NCAA Football News

Now Fully Healthy, Cyrus Jones Will Be a Key Leader on Alabama's 2015 Defense

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As Nick Saban tinkered with different lineups and player combinations during spring practice, it seemed like no two days were the same.

But there was one constant.

Off to the side, there was Cyrus Jones, pedaling away on an exercise bike, chatting with fellow senior Denzel Devall while strength coach Scott Cochran barked on.

Jones spent the spring on the sidelines recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. While there were no indications of any sort of complications or setbacks in the recovery, Saban delivered some welcome news on Tuesday.

Jones, along with Devall, has been “fully cleared medically,” Saban told reporters on a conference call.

“We didn’t feel like we needed to push them into the spring and maybe cause issues and problems for them in the future,” he said. “So we think both those players will be ready to go through the summer conditioning program.”

Especially in Jones’ case, the news clears the way for him to fully assume his role as one of the senior leaders on the Crimson Tide defense, both on and off the field. After a surprise breakout year last season, he’ll be saddled with more responsibility in 2015, and there’s every indication he will thrive on it.

Last year, Jones went from a risky position change to a steady hand in the span of a few games. He started all 14 games last season at cornerback, eventually earning second-team All-SEC honors.

Jones’ transition is even more impressive considering his size. He stands just 5’10” but consistently matched up with massive SEC receivers such as Mississippi State’s De’Runnya Wilson.

“Right when I made the transition my sophomore year, I was trying to feel my way around, like I was playing unconfident, still not sure what I was supposed to be doing as far as the defense goes. It definitely hindered me as far as being able to just go out there and play fast and with confidence,” Jones said during the spring.

“If you don’t have confidence playing corner, you just can’t do it. It’s impossible. Now I know what I can do, and I know my abilities, and I know the defense. Now it’s just up to me to just go out there and play and prove everyone wrong who has something bad to say about it.”

And off the field, he’s been a model of what Saban looks for in his players. He even won the Media Good Guy award for giving thoughtful answers in interviews.

Jones was involved in a domestic violence arrest two weeks ago, but police ended up dropping the charges after they found he “attempted to deescalate the situation,” which included calling the police himself.

But during the spring, Jones wasn’t able to be as involved on the field. Now he can.

His presence will be important for a lot of reasons.

Jones is Alabama’s unquestioned No. 1 corner, but behind him will be a lot of inexperience.

Eddie Jackson’s move to safety means sophomore Tony Brown will likely be the one playing next to Jones, at least at the beginning of the season. Behind Brown, Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Averett and Bradley Sylve make up a group that has talent but lacks either experience or consistent play.

Jones’ presence in that group should help the players come along as well as give them a rock to lean on while they take their lumps. Brown did some of that last year but will have a much bigger role this year.

Alabama’s secondary took a lot of heat last year for being a weakness on the team, giving up plenty of big plays at inopportune times.

Now that he’s fully healthy and full speed ahead, Jones will be one of the key forces in making sure that’s not the case next season.

“I’m a guy who is super, super competitive. I take a lot of pride in my play,” he said. “I know criticism is something you have to let go in one ear and out the other, but it’s hard when you’re constantly hearing the same things, whether it’s personally or with your group—my group being the secondary.

“It’s definitely something the secondary takes personally. We have a point to prove. … And I know when I come back, I’m going to be ready to prove all the doubters wrong. It’s definitely personal to me.”


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on

Julian Rochester Tweets Top 10: Which Schools Hold Edge in Race for 5-Star?

One of the most prized recruits from the state of Georgia in the 2016 cycle is 5-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester.

The nation's No. 3 defensive tackle and the No. 11 player overall in the 2016 class tweeted out his top 10 on Tuesday.

A few newcomers in Louisville, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon and USC joined three schools—Auburn, Clemson and Georgia—who have consistently been among his group of favorites.

But which schools hold the edge for the massive 6'5" 315-pounder? 

While Auburn and Clemson are still in the hunt for Rochester, the gap between them and Georgia may be widening, as noted by Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover.

Rochester has been a fixture in Athens recently, having visited the Bulldogs campus three times since February.

He named the Bulldogs his leader at the Atlanta Nike Opening Regional camp in late March, and he told Bleacher Report that his comfort with coach Mark Richt and his staff is part of what has the Bulldogs in a strong position with him.

"I like Coach Rocker, Coach Pruitt and Coach Richt," Rochester said. "All of them—Coach Sherrer, too. They just treat me like family, and they have since I was a youngster. It's been cool to go through this process and have them build that relationship with me."

