the 2014 season, the Wolverines ranked 10th with 311 yards allowed per game and a respectable 28th in opponents' scoring (22.4 points per game). 

According to Sporting News' Lisa Horne, Hoke should help an Oregon defense that allowed a 114th-ranked 36.8 points per game in 2015: 

However, Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer noted the move was a bit strange for one glaring reason: 

While Hoke's lack of experience as a defensive coordinator is concerning to a degree, he shouldn't be hard-pressed to help the Ducks improve at least modestly on that side of the ball. Oregon ranked 116th last season by allowing 480 yards per game—more than 300 of which came through the air.

Hoke won't turn the Ducks defense around instantly, but his time at Michigan suggests Oregon stands to benefit from his presence on the sidelines. 

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Jonathan Allen Returning to Alabama: Latest Comments and Reaction

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen will return to the school for his senior season, according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman on Saturday.

Allen led the Crimson Tide with 12 sacks, tied for sixth in the nation overall, as part of a vaunted defensive line. He also led the team in tackles for loss with 14.5.

At 6'3", 272 pounds, Allen showed off his arsenal in 2015, displaying dynamic speed that provided an explosive first step off the snap along with a strength that allowed him to power his way through the interior of the trenches. 

He put those skills on display during the Tide's national semifinal game against Michigan State, as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah highlighted:

His versatility allows him to choose where on the offensive line he's going to attack. He's been successful rushing from both the inside and the outside, which gives pass protectors a difficult time deciphering where he is going to charge from. 

Allen certainly has impressed ESPN's Adam Rittenberg this season:

Walter Football had him slated as a mid-first-round selection, and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranked him fifth among all defensive ends, per Saturday Down South

Alabama receives a huge defensive boost with Allen returning for his senior season. The Tide are already losing senior defensive players like linemen Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway and linebacker Reggie Ragland.

The team also saw junior defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson declare for the draft, along with Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. Getting Allen back ensures there will be a familiar face, and a good one at that, on the line to lead the defense and help lead a title defense next season. 

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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SMU Coach Chad Morris Attempts to Dance to Celebrate New Recruiting Class

We can't decide what's worse: the so-called dance, the fact that Chad Morris was casually bumping 50 Cent like it's 2003 or that he thought it was OK to share a video of it on Twitter.

But to each his own, and what a gift this is to the Internet.

The SMU head football coach was apparently excited about the Mustangs' recruiting class, so what better way to celebrate the 18-day countdown to signing day than with a little number to "In Da Club" in your living room?

You do you, coach.

[Chad Morris]

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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Betting Odds, Analysis

Two of the Big 12’s best teams not named the Kansas Jayhawks will meet in Norman on Saturday when the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (14-1) host the 11th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers (15-1).

The top-ranked Jayhawks (14-2) suffered their second loss of the season at West Virginia as one-point road favorites, 74-63, on Wednesday and could be giving up their ranking to the Sooners pending this result.

Oklahoma is listed as a six-point home favorite at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark and will try to avoid being the next upset victim of the Mountaineers, who are a perfect 4-0 in Big 12 play.

The Sooners suffered their lone setback at Kansas in triple overtime but beat the spread as seven-point road dogs on January 4. They have won two in a row since then against the Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma State Cowboys, although they did not cover either game.

West Virginia’s only loss took place on the road against the Virginia Cavaliers, 70-54, as 4.5-point road dogs on December 8 of last year, with the team currently riding an eight-game winning streak and going 4-4 against the spread during that stretch.

The Mountaineers are 3-3 ATS on the road and will be trying to cover their third straight overall.

The key for West Virginia will be holding Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield in check. Hield ranks second in the country in scoring with 26.6 points per game, and he totaled 21 in each of the two meetings a year ago.

The Mountaineers won the first game between the teams, 86-65, at home as 4.5-point favorites and lost the second, 71-52, on the road as 5.5-point dogs. The Sooners had won five of the previous six meetings both straight up and ATS, according to the Odds Shark College Basketball Database.

Hield scored a career-high 46 points on 13-of-23 shooting (57 percent) in the loss to the Jayhawks, and he has stayed hot in the last two games. He scored 31 against Kansas State and had 26 versus Oklahoma State, making 21 of 31 shots from the field (68 percent), including 12-of-20 (60 percent) from beyond the three-point arc.

The over is 5-1 in Oklahoma’s last six, with Hield averaging 31 points per game.

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Derrick Henry Discusses NFL Draft Grade, Preferred Destination, More

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry racked up the yards, accolades and trophies during a junior season that was one for the record books.

However, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner didn't agree with the second-round draft grade the NFL's draft advisory board handed him.

"I feel like, just because I got my grade, it doesn't mean I'm not going to be first round," Henry said. "I feel like what I do and how I test at the combine and work out. I feel like I will be first round. There's no doubt in my mind that I won't be."

After racking up 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns—both SEC records—Henry expected a first-round grade. Yet many consider the Ohio State Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott to be the No. 1 back in the draft, while Henry sits at No. 2.

Even with just one running back ahead of him, CBS Sports projects the player who ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a national championship game win over the Clemson Tigers to go in the late first or early second round.

Henry, who told Casagrande he hopes to land with the Dallas Cowboys, will have one advantage over other backs. 

"Nobody is going to outwork me," he said. "I'm going to push and work hard every day. I feel fee like hard work pushes you over the limit and makes you who you are. I'm going to work hard every day. Nobody is going to outwork me."

