NCAA Football News

What Will Muschamp Needs to See from Gator QBs in 2014 Spring Game

The most important spring practice session in Will Muschamp's short tenure as the Florida head coach will come to a close on Saturday in the Orange and Blue Debut at "The Swamp" in Gainesville.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to revitalize an offense that has been stagnant since former Gator Tim Tebow was taking snaps. Quarterback Jeff Driskel returns from a leg injury that cost him the final two-plus months of the 2013 season, and is finally in an offense that suits his dual-threat capabilities.

What does Roper and Muschamp need to see from Driskel and the rest of the Gator quarterbacks in the spring game on Saturday?

 

Can Driskel Stretch The Field?

Driskel has been rather efficient through his first three seasons in Gainesville, posting a career completion percentage of 62.9 percent (214-for-340).

Great, right?

Well, not really, because he's only passed for 2,271 yards—for a mediocre 6.7 yards per attempt average. For reference, that would have placed him 12th in the SEC last year among qualifying passers, according to CFBStats.com.

Florida has a stable of running backs and will likely evolve into more of a ground-and-pound spread team like Auburn was last year under Gus Malzahn rather than one that slings it all over the field. But for that to happen, Driskel has to keep defenses honest by stretching the field.

That means a guy like Demarcus Robinson, who was a hotshot recruit from 2013, will have to show that he's matured as a player and between the ears. He was suspended twice for a total of three games last year, but has been impressing the coaching staff this spring. 

Whether it's Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood, Quinton Dunbar or somebody else, Driskel has to find a way to take the top off of the defense every once in a while to make sure the offense clicks the way Roper intends. 

It's been clicking so far this spring.

“When you turn on the film you see a bunch of guys making big plays,’’ Driskel said according to GatorZone.com's Scott Carter. “It just gets guys really excited for this offense. I feel like it’s coming together pretty quickly."

We'll see on Saturday.

 

Will Driskel Make the Right Reads in the Running Game?

The majority of Florida's offense will come out of the shotgun, which is a whole new world for Driskel, who has been under center for the majority of his Florida career. 

Just how much rust needs to be knocked off in the read option? Will that leg injury impact Driskel's decision-making?

Quarterbacks won't take hits during the spring game, but Roper will still run his offense. When the Gators run zone reads, keep an eye on Driskel. Is he properly reading the defensive end? Is Florida advanced enough in its offensive installation to run some zone reads off of the outside linebacker?

Don't worry about that leg injury, though, because Driskel is confident that he's back.

“I want to show them that I’m confident, that I didn’t let the Miami game or the injury take away from my confidence,’’ Driskel said according to Carter. “And I want to show everyone that I’m having fun out there playing the game.”

 

Is There a Viable Backup?

Driskel is the unquestioned starter at Florida, but let's be honest, he doesn't instill a ton of confidence based on his track record. He is set for a bounce-back season in this offense, but what if that doesn't happen?

Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg weren't ready for the big stage when they both got shots last year after Driskel went down. Mornhinweg is back, along with hot-shot early enrollee Will Grier. Grier, a former 4-star prospect, has the athletic ability to be a dual-threat but is a passer first. 

Is he the future of the quarterback position in Gainesville? 

He'll get a shot to impress the coaches and fans on spring's biggest stage. 

The ideal scenario for Florida would be for both Mornhinweg and Grier to prove that they are viable backups and can win games. If that happens, Mornhinweg can be the backup that steps on the field in a pinch or in mop-up duty, and Grier could possibly redshirt unless the staff needs a long-term replacement for whatever reason. 

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Tennessee Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

It would be difficult to script a better spring finale for the Tennessee Volunteers and head coach Butch Jones.

Saturday's weather is supposed to be perfect, competition promises to be intense, and the hype surrounding all the new faces and intriguing position battles has all the trappings of a large crowd in Neyland Stadium.

The Vols made it through spring practice without any catastrophic injuries (so far), and while there are numerous questions that can't be answered until deep into the fall, UT made a lot of headway in finding some help on a team with needs all over the field.

Jones told ESPN.com's Chris Low that he expects this year's Vols will be faster and more athletic than his first team at Tennessee, and this will be the first opportunity for fans to see that firsthand.

Let's take a look at all you need to know about the Orange and White Game.

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Florida State Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

Florida State will finish up spring camp with its annual Garnet and Gold Game on Saturday afternoon. The intrasquad exhibition will broadcast live at 3:00 p.m. ET on ESPN's flagship channel because...well, this is college football in the year 2014.

Fresh off a BCS National Championship—the last BCS National Championship—in 2013-14, Seminoles stars such as Jameis Winston, Rashad Greene, Cameron Erving, Mario Edwards, Nate Andrews and Jalen Ramsey will take the field before public eyes for the first time since beating Auburn on a last-minute touchdown, 34-31.

However, the long list of players absent from last year's team is just as troubling as the list of returnees is encouraging. FSU dealt with a similar NFL exodus after 2012, which is reassuring, but there are still questions to answer up and down the depth chart.

Will Saturday provide an answer to all those questions? Of course not. Injuries to key young players and the impending arrival of 247Sports' No. 4 recruiting class make fall camp a pivotal exercise; the spring game is more about digging for clues than actually solving problems.

But it should still be a whole mess of fun.

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Georgia Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

For Georgia football fans in desperate need of gridiron action, this Saturday's spring game is as good as it gets—at least until August.

