NCAA Football News

Who Will Be the Best Defender in College Football in 2015?

The college football season is fast approaching, with everyone wondering who will become the next superstars.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss who they think will be the best defender in 2015.

Who do you think deserves the top spot? Watch the video, and let us know!

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Oluwole Betiku to UCLA: Bruins Land 5-Star DE Prospect

UCLA bolstered its defense on Thursday when defensive end prospect Oluwole Betiku joined its 2016 recruiting class.

Betiku announced his decision on Twitter:

I have decided to continue my education and play football for the next 4 years at #UCLA 🐻💙💛

— WoleBomaye (@Kingwole47) August 6, 2015

The 6’3 ½”, 240-pound Betiku checks in as a 5-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

While Betiku is officially listed as a California prospect, he is a Nigerian native who is still adjusting to life in the United States. He played soccer and basketball growing up in Nigeria and has yet to tap into his full football potential.        

Former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington is Betiku’s mentor.

Now, he joins a UCLA squad looking to make a run at a Pac-12 championship. Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes headline a loaded Bruins defense.

Head coach Jim Mora Jr. has to be thrilled about landing yet another potential star as the Bruins look to hold off USC, Arizona State, Arizona and the rest of the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South.

A number of schools saw Betiku's potential before he even made a mark in organized football. As a result, USC, Maryland, Penn State, Oregon, Miami and Washington, among others, were involved in his recruitment to varying extents, which is a testament to his sky-high ceiling as a developing prospect.

Betiku certainly caught the eye of Tom Lemming of CBS Sports in the evaluation process:

The overwhelming strength that Lemming mentioned is the first thing that jumps out about Betiku’s game. It allows him to overpower offensive linemen on running plays and make a push into the backfield on passing plays.

Throw in the athleticism and explosiveness off the snap and the footwork he honed during his basketball and soccer days, and Betiku has the opportunity to be a star in college. He is still developing in the nuances of the game given his relative inexperience (reading plays, reacting to play actions, etc.), but the talent is clear.

Betiku is also versatile enough to play defensive end in pass-rushing situations and outside linebacker, which will help him immediately contend for playing time as a freshman at his new school.

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Ole Miss Can't Afford Any Drop-off from the Defense in 2015

OXFORD, Miss. — It was the kind of thing that Hugh Freeze didn’t have to worry too much about with his previous jobs and definitely falls into the “good kind of problem to have” at Ole Miss.

Last year, the Rebels were clearly led by their defense, which at times was so effective and tenacious that he had to go against his offensive philosophy of "Faster is always better."

“(When) you've got a defense that for most of the year is giving up 12 points a game, it doesn't take a lot of rocket science to figure out that if that defense is that stingy, you give the opponents lesser and lesser opportunities, you're going to have a chance to win some games,” the coach said on Tuesday on the eve of Ole Miss' first practice of training camp. “So we kind of played to our strengths. “

He’d very much like to see that again this fall, except for the way the 2014 season ended. After going 2-4 following a 7-0 start, “We didn’t finish” is something being heard a lot around the football complex.

“Fatigue, injuries,” senior linebacker C.J. Johnson said. “It’s been a multitude of things. Sometimes you just don’t get the lucky bounce and the ball doesn’t go your way.

“It’s a matter of staying in it, staying in the grind, and keep at it.”

There’s no denying that the Ole Miss defense was outstanding at times in 2014. When things were going well, its quickness and relentless play posed more than a few problems for opponents. Through its first eight games, only one managed to post more than 17 points on the scoreboard.

For the first time since 2008, Alabama didn’t finish atop the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense, snapping the five-year streak that was the longest in league history.

Ole Miss topped the nation in that category and was No. 13 in total defense, No. 16 in passing defense (and passing efficiency defense), and No. 29 in rushing defense.

But Ole Miss can’t afford any sort of a defensive drop-off if it wants to challenge for the SEC West title. Although the offense has nine starters returning and could potentially boast a very potent attack, there are still a lot of questions and concerns.

The most pressing at this point may be the quarterback competition, which doesn’t appear to be close to a resolution between former Clemson player Chad Kelly and sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

Numerous offensive linemen are coming off injuries, and starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil is also the subject of an NCAA inquiry.

Consequently, one has to wonder about the offense’s continuity—especially during the first few games.

Overall, the Rebels finished the 2014 season ranked No. 67 nationally in scoring offense, No. 73 in rushing offense, No. 75 in third-down offense, and No. 116 in red-zone offense.

That’s a lot to try to turn around with a new quarterback.

A year ago, many predicted Ole Miss might be the surprise team in the division primarily due to its defense, but attrition caught up to the Rebels—especially once the injuries started to stack up.

Not too many defenders finished with 13-13 at the beginning of their stat line, which indicated games played-games started. The only ones who did were Mike Hilton, Tony Conner, Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson and Robert Nkemdiche.

It’s one reason why even though All-Americans Prewitt and Golson have moved on to the NFL, the players say there’s room for improvement.

“It’s definitely possible,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing for us is going to be how well we adjust, how good can we add on to what we’re already done. When guys get complacent there’s a drop-off, and that’s the stuff that you’ve already heard about, but as far as talent I think we have the talent to not only be as good as we were last year but be even better.”

The defensive line is again led by Nkemdiche, a second-team All-American who is listed as 6’4”, 296 pounds. When the Rebels want to beef up, there’s senior Woodrow Hamilton (6’3”, 319 lbs) and junior college transfer D.J. Jones (6’0”, 324 lbs), not to mention junior end Fadol Brown (6’4”, 280 lbs).

The rotation, which line coach Chris Kiffin wants to include at least eight players but have 10 if possible, also has undersized defensive end Marquis Haynes (6’3”, 220 lbs) and defensive tackle Issac Gross (6’1, 240 lbs). Haynes led the team with 7.5 sacks last season as a freshman.

“Even if you have a guy like Robert Nkemdiche, who is athletically freakish, he’s still going to need a breather, especially if you’re playing a tempo team,” Kiffin said. “He’s going to get exhausted in the first quarter.”

Johnson moved from the defensive line to inside linebacker, where he’ll line up next to senior Denzel Nkemdiche, who broke his ankle against LSU last fall.

In the secondary, Ole Miss has good size at the corners.

Junior Tee Shepard (6'1") is back after missing the 2014 season with torn ligaments in a toe, and junior college transfer Tony Bridges (6'0") played so well during the spring that coaches moved senior Mike Hilton to safety even though he led the Rebels in tackles with 71 and made three interceptions last year.

