NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Early Grades for 2017 Recruiting Class

Ohio State burst out of the gate and surged to the head of the pack in the 2017 recruiting cycle, and with 13 verbal pledges already in the fold, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have a strong grip on the country's No. 1 class.

A pair of 5-star studs who committed all the way back in January 2015 gave the coaching staff a solid foundation to build on. Over the last year-and-a-half, the Buckeyes have dominated, and nearly half of their current commitments (six) are ranked within the top 65 players nationally.

Here's a breakdown of Ohio State's recruiting efforts so far for 2017.



Ohio State's offensive recruiting will center around its keystone pledge in 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers.

The 6'6", 306-pound standout is an absolute mountain on the left side of the line and looks like someone who should've been selected in last month's NFL draft and not preparing for his final year of high school. Rated the No. 4 player nationally and the No. 1 overall offensive line prospect, his strength and athleticism set him apart as a special player Ohio State can build its future around.

The Buckeyes gained a verbal pledge from 4-star offensive tackle Jake Moretti to anchor the other side of their line. 

The rest of Ohio State's offensive attention has been paid to the backfield, headlined by 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins.

The No. 47 overall recruit and the third-best APB nationally, Dobbins has a stellar offer list that included Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas and USC. The La Grange, Texas, product announced his commitment to Ohio State in the first week of March, giving Meyer two outstanding ball-carriers with 4-star running back Todd Sibley already in the fold.

Then there's Danny Clark, the 4-star pro-style quarterback who became the first member of Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class when he committed as a freshman in December 2013.

The only thing Ohio State needs to complete its offensive overhaul is some pass-catchers, and on that front, Meyer is chasing an epic 5-star haul of wideouts

Until they land some receivers, though, the group won't be complete. 

Grade: A-


Defense and Special Teams

Ohio State's defensive recruiting is much more well-rounded than the offense at this point. 

It all starts up front for the Buckeyes, who finally landed some top-flight defensive tackle talent after years of missing on its top targets. In 2015, Terry Beckner Jr.Christian Wilkins and Neville Gallimore all spurned the Buckeyes for other schools, and last year, Ohio State failed to land Rashan Gary, Antwuan Jackson or Rashard Lawrence

That drought ended this year when the Buckeyes landed Haskell Garrett, the nation's No. 3 defensive tackle, and Jerron Cage, the No. 12 tackle nationally.

Outside of defensive tackle, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff have made a huge effort to load up their secondary. The unit is headlined by 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade and high 4-star safety Isaiah Pryor of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Buckeyes paired them with fellow 4-star safety Brendon White and 4-star cornerback Marcus Williamson.

Linebacker isn't a huge need in 2017 after the Buckeyes loaded the unit up in 2015 and 2016. But that didn't stop Meyer from stealing Ann Arbor, Michigan, prospect Antjuan Simmons from Michigan's backyard. 

And even Ohio State's special teams recruiting is elite. The Buckeyes have put an emphasis on recruiting specialists under Meyer, and that paid off this year with a commitment from Blake Haubeil, the No. 2 kicker in the country.

The Buckeyes are still after a number of elite prospects such as 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah and 4-star cornerback Lamont Wade, two targets they have a considerable lead for, according to 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions.

But even without them, Ohio State's defensive and special teams recruiting has been on point.

Grade: A+


All recruiting information via 247 Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Every Big Ten Team's Top 2017 NFL Draft Prospect

The 2016 NFL draft has come and gone, meaning the attention of fans and analysts alike is already turning toward next year's selection show.

And while the Big Ten had a heavy presence in last month's draft with 47 players picked—the second-highest total of any conference—the league should once again find itself well represented in 2017.

Between a growing list of prospects in Ann Arbor, the return of multiple stars in Iowa City and what's been a steady pipeline from the preps to the pros in Columbus, the Big Ten will see no shortage of NFL talent on its fields in the coming year. It's not just at the top-level programs either, as even the conference's less successful teams will lay claim to pro prospects in the coming months as well.

With nearly a full year—and a full season—to go until next year's draft, a lot can change between now and next spring. But as of right now, the Big Ten should once again hear names from its league called early and often in next year's draft.

With that in mind, here's the current top prospect on each Big Ten team heading into the 2017 season. 

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Tennessee Football: Early Grades for 2017 Recruiting Class

The entire college football world now seems to be in full-on "show me" mode with the Tennessee football program, which is expected to blow up in 2016 and live up to all the hype that has the Volunteers firmly back in the national picture.

Recruits are taking the same approach.

After three quality recruiting classes signed by UT coach Butch Jones in the past three cycles outfitted the Vols with one of the most talented, experienced rosters in all of college football, folks want to see that translate into wins.

If the Vols can accomplish that this year, the recruiting floodgates should reopen on Rocky Top.

SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott noted recently that in order for UT to take the next step, the Ws must pile up:

For now, Tennessee fans have to wait and hope. A recruiting cycle that looked so promising early on with the quick commitments of 5-star quarterback Hunter Johnson, elite receiver Tee Higgins and North Carolina defensive end Jordon Riley has hit some rocky terrain. 

All of those players decommitted, and while Johnson has pledged to Clemson and Riley to the Tar Heels and are out of the picture, Higgins still has the Vols right in the mix along with the Tigers, Florida State and many other suitors.

Even with a banner year in the Volunteer State for prospects, not a single one of Tennessee's current commits hail from within state lines, and while UT is in the mix for a lot of that top-notch talent, no pledges from the close-to-home prospects are imminent.

In the last cycle, Tennessee's slow start picked up once the Vols did during the season. The Vols wound up 14th nationally and seventh in the league in '15 but filled a ton of needs in a respectable class that was top-heavy with marquee players and included a lot of developmental prospects.

This year, the Vols are in on a whole lot of national names whose recruitments may go deeper into the cycle, including a lot of in-state kids. But they haven't pulled the trigger yet, as UT currently sits 31st nationally and seventh in the league with its seven pledges.

With a full slate of 25 signees expected, there will be a ton of movement and a ton of time in which to boost those rankings. For now, let's take a look at some early grades for the recruiting on Rocky Top.



Tennessee desperately must sign some playmakers on offense, especially considering that quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara are all expected to be trying their hands at the NFL next year.

While signal-caller isn't a pressing need with Quinten Dormady, Sheriron Jones and Jarrett Guarantano all on the roster, the Vols always want to find one in each class. That hasn't been easy this year after Johnson bolted. Miami commitment N'Kosi Perry is one player UT has tried who hasn't responded to overtures.

It's probable the Vols will find their quarterback during the summer camp circuit, but getting a key player at that position is up in the air right now. There aren't many viable prospects.

One of the two biggest needs in the entire class, however, is signing a premier running back (or two).

Right now, that search is squarely focused on Cam Akers, Ty Chandler and Chase Hayden. While there are other runners out there with Tennessee offers, if this class comes and goes without UT signing one of the former two and inking legacy Hayden, the son of former Vols runner Aaron Hayden, it's a strikeout season.

At this point of the recruiting cycle, you can't really expect to have a national recruit like Akers or Chandler in the fold, but the Vols' efforts need to secure at least one of them. Getting Hayden to commit would be a strong piece of the recruiting puzzle, too.