Earlier this month, he told Kipp Adams of Dawgs247 that he enjoyed his most recent trip to Athens for Georgia's spring game in April.

It was really fun, because I got to see all of the top players across Georgia. We all hung out and had a great time at the game. I actually spent the night and spent three days at Georgia. I was able to experience college life and see what Georgia has to offer, from the facilities, to the dorm rooms, to the food, to the atmosphere—everything.

He also told Adams that a decision could come down later this month, which would seem to benefit Georgia's chances of landing the U.S. Army All-American.

Auburn, whom Rochester listed as his No. 2 school, is fighting to get the No. 2 prospect in the state of Georgia on campus for its Big Cat Weekend at the end of the month, as noted by Niebuhr.

However, it may be a case of too little, too late for the Tigers with Rochester.

Given his recent visits and the bond he has with other top Georgia targets, all signs are pointing toward Rochester landing on the Bulldogs' commit list sooner than later.


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


Read more College Football news on

Updated Odds on Where Everett Golson Will Play in 2015

Everett Golson is on the move, having transferred from Notre Dame last week. With a long list of potential suitors, where will the talented signal-caller play next season?

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by Adam Kramer as he handicaps the schools interested in Golson.

Where will Golson play next season? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on

Tennessee Football: Why Darrin Kirkland Is Crucial to Vols Defense

One by one, the candidates to replace departed A.J. Johnson as Tennessee's starting middle linebacker took their turns this spring. One by one, they failed to impress the coaching staff with any consistency.

But one hopeful didn't get a shot. Instead, Darrin Kirkland Jr. split his time between the training room and the sideline, rehabbing a torn pectoral muscle suffered during workouts after he arrived in Knoxville in January.

The 6'2", 235-pound middle linebacker's audition for the starting gig never got off the ground this spring. But he's expected to be healthy in time for fall drills, and the Indianapolis product may be exactly what the Vols need to man the middle of their defense.

Shoring up the center triangle of the front seven is crucial to a UT defense expected to have enough star power to carry the team. There are few questions about edge-rushers or the secondary, but defensive tackles and middle linebacker were huge voids entering the spring.

The emergence of Shy Tuttle and Kendal Vickers on the D-line interior helped ease some of those worries, and former 5-star stud Kahlil McKenzie arrives this summer to solidify it even further.

But what about the man in the middle?

One thing's for certain after this spring: The job is Kirkland's for the taking.

Redshirt freshman Dillon Bates hoped to seize it, but he was never fully healthy from surgery to repair a torn labrum a season ago. When he gets back to 100 percent, he'll be a force with which to contend.

Fellow redshirt freshman Gavin Bryant wasn't ready, either.

Though junior Kenny Bynum overtook an overmatched Jakob Johnson as the starter in time for the TaxSlayer Bowl following the 2014 season, he's far from dynamic. He knows the defense and how to get everybody lined up, but he's not an explosive athlete by any stretch.

Bynum is a fourth-year Vol who is great to have around for depth purposes, but is he a starting SEC middle linebacker? That's where he currently stands on the depth chart, and he needs contenders to step up and battle him for the job.

UT defensive coordinator John Jancek told GoVols247's Wes Rucker back in late April that the position group had a rough spring session. And that was toward the end of spring, too, so it didn't get a lot better.

Those guys have struggled at times. They've been very inconsistent, those guys at the Mike linebacker position. There's a lot of food on their plate. I mean, you know how it is at the middle linebacker position: You're the quarterback of the defense, you're setting the fronts, you're giving the blitz directionals, you're checking things, you're making backfield calls. It's not something that just happens for guys overnight.

In Kirkland's case, it just may.

The former U.S. Army All-American stood out in the high school all-star game, and he certainly looks the part of a big, bruising second-level run-stuffer with the ability to sprint to the edges and cover the field with his speed.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of his toolbox is his football acumen.

Kirkland displayed intelligence on the field and in the classroom throughout his high school days, but the brains go farther than that, according to Vols coach Butch Jones.

Sure, there will be a learning curve that most everybody experiences, and, yes, a torn pectoral muscle undoubtedly set back Kirkland's strength-and-conditioning progress in the weight room, but he already was a physically imposing figure.

With extra time to study the playbook and a photographic memory, Kirkland may thrive at the characteristics Jancek discussed that were lacking this spring.

