NCAA Football News
Fresh off the heels of an overpowering national championship victory, the Ohio State Buckeyes are continuing to stockpile talent at the running back position with the commitments of Michael Weber and Kareem Walker.
Will these two backs see significant time after they arrive in Columbus? Check out the video and let us know!
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Massive New York defensive end Austrian Robinson enjoyed a late rise on the 2015 recruiting trail and is working toward a decision as national signing day approaches. The 6'6", 255-pound prospect shared his top four choices Tuesday evening:
Robinson, a senior at Trinity-Pawling School, picked up several offers during recent months. Penn State extended a scholarship in late November, while Ohio State followed with an offer after the regular season.
Despite an unofficial visit to Happy Valley and follow-up visits from the Nittany Lions coaching staff, Robinson left Penn State off his list of favorite options.
Maryland was among the first programs to show significant interest in Robinson, who is rated 34th nationally among strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Terrapins stepped up with an offer in February, eventually securing an official visit in December.
He's identified the team as his leader on multiple occasions, including late-season comments to Jeff Ermann of 247Sports. Maryland has done a nice job addressing its defensive front, highlighted by a flip from former Penn State tackle commit Adam McLean.
Underrated Texas pass-rusher Mbi Tanyi provides a presence off the perimeter, but he's more of a developmental player at this point. Robinson would give Maryland a more stalwart physical presence who possesses a level of physicality this class currently lacks.
Ohio State provided a compelling opportunity during the final stretch of his recruitment. The Buckeyes instantly became a big contender for Robinson's commitment.
"I was really excited," he told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "I had been talking to (defensive line coach Larry) Johnson for a while, but just to hear him say that I had a scholarship was great."
The freshly crowned national champions are in the market for another defensive lineman.
Jashon Cornell, a 4-star talent from Minnesota, starred at end in high school but is expected to slide inside during his Buckeyes career. Committed Detroit defensive end Joshua Alabi is a prospect much in the mold of Robinson, standing 6'5" and 295 pounds.
The Buckeyes missed on top defensive line targets Josh Sweat (Florida State) and Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) in recent weeks and have begun to explore other options with position slots still available in this cycle.
Ohio State is expected to host Robinson on campus Jan. 30, the final weekend of official visits.
Miami remains in the hunt for 5-star California defensive tackle Rasheem Green, though he's expected to remain on the West Coast in college. The Hurricanes must gain a size upgrade along the defensive line and landed on Robinson's radar in August by extending a scholarship.
Al Golden and his staff are set to host him on campus for an official visit this upcoming weekend. The team enjoyed a strong start to recruiting in January, landing All-American wide receiver Lawrence Cager and local defensive back Robert Knowles.
Miami already has in-state defensive end Scott Patchan on campus as an early enrollee and holds another pair of incoming pledges at the position. Given Robinson's size, he's a candidate to transition into an interior role, where instant added depth is necessary.
Ole Miss will welcome Robinson to campus Jan. 2 between his trips to Miami and Columbus. His lone SEC favorite signed top-ranked junior college defensive tackle D.J. Jones in December but lacks commitments from top-tier high school defensive linemen.
CeCe Jefferson, rated among the nation's top overall defensive ends, is strongly considering a career in Oxford. The Rebels could apply pressure on Robinson in an effort to land his commitment during the visit by citing a Jan. 30 visit from Kevin Scott, a late-rising California prospect with similar physical traits.
Robinson is expected to keep things open until perhaps signing day, so there's still significant time for coaches to make their final sales pitches. With three of his top four contenders preparing to spend time with him on campus, it's fair to say this race is wide open.
The allure of accepting a late offer from the national champs will weigh heavily on his mind, but Maryland is ultimately the clubhouse leader entering these final weeks.
The Terps have been in the mix since earliest phases of his recruitment, already provided a positive official visit and are an overwhelming favorite to sign Robinson in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, holding 62 percent of expert projections. The challenge for Maryland is to sustain that momentum for three more weeks.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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The immediate fate of Tennessee's football program rests in the able hands of rising junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, but it's likely the Volunteers' future at the position arrives with the 2015 recruiting class.
UT head coach Butch Jones recruited three highly regarded signal-callers with different skill sets this year.