So far, the Vols' offensive class is about who they don't have as much as who they do. It's vital that Tennessee sign two running backs, a couple more receivers and a pair of premier offensive linemen. 

With in-state players such as Chandler, Higgins, Hayden and offensive tackle Trey Smith uncommitted, the Vols could still hit a home run with needs met inside state borders this year. But they must get at least a couple of those guys.

As far as the players the Vols do have committed in this class so far, there are only two on the offensive side: dynamic Texas 4-star receiver KD Nixon and Mississippi tight end Chase Rogers.

Nixon is an early-cycle gem, a speed-burning receiver with offers from Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Ohio State and others. If the Vols can hang on to him, it'll be a major snag from the Lone Star State.

Rogers has flown a bit under the national radar so far, but the 3-star tight end has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, California and some other nice schools. The Vols are big on tight ends, and after taking two a year ago, they were going to be picky. So you know they had to like Rogers to take him so early.

Even so, the Vols' grade here is hurt more by who they haven't got committed yet and the fact that there are only two pledges on that side of the ball so far. They really need to bulk up the class on offense, and of course, they will.

Early Grade: C-



The ratings may not bear it out, but the Vols have three very good defenders committed already for the 2017 recruiting class, and there are a couple of other linebackers with upsides in the fold as well.

Two Atlanta-area linebackers aren't highly rated, and it'll be interesting to see where they fit in, with the Vols firmly in the mix for some elite targets at that position. Mo Burnham committed to Tennessee in early March, and there hasn't been much discussion about him since.

Last year, the Vols took an early commitment from Memphis 'backer Tim Hart, who wound up signing with the hometown Tigers, so it will be interesting to see if a player like Burnham, who isn't a physical monster, blows up or flames out. 

Solon Page III from Kell High School in Marietta, Georgia, didn't have a ton of big offers, but the Vols recruited him for a long time and love his game, so it will be fun to see if the ratings services ultimately feel the same as UT does about him.

It was a big blow on Friday when Chandler Wooten pledged to Auburn over UT, per's Wesley Sinor. He was a guy the Vols really wanted and will continue to recruit.

Beyond Burnham and Page, there shouldn't be any questions about Tennessee's other three defensive commits.

Cheyenne Labruzza is a 5'11", 186-pound cornerback from Albany, Louisiana, with an LSU offer (among many others). So while he may be rated as a 3-star prospect, it's always impressive to get a player from that state with a Bayou Bengals offer.

It's also next to impossible to hold on to a player with one, so the Vols have a battle on their hands to keep him in the class. The Tigers are already coming hard, he told's James Smith:

Within the last two weeks of my process, I was wavering between LSU, Tennessee and Florida. Of course LSU was a school I was highly interested in. It's DBU [Defensive Back University] and I have great relationships with the staff. It's just that my two trips to Tennessee really made a statement to me. It felt like home, like the right place for me and my family. Now LSU and Tennessee are going back and forth recruiting me.

Then there's defensive end Marquez Bembry, who just ran a 10.68 100-meter dash to finish second in the state of Georgia at 6'3", 215 pounds. He may just be a 3-star player, but he's a freakish athlete UT could add some weight to and make another scary edge-rusher.

Bembry already is drawing praise from recruiting analysts such as 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong regarding his athletic ability:

And while we're talking about Tennessee's class and focusing on the defensive line, [defensive tackle Eric] Crosby and Marquez Bembry will be a nice combination. Bembry has sub 11.0 second speed in the 100-meter dash. I continue to believe the Vols got a steal in him out of the Peach State, a guy who will ultimately be a blur rushing off the edge.

Finally, saving UT's most important commitment for last, if running back is the Vols' biggest need in this cycle, defensive tackle must be a close second. They really need to sign six or seven defensive linemen in this class, and they've already received a pledge from one of their top targets.

Eric Crosby—a 6'1", 297-pound defensive tackle from Ocean Lakes, Virginia—is a massive commit for multiple reasons.

No. 1, he's a great player at a major need position. Secondly, he makes the Vols a hot name in a vital recruiting area, and if Jordan Williams and Breyon Gaddy follow, that could be a massive haul from the same area. Throw in Tennessee prospect Rutger Reitmaier, for whom the Vols are firmly in the mix, and it could be a big year on the defensive line.

Hanging on to Crosby would ensure a strong start.

WAVY TV's Nathan Epstein reported that Crosby was recently extended an offer to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game, too. So that's more UT hype coming in a national game.

While there is still much work to be done and major targets such as Maleik Gray, Deangelo Gibbs, JaCoby Stevens and others on the board, the Vols are doing pretty well recruiting on that side of the ball. They need some more playmakers, but it's where they want to be at this stage. 

Early Grade: B+



It would be sugarcoating it to say this class is ideally where the Vols want it to be right now; it isn't.

But with a ton of top targets remaining on the board, the steady trickle of visitors coming to Knoxville on a weekly basis and the camp and event circuit about to heat up, Tennessee is firmly in the position to boost the class and that ranking.

Getting a few players on board in a cluster could really set things off. With the Title IX lawsuit being out of the news now for several weeks and with the preseason rankings leaking out and the Vols being near the top, the positive publicity could begin outweighing a forgettable few months of the offseason.

It will ultimately hinge on wins, though. If the Vols live up to expectations, Jones already has proved to be too strong a recruiter to flame out this quickly. He'll get some really good players, and the Vols will finish with a top-five class in the SEC, which is always good for a top-10-12 ranking.

The facts are that this class isn't super-strong right now, but it's also very much in its infancy. The Vols are a couple of big commits away from being right back on the tips of prospects' tongues for a fourth year in a row. 

Early Overall Grade: B-


All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at unless otherwise noted.

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

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2017 NFL Draft: Quarterbacks Who Could Emerge as Top Prospects

There are already some favorites to be the first quarterbacks off the board in the 2017 NFL draft. But if this past draft taught us anything, it's that we should never assume we know how the class will shake out this far in advance. 

At this time last year, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz was on the radar screen as a draftable prospect, but draftniks certainly did not view him as the potential No. 2 overall selection, where the Philadelphia Eagles eventually took him. 

So as we head into the 2016 college football season, it's best to keep an open mind. Rather than ranking the quarterback prospects and assuming one or two players have a leg up to go No. 1 overall, this slideshow will present more of a watch list. 

This watch list breaks down six quarterbacks who have the skill set to potentially rise to the first round conversation by season's end. Each quarterback's strengths and weaknesses are highlighted as well as what they need to prove to elevate their draft stock. 

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10 College Football Games Perfect for Prime-Time TV in 2016

College football and prime time are the perfect marriage. As the game and the television coverage surrounding it have grown, national television doesn’t mean what it once did. With multiple television outlets broadcasting games simultaneously, the cache of being broadcast coast to coast has decreased.

However, prime-time games are still pretty darn special. College football under the lights gives games a spotlight that is truly meaningful and worthy of an all-day buildup by media and rabid fans alike. Prime time is the right time. It’s still important.

College football programmers know this, and they’ve increasingly shifted their best games to prime time via ABC, ESPN and other national networks. Here are 10 games that would be perfect in prime time this fall. They were chosen for their history and potential impact on the College Football Playoff picture.

