NCAA Football News

Former USC QB Stephen Garcia: Gamecocks Will Play in SEC Championship Game

South Carolina spring practice is wrapped and who better to break down the biggest stories than former Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia?

Fifth-year senior QB Dylan Thompson has some huge shoes to fill now that Connor Shaw has left for the NFL. Thompson knows the system, but does he have the skills to lead South Carolina over the hump to reach the SEC Championship game?

The Gamecocks defense will have a brand new look this season after losing some key players, most notably Jadeveon Clowney. Which players will step up on defense?

Stephen Garcia from HuddlePass broke down what to expect from the Gamecocks in 2014 with Adam Lefkoe.

 

Highlights courtesy XOs Digital

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Florida Football: QB Jeff Driskel Is Perfect Fit for New OC Kurt Roper's Offense

The Florida spring game is in the books, and the Gators looked sharp. Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel looked 100 percent after a season-ending injury in 2013, completing 19 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown in the scrimmage.

Why does Driskel fit so well with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper? Who should be on your radar going into the fall? Which freshmen early enrollees could see playing time right away for the Gators?

Watch as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee answers these questions and hits on coach Will Muschamp's job security going forward.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

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Texas A&M Football: Offseason Arrests Shouldn't Be an Indictment of the Program

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is having one of those kinds of offseasons.

No, not one littered with massive roster turnover, although the departure of superstar quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel certainly kept him busy during spring practice.

Off the field, the Aggies have been bitten big-time by the arrest bug.

That trend continued on Wednesday when three more Aggie arrests came to light. According to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle, defensive end Gavin Stansbury was arrested last week and charged with assault for an incident on March 16 when he allegedly poured a beer on a Rice University student's head and then punched him in the eye. He was suspended from the program following the arrest but has been reinstated.

Two more Aggies, safety Howard Matthews and wide receiver Ed Pope, were booked on April 10 for failure to appear in court. The two players were not suspended by head coach Kevin Sumlin.

It was the continuation of a trend in College Station. 

Wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones was arrested earlier his month for disorderly conduct, quarterback Kenny Hill was booked late last month for public intoxication (after taking an early-morning nap on top of a planter full of rocks in front of a bar), linebacker Darian Claiborne was booked for a noise violation in late February, defensive lineman Isaiah Golden was booked for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana and Claiborne was suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl for possession of marijuana

The school announced on Wednesday that Claiborne, Hill and Golden have since been reinstated to the team, per Andrea Salazar of the Bryan-College Station Eagle).

"Kenny Hill, Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden have been released back to the football team but they still have disciplinary obligations to fulfill," associate athletic director for media relations Alan Cannon said in the statement, via Salazar.

Should the rash of arrests reflect poorly on the program?

No, it's just a bad offseason in College Station.

Assault and possession charges are not excusable, especially if they're part of a pattern of bad behavior—as is the case with Claiborne.

But a kid having too much to drink isn't something that Sumlin, or any head coach, can control. It happens at every program, every weekend. It just doesn't always result in that player passing out on a planter.

A player getting a little heated in front of cops isn't ideal, but it happens. College students with their windows down and their systems up happens every night of the week. Failure to appear in court is just laziness, plain and simple.

Getting booked because of those things is a poor reflection of those individuals, not the program.

Sumlin doesn't have a program that's out of control, he has a program that has some—some—kids making bad decisions; and those decisions all seem to be coming in the same offseason.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

 


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Michigan Football: What Alabama Transfer, Chad Lindsay, Would Mean to Wolverines

It’ll take a lot more than the landing of a Chad Lindsay to cure the woes of Michigan’s offensive line.

However, the addition of a Chad Lindsay—or in this case, the Chad Lindsay who’s looking to transfer from Alabama—would certainly make easier the lives of O-line coach Darrell Funk and head coach Brady Hoke.

And it’d probably ease the transition for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, the Tide’s ex-OC who coached Lindsay and an incredibly dominant front from 2012 to 2013.

We’re talking about NFL-like O-lines here: Chance Warmack, a guard, went No. 10 overall in the past draft. D.J. Fluker, a tackle, was selected immediately after. At the very least, Nussmeier had one of the closest things to "pro" that you'll see at the collegiate level. 

Lindsay can play guard, has Sunday size and is familiar with his former coach's teachings—these are all positives. However, this past season, the 6’2,” 302-pounder started four games at center, which is an even greater need for the Wolverines, who have nothing but youthful hopefuls to plug in the trenches. 

Filling in here and there for two years, Lindsay helped the Tide produce a trio of 1,000-yard rushers. Michigan hasn’t had such a runner since 2011—that’s when Fitz Toussaint broke loose for 1,064 yards as a sophomore.

Just something to think about. 

Again Lindsay’s backup resume is just that—a backup’s resume. He spent a total of three years with Nick Saban’s national title factory, which says a lot about his dedication and drive. But his brief history in Tuscaloosa doesn't mean that he'll blow away the Big Ten and be the answer to Hoke's prayers. 

Nonetheless, he'd fit in well with the Wolverines, who are an experienced O-line piece away from giving fans a little hope of progress.

Youth, youth, youth. That's the buzz word of the offseason...again. It's time to insert some proof. 

Odds of getting the former 'Bama big boy may not be sky high. But they're probably better than 50-50, given his ties with Nussmeier and Michigan's current needs. 

On paper, it fits. 

 

Tide Cred

As a sophomore, Lindsay played garbage time against the Wolverines. The Tide flooded Hoke at Jerry's World, 41-14, and the young O-liner was essentially a stand-in while the starters took a breather.

But he also saw the field against Auburn and played in Alabama's 2013 BCS title win over Notre Dame. That has to count for something. 

Other than the four starts in the middle this past year, he hasn't done a whole lot. And that has to count for something, too. But he's competed against elite foes and knows what it's like to be part of a winning culture.

In all likelihood, Nussmeier and Hoke see Lindsay's upside. Why else would they go after him? 

Back in the September, Ryan Kelly, the Tide's starting center, stretched his MCL. Lindsay was pulled from the pen for a relief effort. A proven track record helped Saban call upon the relatively inexperienced hopeful, via AL.com's Andrew Gribble:

"Chad has been in the program. He's a hard worker. He's a strong guy, very smart, understands. We have a lot of confidence in Chad, that he can go in there and do the job because he's done a good job for us in the past."

It should be noted that the next game was against Georgia State, hardly a powerhouse. But given the situation at The Big House, Lindsay is an ideal transfer candidate. He couldn't arrive in Ann Arbor any sooner. 