It's uncommon to have that many quarterbacks in one class, but Jones had little choice. With Justin Worley's graduation, the transfer of Riley Ferguson and the fact that UT failed to sign a signal-caller in last year's class, the Vols had become dangerously thin at the position.
That's especially true considering the Vols have been forced to start multiple quarterbacks in 11 of the past 15 seasons dating back to 2000.
Junior backup Nathan Peterman is expected to return too, UT offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian told The Sports Animal radio station (via the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak). Given that Peterman hasn't proven dependable, all eyes will be on the freshmen.
Let's examine the trio of youngsters whose inheritance could be a roster as talented as any in the country in a couple years.
Jauan Jennings (6'4", 188 lbs), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, No. 6 Dual-Threat Quarterback
The biggest wild card of the group may also have the most potential.
A year ago, Jennings wasn't even classified as a quarterback, and many analysts predicted his collegiate position to be anywhere from safety to wide receiver to linebacker. Since then, the Blackman High product remodeled himself as a signal-caller.
With his reclassification as a dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, it's obvious now people are beginning to see him as a quarterback who's a very good athlete rather than an athlete who plays the position out of necessity.
Jennings finished his senior season for the 11-2 Blaze throwing for 2,155 yards and 22 touchdowns and running for 883 yards and 17 more scores, according to 247Sports' Chad Carson.
With his stellar season came enough accolades to fill a trophy case, but doubters still abound. It's that uncertainty, Jennings told Murfreesboro's Daily News Journal's Tom Kreager, that he isn't a fan of: "I absolutely hate it," Jennings said. "I look back and 247(Sports) finally put me as a dual-threat quarterback. But I also see dual threat, then I see athlete, and I see safety. Why not just dual threat?"
Later, he told Kreager: "I wish people would just give me a chance," Jennings said. "Maybe I can play quarterback."
He'll be given every opportunity in Knoxville, and the best thing for Jennings and the Vols is he's a mid-term enrollee who'll get to go through spring drills and get a head start on learning the offense.
If he can, he'll give the Vols an elite athlete who is a top competitor and has proven he has the work ethic to develop his skills as a passer. If not, he'll excel at another position or transfer to another place where he can play quarterback.
One thing's for certain after the past year: He shouldn't be doubted.
Sheriron Jones (6'2.5", 192 lbs), Moreno Valley, California, No. 7 Dual-Threat Quarterback
Despite UT having two mid-term freshmen quarterbacks in the fold, the former Florida commitment decided he wanted Knoxville to be his home after decommitting from the Gators following Will Muschamp's ouster.
That throws another hat in the ring to be the man behind center once Dobbs departs.
Also being from the talent-rich recruiting grounds of California where it seems they grow quarterbacks in the fertile soil, Jones has been taught the position by people who've developed plenty of throwers.
Though—like Jennings—Jones needs to get in the weight room and work on adding bulk to his frame as well as adding strength to his throws, he displays nice touch on his passes and can make most passes.
247Sports' director of scouting Barton Simmons told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that Jones gives UT a different blend of the skill sets it already had committed with Jennings and Dormady:
I think he fits well with the other quarterbacks they've got, as well, because I think he's more of the athletic type—maybe not with the upside of Jauan Jennings, but a little bit more polished as a passer. And maybe not the passing chops of Dormady, but more athletic. I think it's just another really nice option within Tennessee's quarterback class that I think allows them to have a really nice setup there.
If you're a Vols fan, you've got to like the fact that Sheriron Jones wasn't scared away by the players already in the fold. With an offer sheet that boasted Florida, Arizona, Arizona State and Ole Miss, among others, he had plenty of interest.
He's also said the right things since committing last week, seeming like a humble but confident kid.
Once Jones develops, he has the same combination of speed and throwing ability that has helped Dobbs thrive in Bajakian's system, so it'll be interesting to see how he progresses—especially considering he is the only one of the trio who hasn't enrolled mid-term.
Quinten Dormady (6'4", 200 lbs), Boerne, Texas, No. 13 Pro-Style Quarterback
When Dormady chose Tennessee over Alabama and others back on June 9, he was seen as the answer to UT's struggles recruiting the position in Butch Jones' early tenure.
Since then, Jennings has emerged as a viable quarterbacking option, and Sheriron Jones was added, but the coaching staff is still enamored with Dormady's ability.