Factor in Hilton’s versatility and experience, senior Trae Elston’s improvement and the hard-hitting Tony Conner often playing near the line of scrimmage in the Rebels’ 4-2-5 base formation, and Ole Miss believes it could have the best secondary in the league.

“We do,” Hilton said. “Especially with guys like Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard, guys like that, and we have more depth actually than we did last year, and we got more experience so I feel like we’re not really losing a step.”

Now they just have to prove it, week in and week out, which of course is the hard part—especially in the SEC West.

Nevertheless, Robert Nkemdiche calls the possibility of having an even better defense this season “realistic.”

“I feel like the energy of the team and the cohesiveness that we’ve created this summer is at an all-time high. I don’t feel like it was like that the past two (summers),” he said. “I’m excited to see what we can do.”


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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Meet the 6-Year-Old Who Stole the Show at Jim Harbaugh's Press Conference

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With all due respect to the reporters in attendance, the highlight of Michigan's media day didn't stem from inquiries into the Wolverines quarterback controversy, questions about their practice schedule for the remainder of the month or even Jim Harbaugh's own unique spin on the start of fall camp.

Rather, the most memorable moment from Harbaugh's Thursday press conference came as the result of a question so simple that a first-grader could have asked it.

In fact, one did.

As Harbaugh took part in his routine, dodging and ducking as he was probed by beat writers throughout his first Michigan media day conference, sprinkled-in questions from children from the "Kids Go Blue Club" gave the first-year Wolverines head coach a chance to crack a rare smile on the eve of fall camp.

Such was the case when six-year-old Brady Carpenter stepped to the podium with a microphone in his hand and a carefully crafted question on his mind.

"How much milk do I have to drink to be big enough to be quarterback?" asked Brady, who was named after former Michigan quarterback and New England Patriots great Tom Brady.

The room exploded in laughter. And then Harbaugh responded with a question of his own.

"Can I give you a hug?"

Carpenter obliged, before listening to Harbaugh give his verbal answer.

"That is a great question. I love that you're thinking about that," he said. "Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold, at all times. It could be chocolate milk, it could be the 2 percent, but the ideal is the whole milk. That's the ideal. As much as your little belly can hold."

By the time Harbaugh's press conference had come to a close 25 minutes later, Carpenter was an unexpected social media star. Having attended the event alongside his parents and grandfather, Carpenter saw his question tweeted out by the official SportsCenter account in a post that has garnered thousands of retweets and favorites.

"It was very cool," Carpenter told Bleacher Report with a big smile moments after the press conference ended.

For his parents, it was more than "cool."

After all, it was Brady's father, Jason Carpenter, who came up with the question after viewing Harbaugh's appearance on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in April. Speaking with Andrea Kremer, Harbaugh explained that as a child, he was obsessed with drinking milk, because he believed it was the key to his growing to be 6'2"—the ideal height, in his mind, for a quarterback.

"He was on HBO talking about how he used to hand milk out and steal all the extra milk," Jason said. "So I thought it was a cute question for him to ask."

The Carpenters figured the question would garner some laughs from the crowd and maybe even Harbaugh himself, but never did they expect the response that it received from both the head coach and social media. As other members of the Kids Go Blue Club left for lunch, the family found itself battling with the Internet connection at Michigan's Junge Family Champions Center to pull up Twitter and see all of the surprising attention their son was receiving.

"You're our little superstar," Brady's mother, Eva, told him.

But for the family from Ann Arbor—the head-to-toe maize-and-blue attire was a dead giveaway—the moment was about more than retweets and pictures.

"He's been coming here since he was two with his dad," Eva said of her son while fighting back tears. "It makes me really proud to see him here, with his grandfather."

At one point in his press conference, Harbaugh said that he hasn't gotten nostalgic often since returning to the town where he spent a part of his childhood and college career. But one would imagine that witnessing the Carpenters' joy on Thursday would count as one of those exceptions, as Ann Arbor's favorite son has created an excitement in his new and old hometown, one that's palpable even at a typically mundane event such as a media day.

And while the former Wolverines quarterback claims the creation of that buzz has been unintentional, it's very much real. That was evidenced on Thursday by the headlines a first-grader helped create at Harbaugh's final press conference before the start of fall camp.

"It's Coach's first main press conference, and he gets to give him a hug and ask about being strong and drinking milk," Jason said. "That's awesome."

Brady put his thoughts on the day in much simpler terms.

"I liked it a lot," the six-year-old said.

Based on the reaction from his parents, the Internet and—perhaps most importantly—Harbaugh, he wasn't alone.


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

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4-Star OL Matt Farniok on Top 4: 'These Schools Have Proven to Help Linemen'

As the third of four talented brothers preparing for his senior year of high school, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, standout Matt Farniok refuses to let the recruiting process work a nerve.

Farniok has had enough tutelage from his older brothers to let the process of finalizing his college future get to him. College football fans will recognize his older brothers, former Iowa State center Tom and current Oklahoma tackle Derek. Tom now is an NFL rookie for the Minnesota Vikings, and Derek is preparing for his redshirt senior year with the Sooners.

The older brothers have their recruiting stories, and now it's Matt's turn to choose a school that best suits him.

Wednesday evening, the 4-star Washington High School lineman—the No. 1 player out of South Dakota—confirmed to Bleacher Report that he has a top four of Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Florida State. All four schools, he said, are expected to receive official visits.

"They are all really good programs athletically," said Farniok, now 6'6" and 311 pounds. "They have really good O-line programs that I'm interested in. These schools have proven to help linemen get to the next level. Talking to all the coaches, they seem like good guys who I can learn from."

Farniok is a versatile lineman who can play either tackle or guard. He comes from a family of college athletes. In addition to his older brothers, his father, Brad, was a lineman for St. Cloud State in Minnesota in the 1980s. His uncle Bob Reeves played tight end at South Dakota State in the 1980s and was also a star pitcher for the school's baseball team.

Farniok has the size, length and first-step quickness to be a solid tackle at the next level and plays with a mean streak to where he can handle interior defensive linemen as a guard. He is ranked by the 247Sports composite as the nation's No. 22 tackle.

Farniok has 17 reported offers but will take his skill set either to the Big Ten or the ACC. Florida State is the only ACC school in his top four, and while he has yet to visit the campus, he's attracted by what he's seen on television and enjoys the conversations with offensive line coach Rick Trickett.

