NCAA Football News

Why Texas A&M Aggies Will Have the Most Improved Defense in 2015

Texas A&M Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin doesn't need to answer questions about his offense. By bringing on defensive coordinator John Chavis—unofficially, that is; A&M hasn't actually announced the hire—Sumlin hopes he won't have to answer questions about his defense, either.

The reality for Sumlin is that A&M has declined in the win column in the past two seasons and not for a lack of offense. The Aggies have averaged at least 35 points per game each season under Sumlin.

The Aggies were subpar, if not outright bad, in essentially every major defensive category in 2014. Keep in mind that was one year removed from a season in which A&M was even worse on defense.

Thus, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder was rightly let go in November.

The good news for A&M, though, is there isn't a lot of room to regress. On the contrary, with Chavis running the show, the team should see a dramatic improvement on defense next season.

Chavis, who comes to A&M from divisional foe LSU, can elevate the Aggies to a legitimate SEC contender. These days, it's not enough to have a big name as a head coach. Programs need a one-two punch with head coaches and coordinators, a la Nick Saban/Lane Kiffin at Alabama and Gus Malzahn/Will Muschamp at Auburn.

For six years, LSU coach Les Miles had one of the best in the business. To be sure, it's not an easy loss: 

The parts are in place for Chavis, who will reportedly earn $4 million over three years, to transform the Aggies defense quickly. For one, Chavis runs the same 4-3 base as Snyder, so there's not a lot of adapting that has to be done personnel-wise.

Secondly, Snyder might have had two poor seasons, but he didn't leave the cupboard bare, as noted by Sam Khan of ESPN.com

Young talent does exist across Aggies' current defensive two-deep, led by true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett. Of the 29 players on the Aggies' final 2014 depth chart, 15 were freshmen or sophomores, and seven true freshmen—Garrett, defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, linebackers Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker, and defensive backs Armani Watts, Nick Harvey and Donovan Wilson—started at least one game for the Aggies this season. 

These freshmen and sophomores weren't your garden-variety rotational players. Garrett, who broke the SEC sack record for a freshman previously held by Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina, was a second-team All-SEC selection by the coaches and media.

Garrett will only get better as he improves as a tactician.

Ideally, though, he won't be the Aggies' only pass-rushing option, as he accounted for roughly one-third of the team's sacks. Two others, including Myles' backup Daeshon Hall, were second on the team with 4.5 sacks. That's a steep drop off.

Then there's the matter of stopping the run.

Giving up five yards per rush is unacceptable because it tells opposing offenses that, in theory, they could pick up a first down on two plays. Until last year, LSU gave up fewer than four yards per rush each year under Chavis.

With most of the defensive front seven returning, A&M certainly isn't lacking experience. There should be no more excuses for poor performances against the run.

The SEC West remains a division of run-first offenses—five West teams ranked among the top six teams in the conference in yards per rush—so there is an importance in at least slowing the run.

Whereas the defensive front seven should be a strength, the secondary sustains more losses.

A&M loses a handful of seniors, including its top two tacklers: safety Howard Matthews and corner Deshazor Everett. Additionally, Matthews and Everett ranked first and second, respectively, in passes broken up.

That's a lot of production to replace, but it's where Watts should step in with relative ease.

Watts didn't get the all-conference love Garrett did, but there's an argument to be made that he was every bit as important as a freshman. At safety, Watts is the last line of defense. When things go wrong and big plays erupt, the secondary can—fairly or unfairly—absorb a lot of the blame.

However, Watts led the team with three interceptions and tied for first with eight passes broken up. One of his highlight plays came in his first game against South Carolina:

A&M has done an astounding job on the recruiting trail. The Aggies are not lacking athletes. What they were lacking was a direction and a coach who could maximize potential.

Chavis promises to rectify that.

If there's one area of concern for Chavis, it's time of possession. While it's an overrated (if not irrelevant) stat for wins and losses, it's important for defenses.

In 2014, LSU ranked second in the SEC in time of possession (33:08 per game) while A&M averaged nearly seven minutes less in that category. That adds up over the course of the season if a defense doesn't have great depth.

Sumlin won't stop using tempo to his advantage, but it will be interesting to see how much he modifies it to help Chavis and this new-look defense. With plenty of talent, a highly regarded coordinator and perhaps a few more minutes to rest, A&M can be the most improved defense in major college football in 2015.

At the very least, A&M is investing the money to make it so.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com and Texas A&M.

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Ranking Every SEC Football Team by Best Returning Players for 2015 Season

Another year, another major talent exodus from the SEC.

But just like the sun always rises in the east every morning, each season the teams in college football's best conference manage to collectively reload rather than rebuild. And the first step in that process is bringing back quality players who contributed the year before.

While 20 SEC underclassmen declared early for the NFL draft and another 25 all-conference seniors have exhausted their eligibility, there's still plenty that stuck around for 2015. These returners will serve as the foundation for what happens this fall, and the more established talent a team has to work with the better shape they are in headed into the offseason.