Kirkland hit the ground running in January, and there was nothing but time to recuperate and study this spring, too.

The Vols coveted Kirkland from the beginning of the recruiting process, and they were prime candidates to land him until Michigan offered with Brady Hoke at the helm. Kirkland committed to the Wolverines and seemed destined to land there.

When Hoke and his staff were fired, however, Kirkland reopened his recruitment and pledged to UT shortly thereafter.

Though new Big Blue coach Jim Harbaugh desperately tried to get him to reconsider the Wolverines once he took over in Ann Arbor, Kirkland was set on the Vols.

No matter how they got him, the Vols are content he's in Knoxville. They parted ways with longtime middle linebacker commit Cecil Cherry (who signed with Texas) and rolled with Kirkland as their "Mike" of the future.

Now, he has to get healthy enough to battle for that job in the present. UT needs him—or another talented athlete such as Bates or Bryant—to step up.

If none of them do, UT may be forced to move star outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin to the interior. Jones did after all make it a point to say, following the Orange and White Game, that JRM knows all three linebacker positions.

Ideally, however, Reeves-Maybin would stay in his playmaking position on the weak side, and a young middle linebacker will emerge.

Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen already has hammered into Kirkland's brain what kind of mentality it takes to play the position. He's being groomed.

Stepping in and taking over such a demanding position is heaping way too much pressure on Kirkland right away, but if he can do it, it'll mean huge things. In essence, it would indicate that a big, physical, talented athlete did enough to get the nod to start in the center of the unit.

When A.J. Johnson was dismissed following an ongoing sexual assault investigation, the Vols struggled without him in the middle against Missouri and Vanderbilt. Jakob Johnson registered just six total tackles in those games, and Bynum wound up with only two in his bowl start.

The Vols must get more production than that.

Playing middle linebacker in the SEC is physically demanding, and while size and intelligence are important, speed is, too. That's why A.J. Johnson became such a next-level player in 2014 when he spent the offseason working on his lateral quickness.

Kirkland has all three of those skills in one complete package.

He won't be handed the Vols job, but he may just be talented enough to seize it. If he proves he has that ability, UT's defense will be a whole lot more athletic and dynamic because of it.


Observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports. All stats were gathered from unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on

Who Has the Best Defensive Line in College Football?

College football is ripe with talent on both sides of the ball, with standout quarterbacks, explosive wide receivers and shutdown defenders. With that said, a strong defensive line can wreak havoc on any offense.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss which defensive line group they feel is the best in college football.

Who has the best defensive line in the game today? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on

Les Miles Might Play 2 QBs in 2015, and That's a Recipe for Disaster

The quarterback battle raging at LSU between sophomore Brandon Harris and junior incumbent Anthony Jennings is arguably the most important battle in college football. Head coach Les Miles boasts a wildly talented team that seems to be "a quarterback away" every season since Matt Flynn led the Tigers to the 2007 national title.

Jennings completed just 48.9 percent of his passes last year, and when Harris got his lone start—on the road at Auburn—he completed just three of 14 passes before being pulled.

Head coach Les Miles, however, is pleased with the progress of his two signal-callers through spring practice.

"There's a real closeness," he said during Tuesday's teleconference. "One guy hasn't separated himself from the other, and both guys are playing much better."

It's May, not August, so an unsettled quarterback position isn't exactly the most alarming development in the world.

What is alarming, though, is Miles' admission that both could play if no leader surfaces before toe meets leather in the season opener against McNeese State.

"I could also see a time where we have a necessity to play them both," Miles said. "I would like to see those guys going into fall camp and one separate from the other and be a clear-cut decision. With that being said, if that does not happen, you can't make it happen and we'll end up playing whichever is best for our team.

"If we have a guy who's going to compete with whoever the starter could be and step in maybe in the second series and say, 'OK, we're ready to do this,' I think there's an advantage to that as well."

Miles is wrong, at least in this situation.

Jennings and Harris are too closely related in terms of what they bring to the table to make a two-quarterback system work. They're both dual-threat quarterbacks who can make things happen on the ground and through the air, but they have proven to be inconsistent through the air on a game-by-game basis. 

If neither wins the job, what message would it send to both of them if LSU plays musical quarterbacks early in the season?

The same message Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron sent early last season: They have no confidence in either quarterback.

That's the last thing the eventual No. 1 needs this season, which is a critical juncture for Miles and Cameron. Cameron is in the final year of a three-year contract, while Miles could land on the hot seat in 2016 if the Tigers don't return to SEC West contention in 2015.