"They've been a really good program for a while now, and they have some really good O-linemen come out," Farniok said. "They have an excellent coaching staff, and they have all of the major criteria I'm looking for. I'd feel good with them."

Michigan State is another school he has yet to see, but he is looking forward to doing so on an official visit. Farniok likes how the Spartans are consistently winning football games in a competitive conference.

"Talking with the coaches and researching what the place is all about, they're standing out to me," he said of Michigan State. I'm really getting to know the coaches there. They have the style of football I like."

Nebraska and Iowa are two schools to keep an eye on as Farniok looks to make a decision. He's been to both campuses on multiple occasions and has established great relationships with the offensive line coaches from both schools. Nebraska has Mike Cavanaugh, while Iowa has Brian Ferentz.

"I like the atmosphere at Nebraska," he said. "I've been there a couple of times, so I feel like I can fit in there. I get along with the players, and meeting the new staff, I felt like we got along fine.

"I know Iowa produces really good O-linemen. That's a main thing with me. Talking with the coaches, I get along well with them. I'm able to talk and really be relaxed around them."

A noticeable fact is that Farniok has chosen to make his own path and not follow the footsteps of his brothers—even though he had offers from Oklahoma and Iowa State. He said his top four was decided with the help of advice of his brothers.

The objective was, he said, "Trust yourself."

"In all reality, there are people who say they want me to go here or go there," Farniok said. "When it comes down to it, it's all about what you want for yourself and not trying to please everyone. You have to make sure you go to the school you feel you fit the best."

Farniok said he will make his decision after his senior year. He wants to focus on becoming a leader for Washington and doing his part to ensure the team gets as many wins as possible.

As for selecting a winner out of his top four, Farniok said he will continue doing his research and conversing with coaches. It's a decision he wants to make sure is the right one.

"Some want me at tackle, and others say they can rotate me in all positions," he said. "I'm fine playing all positions. I just want to do my research closely. We'll see what happens from there."


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

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Best College Football Social Media Accounts to Follow for 2015 Season

There are few things that compare to the experience of witnessing college football up close and personal. Tailgating, marching bands, high-decibel cheering and punishing hits all combine for a sensory overload that's unmatched in the sports world.

But for those not fortunate enough to live close to a college football venue or who prefer to stay home and catch it on TV, there's a perfect way to take in all the sights, sounds and hot takes of Saturdays in the fall from the comfort of one's own couch: social media.

Social media belongs to college football on Saturdays from September through December, as well as into early January, with the vast majority of tweets, many Facebook posts and quite a few Instagram photos dedicated to the game. There's probably a decent number of Pinterest updates related to the best tailgate foods or binge-watching recipes, but we'll leave it up to you to torture yourself with all those mouth-watering food pics.

The ability to monitor college football, not just through the games themselves but through the observations of others doing the same, enhances what is already a very fulfilling experience. It allows fans to avoid missing out on any minute detail while also getting a sense of what others think about a questionable call that might have altered the outcome of a contest.

With the 2015 college football season officially four weeks away, on Sept. 3, we've put together a list of some of the best social media accounts fans should be following if they want to be fully informed, educated and entertained this fall.


National Media

If you're looking for coverage from an across-the-board scale, following national writers is the way to go. Their job is to identify and react to all of the big college football stories, not just those that impact a certain team, league or region.


Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing)

Part of the Bloguin Network, this account focuses on how the media is covering sports and how that might affect the viewer. It's great at pointing out some of the odd things that come across the TV screen or get posted online, such as Twitter feuds and massive on-air gaffes.


Bill Connelly, SB Nation (@SBN_BillC)

Bill Connelly's team-by-team previews of all 128 FBS programs, which run one a day beginning in February, are a series of branches we can reach out and hold on to while navigating the never-ending quicksand that is the college football offseason. In season, he uses his keen analytical mind to highlight statistical anomalies and trends.


Bruce Feldman, Fox Sports (@BruceFeldmanCFB)

Bruce Feldman covers all the bases with his college football coverage, attending many of the biggest games and digging out great features. His game-day insights are spot-on as well.


Brett McMurphy, ESPN (@McMurphyESPN)

Brett McMurphy is best known as an insider who breaks news related to injuries, suspensions and upcoming notable home-and-home series. Without him, we wouldn't be able to pine for future matchups between orange-clad counterparts.


Paul Myerberg, USA Today (@PaulMyerberg)

Another national staple, Paul Myerberg has touched on topics and highlighted the statements of coaches and players from every major conference (and the American!) in the past three weeks. Just imagine what he'll bring to your timeline come September.


Darren Rovell, ESPN (@darrenrovell)

Darren Rovell, ESPN's sports business reporter, vacillates between highlighting food and drink trends and money-related sports news, such as apparel contracts and memorabilia values.


Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press (@ralphDrussoAP)

The AP is at nearly every game on Saturdays, but the big ones are reserved for Ralph D. Russo. He's been the international news outlet's lead college football writer for a decade and has plenty of institutional knowledge on the sport.


Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated (@Andy_Staples)

In addition to being one of SI's lead college football writers, Andy Staples does work for the SEC Network and is also a major foodie. His "Punt, Pass & Pork" columns will make your mouth water not just for game info but also for the delectable food items that Staples stumbles across on his travails.


Clay Travis, Fox Sports(@ClayTravisBGID)

Clay Travis' "Outkick the Coverage" blog is centered around college football but frequently strays to plenty of other topics. Whatever the issue, it tends to be on the incendiary side, as Travis is one of the best feather-rufflers on Twitter.


SEC Flavor

If you're looking for a more regional slant for your college football tweets, look no further than the part of the country that's home to the top conference in FBS. The SEC is overloaded with great Twitter accounts—far too many to highlight here—but Saturday Down South has done us a solid by putting together a list of the 100 essential accounts to follow.

There is one SEC-heavy account that all college football fans should be tracking, regardless of your love (or hate) for the conference. That would be that of radio host-turned-TV star Paul Finebaum (@finebaum), whose daily radio show is simulcast on the SEC Network and who is a regular part of that channel's Saturday game coverage.

Finebaum's tweets are occasionally provocative, but they're nothing compared to the things written by his followers...or about him in his mentions. Same goes for his show callers, a motley crew of diehard SEC fans who have made bellowing PAAAAAAAAWWWWWWL in reaction to something off-putting the college football version of "Where's the Beef?"


West Coast Bias

College football begins at noon on the East Coast, earlier if you're tracking the pregame and preview shows. By the time the featured prime-time games are over, most folks along the Atlantic coast and in the Midwest are plum tuckered out and need to sleep off a long day of action.