 

What Does Team 135 Have?

Roster via MGoBlue (other than Graham Glasgow, a 6'6," 308-pound redshirt junior, the majority of the O-line lacks game-time experience). 

Ordinarily, one backup from an SEC school wouldn't ignite an overnight change for any offensive line. But this isn't just any line, it's the ailing, hobbling and barely surviving front that faces a make-or-break season in 2014. 

A year ago, it didn't protect quarterback Devin Gardner, who was sacked 34 times, the third-most among FBS signal-callers. It didn't produce a 1,000-yard back, either. And Hoke has backs, which is the problem. It's almost painful to watch Michigan struggle while running the ball. That's not supposed to happen in Ann Arbor. 

Imagine the sophomore punch of Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, aided by the services of one Lindsay. That'd give enough reason to expect efficient production on the ground, wouldn't it? At least a little.

Imagine Gardner, more comfortable, roping darts down the field to his set of receivers. Or Shane Morris, your pick. 

Also, consider the fact that the Wolverines lose Taylor Lewan, an All-American and surefire first-round left tackle, along with Michael Schofield, a right tackle with pro potential.

Help is necessary. Get Lindsay to do it. 

 

Stat Break

Note: There aren't libraries of online footage of Lindsay, so this recruit video will have to suffice. He can be spotted in Alabama highlights every so often, too. But this recruit-me tape nicely showcases his skills.

During the recent two-year stretch, Tide quarterback AJ McCarron completed 67 percent of his passes, threw for 58 touchdowns, just 10 interceptions and averaged a near-first down per throw.

Granted, McCarron had some assistance; Lindsay wasn't a major factor, but he contributed. 

It's just mind-boggling to view statistics from other teams. It serves as a reminder of the miles and miles Michigan must travel in order to get something close to a powerhouse offense, such as the one routinely fielded by Saban each season. 

 

Enemy Territory

Lindsay is planning on visiting Ohio State, which stands to offer a little more than the Wolverines. The opportunity for a longer playoff run and Big Ten Championship presents itself in Columbus. Right now, it's only an idea at Michigan. 

Lindsay will likely take that into account. 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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Arkansas Football: Have Faith in Quarterback Brandon Allen

It sure does seem like it's been ages since the Arkansas Razorbacks had one of the best air attacks and quarterbacks in all of college football. Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson provided four years of Hogs fans knowing they had a capable signal-caller under center.

Those days are now gone, though.

Reality hit hard last season in Bret Bielema's first year guiding the program. There were endless issues all over the field, but the most documented of the Razorbacks' struggles was quarterback Brandon Allen.

To say he had a rough go in his first year as the starter would be a vast understatement. A percentage under 50, a near 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and countless mistakes enveloped Allen's dismal campaign. 

As bad as it was, now isn't the time to completely give up on him. In fact, now is the time to have faith in this kid and get behind him.

Before you start hurling insults and rioting, hear me out. Then, if you still disagree, you can grab your pitchforks and torches.

You have to think about the quarterback depth and experience of the guys battling him this offseason for the starting gig. Behind him are redshirt freshman and younger brother Austin Allen, senior A.J. Derby, redshirt freshman Damon Mitchell and true freshman Rafe Peavey. Excluding Peavey, who was part of the '14 class, the other three quarterbacks have combined for one start.

In fact, because Austin and Mitchell both redshirted last year, Derby is the only other quarterback to have even attempted a pass. He made his lone start against Rutgers in 2013 after Allen went down the previous game against Southern Miss with a shoulder injury.

Whether you like it or not, Allen has the most experience, and that counts for something.

Also, that shoulder injury I mentioned affected Allen's production a great deal. He may have only missed one game because of it, but he dealt with lingering effects for the rest of the season. As it got better, so did he. The numbers don't lie.

In his four starts following the injury, Allen completed just 45 of 114 (39.4 percent) pass attempts with three touchdowns and six interceptions. However, in the final four games as his shoulder healed and he got more comfortable, Allen connected on 57 of 100 passes (57 percent) for five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Allen got much better late in the season and showed real poise in the finale at LSU where he nearly led the Hogs to victory, completing 65.5 percent (19-of-29) of his throws for two touchdowns and one interception. 

The good thing is he has carried that momentum into the spring. Yes, it's just spring ball and an actual game is a huge step up. But it's encouraging to see Allen performing at a high level.

In the team's first big scrimmage, he was very accurate, hitting 17 of 20 (85 percent) of his targets for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He followed that up in last Saturday's 100-play scrimmage by throwing for 157 yards on 17-of-25 passing with five touchdowns and two picks.

His performance last weekend was enough for Bielema to tell HawgSports.com's Trey Biddy that he's the clear No. 1 right now (subscription required):

(Allen) is our number one quarterback. That kind of separated itself from the time we had our last game to the our first two weeks of practice. There isn't anybody in our program now that's at his level. Really trying to stress him and make him understand that. Got to get him to be uncomfortable. I want to really try to press him on.

There have also been some recent developments in spring practices that are pointing to Allen winning the starting job. According to Danny West of HawgSports.com (subscription required), coaches now have Mitchell working at receiver and Derby at tight end. 

Those moves have Allen's younger brother, Austin, taking the second-team snaps, which shifts Peavey from the No. 5 quarterback to the No. 3. 

Bielema is going to choose the guy who gives Arkansas the best chance to win. Right now, that's Allen, which means there's no point in ridiculing the kid or going out of your way to post on message boards and Twitter about how horrible and mad you are about the situation. 

A wise person once said that you can't worry about things you can't change, which in this case is Allen winning the starting job. At this point, it seems inevitable. Instead, get behind him and believe that last season doesn't define him as a quarterback. Players get better, and Allen is working hard to do just that this offseason. 

After last season, it's understandable that a lot of fans couldn't see him leading this team. But Allen is making significant strides and is looking forward, something all fans should do too. 

Last season was last season, and it's in the past. Allen is separating himself from the pack and showing he's determined to make 2014 much, much better. So, have some faith in him and the progress he's making.

 

All stats courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com.

Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

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Pros and Cons to 5-Star WR Damarkus Lodge's Top Schools

Damarkus Lodge is a 5-star receiver from Texas who is 6'2.5" and 190 pounds. He has solid speed to threaten defensive backs, but Lodge's hands are what make him such a fantastic receiver.

Earlier this month, Lodge revealed a group of schools to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required) that were thought to be his leaders. However, a report on April 10 by Greg Powers of Scout.com (subscription required) claims Lodge is still open.