Incoming recruits will provide their own impact, but at this point the focus is on who's returning. We've ranked the SEC based on the quality of the returning players for each team, taking into account past performance and expected output in 2015 to come up with the order.

Check out our ranking of every SEC team, based on their best returning players, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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How Urban Meyer Will Capitalize on Ohio State's National Title

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To those who interact with him regularly, Urban Meyer looked uncomfortable and sometimes even flustered while occupying the same seat that had recently been reserved for the likes of Donald Trump, Jamie Foxx, Meryl Streep and Sting.

But as soon as the first question left David Letterman's mouth, it became clear why the Ohio State head coach was sitting where he was.

"I'm told that you, sir, are already out recruiting young athletes to come to Ohio State," the longtime late-night TV host stated. "Am I right about that?"

Meyer sure was. In fact, he was currently in the process.

After leading the Buckeyes to a win in last Monday's College Football Playoff championship, Meyer almost immediately embarked on his own personal world tour, attempting to maximize the exposure of Ohio State's most recent national title. "We're back at work," Meyer answered with a smile.

After winning his third national title, Meyer claims to have taken two days off—one of which was spent traveling back to Columbus from North Texas. En route to his Thursday night Late Show taping in New York City, Meyer made multiple stops in nearby New Jersey, paying visits to some of the Garden State's top prospects.

In addition to Ohio State verbal commit and 2016 5-star running back Kareem Walker, Meyer made it a point to see a trio of Buckeye targets in Bergen Catholic 2016 4-star quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, Paramus Catholic 2016 5-star defensive lineman Rashan Gary and DePaul 2016 3-star wide receiver Hasise Dubois. The significance of the timing of Meyer's visit to New Jersey wasn't lost on Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile.

"There’s always a buzz when guys like Urban Meyer are coming here for a visit," Campanile told JJ Conrad of The Record. "But especially right now."

Meyer's strategy is simple—to strike while the iron is hot. One of the 13-year head coach's favorite sayings is that in college football, momentum is everything, and there isn't a brand in college football with more of it than the Buckeyes at the moment.

That's why Meyer's tour has carried into the current week, with last week wrapping up with trips to see OSU commits Justin Hilliard and Joe Burrow and 2016 Notre Dame commit Tommy Kraemer. In addition to his nationally televised Late Show appearance, Meyer did multiple national radio interviews as well, including one with ESPN's Colin Cowherd.

After hosting a big recruiting weekend in Columbus that included visits from 2015 commits Alex Stump and Dre'Mont Jones, Meyer again hit the road On Monday, visiting with Canton McKinley 2015 commit Eric Glover-Williams.

That wasn't all Meyer had to do in Northeast Ohio, as he found himself back in the national spotlight as well, sitting courtside for the Cleveland Cavaliers' nationally televised win over the Chicago Bulls. The Ohio State head man even spoke to LeBron James and his teammates prior to tipoff, and was honored alongside multiple Cleveland-born Buckeyes during a timeout with a personalized jersey.

Meyer was back on the recruiting trail on Tuesday, visiting with Greenbelt, Maryland, 2015 4-star offensive lineman Isaiah Prince. Tonight he'll appear on HBO's Real Sports in a follow-up interview to a piece that the television magazine ran on him last September.

That will be the norm for Meyer between now and Feb. 4's national signing day—national media appearances sandwiched between relentless recruiting efforts. Having gone through this twice before, Meyer knows that he can expect tangible results from his most recent national title, as the Buckeyes have regained  what he once called "flavor of the month" status.

"It's a month of an infomercial about Ohio State," Meyer told CavsTV. "It's a testimony to what's been done there. And it's a testimony to what's going to be done in the future too."

With the Buckeyes set to sign what is currently the nation's seventh-ranked class in 2015 and five premier prospects already signed up for 2016, the rich only appear to be getting richer. And as the last week has shown, Meyer and Ohio State are already pretty rich.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Early Predictions for Biggest 2015 College Football QB Battles

Twenty of the biggest college football programs in the country, including all four members of the 2015 College Football Playoff, will have quarterback battles this offseason.

Some of those battles are a product of excess, highlighted by the Battle for the Ages at Ohio State. But in most cases, instead of having three proven, Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, coaching staffs must decide from a list of mostly untested options.

The predictions that follow take only the current roster into account. They were made under the assumption that Braxton Miller stays at Ohio State, Everett Golson stays at Notre Dame and every other quarterback stays at whatever school he currently plays for.

They were also made as projections instead of preferences. They are not the quarterbacks I would start if I were Coach X, Y and Z; they're the quarterbacks I think will start based on listening to Coach X, Y and Z.

Sound off below, and let me know where you disagree!

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USC Football: 5 Things That Must Change for the Trojans to Improve in 2015

Immediately following a 45-42 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska last month, members of the USC football team all repeated one word regarding the 2015 season: Championship. 

Quarterback Cody Kessler, offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn and head coach Steve Sarkisian all said that's the goal to which the Trojans are building.