But there are still games being played out west, particularly in the Pac-12 Conference, and as we saw in 2014, some crazy things can happen during #Pac12AfterDark. A handful of the national writers will tweet about these late games, but not all of them, so to get a full sense of what's going on out there, fans need to get more localized.

Two longtime West Coast writers, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times (@DufresneLATimes) and Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News (@wilnerhotline), are your best bets if you're looking for general coverage of the Mountain and Pacific time zones. They'll mostly be at games involving California, Stanford, UCLA and USC, but they also have their finger on the pulse of what's happening on that side of the country.


Coaches (Real and Faux)

College football coaches are an interesting bunch, and many are quite colorful. We're always waiting and hoping for them to say or do something wacky, and most don't disappoint. This usually occurs during press conferences or sideline interviews, but a select few spread their brand to Twitter and thus become must-follows.


Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (@CoachJim4UM)

Jim Harbaugh's last game as a college football coach was in January 2011. His next one isn't until Sept. 3, but in the nine months since he was hired to coach his alma mater, he's become the darling of Twitter with nearly 300,000 followers. And Harbaugh hasn't just dipped his toe into the water. From day one, he dove straight into the deep end and has been splashing sunbathers on all sides of the pool.

Harbaugh wasted little time ramping up the rivalry with Ohio State with some early veiled shots at the Buckeyes, and since then, he's introduced us to the joys of shirtless-while-in-khakis football as well as a Twitter tour of France.

Whether Harbaugh will continue on this path during the season remains to be seen, but he's worth a follow just for the offseason antics.


Les Miles, LSU (@LSUCoachMiles)

Les Miles is one of the best wordsmiths in the game, though this doesn't always translate to his tweets. Last year, he only posted a handful of updates to his Twitter account during the season, though that did include an update on what Santa brought his son for being a good boy:


Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (@SC_HBC)

Steve Spurrier joined Twitter in March and has only tweeted 28 times—about once per 2,200 followers. It's hard to imagine the Head Ball Coach would ever be able to troll online like he does at the podium, but we can always hope.


Faux Pelini, Parody of Ex-Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini)

One of the best—or worst, depending on your perspective—parts of Twitter is the humor element. This is most evident in the form of parody accounts, ones that purport to be some public figure but in reality are run by someone doing his best impression of what that person might sound like in 140-character bursts.

Nearly every college football coach has one of these parody versions out there, but none are as hilarious as the one devoted to former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

One needs only to see the account's profile picture—a photoshopped glamour shot of Pelini posing with his cat—to understand that this is all meant in jest. Run by an unnamed Cornhuskers fan from Chicago, the account continues on even as Pelini has moved to the FCS ranks to coach Youngstown State.


Players and Students

Once the season begins, the vast majority of college football players will go on Twitter hiatus, either by choice or by team mandate. Occasionally, some will let a tweet slip out, either in exultation or frustration, and it gets passed around to every fan's timeline within an hour.

Long before he became an overnight sensation as the third-string quarterback who led Ohio State to three dominant wins last winter en route to a national title, Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) was most famous for a brief Twitter rant in which he noted that he and his teammates were there to play football, not "play school." Since he's become a superstar, though, he's had to up his Twitter game and turned it into a strong mix of trolling and fanboying.

Another notable college football player worth following, if only because he's got one of the sweetest Twitter handles in the game, is South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (@KingTutt_chdown).

On the Instagram side, the visual element of college football comes through in bright and bold colors from USC's Dance Team (@uscsonggirls), ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage (@espncfb) or the videos that Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell (@successfulquon) posted to show his long road back from a horrific leg injury last November.

Ohio State senior Braxton Miller (@braxtonmiller92) also brings a strong Instagram game, both in terms of showing off what kind of a wide receiver he's going to be for the Buckeyes and through images that poke fun at his team's recent dominance of rival Michigan.


Inanimate Objects

There are some non-people accounts that all college football fans should follow, too, especially if you want to stay informed on the big news items.

Granted, much of the information from the College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) folks and the people behind ESPN College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) will likely get favorited and retweeted thousands of times within the first minute, but each is an essential follow in order to keep updated on how the playoff rankings are shaping up as well as what wackiness might have happened on Saturday mornings outside one of the week's top games.


Bleacher Creatures

Lastly, we must plug our own excellent college football staff at Bleacher Report (@BR_CFB). Our team of writers, editors and digital-media gurus work nonstop on game days to produce tons of content that runs all day and night on Saturday and throughout the week, and along the way, they often have some pretty good comments.

Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod), Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs), Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers), Ben Kercheval (@benkercheval) and Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) will make sure you don't miss a thing throughout the season.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Shavar Manuel Reveals Leaders: Odds on Where 5-Star DE Lands

As one of the nation’s premier pass-rushers in the 2016 class, 5-star defensive end Shavar Manuel’s recruitment is sure to be one that captures plenty of attention in the coming months. 

According to Josh Newberg of Noles247, the 6’4”, 290-pounder from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, named a top three that included Auburn, Florida and LSU.

In Newberg’s report, Manuel also mentioned Clemson and Florida State as schools that are still in the running for his commitment.

This news is a stark departure from the theory of Manuel being a heavy lean to the Seminoles that was in place for most of the offseason.

Which school has the best shot of landing the nation’s No. 8 player overall in the 2016 class?

Let’s break down the chances for each of his finalists.


Clemson: Odds 20-1

The Tigers haven’t received a visit from Manuel in the spring, but they do have a history of recruiting the Tampa area—where Manuel originally hails from—well.

Clemson was able to land a pair of studs from Tampa in the 2015 class in 5-star receiver Deon Cain and 4-star running back Ray Ray McCloud.

Additionally, the Tigers have had success in grooming defensive linemen in recent years, which, as Newberg notes, has gotten Manuel’s attention.

While the Tigers can’t be a legitimate threat until they get Manuel on campus, they could be a dark horse in the race if they are able to earn a visit from him in the future.


Florida State: Odds 12-1

Given that Manuel has been in Tallahassee five times since the beginning of last year, there’s no campus he’s more familiar with than Florida State’s.

Although the ‘Noles are still very much in the race for his services, he acknowledged that the club’s recent off-the-field woes have contributed to them being replaced as the leaders in his recruitment.

“I’m still going through the process, me and coach [Brad] Lawing keep talking and we’re close,” Manuel told Newberg. “FSU is a great team and a great place to be. But with everything going on right now, it’s just a mess, I want to see how it all settles out.” 

