NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have wrapped up the first week of spring practice, and by the looks of things, they have a chance to have a successful 2015 season. The quarterback battle is off to a hot start, the wide receivers look healthier, and the linebackers are still as strong as ever.

But just like any other team after the first week of spring practice, the Bulldogs still have a lot of things to work on before they can finish the season and move on to fall camp. They will have plenty of time for that because there are still a couple of weeks before G-Day take places at Sanford Stadium.

Here’s the Week 1 practice stock report for the Bulldogs.

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Georgia Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have wrapped up the first week of spring practice, and by the looks of things, they have a chance to have a successful 2015 season. The quarterback battle is off to a hot start, the wide receivers look healthier, and the linebackers are still as strong as ever.

But just like any other team after the first week of spring practice, the Bulldogs still have a lot of things to work on before they can finish the season and move on to fall camp. They will have plenty of time for that because there are still a couple of weeks before G-Day take places at Sanford Stadium.

Here’s the Week 1 practice stock report for the Bulldogs.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football Recruiting: Top 5 Offensive Skill Targets for '16 Class

In order for the UCLA football program to take the next step in its goal of winning a Pac-12 title, it has to improve at the skill positions—specifically in terms of speed.

While the Bruins' wide receiver corps has been productive under head coach Jim Mora, the group collectively has lacked a game-breaker with the ability to take the top off of a defense. 

This piece will look at multiple prospects with the ability to upgrade the amount of athleticism within the skill positions. It includes three receivers, a very fast running back and a local quarterback with the potential to add depth behind Josh Rosen. 

Here are the top five offensive targets in the 2016 class for the UCLA Bruins. 

  

All star rankings are courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football Recruiting: Top 5 Offensive Skill Targets for '16 Class

In order for the UCLA football program to take the next step in its goal of winning a Pac-12 title, it has to improve at the skill positions—specifically in terms of speed.

While the Bruins' wide receiver corps has been productive under head coach Jim Mora, the group collectively has lacked a game-breaker with the ability to take the top off of a defense. 

This piece will look at multiple prospects with the ability to upgrade the amount of athleticism within the skill positions. It includes three receivers, a very fast running back and a local quarterback with the potential to add depth behind Josh Rosen. 

Here are the top five offensive targets in the 2016 class for the UCLA Bruins. 

  

All star rankings are courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Who Could Surprise People This Spring

Spring practice begins this week for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. Head coach Frank Beamer enters his 29th season in charge of his alma mater, as Tech looks to get to the top of the ACC for the first time since 2010.

According to Tech's official depth chart at the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Hokies have eight starters returning on offense, seven on defense (not including Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson) and both specialists. 

The biggest openings for VT on the offensive side of the ball are on the offensive line. The Hokies must replace three starters from a year ago; that is, if you consider Augie Conte—who started the bowl game at right tackle—as a returning starter.

On defense, longtime coordinator Bud Foster must replace four starters, but no stars. Replacing safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner—both three-year starters—is Foster's biggest challenge.

Who could surprise during spring practice? Here is a look at four players who could surprise folks this spring.

Begin Slideshow

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Who Could Surprise People This Spring

Spring practice begins this week for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. Head coach Frank Beamer enters his 29th season in charge of his alma mater, as Tech looks to get to the top of the ACC for the first time since 2010.

According to Tech's official depth chart at the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Hokies have eight starters returning on offense, seven on defense (not including Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson) and both specialists. 

The biggest openings for VT on the offensive side of the ball are on the offensive line. The Hokies must replace three starters from a year ago; that is, if you consider Augie Conte—who started the bowl game at right tackle—as a returning starter.

On defense, longtime coordinator Bud Foster must replace four starters, but no stars. Replacing safeties Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner—both three-year starters—is Foster's biggest challenge.

Who could surprise during spring practice? Here is a look at four players who could surprise folks this spring.

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2016 Recruit Tony Jones Jr. on Committing to Notre Dame: 'It Just Felt Right'

Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment in its 2016 recruiting class when 3-star Florida standout Tony Jones Jr. announced his pledge to the Irish.

The 6’0”, 212-pounder was on a visit to South Bend last weekend, and he committed to Irish head coach Brian Kelly in his office Sunday before departing. 

“It just felt right to me,” Jones told Bleacher Report. “The coaches are really good. I felt at home. The players are cool. The tradition is second to none.”

Jones—who earned an offer from the Irish earlier this month—selected Notre Dame over offers from Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, among others.

According to Jones, Kelly couldn’t contain his excitement when he told him that he wanted to become a part of the Irish program.

“He just started smiling and he was really happy,” Jones said.

So what are the Irish getting in the standout from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and what factors helped him pull the trigger? 

If the spring camp circuit is any indicator, Kelly and his staff are getting a back who is motivated to prove that he is one of the nation’s most talented backs in the 2016 class.

Jones attended the Adidas Georgia Showcase in February and the Nike Orlando Regional Camp earlier this month and was a standout performer at both events. He earned an invitation to The Opening at the latter event.

