NCAA Football News

The Loophole That Will Allow Jim Harbaugh to Revolutionize Recruiting

According to NCAA bylaw, only "authorized athletics department staff members" are allowed to recruit on a school's behalf.

So while Jim Harbaugh may have a direct line to some of the the NFL's top talent, the new Michigan coach couldn't just let his former Pro Bowl players directly aid the Wolverines' recruiting efforts–not unless they officially join his staff.  

But bylaw won't stop Harbaugh from putting his sizable Rolodex of professional contacts to use. And the loophole he's found might just revolutionize the recruiting world.

While college coaches may not be allowed to have their former players make recruiting calls on their behalf—as Urban Meyer learned when Ohio State self-reported a secondary violation stemming from an eight-second conversation between Tim Tebow and a prospect in 2013—there's nothing that prevents ex-players from serving as instructors at a school's summer camp. In fact, there are very few restrictions placed on who is allowed to work a camp; the NCAA doesn't even mention former players in its bylaws concerning camps.

Harbaugh, apparently, has taken notice.

Even though players are not allowed to actively recruit for him, the former San Francisco 49ers head coach appears to have sent out an open invitation to the expansive network he and Wolverines quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch have built to help work a camp in Ann Arbor this summer. The result is a camp unlike anything ever seen in college football, with Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, Denard Robinson and Jameis Winston all advertised to be in attendance for the "Ann Arbor Aerial Assault Elite Quarterback Training School."

Never has a camp been as star-studded from an instruction standpoint as Michigan's will be, with three Pro Bowl signal-callers in Kaepernick, Cutler and Elvis Grbac serving as instructors. 2015 No. 1-overall pick Winston, Kyle Boller, Blaine Gabbert and noted quarterback guru George Whitfield will also help out at the June 20 camp in Ann Arbor. 

While this star-studded group is unprecedented, it's all legal under NCAA rules.

"With camps, it's totally different," a Michigan spokesperson explained to Bleacher Report. "They're not doing recruiting at the camps."

That might be true, based on the NCAA's definition of "recruiting." But it's hard to see Harbaugh's "A4" camp as recruiting-neutral. 

Because where else but Michigan are quarterback prospects going to be able to obtain instruction from multiple Pro Bowl players and some of the country's top position coaches? And once these players make their way to Ann Arbor—and make no mistake, they will—they'll be treated to what will ultimately amount to an infomercial for the Wolverines program in the form of their own Elite 11-style quarterback camp.

The big event is just the latest aggressive recruiting move from Harbaugh after he toured the country on a nine-stop, seven-state tour of satellite camps. No doubt, Harbaugh is shaking up the status quo of college football recruiting. What will be interesting now is to see if other schools follow his lead.

In the instance of satellite camps, the answer was yes, with Meyer opting to hold one on Florida Atlantic's campus in Boca Raton this June, despite publicly denouncing the practice of hosting such camps. Meyer may not be allowed to have Tebow make calls on his behalf, but will he check to see if the new Philadelphia Eagle would be open to serving as an instructor in Columbus this summer?

Will Nick Saban look to his long list of NFL alums in hopes of holding his own camp filled with Pro Bowl players as well? Elite NFL players have always been allowed to work college camps; it just hasn't been until Harbaugh that they have been so aggressively leveraged. 

Don't think that prospects and rival coaches alike haven't taken notice as Harbaugh continues to change the landscape of college recruiting.

And it's all legal.


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

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Nebraska Football: Predicting the Cornhuskers' 2015 Win-Loss Record

When Nebraska hired Mike Riley as its new head football coach, some were perplexed. How could Nebraska fire Bo Pelini after another nine-win season, something he had achieved in each of his seven years in charge?

While the reasons for Pelini’s dismissal were legion (and discussed by a smart and particularly handsome analyst), the fact remains the bar has been set high for Riley in year one. Win fewer than nine games—heck, maybe win fewer than 10 games—and some fans will be baying at the moon about how Nebraska was better off under Pelini.

Will that happen? Of course, it’s far too early to be making definitive projections about a college football season still months away. But there’s still plenty we do know to make at least some educated guesses about how 2015 will unfold for Nebraska.

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College Football's 25 All-Time Best Rivalry Games

There are somethings in this world that just need to happen. Jim and Pam needed to get together on The Office; The Joker needed Batman. 

Alabama needs Auburn, and vice versa. 

College football has undergone several changes over the past few years, and one of the tragic consequences is that conference realignment has killed off some of the sport's best rivalry games. There may not be much history or pageantry left—at least not in the same way it used to be—but some of these teams should still play each other.

(Looking at you, Texas and Texas A&M.)

In honor of that game, plus many more, here are the 25 best rivalry games in college football—active, defunct or otherwise—with consideration given to history and specific moments and/or games.

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Power Ranking Top 25 College Football 2016 Recruiting Classes

We are nearly nine months shy of national signing day, but the 2016 recruiting cycle is already taking shape. Several college squads surged this spring with key commitments that add to impressive collections of talent, while others are still waiting for momentum.

While things remain largely unsettled in the national landscape, we assessed the developments that have defined this cycle so far while analyzing America's top 25 classes. Our order is based on the overall quality of a class in its entirety rather than sheer volume or a limited number of headliners.

Here's a look at how we view college football's premier recruiting classes as summer approaches.

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Diondre Overton Balancing Life, College Choices as a 2-Sport Star Athlete

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It only takes a couple of minutes to watch Diondre Overton and know he's got Division I talent. At last weekend's The Opening Charlotte regional, he not only looked the part physically but also impressed those in attendance during drills.

At 6'5" and 194 pounds, Overton is the big, tall receiver that many football programs desire. He also happens to be the versatile slasher and defender that many basketball programs look for.

Overton is one of the few athletes nationwide who has a legitimate chance of being a two-sport college standout in football and basketball. He had focused his attention solely on basketball prior to this past year—he starred as a wide receiver in the fall and then a combo guard in the winter for Walter Hines Page Senior High School in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Football was my first love when I was little, but then I kind of gave it up and started playing basketball," Overton said. "I hadn't played football until this past year. It was my first year coming back since fifth grade."

