NCAA Football News

Michigan Ending Legends Jersey Program, Will Officially Retire 6 Numbers in 2015

Michigan is hoping that Jim Harbaugh can return the football program back to its former greatness while also helping to forget the struggles of the recent past. In that vein, a previous attempt to link to the Wolverines' great history is being scrapped.

The school announced Tuesday, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, that it was doing away with its "Legends" jersey program. The program made it possible the last four seasons for Michigan players to wear a series of uniform numbers that had been previously retired.

Former athletic director Dave Brandon unretired numbers 11, 47, 48, 87 and 98 during the 2011 season, but those five (along with the No. 21 that Heisman winner Desmond Howard donned in the early 1990s) are now off-limits.

All six numbers will be formally retired at a ceremony during the Nov. 28 game against rival Ohio State, according to a news release issued by the school.

Interim AD Jim Hackett said the issue of wearing those uniform numbers came up when he met with players during the coaching search process, prompting a review of Brandon's program.

"At one end of the spectrum they are awed by the legacy of the men that wore them, and at the other end of the spectrum, and as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members," Hackett said, per the release.

"I brought this issue to our new head coach Jim Harbaugh. He agreed with me that it needed a review."

Last season, quarterback Devin Gardner wore the No. 98 made famous by Tom Harmon, who played halfback for the Wolverines from 1938-40. Linebacker Jake Ryan wore No. 47, previously worn by three-time All-American Bennie Oosterbaan, while linebacker Desmond Morgan donned the No. 48 jersey that former President Gerald Ford wore while playing for Michigan in the 1930s.

Morgan, a fifth-year senior, will shift to a new number for this season, according to Snyder.

All told, 10 different players wore Legends numbers between 2011-14, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.

Once retired, the jerseys will be displayed prominently in Towsley Museum, which is connected to Schembechler Hall.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Schools to Watch After 5-Star TE Isaac Nauta Decommitted from Florida State

Florida State’s 2016 recruiting class took a major hit on Tuesday when 5-star tight end pledge Isaac Nauta announced via Twitter that he is reopening his recruitment.

Nauta is the nation’s top tight end prospect and had been committed to the Seminoles since December of 2014. 

While his loss is a huge blow for FSU, a handful of schools are hoping to emerge as players for the 6’4”, 237-pounder. 

Which programs could be in the hunt to nab Nauta’s second commitment?

He recently earned offers from Baylor, TCU and Texas after returning from a trip last weekend in which he visited the trio of powers from the Lone Star State. 

However, a few other schools to watch in the wake of his decommitment include Georgia, Michigan and Ole Miss.

Of that group, the Bulldogs were the last ones to host him on campus during their ‘Dawg Night’ camp earlier this month.

As noted by Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, Nauta—who is originally from Buford, Georgia—left the trip with the positives of staying closer to home at the forefront of his mind.

"Georgia, from the beginning, and when I made my decision, they were in my top four, but really they were in the top two," Nauta told Adams. "They have always been at the top for me. Really the proximity to home plays in their favor. ... So Georgia has atmosphere, closeness to my family and a great tight end coach as advantages.”

According to ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren, while he was at The Opening earlier this month, Nauta mentioned he would consider taking an official visit to Michigan.

With the success that new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has had in using tight ends in his offenses through the years, Nauta’s potential interest in the Wolverines makes sense. 

Ole Miss was another program that was among his finalists before his initial pledge to FSU.

Considering that he will play with 5-star quarterback and current Rebels pledge Shea Patterson at IMG Academy this fall, there could be a renewed interest in continuing that combo at the next level.

Of course, the Seminoles aren’t going to give up on trying to get him back in the fold. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster, who is currently rated as the nation’s top recruiter in the 2016 cycle, played a huge role in landing Nauta’s initial commitment.

However, with one of the nation’s premier skill weapons back on the market, expect a host of top programs to make their pitches to Nauta in the coming months.

 

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

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Oregon Ducks Provide Fans with 360-Degree View of Game-Day Experience

Sports fans have the opportunity to be part of the game-day experience by sitting in the stands and cheering on their favorite teams. However, most never feel the rush of running onto the field in front of 50,000 people for a game.

Thanks to the Oregon Ducks, fans can now get a glimpse of what it's like to be a college football player on Saturdays.

The Ducks posted a video that provides a 360-degree view of the action leading up to the game. From the walk through the tunnel to the run onto the Autzen Stadium field, the awesome video allows fans to walk in the players' shoes.

*Note: The 360-degree effect does not work here on mobile devices. However, it does work on the YouTube app.

[GoDucksDotCom]

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Texas A&M Football: Biggest Storylines Heading into Fall Camp

Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies burst onto the SEC scene in 2012, with an electric young playmaker named Johnny Manziel taking the snaps and an offense that gave traditional SEC defenses fits. The Aggies won 11 games, topped Alabama on the road and became the darling of college football.

Since then, though, things have regressed.

From 11 wins to nine and then to eight, the Aggies have become more of an SEC afterthought than a potential power.

Will that change in 2015?

Sumlin lured defensive coordinator John Chavis to College Station after a successful stint at LSU, dedicated himself to the running game with the hire of offensive line coach and running game coordinator Dave Christensen and has a schedule that—at least by SEC West standards—is forgiving.

What will be the biggest storylines in College Station during fall camp?

 

Quarterback Battle?