LSU hasn't finished out of the top six in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings over the last three seasons, and with that kind of talent on board, November contention should be an annual event. LSU is still a quarterback away, and if musical quarterbacks doesn't work this year, it's clear that there's a coaching problem.

The easy solution would be to let Cameron walk, and as I wrote earlier this year, he is coaching for his job in 2015. If he is let go, that brings Miles one step closer to shouldering all the blame in 2016.

A decision needs to be made during fall camp, and barring a meltdown or injury, that decision needs to stick.

Miles has used two quarterbacks at times during his LSU career.

When LSU won the national title in 2007, Flynn combined with Ryan Perrilloux to lead the Tigers to the promised land. In 2010 and 2011, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson made the collective stress level of the LSU fanbase rise, but did lead the Tigers to the 2011 SEC title. In 2013, Jennings was the running quarterback who came in during drives in place of Zach Mettenberger.

The common thread among all of those situations is the difference in style between the pro-style passer and the dual-threat quarterback.

LSU doesn't have that in 2015.

A two-quarterback system in Baton Rouge in 2015? Nope.

That would do more harm than good.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on

Auburn Commit and Legacy Stephen Davis Jr. Focused on 'Playmaker' Status

Auburn commit Stephen Davis Jr. is one of those athletes who, when asked if he wants to play safety or linebacker in college, has a simple answer.

Reason being, Davis wants to play safety. And linebacker. And wide receiver. And any other position a college coach will let him. For Davis, the nation's 17th-ranked athlete in the class of 2016 and the No. 5 player from the state of South Carolina, according to 247Sports, taking a play off during his senior year won't be a part of his plan.

"If there are 100 plays this year, I'm going to be on the field for all 100 plays," Davis said. "I have to be in the best shape I can, because I'm not coming off the field, honestly."

Lofty expectations indeed, but consider the source and what he's done on the field. Defensively, the Irmo, South Carolina, standout had 66 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery as a safety for Dutch Fork High School. He also saw time sparingly on offense, but in his eight rushing attempts, he scored three times and averaged a whopping 19.5 yards per carry, according to

A 3-star athlete and the son of the former NFL running back with the same name, Davis considers himself the consummate playmaker. If he's not on the field, he's unable to make plays. To him, it's simple mathematics.

While it may not be as simple for most to comprehend, you can bet that Davis will lobby to the Dutch Fork coaching staff to see as much game time as possible. You can also bet that he'll see extended playing time as a senior.

Davis' play last Saturday is proof that he can be a major contributor. He worked out with the safeties during The Opening Charlotte regional and put a performance together worthy of wowing The Opening coaching staff and earning an invitation to the event finals this summer in Oregon.

"I just wanted to show that I can be a playmaker," he said. "Right now, I'm just playing safety, but I feel like I can play a lot of places in college."

At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Davis has the size, speed and skill set to effectively play outside linebacker, wide receiver or flex tight end at the next level. Davis added that playing defensive end or running back wouldn't be far-fetched, either.

"People say I look like a linebacker, so I may try linebacker in college," he said. "I'm going to play linebacker for my high school."

Playing multiple positions is the easy part for Davis. The hard part will be trying to match his father, who had an illustrious high school and college athletic career. The elder Davis rushed for more than 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career at Auburn from 1993-95 and then went on to become a three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFC rushing leader and a catalyst who competed in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Davis said he's often compared to the elder Davis, but the support he gets from his father is valued.

"He tells me what I should and should not do," the younger Davis said. "He keeps it simple and honest with me. That's what I love about him. He keeps it real.

"It can be hard sometimes, but it can also be fun. I know that people expect so much out of me because of who he is. For me being 16, they expect me to do a lot of stuff that some college people can't do. But I expect it out of myself. I know I can go out and compete and be that playmaker."

Davis has one more season at Dutch Fork, and then he'll prepare for college life, where he said he'll study law enforcement. The question, however, is, where?

Davis has been committed to Auburn—his father's alma mater—since Aug. 4, 2014, and he's still high on head coach Gus Malzahn, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff. On Saturday, however, Davis said he's only "70 percent" with his commitment and is looking at potential visits to Florida State, Clemson and UCLA.

"It's not just about the trips," Davis said. "I want to know how they are as a school and as a program. I'm not going to always play football. I want to see what I can major in and what the campuses are like and if the environments there are good around the schools."