Overton said an injury early in his football days made him give basketball a strong look—and the decision didn't turn out to be a bad one. According to, he averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game as a junior.

Overton has emerged into an athlete who can play the point guard and shooting guard spots as well as the small forward position. Additionally, he can defend the power forward spot if necessary.

He has looks from several hoops programs, including Clemson, North Carolina, Duke, Boston College, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Tennessee. During the AAU spring and summer basketball seasons, Overton plays for the Karolina Diamonds (along with arguably the nation's best high school dunker, 2016's Kwe Parker), and he added that he would run with Team Felton Basketball during Memorial Day weekend.

Although he found a home on the basketball court, playing varsity football always was on Overton's to-do list, and he didn't disappoint his junior year. He caught 62 passes for 1,187 yards and 11 touchdowns, according to his page.

Overton even managed to use some of his basketball skills to his advantage on the football field.

"In playing basketball, a lot transfers over to football, especially with boxing out," he said. "If you're boxing out on a curl [route] or something like that, you can seal your man and then be able to secure the ball."

Overton has parlayed his playmaking ability and physical nature on the football field into an offer list that is 17 schools strong. Among the schools that have made offers are Clemson, Tennessee, Boston College, Michigan and in-state schools Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

"The recruiting process is going great," Overton said. "I'm getting new offers almost every week. What I expect in a winning program is a great coaching staff and great facility for educational program. I think the wide receiver coach plays a key role in it. He's who I'll be with every day to help get me to my full potential."

Clemson and Tennessee are believed to be the two schools in the best spot to land Overton. He has good relationships with head coach Dabo Swinney, receivers coach Jeff Scott and offensive lineman coach Robbie Caldwell at Clemson, as well as head coach Butch Jones, receivers coach Zach Azzanni and tight ends coach Mark Elder from Tennessee.

The best part: Overton said both schools are interested in him playing football and basketball—even though being a two-sport athlete is not an X-factor in his overall decision.

"I don't know if I'm completely focused on the basketball part, but I have brought it up, and a couple of schools have said I can do both," Overton said. "I may try it my freshman year, and we'll see how it goes from there."

Overton said he isn't in any rush to make a decision on where he's going to go to school. He likes the fact that he's receiving new interest almost daily; in fact, Alabama and Nebraska are two schools that have inquired about him, and he said he also would like to get more information on Michigan.

A decision, he said, could come before the start of the 2015 football season, but there's no guarantee with that. All he wants is to effectively weigh his options and make the right decision when he feels it's the most opportune time.

"It's a one-time thing, and you have to evaluate as many schools as possible and just enjoy it all," he said. "[Playing both sports] is something I think about, but I think my future may be in football."

For now, he's going to take everything in stride—particularly when he has two sports to enjoy the rest of the spring and the summer.


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

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Auburn Legacy Commit Stephen Davis Jr. Exactly What Muschamp Needs at Auburn

Stephen Davis, a 3-star athlete, per 247Sports, will be playing his college ball for the Auburn Tigers next season. The talented athlete will bring his size and speed to Gus Malzahn and his staff.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder breaks down Davis' game as well as where he will fit into the game plan at Auburn. 

How much of an impact will Davis make for the Tigers? Check out the video, and let us know!

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Ranking Greatest SEC Football Games of All Time

The SEC's power and parity over the years has generated some of the most memorable college football games in the sport's history.

From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl to the games in November between non-traditional rivals that carry enormous national weight, the SEC is loaded with classic games that have defined the sport and helped carry it to new heights.

Which games were the best? Our picks based on national importance, SEC championship implications and nature of the game are in this slideshow.

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Predicting 1st Loss for Every Projected 2015 Top 25 College Football Team

Over the past 10 college football seasons, only nine FBS schools have posted a perfect record. A handful of other schools were unbeaten heading into their bowl game or the playoffs during that span, only to drop their first game.

Perfection is the goal for many but the outcome for few. It's inevitable that a loss will come at some point, no matter how good a team is, so it's best to be prepared for that outcome ahead of time. We're taking this concept one step further, by predicting the initial loss for every projected Associated Press preseason Top 25 team.

The new playoff system (and accompanying access bowl lineup) makes it unlikely for there to be no more than two unbeaten teams in 2015-16, but we're going on the assumption that just one team will survive the year unscathed. In the case of teams that make it through their scheduled games without a setback and thus would lose in the postseason, our predictions are based on Bleacher Report's post-spring bowl projections.

Check out where we think every projected Top 25 team will fall and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Updated Odds on Where 4-Star QB Dwayne Haskins Will Play College Football

Dwayne Haskins, a 4-star pro-style QB, per 247Sports, will be making his commitment in the very near future. With several offers on the table from all the major programs, Haskins will have a tough decision to make. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by College Football Recruiting Analyst Adam Kramer to go over the odds on where Haskins may decide to play. 

Where will Haskins continue his career? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Josh Imatorbhebhe Tweets Top 7: Each Team's Best Sales Pitch to Land 4-Star WR

Georgia wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe is down to seven collegiate options as he approaches a highly anticipated announcement. 

The 4-star prospect tweeted a top-seven list in alphabetical order Wednesday evening, noting a decision is set for "sometime next week":

Imatorbhebhe, a junior at North Gwinnett High School, is rated 33rd nationally among 2016 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He caught 59 passes for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall, per MaxPreps.

His seven finalists put a nationwide focus on the upcoming commitment. The collection of programs ranges from Florida to Northern California and features members of three different conferences.

“My mom and I were talking about priorities for finding the right college program," Imatorbhebhe told Bleacher Report in March. "First is academics, second is a need—not just a want—at my position and third is quarterback.”

With the clock ticking toward this key pledge in the 2016 recruiting cycle, let's take a look at what each of Imatorbhebhe's top options bring to the table for a final sales pitch.