A Texas native, Lodge may be feeling some in-state pressure from people around the Lone Star State. However, he named the schools he revealed to Bartow for a reason. Those programs will likely be the main suitors for Lodge until the end.

He'll have to weigh the pros and cons of each one before making a difficult decision.

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Pac-12 Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Steal a Starting Spot in Fall Camp

Spring football in the Pac-12 is a time for buzz to be created and for fans to read about actual football being played, even if it's only on a practice field. 

Then the reports start coming out and all of the excitement starts to slowly fade as coaches talk about how they're "improving" and how so-and-so "is really starting to put it together." In other words, it's the same old song and dance until the real games begin.

One thing you can count on, however, is a few new faces to emerge as viable contenders for playing time in the fall. Oftentimes, that involves the freshmen, both first- and second-year players, who are too good to be ignored.

So, which freshmen will have the most impact this year? Can someone duplicate the defensive efforts of Myles Jack, or will another back be as successful as Thomas Tyner was in his first season?

Here are five players who could earn starting spots in fall camp.

 

All recruiting info via 247Sports.

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The NFL Comparison for Top 10 DE Recruits from Class of 2015

The 2015 class has several excellent recruits at the defensive end position. While they're known in recruiting circles, comparing them to NFL players will only help paint a clearer picture of their skill sets.

A defensive end in Florida compares favorably to a defensive lineman with the Seattle Seahawks.

Another recruit at the same position plays a lot like a new member of the Oakland Raiders, while a former Raider appears to be an older version of a 5-star defensive end from Illinois.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports.

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Penn State Football: James Franklin's 5 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

When James Franklin took over at Penn State in early January, he wasn't too familiar with his current roster. 

Being a head coach in the SEC doesn't leave much time for scouting Big Ten teams not on the schedule.

Just three months later, he has been able to observe his Nittany Lions through a winter conditioning period and, as of Saturday, has spent 15 practices with those players. 

There's no doubt he has a better feel now for the strengths of his team, as well as the issues he'll have to work with this fall.

With depth concerns across the board and no established front-line wide receiver in place, Franklin has plenty on his plate. 

What are the top issues for the new Nittany Lions head coach now that spring practice is behind him?

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NCAA Adds 15-Yard Penalty for Hitting QB Below Knee in Passing Situations

Starting in the 2014 season, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty will be assessed when a defensive player hits a quarterback below the knee, provided the quarterback is in a "passing posture" with at least one foot on the ground.

The rule was agreed upon Wednesday during a conference call by the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel after being previously discussed and going un-acted upon at the Football Rules Committee’s February meeting, according to the official release announcing the rule via NCAA.org.

The release goes on to explain the rule's assessment:

The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

Exceptions for these types of hits occur when:

  • the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box;
  • the defender grabs or wraps the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle;
  • the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.

Since the rule was first discussed in February, all 10 major conference commissioners have lobbied on its behalf, per the release. It was formally submitted for further consideration by Jon Steinbrecher, the commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating, during a conference call on March 5.

Like almost any rule introduced to college football, this one will not come without its detractors. The rule is noble in nature—its goal is to protect quarterbacks' knees from injury, which is definitely a good thing—but when enforced improperly, it could lead to ticky-tack 15-yard penalties that alter the course of a game.

Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell is already complaining about its passage:

In the end, this rule will draw ire from fans when their team is flagged for committing it. However, it won't draw half as much ire as a torn ACL to their quarterback.

In my mind, that makes it a good thing.

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Which Conference Can Close the Gap on SEC Football's Recruiting Dominance?

Florida State enters the 2014 season as the defending champ, but make no mistake—the SEC is still king of the castle in college football.

The conference claimed seven of the final eight BCS National Championships. It produced four Heisman Trophy winners and three No. 1 overall NFL draft picks during that span.

The SEC reign also has deep roots in recruiting. According to 247Sports' composite team rankings, the conference boasted seven of the top 10 classes on signing day 2014.

An SEC squad has finished No. 1 in national recruiting rankings every year since 2008 when independent Notre Dame snagged the top spot. Alabama is currently in a class of its own when it comes to the recruiting trail, racking up four consecutive top-ranked classes.

Florida State finally put an end to the conference's national title game win streak with a win over Auburn in Pasadena. Perhaps the Seminoles or another non-SEC contender like Oklahoma or Oregon will keep the dominant conference off the pedestal again next January.

Postseason trophies aside, you have to wonder if there's even a shred of a threat to the SEC's supremacy in the recruiting spectrum. Programs have settled for slim pickings in SEC territory for years, while conference members routinely extend out of the region for top-tier talents.

Few conferences are able to put the borders up like the SEC. Now that Texas A&M and Missouri are in the mix, that landscape has quickly grown.

The Aggies gave offers to 13 Georgia juniors through the third week of February, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. That's five more scholarship offers to players in the Peach State than Texas A&M extended during the past two years combined.

College Station is nearly 900 miles from Atlanta. Do you think Michigan is putting the same kind of effort into its recruitment of players from Maryland, the home of its new Big Ten Conference foe?

For the record, Ann Arbor is approximately 600 miles away from Baltimore.

The SEC's geographical expansion has widened its recruiting reach, extending across states known for producing perennial blue-chip prospects. We're talking Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.

A quick rundown of recent recruiting cycles provides a clear picture of the current situation.

There's the SEC. Then there's everybody else.

So which of the cluster of teams formerly known as BCS conferences stands the best chance of making inroads?

Put my vote down for the Pac-12 where star coaches, conference expansion and a growingly intriguing Southern California storyline have the conference on an upswing.

Think about the kind of head coaches this conference has cultivated and kept in recent years.

David Shaw has maintained momentum at Stanford without pause, even after the departure of Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck. He's turned down high-profile opportunities elsewhere to stick with his squad.

The same can be said for Jim Mora Jr., who has swiped significant SoCal limelight away from USC during his tenure at UCLA. Saddled with sanctions and an unsettled situation, Lane Kiffin struggled to gain stability with the Trojans and quickly drew detractors during his underwhelming tenure.

Steve Sarkisian, another member of the Pete Carroll coaching tree, returned to USC in December after turning around Washington's fortunes during a five-year stretch. He managed to secure commitments from three of South California's top 2015 prospects on signing day (Adoree' Jackson, John Smith and Damien Mama) to solidify the Pac-12's top-ranked class.

The successful flurry of commitments gives USC immediate hope for continued strides under the direction of Sarkisian. The coach quickly got to work on his 2015 class, flipping 5-star quarterback Ricky Town from Alabama in January.