It’s clear that head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff have work to do in regaining Manuel’s trust. However, given their need along the defensive line, don’t expect the ‘Noles to go away quietly in the race to land Manuel.


Auburn: Odds 10-1

The arrival of new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has given the Tigers a huge boost in their recruiting efforts.

In fact, Manuel cited to Newberg that Muschamp is the one coach he feels closest to dating back to the former Florida head coach’s tenure in Gainesville. 

Like the Seminoles, one of Auburn’s primary needs in the 2016 cycle is the defensive line.

The next step for Auburn is securing a visit from the nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end.


LSU: Odds 7-1

The last school to host Manuel was LSU.

He was accompanied on that trip by 5-star corner and current Tigers pledge Saivion Smith, who is also his current teammate at IMG Academy.

As he noted, his first visit to Baton Rouge left a major impression on him.

“The visit there really put them in my top three,” Manuel told Newberg. “It’s a great place to be, in Baton Rouge—I fell in love with it—the players, the coaches, the people, I liked it all.”

LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is helping lead the charge for the Tigers.

Given Orgeron's lengthy history at recruiting and landing elite defensive linemen, and with Smith already pitching his good friend on the idea of playing together in college, the Tigers have to feel good about their chances in plucking another elite defender out of the Sunshine State.


Florida: Odds 5-1

While Florida State has fallen back in his pecking order, the rival Florida Gators currently represent the top in-state option for Manuel.

As noted by GatorBait, the primary reason for the surge of interest in the Gators is Manuel’s bond with new defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

"It's been great," Manuel said. "He just tells me all the things he looks forward to me if I want to commit, the physical talent and ability as a pass-rusher. He just loves me as a recruiter."

He also told Newberg that Florida and LSU are the two teams he would consider signing with currently.

Given the recent surge Florida has had in recruiting the Tampa area and its proximity to home, the Gators get the slight nod as the favorite in the chase for Manuel.


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

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Rahshaun Smith Decommits from Clemson: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Rahshaun Smith, the top inside linebacker in the class of 2016, announced his decision to decommit from Clemson on Thursday.  

Adam Friedman of confirmed the news. Smith posted a message on social media to provide more insight into the choice to make himself available again: "It is with a heavy heart but clear conscience that I announce that I have decided to decommit from Clemson University and reopen my recruiting process."

Smith said he wanted to visit more schools but, after speaking with head coach Dabo Swinney, determined that wasn't an option if he remain committed to the Tigers. He's still going to make an official visit with the program but will make other stops before making a final call.

The linebacker is a 4-star prospect who, along with rating as the No. 1 inside linebacker, also ranks as the No. 55 overall recruit for the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

If he does decide to join another program after making official visits—it's rare to recommit to the same program—it's a major loss for the Tigers. Starting middle linebacker B.J. Goodson is a redshirt senior and will leave a key void next season, which Smith could have filled.

That said, his comments made it clear he wasn't 100 percent sure of his original decision. It's better to examine the landscape again during the recruiting process than ending up in a bad spot and possibly losing a season to complete a transfer.

Smith didn't provide a timetable for his next decision. He could be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity than Clemson, however, given the immediate playing time likely available next fall.


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Jamaal Williams Will Miss Season After Withdrawing from BYU for Personal Reasons

BYU was dealt a blow Thursday, as the school announced running back Jamaal Williams will miss the entire 2015 season due to person reasons.  

"Jamaal has withdrawn from school for personal reasons and will redshirt the 2015 season," coach Bronco Mendenhall said, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. "We plan on Jamaal returning for the 2016 season."

Williams is one of the most dynamic playmakers on a very good BYU offense. He rushed for 775 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, though he lost time due to an injury. For his career, he's rushed for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons.  

The Cougars were considered by some, including Feldman, to be a candidate to threaten for a playoff spot among teams outside of the major conferences, with star quarterback Taysom Hill leading a talented offense. Losing Williams, however, makes the Cougars a bit less dynamic. 

Algernon Brown is likely to take over the starting role for BYU, though he certainly has big shoes to fill.


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Vanderbilt Apologizes for 'We Don't Need Your Permission' Football Slogan

Vanderbilt football has come under fire on Twitter for a poorly worded slogan that was being used as a rallying cry for the 2015 season. 

Jeff Ermann of provided the evidence of Vanderbilt football's Twitter post:

Upon seeing the response to the slogan, the team did tweet out an official apology for appearing to make light of a very serious situation, even if that wasn't the intent:

Sexual assault and rape, particularly on college campuses, has become a major topic of discussion recently.

In May, CNN's Kelly Wallace cited a study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in which 19 percent of women claimed they "had been a victim of attempted or completed rape" during their freshman year. 

In January, per Stacey Barchenger and Joey Garrison of USA Today, former Vanderbilt football players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were found guilty on all counts of raping an unconscious woman in a dorm. 

The tweet was not meant to suggest that Vanderbilt was trying to downplay issues of sexual assault, but given recent incidents involving the school and one of its female students, this was an unfortunate slogan to send out on social media.  

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15 Biggest College Football Position Battles to Watch in 2015 Fall Camps

Preseason camps are officially underway at most schools. The 2015 football season is just around the corner, which means any remaining position battles need to be sorted out. 

But not all position battles are created equally. Some are going to get far more attention than others, and frankly, some could be way more meaningful, despite what every coach will say.

Which preseason camp position battles fall under that category? We'll stick with the ol' 15 for '15 model and break down the top competitions in the final weeks before the season. Some battles are obvious, like Ohio State and Alabama's quarterback competitions. Others might fly a little further under the radar but could have huge impacts on the season. 

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College Football Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in 2015 Fall Camp

One of the best aspects of fall camp for fans of college football and the media members who cover the sport is the early chance to see possible instant-impact freshmen.

In today's 24/7/365 cycle of recruiting, newcomers are turned into campus celebrities before they even play a single snap in college. People clamor to see the next big thing for a program.

A group of freshmen that is sometimes overlooked during fall practices is the one that consists of those who received a redshirt in the previous year. The strong buzz surrounding their signings has been replaced by the most recent class, and they normally don't receive as much hype as the players who are fresh out of high school.

But redshirt freshmen are still major playmakers for programs year in and year out. Thanks to a year in the weight room and the new playbook, these players can be valuable first-year starters in key areas for major programs.

Here are 15 redshirt freshmen fans need to keep their eyes on during fall camps. Some have positioned themselves to become starters in their second year on the team, while others will be embroiled in huge position battles in the final weeks leading up to the season.