Alabama: Lane Kiffin spreads the wealth

The Crimson Tide offensive coordinator could elect to explore a third FBS head coaching opportunity after this season, but receivers can expect plenty of targets in Tuscaloosa as long as he's dialing up the plays.

Dating back to his days as passing game coordinator at USC—when the Trojans became the first NCAA team to feature a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and a 1,000-yard receiver—Kiffin has largely validated his reputation as a bright offensive mind.

During his past five full seasons on a college sideline—at Tennessee, USC and Alabama—Kiffin's offensive attacks produced 10 500-yard receivers. Among that group, seven players caught at least 60 passes, and five were selected in the NFL draft (three among the 50 picks).

Although many positions at Alabama are log-jammed with elite talent, especially in the trenches, there's actually room for Imatorbhebhe to make an early impact at receiver.


Auburn: The SEC's most dynamic offense with a need for receivers

Head coach Gus Malzahn has orchestrated the most consistently explosive attack in a conference known for fearsome defense. Serving as an offensive coordinator first and eventually returning to campus as a head coach, Malzahn's offenses have rated among the SEC's top three in terms of points four times. 

Programs like Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M have taken turns leading the SEC in points during certain seasons, but none have been as reliable in that department. Auburn averaged at least 33 points per game in four of Malzahn's first five seasons on campus.

Perhaps most importantly for Imatorbhebhe, the program will presumably enter the 2016 season without its four leading receivers from last fall. Sammie Coates and Quan Bray are now on NFL rosters, while D'haquille Williams and Ricardo Lewis are entering their final college campaigns.

That leaves several key spots up for grabs when Imatorbhebhe would enter the equation. He expressed gratefulness for the attention Auburn has shown throughout this process.

“I’m not going to a school where I don’t feel wanted, so it’s important for me to hear from the coaches on a regular basis," Imatorbhebhe told Bleacher Report this spring. "Gus Malzahn called my coaches earlier today to talk to me and we spoke for 15 minutes, so that sends a message right there."


Florida: A chance to team up with his big brother

Gators freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe was the first prospect to commit to a new Florida regime led by head coach Jim McElwain. Now his little brother is considering following in those footsteps.

Josh and Daniel share a strong bond and could reunite in Gainesville. Josh told Bleacher Report in April:

The reason why I feel I'm mature in this recruiting process is because Daniel has been there to provide an example. Daniel told me it's important to go to a place where someone doesn't have to convince you to go. Go somewhere you innately want to go. If you don't need to force yourself to be happy at a school, everything else—like football—will work itself out.

The Gators offense sputtered in past seasons, so there is certainly room for playmakers as McElwain aims to revitalize the attack. Imatorbhebhe attended the team's spring game and felt plenty of love from Florida.

"Coach Mac and his assistants came up to me before the game and made me feel at home," he told Bleacher Report. "They really went out of their way to establish communication and make me feel as comfortable as possible.


Georgia: Join forces with top-ranked quarterback Jacob Eason

The new Bulldogs offensive staff, led by longtime NFL coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, has shown more love to Imatorbhebhe than the past group. Despite his status as an in-state standout, 20 teams extended him an offer before Georgia joined the pursuit in late March.

“The coaches could tell how I felt and basically said, 'Look, please don’t hold it against us. We have a new offensive staff and we’re really high on you,'" Imatorbhebhe told Bleacher Reoort. "They were really apologetic about that and tried to make me understand that I’ve become a priority now.”

Georgia is building quite an offensive haul in the 2016 cycle, highlighted by the state's top two offensive linemen and a 4-star wide receiver. Quarterback Jacob Eason is the headliner. 

The Washington product grades out among the top quarterbacks we've scouted this decade. Eason, a prized 6'5", 205-pound passer, is the kind of playmaker who commands interest from other recruits.

“Just to see his accuracy, stature and strong arm makes him somebody I’d really love to play with," Imatorbhebhe said. "He looks like a good quarterback, but also a good leader. If the chips fall that way and I end up at Georgia, I’ll definitely be happy that he’s the guy throwing me the football.”


Ohio State: The reigning champs are pretty stacked at quarterback

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer, fresh off his third national championship victory, can flaunt his history of producing immensely successful college quarterbacks. His past proteges include first-round NFL draft selections Tim Tebow and Alex Smith.

The current Ohio State roster features three quarterbacks—Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones—capable of embarking on a Heisman Trophy crusade. At least two of these three are likely to depart before Imatorbhebhe arrives on campus, but there could be as many as four scholarship quarterbacks ready to step up and compete.

Sophomore Stephen Collier and incoming freshmen Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow each bring a special skill set to the field. Ohio State also recently secured a commitment from 4-star 2016 Texas quarterback Tristen Wallace, who may be the most impressive athletic specimen at the position.

The Buckeyes are off to a fast start in the 2017 cycle, claiming a commitment from 4-star passer Danny Clark. Imatorbhebhe is on record about how important quality quarterback play is for his decision, and few teams can challenge Ohio State in that regard, presently or in years to come.


Stanford: An opportunity to enjoy the "best of both worlds"

Imatorbhebhe spent time in Palo Alto during spring break and gained a deeper understanding of the academic/athletic balance many find so alluring about the university.

"Everything they do at Stanford is top-notch," he said. "That visit showed me you can get the best of both worlds in athletics and academics there. They want to create well-rounded people, not just athletes. A 'Stanford Man' is diligent, works hard in the classroom and has balanced attributes."

Throughout his recruiting process, Imatorbhebhe has made education a focal point. He's an A-student in high school who received honors for achievements far beyond the football field.

Still, there's a lot to like about the outlook of a Cardinal program averaging 11 wins per season since 2010.

The team picked up a pledge from top-ranked California quarterback KJ Costello this spring. He and Imatorbhebhe developed a rapport years earlier while attending a camp together at USC. 