Kyle Allen took over for Kenny Hill midway through the 2014 season and established himself as a potential superstar with a big road win over Auburn and followed it up with a five-touchdown performance (four passing, one rushing) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia.

"When I told him two weeks before the first game, he basically went around the corner and cried," Sumlin said at SEC media days. "To where he came to become MVP of the bowl game when six games ago he wasn't even playing, that says a lot. To go on the road to Auburn and then be the MVP, he's got a lot of confidence right now."

The new kid, though, could present some problems in Allen's quest to retain the job.

Kyler Murray won three straight Texas state titles at Allen High School without dropping a single game along the way. He passed up Major League Baseball to play quarterback at Texas A&M, and he's not there to be a backup.

"Both of them are extremely confident in their own abilities," Sumlin said. "Both are great competitors, and for us it's a good situation."

It's Allen's job to lose, and considering he was essentially the only quarterback with a chance to play this spring, it's unlikely he'll lose it.

How will Sumlin keep Murray happy? Which packages will be included specifically for him? Will there be specific drives that are designated for him, similar to what Georgia did with D.J. Shockley while David Greene was in Athens in the early 2000s?

It will be fascinating to watch Sumlin juggle these two talented quarterbacks this summer.

 

Defensive Star Watch

Everybody knows just how good Myles Garrett is, after the defensive end broke Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman sack record by notching 11.5 and establishing himself as more than just a pass-rushing specialist as the year went on.

There are other talented pieces for Chavis to work with, and those players need to step up and become leaders in August. 

Julien Obioha will slide down and play inside on the defensive line, with Daeshon Hall sliding in to play defensive end opposite Garrett. Those two monster bookends should thrive with Chavis calling the shots.

"Those two guys probably have gotten the biggest impact of John being here," head coach Sumlin said. "Without a doubt, Daeshon and Myles have big smiles on their faces because they like to rush the passer."

Otaro Alaka missed spring practice, but the linebacker was the defensive MVP of the bowl game when he notched seven tackles. Armani Watts was solid during his freshman season in 2014 when he tallied 59 tackles and picked off three passes and there's plenty of talent for Chavis to work with.

How will it come together? Will better preparation and a better scheme help the Aggies become more consistent? 

These are questions that need to be answered this summer, because Arizona State is looming in Houston and the Sun Devils can dial up video game numbers on the scoreboard.

 

Running Game Progression

We've already discussed how important Christensen's arrival is to the program, and how dangerous the Aggies can be with an increased focus on the power rushing attack. The offensive line is solid, senior Tra Carson is a monster and sophomore James White has enough power to be a bruiser and speed to be a home run hitter.

"[Christensen] has added some gap scheme runs and some different types of power runs that we need not only for us offensively to be better and be able to run when we want to and need to, but also help our defense in the manner in which we practice and have a physical aspect of our football team that I think we were lacking last year," Sumlin said.

How will this shift to a focus on getting north and south evolve this summer? Will Texas A&M use either Carson or White as a primary back, or will the duo split time in order to keep each other fresh?

An offense that can run when it needs to, not just when it wants to, will take a tremendous amount of pressure off of Allen, the wide receivers and the defense. 

It's the most important piece of the puzzle for the Aggies this year, defense included. With guys like Mike Matthews and Germain Ifedi up front and White and Carson in the backfield, the Aggies have the personnel to be a power rushing team out of the spread similar to Auburn's offense in each of the past two seasons. 

That transition, or at least the pieces of that element of the offense, have to come together in August.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247SportsBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national 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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Isaac Nauta Decommits from FSU: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Isaac Nauta, one of the best pass-catchers in the 2016 recruiting class, has decommitted from Florida State. 

The Georgia native announced his decision on Twitter:

Per 247Sports, Nauta, a 5-star prospect, is the No. 1 tight end in next year's recruiting class and the No. 17 player overall. The site's crystal ball projections had Florida State listed as his top destination with 64 percent of the vote, with Georgia coming in second at 36 percent. 

Losing Nauta does put a dent in Florida State's recruiting for next season, but head coach Jimbo Fisher's program should be able to withstand the loss. The Seminoles are still ranked third overall in early 2016 recruiting rankings by 247Sports. 

Per Kipp Adams of 247Sports, Nauta recently said the Bulldogs were always one of the top teams on his preferred list of schools: 

They have always been at the top for me. Really the proximity to home plays in their favor. One thing about Georgia and Florida State is that they both have great tight end coaches in Coach John Lilly and Coach Tim Brewster. I love to be around both of those guys. So Georgia has atmosphere, closeness to my family and a great tight end coach as advantages.

According to Andrew King of the Football Brainiacs, Nauta recently had a visit with, and received an offer from, the University of Texas. 

Given the hype surrounding Nauta as a prospect—and with his recruiting reopened in time for coaches around the country to make their move—expect a lot of action on him over the next several months. The Seminoles weren't offering him exactly what he wanted, but there's a program out there that will. 

Tight ends are more valuable than ever in football. Nauta is physically ready to play at the college level with a 6'4", 237-pound frame, so coaches across the country will be putting their best foot forward to make him happy. 

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Michigan Football: Should Wolverines Risk Playing Jabrill Peppers on Offense?

Behind new head coach Jim Harbaugh, Jabrill Peppers might be the second-biggest name for Michigan football.

And according to Harbaugh, there's a chance Wolverines fans will get to hear the name even more this fall.