His running backs coach at IMG Academy, former Alabama running back Roy Upchurch, spoke earlier this month about what makes his star pupil a special back. 

“Tony’s a very hard-working guy,” Upchurch said. “He wants it. He wants to be the best back in the country. He wants to be a big-time back in college. That’s what he’s working toward. He tries to elevate his game every time he touches the field. Even on the practice field, he tries to take his game to another level. When it’s time to perform, he’s going 100-percent all the time.”

Jones becomes the fourth member of Notre Dame’s 2016 class, and the first running back to join the fold.

Education and the Irish’s graduation rates under Kelly were pivotal factors that Jones mentioned helped him make the decision to commit. 

Also, his connection with running backs coach Autry Denson—himself a Florida native and the school’s all-time leading rusher—and associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock—who coached Tony’s father in college—weighed heavily in his thought process.

With his commitment out of the way, Jones—who is also a standout baseball player and plans to play both sports at Notre Dame—said he will now turn his attention toward his senior season and preparing to get ready for the college level.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 Recruit Tony Jones Jr. on Committing to Notre Dame: 'It Just Felt Right'

Notre Dame picked up a huge commitment in its 2016 recruiting class when 3-star Florida standout Tony Jones Jr. announced his pledge to the Irish.

The 6’0”, 212-pounder was on a visit to South Bend last weekend, and he committed to Irish head coach Brian Kelly in his office Sunday before departing. 

“It just felt right to me,” Jones told Bleacher Report. “The coaches are really good. I felt at home. The players are cool. The tradition is second to none.”

Jones—who earned an offer from the Irish earlier this month—selected Notre Dame over offers from Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, among others.

According to Jones, Kelly couldn’t contain his excitement when he told him that he wanted to become a part of the Irish program.

“He just started smiling and he was really happy,” Jones said.

So what are the Irish getting in the standout from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and what factors helped him pull the trigger? 

If the spring camp circuit is any indicator, Kelly and his staff are getting a back who is motivated to prove that he is one of the nation’s most talented backs in the 2016 class.

Jones attended the Adidas Georgia Showcase in February and the Nike Orlando Regional Camp earlier this month and was a standout performer at both events. He earned an invitation to The Opening at the latter event.

His running backs coach at IMG Academy, former Alabama running back Roy Upchurch, spoke earlier this month about what makes his star pupil a special back. 

“Tony’s a very hard-working guy,” Upchurch said. “He wants it. He wants to be the best back in the country. He wants to be a big-time back in college. That’s what he’s working toward. He tries to elevate his game every time he touches the field. Even on the practice field, he tries to take his game to another level. When it’s time to perform, he’s going 100-percent all the time.”

Jones becomes the fourth member of Notre Dame’s 2016 class, and the first running back to join the fold.

Education and the Irish’s graduation rates under Kelly were pivotal factors that Jones mentioned helped him make the decision to commit. 

Also, his connection with running backs coach Autry Denson—himself a Florida native and the school’s all-time leading rusher—and associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock—who coached Tony’s father in college—weighed heavily in his thought process.

With his commitment out of the way, Jones—who is also a standout baseball player and plans to play both sports at Notre Dame—said he will now turn his attention toward his senior season and preparing to get ready for the college level.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former Auburn LB Khari Harding's Family Still in the Dark on Tulsa Eligibility

"This has just been so crazy, that it's unbelievable. The timing and everything is just mind-boggling. It really is."

The frustration of Corie Harding has clearly reached a boiling point after an NCAA rule change, which the family didn't know about until The Oklahoman reported it last Wednesday, suggests that his son, Khari—a junior linebacker who transferred from Auburn to Tulsa—would be ineligible in 2015.

Corie Harding and his son, Khari, didn't sign up for this kind of struggle when Khari chose to leave the Plains in order to be closer to his father, who's undergoing chemotherapy in his second battle with cancer in Edmond, Oklahoma.  

Corie Harding is awaiting a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan that will determine what stage the cancer is in.

"If that comes back where I have spots over my lungs or my liver, there's nothing they can do," Harding told Bleacher Report. "If I don't have those spots, I still have to go through chemo to ensure things are going well."

That plan for Harding to transfer and play immediately apparently has changed.

The NCAA voted to eliminate the hardship waiver that previously allowed players to transfer without sitting out a year in favor of simply granting them a sixth year of eligibility. The rule was approved last year and enacted earlier this month for all undergraduate student-athletes looking to participate in the 2015-2016 season, according to the NCAA.

"The NCAA needs to look at this rule a little more and make some adjustments," Corie Harding said. "That's what we want this out there. It's not right."

Tulsa issued the following statement to Bleacher Report regarding the waiver process and its effort to prevent Harding from sitting out the 2015 season.

It has been The University of Tulsa's interpretation that the Legislative Relief (SLR) policy specifying that immediate eligibility no longer be provided for undergraduate student-athletes who are not eligible to use the one-time transfer exception would enter into affect beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. The NCAA DI Board of Directors Report from April 24, 2014 states "the change would be effective for those undergraduate transfer students who transfer and enroll during the 2015-16 academic year and thereafter."