UCLA responded in a big way by securing a pledge from fellow 5-star passer Josh Rosen two months later. That development sets the stage for a fresh, compelling dynamic in the rivalry between USC and the Bruins.

Rosen and Town are rated the top two pro-style quarterbacks in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Pac-12 has benefited as a whole because of a strong 2015 class of West Coast passers.

Washington, who responded to the loss of Sarkisian by prying head coach Chris Peterson from Boise State, picked up 4-star California quarterback Jake Browning.

Brady White, another 4-star recruit from the Golden State, remains uncommitted but is likely to land in the Pac-12. His top contenders include Cal, Arizona and Washington State.

California is home to five of the top seven pro-style passers in 247Sports' rankings. Aside from Blake Barnett—a Notre Dame pledge—they seem set to square off as conference rivals for years to come.

The state also features two 4-star dual-threat quarterback prospects.

Anaheim standout Travis Waller is a top target for Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who has kept his explosive offensive game plan on track with the Wildcats. Fellow Southern California star Sheriron Jones also has Arizona in hot pursuit along with Arizona State and Colorado.

If Pac-12 members manage to scoop up these regional quarterback recruits, the future looks bright—and very high-scoring—out west.

While the Pac-12 doesn't rival the SEC's recruiting reach, conference title contenders have proven their ability to pluck premier talent from other regions.

New Orleans defensive back Mattrell McGraw signed with Oregon in February, spurning offers from Texas A&M, Miami and LSU. Defensive end Solomon Thomas, a 5-star recruit from Texas, picked Stanford over Arkansas, Ohio State and the Longhorns.

UCLA reeled in 4-star linebackers Zach Whitley (Houston) and Kenny Young (New Orleans) during the last cycle and has already extended far beyond Hollywood for 2015 talent.

The Bruins landed electric Virginia athlete Jaason Lewis in February and added Jacksonville linebacker Victor Alexander late last year.

If Pac-12 teams continue to follow suit with strong out-of-area recruiting efforts, the conference will continue to see a rise in national prominence. Superstar prospects don't always equate to on-field success, but they sure do give you a better shot at piling up wins.

The SEC is untouchable when it comes to recruiting prowess right now as it's continuously replenished with elite talent. It's an undeniable fact that translates annually during bowl season and the NFL draft alike.

Still, this is a sport of ebbs and flows. Remember, the SEC won just one national championship between 1999 and 2006.

In order for college football to maintain competitive balance, another conference is due to rise up and challenge the SEC in the fight for future stars. Right now, the Pac-12 appears to be the best bet.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU, Syracuse Officially Set Home-and-Home Football Series

According to Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com, LSU and Syracuse announced on Wednesday that they have finalized a deal to play a home-and-home football series in 2015 and 2017.

The Tigers will travel north to the Carrier Dome on Sept. 26, 2015 and the Orange will voyage south to Tiger Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.

It will be the first regular-season meeting between the schools, which have previously split two postseason contests: the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (won by Syracuse) and 1965 Sugar Bowl (won by LSU).

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross shared his thoughts on the news:

We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premier program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf.

It is a complicated process to arrange games of this magnitude, and I couldn't be happier for our fans and for all who will be involved in this upcoming series.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva gave a statement as well:

This is another attractive nonconference series that our fans will enjoy and our football program will benefit from. To be able to bring LSU football to the northeast part of the country for a football game will be a unique experience and then to have Syracuse return the trip to Tiger Stadium in 2017 will be a nice addition to our home schedule.

Syracuse and LSU have been among the best in the country at scheduling difficult nonconference games.

The Tigers played North Carolina in 2010, Oregon and West Virginia in 2011, TCU in 2013, and will play Wisconsin in 2014, while the Orange have scheduled Penn State and USC on multiple occasions in the past five years and have partial ACC member Notre Dame on the schedule this season.

This series will be different for Syracuse, however, because the high-profile opponent will visit the Carrier Dome—its actual home field—instead of playing on a neutral field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

For once, Scott Shafer's team will get to be a proper host. If recent history repeats itself, however, LSU will not be a well-groomed house guest.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Why Tigers Will Reclaim DBU Title in 2014

LSU has turned DBU into a prestigious institution. 

Louisiana State University has earned the title of "Defensive Back University." The run of defensive backs under Les Miles has been nothing short of spectacular. DBU has become a mantra the Tigers secondary takes seriously. 

In 2011, LSU became the first school to have a pair of cornerbacks named Associated Press first-team All-Americans. Those two, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, were also recipients of the Jim Thorpe Award and Chuck Bednarik Award, respectively. Patrick Peterson won both awards in the same season the year before. 

LSU has had seven defensive backs selected in the past three NFL drafts, three of which were in the first round. Two of those three, Peterson and Eric Reid, have already made a Pro Bowl.

LSU's defensive backs could be yearly labeled as the most talented unit in the country. But over the past two seasons, DBU has lost a bit of its luster.  

The Tigers gave up 229 and 219 passing yards per game in conference play in 2013 and 2012, respectively, which puts them in the middle of the pack of the SEC. 

Those numbers are not atrocious, yet they are not elite, either.

The Bayou Bengals secondary suffocated opponents the two seasons before. LSU held its conference foes to under 160 yards per game in 2011 and 2010. 

Dominant. 

LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White said after the spring game that it is time for the current defensive backs to make their mark on history.

"It's a tradition we have to live up to. Guys like Corey Webster, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and guys like that, they came before us, made DBU," said White. "We want to be like them." 

LSU fans should expect the Tigers to join the ranks of the elite again this season. Honors classes will be back in session for DBU in 2014 for a variety of reasons.  

 

Experience 

LSU's secondary had a good deal of playing time under its belt before the 2013 season began. But the Tigers did not play that way. 

The defensive backs often had coverage breakdowns in the secondary that were exploited. The lack of communication cost them dearly in big games. 

White says he expects those to go away now with the current crop of sophomores and juniors.  

"We now have experience under our belt...We have so many concepts in our defense, we have to know how to play everything," said White. "We have to understand what the linebackers and defensive line are doing. That is making me more confident in my game."

White said he feels the unit is more cohesive than last season's. If that is the case, expect the big mistakes to go away. 

  

Elite Cornerbacks

Defensive coordinators have the freedom to do more when cornerbacks can lock down receivers on the outside. LSU has two shutdown threats who have All-American potential. 

White and Rashard Robinson both started games as true freshmen last season. Once the duo shook off early jitters, it became a menace on the outside. The Tigers also have serviceable backups in early enrollee Ed Paris and seasoned veteran Jalen Collins. 