On Tuesday, Harbaugh told a group of reporters in Ann Arbor "there's a possibility" Peppers, the redshirt freshman phenom at defensive back, could line up on offense this season.

"If you have the capability athletically of doing that and you have the desire to do that, then we'll explore it," Harbaugh said, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.

At first glance, Peppers playing offense for Michigan is a great idea.

He was the former No. 1 athlete and No. 3 overall player in the class of 2014 thanks to his work at defensive back, running back, receiver, return man and even quarterback for Paramus Catholic in New Jersey.

Although he's cemented himself as a top safety for Harbaugh, some of Peppers' best highlight tape comes from what he was able to do with the ball in his hands.

That explosive athleticism has Harbaugh talking Peppers up as a potential three-way player.

"It's rare that someone does offense, defense and special teams," Harbaugh said. "It's exciting when someone's capable of doing that, it means they have some real gifts athletically and they're really smart and sharp enough to understand three different systems."

According to Baumgardner, Peppers was a candidate for offensive work under former head coach Brady Hoke last season, but season-ending injuries cost him his true freshman campaign.

And those injuries are the main reasons for concern among Michigan fans.

After medically redshirting last season, Peppers' health will always be a worry for anyone involved with Michigan football.

He has the potential to be a program-changing player if he stays healthy. So is the extra workload of playing on offense worth the risk?

Absolutely.

Michigan is coming off its worst offensive season since a disastrous 3-9 campaign in 2008. When compared to the defense, the offense looks like it could use more of Peppers' help.

Of the returning running backs and wide receivers in Ann Arbor this season, only one had more than 500 yards of offense—junior De'Veon Smith, who recorded 519 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2014. That's a weak output, but it led the team.

Whether Michigan decides to run Peppers out of the backfield or split him out wide, the offense will have a weapon that has loads of big-play potential. He has the agility to make defenders miss and the speed to soar past everyone for touchdowns.

"I was told that they would most likely utilize Peppers in end-around type situations and as a potential receiver in the slot," Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247 wrote Tuesday. "He is capable of beating defenders deep and over the top. If he's on the field, they will look to get him the ball."

From the sound of Harbaugh's comments Tuesday, the biggest potential concern with Peppers playing on offense is not the overload on his body—but his brain.

"Jabrill's never struck me as someone who has ever (had) his head spin (on the field)," Harbaugh said. "He's not one of those type of youngsters. He has a very tight grip of his mind, he's very sharp and very focused. Nor have I seen him unconfident. He's very confident in his abilities."

After going through spring practice at full speed without any injury issues, Peppers' body looks to be ready to go for the fall. Playing the young star on offense is definitely a risk, but so is making him an every-down safety.

The reward of helping a Michigan attack with no established playmakers far outweighs any potential concerns for Peppers. He doesn't have to constantly be on offense in order to create big-time plays in the passing or running game this fall.

Judging by what Michigan's offense put out last season, just a few of those moments per game from Peppers would already be a tremendous improvement.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

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Urban Meyer, Buckeyes Honored with Butter Sculptures at Ohio State Fair

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have been celebrated quite a bit in Ohio since winning the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in January.

Now, the national champions are being honored like never before.

At the Ohio State Fair, there are Buckeyes-themed butter sculptures on display to pay homage to the squad. Coach Meyer and Brutus Buckeye were both rendered in life-size butter sculptures, and sculptors also created the CFP National Championship Trophy and the Ohio State helmet.

According to Kathy Lynn Gray of the Columbus Dispatchsculptors worked for 500 hours to create the works of art. Oh, and they used 2,000 pounds of butter to make the sculptures.

How did Meyer feel about seeing his likeness in butter?

"It humbles you, and it's a great honor," Meyer told the American Dairy Association Mideast (per Gray), the sponsor of the display.

[Twitter, h/t Eleven Warriors]

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Ranking the Top 5 Players in the Big Ten Heading into 2015 Season

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer to talk about who he believes are the top five Big Ten players heading into the 2015 season.

Who do you think should have made the list?

Watch the video and let us know!

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How New Auburn 4-Star QB Commit Lowell Narcisse Fits Tigers' Scheme

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate on the Plains on Monday evening as the Auburn Tigers landed a huge commitment in 2017 4-star quarterback Lowell Narcisse.

The 6’3”, 200-pounder, who chose the Tigers over Alabama, Clemson and LSU, among others, is rated as the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 59 player overall in the 2017 class.

His pledge gives the Tigers their third commitment in the 2017 cycle—with all three prospects being billed as top-100 prospects nationally.

However, perhaps the biggest reason that Gus Malzahn and his staff should be smiling is because of the way their newest field general fits their high-octane scheme. 

As noted by Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports, over the last two seasons at St. James [Louisiana] High School, Narcisse has been a playmaking machine who has thrown for more than 5,000 yards and run for another 2,000-plus while accounting for 88 total touchdowns.

As an added bonus, Narcisse has put up this type of production in an offense that mirrors what he will be asked to do when he arrives at Auburn.

“I've been having great success with it (in high school) and I think I'll have the same thing in college,” Narcisse told Neibuhr about the offense he currently runs at St. James.

Auburn’s offense has had a tremendous amount of success under Malzahn’s watch, with his propensity for using his quarterbacks as running threats being one of the reasons the Tigers are so tough to defend.

