NCAA Football News

Saivion Smith to LSU: Tigers Land 5-Star CB Prospect

LSU laid down a major marker this recruiting season by adding one of the most sought-after defensive players in the 2016 class.

Shea Dixon of 247 Sports reported Saivion Smith has committed to the Tigers:

Smith is the best cornerback in the country and ranked No. 7 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's also the second-best recruit in the state of Florida.

Smith's emergence on a national stage came rather quickly. Not too long ago, he wasn't on the radar of any major college football schools. Then a transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, set in motion a chain of events that saw his profile explode.

Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani wrote an in-depth profile of Smith back in January. Kirpalani recounted the one moment that more than anything else cemented Smith's standing as one of the nation's best corners:

His signature performance came against powerhouse and defending 3A Florida state champion Trinity Christian—a team with at least 10 players who have offers from Power Five schools, including 2015 5-star corner and LSU pledge Kevin Toliver II. Saivion was the most dominant performer on the field.

In a game televised nationally by ESPNU, Saivion recorded 13 tackles and scored two non-offensive touchdowns, per MaxPreps—one on a blocked punt and another by stripping 230-pound man-child Jeffery Holland and racing 46 yards for a scoop and score.

At 6'1" and 175 pounds, Smith has good size for a cornerback. There isn't really the risk that he'll be at a disadvantage by taller wide receivers. He's also willing to get physical when necessary without going over the line and incurring needless flags.

Smith was one of the players who attended the Under Armour Elite 50 Experience, which allowed him to get tutelage from one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, per Josh Newberg of 247Sports:

He also had the opportunity to test himself some more against the top wide receivers in the nation. ESPN.com's Derek Tyson captured a Vine of Smith matched up with Dredrick Snelson:

Smith is one of those players who flies to the ball and is seemingly always in position to make a big play. Depending on how much he plays in his freshman and sophomore years, he could pick up quite a few interceptions early on in his career before opposing quarterbacks learn to adjust and stay away from his side of the field.

LSU has an exceptional track record of elite defensive backs under Les Miles. Smith will look to add to the legacy stars like Patrick Peterson, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu have left behind at the university in recent years.

There's little not to like about Smith's game. He's even more than passable against the run, which isn't always a guarantee with top cornerbacks coming out of high school

With the continued rise of spread offenses and emphasis on the passing game, it's becoming more and more important for the top schools to be loaded with skill in the secondary.

There's no question that passing defense will be an area of strength over the next few years for the Tigers with Smith in the fold.

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10 College Football Predictions for 2015 Spring Practice

College football teams are gearing up for spring camp, which means we've almost reached the second major tentpole of the offseason (the first being national signing day).

It's hard to make predictions for spring workouts, since so much of what happens is internal and therefore not reported to the public. Now is when coaches do the most actual coaching, preparing underclassmen for their new roles on the two-deep depth chart.

Still, there are enough big developments out there to watch for—and from those, there are enough potential outcomes to make predictions.

What will be the biggest (foreseeable) storylines of the next two months? Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Why Oregon Was Right to Target Vernon Adams Jr. over Braxton Miller

Oregon is all-in on Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr. as a possible replacement for Marcus Mariota. Adams is all-in on proving that he can play at the highest level of college football. Maybe, along the way, he'll show he's a candidate to play in the NFL. 

If the marriage works, Adams and the Ducks could get back to the College Football Playoff.

It is a calculated risk, just like any transfer. Though Adams was prolific in the Football Championship Subdivision, totaling nearly 11,000 passing yards and 121 all-purpose touchdowns, he'll have to learn Oregon's offense and terminology within a matter of months. He'll have even less time to build chemistry with existing players. 

Would Oregon have been better off pursuing Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller? Miller, of course, was at the center of myriad transfer rumors connecting him to Duke and Florida State, among other places. 

However, in an interview with Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Adams said Oregon was willing to give him first dibs over Miller in joining the program: 

Adams' decision came down to Oregon or staying at Eastern Washington. Texas tried to recruit him but came in too late in the process, he said. Adams talked to UCLA and considered taking a visit there the week after he visited Oregon, but opted not to after thinking more about his situation. He said he had no idea what Miller might do, and that "Oregon told me straight up that they were coming after me and, if they didn’t get me, then maybe they go after him, but they said they were coming after me first.

So why Adams over Miller? For one, it's a matter of pure availability. 

A transfer can never become a transfer—or at least one permitted within NCAA rules—without the athlete first receiving permission to contact from his first school. And, yes, that applies to grad transfers, too. It's not like Oregon can waltz into any facility building it wants and recruit positions of need, nor can a player start calling up any coach he wants to gauge interest. 

The term "free agency" gets thrown around loosely in grad transfer stories, but the reality is it's not even close.  

It'd be a violation of NCAA rules if Oregon went to Adams before he received permission to contact; by no accounts did that happen: 

Adams got permission from Eastern Washington to contact other schools and reached out to Boise State, UCLA and Oregon — and discovered that this time the big-time programs were very interested in him. "I was definitely surprised" that Oregon was so interested, he said. "I never thought I was an Oregon-type quarterback. You know, it's the No. 2 team in the nation. So, it was just really crazy and very humbling."

As for Miller, well, he never got that far. He's still with Ohio State, enrolled in classes and will participate in some capacity during spring practices. It'd be a different story if Miller was actively looking to transfer. While it's possible he contemplated it at one point, it never materialized to the point where Oregon could do something about it. 