"He is an accurate passer with a quick release who possesses a skill set that will help him excel in our offense," Bajakian said, according to UTSports.com. "As the son of a coach, Quinten has been around the game his entire life and exhibits all the intangibles you look for in a leader and a quarterback."
Despite Dormady's strong arm and sneaky athleticism, he missed his entire junior season with a torn labrum. The shoulder injury showed no ill effects last year, and he should be good to go this spring.
He ran a variation of UT's zone-read offense as a senior, and he enjoyed a stellar season. Instead of going to his senior prom and doing all the things most 17-year-olds like to do, Dormady instead drove 17 hours to enroll at UT.
"I just feel like as a quarterback," he told San Antonio Express-News' Ben Baby, "that swing into spring is huge to get into the offense and that kind of thing."
Rival coach Van Fuschak of Antonian High told Baby in another article that Dormady compared to two quarterbacks he faced when he was at MacArthur High School: Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and New Orleans Saints great Drew Brees.
"Fuschak said Dormady’s bigger than those players, can throw the ball like them and is deceptively quick, too," Baby wrote.
With Dobbs entrenched, the Vols should be able to bring the young guys along slowly, integrate them into the offense and see who rises to the top of the depth chart. Even so, there has to be a sense of urgency due to the lack of depth behind the starter.
The battle between Dormady and Jennings will be extremely intriguing this spring, and when Jones gets on campus, he'll add just another talented prospect to the mix. Throw in 2016 commitment Austin Kendall, and UT appears set for the future.
Now that the Vols are dripping with potential at the position, it should give them something down the road they don't currently have: viable options.
All recruiting information from 247Sports composite rankings, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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It’s finally over. Monday night, college football’s 2014 season finished with a bang as Ohio State wrapped up a triumphant run through the College Football Playoff with an emphatic 42-20 rout of Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
For the Buckeyes, Tuesday was a day of celebration. For Oregon and the rest of the FBS, it was a day to reflect, look back briefly and then look forward. OK, let’s be honest. Many teams have been looking forward since the regular season wrapped up in early December, with 14 teams making head-coaching changes this offseason.
So we’re going to look forward, too. Tuesday morning, very, very early preseason Top 25 polls populated the Internet. We’re seven-plus months away from the opening of the 2015 regular season, but it’s never too early to highlight teams we think will make a bigger impact next fall. Here’s a look at eight teams that should be significantly improved in 2015.
Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football. Brian Leigh and Kynon Codrington have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country based on specific criteria, narrowed that list down to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the top 250 players.
Other CFB 250 Positions
- Top 22 Pro-Style Quarterbacks
- Top 13 Interior Linemen
- Top 20 Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
- Top 21 Cornerbacks
- Top 12 Offensive Tackles
- Top 20 Safeties
- Top 25 Running Backs
- Top 17 Outside Linebackers
- Top 12 Defensive Tackles
- Top 25 Defensive Ends
- Top 15 Tight Ends
- Top 16 Inside Linebackers
- Top 32 Wide Receivers
After breaking down it position by position, we've finally reached the full list of the top 250 college football players.
Keep in mind here that a subjective call was made by the authors in cases where two or more players had the same final grade. This call was based on an abstract “Wins Above Replacement” formula: Which players most exceed a replacement-level starter at their position?
Lastly, note that these players were graded as college athletes, not on how they project to the NFL.
Targeted skills such as QB arm strength are important at both levels, but there is a difference between college arm strength and professional arm strength. If a quarterback slings it well enough to hit his marks in the SEC or the Big 12, it doesn't matter that he can't stretch the field against the NFC North. At least not here, it doesn't.
This is all about his college performance.
Note: Rankings and scores were made prior to postseason football performances.
These things don’t even happen in sports movies because the plot wouldn’t be believable.
Ohio State’s 42-20 national championship beatdown of the Oregon Ducks came after superstar quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season before the first game even kicked off.
It came after his backup, J.T. Barrett, who was smack in the middle of the Heisman Trophy discussion in November, was lost for the season with an injury in the second half of the Michigan game.
It came after star defensive lineman Noah Spence was suspended for the entire season and playmaker Dontre Wilson broke his foot against Michigan State in the biggest regular-season win of the year.
All it took to get through that incredible amount of adversity was a third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones who was most famous for an ill-advised tweet before this run, a monster of a running back in Ezekiel Elliott who once seemed like a lock to attend Missouri until coach Urban Meyer worked his recruiting magic and a dominant defensive line that kept Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in check.