The recent NCAA Question & Answer dialogue relating to the 4-4 transfer directive that was issued on March 16, 2015 indicates differently. The University of Tulsa has been operating under the interpretation of the Board of Directors Report of April 24, 2014 indicating the change would not affect those students who enrolled in spring 2015. 

Student-athlete Khari Harding enrolled at The University of Tulsa during the 2014–15 academic year. The waiver seeking immediate eligibility for Harding for the 2015 football season is currently in progress. 

The University of Tulsa understands that the document issued on March 16th is not legislation, but instead an NCAA "Q&A" unpublished standard and not an official interpretation. The university will seek further clarification and will continue the waiver process.

The rule change came as a surprise to the Harding family, but it isn't just the NCAA that the elder Harding is upset with.

It's Tulsa.

According to Harding, Khari received a voice mail from head coach Philip Montgomery on Saturday as he was traveling back from Panama City Beach, Florida, stating that the two would discuss the situation at a team meeting on Sunday. The school confirmed in a statement to Bleacher Report that, since Khari arrived on campus, all communication has been with the student-athlete.

During that meeting on Sunday night, Khari, who's known as "Mookie" to his friends and family, was told that Tulsa didn't hear about this until Friday evening. 

"I said 'Mookie, do you honestly believe that?'" Corie Harding said on Monday. "'You went to Panama City, and you found out down there. You're trying to tell me that they didn't hear about any of this till Friday?'

"Wow. That just blew my mind."

The only people Corie Harding has heard from out of Tulsa are media members looking to tell their story.

"I heard from the Tulsa World. I heard from John Hoover and some of those people, because evidently they've been talking to compliance," Harding said. "What I told them was, 'no disrespect, but the things that you guys are telling me should be coming from the compliance office or the University of Tulsa. Not you.'"

"Family," Corie Harding exclaims. "At Auburn, they are a family. They called me. They checked up on me. They checked up on other people. They called, they emailed and did whatever they had to do to stay in touch and have some sort of relationship and rapport with the parents. When your kid's in college, that's all they have. Here at the University of Tulsa, I haven't heard from one coach. Not one. Not one. Period. Khari told me that he needed my medical records in January, and that's it."

Not only has Harding been fighting his own battle with cancer and hoping to see his son play football in 2015, but he's been traveling to Tulsa between treatments to visit his son and enjoy his family.

"Me and my daughter went down there because she leaves for the Air Force on April 28," he said. "I went down there on March 3 and took a kid down there to meet the recruiting coordinator, and I didn't see one coach. Not one coach. I was down there for two or three hours, I was on the field, I was in the offices, locker rooms and went everywhere. Nobody."

According to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, there was a chance that Harding could have returned to Auburn to play for the Tigers under the Return to Original Institution without Participation or with Minimal Participation Exception within 14 days of spring practice starting.

That window, according to Harding, closed on Sunday, leaving the family few options on what to do next.

"If push comes to shove, honestly, I'd rather him go back (to Auburn)," Corie Harding said. "This is our home state, and we're putting up with this?"

"I'd rather for him to sit out at Auburn. I can make adjustments like I did for the past two years to get to Auburn. Or if I have to move to Atlanta, it wouldn't be an issue because we thought about that the first time. Wouldn't be a problem. This is just mind-boggling."

How likely is a return to Auburn for Khari?

When asked about it last week, head coach Gus Malzahn was noncommittal on the possibility, according to Crepea, which isn't the most surprising development since Khari is a member of the Tulsa football program now.

"I don't want to get into hypotheticals," Malzahn said. "His dad is extremely sick and I was wanting him to get closer back to his family. That's important to him and so that was unfortunate. I'm disappointed for him because Khari is a fine young man, his dad is a fine person, too."

Even if Khari can't play in 2015, Corie's true dream for his son is still intact.

"Our motivation as a family was for him to get his degree. His grades are good, and he's probably going to be graduating in a year-and-a-half. He's been in summer school since graduating high school. He's on track."

On track, despite the detour.

 

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.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former Auburn LB Khari Harding's Family Still in the Dark on Tulsa Eligibility

"This has just been so crazy, that it's unbelievable. The timing and everything is just mind-boggling. It really is."

The frustration of Corie Harding has clearly reached a boiling point after an NCAA rule change, which the family didn't know about until The Oklahoman reported it last Wednesday, suggests that his son, Khari—a junior linebacker who transferred from Auburn to Tulsa—would be ineligible in 2015.

Corie Harding and his son, Khari, didn't sign up for this kind of struggle when Khari chose to leave the Plains in order to be closer to his father, who's undergoing chemotherapy in his second battle with cancer in Edmond, Oklahoma.  

Corie Harding is awaiting a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan that will determine what stage the cancer is in.

"If that comes back where I have spots over my lungs or my liver, there's nothing they can do," Harding told Bleacher Report. "If I don't have those spots, I still have to go through chemo to ensure things are going well."

That plan for Harding to transfer and play immediately apparently has changed.