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Highlights and Analysis from The Opening Chicago Regional

ADDISON, Ill. — Saturday morning began with 92 players qualified for The Opening, the prestigious event featuring some of the nation's elite high school football players. Four more players added their names to the growing list after participating in The Opening Chicago regional at Addison Trail High School.

The 4-star quartet of offensive tackle Trey Smith, linebacker Josh Ross, safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell and cornerback Amir Riep added their names and punched their tickets to Beaverton, Oregon, in July for the big event. Smith earned his second trip to The Opening after competing as one of the select few underclassmen chosen to attend last year.

Additionally, Clemson quarterback commit Hunter Johnson earned an invitation to the Elite 11 finals next month in Los Angeles. He could qualify for The Opening with a strong performance in the finals.

Here are some highlights from Saturday's action:


Bloody nose no problem for 2-time The Opening invite

Health-wise, Smith has had a relatively good high school football career. The Jackson, Tennessee, 4-star tackle—who found himself ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2017 class by ESPN last month—said prior to Saturday that he's only had to deal with minor ankle injuries in football.

Saturday afternoon, Smith, the No. 59 overall player and No. 11 offensive tackle in 247Sports' composite rankings (which combines player rankings of "major media recruiting services"), sustained a bloody nose after getting head-butted during lineman drills. And while the shot to the face stung, Smith said he would do it all over again if it meant earning another trip to The Opening, which he achieved.

"I've never had a bloody nose. This was the first time, but I'm OK; it was worth it," Smith said. "It's humbling getting back to The Opening. A lot of dudes don't make it once. It's an honor, very special."

As for his face, Smith—who lost a lot of blood following the hit—didn't want anyone crying for him.

"You get a bloody nose, and you keep going," he said. "I mean, it's football."

Smith has 26 reported offers, including Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and others.


RB Ellison shines after overcoming injuries

Pickerington, Ohio, 2-star running back Morgan Ellison can be called a victim of misfortune. He's yet to play a full high school varsity season because of a broken leg before the first game of his junior year and a broken right leg during the second game of his sophomore year.

Don't let his star rating fool you, however. Ellison showed his talent Saturday by not only winning running back MVP honors for the camp but also taking the ratings MVP award with a score of 119.04, which included a 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds, a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.13 seconds, a vertical jump of 34.4 inches and a power ball toss of 43 feet.

And all of this happened in chilly conditions.

"I just think God's working for me," said Ellison, who picked up his first offer from Toledo on April 27. "I've been working hard in the weight room every day and with my teammates, and the hard work is starting to pay off."

Ohio State and Iowa State are two schools that haven't offered but are keeping a close watch on Ellison, who is excited about the opportunity of playing a full senior season in a couple of months.


LB Miller shows ruthless aggression in drill

"Cat and Mouse" is a popular drill at The Opening pitting running backs against linebackers, as running backs try to race to a line before being "tackled"—two-hand touched, palms up—by linebackers. It's normally a competitive event with the opportunity for a few moves that can make a running back well known on social media.

Memphis, Tennessee, linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr. decided to make the most out of his situation and steal the limelight from running backs, dominating the drill and getting social media to turn its attention to the linebackers after one play that drew multiple oohs and aahs.

Miller's the first to admit he plays the game with an aggressive nature, and while he didn't try to hurt anyone in the drill, he did want to make a statement.

"You can look at my film. That'll tell you a lot," Miller said of his aggression. "I told a Louisville coach that I like to hit a lot. He saw my film and got back with me ASAP. My film says it all; that's what I like to tell people."

Miller considered his performance a coming-out show of sorts. He said he didn't participate in camps his freshman and sophomore seasons and is now starting to familiarize himself with camp play.

He added that he feels he has something to prove to everyone.

"I feel I'm still being slept on," said Miller, who claims a dozen offers, including Louisville, Memphis, Colorado and Arkansas State. "I just wanted to make a statement to say that I'm here.

"When I'm doing a drill like that, I'm just saying he's not going to get to that line. When I'm going one-on-one in football, I'm making sure you're not going to beat me. I wasn't really trying to knock anybody off [his feet]. I got there so fast and just wanted to make sure he didn't pass me."


Florida RB back in action, bares cold temps

The Chicago-area temperatures never made it to 50 degrees Saturday afternoon. Add in a gusty wind, and the atmosphere was not what Michael Carter is used to.

Carter, a 3-star running back from Navarre, Florida, and one of a handful of Floridians competing in Illinois, chose The Opening Chicago regional to make a return to competitive action. Carter tore the PCL in his right knee in September and was excited about getting back on the field, even though he wasn't wearing a helmet or pads.

"I felt confident, and that's what I'm trying to work on," Carter said. "You can feel good, but I wanted to have confidence in that knee after surgery. I'm looking to reach my potential as much as I can before the season starts.

"It was cold, so cold. It was definitely different for me, but I was excited to be out there."

The confidence might have doubled after successfully competing in chilly temperatures where injuries can occur more often than they do in warmer climates. Carter, who flew to Illinois with his father, said he now can focus on college football recruiting, which includes offers from North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon State and others.

"I'll narrow my schools soon and look to make a commitment before the season, definitely before signing day," he said.


Fire in the cold: Minnesota RB wins 'Fastest Man'

Many thought Saturday was a cold day in the Chicago area, and some might have assumed 40-yard-dash times were affected by the chilly temperatures.

Don't pitch that rhetoric to Deyon Campbell. As an unrated running back from Hopkins, Minnesota, Campbell showed in the "Fastest Man" race that temperature is merely a state of mind to him. Campbell outraced Little Rock, Arkansas, cornerback Orlando Henley and Muskegon, Michigan, wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton, a Virginia Tech commit, to win.

Campbell ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash (laser time) in early-morning ratings testing to qualify for the three-man race. He then won the "Fastest Man" race with a hand-held time of 4.36 seconds.


Tweets from Addison, Illinois

Looking for a reliable bully? Try Illinois athlete Christian Sampleton, who plays both defensive end and tight end at Nazareth Academy.

Sampleton on Saturday lined up on the defensive side of the ball...and he didn't disappoint:

It's always fun to watch the linemen run the 40-yard dash. Notre Dame commit Josh Lugg showed his determination with every step:

Wisconsin pledge Tyler Beach was not to be outdone:

Perhaps one of the best moments of The Opening took place away from the field. A group of athletes were spotted before the start of the event discussing college recruiting and how athletes don't need 30 or 40 offers to consider their process complete.

"It only takes one" was a message stated by several athletes in a group consisting of Smith, Beach, Lugg, running back Dominik London and others.

As for action on the field, Kelly-Powell was seen taken a few extra snaps in one-on-one drills throughout the day. He lost a couple of rounds, but it was the multiple victories that made him fun to watch.

Those victories also helped him earn an invitation to The Opening.


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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Dark-Horse College Football Playoff Contenders for 2016 Season

Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State and other top-flight programs are common College Football Playoff picks for the 2016 season, but several underrated options could crash the party.

The following six teams represent the top dark-horse candidates to spring a couple of upsets and reach the championship tournament.