Meyer put it best, via SportsCenter:
While plenty of well-deserved attention will be placed upon Meyer for his third title and Elliott for his 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns, there were also some moments that may have been overlooked in the grand scheme of things that helped the Buckeyes win the title.
Here are a few of them.
Missed Safety Chance
While it may be hard to remember considering Ohio State more than doubled Oregon’s point total, there was a time when the Ducks had a 7-0 lead and all the momentum in the first quarter. That momentum would have been astronomical had the Ducks taken Jones down in the end zone for a safety on Ohio State’s second drive of the game.
The Buckeyes were pinned at their own 3-yard line on that second drive, and Jones dropped back into the end zone on second down. An Oregon defender came hurtling toward him and appeared to have him in his grasp.
Instead of a safety, though, the 6’5”, 250-pound Jones shrugged the defender off and threw the ball away.
Rather than a 9-0 Oregon lead, Ohio State kept possession and ended its 97-yard, game-tying drive with this, via ESPN College Football:
Holding Marcus Mariota to a Field Goal
While the Buckeyes controlled most of the game, there was a moment in the third quarter when it looked like everything was falling apart.
The Buckeyes had a 21-10 lead and were once again marching right down the field when Jalin Marshall let a perfect pass ricochet off his stomach and into the waiting hands of Danny Mattingly. Oregon took a whopping 10 seconds on the ensuing drive to find the end zone with a 70-yard touchdown strike from Mariota to Byron Marshall.
This is what happened on Ohio State’s next drive, via ESPN College Football:
Suddenly, it was 21-17 in favor of the Buckeyes, and Oregon had the ball at Ohio State’s 23-yard line. Instead of wilting under the pressure and momentum, Ohio State’s defense stood tall and held the Ducks to a field goal. The score could have been 24-21 Oregon, but the Buckeyes held the lead at 21-20 and responded on the next drive with a critical touchdown.
Perhaps the Buckeyes don’t finish the game on a 21-0 run if Oregon took the lead and overwhelming momentum late in the third quarter with a touchdown.
Cameron Johnston’s Punting
Punters are accustomed to getting overlooked on the field unless they mess up, but Ohio State’s Cameron Johnston made the most of his limited opportunities.
He only punted three times, but they went for an average of 42 yards per punt with two inside the 20-yard line. Pinning the high-octane Ducks offense back is one way to keep it in check, and that is exactly what Johnston did.
One of those punts that landed inside the 20 happened with just more than four minutes remaining in the game and helped virtually seal the victory for the Buckeyes.
Now it is time for Ohio State to look ahead to the 2015 season, where it will attempt to defend its crown.
While it is impossible to get a complete picture of the 2015 Buckeyes until the quarterback situation between Miller, Barrett and Jones is decided, Meyer’s squad will be loaded once again thanks to the returns of Elliott, Michael Thomas, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan, among others.
Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated discussed what that means for the rest of college football: “The Big Ten—and college football, by and large—needed Ohio State to be an elite program again. That happened. The only problem for the rest of the league? It has to keep playing the increasingly dangerous Buckeyes, year in and year out.”
Buckle up, Columbus. It’s going to be an incredible ride.
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With Ohio State taking home the national championship, college football fans can now look toward the future and, specifically, national signing day.
Although predicting what is going on in the mind of a teenager with almost limitless options is extremely difficult, these choices are certain to make a major impact on the sport for the next few years. Considering how many top players are still undecided, expect some seismic shifts in the recruiting rankings when the commitments roll in.
A lot can obviously change between now and Feb. 4, but here are the latest rumors concerning some of the top recruits in the nation.
CeCe Jefferson, DE
It has become clear the strength of the 2015 class is in the defensive line. Players like Byron Cowart, Trent Thompson, Terry Beckner and others will help shape the national landscape regardless of where they go.
Right near the top of this list is defensive end CeCe Jefferson. The Florida native is considered the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation, according to 247 Sports, and he has the athleticism necessary to be an impact player right away wherever he lands.