The NCAA voted to eliminate the hardship waiver that previously allowed players to transfer without sitting out a year in favor of simply granting them a sixth year of eligibility. The rule was approved last year and enacted earlier this month for all undergraduate student-athletes looking to participate in the 2015-2016 season, according to the NCAA.

"The NCAA needs to look at this rule a little more and make some adjustments," Corie Harding said. "That's what we want this out there. It's not right."

Tulsa issued the following statement to Bleacher Report regarding the waiver process and its effort to prevent Harding from sitting out the 2015 season.

It has been The University of Tulsa's interpretation that the Legislative Relief (SLR) policy specifying that immediate eligibility no longer be provided for undergraduate student-athletes who are not eligible to use the one-time transfer exception would enter into affect beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. The NCAA DI Board of Directors Report from April 24, 2014 states "the change would be effective for those undergraduate transfer students who transfer and enroll during the 2015-16 academic year and thereafter."

The recent NCAA Question & Answer dialogue relating to the 4-4 transfer directive that was issued on March 16, 2015 indicates differently. The University of Tulsa has been operating under the interpretation of the Board of Directors Report of April 24, 2014 indicating the change would not affect those students who enrolled in spring 2015. 

Student-athlete Khari Harding enrolled at The University of Tulsa during the 2014–15 academic year. The waiver seeking immediate eligibility for Harding for the 2015 football season is currently in progress. 

The University of Tulsa understands that the document issued on March 16th is not legislation, but instead an NCAA "Q&A" unpublished standard and not an official interpretation. The university will seek further clarification and will continue the waiver process.

The rule change came as a surprise to the Harding family, but it isn't just the NCAA that the elder Harding is upset with.

It's Tulsa.

According to Harding, Khari received a voice mail from head coach Philip Montgomery on Saturday as he was traveling back from Panama City Beach, Florida, stating that the two would discuss the situation at a team meeting on Sunday. The school confirmed in a statement to Bleacher Report that, since Khari arrived on campus, all communication has been with the student-athlete.

During that meeting on Sunday night, Khari, who's known as "Mookie" to his friends and family, was told that Tulsa didn't hear about this until Friday evening. 

"I said 'Mookie, do you honestly believe that?'" Corie Harding said on Monday. "'You went to Panama City, and you found out down there. You're trying to tell me that they didn't hear about any of this till Friday?'

"Wow. That just blew my mind."

The only people Corie Harding has heard from out of Tulsa are media members looking to tell their story.

"I heard from the Tulsa World. I heard from John Hoover and some of those people, because evidently they've been talking to compliance," Harding said. "What I told them was, 'no disrespect, but the things that you guys are telling me should be coming from the compliance office or the University of Tulsa. Not you.'"

"Family," Corie Harding exclaims. "At Auburn, they are a family. They called me. They checked up on me. They checked up on other people. They called, they emailed and did whatever they had to do to stay in touch and have some sort of relationship and rapport with the parents. When your kid's in college, that's all they have. Here at the University of Tulsa, I haven't heard from one coach. Not one. Not one. Period. Khari told me that he needed my medical records in January, and that's it."

Not only has Harding been fighting his own battle with cancer and hoping to see his son play football in 2015, but he's been traveling to Tulsa between treatments to visit his son and enjoy his family.

"Me and my daughter went down there because she leaves for the Air Force on April 28," he said. "I went down there on March 3 and took a kid down there to meet the recruiting coordinator, and I didn't see one coach. Not one coach. I was down there for two or three hours, I was on the field, I was in the offices, locker rooms and went everywhere. Nobody."

According to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, there was a chance that Harding could have returned to Auburn to play for the Tigers under the Return to Original Institution without Participation or with Minimal Participation Exception within 14 days of spring practice starting.

That window, according to Harding, closed on Sunday, leaving the family few options on what to do next.

"If push comes to shove, honestly, I'd rather him go back (to Auburn)," Corie Harding said. "This is our home state, and we're putting up with this?"

"I'd rather for him to sit out at Auburn. I can make adjustments like I did for the past two years to get to Auburn. Or if I have to move to Atlanta, it wouldn't be an issue because we thought about that the first time. Wouldn't be a problem. This is just mind-boggling."

How likely is a return to Auburn for Khari?

When asked about it last week, head coach Gus Malzahn was noncommittal on the possibility, according to Crepea, which isn't the most surprising development since Khari is a member of the Tulsa football program now.

"I don't want to get into hypotheticals," Malzahn said. "His dad is extremely sick and I was wanting him to get closer back to his family. That's important to him and so that was unfortunate. I'm disappointed for him because Khari is a fine young man, his dad is a fine person, too."

Even if Khari can't play in 2015, Corie's true dream for his son is still intact.

"Our motivation as a family was for him to get his degree. His grades are good, and he's probably going to be graduating in a year-and-a-half. He's been in summer school since graduating high school. He's on track."

On track, despite the detour.

 

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.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan State Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

A month after Michigan and two weeks after Ohio State, Michigan State will hit the practice field on Tuesday for its first spring practice of 2015.

But while the Spartans have flown under the radar this offseason in comparison to Jim Harbaugh's new team and the defending national champions, that doesn't make their spring practice session any less important as they attempt to keep pace in the suddenly ultra-competitive Big Ten East.