A big reason why LSU's corners were so magnificent in 2010 and 2011 was their aggressive coverage tactics. The Tigers were fearless against the other team's receivers, often standing no further than a yard or two from the receiver pre-snap.

White said after the spring game that the corners' technique has begun to look more like that. 

"We have gotten more physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage," said White. "The tradition around here is to play bump-and-run coverage and get in the receiver's face to throw off their timing."

LSU has the personnel and experience on the outside to be special. This will free up more opportunities for the Tigers to make game-changing plays by forcing the quarterback to hold on to the ball longer.    

 

Blitzing Playmakers

For defensive coordinator John Chavis' system to run at maximum productivity, he needs at least six defensive backs who can contribute consistently. 

Chavis loves running packages that call for one or two extra defensive backs, which is also known as the nickel or dime. Mathieu and Ron Brooks were dynamite playing these positions in 2011, but LSU has since not found a consistent playmaking threat there. 

The Tigers might have finally found their answer for nickel and dime defensive backs. 

Sophomore Dwayne Thomas was productive playing the role in limited snaps in 2013. Thomas finished with three sacks, which include his game-winning forced fumble against Arkansas. 

Jalen Mills could be another playmaking threat. Though he made the move from corner to safety, do not be surprised if Chavis moves him to the dime on 3rd-and-long. Mills also raked in three sacks when asked to play the position, highlighted by a crucial fourth-quarter sack against Florida.  

Chavis needs to find playmakers who can wreck havoc in the backfield while also having the ability to play man coverage on slot receivers. The nickel and dime can be a headache for a quarterback's pre-snap read. 

 

Corey Raymond's Third Season

Former LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper left after the stellar 2011 season to coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Former LSU defensive back Corey Raymond replaced him and has yet to replicate the success Cooper had.

Raymond is a great coach who should now have himself acclimated in his role. He has more than enough talent at his disposal to produce All-SEC-caliber defensive backs. 

Raymond's No. 1 goal this offseason is finding safeties he can trust. The Tigers started six different safeties in 2013, which partially explained the secondary's poor alignment and erratic play. 

The pressure is on for Raymond to have the secondary be more consistent. He is in no danger of losing his job, but the spotlight will be brighter on him now more than ever. 

 

Quarterback Exodus

The SEC lost some great quarterback this offseason. Alabama's AJ McCarron, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Vanderbilt's James Franklin and South Carolina's Connor Shaw are all NFL-bound. 

Rules favor the offense, which gave the magnificent quarterbacks from last season an even bigger advantage. Expect the crazy passing statistics from last season to come back to earth in the SEC. 

LSU does play three of the better quarterbacks returning in the conference. Auburn's Nick Marshall, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Ole Miss' Bo Wallace all had some success against the Tigers. 

Marshall, Prescott and Wallace are brilliant playmakers, but LSU should have them figured out for next season. The Tigers will also get to play Prescott and Wallace in Tiger Stadium. 

The conference's signal-callers are not on the same level as last year's. The Tigers should not be eviscerated like they were at times, especially on the road. 

 

Better Pass Rush

LSU's pass rush was not good last season. 

The Tigers defensive ends combined for only 9.5 sacks. Twenty-three players across the country matched or did better than that on their own. The Tigers averaged 3.2 pressure plays (sacks, hurries or tackles for loss), which is their lowest mark since 2010, according to Matthew Harris of The New Orleans Advocate

LSU returns most of its top defensive ends from a season ago. Danielle Hunter had a spectacular spring, raking in two sacks and two quarterback hurries in the spring game. Jermauria Rasco, who led the team in sacks, should be better as well. 

The defensive line as a whole should be better at pass rushing after a sluggish 2013. If not, expect more struggles in the secondary. 

 

Conclusion

The Tigers in 2010 and 2011 were not good or even great in the secondary. 

They were legendary.

No one should expect the current Tigers defensive backs to challenge for the Heisman. Getting back to elite status in anything is an arduous task. But the bar has without a doubt been lowered, which should be unacceptable for the current group.   

White believes LSU will get back to its glory days next season. 

"I am 100 percent confident in all the guys we have here now," said White. "We are eager to learn, always in the film room, we can always get better. Like coach Raymond said, we can never have too much knowledge." 

The DBU mystique and the professional success of players such as Peterson excite recruits. LSU's top 2015 commitment, cornerback Kevin Toliver II, has DBU on his Twitter page. In the video below, fellow 5-star corner Kendall Sheffield says he looks up to Peterson. 

LSU cannot afford to lose the DBU mythology. 

White, Robinson, Mills, Paris, Collins, Dwayne Thomas, Ronald Martin, Corey Thompson, Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams are all capable of being superb playmakers. The depth chart is plentiful to choose from for Raymond, but he will need some players to step up and become stars. 

LSU certainly has the talent to be great. If the Tigers secondary can even come close to replicating its success in 2011, it can lead Les Miles back to the SEC Championship Game. 

 

*Stats and rankings provided by LSU Sports Information, 247Sports and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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Biggest Takeaways from New York Times' Story on Jameis Winston Investigation

The New York Times released a long-form feature, written by Walt Bogdanich, on the sexual assault investigation of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused of—but never charged with—having non-consensual sex with a female freshman student on the evening of December 7, 2012.

The investigation came to light in November 2013, toward the latter part of Winston's redshirt freshman season, which saw him lead the Seminoles to a national title and win the Heisman Trophy.

Prosecutor Willie Meggs, the Florida state attorney, decided not to move forward with the case in December 2013, more than a year after the alleged incident, saying at the time, "We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case," per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.

This NYT piece is perhaps the most comprehensive article written on the issue, detailing the mistakes that were made in the investigation and questioning whether the Tallahassee Police Department was trying to cover for its city's superstar.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday's article:

 

A Second Woman Reportedly Sought Counseling After a Sexual Encounter With Winston

Before the rape accusation went public but after the accuser made her initial accusation to the TPD, a second woman reported an alleged sexual encounter with Winston.

It is important to clarify that this second woman did not deem the encounter rape, claiming to have not said "no," but that she did feel violated, according to the university's victim advocate.

From the NYT:

A month before the rape accusation became public, the university’s victim advocate learned that a second woman had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Mr. Winston, according to the prosecutor’s office. The woman did not call it rape — she did not say 'no.' But the encounter, not previously reported, 'was of such a nature that she felt violated or felt that she needed to seek some type of counseling for her emotions about the experience,' according to Georgia Cappleman, the chief assistant state attorney, who said she had spoken with the advocate but not with the woman.

The victim advocate was concerned enough about the episode to have alerted Mr. Winston’s first accuser.