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Most Popular Academic Majors for 2015 Power 5 Conference Football Players

To many fans, they're college football players. But in the eyes of the NCAA and their respective schools, they're student-athletes.

The first half of that term often gets ignored by those in the stands and watching on TV. When these players hit the football field each weekend, they aren't only coming off several days of hard practice. They are college students who have also been in the classroom and the study hall.

Like most college students, players have declared majors and specific plans of study toward the degrees they could use after they leave campus. After all, less than 2 percent of all college football players make it to the NFL, according to the NCAA.

After months of tallying the totals, here's a look at the most popular majors for Power Five conference football players. Most of the information for each individual school is available through online rosters, but a few programs had to be contacted directly through sports information directors for their players' declared majors.

Notice that many of these totals don't add up to the number of players on a team. That's because these are just the totals of players who have already declared majors or specific school enrollments—roughly one-third of Power Five players, mostly underclassmen, have not yet declared their courses of study.

The following slides contain a conference-by-conference breakdown of the most common majors and clusters of similar majors, as well as the top choice for each team. For a more detailed breakdown of each individual school, check out this spreadsheet

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4-Star Cornell Powell '100% Committed' to Clemson, but Plans to Visit Others

Last national signing day while the focus of college football fans shifted to 2015 recruits, Cornell Powell claimed a small piece of spotlight by committing to Clemson.

Just a junior at the time, his early February pledge helped highlight a five-day stretch that featured Tigers commitments from fellow 4-star wide receiver Tavares Chase, Georgia linebacker Jamie Skalski and 5-star running back Tavien Feaster.

Six months later, Powell's decision remains intact, but it wasn't quite as effective as he anticipated.

"You would think once you commit that other schools would start to back off and things would become less crazy, but that's definitely not the case," he told Bleacher Report. "They knew I still had another 365 days to make a final choice so my recruitment never really ended."

Programs stayed persistent in the pursuit of Powell, a prized 6'1", 180-pound prospect from J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, North Carolina.

Though he is unwavering in his loyalty to Clemson, upcoming official visit opportunities appeal to the playmaker.

"I'm still 100 percent committed to Clemson. I just want to have fun and enjoy this process, as many high school athletes should," Powell said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience." 

He opted to take advantage, lining up trips to four universities this fall. Powell confirmed plans to visit Georgia (Sept. 19), Oklahoma (Oct. 3) and Ohio State (Oct. 17), before closing out his multi-campus tour with a return to Clemson (Nov. 7). 

At this stage, it's unclear whether he will ultimately use a fifth and final official visit before signing day. Regardless, Powell will attend several compelling games this season.

Georgia hosts South Carolina in its SEC home opener when he comes to town. First-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has made a strong impression on Powell, encouraging him to visit Athens.

"Me and Coach Schottenheimer have a very good relationship. I want to get down there to check out the campus. He told me I will love it, so I need to see it for myself," he said.

Oklahoma also set itself apart with an assistant coach. Powell was previously recruited by Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley at East Carolina, establishing longstanding familiarity.

"He recruited me hard when I was a freshman and sophomore to come to ECU, which is right around the corner from me," Powell said. "We lost touch for a little while when he went to Oklahoma, but things picked backed up. He's one of my favorite coaches, so I'm excited to spend some time with him at the school."

Oklahoma welcomes him to Norman for a matchup with West Virginia.

His motivation for visiting Ohio State is straight to the point.

"I want to see how national champions operate," Powell said.

He will be in attendance when the Buckeyes face Penn State.

Clemson is likely the last stop in his recruitment. He plans to watch the Tigers take on reigning ACC champion Florida State.

Powell expects further confirmation that he made the correct choice in February.

"It will feel like going home. There's no place better. Every time I visit, I fall more in love with it," he said.

Clemson has become a notable landing spot for top-tier wide receivers during head coach Dabo Swinney's tenure. Recent alumni Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins are all expected to play expansive roles on their respective NFL squads this year.

Powell is likely to join a group that now features 5-star 2015 signee Deon Cain.

"Wide receiver is more than a position at Clemson, it's a state of mind," he said. "When you play wide receiver there, you take that opportunity seriously and personally. It is so exciting to know I can learn from the best and play with an incredibly dynamic quarterback in Deshaun Watson."

J.H. Rose High School started training camp Monday. Powell, who caught 67 passes for 1,248 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014, enters his final campaign at the school with high expectations.

"I have one goal this season and that's to win a state championship. That's by any means necessary, whether I catch 70 passes or 20," he said. "It's going to be tougher this year with all the attention I'll get from defenses, but I'm prepared. I've become an improved route-runner and I understand the game better than ever."


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

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David Long to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Wide receivers in the Pac-12 beware—Stanford has landed 4-star cornerback prospect David Long, according to 247Sports.

Long spoke to the outlet about why he chose the school:

First off it's a dream school of mine. Coming into high school Stanford is the school I always wanted to go to. That's why I chose to go to Loyola High School, too, because it would prepare me for a school like Stanford. I know I'll get a great education there and I really like Stanford's coaches, too. I love how Stanford plays hard-nosed football.

A 6'0", 175-pound prospect out of Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Long is ranked 70th nationally among all prospects, seventh at his position and 10th in the state, according to 247Sports. showcased some of his highlights from last year:

Long makes up for his shorter stature with impressive leaping ability while bringing big-time speed to the position, something that's Brandon Huffman was able to witness firsthand:

Makeup speed is imperative for a cornerback. If beaten or faked out initially, the ability to recover determines whether a lot of corners sink or swim. 

Expect to see Long with the Cardinal in a couple of years, not only in the secondary but maybe even on special teams. With that kind of dynamic play and speed, he has the perfect physique and skill set to return punts as well.

He will need to beef up before he sees the field, though. At 175 pounds, he needs a bit more size to improve his tackling while trying to avoid being pushed around in the secondary when it comes to shedding blocks. With that said, he will also have to make sure he learns how to properly tackle. Instead of launching himself like a missile and leading with the shoulder, Long will have to make sure he wraps up the ball-carrier. It could save him from injury down the road.

Still, it is apparent that Long has the raw capability and intangibles to make any Division I roster. Expect to see him terrorizing quarterbacks in the FBS once he finishes developing and acclimates to the college game.

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4-Star DB Deontay Anderson Discusses Top 5, Leaves Door Open for Other Programs

The triple-digit temperatures of a Texas summer in August can be physically draining and mentally excruciating for high school football players.