"Our future...is ridiculously bright," Sarkisian said. "We're employing to continue to get better and continue to recruit. We're going to recruit great players. We're going to develop the players that we have in our program. We're going to compete for championships." 

Coming off a 9-4 finish in 2014, USC certainly has areas in which it must improve if it's to turn the bowl-game rhetoric into reality. 

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Jim Harbaugh Once Used Gatorade with Cereal Instead of Milk




Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh isn't afraid to do things his own way—and not just on the football field.

Jay Harbaugh, the Wolverines' new tight ends coach and assistant special teams coordinator, revealed something pretty odd about his father in a recent interview.

At around the two-minute, eight-second mark in the video, Jay was asked to share something about Jim that most people wouldn't know, and he picked an unusual fact: Jim once used Gatorade with his cereal because they didn't have any milk.

Depending on the cereal, eating it dry might have been a better idea. Some people find the idea of using chocolate milk with cereal nasty, so they probably would judge Harbaugh for using Gatorade.

As crazy as it sounds, the students in Ann Arbor will probably start having cereal and Gatorade for breakfast on game days. That's what fans do. They embrace their team's quirks.

[GoBlue.com]

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Michigan Football: Should Wolverines Look to Add Transfer QB?

Shane Morris, Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone all possess the necessary traits to be successful college quarterbacks—Michigan wouldn't have recruited them otherwise.

Morris, who's started twice, hasn't had many chances to strut his stuff, but he's due. The 6'3", 204-pound lefty should be a better-equipped junior in 2015, and he should challenge for the No. 1 role.

Speight redshirted as a freshman in 2014, but the 6'6" 234-pounder has the skill and build to achieve in Ann Arbor. Look for him to make the race interesting.

Malzone, a former Birmingham Brother Rice star, is committed to the 2015 class. The 6'1.5" 200-pounder brings a powerful arm and great field vision to the mix. That’s probably why he’s the No. 13-ranked pro-styler of his class, per 247Sports, and he could jump into a battle with the upperclassmen.

Michigan has options.

However, the search for "the one" never ends, as demonstrated by coach Jim Harbaugh. The former Wolverines star signal-caller and 1986 Heisman finalist is on the hunt for a quarterback to round out the 2015 class.

At one point, he was looking to grab Kevin Hogan, who would have been a one-year, graduate loaner. Hogan reportedly entertained the idea of scooting to Michigan or Maryland, but he decided to stay put at Stanford.

There are pros and cons to seeking help from a transfer, so it makes sense to assess the risk-to-reward aspect of each end.

On one hand, a transfer could be the ideal remedy for a team in the midst of transition. Michigan qualifies as such. Already having experience, an addition could immediately deliver results and better prepare the team for 2016.

That'd be the best-case scenario.

But the potential of an adverse reaction shouldn't be ignored. The Wolverines could reject an outsider, or, worse yet, the transfer could fail miserably and set the position back in the long run.

Fans wouldn't be happy about seeing recruited talent warm the bench if the replacement floundered. Nor would they be thrilled to see one get away and catapult another team to the next level. 

There are two sides, of course. For a positive result, look no further than Wisconsin, which recently enjoyed abundant, albeit short-term, success with a transfer.

After leaving North Carolina State, Russell Wilson helped lead the Badgers to a 2011 Big Ten title. The MVP-worthy quarterback is now on the brink of becoming a back-to-back Super Bowl champion with the Seattle Seahawks.

In hindsight, snagging Wilson from the Wolfpack was the perfect move for the Badgers, perhaps one of best in recent memory. Not only did he set the bar for the position at Wisconsin, but he also elevated the program's status and left an incredible one-year legacy.

But stories such as his are rare exceptions. Not every transfer will lead his new team to a conference title, and it's even less likely that a new team will pick up the next Wilson.

There's no sense rattling the cage at this point. Harbaugh has an NFL-caliber staff lined up to revamp the program, so allowing the coaches to do their jobs instead of searching for a quick fix makes more sense. 

Michigan would be doing itself a favor by not importing help this year. Hogan, a proven pro-styler, fit the bill—the 6'4" 220-pounder was recruited by Harbaugh’s Cardinal staff in 2010, making him a more attractive prospect—but is no longer available.

And other than Everett Golson and Braxton Miller, there aren’t many high-quality options in the graduate-transfer pool, per The Big Lead.

The Notre Dame in Golson probably wouldn’t allow him to enroll at Michigan, and it’s safe to say Miller, a dual-threat QB at Ohio State, would rather jump from a bridge into a canyon of pins and needles than wear a winged helmet.

For better or for worse, Harbaugh’s best options appear to be in-house, leaving no reason to shop around.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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SEC Football: 10 Bold Predictions for the Offseason

Ah, the offseason. Where every team is slated to win the national championship, every coach will win Coach of the Year and every quarterback is a stone-cold, lead-pipe lock to win the Heisman Trophy.

Etch it in stone.

As we have learned over the last few seasons, the twists and turns of the college football offseason are almost as fun as the ones that occur during the season itself.