But let's say, hypothetically, that Miller was on the market to transfer as a grad student. Would Oregon still have pursued Adams first? Miller, after all, graduated in December and could have joined sooner. 

Not to suggest Oregon lied to, or even misled, Adams, but keep in mind the Ducks are still recruiting him. Part of that process includes telling players things they want to hear. Lo and behold, those were Adams' exact words to Jim Allen of The Spokesman-Review last month. 

"They told me a lot of things I wanted to hear," Adams said of Oregon. 

How Oregon's stance would have differed, if at all, with Miller as a possibility would have been fascinating to see, but ultimately it's a moot point. 

There's also the matter of Miller's health. In that regard, there could be some truth to the puffery Oregon offered Adams. Miller is coming off of a shoulder injury that has hampered him for the past year. Though Miller is throwing again—an excellent sign—he won't throw with any sort of velocity until May, according Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer:

With injuries, there can be setbacks. Miller is a prime example of that, having missed all of last season because he re-injured his shoulder last August. He might be on the road to recovery, but Adams is already there. 

Remember how bringing on transfers is a calculated risk? Injuries and recovery timelines play a part in that. Adams lacks big-time college football experience and size, but he's played exceptionally well against FBS Washington and Oregon State with 11 passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Miller has that winning experience in the Big Ten, but hasn't played a snap in over a year. These are the things Oregon had to weigh. 

Folks often associate the word "fit" with how a player meshes with an offense. However, it also applies to how individual situations align. Yes, Adams fits the spread quarterback profile, but Oregon was interested in upgrading its depth chart and Adams was ready for a new challenge. 

Oregon may have had other options beyond Adams, or potentially Miller, but there's value in pursuing what feels right. That appears to have been the case for both sides here. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Shane Buechele Commits to Texas: How 4-Star QB Fits Charlie Strong's Scheme

The quarterback problems appear to be over for the Texas Longhorns. Nineteen days after national signing day, the Longhorns have a 4-star commitment at the position.

Shane Buechele announced via Twitter Monday evening that he has verbally committed to Texas, becoming the Longhorns fourth pledge of the 2016 class. The nation's No. 4 dual-threat signal-caller chose Texas over offers from several programs including Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech, Kentucky and Ole Miss.

If you look at the quarterbacks head coach Charlie Strong has had in the recent past—Teddy Bridgewater, David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes—all three were mobile athletes. Swoopes, the latest Strong quarterback, was the Longhorns' third-leading rusher statistically, recording 108 carries last season.

Bridgewater built his reputation on being more of a pocket passer, but in three seasons at Louisville, he rushed 226 times and scored six touchdowns. His main stats came in the air, as he threw for more than 9,800 yards and 72 touchdowns. For his career, Bridgewater completed better than 68 percent of his passes.

With Buechele, Strong may get a nice combination of both Bridgewater (game-management skills) and Swoopes (mobility). Buechele also has intangibles that can't be taught. He is the son of former Major League Baseball infielder Steve Buechele and has been trained to think like a pro athlete. He reads defenses and anticipates well. Buechele's versatility would fit well with the use of the read-option.

Buechele is the kind of quarterback Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson can groom to become a true leader of the offense. He's an athlete with an accurate arm, very good feet and a knack for managing a game. He throws a good deep ball and also throws well on the run. Additionally, Buechele is faster than anticipated and uses his speed to extend a play.

The commitment was big for Texas for two additional reasons. First, it resolved any issue on the table regarding what the Longhorns would do at the position. Texas offered scholarships to 11 quarterbacks, and 10 of the 11 are classified at least 4-star prospects.

Second, it won a battle against an Oklahoma team that seemed to be in the lead. His oldest brother, Garrett Buechele, played baseball for the Sooners, and his two older sisters, Jordan and Amber, attend Oklahoma. The baby of five children, Shane decided to buck the trend.

Credit Strong and Watson for a solid recruiting job. Buechele threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns with only six interceptions as a junior. He also ran for 572 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged nearly seven yards per rush, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Buechele will join a team that appears to be turning things around at the quarterback position, one of the spots that had the most inquiry last season. Swoopes and Jerrod Heard are expected to battle for the starting spot for the upcoming season. Kai Locksley is a 4-star scholarship player, and 3-star Matthew Merrick is a grayshirt representing the Class of 2015.

Buechele's commitment gives the Longhorns a nice offensive foundation for the 2016 class. Buechele will have two 4-star receivers to throw to in Collin Johnson and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Perhaps a bigger deal is that the commitment gives Strong another opportunity to regain the edge in an in-state recruiting battle against Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech.

 

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

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No. 1 TE Isaac Nauta Pitches Top 2016 Recruits to Play for Florida State

Isaac Nauta is a 4-star tight end, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, who is committed to Florida State. The future Seminole is trying to persuade some top talent to join him in Tallahassee. 

Bleacher Report sits down with Nauta to discuss why he chose Florida State, whom he models his game after and whom he wants to join him at FSU.

What kind of impact can Nauta have at FSU next season?

Watch the video and let us know!

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SEC or 'The Field' for the 2015 College Football Playoff?

It seems like only yesterday when the college football world was collectively singing the SEC's praises and watched in awe as the conference ripped off seven straight national titles.

Suddenly, though, the unexpected happened—a drought.