This is the NYT story's most relevant bit of new information and might help substantiate the accuser's claims as Winston now has an official public record with multiple claims of sexual misconduct against him.

Based on what she was told, Cappelman does not think a crime was committed (in the second report), although she did find it troubling because it "sheds some light on the way Mr. Winston operates" and because it may indicate "a recurring problem rather than some type of misunderstanding that occurred in an isolated situation."

 

A Video of the Alleged Assault Existed But Was Not Evidence

Winston was with two Florida State teammates—defensive lineman Chris Casher and defensive back Ronald Darby—during the alleged assault, and Casher took a video of the incident. However, because the Tallahassee Police Department acted so slowly, the video was deleted before it could be acquired as evidence.

From the NYT piece:

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

Winston's DNA was found on the accuser's clothing, and he claims to have had consensual sex with her. A video of the incident would have thus been useful evidence, elucidating whether or not Winston was actually given consent in that moment.

The deletion of the video is suspicious, but not suspicious enough to prove Winston's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Why, then, wasn't the investigation started sooner, so the video could have been recovered, watched and used to inform the decision to file charges?

Even though the video was not a new allegation, Bogdanich does a good job expounding upon it and explaining how the TPD could have prevented its deletion. 

 

Not Much New Information Came to Light

It is extremely unjust that the case took so long to unravel.

Bogdanich does a thorough job discrediting the TPD, citing some of its problematic work in other cases in addition to rehashing some of its well-documented screw-ups in this case. How they handled this investigation was certainly not fair to the accuser/potential victim.

However, it is also not new information.

The TPD has long been a subject of scorn during this saga even before the NYT story was released.

Per Schlabach, here is the statement released by Patricia Carroll, the alleged victim's attorney, after Meggs announced his decision not to charge Winston in December 2013:

The victim and her family appreciate the state attorney's efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department. The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.

The piece released Wednesday was thorough and well-written. The research was sound, and its thesis—that the TPD screwed up an assault investigation involving a star quarterback at Florida State—is well-supported by the evidence it offered.

It just didn't add any new, bombshell allegations that change the tenor of Winston's case. It is today what it was yesterday and the day before; only now, it is likely to be back in the news, and these facts will make their way—presented as new information—to those who haven't followed the case as closely since the end of last year.

Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation wrote a good post detailing this angle, which includes the following tweets from Ira Schoffel, sports editor of the Tallahassee Democrat:

The biggest difference between Winston's case before the NYT feature was published and Winston's case after the NYT feature was published is that now it has had an NYT feature published about it. Now more people have resumed the conversation.

The university released the following statement in response.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Syracuse Unveils New Nike Pro Combat Football Uniforms for 2014 Season

Nike unveiled their new Pro Combat uniforms for the 2014 season, featuring elongated numbers to mimic the New York City skyline and a 44-degree linear "V" pattern to honor legendary Orange players who have donned the number. 

The team will wear their navy jerseys with orange helmets at home, their white jerseys at away games and an alternate gray option with a navy helmet to round out the trio of new fits.

You can read more about the technologies and see more photos of the new looks at Nike, Inc.

Update: Wednesday, April 16, 5:21 p.m. ET

Syracuse players were spotted around New York City showing off the new uniforms.

---End of update---

[Twitter, Twitter, h/t CollegeSpunNike, Inc.]

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NCAA Changes Recruiting Rules for Mid-Year Enrollees

The NCAA has amended a recruiting rule it developed last year, altering the landscape for early enrollment candidates yet again. Division I Legislative Council members decided during a meeting this month that financial aid agreements for mid-year arrivals will now come with added caution.

The governing body of collegiate athletics previously gave prospects an opportunity to sign early, non-binding financial aid agreements with programs. This allowed for unrestricted contact between a recruit and whichever team he selected, leading up to an anticipated enrollment on campus.

However, the process didn't prove as simple and clear-cut as the NCAA intended. Various players signed financial aid agreements with multiple programs, essentially setting the stage for potential unrestrained free-for-all action during the final stretch of their respective recruitments.

This wasn't the official interpretation of the rule, which stated that only the first program that signed a player could maintain "unlimited recruiting access." Still, the development created enough concern to demand a necessity for further examination.

The NCAA addressed the issue in its Wednesday press release.

The change created an unintended scenario in which prospects (most often mid-year enrollees) signed multiple offers of financial aid and coaches were incentivized to recruit prospects to sign so they could recruit without restrictions. The act of signing the agreements then lifted recruiting restrictions for that prospect with more than one school and created what some termed an unhealthy recruiting environment surrounding mid-year enrollees.

Last year, 5-star running back Dalvin Cook signed financial aid agreements with Florida State, Florida and Miami. He eventually enrolled at Florida State.

Wide receiver Josh Malone has already enjoyed a strong spring camp at Tennessee, but didn't officially join the Volunteers until after he also signed financial aid agreements with Florida State, Georgia and Clemson.

The NCAA is attempting to shy away from this by considering teams "in violation of recruiting rules" if a player signed to a financial aid agreement does not ultimately attend the school. This forces programs to become more diligent in determining who deserves an early pact, particularly if the player is uncommitted.

Universities are also expected to confirm proper academic standing for early enrollment with student-athletes before extending any financial aid agreement. The NCAA cited an appeal from the SEC as cause for a collective overhaul of the rule's interpretation moving forward.

"Schools often aren’t aware when prospects sign financial aid agreements with multiple schools and in what order," the NCAA said in the statement. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 3 Running Backs Still a Juggling Act

Shrinking the depth chart at running back was one of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's first orders of business this spring. Amir Carlisle, who opened last season as the team's starting tailback, was shipped out to slot receiver. Will Mahone joined him.

Add in the mutual decision for George Atkinson to head to the NFL, and Tony Alford's meeting room just got a little bit roomier.

But juggling snaps for three capable running backs is no easy task. And while Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock have four months to figure it out, finding touches for Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel will be the key to the team's success. 

After riding a strong running game in 2012, the Irish took a step backwards in 2013. After achieving perfect balance in 2012, Notre Dame averaged just 150 yards a game on the ground, down 50 yards from its regular-season total. A mobile quarterback will certainly help rectify that deficiency. But utilizing the talent in the backfield, while also returning to Kelly's spread roots, will be the challenge. 

A quick look back at the past 20 years of Notre Dame football gives you an idea of how rarely three backs have demanded touches. 