What will pop up this offseason in the SEC? Our 10 bold predictions for the SEC offseason based on unanswered questions, personnel changes and history are in this slideshow.

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Breaking Down the 6 Potential Replacements for Marcus Mariota in 2015

Congratulations, Oregon's next starting quarterback. You have the privilege of being the guy after the guy. And that guy was Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who may eventually have his number retired and is definitely a once-in-a-generation player for the program. 

No pressure or anything. 

The search to replace Mariota, who announced last week that he was going pro, will be one of the most-watched offseason storylines. There are a handful of candidates vying for the job. Oregon has done a stellar job in recent years of landing its next quarterback. From Mariota to Darron Thomas, Jeremiah Masoli and Dennis Dixon, the Ducks' quarterback situation has been stable for some time. 

Who will be the next signal-caller to lead Oregon's offense? Here are the options, assuming there are no transfers.

 

The Front-Runner

That would be Jeff Lockie, the soon-to-be redshirt junior who served as Mariota's primary backup in 2014. Lockie's playing time has been limited, but he has seen action in 18 career games. His numbers, even in a smaller sample size, have been solid: 29-of-41 passing for 267 yards, a touchdown and a pick. 

In comparison to the other backup quarterbacks, all of whom are freshmen, Lockie is a seasoned vet. Though Lockie doesn't bring the same level of athleticism Mariota does, he's had three years to learn the Ducks' offense without being forced into playing time. 

By all signs, he's the leader to succeed Mariota in 2015. He certainly has the vote of confidence from Mariota, via an interview with the Associated Press

Jeff has a very bright future. He’s incredibly smart. He understands this offense and has really for me [sic] helped me out on the sideline. He sees stuff that allows me to make better decisions out on the field. He’s done an awesome job picking up the offense, doing his best at learning it, and I think he has a bright future for sure.

However, there's a trend that does not work in Lockie's favor. The last three times Oregon named a new starting quarterback—Mariota in '12, Thomas in '10 and Masoli in '08—the primary backup from the year before—Bryan Bennett, Nate Costa and Brady Leaf, respectively—did not get the starting job. 

Is that a bad omen for Lockie? Each situation is unique, but it's something to keep in mind. The most veteran guy is not automatically the next starter for Oregon.

 

The Dark Horses

There's basically experience behind Lockie, but that doesn't mean head coach Mark Helfrich won't go in this direction. Mariota, after all, was a redshirt freshman when he was awarded the starting job in '12 by former coach Chip Kelly. Helfrich has long considered to be cut from the same cloth

Taylor Alie (a walk-on) and Ty Griffin (a Georgia Tech transfer) are redshirt freshmen but haven't generated the buzz that freshman Morgan Mahalak has. Mahalak was a 4-star member of the Ducks' '14 class and had "quarterback of the future" written all over him. 

However, as Helfrich explained in an interview with Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com, Mahalak has a way to go before he gets the full support of the coaching staff: 

Griffin and Mahalak “did, I would say, average to above-average jobs of staying dialed-in” over the course of the 2014 campaign, Helfrich said. “That’ll be a huge step for them this winter and early spring, getting their minds right to compete, to be in the best position from a mental standpoint, a confidence standpoint, to just play,” Helfrich added.

Another option, albeit a long shot, would be incoming Travis Waller. Currently a 4-star, dual-threat quarterback, Waller has verbally committed to Oregon for '15. However, even if he signs his letter of intent, Waller will not be available until the summer. 

Experience hasn't been a prerequisite for earning the starting job at Oregon in the past, but the vibe around this group of backups is that they have a lot of ground to make up. 

 

The Wild Card

Oregon probably won't bring in a graduate transfer quarterback unless the situation is blatantly dire. If the Ducks do pursue that route, though, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller would be an intriguing name. 

Note the title there—it's not "former Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller." As of Tuesday, January 20, Miller is still a Buckeye. However, because he missed the entire '14 season with a shoulder injury and is in danger of losing his job to either J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones, the rumor mill has churned out Miller's name as a transfer possibility, according to Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports. 

Miller could return to Columbus and take part in the most compelling quarterback battle in recent memory, or he could transfer and play immediately as a grad student. If he chooses the latter, would Oregon be interested?

"The two magic words: It depends," Helfrich said via Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune. "We’re going to exhaust every path we can to find the right guy, the right fit. But we believe in the guys who are already here."

Among the schools to have reportedly piqued Miller's interest are Duke and Florida State. However, there would be something fascinating about Miller's move from Ohio State to Oregon after the Buckeyes defeated the Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. 

 

Who Starts?

This is why Helfrich has seven months to decide. The offseason is long, and a lot of things can happen. However, if there's an early guess to be made, it's that Lockie holds the edge. He has the experience and the trust of the coaching staff. That's something no one else can say right now—at least as far as anyone knows. 

Would a Lockie-led Oregon offense look different next year? Absolutely; that's going to be the case no matter who earns the starting job. Mariota was on his own level, and there may not be a player like him passing through Oregon for a long time. 