The SEC missed out on the last two national titles, with Auburn losing to Florida State in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game following the 2013 season and Alabama falling to Ohio State in the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl national semifinal following the 2014 season.

One glance at the futures board on OddsShark.com, and you'll notice something different at the top—a noticeable absence of the typical SEC logjam. Sure, Alabama is still in the mix, but you have to fall all the way down to sixth to find the next SEC team—Auburn, which is tied with Oregon at +2000.

Out of the top 10 most likely teams to win the title, only the Tigers and Tide hail from the SEC, with LSU chiming in at 11th at +2600.

If given $1,000 and a free airplane ticket to Las Vegas to place a bet on the 2015-2016 college football playoff, would you take the SEC or the field?

Without a doubt, "the field" is the safer play.

"It's all about the field right now," said Todd Fuhrman, Vegas insider for Fox Sports 1. "The SEC will be hard pressed to win a national championship again in 2015. Ohio State, TCU, and USC all return experienced quarterbacks and appear poised to be in the playoff discussion all season long while uncertainty under center, especially for contenders in the SEC West, will limit the division's upside."

Ohio State was ahead of schedule last year, and it won a national title in emphatic fashion. The Buckeyes return three Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback, another at running back in Ezekiel Elliott, stud wide receiver Michael Thomas, ultra-versatile Jalin Marshall, defensive lineman Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee and safety Vonn Bell, among many others.

Last season wasn't a fluke or a hot run down the stretch. Head coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes have staying power in the vastly improving Big Ten.

There's a problem, though, in the form of Michigan State.

The Spartans got good news this offseason when both quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun both passed up the chance at jumping to the NFL to return to college to give it another go in East Lansing. Head coach Mark Dantonio has put together a fantastic run over the last two seasons that includes at 15-1 Big Ten record, one conference title (2013) and only three total losses.

USC is loaded with young talent, has a Heisman Trophy contender in Cody Kessler at quarterback and is squarely in the mix of a Pac-12 that will look much different without Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota taking the snaps.

Florida State isn't even listed on OddsShark.com's odds board but has 4- and 5-star kids up and down the roster—as does conference foe Clemson. TCU is loaded with returning talent, and conference rival Baylor, which beat the Horned Frogs last year, will benefit from the return of defensive end Shawn Oakman and ability of head coach Art Briles to consistently find ways to reach the end zone.

It's clear from the last two seasons that the rest of the college football world has caught up to the SEC from a recruiting, facilities and salary standpoint, which has created a more level playing field than the sport has seen in years past. 

When you toss in the four-team playoff—which provides more of an opportunity for losses—"the field" is a much safer play. 

That doesn't mean the SEC won't win the title. Alabama and Auburn will be squarely in the mix with several other teams nipping at their heels. But there's parity within both divisions with the strength remaining squarely in the West, which means the likelihood of both divisions cannibalizing themselves for two different reasons could come back to haunt the conference in 2015.

"In my opinion the entire East still appears a few years away from title contention, meaning it's 'West or bust' if the hardware is headed down south," said Fuhrman.

There hasn't been an undefeated SEC West champ since LSU in 2011, and that Tigers team lost to fellow SEC West foe Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. If one doesn't run the table in 2015, the absence of the perception of SEC power could, at best, place it in an unfavorable matchup in the playoff.

At worst, it could be sitting on New Year's Eve.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

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

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1 Thing Opponents Should Fear About Every Power 5 College Football Team in 2015

Read the transcript of any college football coach's press conference previewing his team's upcoming opponent, and you'll get a healthy dose of things he's wary of about that impending matchup. A lot of this is just hyperbole, trying to make the foe seem tougher in an effort to show humility, but not all of it.

Fear is real, even in football, because there's something about every team that makes it dangerous.

It could be a specific player, a position group, a style of offense/defense or that team's nothing-to-lose mindset. Whatever it is, it's something that cannot be discounted and leads to unease.

Looking at what went down in 2014 and what's expected to happen this upcoming season, we've picked out one thing from each power-conference team (and Notre Dame) that its opponents should be worrying about this offseason.

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Georgia's Junior Day Makes Big Impression on Top Recruits

One of the epicenters of the college football recruiting universe last weekend was at the University of Georgia.

Head coach Mark Richt and his staff held their first junior day and had a laundry list of top prospects on campus.

While the Bulldogs have netted a verbal commitment from only 3-star corner Tyrique McGhee, the early returns from the event have been overwhelmingly positive.

One player who is quickly making a name for himself on the recruiting circuit is 2016 wide receiver Elijah Pankey.

Pankey was named the top receiver at the Adidas Georgia Showcase earlier this month and was also named one of the top five performers at the National Playmakers Academy 7-on-7 tryout last weekend, according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

Before the NPA event, which was held in his home state of Tennessee, Pankey made his way to Athens for UGA’s junior day.

The 6'1" 180-pounder was impressed with what he saw on campus.

"We took a tour around the stadium and then the locker room," Pankey said. "We also got to look at the dorms and check out the campus and stuff like that. I thought it went good and I really liked the campus."

One of the highlights was his initial interaction with new Bulldogs offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Pankey, who said this was a business trip for him, admitted that the team's new play-caller impressed him.

"I talked to the wide receivers coach [Bryan McClendon] and the offensive coordinator [Schottenheimer] down at Georgia," Pankey said. "We are just beginning that relationship now, but I like those guys. It was my first time speaking and interacting with him [Schottenheimer], and he seems like a nice guy and a coach that will be honest with me."