However, no amount of hard work is going to land Henry with the Cowboyswho hold the No. 4 selection—in the first round unless they trade down.

One knock on Henry is that some experts feel like he benefited from a talented offensive line at Alabama. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided a stat that proves he ran behind talented run-blockers:

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote about Henry's weaknesses:

Like most big backs, Henry needs some space to get moving. He's not nearly as powerful running east to west. He also lacks ideal balance for the position, sporting a top-heavy frame and long legs which make it easier for defenders to tackle him low. This forces Henry to lunge, on occasion, rather than drive forward.

However, Henry is confident in his abilities and is going to focus on what he can do to get better.

"No, I'm not satisfied," he said, per Casagrande. "I'm never really satisfied. But all I worry about [is] what I can control."

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Breaking Down Alabama's Depth Chart Following NFL Draft Departures

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Apparently playing in Dallas twice this season, where the University of Alabama football team won more games at AT&T Stadium than the National Football League’s Cowboys, made quite an impression on running back Derrick Henry.

When asked if there’s any NFL team in particular he’d like to play for, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner said “the Cowboys, but any team that drafts me."

"(They’re) not my favorite team, just a team that I feel like has a great organization."

Henry hasn’t gone as far as look at any team’s roster, but even with his and A’Shawn Robinson’s departure, as the junior defensive lineman also declared himself eligible for the 2016 draft on Friday, the team they’re leaving behind remains pretty loaded as well.

Of the 85 scholarship players Nick Saban compiled for the 2015-16 season, 18 were initially considered 5-star recruits by 247Sports and another 47 were 4-star players. That worked out to 76.5 percent of the roster.

Here’s the scary part:

Of all the players leaving the program, only two were considered 5-star recruits. They just happened to be the two who just declared for the NFL draft together, Henry and Robinson.

“I didn't do a draft grade,” said Robinson, who could be the first defensive lineman selected and appears to be almost a first-round lock. “Coach Saban talked to coaches for me to see where they'd draft me.”

Heading into the weekend the Crimson Tide already know they're losing:

Seniors: Quarterback Jake Coker, linebacker Denzel Devall, running back Kenyan Drake, tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, tackle Dominick Jackson, cornerback Cyrus Jones, center Ryan Kelly, nose guard Darren Lake, linebacker Dillon Lee, guard Isaac Luatua, safety Geno Matias-Smith, wide receiver Richard Mullaney, tight end Michael Nysewander, defensive lineman D.J. Pettway, linebacker Reggie Ragland, defensive lineman Jarran Reed, cornerback Bradley Sylve and defensive back Jabriel Washington.

Juniors declaring for the draft: Henry and Robinson.

Transfers: Quarterback Alec Morris and wide receiver Chris Black.

All indications are that defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and tight end O.J. Howard are still weighing their NFL options (and both were 5-star recruits).

Linebackers Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams have already announced their return, as has starting strong safety Eddie Jackson—who just made the move from cornerback this past season.

Players have until Monday afternoon to declare early for the draft.

“A lot of guys will step up next year,” Matias-Smith said. “Alabama will be back.”

Although playing until mid-January will delay the team’s offseason conditioning program, the next position battles will begin during spring practices sometime in March. But there may not be as many competitions as expected.

On offense there are just four. Alabama will have another quarterback competition, this time between just three players instead of last year’s five: Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett.

At running back, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough are expected to form the tandem to handle the majority of snaps, while the offensive line has to replace center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Dominick Jackson. Alabama already has players who could step in tomorrow if it had a game.  

On defense, the entire starting line will need to be replaced should Allen bolt, but Alabama had a nine-man rotation, 14 if you include the linebackers serving as pass-rushers, so the losses figure to be felt more on the back end.

At linebacker it appears that Reuben Foster will return in hopes of becoming Alabama’s next great player in the interior.

“When you think about Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley the next in line is Reggie Ragland, and Reuben Foster will next year be a first-round possibility,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I think it would be smart for him to go back and be the leader of that defense just as Reggie Ragland was.”

Williams and Rashaan Evans will try to take the next steps in their development with Anderson a natural fit to be the full-time Jack, the full-time linebacker/defensive end hybrid position in Saban’s scheme.

Meanwhile, the secondary will lose the leadership of Cyrus Jones, but Saban started restocking a couple of years ago, and the back end could be a real team strength.

All in all, with so many players getting experience this national championship season, there’s really not much retooling that has to be done, and Alabama will sign another top-notch recruiting class next month as well.

One has to wonder how many of them might eventually leave early for the NFL, which has become a pretty regular thing every year as the coaches reload the roster.

"We've had 20 guys go out early since 2009 and 13 of them have been first-round draft picks, which we're very, very proud of,” Saban said. “I think as always, every player—which was really demonstrated at the national championship game out in Phoenix this year when we had over 20 guys that were former players here that played in the NFL now—they were all on the sidelines with their team and in the locker room as if they were a part of the team.

“These guys know and it's a part of our tradition that we're very proud of their accomplishments, we're very concerned about their futures, and we're always here to support them. They're always welcome to come back to Alabama, and we certainly encourage them to come back and get their degree."

Robinson made a point of saying that he will get his degree.

“I'll miss everything,” Henry said. “This program is…just everything. I loved playing here. I loved going to school here. I'll miss everything about it. The fans, football, everything.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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