A combined record of 24-3 over the past two seasons should help head coach Mark Dantonio's cause, as should the return of multiple players who could have otherwise entered the NFL draft. With the Buckeyes as strong as ever, and the Wolverines and Penn State seemingly on the rise, Michigan State will have its work cut out for it this season, but a strong spring could go a long way toward securing a third consecutive successful season for the Spartans.

 

What to Watch for on Offense

As opposed to entering this year's draft, where he could have been a potential first-round pick, quarterback Connor Cook opted to return to East Lansing for his third straight season as the Spartans' starter. But as opposed to the past two seasons, where Cook knew what he was working with, this spring will see the 6'4", 218-pounder attempt to get used to a new array of weapons.

Gone from last year's team is perhaps what was Michigan State's most reliable weapon in running back Jeremy Langford, a situation that only became more complicated with the recent arrest and subsequent suspension of Delton Williams. With Dantonio deeming Williams' suspension indefinite, the top returning rusher for the Spartans this spring will be R.J. Shelton, a wide receiver who tallied 148 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries last season.

Seeing as Shelton is primarily a wideout, the bulk of Michigan State's running back carries this spring could go to redshirt sophomore Gerald Holmes, who rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries in 2015. Redshirt freshman Madre Williams could also see increased touches.

The Spartans wide receiving corps should have more stability than the running backs this spring, though not by much. Cook will be without his top two wide receivers from a season ago in Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphrey, while the team's leading returning wideout, Macgarrett Kings Jr., was arrested earlier this month on charges of drunken and disorderly conduct and obstructing.

Kings, who caught 29 passes for 404 yards and one touchdown last season, was suspended for the remainder of spring practice in 2014 for another alcohol-related incident. In a statement, Dantonio said that Kings' most recent arrest will be handled "internally."

Behind Kings, Michigan State's top returning pass-catchers include tight end Josiah Price (26 catches, 374 yards, six touchdowns), wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (29 catches, 358 yards, one touchdown), Shelton (16 catches, 173 yards, one touchdown) and wide receiver AJ Troup (seven catches, 113 yards, two touchdowns).

The good news for the Michigan State offense—aside from Cook's return—is that it could possess one of the top offensive lines in the country, if not the nation, in 2015.

Potential 2016 first-rounder Jack Conklin will anchor the unit, alongside fellow returning starters Jack Allen, Donavon Clark and Kodi Kieler. Since keeping Cook upright shouldn't be a problem, the senior signal-caller should have plenty of time to find new favorite targets this spring as he attempts to continue to build chemistry with the MSU offense heading into the summer.

 

What to Watch for on Defense

Like its offensive counterpart, the Spartans defense will return key cornerstones from last season but will also need to see some strong development from other spots this offseason.

Starting with the positive, Michigan State returns star defensive end Shilique Calhoun in 2015, who, like Cook, opted to bypass this year's NFL draft. A two-time All-Big Ten selection, Calhoun recorded 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2014, including eight sacks.

But while Calhoun will help anchor one of the country's best defensive lines this season—alongside Joel Heath, Lawrence Thomas and Malik McDowell—the rest of the Spartans defense isn't short on question marks.

That's the case namely at cornerback, where Dantonio will spend his second consecutive season replacing a first-round draft pick. Last season, he was fortunate enough that Trae Waynes stepped up in the absence of Darqueze Dennard, but with Waynes now on his way to being the likely first cornerback taken in this spring's draft, he again finds himself having to fill the same void.

One name that pops out is junior-to-be Darian Hicks, who started alongside Waynes last season and recorded 19 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. Dantonio could also find himself relying on junior Jermaine Edmondson, a Canton, Ohio, native who appeared in 11 games for Michigan State a season ago.

At linebacker, the Spartans return two starters in Ed Davis and Darien Harris but will need to replace the heart of the middle of their defense with the departure of middle linebacker Taiwan Jones. Junior Riley Bullough will seemingly get the first crack at occupying the spot that his brother, Max Bullough, formerly occupied. Also, don't count out sophomore Jon Reschke, who appeared in seven games and recorded 13 tackles as a freshman in 2014.

 

Mark Dantonio's Toughest Task

While Dantonio has plenty of position battles to keep an eye on this spring, and the recent arrests of two of his key offensive players haven't helped matters, the main key for the Spartans this spring will be to maintain the momentum they've developed over the past two years.

After a disappointing 2012 campaign saw MSU go 7-6, the Spartans bounced back with a 13-1 Rose Bowl-winning, Big Ten championship season in 2013, before going 10-2 in 2014, including a win over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. And when all was said and done, Michigan State's only losses last season came to the two teams who wound up playing each other for the national championship—Ohio State and Oregon.

But with the rest of the conference on the rise, the Spartans are going to have to keep pace to remain in the playoff picture. Cook will have to find consistency with his new weapons, and the defense will have to fill some key losses—perhaps none more important than that of former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi—but it's already apparent this year's Michigan State squad has all the ingredients to be another special one.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Preseason College Football Rankings: Spring Practice Top 25

Spring practices are underway. For the first time since last season ended, we're getting to see glimpses of what depth charts may look like (and how they may change). We're looking for names to watch, injury updates and areas of concern. 