Any program with 50-1 or worse odds according to Odds Shark's futures list was eligible for inclusion. The list is ordered alphabetically.

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Why the SEC West Could Be Headed for a Coaching Overhaul Soon

Depending on where you live, the term “The Big One” can have a different meaning.

On the West Coast, you’re probably talking about the fear everyone has, and tries to ignore, about a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. Some believe it to be inevitable, others claim it's only hypothetical, but either way, Hollywood likes making disaster movies based on the worst-case scenario.

In the Southeast, the term is more commonly used to describe NASCAR races at Talladega Superspeedway. Crashes are pretty common at the track, but what really packs in fans and has them on the edge of their seats is the wait for the wreck that takes out a good part of the race field. More often than not they don’t go home disappointed.

“The Big One” was also the nickname of the female velociraptor in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. She’s the one the game warden, Robert Muldoon (played by Bob Peck), called “Clever girl” right before being turned into a mid-afternoon snack.

Of course, the one thing that they all have in common is carnage, something college football’s Southeastern Conference knows well and might be looking at its own version in the West Division.

We’re talking about a likely big shakeup in the coaching ranks, and similar to an earthquake, all the warning signs are prevalent.

Every coach in the division has a huge salary, roughly $4 million or more, according to USA Today’s coaching salary database. Every school has invested heavily in its football program with everything from stadium upgrades to weight rooms that are the envy of NFL teams.

Every team is expected to win, and win big.

Collectively, it’s impossible.

Even though we’re in the midst of unparalleled success for the division, with seven straight wins in the SEC Championship Game and seven national crowns since 2003, the expectations are even greater.

Each team in the SEC West was ranked at some point last season, and they all finished with a winning record.

But good isn’t good enough in the toughest division in college football, and fans aren’t paying top dollar to see their teams in the Birmingham, Belk, Texas, Music City or Liberty bowls.

They all want a ring collection like Nick Saban’s, only he’s still winning them on a regular basis.

Do you remember who else was a head coach in the league when Alabama hired Saban in 2007? In the East were Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Rich Brooks, Steve Spurrier, Phillip Fulmer and Bobby Johnson, while the West had Houston Nutt, Tommy Tuberville, Les Miles, Ed Orgeron and Sylvester Croom.

The two schools that had yet to join the conference were coached by Dennis Franchione and Gary Pinkel.

Except for Miles, they’ve all been replaced—although in fairness to Pinkel, his stepping down was due to a health issue—as the conference has averaged almost three coaching changes a year since 2008 (2.7 to be specific).

It even led to a reporter to ask Saban during the days leading up the 2015 SEC Championship Game if he felt responsible for so many coaches getting fired.

“Well, I’d be more concerned about, from my perspective, when we lose three games what’s going to happen to me,” was Saban’s immediate response.

He then gave a much longer answer about how coaching is also about teaching, developing players and preparing young men to be successful in life.  

“There’s some guys that have done a really, really good job of that in their programs if you look at their record of graduation rate, things like that, and they win nine games, and that’s not good enough,” he continued.

“I don’t have any idea of what anyone’s standard is for what they want to accomplish in their organization, what their expectation is. But I do think that there’s a lot of negative energy out there sometimes for whatever reasons get created as soon as you don’t have success. And I think you [the media] all set us up a little bit for that.”

Saban was referring to Georgia letting go of Richt after 15 years despite having a 145-51 record (83-37 in SEC play). But shortly thereafter, Georgia named his defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, the replacement. Former assistant Will Muschamp got the same position at South Carolina, and former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain got the job at Florida a year ago.

Every program in the East has changed coaches since 2013, which is when the last moves were made in the West.

There was recently a similar quiet time in the West, 2010-11, when the division saw no head coaching changes. The following two years, there were five moves in the division.

Of course, this is nothing new for the SEC. 

During the 1970s, Alabama compiled an incredible 103-16-1 record with eight SEC titles and three national championships under Paul “Bear” Bryant. Yet when LSU fired Charles McClendon in 1979 for not being able to beat Alabama, Auburn’s all-time winningest coach, Shug Jordan (176-83-6 from 1951-75), famously said: “You go by that and they’ll have to fire us all.”

LSU nearly did the same thing last year, only to give Miles a last-minute reprieve that some believe only delayed the inevitable even though he’s won a national championship. Others remembered that after McClendon’s 18-year run, Jerry Stovall went 22-21-2 over the four subsequent seasons. 

But not every team can go 8-0 or 7-1 in league play or enjoy a 10-win season in 2016. Miles has to beat Alabama. Hugh Freeze is up to his neck in a scandal. Kevin Sumlin needs his team to finish strong. Gus Malzahn has to avoid another 2-6 season in league play. Bret Bielema can’t afford much of a regression in the standings. Dan Mullen might get sick of finishing fifth. 

Change is the nature of both the business and the conference, and regardless of which team wins the SEC West this fall, it’s only a matter of time before the looming coaching overhaul begins. Consequently, don't be surprised if the the division has a different feel to it in the near future.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer and the author of 24 books including "Where Football is King: A History of the SEC." Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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College Football Teams We Wish Could Do Hard Knocks in 2016

HBO's Hard Knocks is must-watch television for football fans, but it's also enjoyable to people who hardly have an interest in the sport. We'd love for the series to dip into the college ranks and track one of several interesting programs.

College football does have a bit of experience with a similar show. Last year, Showtime presented A Season with Notre Dame Football.

Per Scott DeCamp of MLive, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said that the series revealed "an authenticity of our program and the human side of our program and I think that really helped us to tell the story in a positive way."

Watching some of the nation's best leaders interact with the team would help football fans see the coaches as humans instead of icons.

The following eight schools are the programs we'd most like to observe before the 2016 season.

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Chauncey Rivers, Georgia Football Player, Dismissed for Marijuana Possession

Georgia defensive lineman Chauncey Rivers was dismissed from the team Friday after an arrest for marijuana possession two days before, marking his third such incident over the past seven months. 

According to Seth Emerson of, DeKalb County, Georgia, jail records show that Rivers was charged with a felony violation of Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act, misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, parking in a disabled parking spot and keeping drugs in a container.

Per Emerson, the team dismissed Rivers in accordance with the school's student-athlete drug policy. Head coach Kirby Smart commented on the matter:

It's extremely disappointing. He's been given previous opportunities to remain on our football team but continues to exhibit a lack of good judgment and commitment to the standards we require and expect from our players. He's put himself in a difficult position but we hope he finds a path that will provide some direction in his future.

Rivers was released from jail Thursday.

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Derrick Tucker to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

Derrick Tucker has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks throughout Texas, and the Texas A&M Aggies will hope he does so at the next level after securing the commitment of the 4-star safety on Friday, per Taylor Hamm of 247Sports:

Tucker is No. 146 overall and No. 14 at his position, per 247Sports' composite rankings for the 2017 recruiting class. He's also the 22nd-best player in the state of Texas. The Manvel High School star made a major jump on the field in 2015, making 46 tackles—five of which were for a loss—and intercepting four passes, per 247Sports.