USC: Head "home" and learn from Tee Martin

Imatorbhebhe spent the early stages of his childhood living in Orange County, California, just a short drive away from Los Angeles. He grew up rooting for the Trojans and never quite shook off that affinity despite a move to the East Coast.

"Southern California will always have a special place in my heart after growing up there," Imatorbhebhe said. "USC was actually the first college campus I visited, so that's always stuck with me during my recruitment."

His latest trip to the school took place in April and resulted in a scholarship offer. Despite being a bit late to the party, USC still managed to surge into Imatorbhebhe's group of finalists.

He told Bleacher Report that USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin made a strong impression on him during the visit. The former Tennessee quarterback could help give the Trojans an edge.

"He broke everything down in detail for me, from what they do in practice to how things happen in games and where I would fit in," Imatorbhebhe said. "Coach Martin trained Sammy Watkins and Calvin Johnson when they were preparing for the NFL combine, so obviously that's pretty big time."


All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports. 

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Tennessee HC Butch Jones Building 1 of SEC's Best Defensive Fronts

The SEC is still a line-of-scrimmage conference, and what Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has built on Rocky Top is downright terrifying.

The third-year head coach of the Vols took over a program that was treated like a rental property that the owner wanted to let go into foreclosure under former head coach Derek Dooley, and he has built it up to a level where it will be picked by many—including yours truly—to contend for the SEC East title.

Dooley's ability to recruit and develop talent along the defensive line has played a big role.

Tennessee entered last season with a laundry list of questions up front, but the emergence of 6'3", 268-pound Derek Barnett last season helped stabilize the front four and turn the Vols into a power in the trenches. Barnett notched 20.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 72 tackles, establishing himself as one of the best three-down defensive ends in the country from the moment he stepped on the field.

It wasn't a one-man show, though.

Defensive end Corey Vereen, defensive tackle Danny O'Brien and defensive tackle Owen Williams are just a few of the returning Vols who helped post the SEC's second-best third-down defense (34.21 percent).

Seven of the eight players on the final two-deep roster of 2014 along the defensive line return in 2015, and injuries this spring were a blessing in disguise up front.

As Bleacher Report Tennessee Lead Writer Brad Shepard noted in March, the Vols injured or limited in the spring read more like a novel than an injury list. Barnett, O'Brien, Williams, redshirt freshman tackle Charles Mosley and early enrollee freshman defensive end Kyle Phillips are just a few of the big men up front who were banged up, which opened the door for more Vols to shine.

"We thought a lot of individuals stepped up and were very productive," Jones said on Wednesday's teleconference. "One was Kendal Vickers this offseason. We moved him to defensive tackle. So I think we had some individuals benefit from the accumulation of repetitions that was allowed them by the inordinate amount of individuals out."

Vickers, a 6'3", 288-pound redshirt sophomore, moved from defensive end late last season, and can provide quality depth at both defensive end spots.

That's the goal, right? Championship teams need nine or 10 players who can rotate in the trenches, and the emergence of Vickers has the Vols at that level.

But wait, there's more.

Tennessee has benefited from a total of 25 early enrollees over the last two seasons, including 11 in the 2015 recruiting class. Of those who participated in spring practice, one who could make the biggest impact is 6'3", 315-pound Shy Tuttle.

The Midway, North Carolina native emerged as one of the stars of the spring because of his talent and the opportunity he received due to injury.

"When you look at Shy Tuttle playing in the interior, and he gained over 500 repetitions this spring," Jones said. "I thought late in spring, he really started to get it."

He certainly did, based on the Vine below from Rocky Top Insider:

Tuttle was joined outside by 6'2", 250-pound early enrollee Andrew Butcher outside. The Alpharetta, Georgia native got plenty of work this spring at defensive end thanks to the injuries and, like Tuttle, made a case for a rotational role as a true freshman.

"Andrew did some really good things," Jones said. "Obviously, he has to get much stronger and put some weight on to compete in this conference.

"[Tuttle and Butcher] benefited from the repetitions and benefited from early enrollment. It's a transition, particularly up front. From style of play to physicality to conditioning to the overall mental toughness and mental effort that it takes. They both did a very good job. I thought they finished very strong."

As if that wasn't enough, even more help is coming in the form of 6'3", 354-pound, 5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie. The Concord, California native and Vol legacy is more than just a space-eater.

"When I talked to McKenzie, he said he felt like he was good enough to play anywhere on the defensive line, from a 0-technique to a 7-technique," Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder said in January. "The kid isn't wrong. Seven might be a stretch, but he certainly is athletic enough to be a 5-technique in a 3-4 but then turn around and play 0 or 1 on the next snap.

"His speed is going to give centers and guards problems, and his strength will help him no matter where he lines up for the Volunteers."

He's going to be a star, but Jones hopes that expectations can be tempered a little bit before the start of the season.

"These are still 17- and 18-year-old young adults who are coming in and playing college football for the first time, and playing in the SEC and playing a position that is a developmental position," he said. "These are still going to be true freshman with Shy and Kahlil coming in. We're very excited about [Kahlil] and looking forward to him coming in this June."

If championships are won up front, Tennessee is well on its way to winning the SEC East and playing for the SEC title in the Georgia Dome.

Jones recognized a problem, fixed it through recruiting and development, and that work could pay off as soon as this season.


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.

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FSU Commit Josh Brown Once Hated Football, Now It's His Ticket to College

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Picture Florida State commit Josh Brown, a 4-star linebacker and the No. 7 player out of the state of North Carolina, learning the ropes of the game of football as an elementary school student—and lined up at left tackle.

Now picture that kid unhappy. Miserable. Constantly upset that he's playing a sport he can't stand. Frustrated that he's learning to be good at something he has absolutely no desire to do.

"I couldn't stand going to football practice every day," Brown said. "We'd start off with head-to-head drills; I hated that. I hated hitting. I didn't know anything about the sport."

For years, that was Brown's life. He only played the sport, he said, because his father wanted him to. He was an athlete who generally had a high level of aggression, but he didn't love football.