While he weighs his options, Davis reiterated that he's still committed to Auburn and forever will be a fan regardless of what happens in the future. He knows the program well because of his father, and being a legacy is something he always thinks about.

A memorable return trip to Big Cat Weekend later this month could help bump that "70 percent" to a more comfortable number for Auburn fans. Davis said he's looking to make the trip to Auburn May 30.

"Auburn is family; it's like home for me," he said."It's a great environment. When you go down there, there's always something new. I just love it."


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

Read more College Football news on

Offseason Question Marks for Top College Football Playoff Contenders

Spring football has finally wrapped up across the nation, and as college football players dig into their final exams and prepare for “voluntary” offseason workouts, the time has come to sit back and reflect, at least for a moment.

This week’s dominant college football story has been Everett Golson’s eventual destination following his transfer from Notre Dame, which has spiced up a slow period. Now is the time when players think about what lies ahead and coaches analyze what they have on their rosters.

It’s an excellent opportunity to look at the offseason questions that face the top College Football Playoff contenders. So we’re going to do just that.

Here’s an examination of the biggest question marks facing the top 12 teams in our most recent preseason top 25.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly's Offensive Blueprint with Malik Zaire at QB

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A blueprint executed to perfection in 2012 is back on the table for Notre Dame football in 2015.

Everett Golson is gone, and Malik Zaire is left to run the show. While it’s tough to make the argument Notre Dame is better without Golson—the 85-man roster is weaker, after all, with the loss of a quarterback with 23 starts, 5,850 passing yards and 55 total touchdowns—life, in a way, is easier for Irish head coach Brian Kelly.

Instead of tailoring an offense to two different quarterbacks, Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford can go all-in with Zaire, crafting the playbook and play-call sheet to fit the style of the dual-threat redshirt sophomore.

And Kelly doesn’t have to look far for the blueprint.

Through five seasons in South Bend, five different quarterbacks have started for Kelly. How did Kelly fit the offenses around them?

The Irish trended toward a 50-50 split between running and throwing the last two seasons. But in 2012, with a first-year starter in Golson at the helm, Notre Dame ran roughly 57 percent of the time, the 34th-highest rush rate in the country, per

Now correlation obviously doesn’t equal causation, but Kelly and the Irish were on to something with an inexperienced quarterback, a veteran defense and a rushing attack that featured heavy doses of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood with a side order of George Atkinson III.

Golson, a redshirt freshman at the time, only needed to complete 187 passes in a 12-1 season that ended with the trip to the national title game. He only tossed 12 touchdowns, but he only coughed up six interceptions. In his 12 games (11 starts), Golson attempted 318 passes.

By comparison, Golson’s 319th pass (of an eventual 427) during the 2014 season came in the third quarter against Arizona State, Notre Dame’s ninth game of the season and a loss during which Golson chucked four interceptions.

In the months since Zaire started and helped Notre Dame to a 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl, Irish fans have increasingly wondered—and some begged and clamored—if Notre Dame should run more in 2015. With Zaire unquestionably atop the quarterback depth chart now, the answer assuredly crystallizes for Kelly and company. The pieces around Zaire on offense seem ready for their part, as well.

“It was pretty clear that we’ve got a very good offensive line,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s spring game in April. “They’re going to be able to control the line of scrimmage in most instances, and we’ll continue to go to our strength, which we believe is up front.”

Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey will be tasked with protecting Zaire and plowing ahead for running backs Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise, who certainly seem capable—in some combination—of at least replicating the production from Riddick, Wood and Atkinson in 2012.

The blueprint isn’t as straightforward as it might seem four months away from a season opener. Zaire will still have to make important throws, and the defense must play well enough to allow a persistent offensive focus on the ground game.

But a quarterback is gone, and an offensive identity could be forming.


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on

Georgia Football: Predicting the Bulldogs' 2015 Win-Loss Record

It’s mid-May, and that means the college football preview magazines will be hitting the shelves in the near future. And odds are many of those magazines will have the Georgia Bulldogs high in the polls and have them in first place in the SEC East.

That would not be a surprise, because the Bulldogs won 10 games last year, and they have the majority of their starters from last season coming back in 2015.

But they are also replacing some starters at very important positions, and if they don’t grow up in a hurry, it could be a long and disappointing season for the boys from Athens.

So what will be the win-loss record for the Bulldogs this upcoming season? Let’s take a look.

Begin Slideshow