Another player in attendance who gave glowing reviews of the event was 2016 4-star corner Chad Clay.

Clay, who put the Bulldogs atop his list after returning from Athens, said Richt and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt have done a great job making in-state prospects feel like they are priorities in the 2016 cycle.

"Most of the top guys, we all know each other and we’re good friends because of this recruiting thing," Clay said. "We all had a good time just being around the guys. It was mostly a lot of kids from the Rising Seniors game. For all of us to be around each other, we all had a good time. The crazy thing is that Georgia seems to be in the top group with most of us."

As noted by Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247, top recruits such as 5-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester, 4-star linebacker Tre Lamar and 3-star defensive end Mykelle McDaniel were among the other studs who left with more favorable impressions of what the Bulldogs have to offer.

While the 2016 class is in its beginning stages for Richt and his staff, last weekend’s event laid the groundwork for the Dawgs to reel in another top-10 class when next February rolls around.

 

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

 

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The Anatomy of a 400-Pound Man's Touchdown

When men weighing over 300 pounds touch a football, we hear music. And on those cherished occasions when they score touchdowns, we’re treated to glorious symphonies.

It’s the way their hands melt around the foreign object like butter on a sizzling frying pan. It’s the pitter-pattering of their gigantic bricks known as feet and the unfamiliar rhythm they attempt without practice. It’s when chaos and slow-motion meet for dinner and rack up a tremendous tab.

It’s why Shaun Rogers, B.J. Raji, Sam Adams and William “The Refrigerator” Perry—some tipping the scales at 350-ish pounds—will be celebrated for eternity. Each scored a touchdown despite playing at ponderous weights.

350 pounds? Is that all?

What about 6'7" and 390 pounds? And what happens when there is no melting butter or awkward large-man chaos? What happens when the entire sequence looks, well, natural?

“Well, first of all,” Kendal Briles said, uncorking his ear-pleasing Texan drawl while simultaneously laboring to hold back laughter. “You’re about 40 pounds off.”

The quest to understand how the largest touchdown came to be—the end-zone visit to end all end-zone visits—begins here, with a 32-year-old offensive coordinator and the son of a football necromancer sizing up LaQuan McGowan, Baylor’s no-longer-secret weapon.

On January 1, with a stocked cupboard of skill-position talent to move on his football chessboard and future NFL players at quarterback and running back, Art Briles and his son Kendal dialed up a play for a reserve offensive lineman, hoping to deliver an unanticipated deathblow to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

It was not by chance or luck. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It took months of preparation and a player large enough—and freakishly gifted enough—to pull the whole thing off.

“It was the brainchild of Art Briles,” the younger Briles said of the play. “It was one of his babies.”

Before you can even comprehend the play itself, you must know how this baby was conceived.

There was Art Briles, maestro of the scheme and the poster child for offensive innovation and Texas football. There was his son, Kendal, his promising young assistant and the one responsible for pulling the appropriate cord at the appropriate time. There was Michigan State, one of the nation’s hottest programs, playing the role of piñata in this particular instance and then grabbing the bat shortly after.

And then, of course, there was LaQuan McGowan, the oversized guard from Amarillo, Texas, whose official Baylor bio begins with the word “enormous.”

That is not intended to be a joke. Look for yourself. It’s also not completely accurate.

It’s not false advertising. McGowan is indeed enormous. But categorizing his size doesn’t do justice to his incredible range as an athlete. With the script in place and the necessary details accounted for, behold the glory of it all.

And now, some greatest hits:

1. There was star Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley—listed at 220 lbs on his bio—attempting to lift McGowan in the air to celebrate only to abort this plan midair after considering how the laws of gravity would impact his football future.

2. There was Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh’s new head coach and Mark Dantonio’s longtime masterful defensive coordinator—the anti-Briles—having a football breakdown on national television, and understandably so.

3. There were the Baylor fans maximizing their celebrations, uncertain of what just transpired but thrilled by the three-score lead. Their faces radiated both joy and bewilderment.

4. And, best of all, there was confusion followed by deafening silence coming from the ESPN broadcast booth. Dave Pasch, an absolute pro, scrambled for the name of the colossus wearing a wideout’s uniform.

No one was prepared for this. Well, no one outside of the Baylor sideline was, at least.

“It was pretty incredible. It really was,” Briles added. “The ball looked like a TDY (Youth) football in his hands.”

The play, while simple in nature, took months to perfect. And before the dynamic Briles duo ever dreamed up the idea and pitched it to McGowan, the player first had to show something that told them he was up for the task.

As the nation’s No. 734-ranked player and No. 41-ranked guard in the class of 2011, according to 247Sports, McGowan was an all-district offensive and defensive lineman before arriving at Baylor. He was also an all-district placekicker, played basketball and was a state champion in shot put.

This, in many ways, starts to paint a fuller picture of the athlete. It’s easy to be dazzled by his sheer size—as I was as I began researching the piece—although I quickly realized that McGowan was more than just a vending machine with feet.

“You can come out here and play catch with him like you can with [Baylor wideout] Corey Coleman,” Briles said. “He’s just incredibly skilled, and we wanted to do something with him.”

Having recognized the athlete’s outsized talents long before the rest of us, Baylor crafted a package of plays with McGowan as the centerpiece. The idea really took shape in the second half of the regular season. Before each practice ended, the offense would run the play at least once to work on the execution.