That is, not until Brown, the son of a preacher and the youngest of five siblings, realized that channeling aggression using football was welcomed, almost considered an unwritten rule. From then on, something clicked in Brown. Football was fun. A lot of fun.

Now Brown, the nation's No. 14 outside linebacker, wonders how he'd ever live without the game. It's a game that has won him several accolades, earned him multiple college scholarships and allowed him to commit to a school that knows something about winning national championships.

"When I started making plays on the field and realizing I can hit people and not get in trouble for it, it was a good situation from them on," Brown said. "My dad kind of forced me into it, but I thank him for doing it."


'I can be good at this'

Brown, a defensive standout for Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, remembers seventh grade as a time of pancaking defenders. He remembers that adrenaline rush of putting larger athletes on their backs in an effort to open holes for his running backs and quarterbacks.

And then in the ninth grade, he was moved to the other side of the ball. He tried out a different position, defensive end, and fell in love.

"When I started making plays on the field, I said, 'Hey, I can be good at this,'" Brown said, "It was new to me. I knew I was in a good situation from then on."

Brown now is a hybrid defender, a 6'3", 220-pound buzz saw who can play outside linebacker in any scheme, as well as defensive end in an athletically schemed 3-4 formation. Even though he's a nationally ranked outside linebacker, he worked out at The Opening Charlotte regional over the weekend with the defensive ends.

And often times in one-on-one situations, he dominated. What was most intriguing was that Brown never wanted to get off the field. The Opening coaches frequently had to tell him to give other players a turn.

That alone should make Florida State fans happy, as well as head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff.

"I'm trying to get better; I'm always trying to get better," Brown said. "I want to play as much as possible. I'll fight for playing time if I have to."


First chance, rewarded

Brown has 15 offers from coast to coast, including Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, South Carolina and UCLA. Choosing Florida State, however, was much easier than some might have expected.

"I kind of knew from the jump," said Brown, who committed last September. "When somebody gives you a first chance without having film or anything like that...they took a chance on me."

The Seminoles were the first to offer Brown in April 2014. He was there for Florida State's spring game and had built a strong relationship with then-defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, who now is an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders.

Before boarding a plane for an unofficial west coast tour of Stanford, UCLA and USC, Brown received news to give Florida State a call. It was then when he found out he had his first offer.

"My dad starting crying. He was super excited," he said. "It was a really big moment."

Since Sunseri's departure, Brown has been in contact with both Brad Lawing, Sunseri's replacement as defensive ends coach, and running backs coach Jay Graham, a North Carolina native who recruits that area. Brown's commitment to Florida State is stronger than ever with the help of those two.

That's something of importance, considering Brown loves to travel and see other schools. He most recently took an unofficial visit to Oregon, calling it "amazing" and comparing the atmosphere to "a spaceship" with all the high technology and futuristic sites of the campus.

While he said he'll take multiple visits, Brown said his heart is still with Florida State. He added that he's looking to graduate early.

"I'm just ready to get there," he said.


Leading and serving through faith

Brown's first name, Joshua, is Biblical and is translated on various sites as "God is my salvation." Brown was taught to be a follower of God, someone willing to pass on God's tutelage and someone who will be a leader through God's word.

As the son of Bishop Fred Brown, who teaches at The Faith Center Church, with locations in Bluefield, West Virginia, and Charlotte, Josh has grown up all his life in the church. His faith is something he takes very seriously.

"It's everything," he said. "God is the only reason why I have what I have right now. I wake up every morning and thank him every day."

Brown said he's been an active member in the church for as long as he could remember. As a young boy, he would hold a bucket to help the church collect offerings. Now, he assists more with sound technology.

His faith has been a primary contributor in his game and his recruiting process. And he uses that faith to be a leader for Mallard Creek, a back-to-back North Carolina Class 4A state champion in football.

Expect him to do the same for the Seminoles.

"I have a super-strong relationship with God," he said. "I've got to be a leader."


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

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Would Former Notre Dame QB Everett Golson Really Be Good Fit at Alabama?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s search for a quarterback took a small but sharp turn on Wednesday.’s Brett McMurphy confirmed speculation that had predictably been swirling ever since Everett Golson announced his intention to transfer from Notre Dame:

Of course, the last time the Crimson Tide saw Golson, he was running for his life in a BCS Championship Game slaughter. But a lot has changed since that decidedly one-sided night in Miami, and now Alabama, reportedly, wants Golson on its side.

So would he be a good fit at Alabama? How possible is it that it actually happens?

If he can get to campus (more on that in a moment), there’s no guarantee that he would be the starting quarterback, like anybody who would theoretically transfer to Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide already have five quarterbacks on campus, none of whom are far and away a favorite, nor particularly terrible either. It’s an even fight so far.

Golson’s biggest personal obstacle to the starting job is his ball security, or lack thereof.

Nick Saban first and foremost wants his quarterbacks to make good decisions and take care of the football. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett visited with the Alabama staff during the offseason, and he preached the strong correlation turnover margin has to winning percentage.

Saban has been repeating that wisdom any chance he’s had this spring. If you didn't think ball security was important to him, you know now.

And the quarterback may be the single most responsible person for turnovers on the field.

“Knowledge and experience comes into that,” Saban said after a spring scrimmage, listing characteristics he wants in a quarterback. “Instincts and awareness, understanding of the offense, confidence, all these things are factors in this. Ability to be accurate, be a good decision-maker with the ball, take care of the ball.”

Golson didn’t exactly do that last year, committing 22 total turnovers, most of which came in a season-ending free-fall of five losses in six games after winning six straight to open the year.

The thought of 22 turnovers coming from a single player probably makes Saban pull out his hair, which is gray enough already.

Still, Golson has FBS starting experience, something no other quarterback currently in Tuscaloosa can say—including Jake Coker, who couldn’t latch on right away as a grad transfer last year.

If Golson were to win the starting job and show that he can take care of the ball, he would be a good fit for Lane Kiffin’s offense.