That only helped Tucker's profile grow and a number of schools took notice. The Texas Longhorns, TCU Horned Frogs and Houston Cougars all looked to keep him closer to home, while he also received scholarship offers from the Illinois Fighting Illini, Missouri Tigers and Utah Utes.

At 6'3", Tucker is blessed with great height for a safety. As long as he can add some bulk, he'll have the perfect frame for his position. At his current weight (180 lbs), he could be overpowered against upperclassmen from top-tier FBS teams.

According to Hudl, Tucker ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash. That time might be worrying if he played another position, but Tucker is more than fast enough to play safety. Plus, he'll likely shave off some of that time as he approaches his physical peak.

Acceleration is a better asset to have for a safety than straight-line speed, and in that regard, Tucker won't have any trouble. He closes down on wide receivers and ball-carriers well—a trait that will only get stronger once he gets some coaching to learn how to read a play as it unfolds.

He showed off his impressive footwork during a training session last April:

It will be interesting to see how Tucker's game develops over the next few years.

He currently fits the profile of a box safety. He's a very good run defender, but he might struggle in pass coverage against teams that use the spread offense. That wouldn't preclude Tucker from having a highly productive college career though, as Ian Boyd of SB Nation's Football Study Hall explained that box safeties are becoming more valuable again.

Should he become a smarter player though, Tucker might grow into a more versatile safety who roams all around the field rather than playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

Either way, he's a great addition to Texas A&M's 2017 class, and he should become a vital member of the defense in a few years.


Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Top 10 College Football Pass-Rushing Duos for 2016 Season

Elite pass-rushers are must-have weapons on any college football team, but even the best can't do it alone. Going at it solo means opposing offenses can scheme up double-teams and other ways to limit the star player's impact over the course of a game.

Why have just one elite pass-rusher when you can have two fearsome ones? Together, these duos make it hard for offenses to key on just one threat, which leads to better numbers all the way around.

College football lost some of its top duos from last season, including the Clemson combo of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, as well as the high number of pass-rushing packages Penn State could throw out with the likes of Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel.

But there are still a good number of established pass-rushing duos left in the college game, especially in the defense-savvy SEC. Here are the 10 best combos in the country heading into the 2016 season, based mainly on production in sacks and QB hurries from last year, per

Which duo do you think is the best in college football? Have any newer combos you think will be added to the list by season's end? Shout them out in the comments below.

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Braxton Burmeister to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star QB Prospect

After reopening his recruitment, quarterback Braxton Burmeister of the 2017 class committed to play for Arizona on Friday. 

Adam Gorney of Rivals reported the news, while College Spun passed along video of Burmeister's commitment: 

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the La Jolla, California, native is a 4-star prospect who rates as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback, the No. 30 player from the state of California and the No. 260 overall recruit nationally.

Burmeister initially committed to play at Arizona in 2014, but he changed his mind in March and decided to make himself available to other schools after a fantastic junior season for La Jolla Country Day High School:

While the Wildcats remained in the mix, Burmeister's change of heart put other schools such as Utah, Washington and Indiana back in the running as well, per 247Sports.

The 6'1", 211-pound signal-caller did it all for his high school team as a junior and gave himself an opportunity to garner even more interest from top schools across the nation.

According to MaxPreps, Burmeister threw for 2,771 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2015 to go along with an additional 868 yards and 20 scores on the ground.

That dual-threat ability made Burmeister an attractive recruit to many of the nation's top programs, as did his performance at the Elite 11.

Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles provided a look at Burmeister's explosive dropback and quick release from the event:'s Erik McKinney also captured a great throw from Burmeister that showed off his impressive arm strength:

The learning curve can be steep for young signal-callers who make the leap from high school to college, but Burmeister's skill set suggests he could be a superstar.

Even if he needs further development when it comes to reading defenses and anticipating his receivers' patterns, Burmeister has a chance to be effective as a young player because of his legs.

Burmeister's speed and elusiveness have bailed him out often throughout his high school career, and they should serve him well at the next level too.

Sitting and learning for at least one year may be the best course of action for Burmeister, though, as further development from a passing perspective would give him a better opportunity to excel.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Power Ranking College Football's Best 2016 Pro-Style Quarterbacks

College football continues to morph into its own type of game, distancing itself from the NFL thanks to its varied playing styles. Yet one place where the two continue to intersect is at the quarterback position.

Though more and more NFL teams are willing to dabble in some spread tendencies, by and large, that league remains rooted in what's most commonly known as "pro-style" offenses. And no player adheres more to this standard than a quarterback who focuses almost solely on throwing the ball.

The pro-style quarterback is slowly fading out in college, but it's far from extinct. Of the 15 QBs selected in last month's NFL draft, the top five were pro-style passers, and all but two were known primarily for their arms when in college.

Who are the best at dropping back and slinging it in college in 2016? Check out our list of the best pro-style passers based on what they've done to this point and what's expected from them this season.

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The Case for and Against Joshua Dobbs Winning the 2016 Heisman Trophy

One look at preseason polls, and you're virtually guaranteed to see Tennessee near the top.

The Vols chime in at No. 7 in Bleacher Report's post-spring ranking, 11th in ESPN's, 8th according to Fox Sports and 8th in Sports Illustrated's

If head coach Butch Jones' crew is going to match that preseason hype and dance around the College Football Playoff discussion, quarterback Joshua Dobbs will have to stay healthy and make a Heisman run.

That last part is tricky because, while Dobbs has been stellar on the ground throughout his career (671 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015), he has been inconsistent through the air, and 6.7 yards per passing attempt—which is what he finished with last year—hardly stresses defenses vertically.

If he fixes that, Dobbs can vault into the Heisman discussion. 

Let's make the case for and against Dobbs taking the next step and contending for college football's most prestigious individual award.


The Case For...

Dobbs is bound to be a star due to the natural evolution of quarterbacks.

Last season was his first full season as the starting quarterback. While he wasn't a superstar through the air, he was effective on the ground and kept his team in every ball game. He has also established Tennessee's backfield with Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara as one of the best in college football and should earn the confidence of Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord after another successful offseason in the system.

Jones was pleased with Dobbs' progression as a passer following the spring game.

"I look at efficiency, pass efficiency, 'Are we doing the right things? Do we take care of the football? Are they managing the game? Are they making decisions, good decisions with the football?' I thought the quarterbacks were able to do that [in the spring game]," he said according to Tennessee.

Plus, he should have more consistency at wide receiver thanks to the emergence of sophomore Preston Williams and 6'4" red-zone threat Jeff George, who enrolled this spring after spending last year at Dodge City (Kansas) Community College.

Dobbs gets the majority of the criticism for Tennessee's absence of a downfield passing attack, but inconsistency and injuries outside played a part as well. 

"Everyone always says, 'accuracy, accuracy, accuracy,' but a lot of you guys don't realize, it is a two-way street," Dobbs said. "Obviously it helps to play a lot with the receivers. Do they get a good release, how they get open. The receivers are working hard every day."

Dobbs scored a total of 27 touchdowns last season, including one as a receiver against Florida in a game that he led the Vols in passing, rushing and receiving. Heisman Trophy voters love video game stats like that from quarterbacks.