Call it father-son bonding time or just dedicated offensive planning; regardless, it worked out brilliantly. They knew that if the right opportunity presented itself in an actual game, they might have a home run.

“We wanted to get him inside 30 yards,” Briles said. “We felt like if we could get him around that point of the field, if we caught it clean and had a chance to run, he wouldn’t get brought down.”

After living only through conversations and repetitions, the moment arrived. On second down from Michigan State’s 18-yard line, the younger Briles found his ideal situation with the third-quarter clock bleeding toward zero. Even though it was his first-ever game calling plays, he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

“I wanted to make first downs and touchdowns,” Briles said. “I wanted to give us an opportunity to win. That was the main thing.” 

With Michigan State’s defense still wobbly after giving up a handful of deep balls already, McGowan entered the game—his No. 80 jersey looking painted on.

“I saw that everybody was set and that he was an eligible receiver,” Briles said. “So I knew we were good there. We got the snap clean, Bryce got it to him and I knew when he caught it he was going to score.”

There was an incredible smoothness to it all. Bryce Petty’s quick-pop pass hit McGowan’s hands, which gave the same comforting flex as many of the gifted wideouts on his team.

He looked comfortable in space, knowing precisely where he had to be, when he had to be there and when to look for the ball. And, perhaps most impressive about the score, McGowan looked shockingly quick—not just large-man quick, but quick—once he had possession and glided by.

Bleacher Report video analyst Michael Felder—a former collegiate defensive back and an Xs and Os scholar—was able to see beyond the euphoria of a large human being scoring. Here’s why it worked.

“Bryce Petty, the offensive line and the running back start the play with run action to the right side,” Felder said. "That draws in the Spartan linebackers and the safety to follow. Meanwhile, on the other side of the play Marcus Rush doesn't get a hand on McGowan, letting the big kid slip free. At the same time, Ed Davis is expanded too far outside and doesn't recognize that McGowan is an eligible receiver on the play.

"That mistake, coupled with Taiwan Jones being sucked into the play action, creates a huge space for Petty to hit McGowan. The big kid does the rest by getting into the end zone.”

Your eyes did not deceive you.

McGowan, incredible measurements in all, ran away from pretty much everyone once he caught the ball. This, again, was no surprise to those who have seen the reps unfold behind the curtain.

“He runs the 40 in five seconds flat,” Briles said. “He’s a massive individual but also very skilled.”

The expected success didn’t stop the Baylor sideline from losing its mind. Not only did the play go off as planned, but it came at a point in the matchup—and in the season—where it looked to be the final chapter written about a long, winding journey.

As a result, the players and coaches allowed their regimented programming to lapse, even for a short while. McGowan nearly joined them. In fact, this was the only part of the plan that wasn’t executed perfectly.

“OK, here’s the thing. I had a little celebration dance I was going to do,” McGowan told Brice Cherry and John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald. “I’m not a big dancer, but I’ve been working on this dance for probably two weeks. I was about to do it, and as soon as I turned around I saw Antwan Goodley right in my face. He told me to jump, he said, ‘Jump up,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ I went for it. I jumped.”

“It was mayhem,” Briles recalled, viewing the moment from a far different perspective. “It sure felt like that should have catapulted us to victory, but unfortunately it didn’t.”

History followed history. Michigan State’s 21 fourth-quarter points ultimately gave the Spartans a 42-41 final edge in one of the finest games of the bowl season.

McGowan’s touchdown was toppled by a Connor Cook touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining. Mayhem gave way to agony, although it didn’t erase a moment that will be celebrated by hopeful linemen for ages.

Some hope to become Marcus Mariota. Others try to emulate Leonard Williams. And some playing in far less-discussed roles hope they can be the next LaQuan McGowan, even for only 15 seconds. The problem with this plan is most men of this size simply aren't blessed with these types of physical gifts.

“We were talking about it,” Briles said. “He may be the biggest guy to ever score a touchdown in college football.”

If there’s one larger, we’d love to see it.

Whatever the scale might have said—whether it was 390 pounds or something more—it’s going to require a truly gargantuan effort to knock McGowan off of his industrial-sized throne. And, significant to the general watching experience, his life as an offensive weapon might not be over.

When asked about McGowan’s future in the offense and whether this was only a one-time event, Briles couldn’t fight back the laughter any more.

“He’s got another year of eligibility,” he said, refusing to dive any further.

The laughter eventually gave way for silence, perhaps even thought, as the music sheets for the next great touchdown symphony were tucked away.

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Texas Football: Realistic Expectations for the New Coaches in 2015

Charlie Strong made a name for himself this spring for his ability to recruit talent to the University of Texas. That effort has extended to his coaching staff, where he has made three significant additions since the end of the season.

Following the Texas Bowl fiasco, Strong let go of wide receivers coach Les Koenning and longtime tight ends coach Bruce Chambers. Both positions underachieved in 2014 outside of the 1,000-yard receiver John Harris, making their recruiting misses, as noted by SB Nation's Wescott Eberts, the final nails in the coffin.

The Horns also lost noted defensive line coach Chris Rumph to Florida, much to the chagrin of his incoming recruits, per Eberts.

But just as he replaced his 10 departed starters with a top-10 recruiting class, Strong got exactly what he needed to add to his staff.