The Blake Sims comparisons may seem lazy, but there is some legitimacy there.

Both listed at 6’0", they’re similar in stature. Their passing numbers from last season are eerily similar, too:

And while he doesn’t run as much as Sims or put up the same type of numbers on the ground, he does possess the lightning-bolt quickness, especially evading the rush behind the line of scrimmage.

Kiffin has proved that he can take on a raw, project-type quarterback and turn him into an All-SEC-caliber player. It’s hard to believe he couldn’t do the same with Golson.

This is all assuming, too, that Golson will be able to transfer to Alabama, which is far from a certainty, as McMurphy pointed out in his original report.

The SEC has strict graduate transfer rules that will make it very hard for Golson to get a waiver.

For one, the player has to have two years of eligibility left, not one. However, there is an exception for someone who wants to pursue a graduate degree not offered at their former school. I’d trust Saban and Alabama’s academic advisers could find one that fits that description.

But there is another condition that must be met for an exception to be granted:

The student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team).

Golson definitely falls short there.

Before the 2013 fall semester, Golson was dismissed from school entirely for what the school called “poor academic judgement.” He told Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples that he cheated on a test.

That certainly qualifies as “official university… disciplinary action” and would seemingly make him ineligible for a transfer anywhere in the SEC, not just to Alabama.

Golson-to-Alabama would give the Crimson Tide another candidate at quarterback, and an interesting, high-profile one at that.

But there are plenty of hurdles to cross first, both on and off the field.

Alabama needs to persuade the SEC to even get him to campus. Golson has to take better care of the football or he'll never see the field.

If the Crimson Tide can get those done, they'll have a quarterback with the right skill set to thrive under Lane Kiffin and be just the piece they were looking for under center.


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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Which Position Should Florida Commit Tyrek Tisdale Play in College?

Tyrek Tisdale—a 3-star all-purpose back, according to 247Sports—will continue his football career at the University of Florida. The talented athlete can play a number of offensive positions, from running back to wide receiver. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Tisdale's game and where he fits into the Gators' offense. 

What position will Tisdale play for Florida next season? Check out the video and let us know! 

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For Lawrence Phillips, a Dead Cellmate and Another Day of Reckoning

Before death was unleashed in his two-man cell on April 11, inmate No. G31982 led a quiet life inside the stone and concrete walls of California's Kern Valley State Prison, a haunting, fortress-like structure that rises out of a dusty patch of land in the San Joaquin Valley.

Most mornings inmate No. G31982 was stirred awake at 6 a.m. as guards at Kern told the nearly 4,000 all-male prisoners—the maximum-security facility was built to hold 2,400—it was time to begin the day. Soon a hot breakfast that typically consisted of eggs, hash browns and thinly sliced ham was delivered room-service style to his cell. Many mornings he purchased a special package of vitamins and proteins, the fuel for his late-morning workout.

For a few hours Kern's most notorious prisoner then had some free time in his cell. He loved to read books—he devoured about one a week, according to several people who corresponded with him. The words in the pages were his escape, his way to fly away from his chains at Kern.

He also wrote letters, reams of them, to old friends and mentors. He was particularly interested in the state of the Nebraska football program, wondering in his handwritten notes how it had fallen from the ranks of the nation's elite. Yet his prose was steadfastly upbeat in his missives.

"He was trying to earn good-behavior time in prison," said George Darlington, an assistant coach at Nebraska for 30 years who regularly traded letters with inmate No. G31982. "He was focused on the future, on getting out and getting another chance at life."

Later in the morning, along with many of the condemned wearing their state-issued blues, inmate No. G31982 would be released to the yard.

Though there weren't any weights to lift—"We had to get rid of the weights a few years back because inmates used them as instruments of destruction to kill each other," said Lieutenant Marshall Denning—he'd work out with such intensity it was as if he was back in the training center at the University of Nebraska.

He'd do pushups, situps and burpees. On a pullup bar, he'd lift himself up over and over to the point of exhaustion. Other times he'd run sprints across the yard like he was training for the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

In the early afternoon he'd be escorted back to his cell, where he'd eat a sack lunch that usually featured either a bologna or pastrami sandwich, an apple and a cookie or two. Then, for a few hours, he'd work on his appeal of his two convictions: felony assault with a deadly weapon and domestic assault. The sentences for the two guilty verdicts added up to nearly 32 years behind bars.

Though inmate No. G31982 earned more than $5 million in the NFL from 1996 to '99, he was now broke and couldn't afford to hire a private lawyer. After his second conviction in 2009, he fired his public defender.

In the evenings he was free to roam in what is called the "Day Room Floor," an area inside Kern where inmates can sit at tables and converse. But inmate No. G31982 almost always kept to himself—which made him an ideal prisoner to his jailers.

"He was not someone who caused problems, and he was really quiet, just doing his own thing," said Denning. "We have got the worst of the worst in here, the most violent of the most violent, and that was not Lawrence Phillips from what I saw. Not at all."

According to three sources, Phillips—the former Cornhusker running back who was the No. 6 overall selection in the 1996 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams—asked prison officials several times to be put in solitary confinement for his own protection.

In at least two instances Phillips' wishes were honored, according to a source. But then in early April, for reasons that remain unclear, Phillips, 39, was moved from isolation into a cell with 37-year-old Damion Soward, who was the cousin of former USC Trojan and NFL wide receiver R. Jay Soward.

Prison officials didn't respond to a request from B/R seeking clarification on why Phillips was moved out of isolation.

According to court documents, Damion Soward was a member of the Inland Empire Projects Gang in San Bernardino, California. He was serving 82 years to life for the murder of Michael Fairley, a rival gang member.

"Lawrence wanted nothing to do with the gangs in that prison," said Tony Zane, Phillips' high school football coach at West Covina (California) High, who has communicated with Phillips about twice a month for several years. "That was why he was always asking to be moved into isolation. He knew that guys could make a name for themselves, so to speak, if they came after him because of his notoriety."