Succeeding Mariota isn't an enviable position to be in, but someone will have a chance to carve his own legacy into Oregon's history books. There are too many other questions at the moment for that person to be someone other than Lockie. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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Ryan Anderson Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Alabama LB

Alabama sophomore linebacker Ryan Anderson was arrested on charges of misdemeanor third-degree domestic violence Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

According to Casagrande, citing the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's arrest database, Anderson was arrested on Tuesday and had bond set at $500. 

Marc Torrence of Bleacher Report provided a statement from the Sheriff's office regarding the arrest:

Ben Bolton of WAKA in Alabama provided the linebacker's mugshot:

Last August, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Sabanbrought in a speaker during preseason camp to talk to his players about domestic violence. At the time, Saban said that it "is definitely an area where we want to continue to educate the players."

Anderson appeared in 11 games for Alabama last season, recording 25 tackles and one sack. He played sparingly but is expected to take on an increased role for the defense next season.

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How 4-Star Tim Irvin's Flip from Texas to Auburn Impacts Recruiting Landscape

Auburn added one of the nation's most dynamic defensive backs to its 2015 recruiting class Sunday, securing a commitment from former Texas pledge Tim Irvin:

The Miami prospect flipped to the Tigers during an official visit just two weeks after announcing his intentions to play for Charlie Strong in Austin. He committed to the Longhorns on national television while competing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Irvin, rated 19th nationally among "athletes" in 247Sports' composite rankings, has the potential to play cornerback or safety and contribute on special teams as a kick returner.

Former Florida coaches Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson played a pivotal role in luring him to Auburn. Both developed a strong rapport with Irvin as an underclassman while recruiting the Westminster Christian School star to Gainesville.

"It was just Coach Muschamp and T-Rob and the relationship I had with those guys," Irvin told Wesley Sinor of AL.com. "They were like a dad to me. During my recruiting process I talked to them almost every day. They've been with me since Day 1 and that's why I want to play for those guys."

Meanwhile, Texas is left to look for a replacement. Leading candidates to end up in Austin include in-state standouts Holton Hill and Kris Boyd, though competition remains in place for both of those pursuits.

Irvin, so recently viewed as a significant addition for Texas' new regime, is no longer part of the equation.

The 4-star recruit enrolls at Auburn this week, arriving on campus with a chance to compete for early opportunities on a defense in transition. 

"Coach (Gus) Malzahn was telling me he asked (Muschamp) 'Who do you want?' and he said 'I've got to get Tim Irvin.' When he told me that, I felt like I can be an impact in the defense," Irvin told Sinor. 

His decision was accompanied by a touch of drama, courtesy of Snapchat.

Shortly after committing to Auburn, Irvin posted a photo of what appears to be a hefty stack of $20 bills:

The image fueled speculation of foul play from folks across social media, which led Irvin to clarify that the money came from family members for his graduation.

Given the fact he is the nephew of NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, it's fair to say that a family celebration could indeed net him a significant amount of cash. Still, expect opposing fans to point to the picture during his time at Auburn.

Irvin is the fourth defensive back to join this Tigers class. He adds to a haul that already features fellow 4-star prospects Jordan Colbert and Kerryon Johnson, who could spend time on both sides of the ball.

He may be the first of several key commitments for coach Gus Malzahn from the Sunshine State during this final stretch toward national signing day.

Irvin was joined on campus this past weekend by an impressive collection of fellow high-profile Florida products. The guest list included offensive tackle Martez Ivey, defensive end Byron Cowart, defensive end CeCe Jefferson and quarterback Torrance Gibson

Gibson, a 4-star talent with raw passing skills and intriguing athleticism, seemed nearly as impressed by the visit as Irvin. Despite a commitment to Ohio State, he admitted Auburn sparked his imagination.

"Coach Malzahn told me I'm his guy and he wants me to play quarterback and that I'd get a fair opportunity to play quarterback. That's what he told me and I believe it," Gibson told Justin Hokanson of 247Sports. "What he did with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall in one or two (seasons), imagine what he could do with me in three."

The busy weekend could ultimately result in a slew of blockbuster signings next month.

Irvin already sounds prepared to do his part during the final push. Longhorns fans won't like it, but he plans to tempt Texas cornerback commit Davante Davis during his visit to Auburn just days before signing day:

Irvin isn't the marquee member of this Auburn class, but there's a chance he'll be remembered as the first domino to fall during a frenzied late recruiting effort in Florida.

The Tigers now hold 21 commitments in a class that rates 10th in 247Sports' composite rankings. A strong finish in the Sunshine State would set the stage for a potential top-five class and reload a championship-caliber roster.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oregon Ducks Looking to Shed 'Soft' Label with Physical 2015 Class

Oregon is doing its best heading into the 2015 to shed the "soft" label by getting some tough-nosed recruits who can make an immediate impact. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson sits down with 247Sports recruiting analyst Justin Hopkins who gives you players who can help the Ducks get tougher and more physical for next season. 