Football is back, and it's a beautiful thing. 

With spring practices underway, let's revisit our preseason top 25. Rankings are based on returning players and coaches, plus recent news like injuries and the severity of those injuries. 

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5 Top Performing Quarterback Recruits from 2015 Atlanta Elite 11 Regional

The weather was just one of the challenges facing the crop of quarterbacks who lined up at the Atlanta Elite 11 Regional at Buford High School on Sunday in hopes of earning an invite to The Opening.

A steady rain, and at times a downpour, was present throughout the event.

However, the Elite 11 staff—led by former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer—didn’t let up on a group that featured some top talent from the 2016 and 2017 classes. 

The headliners of the group were 5-star and current Florida State commitment Malik Henry and 4-star dual threat Jawon Pass—and neither did anything to disappoint.

Yogi Roth, who is an analyst with the Pac-12 Network and doubles as a counselor for the Elite 11 camps, said that Henry and Pass were a cut above the field. 

“Obviously, the two guys that won it were awesome,” Roth said. “Those two young men, they obviously earned their invites.”

Both passers reinforced the belief that they are two of the nation’s best in the 2016 class, and both earned invites to The Opening.

However, a handful of others managed to emerge from a field that was stocked with quality arms from top to bottom.

Who joined Henry and Pass as standouts at the Atlanta Elite 11 regional?

 

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College Football Coaches Less Popular Than Their School's Basketball Coach

The days of a college being known strictly as a football or basketball school are no longer, as many of the most notable athletic programs in the nation manage to have top-tier teams in both sports. Of the 16 schools that have a men's basketball team still alive in the NCAA tournament, 12 of them also saw their football teams play in a bowl game.

But there's a big difference between comparable success and equal levels of popularity. At most schools, when it comes to the hierarchy of coach notoriety, only one person can be at the summit.

It's usually the football coach, since that's the most followed college sport. But for some FBS-level schools, the man in charge of the gridiron is actually working in the shadow of the person holding court on the hardwood.

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College Football's 8 Most Clutch Performers

Big plays. Big moments. Big games.

That is what it means to be clutch.

And although college football loses some of its best clutch performers from last season—Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Nick Marshall, Blake Sims—it returns some pretty good ones, too.

The following players proved, on more than one occasion, that they step up in big moments of big games. Third-and-long? They've got you. Tied with a minute to play? Call their number. Biggest game in recent program history? How else do you think it got there?

Sound off below, and let us know whom we missed.

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Tennessee WR Commit and B/R Fashion Insider Ranks His Top 5 CFB Uniforms

Preston Williams is a class of 2015, 4-star wide receiver, as per 247sports composite rankings, who is committed to Tennessee. Preston Williams also dabbles in modeling. 

Bleacher Report sits down with Preston to discuss the best jerseys in college football. 

What are your favorite jerseys in college football? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

CJ Prosise Cross-Training at RB Adds Another Playmaker to Notre Dame Offense

With Notre Dame's scholarship depth chart at running back limited to juniors Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, Brian Kelly moving somebody to running back this spring made sense. But the shift of slot receiver C.J. Prosise to running back means Kelly and the offensive staff have larger plans for one of the Irish's most underrated playmakers. 

Prosise's move is one of the bigger storylines of spring practice. After earning the first significant playing time of his career in 2014 at slot receiver, shifting Prosise to the bottom of the running back depth chart raised more than a few eyebrows. 

There were other options for a third running back. Amir Carlisle—the Irish's opening-game starter at running back in 2013—to the backfield made sense. But in cross-training the 220-pound Prosise this spring, Notre Dame's offensive staff is looking for more ways to get the football in Prosise's hands.

While Will Fuller supplied an astounding 15 of Notre Dame's 30 receiving touchdowns, it was Prosise who led the Irish in yards per catch at 17.8. Prosise was also the team's most explosive runner, averaging 12.8 yards a carry in his 10 touches, none more important than the 50-yard touchdown run against LSU in the Irish's Music City Bowl victory. 

That turns this spring's work with the running backs less about a contingency plan and more about finding a way to get the ball in Prosise's hands more. 

"I think during the year we saw that potential. We had always kind of talked about it during the year in terms of, we always like getting the ball in his hands because he’s outstanding," Kelly said last week after practice. "He gets the ball in his hands he’s got a chance to go. Certainly his speed when he has the ball in his arm is pretty clear even against SEC talent."

Getting behind the Rice secondary or beating Navy for a long touchdown is one thing. Taking a touchdown to the house against the SEC's strongest statistical defense is quite another. 

So after a relatively slow start to a college football career that started at safety, Prosise could go from supporting cast to one of the leading men on the Irish offense. 

That's music to the ears of Prosise, who is spending the spring jumping between Mike Denbrock's wide receiver drills and new running back coach Autry Denson's tutelage. After leading the Irish's receivers in rushing attempts, Prosise isn't starting from scratch. 