As his film shows, Narcisse is a skilled runner who has the speed, toughness and athleticism necessary to create big plays with his legs at the next level.

As a passer, Narcisse is a free-wheeling lefty who has a strong arm and the ability to make quick decisions with precision and accuracy. He’s also shown that he is comfortable throwing on the run.

Of course, there are areas he will have to improve in order to make a smooth transition to the next level.

As Niebuhr notes, on film, Narcisse has shown a tendency to lock onto one receiver—which could get him into trouble against the better defenses in the SEC.

He also shows a tendency to take off from the pocket a little early at times instead of letting plays develop. However, these are small details that most young quarterbacks have to deal with in their development phase.

Overall, Narcisse is a top-flight prospect who projects as a perfect fit for what Auburn likes to do with its quarterbacks. 

Given his skill set and his comfort with operating a system similar to what he will be asked to run in college, Narcisse has the potential to become the next star passer on the Plains.

 

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

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Tennessee Football Debuts Jack Daniel's-Themed Tickets for 2015 Season

Embracing the Tennessean passion for fermented grain and highly specialized liver conditioning, the Tennessee Volunteers football program has gone with a Jack Daniel's theme for its 2015 season tickets.

The team posted an image of the new-look tickets to Instagram on Monday night. It's like you can already see them collecting on the hulls of the Vol Navy.

So far, the reception to the new look has been generally warm:

I'm all for the new layout. Any time a school is upfront about what fuels its fanbase, it's a good thing. The Volunteers are just giving their people what they want, which, as history indicates, is more whiskey.

So much whiskey.

 

Dan is on Twitter. Mama always said if you're gonna be in the SEC, you gotta be good or you gotta have whiskey.

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Re-Ranking the Top 5 2011 Recruiting Classes

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani to re-rank the top five recruiting classes from 2011. You may be surprised by who made the list.

Who do you think deserves to be the top recruiting class from 2011? Watch the video and let us know!

 

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.

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Jaylon Jones to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star CB Prospect

The University of Mississippi's dominant defense potentially got even better Tuesday as the Rebels secured a commitment from cornerback Jaylon Jones.

The Allen, Texas, native is a 4-star recruit and the No. 18 corner in the class of 2016, according to 247sports. He made an official announcement regarding his intention to play at Ole Miss on Twitter.

Jones' decision doesn't come as much of a surprise on the heels of his comments following a visit to Mississippi's campus:

With that said, the Rebels managed to beat out some top competition to land the 5'11", 182-pound defensive back, as evidenced by this top-six list released by Jones in June:

According to Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger, reeling in Jones is only the latest coup in what has been an impressive string of commitments in recent weeks:

The Rebels boasted the No. 1 scoring defense in major college football last season at 13.8 points allowed per game, and they were tied for fifth with 22 interceptions.

Jones, who could potentially play either cornerback or safety at the collegiate level, should help Ole Miss in those areas as early as the 2016 season.

Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze is building a defensive juggernaut in Oxford, and Jones figures to be a huge part of that moving forward.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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How Urban Meyer Has Ohio State Set Up for a Long-Term Dynasty

COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the moment the clock struck zero and Ohio State was crowned the first College Football Playoff champion in January, Urban Meyer instantly reentered the conversation for the sport's top active head coach—one which only Alabama's Nick Saban also belongs in.

In the six months that have followed the Buckeyes' national title run, Meyer only appears to have strengthened his case in that argument.

The fourth-year Ohio State head coach still trails Saban when it comes to college football's ultimate measuring stick—national titles—with the Crimson Tide head man holding a 4-3 advantage over his former SEC foe.

But looking at the future that Meyer has made for himself in Columbus, it's hard to imagine Saban's championship lead over him lasting much longer.

Especially when taking into consideration that Meyer's third championship season—which included a Sugar Bowl win over Saban and Alabama in the CFP semifinal—came a year earlier than he even expected.

"We're a young program—a team where if you had told me this in August, I would have said, 'Not yet,'" Meyer said upon the Buckeyes' inclusion in the College Football Playoff. "Maybe next year, but not this year because we're just so young."

But those young Buckeyes—whose starting lineup included 13 combined freshmen and sophomores in 2014—got the job done, knocking off the Crimson Tide before defeating Oregon in the national title game.

And with Ohio State kicking off fall camp for the 2015 season in less than two weeks, that highly anticipated "next year" that Meyer spoke of is just about here.

With 14 combined returning starters on offense and defense, including either the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year in J.T. Barrett or the Buckeyes' national title-winning signal-caller in Cardale Jones, Ohio State is a heavy preseason favorite to repeat in 2015.

Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) lists the Buckeyes' odds of capturing college football's crown this year at 7-2, and when the preseason polls are released in the coming weeks, it'd be a shock if anybody but Ohio State is sitting atop them.

In football-crazed Columbus, "championship or bust" is usually the expectation. But that motto rings especially true this season, with all of the talent the Buckeyes return and all that they've already accomplished.

"We have a target on our back," Ohio State senior linebacker Joshua Perry said during spring football. "It's also a bit of a pride thing, being here and knowing what we've done and then knowing the guys that we have, that we could be special this year."

Whether or not the 2015 Buckeyes will live up to the lofty expectations set by last year's team will be determined in the coming months.

But win or lose, Meyer's promising future in Columbus won't stop there.