Will Oregon be in the College Football Playoff in 2015?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Mark Fields to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star CB Prospect

The Clemson Tigers football program scored a major coup late Monday night as it landed coveted cornerback recruit Mark Fields.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, head coach Dabo Swinney secured a commitment from the skilled North Carolina native:

Per 247Sports, Fields is a four-star prospect who rates as the No. 10 cornerback and No. 95 overall player in the recruiting class of 2015.

The Tigers had major competition when it came to nabbing Fields as Alabama, Georgia and LSU all made offers, according to 247Sports. In the end, though, Clemson managed to keep the William Amos Hough High School standout in the Carolinas.

Per Nikki Steele of TigerNet.com, Fields believes that Clemson offers him the best chance to succeed on the field and in the classroom.

Clemson just offers everything that I want as far as academics, athletics and me accomplishing what I want to get done in three to four years. I just felt like it was a perfect fit and a chance for me to grow as a football player and an individual. I just wanted to make it happen.

Clemson now boasts one of the top cornerback prospects in the country, which should help it compete in what looks to be a wide open ACC.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for Fields to make an impact with the Tigers, but his skill set and overall makeup suggest that Clemson has brought in a potential superstar.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

 

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 23 Cornerbacks

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the Top Cornerbacks. 

Other Positions 

The latest position unit to be featured in our CFB 200 series will focus on one of the deepest position groups in the 2015 class: corner.

The top prospect from the state of California, 5-star corner Iman Marshall, headlines an athletic corner group filled with versatile athletes whose abilities have attracted attention from the nation's top colleges. 

Bleacher Report has evaluated each corner rated among the nation's top 200 prospects and scored them on attributes such as speed (20 points), ball skills (20 points), run support (20 points) and pass coverage (40 points). The cumulative figures from those traits resulted in our overall grade of each prospect. 

Here's a look at the best cover corners in the 2015 class and how their abilities translate to the next level.

*All analysis from Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani. All rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings

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Senior Bowl 2015: Full Team Rosters and Most Intriguing NFL Prospects to Watch

The 2015 Senior Bowl is upon us, which means NFL types will get a valuable early look at some of the top prospects entering the upcoming draft.

Of course, all 32 teams have done extensive scouting work throughout the college football season and have hammered down short lists of prospects to look out for. But without fail, there appears to be significant movement at the top of draft boards in the pre-draft season every year.

Players can either play their way from late-round afterthoughts to early-round sleepers or do the exact opposite. For some of the top seniors in the land, the Senior Bowl is the first chance to set the tone.

While there are can't-miss prospects in the draft, such as offensive tackles La'el Collins (LSU) and Tyler Sambrailo (Colorado State), let's focus on some of the more polarizing and intriguing players below after a quick look at the team rosters.

Note: Team rosters are courtesy of the Senior Bowl official website.

 

Most Intriguing Prospects

South QB Nick Marshall (Auburn)

Perhaps the seemingly inevitable position switch for Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall as he looks to find a place in the NFL won't be happening after all—not officially at the Senior Bowl, at least.

Marshall is bound to get his first valuable repetitions in front of NFL scouts outside of the Auburn offense he was so comfortable in. He made the cut at quarterback for the South team, although even Phil Savage—the head director of the Senior Bowl—seemed to prefer his inclusion as a defensive back.

John Zenor of The Associated Press reported as much:

Brandon Marcello of AL.com added more criticism from Savage: "If he stays at quarterback it will limit the number of teams that will really have a sincere interest in him. It's just my own take on it coming into the week, so we'll see if he can increase that."

Despite leading Auburn to the doorstep of a national championship in 2013, he needed to make big strides as a passer to show the running threat could make the jump to the pros. Marshall did just that, throwing for 2,532 yards and 20 touchdowns while showcasing much-improved accuracy and arm power.

Marshall didn't want to play defensive back at Georgia, and it helped lead him to the greener pastures of The Plains. If he hopes to follow suit heading into the NFL, a standout performance at the Senior Bowl would be well-received.

 

North DE Nate Orchard (Utah)

If you're going simply by the numbers, Utah defensive end Nate Orchard might be one of the hottest names in the 2015 draft class. Unfortunately for him, that's not always the case.

The Utes' star pass-rusher wreaked absolute havoc on the Pac-12 his senior season, amassing a nation-leading 1.46 sacks per game—18 on the season. He also ranked second on the team in tackles with 81 (51 solo).

But questions remain about how the 6'4", 255-pound edge-rusher would fit into that same position in an NFL scheme. It's also apparent to many around the league, per NFL.com's Albert Breer, that his immense production might be a bit overstated:

The way one NFC GM sees it, "He may go late Friday night (on draft weekend) if a 3-4 team approves, but he's more likely to go sometime Saturday. Better production than traits that project to the NFL." An AFC college scouting director added, "He's a solid athlete, he runs well, and he's an effort player from a standup OLB or DE position -- and a good rusher. He'll be a (nickel) rusher and special teams player that can work his way into being a full-time starter." 