At 12:46 a.m. on April 11, Soward was found strangled to death in the cell he shared with Phillips, who has been named as a murder suspect. The district attorney, who has been investigating the incident for nearly one month, has yet to announce if any charges will be filed.

Soward's family is looking for answers. "I just want to find out what happened," R. Jay Soward told TMZ. "That's the only thing I care about."

Several people close to Phillips believe they already know what happened in that tiny cell in the dead of night on April 11.

"I truly believe this was a situation where Soward said, 'Only one of us is walking out of here in the morning,'" said Zane. "Look at Lawrence's history. Yes, he has a very troubled past, but he's never done anything like this. Look at Soward's history as a hit man. I believe this was 100 percent self-defense. I believe Lawrence had no choice. Lawrence has been a target at Kern ever since the day he got there."

Two decades ago, in the spring of 1995, I traveled from my home in New York City to Lincoln, Nebraska, to spend time with Phillips for what would turn out to be my first Sports Illustrated cover story. Phillips was entering his junior year at Nebraska, the world spread out before him like an endless buffet of chances, and he was already being compared to some of the greatest I-backs in Cornhusker history: Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, I.M. Hipp. Phillips was the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite.

The previous year he had run for 1,722 yards—still a record for a sophomore at Nebraska—and helped Nebraska win the 1994 national championship. But instead of focusing on his on-field gifts, I wanted to burrow deep into Phillips' past. Only 20 years old at the time, he had already lived a remarkably hard life. I wanted to understand what made him tick.

In 1987 Phillips' mother, Juanita, invited her boyfriend to stay in their home in Inglewood, California. Lawrence and the boyfriend bickered constantly—the boyfriend allegedly abused Lawrence, according to Jason Cole, then writing for the Sun Sentinel—and Lawrence began to run away from home and skip school.

State officials eventually intervened and placed Lawrence in a foster home. After living there for only two weeks, he was transferred to MacLaren Hall, a juvenile detention center straight out of a child's worst nightmare, a place where abuse was allegedly rampant, according to Carla Rivera of the Los Angeles Times.

We may never have heard of Lawrence Phillips if not for Barbara Thomas, who supervised a state-supported group home in West Covina. "When I first saw Lawrence he looked very athletic, but he was smoking cigarettes," Thomas told me back in '95. "I knew sports would give him a chance, so I took him into our home and immediately enrolled him in sports leagues."

The rage that tormented Phillips' life—"He was basically abandoned by his mom and his dad wasn't around, so that caused a lot of anger in Lawrence," a Nebraska staff member told me—was his best friend on the football field. He soon emerged as one of the top high school running backs in the nation, a snorting bull of a back with 4.4 speed and always charging at the red flag. He picked Nebraska precisely because it was so far from his troubled past in California.

When Phillips and I sat down in the lounge beneath the south end zone of Memorial Stadium, he eyed me suspiciously. I was only 23, and I tried to connect with Phillips by telling him how much I enjoyed the college lifestyle and that he should savor every moment of it.

He eventually warmed up and then shared with me many of the horrors from his past: nights of being homeless, not going to school for weeks at a time, trying to stay a step ahead of the gangs in his neighborhood.

"It was a tough time," he said. "But I owe a lot to my school. They stuck with me."

Phillips, a sociology major, spoke about how he one day wanted to open a group home for wayward kids. He was articulate—in eighth grade, standardized tests revealed him to be intellectually gifted—and passionate when he dreamed aloud of helping others.

As we ended our conversation, Phillips leaned closer to me. In a soft voice, he said, "I'm still working on controlling myself and my temper. Lincoln has been a great city for me to grow up and mature in, and I'm learning to stay out of situations where I could get in trouble."

Phillips then rose and disappeared into the Nebraska locker room. I wouldn't see him again for four years.

About five months after I spoke with Phillips, Nebraska traveled to East Lansing, Michigan, and administered what remains the worst drubbing of Nick Saban's coaching career. In the Huskers' 50-10 victory over Michigan State, Phillips rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns. The Heisman Trophy was his to lose.

But later that night he did just that. Phillips, according to several sources, was asleep in his Lincoln apartment when he was awakened by a phone call. The person on the other end of the line informed Phillips that his former girlfriend, Kate McEwen, was inside the apartment of sophomore quarterback Scott Frost, who is now the offensive coordinator at Oregon.

In a fury, Phillips stormed to Frost's apartment, scaled the wall to his third-floor balcony, entered and dragged his ex-girlfriend by her hair down three flights of stairs. Phillips was later arrested for assault. (He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge.)

According to several former Nebraska coaches, McEwen was Phillips' first true love. "Lawrence has major abandonment issues, especially when it comes to females because of how he was treated by his mother," said a former Nebraska staffer. "He was never given the proper counseling to develop coping mechanisms when he's put in a high-stress situation. And when he got the call in the middle of the night, he just lost it."

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne suspended Phillips six games, but he allowed his troubled tailback to return for the final three regular-season games and for the Fiesta Bowl. Facing No. 2 Florida on Jan. 2, 1996, Nebraska won its second straight national title, demolishing the Gators 62-24. Phillips ran for 165 yards and scored three touchdowns.

But this Nebraska team was never invited to the White House. "There was a cloud over that team, and a lot of it was because of Lawrence," said Ron Brown, a longtime assistant at Nebraska who is now at Liberty University. "The White House wanted nothing to do with us."

Brown can still recall the moment he realized Phillips could have emotional problems. During Phillips' freshman season of 1993, Nebraska played UCLA in the Rose Bowl, which sits just a few miles from where Phillips grew up. Midway through the game, Phillips, who would rush for more than 100 yards in Nebraska's 14-13 win, fumbled the ball, and the Bruins recovered.

Phillips ran to the bench, took a seat and began sobbing uncontrollably. It was a staggering outpouring of emotion, especially considering Barbara Thomas had never seen Phillips cry once between the ages of 12 and 18.