Even though Ohio State is prepared to lose what could be an unprecedented haul of first-round talent to the 2016 NFL draft, Meyer has positioned the Buckeyes to reload rather than rebuild.

In his first four recruiting cycles since arriving at Ohio State in late 2011, Meyer has never had a class rank lower than seventh nationally, including threetop-fivefinishes while maintaining the Big Ten's top-ranked class for all four years.

And with the Buckeyes coming off last season's national title run, that's not a train that appears to be slowing down anytime soon, with Ohio State currently laying claim to the nation's top-ranked classes in both 2016 and 2017.

"You move to the front of the line," Meyer said the day after the national title game, when asked how the championship would affect his program's recruiting efforts. "You can't recruit to this now, you're officially a bad recruiter."

Meyer's recent run isn't unheard of, as Saban capitalized on three national titles in four seasons at Alabama by capturing the country's top-ranked classes from 2011 to 2015. But unlike Alabama, Ohio State has created a clear succession plan at the sport's most important position, setting up long-term success that could conceivably last throughout Meyer's Buckeye tenure.

Between Barrett, who has three years of eligibility remaining starting in 2015, and incoming 4-star freshmen Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow—each of whom the Ohio State staff is high on—the Buckeyes' quarterback position appears to be in good hands through at least 2018.

Add in 2017 4-star quarterback Danny Clark, who has been committed to Ohio State since he was a freshman in high school, and it's possible the Buckeyes could be set at signal-caller through the 2020 season.

It's not just at quarterback that Meyer is stockpiling talent either, with Ohio State laying claim to top commits in both 2016 and 2017 at running back, wide receiver, the offensive line and all over the defensive side of the ball. The Buckeyes' 2016 class is currently headlined by 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, 4-star running back Kareem Walker, 4-star defensive end Jonathon Cooper and 4-star receiver Austin Mack, while Meyer's top-ranked 2017 class features 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers, 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade, 4-star safety Isaiah Pryor and 4-star running back Todd Sibley.

Across the board, it's nearly impossible to find a position that the Buckeyes aren't seemingly set at—both in the present and in the future.

Of course, Ohio State's prospects have to develop in order for that plan to stand, and Meyer saw with his own eyes how quickly a potential dynasty can fall apart during his time at Florida. But perhaps it's not a coincidence that the Ohio State head coach's latest contract extension runs right in line with what could be the culmination of a historic recruiting haul.

And by that time, the question may no longer be whether or not Meyer's the greatest active coach in college football.

With the run that he appears to be embarking on, bigger accolades may be in order.

 

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 cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Florida Football: Biggest Storylines Heading into Fall Camp

The expectations for new head coaches have changed a bit over the last decade. The ability to recruit, catch lighting in a bottle and turn around programs that have struggled in a hurry has virtually erased the margin for error for newcomers.

Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik each won national titles in their second years at Florida and Auburn, respectively. Nick Saban turned Alabama around from an afterthought and went undefeated in the regular season in his first season in Tuscaloosa. Gus Malzahn was 13 seconds from a national title in his first season as Auburn's head coach.

Does the "win now" mentality put more pressure on first-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain?

A little bit.

What are the biggest storylines in Gainesville heading into McElwain's first fall camp with the Gators?

 

Quarterback Malaise?

The quarterback position in Gainesville has been a wasteland ever since Tim Tebow graduated after the 2009 season.

John Brantley couldn't get it done, Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg all started games and eventually transferred, and Treon Harris stepped in for Driskel last year and was decent in former coordinator Kurt Roper's tempo system.

Now, it's Harris—the dual-threat weapon—vs. redshirt freshman pro-style prospect Will Grier this summer for the starting job in McElwain's more traditional scheme.

The scheme doesn't matter as much as the quarterback's ability to impact the players around him in whatever way possible.

"Really what it comes down to is when we get there in August is which one of those guys affect the play of the other people around them to help them be successful," McElwain said at SEC media days. "There's a lot of talented guys out there that can throw it and do all that, but for some reason don't click with the guys around them."

Grier has a slight edge on Harris heading into fall camp due in large part to Harris' absence for several practices this spring while he dealt with a family issue.

Grier, a former 4-star prospect from Davidson, North Carolina, has plenty of potential, looked good with the first-team offense in the spring game and fits what McElwain and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier want to do more than Harris.

That doesn't mean that Harris won't have a role, though.

If he doesn't win the job, his athleticism will undoubtedly be used either as a Wildcat quarterback or in the lineup at the same time as Grier in an effort to confuse opposing defenses.

It will be interesting to see how McElwain uses both of his quarterbacks, how the battle progresses this August and how the offense changes based on which contender steps up.

 

Piecing It Together

One look at Phil Steele's offensive line returning starts chart will (and should) make Florida fans cringe. The Gators return just 10 starts—all from Trip Thurman, who's nursing a shoulder injury—up front, which is the third-worst mark in the country.

That list was created prior to the arrival of two-time FCS (Fordham) All-American Mason Halter, but the point remains the same. There's a lot of work for McElwain and Nussmeier to do this summer in piecing together an offensive line that is wildly inexperienced.

The offensive line will define just what kind of offense the 2015 Gators will run.

"We're a multiple shift, multiple motion, try to create as much confusion, some unbalance, create an edge here and there to give us an opportunity," McElwain said. "And we'll continue to do that. Kind of how they grow is kind of how we're going to grow."