There's no questioning Orchard's impact in college football, not after Pac-12 offensive linemen voted him the conference's best pass-rusher. But he'll enter the Senior Bowl with more than his fair share of critics who doubt he will come close to copying that impact in the NFL.

 

South TE Nick O'Leary (Florida State)

Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary has more than college exposure and a world-famous grandfather on his side as he enters the Senior Bowl and the 2015 draft.

Yes, O'Leary benefited greatly from playing in the Seminoles' high-powered offensive attack led by Jameis Winston. It also doesn't hurt that he's a close relative of Jack Nicklaus. But that's only the start of what O'Leary brings to the table.

His accomplishments—nearly 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns over the last two seasons, a BCS title, the Mackey Award—pale in comparison to what he could bring to an NFL roster. Along with an athletic skill set that can make plays down the field, O'Leary is also an intelligent player capable of making an impact wherever need be—whether it's special teams, run blocking out of the backfield or protecting the passer.

Count Bleacher Report's Matt Miller among those who are high on O'Leary's potential:

Playing in a potent system can catapult a player above his potential, but that's not the case with O'Leary. While he benefited from going under the radar in 2013, he was arguably Winston's favorite target in 2014 and made an impact despite being a focal point of the scouting report.

Making the jump to the NFL is an impossibly difficult task, but O'Leary seems up for the challenge.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which College Football Teams Spend the Most and Least on Recruiting

Did you know that FBS schools spent an average of $700,000 last year on men’s team recruiting expenses?

That's according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, which accumulates and reports athletic revenues and expenses by institution, including recruiting spending for men’s and women’s team sports.

Recruiting expenses are defined by the Equity in Athletics Disclosure as:

All expenses an institution incurs attributable to recruiting activities.  This includes, but is not limited to, expenses for lodging, meals, telephone use, and transportation (including vehicles used for recruiting purposes) for both recruits and personnel engaged in recruiting, and other expenses for official and unofficial visits, and all other expenses related to recruiting.

The “Cutting Tool” includes data from the 2013-14 fiscal year for every FBS school with the exception of Air Force, Hawaii and Navy.

Though it doesn’t provide a football-only recruiting spending figure, it does give us a gauge for which departments spend the most and the least from an overall perspective.

 

The Top 10 Spenders

Though it’s no surprise that three of the top five spenders hail from the SEC, it’s intriguing that five are from the Big Ten. 

Missing completely are the Big 12 and the Pac-12.  The Big 12’s biggest spender, Texas Tech, comes in at No. 11 nationally with a cool $1.29 million.  For the Pac-12, it’s Oregon at No. 19 with $1.14 million.

What may at least partially explain the Red Raiders’ shocking outlay is their geographic isolation in the Texas panhandle.  Still, you have to wonder how Tech managed to spend $314,158 more than the University of Texas.

Duke’s powerhouse basketball program is likely the reason for its No. 1 rank among ACC schools, outspending its nearest competitor North Carolina State, shelling out $1.10 million for the No. 21 rank overall.

 

The Bottom 10 Spenders

The MAC and the Sun Belt both have four representatives in the bottom 10.  Of note is Northern Illinois at No. 8, a program that has posted five consecutive double-digit-win seasons, earning a 57-13 record since 2010.

Also worth mentioning is the state of Louisiana, with three of its five FBS schools in the bottom 10.  Add in Tulane, at No. 89 nationally ($383,573) and LSU at No. 10 of the 14 SEC programs ($892,996), and Louisiana wins the battle for the most frugal state. 

The Power Five program that spent the least on recruiting expenses in 2013-14 was Oklahoma State, reporting a mere $491,511.  This means the Cowboys spent less than South Florida ($495,496), Old Dominion ($507,018) and New Mexico ($509,501).

The next-most frugal Power Fives are Maryland ($524,021), Washington State ($563,478), Colorado ($607,407) and TCU ($608,804).

 

Average Spending by Conference

Here’s a look at recruiting expenses by conference, including the number of member schools that spent more than $1 million and the number below the national average of $700,000.

The only SEC school under the FBS average is Mississippi State ($683,487).  For the Big Ten, it’s Rutgers ($673,523), Wisconsin ($631,243) and Maryland ($524,021).  It’s worth remembering that the Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins were still members of the American Athletic (formerly the Big East) and ACC respectively when the reporting began in 2013.

In the Big 12, TCU ($608,804) and Oklahoma State ($491,511) are under the average, while in the ACC it’s just Syracuse ($640,519).  In the Pac-12, Oregon State ($699,144), Utah ($697,175), Colorado ($607,407) and Washington State ($563,478) each spent less than the average.

Not only did the Pac-12 underspend the other Power Five leagues by an average of $225,000, it has only one million-dollar spender: Oregon at $1.14 million. Traditional powerhouses USC ($888,232) and UCLA ($852,521) spend more like West Virginia ($881,260) and Virginia Tech ($845,535) than Georgia ($1.14 million) and Ohio State ($1.03 million).

Whether it’s due to the geographic isolation of the conference, causing teams to conduct their searches closer to home, or a lack of national media coverage making going further afield not worthwhile, the Pac-12 spends far less on recruiting.