According to John Garcia and Yancy Porter of Scout.com, that destination appears to be Ole Miss:
Barton Simmons of 247 Sports reported Florida had been the leader for a long time, but he quoted the youngster about his change of heart at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl:
Ole Miss, I would say Ole Miss is my top school right now. Ole Miss is great man. Coach (Hugh) Freeze, what he has going is amazing. I took my official when they played Bama and it was like no other. They treated me well. The program's great. The guys are great and I just know if I go there I'll get taken care of and they'll get me prepared for the next level and I'll get a great education. And plus I know Coach Freeze is going to be there for a while, great stability.
The Rebels had the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation this season thanks in large part to former 5-star recruit Robert Nkemdiche. Jefferson can learn from the talented defensive end and play with him to help create an even more imposing defensive front.
Jefferson is still set to visit Auburn and LSU, and has already taken officials to Alabama and Cincinnati. While each of these programs represents a quality option for Jefferson, it seems like he has already seen what he wants to see in a college.
Prediction: Ole Miss
Aliz'e Jones, TE
The tight end spot is often an afterthought for college coaches, but Aliz'e Jones is forcing people to pay attention. The UCLA commit has the size at 6'4.5" and athleticism to be a true mismatch for defenders not only in college but possibly in the NFL.
Mike Craven of Rivals was impressed by the player's performance in practices for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl:
While this would ordinarily make Bruins fans extremely excited for the future, it seems like his commitment is not set in stone. In fact, Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports explains that Notre Dame could end up with the talented player:
Sources continue to indicate that Notre Dame is the team to beat for the nation’s top-ranked tight end Aliz'e Jones, although that one is expected to go to the end for the current UCLA commit. Jones spent a lot of time with the five Irish commitments in San Antonio, building on past experiences he’s had with those guys during two different visits to South Bend since September.
For a player considered the best at his position by 247 Sports, a flipped commitment could make a major impact for both recruiting classes. To make things more interesting, each squad has brought in a top quarterback for 2015 (Brandon Wimbush for Notre Dame and Josh Rosen to UCLA).
In the end, though, it seems most likely he stays with his decision and stars for the Bruins.
Martez Ivey, OT
Although offensive linemen don't always get the most publicity, they have a major impact on college football games. This is why everyone is trying to get Martez Ivey, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports.
At 6'5.5", Ivey has the frame to be a massive force at the next level once he puts on more strength in a collegiate weight program. He also already has the technique to be an elite blocker on both pass and run plays.
The question is which team will be able to get the game-changing player. It appeared like Florida was the front-runner, but Justin Hokanson of 247 Sports notes Auburn could be the new favorite:
One source that spent some time with Ivey at the Army Bowl thought it would be Auburn in the end, citing Ivey’s teammate in Chandler Cox, saying he believed the blue-chipper would go play with his 'brother.' At the Top Gun camp this summer in Dublin, Ohio, players that hung out with Ivey thought it would be the Tigers in the end.
Playing with Auburn commit Chandler Cox seems likely to be a big draw for Ivey, who could follow in the path of players like Greg Robinson for the run-first Tigers.
After delaying his decision, Auburn appears to have moved into the top spot for the elite player.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.
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Ohio State’s playoff run has restored the luster of Big Ten football, but Urban Meyer’s third national championship victory has also amped up the pressure on Jim Harbaugh. The national storyline has shifted from Harbaugh’s glorious return to Meyer’s genius in overcoming the season-ending injuries of two quarterbacks while running the gauntlet of Alabama and Oregon to claim the national crown.
The coaching seat in Ann Arbor comes preheated, but Ohio State’s victory kicks up the temperature a few degrees and shrinks Harbaugh’s time table for turning the program around.
Prior to the game, Harbaugh said all of the right things on The Rich Eisen Show to promote conference unity:
I'm going to be rooting for Ohio State," said Harbaugh. "I'm a midwesterner. I was raised in Ohio, I went to Michigan, raised in Michigan as well. But for Big Ten football, for midwest football there's been a lot of talk about other conferences, etc , but I think it's just fabulous a team in our conference is playing in that game.
The win may be fabulous for the conference, but it could hurt Michigan on the recruiting front. Kareem Walker, a 5-star running back, who had told The Detroit Free Press that hiring “[Harbaugh] was a great move, I think he's going to be a college game-changer,” committed to Ohio State during the game.
Any glimmer of hope that his positive comments about Harbaugh might lead him to Ann Arbor dimmed with his Twitter announcement.
The loss stings after previous Michigan commitment Mike Weber flipped to Ohio State last month.