The Gators will get stud 5-star freshman Martez Ivey this summer, and he could go the "Cam Robinson route" and immediately start at tackle—just like Robinson did for Alabama a year ago.

"These guys are going to have an opportunity to go take reps," McElwain said. "How you learn to play is sometimes by making mistakes, but you've got to get that opportunity to take those reps, and they're going to have a lot of chances."

Watching how the offensive line evolves this summer will be fascinating.

There's plenty of talent for McElwain to work with, but a lot of it is young and/or new to the program, which could lead to inconsistencies that prevent the Gators from getting into the SEC East mix.

 

Making the Transition

Part of the transition to the new staff is the switch to new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, formerly of Mississippi State.

Known for his "psycho defenses" in Starkville that buckled down in the red zone and forced field goals rather than touchdowns, Collins will have more talent to work with in Gainesville than he ever had at his previous stop.

Will it work, though?

Collins his been more of a strict 4-3 coach during his career, and Florida had used more of a hybrid scheme that featured a "Buck" at defensive end who was largely responsible for rushing the quarterback but did drop back from time to time.

"There's a lot of similarity, a lot of same language, and I think that that's really important as we go," McElwain said. "I just love [Collins'] energy every day, and the way his teams have played, that speaks for itself."

How will stud defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Bryan Cox Jr. adjust to the new coaching staff? How will blue-chip defensive end Cece Jefferson fit in? Will the linebackers be as successful as they were under the previous staff?

There will be a slight learning curve. If Florida can manage it well this August, the defense won't miss a beat in September and beyond.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247SportsBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national 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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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Amway Poll's Top 25

One of the more entertaining tasks before the season starts is predicting which teams belong where in the preseason rankings—especially in a sport as wild, crazy and unpredictable as college football.

But let's double down on the predictions: Let's try to predict how the coaches will vote to open the season.

It's hard to imagine the coaches will vote any team other than Ohio State as the No. 1 team in the country. There are too many compelling reasons to keep last year's national champions at the top spot.

The biggest one is that Ohio State comes into the season boasting three players who could all start at quarterback for most teams in the country: Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. But what makes the Buckeyes even more scary is that Miller has agreed to convert to wideout and H-back, as he told Pete Thamel of SI.com:

For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return. It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.

This makes the Buckeyes all the more frightening on offense. Miller is one of the most explosive players in the country, and now he's free to catch passes, run the ball on option plays, potentially throw the ball on trick plays and return punts. In essence, the Buckeyes are getting their cake and eating it too with Miller on the field along with either Jones or Barrett, depending on who wins the quarterback battle.

Austin Ward of ESPN.com thinks Miller is perfectly capable of the adjustment, noting, "Miller has always been a dominant force on the football field, there are obviously plenty of touchdowns already on his resume, and doubting his ability has always been a recipe for being proved wrong."

And, amazingly, Miller might not even be the best player on the team's offense. No, that distinction belongs to running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and is one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy this year.

Of course, we can't forget about defensive end Joey Bosa, who might be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft. Or linebacker Darron Lee. Or the fact that Ohio State returns 15 starters.

See, that's the thing about this team. This year was supposed to be the year they emerged as a power, not last year. They were supposed to be good last year, but national championship good? That seemed like it was a year away.

Which makes you think they might be downright unstoppable this year.

But teams will try, and the other team that seems to be a popular pick to be in the running is TCU. Quarterback Trevone Boykin leads an offense with 10 returning starters, and the defense always seems to be solid, even if they did lose some studs last year. Still, the Horned Frogs were oh so close to being a playoff team last year.

Expect the coaches to assume they'll reach the postseason this year.

From there, it's a bit of a crapshoot. Alabama is always good, and the SEC will be well-represented. Teams like USC and Oklahoma generally look good on paper. Auburn's Jeremy Johnson and Clemson's Deshaun Watson will elevate their teams' rankings. The Pac-12 should be well-populated.

But the rankings, like college football itself, are an unpredictable matter. And that's what makes all of this so fun, isn't it?

 

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4-Star DB Jaylon Jones Commits to Ole Miss: 'This School Has a Great Program'

As a defensive back with more than 200 tackles for his varsity career, Jaylon Jones has made his mark on an Allen High School football team that has won three consecutive Texas state championships and last lost a game September 28, 2012.

In short, Jones is a ball hawk. And on Tuesday, the ball hawk let the world know he was ready to be a "Landshark."

Jones, a 4-star defensive back who can play safety and cornerback at the next level, committed to Ole Miss Tuesday morning and became the 18th commit for a strong class. He chose the Rebels over offers from Texas A&M, TCU, Ohio State, USC and Auburn.

It was a decision that ended what Jones called "a tough process."

"At the beginning, of course, I enjoyed it because it was something I've worked for since I was little," Jones said. "But things started to get stressful having to call coaches almost every night and setting up visits to different campuses.

"I had to keep a lot of things in mind, and a lot of factors played into me making my decision. I couldn't seek guidance or ask for anyone else's input outside of my parents because I really had to make the best decision for myself."

Jones recently took in Ole Miss on an unofficial visit. He said the trip to Oxford, Mississippi, helped make the decision a little easier after seeing the overall camaraderie on campus, combined with the vibe he felt in and around the city.

"Right when I got there, I felt at home," Jones said. "I had a bond with the coaches that made me feel very comfortable with them. When it comes to football, this school has a great program."