"There’s still a learning curve, but I think it’s definitely an easier transition because it’s stuff I’ve already been doing," Prosise told Irish Illustrated. "Running jet sweeps and stretch plays. It’s a lot new, but also some stuff I already knew.”

In many ways, a position switch might be paying Prosise a compliment. In many other football programs, a switch usually means a player is buried on the depth chart or a way to fill a depth-chart hole. But under Kelly, players who have moved have consistently succeeded.

Former captain Bennett Jackson shifted from wide receiver to starting cornerback. Matthias Farley has excelled as a safety. So did former captain Austin Collinsworth and current outside linebacker James Onwualu, who played as a freshmen wide receiver. 

Looking back to the 2012 recruiting class, who'd have thought that Prosise would be the one serving as a dual threat on offense and 4-star running back recruit KeiVarae Russell would be the lockdown cornerback? 

As Prosise gets his feet wet in the backfield this spring, we still don't know is what this offense will look like next season. New offensive coordinator Mike Sanford is only now putting his imprint on Kelly's offense, tasked with infusing new ideas and systems to get the Irish on track. 

That means not just finding ways to get the ball to Prosise, but All-American candidate Will Fuller, who is coming off the most impressive sophomore season in Notre Dame history. Throw in wideouts Chris Brown and Corey Robinson, running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, not to mention keeping both Everett Golson and Malik Zaire happy and productive. 

With an offensive stable as deep as it's been in over 20 years, it's easy to understand why the expectations are sky-high for 2015. And Prosise's spring move will likely pay huge dividends this fall. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Schools to Watch After Decommitment of 4-Star DE Xavier Kelly

Kansas State suffered a big blow with its 2016 recruiting class over the weekend when 4-star defensive end—and in-state prospect—Xavier Kelly announced his decommitment on Saturday.

Kelly told Bleacher Report Monday morning that while he still has an appreciation for Kansas State, giving every school a chance to recruit him once again is the best decision. He originally committed to the Wildcats at the end of November.

"I talked to my dad for about an hour, and we decided we wanted to have the best opportunity for me," Kelly said. "In order to do that, I needed to reopen my recruiting and explore all of my options."

Kansas State's loss, however, will be another school's gain. Two weeks ago, Kelly showcased his skills at The Opening Dallas Regional, and after measuring in at 6'5" and 230 pounds, the Wichita, Kansas, prospect showed quickness, athleticism and explosiveness in one-on-one drills. Kelly also displayed his impressive speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds. This was not only the fastest time for any lineman, but also one of the best overall times at the Dallas event.

So which school will benefit from Kelly's decommitment from Kansas State? One school that could benefit from having a player like Kelly on the end is Michigan. The Wolverines have a lot of size with their defensive ends, but Kelly can be a reliable speed rusher and a potential game-changer in Jim Harbaugh's defensive scheme.

Currently, the defensive end has outside offers from Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, TCU, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas, and Kelly told Bleacher Report that all of those schools are potential homes. Of the nine offers, however, Michigan, TCU and Oregon are three to keep an eye on.

Michigan offered Kelly earlier this month and is the latest school to do so, according to 247Sports. The Wolverines are hoping to jump-start a 2016 class that only has two commitments so far, and an athletic defensive lineman would be a huge addition for Harbaugh and his staff.

Kelly said he plans on visiting Michigan in June. The Wolverines could have the biggest advantage of the three schools unofficially in front.

"My dad is from Michigan, and I also have family in Detroit," Kelly said. "I know that Michigan is right down the street. I'm going to go on a visit to see how I like it. I don't know much about [Michigan], but I know it has a historical program and always has a good football team."

Of the three schools, Michigan is the one to really keep close tabs on.

During Kelly's trip to the Dallas area a couple weeks ago, he took an unofficial visit to TCU and said he enjoyed what he saw. The overall size of the campus was something he raved about.

Seeing the football team pull off an outstanding 2014 season also helps TCU's chances for landing him.

"It's a private school that has about 8,000 [undergraduates]. Instead of about 300 people in one class, they only have 15 to 25 in one class," Kelly said. "It has nice facilities, but I really like that it's a small campus. Everything is right next to each other."

Like Michigan, Oregon is a school that Kelly is looking to visit this summer in an effort to further familiarize himself with the program. Kelly watched the Ducks play Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship and liked what the team brought to the table.

"That's a big-time offer," he said. "I don't know too much about them yet, but they're one of the top programs in the nation. I'm trying to visit them in June to learn more about them."

Kelly said he has no timetable of when he plans on committing to a new school. He did say that he has a great idea of all the characteristics the winning school will have.

"I want to go to a school where I know I'll fit in with the program and be comfortable living there," he said. "I want to be able to make a difference on a team. I also want to go someplace where I can get a good education."

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tre Lamar Names Top 5: Odds on Where 4-Star LB Lands

Linebacker Tre Lamar is underway with an active spring on the recruiting trail that should enable him to evaluate his top contenders during the final stretch of his junior year. 