"Lawrence looked like this grown man, but there he was on the bench crying like a baby," Brown said. "I put my hands on his shoulder pads and said, 'You'll get more opportunities. Just stick with us.' But in that instant I realized that there is a sensitivity to Lawrence that few people ever saw. He grew up rough, but he was innocent and naive in many ways. There was a little baby boy in there that never grew up.

"I wondered then—and still do now—if that's how he acted in his relationships when they didn't go well. He just couldn't handle trauma, like there was always something swelling inside of him. When he let someone down or someone let him down, he had a hard time coping, just like most little children. As adults we have a foundation and a way to deal with these things. But Lawrence never had that. He was never coached in the ways of life."

The next time I spoke to Phillips was in Barcelona, Spain, in the spring of 1999. At the time he was trying to resuscitate his flagging career in NFL Europe.

Though Phillips was a Category 5 risk of a prospect, the Rams had selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 1996 draft. In less than two seasons in St. Louis he was fined more than 50 times for an assortment of violations. And on the field he appeared a step slower than he was at Nebraska. At the request of the Rams coaches, Phillips gained about 15 pounds from his Nebraska playing weight of 205.

"I'll never understand why the Rams coaches had him gain weight," said Darlington, the longtime Nebraska assistant. "They thought he needed to bulk up, but Lawrence was already a power runner. And throw in the fact that they had a rookie quarterback [Tony Banks] who fumbled every other snap, and Lawrence had no chance. Every time he came into the game there would be nine guys at the line of scrimmage focused on him."

Frustrated with the losing—the Rams went 11-21 in 1996 and '97—Phillips grew increasingly withdrawn. When head coach Dick Vermeil told Phillips late in '97 that he was being demoted to second string, Phillips immediately left the Rams' practice facility.

A day later, when Vermeil announced he was releasing Phillips, he told reporters that Phillips had more potential than any running back he'd ever coached. As the coach spoke, he choked up, and his eyes moistened. He wasn't the first to feel as if he had failed to save Lawrence Phillips.

The Miami Dolphins picked up Phillips late in 1997. In two games he gained 44 yards on 18 carries. He was cut after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery for allegedly hitting a woman in a Plantation, Florida, nightclub who refused to dance with him. It was an all-too-familiar story: A woman who rejected Phillips wound up on the business end of his wrath.

After sitting out a year, Phillips went to play for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe in the spring of '99. At the time I was researching a book on the league—The Proving Ground would be published in 2002—and everyone in the Dragons organization marveled at Phillips' talents and his willingness to follow orders.

"Lawrence loved to practice," Jack Bicknell, Barcelona's head coach, said at the time. "Every time we ran a play, he'd break through for 40 or 50 yards. I'm sure he did that all of his life because I've talked to people at Nebraska, and they said he was one of the hardest-working guys they ever had."

In the resort town of Sitges, a half-hour drive south of Barcelona, where the Dragons were based and where temptation lurked around every corner, Phillips rarely went out. Occasionally he'd play dominoes with his teammates in the lobby of the team hotel, but usually he stayed in his room or lay on the beach and listened to music.

He also liked to wade in the Mediterranean, the warm salt water soothing to his legs. It was the perfect football environment for Phillips: He practiced, went to meetings, ate his meals, kept to himself on the beach and went to bed early—a simple life.

Phillips thrived. He became the first player in the history of the league to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He was named NFL Europe's MVP. And he led the Dragons to the championship game, which they lost to Frankfurt 38-24.

"Without Phillips, that team would not have won two games," Amsterdam coach Al Luginbill said at the time. "If he can learn to run with the right people and stay away from alcohol, he can be all right. But when he boozes, he becomes a different personality."

Twenty years have passed since my first conversation with Lawrence Phillips. I sit in my home office, a middle-aged writer now, searching for clues about Phillips, trying to understand how so much promise can turn into so much despair.

I have written Lawrence a letter requesting to speak to him—as long as he is in administrative isolation at Kern, this is the only way anyone outside of the prison can reach him—but I have yet to hear back. Phillips has told a few friends that he wants people to forget about him, but I cannot shake the mystery that is Lawrence Phillips.

Reporters, with enough digging, can often uncover truths about their subjects that the subjects themselves cannot see. But what is the great truth about Lawrence Phillips?

After NFL Europe, Phillips signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He didn't last an entire season. The beginning of the end for Phillips in the Bay Area came on a Monday night game against Arizona on Sept. 27, 1999. He didn't make a block on blitzing cornerback Aeneas Williams, who throttled quarterback Steve Young with a devastating blindside hit. Young, knocked out cold, suffered a concussion—the final one of his career. He never played again. San Francisco waived Phillips later that fall, his final exit from the NFL.

Away from football, Phillips burned through his money. "We'd go out for a night, just the two of us, and by the end of the night there would be 30 people in our group at a club," said one of Phillips' friends. "Lawrence would pay for everybody. And this happened a lot. I mean, all the time."

Phillips, broke, had just borrowed $100 from a former high school teammate in August 2005 when he went to Exposition Park in Los Angeles to play in a pickup football game. Minutes after the game, Phillips couldn't find the $100. Accusing a few of the teenage boys he'd been playing with of stealing from him, he drove his SUV into a throng of the kids.

No one was seriously injured, but in October 2006 he was convicted of felony assault with a deadly weapon. While serving his seven-year sentence, he was convicted of an earlier domestic violence charge against his girlfriend and sentenced to an additional 25 years.

So what to make of Lawrence Phillips? I phoned a former staff member at Nebraska who I have known for 15 years, a man who is as familiar with Phillips as anyone.

What, I asked, is the underlying moral of the Lawrence Phillips story?

"This is a story of one thing," he said."This is a story of a broken kid who never got the help, for whatever reason, that he really needed. He never got the help to overcome the demons that were created in his childhood."

In the end, in the case of Lawrence Phillips, the demons beat his angels.

The D.A.'s investigation into the homicide of Damion Soward continues. Alone in his cell, Phillips waits for yet another judgment day.

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