As Harbaugh and his newly minted staff head out on the recruiting trail looking to salvage this class, Ohio State’s victory will make prying any recruits away from Urban Meyer even harder.
Long term, Harbaugh will also need to contend with comparisons between his rebuilding project and Meyer’s masterful run at Ohio State.
Meyer inherited a team that staggered to a 6-7 finish in the wake of Jim Tressel’s offseason resignation. He took over a program humbled by NCAA violations that caused most of the 2010 season to be vacated and resulted in the 2012 team being ineligible for postseason play. Meyer rallied Ohio State to an undefeated campaign despite the bowl ban and was mobbed on the field as the Buckeyes defeated Michigan 26-21, finishing No. 3 in the final Associated Press season football poll.
Harbaugh takes over a team that finished 5-7 during Hoke's final season and was just the latest disappointment during a seven-season slide that began after the retirement of Lloyd Carr, whose last game, ironically, was a bowl victory over Meyer's Florida team. Michigan had its own minor dust-up with the NCAA prior to Hoke and is also dealing with a spat of recent behavioral problems. Hoke's swan song included the dismissal of defensive end Frank Clark, the alcohol-related arrest of lineman Graham Glasgow and the expulsion of kicker Brandon Graham prior to the season.
Harbaugh returns to a program that has been dominated during the last decade by its key conference rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State. Both teams are surging nationally and don’t appear to be declining any time soon.
Michigan may have pulled off the best move of the offseason by bringing Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor, but Ohio State has dominated on the field.
As the windchill dips well below zero in Ann Arbor, the pressure on Jim Harbaugh will generate plenty of heat.
He has never shied away from pressure or the spotlight, and Ohio State’s victory only increases expectations for Michigan fans who believe that all of the key ingredients are now in place for a quick resurgence.
The Big Ten is back and the clock is ticking for Jim Harbaugh—Urban Meyer has set the bar, and now it's time for Michigan to respond on the field.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
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Fresh off a victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the TaxSlayer Bowl and with a second-consecutive top five recruiting class on the way, the Tennessee Volunteers are one of the hottest teams in the country.
A big reason for that hype is the amount of young talent the Vols bring back in 2015. Jalen Hurd, Derek Barnett and Joshua Dobbs will be among the best players in the SEC next year.
But one of the advantages of Tennessee's bursting-at-the-seams 2014 class is that the players who weren't breakout stars this season get another crack at it next year.
Head coach Butch Jones's first-year class, pieced together at the last minute shortly after he was hired on Dec. 7, 2012, also returns a few playmakers who will play big roles for the Vols next season.
While Tennessee will rely on its established stars next year, here are five under-the-radar players who are poised to break out and help lead the Vols back to relevance in 2015.
The start of a new season brings much excitement for any football program, including the UCLA football team.
It's always fascinating to see athletes emerge and impact a team considerably. Four players on the UCLA football team will fit into this category heading into 2015.
Of the four, three play on the defensive side of the ball. While none of these players are complete unknowns, their expected roles—and levels of productivity—will continue to rise.
A fourth player also figures to be a fixture on UCLA's offense line for the next few seasons.
Here's a look at four Bruins poised for breakout seasons in 2015.
Ohio State was leading Oregon, 35-20, in the final minute of the College Football Playoff National Championship with an opportunity to take a knee, kill the clock and collect its new, shiny trophy.
Instead, Urban Meyer had Ezekiel Elliott punch in his fourth touchdown of the night to put an exclamation point on Ohio State's performance and more importantly, send a message to the rest of the college football world:
Ohio State is not an underdog. Ohio State is not finished. In fact, after winning the program's first national title since 2002, the Buckeyes showed that they're just getting started.
Meyer was asked about why he kept his foot on the gas when the game was clearly in hand.
"I didn’t even think about taking a knee," Meyer said, according to George Schroeder of USA Today. "We play to win. We play to be aggressive."
And that, in a nutshell, is the perfect glimpse into the mentality Ohio State and Meyer use to approach the game. They play fast and strong, and they don't make any apologies for it. They were doubted and given long odds in each of their last three games, and they came out victorious each time.
Now that they're on top, the Buckeyes are poised to become college football's next great dynasty.