What's more, it's still a quarterback-driven award. Sure, Alabama's Derrick Henry won it last year. But he set an SEC rushing record with 2,219 yards and put his team on his back en route to the national title, and it's pretty much a prerequisite for any non-quarterback to not only set individual records, but lead his team into the national title picture when votes are due in early December.

Tennessee should be a part of that picture if Dobbs simply takes a small step forward as a passer, which not only should be the goal, but should be expected of the rising senior considering the talent around him and the familiarity with the system.


The Case Against...

Haven't we seen enough of Dobbs to etch it in stone that he won't be that downfield threat that he needs to be in order to vault into legitimate consideration?

His yards per attempt average has been consistent over the last two seasons on Rocky Top, and his 6.7 average last year placed him 10th in the SEC behind Florida's Treon Harris and South Carolina's Perry Orth. 

"We still have to continue to work on our accuracy, have to continue to work every day on the deep ball and just consistency, when we have a receiver or a tight end or a running back open, delivering the ball," Jones said. "Those groups have to be consistent in catching the football, and we have to be consistent in the way we pass protect as well."

Even if his wide receivers do progress, he hasn't shown the ability to hit his receivers downfield yet and shows no signs of doing that moving forward.

What's more, Tennessee is more sizzle than steak this year.

Sure, the Vols are rated highly preseason and have assembled a roster that should contend for the SEC East again in 2016, after coming just short against Florida in what turned out to be the division title game last year. 

But they've lost 11 straight to Florida even when Florida was down (by Gator standards), and they have to play permanent cross-division rival and defending national champion Alabama every year. Those two games will be inside the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, but even if they only lose one, it's hard to imagine the Vols running the rest of the table and landing in the national spotlight.

Without the national spotlight, Dobbs will take a backseat to guys like Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Baylor's Seth Russell, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and other quarterbacks with video game numbers who will be featured more prominently down the stretch in 2016. 

He still could be good, but there will be far too much traffic ahead of him to actually win the Heisman Trophy. 


The Verdict...

Dobbs is listed 10th in current Heisman Trophy odds, according to, tied with Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen at (+2000).

That's a solid starting point and should land the eyeballs of Heisman voters on the 6'3", 207-pounder from the moment the season kicks off.

His team will be in the thick of the SEC East race, and Dobbs playing a pivotal role in the Week 4 showdown with Florida on Rocky Top will be an enormous boost to his Heisman campaign. Beat the Gators and look good in the process, and the Dobbs train will get going at full speed heading into October.

At that point, you should hop on board.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett 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 SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Ohio State Football: 3 Recruits Who Would Be Perfect Fits for Buckeyes Offense

Head coach Urban Meyer has Ohio State at the top of the college football recruiting world with 2017's No. 1-ranked class, and when looking at the Buckeyes' top remaining targets, there are three players who would not only strengthen their hold on the top spot, but they would also be perfect fits for Meyer's spread-power offense.

Ohio State already has the cornerstone of its future offense in the fold with a verbal pledge from Josh Myers, a 5-star left tackle who's rated the No. 3 overall player for 2017.

Adding this trio of 5-stars would lay a foundation for an offense that could dominate the Big Ten and pave the way to more playoff berths down the road for the Buckeyes.


Tate Martell, 5-Star Quarterback

Ohio State doesn't have a particularly big need at quarterback—in fact, some could argue the position room is getting quite full with J.T. Barrett, Joe Burrow, Stephen Collier, Dwayne Haskins and 2017 pledge Danny Clark on board.

But when a school has the chance to land a talent as special as Tate Martell, it can't afford to pass on it. 

The 5'10", 203-pound signal-caller is rated the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback nationally and the No. 33 prospect overall. His offer list includes Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and USC, and for a long stretch, Martell was committed to play out his collegiate career at Texas A&M.

Following a bizarre series of events, Martell decommitted from the Aggies and reopened his recruitment. And after a late March visit and constant contact with the Ohio State staff, Meyer and the Buckeyes are now in the driver's seat and the favorites to land his pledge, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

Martell would be a great addition to Ohio State's roster not just because of his talent, but because the recent quarterbacks added in the last two recruiting cycles—Burrow, Haskins and Clark—are more pocket passers in the mold of Cardale Jones. Martell's addition would give Ohio State a running option at quarterback down the road, which has been imperative to the success of Meyer's offense.


Tyjon Lindsey, 5-Star Wide Receiver

Ohio State had one of the country's most impressive wide receiver hauls in 2016 with high 4-stars Austin Mack (the nation's No. 10 receiver) and Binjimen Victor (No. 12), but the 2017 haul could be even more impressive.

The Buckeyes are hot on the trail for a number of 5-star pass-catchers this year, highlighted by Donovan Peoples-Jones and Trevon Grimes. And while either of those wideouts would be an absolute boon for Ohio State, 5-star wideout Tyjon Lindsey may be the crown jewel of the group.

The 5'8", 180-pound blazer out of Corona, California, has offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, Oregon and USC, but the Buckeyes are a serious contender for Lindsey's commitment. He visited Ohio State the same weekend Martell was on campus, and he had a great time in Columbus.

“It was perfect,” Lindsey said, according to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors. “My relationship with the coaches, how they're nothing but real to me, that has really stood out.”

Lindsey and Martell actually have a long friendship together, which could help Ohio State land their commitments in a package deal. 

But Lindsey's commitment, in particular, would be beneficial because he would bring something new to Ohio State's wide receiver corps. With Mack and Victor in the fold, who are both long and rangy receivers who use their height and route-running ability to get open on the outside, Lindsey would be the perfect complement in the slot as a shifty, playmaking nightmare in the middle of the field.


Cam Akers, 5-Star Running Back

Before Meyer took over at Ohio State, one of the bizarre negatives on his resume was that he had never coached a running back who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season.

It didn't take long for the Buckeyes to put that to the bed. Over the last three seasons, starting running backs Carlos Hyde (2013) and Ezekiel Elliott (2014-15) have averaged 1,740 rushing yards to complement 56 total rushing touchdowns.

That success is helping Ohio State recruit Cam Akers, a 5'11", 211-pound bulldozer from Clinton, Mississippi.

The one-time Alabama commit has offers from SEC heavyweights Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee, along with southern powerhouses Florida State and Miami, among others. His blend of power and speed makes him a unique fit for almost any offense, but he would be perfect in Ohio State's spread system that's anchored by a power-running game.

And fortunately for Meyer and the Buckeyes, Akers is a fan of the program.

“I definitely love Ohio State,” Akers said, according to Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts. “My family and myself love Ohio State and what the [football] program is doing. They always produce good running backs. They are always in the running for the national championship and the academics are great also.”

The Buckeyes have a long, uphill battle for his commitment, though, as Ole Miss is the heavy favorite, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. But judging from Akers' comments, Ohio State will be a factor in his recruitment.


All recruiting information via 247 Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Big Ten Q&A: Who Will Win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year?

G'day, mate.

Is that the latest greeting in Big Ten country? It might as well be after it was revealed this week that Jim Harbaugh is taking his satellite camp tour worldwide with a planned stop in Australia on June 3. Harbaugh will be a busy man throughout the month of June, with 30 satellite camps slated and seven more traditional camps to be held in Ann Arbor.

It's worth noting at this point that there are only 30 days in June.