In 2010, an injury to Armando Allen opened the door for Robert Hughes, who provided depth down the stretch. Charlie Weis juggled a similar trio in 2008 (James Aldridge joined Allen and Hughes), but Notre Dame averaged just 3.3 yards a carry that season, one of the nation's worst running games. 

Notre Dame's unlikely Fiesta Bowl run after the 2000 season was fueled by Julius Jones, Tony Fisher and Terrance Howard. And Lou Holtz's best offenses were powered by strong running backs, the product of an option system where passing came second. 

Nobody is going to confuse Brian Kelly's offense with Dr. Lou's. And with the passing game ready to take flight with a talented receiving corps, making sure the ground game doesn't get lost in the shuffle will be a vital part of providing balance.

One look at the Blue-Gold game makes it hard to believe that this coaching staff could forget about Tarean Folston or Greg Bryant. But in critical losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh last year, the running game came up empty, drastically turning the fortunes of a four-loss season. 

While Kelly will return to calling plays, Denbrock's leadership role in the offense will likely help balance things out. While he's coached receivers and coordinated the passing game, Denbrock's roots are along the offensive line, a good sign that a coach understands the benefits of a powerful running attack. 

How best to power that attack? Well, it might mean reshuffling a depth chart to make room for a youth movement. 

At this point we know what to expect from senior Cam McDaniel. The Irish's most consistent back last season, McDaniel led the team in touches even though he averaged significantly less per carry than Atkinson or Folston. Kelly has shown how much he values consistency, choosing Theo Riddick over Cierre Wood in 2012 even with a similar statistical imbalance. But with Folston and Bryant no longer freshmen learning on the fly, it could be a matter of talent. 

While Bryant's long run was the highlight of the Blue-Gold game, Folston's performance solidified the fact that he's currently the team's best and most versatile back. His five first-half catches provided the position with much-needed production in the passing game. His vision and running ability looked as good as ever, even with limited touches. 

If Folston showed the savvy of a veteran, Bryant's power and rugged nature clearly have a home in this offense as well. Desperately in need of a between-the-tackles banger, Bryant's no bigger than Folston or McDaniel, but runs with a violence that's been lacking in the Kelly era.

If Notre Dame is asked to win games in a grind-it-out fashion, Bryant could play the role Riddick did down the stretch in 2012, gaining the tough yards against BYU and USC to cement an undefeated regular season. 

Notre Dame has yet to have a true "lead back" under Kelly. But the head coach has shown the ability to properly utilize two running backs, mixing and matching play calls to optimize the running game. With Bryant and Folston, he has two backs capable of executing the entire playbook, all while possessing big play ability. 

Counting out McDaniel would be foolish. But the veteran leader doesn't possess the explosive skill set his younger teammates do. But doing the little things is what's gotten McDaniel this far, and providing protection on third down or adding value in the passing game will make him valuable in 2014. 

The stars are aligning for the Irish offense. But finding the best way to utilize a talented running back position will be critical. 

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Aaron Murray Pro Day: QB Proves Healthy, but Plenty of Questions Still Remain

Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray proved he was healthy and ready to get his football career back on track at his pro day on Wednesday afternoon, but plenty of questions still surround the once-top passer. 

Rewind to late 2008/early 2009. Murray was at the top of the football landscape as one of the hottest names around. A Parade All-American, finalist for Florida's Mr. Football and a participant in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Murray put together such a stellar football career at Plant High School near Tampa, Fla., that the accolades rolled in regardless of the fact that he missed significant time due to injury. 

Injuries, however, have become a common refrain for Murray. That injury (to his knee) sidelined him for a few months. The next season, at Georgia, he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him into a redshirt and Joe Cox back into the starting quarterback position. Now, just a few months removed from a surgery on his ACL, Murray spent his pro day proving he is at 100 percent. 

That refrain—though it is oft-repeated—may not be fully accurate. 

Bleacher Report college football columnist Sanjay Kirpalani was at Murray's pro day, and although he's a self-proclaimed rider of the Murray bandwagon, he provided a levelheaded assessment when asked how the quarterback looked:

If he wasn't at 100 percent, he looked awfully close to it. You couldn’t tell that he had just had ACL surgery a few months ago. The first thing he did was some plyometric drills, focusing on running and cutting. He did a lot of bootlegs and throwing on the run. 

I thought he looked really good—victimized by a lot of drops. Deep-ball accuracy was great. Only one or two throws fluttered, and that was toward the end...was very solid. Scout walked by and said: “He looked really mobile” with a shocked look on his face. 

According to Kirpalani, this performance was in front of 35-45 scouts (a conservative estimate and admittedly nowhere near the South Carolina pro day that Kirpalani attended and that was a zoo). Notably, coaches from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts assisted with the throwing session, and a couple of Oakland Raiders coaches were very intent throughout the process. 

Another thing Kirpalani pointed out, however—apart from the pro day—was that Murray started 52 games as a Georgia Bulldog and actually tied David Greene's school record for most consecutive starts by a non-kicker. Although the double knee injuries and shoulder injury is a lot for a team to take in, Murray showed not only incredible durability and toughness as a starter, but also crazy work ethic in his return from his latest injury. 

Question answered? Maybe, maybe not. Still, even the most strident of critics have to realize that Murray is not as cut-and-dried an injury risk as he looked like only a month ago. In fact, his accelerated timetable of recovery is incredible. B/R's Dr. Dave Siebert covered Murray's recovery earlier this year:

Fortunately, Murray sustained no other ligament or knee damage—as is often the case with non-contact injuries—and his prognosis is almost surely excellent.

Recently, thanks to improvements in surgical technique and rehabilitation science, isolated ACL tears are requiring less and less post-operative rehabilitation time compared to the past. A very unscientific, cursory survey of cases in the past year throughout college and professional football comes up with a very rough estimate of about nine to 10 months.

This doesn't mean, of course, that Murray is going to be ready to take NFL hits in Week 1, but it does show a ridiculous amount of progress and (like Zach Mettenberger's similar pro day last week) that his first year in the NFL doesn't need to be a "medical redshirt" season. 

The difference between Mettenberger and Murray is that a healthy Mettenberger has a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in this draft class, while Murray has a much steeper hill to climb. My grade on Murray is that of what scouts call a "dirty starter," someone who could potentially start at the next level but isn't winning matchups consistently. 

Dirty starters at the quarterback position get coaches and general managers fired in a hurry. 

Note that my scouting grade doesn't really take into consideration or attempt to predict where a player gets drafted in terms of round. For the most part, though teams do that as well, grades are about projection two or three years down the road, not for one day in May. 