On Sunday, the 4-star Georgia defender named five favorites during a discussion with Josh Newberg of 247Sports. Though he hasn't developed a preferred order yet, this collection of top collegiate options includes Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Florida State and Clemson.

Lamar holds an expansive offer list consisting of more than 30 programs, but he appears content to stay put in the Southeast during the next phase of his football career. The 6'4", 240-pound Roswell High School standout is considered one of the country's premier inside linebacker prospects.

He rates fifth nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Lamar validated lofty praise as a junior, performing dominantly during the course of a 12-game campaign. His 2014 season featured 131 tackles—including 13 for loss—and four sacks, per Cory Fravel of 247Sports.

Now that we have a firm understanding of how Lamar views his top suitors, let's take a closer look at each option and place odds on where the star linebacker lands. He isn't expected to announce a commitment until at least next season, and this appears to be a tight race.

 

Alabama

The Crimson Tide have welcomed Lamar to Tuscaloosa three times during his recruitment, including a trip to campus in late February. He will return to Alabama next weekend for yet another visit, according to Newberg.

He expresses sincere respect for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and his ability to cultivate a consistently successful environment in the linebacker corps. Lamar and the coaching staff have gained a valuable rapport through maintained interaction.

"They have had a lot of great linebackers come out of Alabama," he told Andrew Bone of Rivals. "They work closely with Coach Smart. They've had guys like Rolando McClain and C.J. Mosley. I think they are great coaches. They know what they want and what details to focus on."

Odds he ends up at Alabama: 4-1

 

Auburn

Lamar's most recent visit to Alabama took him to Auburn. He was on campus with the Tigers earlier this month, growing more familiar with the goals and schemes of new defensive coordinator Will Mushamp, who previously recruited Lamar at Florida.

The Tigers cashed in tremendously this past signing day with many of Muschamp's former Gators as targets and now look to enjoy similar success throughout this cycle. 

"They see me as either a Mike or Will linebacker in this scheme, and I run a 3-4 at my high school and play Mike there, so it's definitely something I'm comfortable with," Lamar told Wesley Sinor of AL.com.

He also feels comfortable with Auburn's academic offerings.

"I want a good engineering program because I want to study civil engineering," Lamar told Sinor.  "I didn't know they had such a good engineering school going into this visit. Hearing about it definitely increased my interest in Auburn, so that's awesome."

Odds he ends up at Auburn: 5-1

 

Clemson

Dabo Swinney has managed to secure several on-campus visits with the linebacker, though none may prove as paramount as a junior day event he attended in February. He gained valuable insight into life as a student-athlete at Clemson from Tigers who've already journeyed his intended path.

"In terms of engineering, Coach [Tony] Elliott—my area recruiter—was actually an engineering major," Lamar told Nikki Steele of TigerNet.com. "I also got to talk to [2015 5-star signee] Mitch Hyatt—mid-year enrollee who is also an engineering major. I talked with those two a lot about it."

Clemson offered Lamar a scholarship last March and is looking to bolster a 2016 recruiting haul that's already heavy on elite offensive talent. The Tigers stand out as a top challenger in this group, especially after Lamar's multiple game-day visits last season.

Odds he ends up at Clemson: 3-1 

 

Florida

Like many premier Gators prospects, Lamar is steadily learning more about the culture change that's underway in Gainesville. He took a step forward in that regard Saturday by making his first visit to campus.

New Florida co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Randy Shannon has proved instrumental in early recruiting success under Jim McElwain. Though many of his key pickups have come from South Florida, he made a strong impression on the Peach State prospect.

“Coach Shannon was really good," Lamar told Luke Stampini of 247Sports. "He told me a lot of stuff. He laid it out how he wanted me at Florida. He was real with how he came at me with recruiting. It was cool. He sees me as an inside linebacker in their 4-2-5.”

Odds he ends up at Florida: 6-1

 

Florida State

Lamar visited Tallahassee for the first time this past Friday, before heading to Gainesville. He met Seminoles linebackers coach Bill Miller and was invited to spend some time in a positional meeting, providing insight into how collegiate players prepare for practice and games. 

“I was with the linebackers, and I got to see the way coach Miller talks to them and teaches them," Lamar told Newberg. "He was very vocal in the film session. He’s been doing this a long time and you can tell he definitely knows what he’s doing.”

He expressed interest in returning to Florida State soon, perhaps as early as the team's upcoming spring game. The Seminoles replaced Tennessee on Lamar's top-five list but still have some catching up to do.

Odds he ends up at Florida State: 8-1

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Power Ranking Top 2015 out-of-Conference Games

The SEC is loaded with intriguing out-of-conference matchups in 2015, many of which will determine whether or not the league that once dominated the college football landscape is progressing, regressing or staying in neutral.

It starts in Week 1 with several key matchups, including Alabama vs. Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium in the Cowboys Classic, continuing the next week when Oklahoma visits Tennessee and ends on rivalry weekend, when four traditional ACC vs. SEC matchups close out the regular season.

Which out-of-conference matchups involving SEC teams will dominate headlines in 2015? Our picks based on intensity and national importance are in this slideshow.

 

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