Other than that, it's been a quiet few weeks in the Big Ten during the doldrums of the college football offseason between spring practice and fall camp. With that in mind, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A, where we'll tackle a conference Defensive Player of the Year prediction, the state of Northwestern, the future of Ohio State's defensive coordinator and where Michigan stands entering 2016.

As always, you can send me your questions each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.


There's a big difference between who the Big Ten's best defensive player is and who's ultimately going to win the conference's Nagurski–Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award.

As good as Penn State's Carl Nassib was a year ago, it's hard to believe Iowa's Desmond King didn't walk away with the honor in 2015, the same season the Hawkeyes cornerback won the Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top defensive back.

Back in Iowa City for his senior season, King should be the front-runner to win the Nagurski-Woodson in 2016, but the award's history hasn't been very favorable for defensive backs. In fact, you'd have to go back all the way to 2002 to find the last time a defensive back earned the honor (Ohio State's Mike Doss) and even further back to 2000 for the last time it was won by a corner (Wisconsin's Jamar Fletcher).

With voters—coaches and media—seeming to favor defensive linemen and linebackers, that leaves three primary candidates outside of King to win this year's award: Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan, Illinois' Dawuane Smoot and Northwestern's Anthony Walker.

In the case of McMillan, the numbers will certainly be there after the Buckeyes' middle linebacker tallied a team-high 119 tackles in 2015 en route to being named a finalist for the Butkus Award. But with his tackles for loss (4) and sacks (1.5) lacking, the junior-to-be will need to make more of an impact to be considered this year's DPOY, especially with former teammates Darron Lee and Joshua Perry now in the NFL.

The conference's returning sack-getter, Smoot deserves a place at the table as well after he tallied 14 tackles for a loss and eight sacks a season ago. The arrival of Lovie Smith in Champaign should only boost the play of the Fighting Illini defensive end, who will no longer have Jihad Ward on the other side of the Illinois line commanding attention.

However, it's going to be tough for Smoot to win the award if Illinois doesn't put together at least a winning season in the coming year.

And then there's Walker, who may have been the Big Ten's most underrated defensive player a year ago, despite earning All-American honors. Helping lead the Wildcats to a 10-2 regular-season record, the Northwestern middle linebacker racked up 120 tackles, 20.5 of which came for a loss, and four sacks.

Other players to keep an eye on include Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, Iowa's Josey Jewell, Ohio State's Tyquan Lewis and Michigan State's Malik McDowell. But if Walker can find similar success statistically—and the Wildcats do the same on the field—he's my pick, based on the history of the award.


Mediocrity? What mediocrity?

Did you not see Northwestern's 10-3 campaign last season?

While that blowout loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl was somewhat of a red flag that the Wildcats' 10-2 regular season may have been more a matter of luck and happenstance, I think the reality in Evanston is that you're just not going to do a lot better than Pat Fitzgerald on your sideline.

Every few years, Fitz gets linked to a big-time job, whether it's USC or Texas, and while nothing's come to fruition yet, that's indicative of just how highly the college football community views the former Wildcats linebacker.

After all, those academic restrictions can't be easy to deal with, especially when playing in a conference as competitive as the Big Ten. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald has compiled a 70-56 record in the past 10 years, although he currently owns just a 1-5 mark in postseason play.

Looking ahead to 2016, he should get another crack at picking up his second bowl win, especially with Walker and running back Justin Jackson returning to his roster. Quarterback Clayton Thorson was only a freshman a year ago and should be used more as a playmaker in the coming year than the game manager he was in 2015.

Competing for the Big Ten West title or even matching last year's 10-2 mark is going to be tough—it always is at Northwestern. But i'm not sure what else the Wildcats can ask for from a head coach who still could one day find himself on the sideline of one of college football's blue-blood programs.



I'm not convinced he's going to be at Ohio State for more than one.

While Urban Meyer typically asks for a two-year commitment from his assistant coaches, Greg Schiano suspiciously only signed a one-year deal upon arriving in Columbus last December. According to the former Rutgers head coach, however, that's nothing to read into.

"It's more of a business thing for me, because I'm still under contract at another place and all that stuff," Schiano said, referencing his last job as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was fired in 2013. "I'm not going to get into all that stuff."

Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine an established coach like Schiano, who interviewed for the Miami (Florida) head coaching opening this past winter, is going to be satisfied being an assistant coach for a long period of time. In fact, Schiano admitted this past winter there were very few places he'd be willing to serve as an assistant—and doing so for Meyer at Ohio State just happened to be one of them.

Despite Meyer's track record when it comes to commitments from assistants, Schiano seems like an exception, an overqualified candidate the Buckeyes are lucky to have, even if just for one year. And if that is the case, it's a safe bet Meyer's aware of Schiano's plans.

I'd set the over-under of years Schiano will be in Columbus at 1.5. At this point, I'd be leaning toward the under.


I wrote about this a little bit earlier this week with my piece on J.T. Barrett still making Ohio State the favorites in the Big Ten.

And I guess to the surprise of no one, that didn't sit well with Michigan fans.

To expand on my point from Thursday, I'm just not sure how the Wolverines can be considered the Big Ten favorites—as many "way-too-early top-25" polls this offseason have—when they don't even know who their quarterback's going to be and Ohio State lays claim to the best player at the position in the Big Ten.

Yes, the Buckeyes have holes elsewhere on their roster, but the same could have been said in 2014 before Barrett helped carry the team to the cusp of the College Football Playoff before a broken ankle suffered against Michigan ended his season.

If Barrett was able to do that as a redshirt freshman, why wouldn't he be able to do the same two years later? Last season may not have gone as planned for anyone in Columbus, but in the case of Barrett, it's fair to say his quarterback controversy with Cardale Jones was an extenuating circumstance.

As for the Wolverines, I expect them to take another step forward this season. But completely closing the gap on Ohio State is a tall task, given how well Meyer's recruited—and the reality is that it may not happen until Barrett's eligibility with the Buckeyes comes to an end.


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. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Why Marquill Osborne May Have the Biggest Impact of Any Vols True Freshman

Defensive back Marquill Osborne might be one of the Tennessee Volunteers' most forgotten freshmen, but he will be easy to remember once he steps onto the football field.

That likely will be sooner rather than later.

The 5'11", 183-pound nickelback from Cornelius, North Carolina, may not have received the same headlines as Tyler Byrd or the fanfare of Nigel Warrior when he committed, but that was more about timing than talent.

He pledged to the Volunteers way back on Sept. 6, 2014, a year-and-a-half before national signing day '16. After enrolling midterm, Osborne got on the field this spring, and though he went through the standard freshman struggles, he also showed out at times.

That natural ability could be a ticket to quick playing time. While Warrior may be one of the best true freshman prospects UT has signed in a long time, his starting path at safety is blocked by two good players in Todd Kelly Jr. and Rashaan Gaulden.

Junior Evan Berry and sophomore Micah Abernathy will have a say in that race, too.

At nickelback—where Osborne appears to have a sterling future—there's only one player ahead of him on the depth chart in senior Malik Foreman. Though Foreman was excellent during the last half of 2015, he was a liability during the first part when he thrust into the starting lineup.