Jones then added: "The atmosphere of the town was amazing, especially the campus."

The commitment gives Ole Miss seven 4-star players and a 5-star quarterback in Shea Patterson for its 2016 class. Jones is a big get for the Rebels, as he became their second defensive back pledge. Jones joins fellow Texan Greg Eisworth, a 3-star safety from nearby Grand Prairie, Texas.

Jones was recruited by cornerbacks coach Jason Jones and wide receivers coach Grant Heard. The 5'11", 182-pound defensive back, ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 18 cornerback in the 2016 class, said he was recruited to play safety.

Jones is a defensive back with good speed and arguably better tackling skills. He recorded 117 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception as a junior. Jones put himself on the recruiting map as a sophomore when he had 102 tackles and four interceptions.

Jones participated in the Nike football combine at The Opening earlier this month and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.13 seconds, threw the power ball 41 feet and recorded a vertical jump of 34.6 inches.

It's Jones' versatility that may allow him early playing time in his college career. In addition to being able to play safety and cornerback, Jones also can be a reliable returner on special teams.

But Jones said he's looking forward to doing most of his damage in the secondary. And he's hoping for the chance to do it early and often.

"Their defense is reputable for being good," he said, referring to the "Landsharks," one of the most respected defensive units in the SEC. "It really did stand out to me."

Jones has 21 reported offers, according to 247Sports. He is ranked as the nation's No. 207 player overall. 

 

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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Inside SEC's No. 1 Recruiting Class for 2016: What's Working for LSU

LSU matched its lowest win total last season since head coach Les Miles arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005, but the Tigers remain undaunted on the recruiting trail. 

The program, coming off an 8-5 campaign that ended with a Music City Bowl defeat, sits atop 2016 SEC class rankings. It's a haul of prospects rated second overall nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Though these players still have senior seasons ahead in high school, collegiate expectations are already ambitious. 

"We're going to win a lot of games together. Our focus is on championships," Tigers defensive end commit Caleb Roddy told Bleacher Report. "It's important that we become close before we get to campus."

A few LSU commits were able to do that earlier this month at The Opening, an annual elite football showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Roddy was joined in Beaverton by LSU-bound quarterback Feleipe Franks, wide receiver Stephen Sullivan and cornerbacks Andraez Williams and Saivion Smith.

The latest additions to "DBU" actually worked in tandem during seven-on-seven action at The Opening, providing an early glimpse of what could be the next dynamic defensive duo in Baton Rouge.

“Me and Greedy (Williams) played on the opposite side of one another yesterday and today,” Smith said in Oregon. “We are just getting to learn one another more. I feel like we are going to be very good in the future.”

That seems to be the general consensus for this entire class, which is highlighted by several recruits who rate as top-12 talents at their respective position in composite rankings. 

LSU is in rarefied territory with nine pledges placed among the country's top 200 overall 2016 prospects. These players continue to credit the program's leader as a paramount reason for recruiting success. 

"Coach Miles is a great guy and he does an outstanding job recruiting players who can help the team compete for championships," Franks said while training at Elite 11 national finals.

LSU struggled at times last season, especially a Tigers passing attack that finished last among SEC squads in yards per game. That didn't shake Franks, who committed to the class last summer.

"My confidence is with [offensive coordinator Cam] Cameron and that staff. I have faith things are headed in the right direction and I'm looking forward to becoming part of the process on offense," he said.

LSU continues to reciprocate that confidence with the 6'5", 220-pound playmaker from Wakulla High School in Florida.

"Feleipe never wavered [during 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson's recruitment] and LSU coaches have been constantly wowed by his tools. He’s a guy they’re excited to build around," said regional recruiting reporter Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune.

Franks completed 58 percent of pass attempts for 2,249 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. He added 425 yards and three scores as a rusher.

A top-tier quarterback can quickly become the catalyst for a recruiting class. Though standouts like Smith are also leading the charge to target other elite peers, expect Franks to play a pivotal factor moving forward.

"It definitely gives you an edge to have a high-profile quarterback and in my opinion we have one with Feleipe Franks," Roddy said. "He's fantastic and he has a rocket arm. Hopefully he can take the offense to another level when it's his time to step up at LSU. I truly believe he can be one of the best in the country."

Tigers fans can also look forward to the arrival of an intriguing group of pass-catchers. Sullivan, Dee Anderson and Jamal Pettigrew are each 4-star prospects  who stand 6'4" or taller.

This trio combined to catch 120 passes for 2,080 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. LSU is still targeting wide receivers like Clyde ChrissNate Craig-Myers and Mykel Jones, but an impressive corps is already in place.

"What quarterback wouldn't be excited about this group of receivers? You've got guys who are physical, tall and make life difficult for the defense," Franks said. "These guys are great targets to throw to and I'm thrilled to get to work with them."

These offensive playmakers should set the stage for contentious college practice sessions.

LSU already features one of college football's deepest defensive backfields. It's a fearsome collection that will be further fortified by Smith, Williams and talented Texas safety Eric Monroe.

"We can help create a special secondary," Smith said. "I need to go in there, put in the work and learn from [defensive backs coach] Corey Raymond. He's the one who coached up a lot of those guys and helped push them into the league. If I do what he says and work on my craft, I won't have any worries or pressure."

Raymond is a valuable member on a Tigers staff that added a few aces during the offseason. Miles hired former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron, former Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele and former Georgia wide receivers coach Tony Ball.