Strong quickly went out and grabbed Jay Norvell, who brings play-calling experience from spread concepts, to coach the wide receivers.

Then, the head coach hit two home runs in one swing, bringing in defensive line coach Brick Haley and Jeff Traylor, one of the state's best high school coaches. Haley will fill in directly for Rumph, while Traylor will handle both the tight ends and a bulk of the special teams.

Realistically, Texas fans can expect these three guys to influence the direction of the offense and recruiting in the eastern part of state, while Traylor mends the holes on special teams. 

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CFB Future 100: Top 13 Offensive Linemen in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports' composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Offensive Linemen.

Other Positions 

The quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get all the publicity and recognition, but the majority of them will be the first to give the offensive linemen all the credit when credit is due.

In college football recruiting, offensive linemen are often the first ones to get recognition. College coaches will say that an elite lineman is harder to find than an elite skill-position player. For example, an athlete like 5-star Greg Little, the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle according to multiple recruiting sites, is a needle in a haystack of sorts—and Texas A&M is happy to have him committed.

This section of Bleacher Report's CFB Future 100 series focuses on offensive linemen. Tackles are scored using the metrics of hands (25 points), power (15), lateral quickness (25), pass protection (25) and run-blocking (10). Interior linemen are scored using the metrics of strength (20 points), pass protection (30), run-blocking (40) and explosion (10).

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College Football Players Who Should Change Positions in 2015

Remember that time Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill started the 2010 season as a receiver and finished as the starting quarterback?

Tannehill came to A&M as a 3-star dual-threat prospect, switched to receiver and wound up back at quarterback.  He is now the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, where he landed as the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

The story illustrates how position changes in college football are driven by need.  Jerrod Johnson threw eight picks in two games at the beginning of the 2010 season, so the Aggies opted to move Tannehill (the No. 1 receiver in 2008 and the No. 2 guy in 2009) back to quarterback. 

Here’s a look at nine players who may have a shot at making a move based on need combined with size and experience.  All represent opportunities for coaching staffs to get creative.

 

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Nebraska Football: Realistic Expectations for Mike Riley in 2015

Nebraska football fans, like most fanbases, tend not to dwell on the reasonable. The word “fan,” derived from “fanatic,” suggests a tendency to demand the unreachable and expect glory regardless of the challenges facing their favored team.

But, of course, part of our job here is to curb that enthusiasm, or at least direct it. So as we approach spring practice, here are some reasonable expectations for Nebraska in 2015.

 

Nebraska will turn the ball over less

Interestingly, this observation came from data compiled by CFB Matrix’s Dave Bartoo, who was suggesting that turnover margin is not predictable (or at least that turnover margin tends to revert to the mean). But there are always outliers, of course.

In the last five years, out of 120 teams playing FBS football, only eight had a negative turnover margin in each of those five years. Guess which team was one of the eight?

Yes, that’s right. Nebraska was No. 108 overall, with turnover margins over the last five years of minus-two, minus-11, minus-12, minus-one and minus-one, respectively. Mike Riley’s Oregon State teams, on the other hand, were No. 39 nationally, with turnover margins of plus-four, plus-three, plus-eight, minus-eight and plus-four over the past five years.

Sure, past performance is no guarantee of future earnings, especially when it comes to turnovers. But given Nebraska’s remarkable (if distressing) consistency regarding ball security in the last five years under Pelini, it’s fair to assume that a coaching change can be expected to result in an improved turnover margin.

 

Nebraska will throw the ball more

This one may be a bit of connecting the dots, but hear me out. One of the first quarterbacks Nebraska offered for the 2016 class, according to 247 Sports, was Dwayne Haskins, a pro-style prospect. In and of itself, that would be little cause for notice.

But we really have little idea what type of offense Nebraska under Mike Riley will run. We know that his previous quarterback at Oregon State, Sean Mannion, broke the Pac-12 career passing record. So we know Riley is certainly not afraid to have his quarterback put the ball in the air.

Certainly we don’t know a lot about what Riley’s offense in Lincoln will be. And the fact that Nebraska has offers out to seven dual-threat quarterbacks suggests that Riley is not desperate to abandon the idea of a mobile quarterback.

But the fact that he is offering a pro-style quarterback like Haskins suggests at least the potential to look at throwing the ball more.

 

Nebraska will notch an upset

This may be another comparison that isn’t exactly fair, given where Oregon State is in the pecking order compared to Nebraska. But Riley’s Beavers in his tenure notched some impressive giant-killings, arguably more impressive than anything Bo Pelini logged in Lincoln.

As a smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, in the last seven years Nebraska has beaten two teams ranked in the Top 15 (No. 7 Missouri in 2010 and No. 9 Michigan State in 2011). Over that same period, Oregon State beat five teams ranked in the Top 15 (No. 1 USC in 2008, No. 2 Cal in 2007, No. 9 Arizona in 2010, No. 13 Wisconsin in 2012 and No. 6 Arizona State in 2014).

So Riley has shown that he can upset teams with better talent. If he can take that skill and apply it to the roster he will be inheriting and assembling in Lincoln, then Nebraska fans could be in store for some memorable experiences.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Shane Buechele to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star QB Prospect

The Texas Longhorns added a major piece to their 2016 recruiting class on Monday, securing the commitment of 4-star quarterback Shane Buechele.