Maybe Foreman had a "Eureka!" moment as the season progressed, but it is also possible that his play improved when Tennessee's quality of competition diminished. That's not taking anything away from the speedy Foreman, who has an NFL ceiling, but he's still got some things to prove.

If he falters, Osborne proved this spring he's capable of stepping in and stepping up.

"Osborne was rated so highly out of high school for a reason, but you never know what you're gonna get from a kid until he shows up on campus and practices in pads at this level," GoVols247's Wes Rucker told Bleacher Report. "Fortunately for the Vols, Osborne was as advertised this spring.

"He's a good athlete, and he's a tough, hard-working kid who isn't afraid to stick his nose in the pile against bigger players. He's also decided to hitch his wagon to All-SEC cornerback Cameron Sutton and follow him everywhere he goes, which is another good sign for his future."

Osborne shadowing Sutton isn't a surprise. The two have similar work ethics and physical attributes. Sutton was known as a technician from the moment he stepped on campus, putting in the extra reps that wound up earning him an immediate starting job.

That likely won't happen right away for Osborne, but it could before the season is over.

He took a lot of first-team nickel reps in the spring-ending Orange & White Game in Foreman's absence and proved what he could do.

It wasn't like he was some unknown recruit, despite the fact that he sometimes got lost in the shuffle when it came to members of UT's 2016 recruiting class that excited fans. Several powerhouses made late, long runs at him such as Ohio State, Clemson and Florida.

In the end, he stuck with UT, partly because of his relationship with defensive backs coach Willie Martinez. He showed so much promise and maturity this spring that Tennessee coach Butch Jones let him speak to the media. That's almost unheard of for any first-year Vol, much less one who just got to Knoxville.

While Osborne looked good this spring, he also battled the normal "mental fatigue" that hits all freshmen, Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown. Even the player noticed a major difference from the last level to the latest.

"It feels like playing three high school games in one practice," Osborne told Brown.

Just getting through those first few grueling weeks of practice is always tough for first-year players, and while another wall sometimes comes late during that inaugural season, guys who get to school early have a better chance of busting through it because they've had longer to prepare for it.

So, being an early enrollee is another benefit Osborne has on a bunch of his fellow classmates. Only JUCO players Jeff George, Alexis Johnson and D.J. Henderson enrolled in January, and Johnson was suspended. Osborne was the only freshman to do so.

Warrior, Byrd, receiver Marquez Callaway and others have the opportunity to get on the field quickly for the Vols, but all of them will be playing catch-up when they arrive on campus this summer. Osborne will have a spring practice and five months of workouts and film study on the field.

"Getting a head start by enrolling in January should pay dividends as well," Rucker said. "I'm not sure Osborne will start as a true freshman, but I think he'll play some on defense and be a big help on special teams as well. And I think he has a bright future at Tennessee."

That future could start right away.

The best-case scenario for the Vols, of course, is for Foreman to pick up where he left off last season with his spectacular, game-changing plays when football seemed to finally slow down for him. If that's the case and Osborne continues to push him, that's best for everybody.

That way, the coaches can bring along Osborne, work him into the fold in less pressure-filled situations and watch him grow as the season progresses. By the middle of the season, he should provide quality depth at the very least.

When you have special players, it's difficult to keep them off the field. Osborne has that ability; a perfect picture of the upgrade in athlete that Jones is bringing in since coming to Knoxville.

There's very little that's raw about him. From his footwork to his physique, he is an impressive defender who'll have firm footing in that Tennessee defensive backfield for years to come. Sutton agreed, telling Rucker:

He's hungry, willing to learn, willing to take critique, staying in his playbook, always watching film, always asking questions, and he's able to come out here and make plays and be successful. He's one of the first couple guys in the meeting room each and every time. I see him, you know, staying after practice or after lifting and working his game, working his craft.

Those are the type of guys you need in the program—guys that are gonna be consistent and, you know, learn, and be willing to learn and help us out there on Saturday.

Warrior may be the favorite freshman to wow everybody with his ability, and Byrd is the uber-athlete who can play both ways. Callaway is a polished receiver who can bolster a thin position, and Latrell Williams' speed will be hard to keep on the sideline.

But Osborne's head start is a big deal, and his talent is even bigger. Don't count him out as a player who could make a lot of noise right away, even in a deep, star-studded defensive backfield.


All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at unless otherwise noted.

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

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Butch Jones Comments on Peyton Manning Coaching Rumors

Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Butch Jones thinks former quarterback Peyton Manning would be successful as a coach, but he believes success wouldn't come early.

"We talk all the time, and I think anything Peyton Manning does, he'll be successful. But coaching is a completely different animal than playing, as any great player would tell you," Jones said, per Ryan Callahan of 247Sports.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported Wednesday that he's heard the recently retired two-time Super Bowl champion has an itch to coach for his alma mater in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Jones appears to have heard the rumblings as well and said Manning is more than welcome to come back to Tennessee any time he wants.

"But again, I welcome him any time he wants to come in to Tennessee and spend time with our players," Jones said, per Callahan. "He's been great that way. He's been very willing to do that. We've been very fortunate and blessed to have him be a part of our teams, coming in and speaking to (them), and this year will be the same."

Manning retired in March, ending his NFL career after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy over his head at Levi's Stadium as a member of the Denver Broncos.

If Manning wants to coach, it wouldn't hurt Jones to give him a small role to see what the former Tennessee quarterback thinks about the coaching life. He has an intelligent mind and developed into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

He could be a valuable asset in terms of coaching and recruiting for the Volunteers.

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Charles Baldwin Dismissed by Alabama: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Charles Baldwin's tenure with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program ended before it began, as the offensive tackle was dismissed from the program on Thursday.   

Per Michael Casagrande of, Alabama head coach Nick Saban confirmed Baldwin's dismissal in a brief statement: "Charles Baldwin has been dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules."

Baldwin originally announced his commitment to Alabama as a junior college transfer last June while playing at ASA College. 

The New York native explained his decision to join the Crimson Tide to Drew Champlin of "I have a great relationship with the coaching staff and the players, and I feel they can push me to be the best player I can be."

Baldwin was the latest in a long line of talented offensive linemen Saban has brought to Tuscaloosa. He's listed as a 4-star prospect and No. 2 JUCO transfer in the country, per 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Even though this was going to be Baldwin's first year at Alabama, Casagrande noted he was considered a "prime candidate" to get reps at right tackle in 2016. 

In March, Saban told Casagrande he felt Baldwin needed significant development before realizing his full potential: "A very good athlete. He's got a lot of ability. He's got a lot to learn. He's got a long way to go. We're going to continue to work with him, to get him to do things right, to get him to buy into doing things the way we need him to do them so he can have success here."

ESPN's Cole Cubelic did note on Twitter that Baldwin's dismissal will likely have an impact on the team in 2016:

Alabama has the highly touted Jonah Williams ready to step on the field in 2016. Saban has never had problems finding offensive linemen who can open holes for running backs to steamroll through with ease. 

Losing Baldwin will test the Crimson Tide's depth up front, but no coach is better at recruiting and developing talent in the trenches. It's not going to have any long-lasting impact as the team prepares to defend its national title. 

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