The talent coming back to Ohio State for the 2015 season is staggering. Thirty-five players from the Buckeyes' two-deep rotation will be back in Columbus next season, including key players such as Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State is set at quarterback regardless of who stays or goes because any of its three options—Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones—are championship-caliber signal-callers.
On top of that, the Buckeyes will return four of their five offensive linemen next season—a unit that bullied Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon and paved the way to a national title.
With this year's championship run and the talent on hand in 2015, Meyer knows that there will be a switch in perspective. The Buckeyes won't be viewed as underdogs. They'll be viewed as the top dog, which will present a whole new set of challenges.
Elliott, who could enter the season as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, believes the Buckeyes are primed for another title run next fall.
"We've just got to stay a hungry team," Elliott said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. "I think we'll be the same team next year, as long as we stay humble, we grind hard in the offseason, don't let our heads get too big, I think we'll be here next year."
Early projections for the upcoming season paint a bright future for the Buckeyes. Bleacher Report projects them as the country's top team in its early look at the preseason Top 25. So do Paul Myerberg of USA Today, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, Ty Duffy of The Big Lead and the good folks at Land Grant Holy Land and Athlon Sports.
But can Ohio State repeat as national champions with a target on its back? Will it maintain its focus and hunger without playing the underdog role?
With Meyer at the helm, the Buckeyes' chances are pretty good.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Newly hired head coach Tom Herman is having quite the week.
Fresh off his masterful play-calling performance as offensive coordinator in Ohio State’s run to the national title, Herman took to focusing on his new job almost immediately after the Buckeyes finished dismantling the Oregon Ducks 42-20 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Herman didn’t let the media crush on Ohio State’s win go wasted in support of his new endeavor at Houston.
The Mensa member pulled a brilliant move by donning a red and white Houston hat on the sideline after the game and flashing the Cougar hand sign for the entire world to see.
The picture was almost immediately tweeted out by the official Houston Cougar Football Twitter account and subsequently retweeted over 700 times:
The move drew national attention from Yahoo Sports blogger Sam Cooper among others. Cooper noted Herman pulled the hat from his waistband as soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
This guy is sharp.
Clearly, Herman wanted to waste no time getting started on his new gig. On paper, he is the best hire in school history, a statement made more impressive by recent head coaching names which include Baylor’s Art Briles and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.
While both of those coaches were thought at the time to be good moves for Houston, neither of them came into the position almost universally praised as a can’t-miss head coaching success the way Herman seems to be.
If anything, neither of them were play-callers for the reigning national champions when they became Houston’s top man.
Grantland’s Matt Hinton ranked Herman No. 4 among recent head coaching hires behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, SMU’s Chad Morris and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi.
But Herman’s championship postgame move rubbed some of the Ohio State faithful the wrong way.
But as Hinnen points out, Herman was wise to use the moment to throw some of his spotlight on his next place of employment.
The donning of the cap both acknowledged the program that signed him to a contract to become the head coach without having him quit his post with the Buckeyes during the College Football Playoff and also allowed him a free and preemptive recruiting pitch for the Coogs.
As alluded to by Houston’s Twitter account during the game, what offensive player wouldn’t want to play in a system that wrecked solid defenses in Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in successive games to win the title?
Houston has a long history of success on the side of the ball Herman specializes in.
Whether it was Bill Yeoman’s run-oriented Veer teams, Jack Pardee’s run-and-shoot offenses, Briles’ spread attack or Sumlin’s air raid, Cougar fans expect and appreciate high-scoring and fun-to-watch offenses on game day.
It’s likely the very reason outgoing coach Tony Levine was given the boot and why interim coach David Gibbs, the outgoing defensive coordinator who had remarkable success at a school not known for stalwart defenses, wasn’t seriously considered for the job.
Herman has his work cut out for him. While Houston’s skill players seem apt to the task, the output of the offensive unit left much to be desired over the past three years under the previous regime. Herman will need to get to work.
And there’s no rest for the weary.
According to associate athletic director David Bassidy, Herman is already in Houston and ready to hit the recruiting trail.
Bassidy told Bleacher Report that Herman and other coaches will hit the road Wednesday night in preparation for the start of the recruitment period on Thursday and would be out for two weeks to prepare for national signing day on February 4.
So it’s a good thing Herman already has a Houston hat and is accustomed to operating on little to no sleep.
Because it looks like he’ll remain busy for the foreseeable future.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and information were obtained firsthand.
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