"They have the right staff to get it done in recruiting," Lopez said. "Those new additions, plus [running backs coach/recruiting coordinator] Frank Wilson, really give LSU an edge. It's almost unfair to have all those guys on one staff."

The team's sales pitch is straight to the point, per Roddy.

"It's the best football in America, by far. LSU has the best stadium, the best fans and the best environment. It's just the greatest place to spend your college career," he said.

That luster doesn't fade due to one underwhelming season. LSU opened this decade with four straight double-digit win totals and is just three years removed from its most recent national title game appearance.

"Unless you have a few seasons like [2014] in a row, you can bounce back on the recruiting trail because there's a strong track record in place," Lopez said. "They can still sell the ‘title contender’ brand because of what they’ve been able to do under Les Miles. I'm pretty sure he still has that national championship trophy sitting around somewhere."

This latest star-studded collection of recruits aims to add more bling to an already impressive LSU trophy case.

"The commits in this class and even the younger guys like [top-ranked 2017 pledge] Dylan Moses are focused on bringing a championship back to Baton Rouge," Smith said. "We are recruiting players just as hard as the coaches do."

LSU's remaining list of targets features 5-star prospects Rashard Lawrence (defensive tackle), Willie Allen (offensive tackle), Shavar Manuel (defensive end), Ben Davis (linebacker) and Brandon Jones (safety).

Another recruiting surge in the final six months before national signing day could solidify LSU's spot in the top SEC recruiting perch—occupied by Alabama since 2011—and possibly push the Tigers past Ohio State's top-rated class.

“They need to keep these key players who are already in the fold and try to add a couple more big-time, 5-star guys," Lopez said. "There will be some lower-tier commits who eventually flip, whether it’s their or LSU’s choice. You know they’ll add some solid 4-star guys. At this point, it’s about building off the really strong foundation they’ve already created.”

Tigers coaches can sell athletes on an opportunity to compete alongside America's best young talent. It's a recipe that could result in significant strides for LSU and Miles moving forward.

"It's really cool being part of such an elite class. It's a great feeling knowing you have so many people coming in at the same level as you," Roddy said. "We're going to win championships for sure—multiple maybe."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. B/R staff writer Sanjay Kirpalani also contributed to this story. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 20 Offensive Tackles in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Offensive Tackles.

Other Positions

 

Given how passing concepts have expanded in recent years, the importance of having athletic and strong offensive tackles has grown.

Since defensive coordinators are always trying to find new ways to bring pressure on quarterbacks, offensive tackles must be agile enough to fend off sleek edge-rushers and powerful enough to push back beefier defensive ends.

The 2016 class is deep with high-quality tackle prospects, with 5-star Texas standout Greg Little leading the way.

The newest edition of Bleacher Report's CFB Recruiting 200 series will break down the best offensive tackles in the 2016 cycle and grade them on important traits such as hands, power, lateral quickness, pass protection and run blocking.

How do the nation's top offensive tackle prospects measure up to one another?

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Predicting Which QBs Will Lead College Football in Passing for 2015 Season

Can you name the quarterback who finished 2014 ranked No. 1 in yards per game?

Despite playing only nine games before being injured, Washington State’s Connor Halliday earned that accolade with a whopping 430.3 yards per game.  It’s the first time anyone has crested the 400-yard mark since Houston’s Case Keenum posted a 402-yard average in 2011.

While yards per game isn’t the only way or even the best way to rate quarterbacks, it’s not a bad place to start.

Don’t think so?

The top 10 finishers last season included such luminaries as Baylor’s Bryce Petty (No. 6), Florida State’s Jameis Winston (No. 8) and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (No. 9).  The Heisman winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, finished out of the running at No. 11, just 1.7 yards off the pace.

The 10 quarterbacks highlighted here, ranked by potential, are best positioned to finish 2015 at the top of the charts in a 13-game season. 

Though each signal-caller is a legitimate statistical weapon, they’re not necessarily the guys who might win the most games or the most individual accolades.

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Michael Eletise to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star OL Prospect

Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez has already pieced together a strong recruiting class ahead of the 2016 season. Now, the group has a bona fide headliner after the commitment of Michael Eletise.

The 4-star offensive guard announced his decision Monday back home in Hawaii:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Eletise is the ninth-best guard in the country and No. 192 overall. The Arizona Wildcats climbed three spots to No. 5 in the Pac-12 in 247Sports' team rankings after he committed.

GOAZCATS.com's Matt Moreno praised the work of the Wildcats coaches responsible for doing the legwork on the recruiting trail to snag the Honolulu native:

Size certainly won't be a concern for Eletise; he's listed at 6'4" and 313 pounds. Even if he slims down a bit, he projects as a guard or right tackle if absolutely necessary. Guard would be the better of the two options given his impressive strength and somewhat average agility.

You can see Eletise (No. 72) lined up against defensive tackle Rashan Gary in the Vine below, courtesy of ESPN.com's Erik McKinney:

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue provided another Vine of Eletise battling Gary, the No. 1 DT on 247Sports' composite rankings:

Offensive guards don't often grab a ton of headlines, but the work they do inside the trenches is invaluable to both the running and passing games, especially with defensive tackles becoming more and more versatile in the case of the latter.

Eletise showed he can hang with the best in his class when matched up with Gary. There's no reason he can't become a fixture on Arizona's O-line in the future.

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