The prep star confirmed his decision on Twitter:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he is ranked 184th overall and fourth among dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2016 recruiting class. ESPN.com's Max Olson believes the Longhorns got a great talent for the future:

Andrew King added that locking up a talented in-state player like Buechele is also a nice boost for head coach Charlie Strong:

In an interview with Horns247's Jeff Howe, Buechele spoke very highly of assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and the job Watson did to sell him on Texas.

"He seems very real and to me, that's the big thing," he said of Watson. "Recruiting is a big deal and they might just be talking jibber jabber and telling me what I want to hear. Coach Watson's for real and tells me the truth. I really enjoy that."

Especially after the school failed to lure incoming Texas A&M recruit Kyler Murray to Austin, the need for Texas to add a quarterback was clear for all to see.

In Buechele, Strong and the Longhorns found their man.

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Oregon Football: Ducks with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

For head coach Mark Helfrich and the rest of the Oregon football program, the 2014 season is a thing of the past. It’s time to kick off the 2015 season and put together another championship-caliber campaign.

The Ducks have lost their best player—2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota—and others to the NFL and graduation. However, Oregon still possesses the scariest offense in college football and some of the best skill position players in the nation.

Defensively, Oregon will need to replace the six starters it lost and continue to be one of the most prolific ball-hawking teams in America.

Making it back to another College Football Playoff will be challenging, especially considering the losses Oregon has incurred. If the Ducks are to make another run in 2015, numerous players are going to have to step up in a big way.

For those players wanting to make a significant leap in 2015, it all starts in spring practices, which kick off on March 31.

Here are five players who can help themselves in a big way during spring practices, which conclude on May 2 after Oregon’s spring game.

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Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

It may seem hard to believe, but spring practice is just around the corner. For college football fans, it's the best time of the year—outside of opening weekend. The Virginia Tech Hokies, coming off a 7-6 campaign, will look to get back among the ACC elite in 2015.

That march begins in just over a month when the Hokies report to spring practice. The annual spring game will be held on April 25 at 2 p.m. ET.

Fortunately for the Hokies, they only have to replace seven starters combined on both sides of the ball. 

Last season was a banner year for Tech freshmen. Players like Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges, Cam Phillips, Wyatt Teller, Greg Stroman and Andrew Motuapuaka all made significant impacts for Virginia Tech. That bodes well for Tech's hopes of returning to the top of the ACC.

Which Hokies player will step up in 2015? Here are five players with the most gain in spring practice. 

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Nebraska Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Spring practice officially begins for Nebraska football on Saturday, March 7. As head coach Mike Riley gears up for his first season with the Huskers, there are key players Nebraska fans will have their eyes on.

Plus, Husker fans are anxious to see what Riley and his staff can do with the current roster. That's what makes this spring even more intriguing. Whether it's the possibility of a quarterback controversy or the question marks on defense, there's plenty that spring practice needs to sort out.

Nebraska's annual spring game is April 11, which gives the Huskers a little over a month before fans get a firsthand look at what the 2015 team has to offer. What will fans see, especially from key players?

Let's take a look at the players who have the most to gain in spring practices.

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4-Star CB Chad Clay Names Georgia Favorite, Says He'd 'Love to Stay at Home'

One of the biggest names in attendance for Georgia’s junior day last weekend was 2016 4-star corner Chad Clay.

The 6’0”, 177-pounder, whose father, Willie Clay, was a standout defensive back at Georgia Tech and in the NFL, said that the Bulldogs made a strong impression on him during the weekend’s festivities.

“Coming out of this visit, I’m going to put Georgia at No. 1,” Clay told Bleacher Report. “They made a really big jump in my mind.”

But what is it about the Bulldogs that has them trending with one of the nation’s top corners in the 2016 class, and how did this weekend’s trip open his eyes up to the possibility of staying close to home?

For starters, Clay has developed a strong bond with Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

On this trip, Clay said that he got to interact more with the staff and Pruitt in particular.

“This time, it stuck out to me more because I got a lot more one-on-one time with the coaches because it wasn’t like a game atmosphere where they had to worry about a game,” Clay said. “Coach Pruitt and the defensive staff really seem like they have a plan in the future going forward to get Georgia in contending for a playoff spot every year. They really put a big emphasis on recruiting the Georgia kids.”

Clay was one of several in-state standouts in town over the weekend, as noted by Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.

He also notes that he’s developed a strong bond with a number of top prospects he played with during the Rising Seniors game last December. The group of recruits had such a good time that he admits that he has pondered the thought of staying home and building something special in Athens.

“When I think about it, in the long run, I’d love to stay at home and play with some of my good friends and people I’ve grown up with since I’ve been playing football,” Clay said. “To stay at home and play college football and win, that would be a great thing.”

There’s another layer to Clay’s recruitment that makes the current direction of this process all the more intriguing.

Of course, Clay’s father starred for the rival Yellow Jackets, but his mom attended Georgia, which makes Chad’s recruitment quite the topic of interest in the Clay household. 

“The crazy thing is, my dad, he always tells me he will leave it up to me and he wants me to make the best decision for me and my life because he’s already lived his,” Chad said.

“She’s the one who came up with me for junior day because my dad was out of town and she really liked it. She was talking to Coach [Mark] Richt and Coach Pruitt and she really likes UGA from an academic standpoint. She said there’s a feeling of trust between her and the coaching staff at UGA.”