For Deontay Anderson, it's observed merely as routine, just another day in his quest to be the nation's best safety on the nation's best team.

As Anderson, Manvel High School's 4-star defensive standout and the No. 3 safety in the country, prepares for his senior year, he's managed to balance the anticipation of the upcoming season with the stressful world of recruiting. On Sunday, Anderson tweeted his top five schools, trimming his list from a selection of 43 reported offers.

And he did so just in time to focus on the season, which starts in three weeks.

"Practices have been good; I'm just ready to get to fast action and hit somebody," Anderson said. "It's been hot, but it hasn't been an issue. We run a lot, and it's been kind of a challenge, but it hasn't really been a major issue."

Anderson said the five schools that made his list also will be the schools receiving an official visit. The USC visit most likely will be the weekend of Sept. 18, when the Trojans host Stanford. The official stop in Texas will be during the season, but a date hasn't been determined. Anderson added that official visits to Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU most likely will happen after the season.

Anderson—the high-octane player known for making plays with the sugar-rush assistance of Welch's Fruit Snacks— said all five schools had the same thing in common: a connection with the head coach and the position coaches.

"The relationship with the coaches is important," he said. "You're always going to be around your coaches, so you have to have good relationships with them. I like the head coach and my position coach with all of them. I think I can learn a lot."

To add, Anderson said that while he has five officials planned, he hasn't shut the recruiting door on other programs. In fact, he said he's still looking at Georgia, Florida, TCU and Mississippi State, and those four schools have just as much of a chance as the ones in his top five.

"[Narrowing it down] has been very difficult, but it had to be done," said Anderson, who won't make a decision until national signing day. "I knew I had to sit down and just pick which ones fit me best. I hated to cut any school out, but it had to be done."

USC is expected to be Anderson's first visit, and it could set the bar overall. There was a time Anderson wasn't interested in the Trojans, but he said the persistence of defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and head coach Steve Sarkisian should be commended.

"[Heyward] has made a couple of visits to see me," Anderson said. "I was in class one day, and my coach said he came by to speak with me unexpectedly. That really caught my eye. Then [Sarkisian] started coming by to visit. We've had great talks."

There are some who feel the battle for Anderson will come down to in-state rivals Texas and Texas A&M. He has a teammate in 4-star wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps who has been committed to the Longhorns since October of last year. On the flip side, another former teammate, Koda Martin, is a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M.

Anderson said he's a big fan of the coaching staffs at both Texas and Texas A&M—particularly the coaches who are defensive-minded.

"I love what Coach [Charlie] Strong is doing at UT," he said. "He's a great man, and I feel he's going to change things around. He's a defensive guy, so that's a huge deal to me.

"A&M has been around for a long time. I've built a good relationship with Coach [Kevin] Sumlin, and I love [defensive coordinator] Coach [John] Chavis. He's a cool dude. He's one of the best people I've ever met—a really genuine guy."

LSU and Ole Miss are two schools to keep an eye on. Anderson calls LSU his "dream school" and was excited after receiving the offer. Ole Miss arguably has shown him the most love of the five schools, and he's a big fan of what head coach Hugh Freeze is doing with the program.

"LSU is DBU," Anderson said. "When I first got the offer, I thought about committing, but I didn't because I thought I might get more offers. It's crazy to have your dream school offer. Coach [Les] Miles is unbelievable, and [defensive backs] Coach [Corey] Raymond is unbelievable. It's a great environment there; plus, it's close to home.

"With Ole Miss, I know that Coach Freeze has it rolling over there. He's one special person; he has a certain gift, and that's one thing I've taken notice of. He's one of those coaches who knows himself and really knows his players. Plus, the campus is beautiful, and everybody is genuine. You can't go wrong there."

The winning school gets a dynamic playmaker in the secondary, someone who is as polished a tackler as he is a cover defender. As a junior, he finished the year with 59 tackles, eight pass breakups and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdowns.

Anderson showed his athleticism the last two years as a participant at The Opening in Oregon. This year, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds, completed the 20-yard shuttle in 4.01 seconds, threw the power ball 38 feet and showed a vertical jump of 37.4 inches. 

For his varsity career—which started his freshman year—Anderson has 184 tackles, 18 pass breakups and four interceptions. He also has returned a punt return back for a score, if a school chooses to use him in the special teams department.

Anderson said he's unsure of trimming his list further, but he did say he's excited about giving all of the schools a chance to make their pitches.

For now, however, his primary focus is on Manvel.

"I want to win state with my team," he said. "We've got to take that one day at a time and focus on the details. We can't think about anything else."


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 

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Terrell Cuney Arrested: Latest Details, Reaction and More on Texas OL

Redshirt freshman Terrell Cuney is set to see his first action as part of the University of Texas' offensive line during the upcoming season, but that is currently in question due to a reported arrest.

Continue for updates.

Report: Cuney Arrested Wednesday for ShopliftingThursday, Aug. 6

Just weeks before the start of the 2015 college football campaign, Texas head coach Charlie Strong may have a difficult situation to deal with involving his reserve center.

According to Chris Hummer of 247Sports, Cuney was arrested early Wednesday morning for shoplifting, although specifics regarding the incident have not yet been released.

Cuney is a 6'1", 278-pound lineman from Jasper, Texas, who rated as the No. 7 center recruit in the Class of 2014, per 247Sports.

Senior Taylor Doyle is currently entrenched as the Longhorns' starting center, with sophomore Jake Raulerson behind him, so Cuney isn't in line to play very much in 2015 regardless of his legal situation.

The primary concern relates to his status with the team, as Strong hasn't hesitated to discipline his players. In fact, he dismissed nine players in 2014 during his first season at the helm. 


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 8 Pro-Style Quarterbacks in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay 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 class of 2016. Here we present the Top Pro-Style Quarterbacks.

Other Positions

Every collegiate coaching staff spends a large portion of each recruiting cycle searching for its next offensive leader. The presence of an elite and accountable quarterback commit lends increased legitimacy to a recruiting class and can convince other playmakers to join forces for years to come.

As usual, the majority of America's top-rated passers pledged early and enter their final high school summer break with future intentions revealed. The 2016 crop of quarterback measures up well when compared to groups we've watched develop in recent years and promises to make a major impact on college football's competitive landscape.

We broke down every pro-style quarterback rated among America's top 200 players in 247Sports' composite rankings, taking a look at key attributes and their respective recruitments. Athletes are listed in order of composite rankings and graded based on analysis judging accuracy, arm strength, mobility, leadership, football IQ and pocket presence.