Also highlighted is another clear dividing line between the haves and the have-nots in major college football:  The Power Five conferences are spending more than twice what their counterparts in the Group of Five leagues are.

 

Return on Investment

Though the reported expenditures are compelling on their own, when combined with recruiting results, they provide a gauge for which programs get the most bang for their buck.

Utilizing Rivals’ average team recruiting rankings from 2011-14, here are the FBS programs, or athletic departments, which have managed to get the biggest return on their investments.

Oklahoma State earned, on average, a top-30 rank in recruiting from 2011-14 despite spending well under the FBS average. Compare that to Kansas State, which spent a whopping $962,268—or double that of the Cowboys—for an average ranking of No. 59.

The biggest winners are LSU and USC, each spending less than $900,000 and averaging a top-10 rank in recruiting.

Stack those results up with Auburn, which spent $2.06 million ($1.16 million more than LSU) for a No. 6 average rank and Notre Dame at $1.53 million ($647,000 more than USC) for a No. 9 average.  

On the flip side of the equation, take a look at the programs who have made a sizeable financial commitment to recruiting but don’t have much to show for it.

Duke, Indiana and Kansas deserve further consideration here because of their big-time basketball programs, a difference-maker when dealing with men’s team recruiting expenses versus football-only numbers.

That said, other schools like Ohio State, Louisville and Arizona also field great basketball teams (and better football teams than the Blue Devils, Hoosiers or Jayhawks) and still manage to get more value for their recruiting dollar.

The Buckeyes spent $1.03 million on men’s team recruiting expenses during the 2013-14 fiscal year, averaged a No. 5 rank in football recruiting from 2011-14 and also have a men’s basketball team that hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 2008.

The program that really stands out is Illinois, a Big Ten school that is ranked No. 8 in the FBS in recruiting expenses.  All this for a football team that has managed a No. 56 average ranking in recruiting and hasn’t produced a winning record since going 7-6 in 2011. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Breaking Down the Bulldogs' QB Contenders for the 2015 Season

The Georgia Bulldogs will enter the 2015 season as one of the favorites to win the SEC East because of guys like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Leonard Floyd.

However, the one thing that could hold them back is the quarterback position because Hutson Mason will not return, and the Bulldogs will have to break in another new starter.

Brice Ramsey was the backup for Mason last season, and he was able to be productive in limited action. Faton Bauta was the third-string quarterback, and like Ramsey, he was solid in mop-up duty.

But then there’s Jacob Park, who redshirted last season. Park was a blue-chip recruit in 2014, and he has a good chance of being the No. 1 guy when it’s all said and done.

So the quarterback position will be something to watch during spring ball and fall camp. And because of that, here’s a breakdown of the Bulldogs' quarterback contenders for the 2015 season.

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Clemson Football: 5 Things That Must Change for the Tigers to Improve

It was another successful season for Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers with 10 wins and a victory in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Oklahoma. The Tigers have established themselves as a consistent program over the past few seasons, but what exactly will it take for them to get over the hump?

There are areas in which the Tigers could improve, and taking steps forward with these issues could be what they need to get to that next level and start competing for championships.

Here are five ways in which the Tigers can improve heading into the 2015 season.

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Virginia Tech Football: Breaking Down Hokies' QB Contenders for 2015 Season

For the Virginia Tech Hokies, it's all about the quarterback. For the past three seasons, Tech has struggled on offense. It's no coincidence that the Hokies have struggled at the quarterback position.

Former starter Logan Thomas was a physical marvel. He was an outstanding runner and possessed a howitzer of an arm. However, he struggled reading coverages and anticipating receivers' routes, and he often held onto the ball too long. 

Last year's starter, Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, got off to a strong start. Brewer played very well in Tech's Week 2 upset of eventual national champion Ohio State. Unfortunately, that was his only shining moment of the 2014 campaign.

He struggled with turnovers, which led him to be more skittish in the pocket. One of Brewer's biggest strengths before was his ability to put bad plays behind him quickly. He didn't trust his own decision-making or the offensive line, so his hesitancy in the pocket led to more sacks late in the season.

Brewer has one more year of eligibility remaining and will surely be in the mix in 2015. But, unlike last year, he will face several capable competitors beginning this spring.

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50 Most Anticipated College Football Games for 2015 Season

Finally, something to fill up those 2015 calendars you got as holiday presents.

While all schedules aren't final, we do know most of the dates of next season's biggest college football games. Others have a pairing and a locale, just not a set appointment. Either way, it's something to help us get through the long hiatus between one of the best seasons ever and what figures to be another stellar collegiate campaign.

Listed chronologically—with those yet to be given a set date listed at the end—we've compiled 50 of the most eagerly awaited games of 2015. These include traditional rivalries that have built-in anticipation, rematches of 2014's best games and some of the most notable nonconference tilts between power-conference programs.

Get those calendars ready for marking as you check out the 50 most anticipated college football games of the 2015 season.

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