The Bulldogs are now in the driver’s seat with one of the many studs on a loaded squad at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. However, Clay has visits lined up to a few SEC programs coming up in the near future—with a timeline for his decision also on the horizon. 

“I don’t have the exact dates, but I know I have trips to LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State coming up,” Clay said. I want to make a decision by May or by the summer time. So these visits will be crucial coming up.”

 

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

 

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12 Legacy College Football Recruits in Class of 2016

Remember the days of watching that stud athlete make play after play in college football in the 1980s or 1990s?

Some of those studs have grown up to become fathers of stud athletes, and those young studs are a year away from showing their skills on the college football scene.

Feel old yet?

Watching legacies of college football stars always brings out the water-cooler questions. Will the sons end up better than the fathers? Will the sons follow the fathers' footsteps by attending the same university? Can the sons finish with a better football resume?

The Class of 2015 had its share of sons looking for similar success that their fathers enjoyed in college. Kyler Murray, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, signed with Texas A&M and hopes to have a career like his father Kevin, who was an All-American quarterback for the Aggies in the 1980s.

Here are 12 2016 prospects, in alphabetical order, with fathers who once shined in college football.

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Will Jim Harbaugh's Big Personality Overshadow Michigan Football in 2015?

This isn't exactly breaking news, but Jim Harbaugh has a big personality.

Need proof? Look no further than the new Michigan head coach's Twitter account.

Yes, while other head coaches use their Twitter accounts purely as a promotional tool—such as Harbaugh's Ohio State counterpart, Urban Meyer—the Wolverines head man has opted to put a personal twist on his return to Ann Arbor. Tweeting almost daily, it's not uncommon for Harbaugh to uniquely wish his players happy birthday, share his thoughts on historic anniversaries and post pictures of himself among other members of the Michigan elite.

He's even (allegedly) subtweeted Meyer. And Harbaugh's ability to create headlines hasn't been limited to 140 characters or fewer either.

Since accepting the Wolverines' head coaching job at the end of December, Harbaugh has become college football's most meme-worthy coach. Whether it's eating pizza courtside at a basketball game, tutoring NFL prospects Jameis Winston and Bryce Petty or unintentionally going face-to-face with Tom Izzo, the former 49ers head coach has shown an uncanny ability to go viral on a consistent basis.

Even his introductory press conference with the Wolverines made waves on the web.

“I don’t know if anyone saw me trip on the way in,” Harbaugh said as he laughed off his stumble. "A lesser athlete would've gone down."

Harbaugh's bold personality is apparent in everything he does and appears to be one of Michigan's greatest assets moving forward. But with his first spring football at the helm of his alma mater kicking off Tuesday, his Twitter presence will take a backseat, the happenings on the gridiron taking precedent.

Make no mistake, Harbaugh's personality isn't going anywhere—it's just as evident on the sideline as it is online. But once the Wolverines are finally on the football field, what kind of effect will it have?

For all of the positive public relations Michigan has enjoyed since Harbaugh's hiring—including a likely much-needed boost in ticket sales—the Wolverines are yet to prove they're anything more than a mediocre football team. Last season, Michigan endured a 5-7 campaign under Brady Hoke, and with only one month on the recruiting trail before signing day, Harbaugh only managed to add the nation's 38th-ranked recruiting class to his roster.

The revitalized Wolverines fanbase is embracing Harbaugh's tweets right now, but how will it receive them if Michigan's struggles continue in 2015?

One precedent worth examining is Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, another social media-active coach who has only accumulated a combined 10-15 record in his first two seasons in Fayetteville. Bielema seemingly racked up Twitter miscues as quickly as he did losses with the Razorbacks, which made him an easy target for the college football blogosphere.

Being the butt of jokes hasn't affected Bielema's job security, however, with Arkansas recently extending his contract through 2020. The former Wisconsin coach also doesn't have a track record that matches that of Harbaugh, who took the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl in his first three seasons in the NFL.

He may not have been on Twitter then, but the former Pro Bowl quarterback's personality was just as apparent during his time in the Bay Area. Even without a social media platform of his own, Harbaugh still managed to make viral headlines with stories about his wardrobe, facial expressions and offseason activities.

In fact, one could argue that Harbaugh's intensity and uniqueness have been the primary forces behind his success. And neither has prevented him from completing a turnaround as a head coach before.

When Harbaugh took over Stanford in 2007, the Cardinal were coming off a 1-11 season. In each of his four seasons at Stanford, Harbaugh managed to increase the team's win total, culminating with a 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning campaign in 2010.

That was the same year the 49ers went just 6-10 despite possessing one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. San Francisco opted to turn to Harbaugh when hiring a new head coach in the offseason, beating out the Miami Dolphins, who were also vying for his services.

The Toledo, Ohio, native's time in the pro ranks was hardly a disappointment, as he amassed back-to-back NFC West championships in his first two years on the job and a third straight trip to the conference title game in 2013. A clash of personalities with San Francisco management had more to do with his departure than performance, which shouldn't be an issue in his return to Ann Arbor.

Because for the first time since Lloyd Carr left the Wolverines following the 2007 season, Michigan is finally united behind a single leader. But with a roster still left with much to prove on the field, only time will tell whether Harbaugh's strong personality will be a uniting or dividing force in Ann Arbor.

But make no mistake, when the Wolverines take the field for their first spring practice under Harbaugh on Tuesday, his attitude will be evident.

 

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

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