All prospects graded by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Best and Worst of 1st Coaches Poll

Technically, the initial 2015 Amway Coaches Poll doesn’t play a factor in the race toward the College Football Playoff, but best of luck telling that to pigskin-starved fans who have been clamoring for the sounds of the band and the crisp air of autumn Saturdays all summer.

The release of the preseason Top 25 is the clearest signal that football is finally right around the corner, and the poll was particularly good news for the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes, the SEC (eight ranked teams) and Big 12 title contenders TCU and Baylor.

The No. 1 Buckeyes sit in the driver’s seat on the road to a repeat title, but there are plenty of challengers waiting for a shot at Urban Meyer’s squad.

As is always the case with college football, there is an element of subjectivity with the rankings, which opens the door for criticism (and even compliments). After all, these teams haven’t even played a down of actual football this season and are already ranked in best-to-worst fashion.

Here is a look at the complete Top 25, as well as some reasons to praise and complain about the first coaches poll.


Best Selection: Ohio State at No. 1

Last year’s Heisman Trophy finalists were Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. One thing they have in common (outside of their places on NFL rosters) is the fact that they all lost to Ohio State under the bright lights at the end of the 2014 season.

The Buckeyes team that steamrolled its way through the Badgers in the Big Ten title game, the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff and the Ducks in the national championship game is largely still intact heading into the 2015 campaign. That is worrisome news for the rest of the country and makes Ohio State the clear pick atop the initial coaches poll.

In fact, the Buckeyes are so loaded that they have not one, but two quarterbacks who could theoretically challenge for this year’s Heisman in Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.

Former Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller was set to join them in a quarterback race for the ages, but he will instead play wide receiver and H-back.

Miller's decision will only make Ohio State’s offense even more dangerous given his comments, per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated: “It’s going to be electric. We had a great season last year, but we didn’t see anyone do off-the-wall type stuff. I’m sure guys miss seeing an explosive, 60-yard shake-and-bake run every once in a while.”

Miller’s electric first step jumped out when he lined up at quarterback, and he will have an even greater opportunity to demonstrate that as a skill player this season. Throw in weapons Jalin Marshall, Mike Thomas, Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith and even youngsters Parris Campbell and Noah Brown, and it’s difficult to envision any defense slowing down Ohio State.

That’s not even mentioning star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who led the way in those final three games last year with a combined 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. With all the attention on the quarterback race, Elliott has the talent to win the Heisman Trophy this season behind a loaded offensive line that returns four starters.

The defense also figures to be among the nation’s best behind Joey Bosa (the potential No. 1 pick in next year’s draft), Darron Lee, Vonn Bell, Joshua Perry and Adolphus Washington. 

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller took the time to evaluate their pro prospects, and the mere fact that a draft expert already has his eyes on so many defenders from one team before the season even starts is testament to the talent and depth the Buckeyes boast:

Ohio State held Mariota and the dynamic Oregon offense to a mere 20 points in the title game, and they will shut down plenty of opponents this year as well. 

With a stout defense and an offense loaded with game-changing playmakers, the Buckeyes were an obvious choice for the No. 1 team in the country. The initial coaches poll did not disappoint atop the rankings.


Overrated Selection: Oregon at No. 5

While Ohio State is right where it belongs at No. 1, the team it defeated in the national title contest is overrated at No. 5.

Oregon will still win plenty of games this season, but it is premature to say the 2015 version is one of the five best teams in the country. For one, there is simply no replacing Mariota, who threw for 4,454 yards and 42 touchdowns and added 770 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground on his way to the Heisman.

What’s more, the offensive line must replace three starters, including star center Hroniss Grasu. It is always difficult to break in a new quarterback, and that task will be even more challenging with a developing line and an early trip to East Lansing to face a daunting Michigan State defense.

Whether Vernon Adams or Jeff Lockie seizes the signal-caller reins, they simply won’t be able to run the offense at full gear until the line is completely ready. That may not come until after the Michigan State showdown, which could mean an early loss.

As for the defense that was last seen on the receiving end of Elliott’s stiff arm in the national championship game, it will no longer have All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, defensive end Arik Armstead or cornerback Troy Hill, among others.

Ted Miller of pointed out that the Ducks could also be in trouble if they take a step back from last season based on the overall strength of the Pac-12:

USC is climbing back to full strength. More than a few folks believe the Trojans will return to the national picture this fall, displacing the Oregon/Stanford domination of the conference that began when Carroll bolted to the NFL after the 2009 downturn. USC remains USC. At full strength and well-coached, the Trojans are perennial national contenders, a combination of tradition, geography and wherewithal.

UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and Utah all have traction in the South as nationally ranked teams, at least as long as they hold on to present head coaches. Speaking of the 1990s, Oregon's good friend to the North, the Washington Huskies, also should be on the uptick under Chris Petersen. The Huskies, Stanford and a rising California program should provide a challenge in the North over the next three seasons.

In other words, if Oregon football takes a step back, it could mean that its rivals took two steps forward. 

Look for Oregon to take that step back without so many key contributors from last season. It will still be a nationally ranked team by December, but that ranking will not be in the top five with so many replacements.


Best Storyline to Follow: The Big 12 Arms Race

Last year, the Big 12 was left out of the playoffs in favor of Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon even though TCU and Baylor only had one loss each.

The fact that the Buckeyes in particular had the opportunity to showcase their talent in the Big Ten Championship Game during a destruction of Wisconsin while the Big 12 did not have a title contest certainly contributed to the Horned Frogs’ and Bears’ fates.

If this year’s initial coaches poll is any indication, No. 2 TCU and No. 4 Baylor control their own destiny on the way to the postseason. All it takes is a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings at season’s end to have a shot at the national championship, and this initial coaches poll sets up a thrilling race to the finish.

Around the Big 12 representatives, Ohio State and No. 6 Michigan State play each other, No. 5 Oregon is in a deep Pac-12 and No. 3 Alabama resides in an SEC with eight ranked teams. There will be plenty of losses near the top of the polls throughout the season, which opens up the door for TCU or Baylor to be a bride instead of a bridesmaid in this year's playoff.

What’s more, the actual showdown between the Bears and Horned Frogs happens Nov. 27 during Thanksgiving weekend. It represents a golden opportunity to make a late statement with the entire country turning its eyes toward football.

The winner will almost assuredly be in the College Football Playoff this time around if they avoid any significant upsets along the way. That is just what the Big 12 wants after missing out on the party last year.

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