Ironically, dirty starters at quarterback go in the first round all the time. However, the difference between Murray and guys like Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker and Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert—both who had similar, albeit slightly higher grades than Murray in my system—is that those guys lacked acquired (coachable, teachable) talent and had plenty of physical tools. 

In many ways, Murray is the polar opposite of former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford (now with the Detroit Lions), who was a scout's dream in the physical tools department but scared plenty of teams (and still does) with his loose mechanics, decision making and lack of consistency. 

Put Murray's craftsmanship with Stafford's tools, and Canton would have to start carving out a space in the Hall of Fame for all the hardware that mythical player would win. Without those elite physical tools, however, Murray remains a good passer that leaves a lot of scouts wanting more. 

Kirpalani said it best: "If he were 6'4", we'd be talking about him as a top quarterback prospect in this class." He also noted the aforementioned starts and the fact that SEC defenders often list Murray as one of the players who gave them the most trouble. 

While I'm not quite as much on the Murray bandwagon as Kirpalani, it's notable that he does have a stellar career to look back on in the country's toughest football conference. He's also got a live arm that (while certainly not a cannon) can make all of the throws, and those 52 starts definitely speak to some toughness, durability, leadership and poise. 

Ryan Lownes compiled the scouting report on Murray for Bleacher Report and came away with a fourth- or fifth-round projection, saying:

A four-year starter that went on to set conference records in passing yards and touchdowns, he will go down as one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football history. But while he is an accurate passer with good mechanics and enough athleticism, his lack of size and arm strength are concerns. At the next level, he projects as a good backup with low-end starter potential in a West Coast offense.

I wouldn't completely pigeonhole Murray, because just about every offense is going to have West Coast principles as well as Air Raid and spread principles that smart quarterbacks like Murray can also excel at.

Yet, the point is valid that Murray will not only need the right sort of situation, but also the right offense to succeed at the next level.

In many ways, he fits on the "low-end starter" somewhere between the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton and Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn. Like both of those quarterbacks, Murray is a facilitator who can make an offense hum if he has the right components around him. However, he's not the physical talent that Dalton was at TCU, nor is he as pedestrian an athlete as Flynn was at LSU. 

Let's not put the cart before the horse, though. 

Being healthy, as Murray clearly is, gives him the chance to start working toward answering some of the more important questions about his NFL future. No pro day will answer all of those (even if you blare Drake music and have former presidents in your entourage), but Murray took a step forward. 

It is unlikely that any team will hand the proverbial keys to the franchise over to Murray next month in the draft, but teams that find themselves without a quarterback on the first or second day could look to Murray as a potential backup plan or as competition. 

What he does with his NFL career from there depends on Murray, and if the past is any indication whatsoever, one has to like his odds. 

 

Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

Thanks to B/R Featured Columnist Sanjay Kirpalani for contributing to this report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Does College Football Have Too Many Bowl Games Now?

Another year, another offseason filled with new bowl games. 

According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, the American Athletic Conference and the Sun Belt will meet in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., following the 2015 season. The new bowl game will be the 40th postseason bowl after the Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.), Detroit Bowl, Bahamas Bowl, Miami Beach Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl debut following he 2014 season.

This begs the question, are there too many bowls?

Nope. 

Bowls are fun. Football is fun. If more cities, committees and television networks want to create events during the holiday season, bring it on. Andy Staples of SI.com agrees.

Hey, look. People are complaining about too many bowl games again. Sort of like complaining about too many varieties of gummy bears.

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) April 15, 2014

Before you sprint to the comment section to complain about how mediocre teams with 6-6 and 7-5 records shouldn't be rewarded for their mediocrity, think about this for a second.

Bowl games are rewards to players.

They're rewarded with a national stage, bowl gifts and travel per diem. If you're for expanded player compensation through full cost of attendance stipends and other avenues, you're ignoring some of those same talking points if you're upset with the number of bowl games.

Is a check to cover the full cost of attendance the same as getting a new PlayStation 4 or some new Beats by Dre headphones? No. But those things are rewards for playing college football. 

The pay-for-play debate and the number of bowl games are different discussions, but they are related in the sense that more games create more opportunities for players to legally benefit.

Should the backup offensive guard of a 6-6 program be rewarded with a trip to the Bahamas for a lower-tier bowl?

You bet he should. That guy earned it. He earned that PS4, too.

"But bowl games are financial drains to schools!"

Every winter, you'll see stories pop up about how teams lose money each year by going to bowls. But those stories typically ignore a team's share of the conference payout, according to sports business reporter Kristi Dosh, which comes at the end of each school year.

@jasonrmcintyre @BarrettSallee Kind of deceptive because bowl payouts from conference usually more than cover school's loss.

— Kristi Dosh (@SportsBizMiss) April 15, 2014

Mandatory ticket requirements are a bit silly, but a school can choose not to accept a bid if it feels that, financially, it doesn't make sense. After all, this is a business.

Besides, unless it's your alma mater or a school you have some sort of vested interest in, why should it matter?

Having a random football game on a random December weeknight between two marginal teams isn't taking away from the other games that are on that night because there are no other games on that night.

My B/R colleague Adam Kramer said it best regarding more bowl games:

Here's what I know about you if you don't want more bowl games: a) you're not a gambler b) you hate fun

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) April 15, 2014

Bowl games are fun, even when they involve two teams that you don't really care about. 

See: the 2013 New Mexico Bowl.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

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How Nick Saban Turned Alabama Football Around

Nick Saban arrived at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport to a frenzied throng of Alabama fans with perhaps unheralded excitement and expectations.

Considering that excitement and those expectations came from Alabama, the idea of there being unheralded speaks volumes.

Many coaches have come to Alabama in hopes of bringing a multitude of national championships the way Bear Bryant once did.

Few have succeeded in producing even one.

Rather than looking at the treacherous mountain to climb and becoming intimidated, though, Saban trusted his “process.”

It had worked in the past. After all, Saban led LSU to the 2003 BCS National Championship. Him doing so within Alabama’s own division only further inflated already lofty expectations within the program.

In believing in the “Process,” Saban has returned Alabama to a level of national prominence not seen since the Bear roamed the sidelines.

The Crimson Tide has won three national championships in the first seven years under Saban. Last season, only Auburn’s miracle play in the final seconds of regulation prevented Alabama from having an overtime session to determine whether it would play for a third consecutive title.

Today, we take a look at the 10 most defining moments in Saban’s remarkable era at Alabama. The moments on this list should serve the purpose of either an incredible high or a noteworthy turning point.

Here is our list of Saban’s most defining moments since taking over as Alabama head coach, listed in chronological order.

Begin Slideshow

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