While the annual G-Day game always offers a respite for those who are tired of the long, monotonous offseason, this year's battle between the red and the black teams is particularly compelling thanks in no small part to a few vital changes.

New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his new staff of assistants have renovated the defense, while the offense prepares to enter its first season since 2009 without Aaron Murray under center.

With changes brewing in Athens, here is everything you need to know about the Georgia Bulldogs' spring game.

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College Football Teams Embracing the Weird This Spring, and That's a Good Thing

The crowd was anxious, the pressure mounting as a human wall enclosed the scene. It all came down to one short field goal, a chip shot by most kickers’ standards. The snap was low—but good enough—and the holder quickly inverted the football and placed it on the ground, just like he has done a thousand times before.

All eyes then turned to the kicker, undersized and inexperienced.

As the approach toward the ball began, there was silence. Only the thumping base and the faint sound of music could be heard in the background. And that’s when Nicki Meyer—the daughter of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer—sent her kick sailing past Ohio State’s mascot, Brutus the Buckeye, whose cartoonish large hands came just short of YouTube greatness.

While the kick was off course, Brutus’ redemption from last season’s spring embarrassment would have to wait for another year.

This was the scene at Ohio State on April 5 for the third annual Student Appreciation Practice, where approximately 2,500 Ohio State fans attended, according to the school. There was actual football sprinkled in, of course, but this day—in large part—was constructed for the fans.

Some attendees got to race players, while others showed up for signatures. Others—including Nicki Meyer—even attempted a field goal with the Buckeye team. The scene was strange, unnecessary and absolutely magnificent.

The fact that a major football program took time out of an integral part of its limited interaction with players is telling. It's also good for the average fan. And thankfully, such hands-on spring opportunities are now becoming protocol and will only continue to evolve.

Ohio State has bridged the gap between team and fans by opening up its doors for a day. Others, like Georgia, are allowing one lucky fan to draw up his or her very own offensive play for its spring football game.

If you’ve wanted to embrace your inner Art Briles from your couch with your son or daughter’s colored pencils, the Bulldogs are giving you that chance. And if it’s good enough, it might just go from concept to creation in one of the SEC’s biggest offseason scrimmages.

Bulldog Nation, you can call a play for UGA. Email a diagram of your idea to kmcdaniel@sports.uga.edu & we'll pick the best to run at G-Day!

— John Lilly (@JohnLillyUGA) April 9, 2014

One play not enough? Well, how about something more. How about getting paid to kick a 50-yard field goal or out-throw a college quarterback? (Reconstructive shoulder surgery and meniscus operations are NOT included, at least as far as we know.)

That’s what Arizona is offering at its spring game, which means it’s time to bust out the Sambas and give it a go.

Arizona offering $500 if a student can kick a 50-yarder at the spring game pic.twitter.com/hIOBsHygsG (via @danielfheck)

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 11, 2014

Still not good enough? Well, then this is probably right up your alley. How would you like to take over the head coaching reins at a major program for an entire day?

You can, if you’re the highest bidder on eBay.

Arkansas State and the Red Wolves Foundation are currently offering this possibility to the individual who comes out on top of this lovely eBay listing. As outlined in the description on the page, your experience will include the following:

·       Head Coach for the game on Friday, April 18.

·       Give the pregame and halftime talk.

·       You choose whether your team 'goes for it' or punts on 4th down.

·       You get to call for the deep ball, trick play, run or pass, blitz, etc.

·       On headset with the staff throughout the entire game.

·       Winning Coach will receive a Powerade bath (and bragging rights)!

·       Photos of your Coaching Experience.

·       Coaching Gear.

Admit it. You’ve always wanted to enjoy the shocking chill of a sports drink being dumped on your head in large amounts by players who are contractually obligated to call you “Coach” for a few hours.

Haven’t we all.

While most teams have yet to take it as far as Arkansas State has, some—including Ohio State, Georgia and others—are pushing this involvement further. They’re doing so because many teams do care about appealing to their fanbases, but it’s also good for business.

If you’re a major program, this is a no-brainer. While the limited practice hours are vital for player development and system familiarity, improving the relationship with your fans can have benefits beyond those benefiting directly from what you’re offering.

It garners attention—like this article you’re reading right now—and the countless other blog posts that were made to highlight a fact that a team put coaching duties on eBay. It’s marketing and in the age of social media, it has a chance of hitting more eyeballs than ever before.

If you do something cool and different, chances are it will spread through the various news mediums with tremendous pace.

Marketing—in the college football realm—can mean much more than headlines and shares on Facebook. It can also help out brand awareness and, in turn, recruiting. While it’s a leap to assume that paying fans for 50-yard field goals will suddenly flood the cupboard with 5-star talents, the extra attention certainly can’t hurt these efforts.

At the very least, there will be discussions taking place about a school (or team) that wouldn't have transpired in the first place.

For the fans, regardless of the intentions, they should embrace the opportunities. The sport can be robotic in ways, especially come fall, and coaches and players rarely break character given its cutthroat nature. Involving the fans for a day is a chance for everybody to let down their guard. In its simplest form, it's a way to feel like you're a part of the team you care far too deeply about.

Even if it's only a few hours, you might be a big part for that day. 

So let’s get weird. Bring on the mascots blocking field goals, Joe Bulldog’s version of Four Verts, the eBay coaches, the $500 pipe-dream field goals and whatever else you have in store. 

Market yourselves accordingly. Just bring us along for the ride.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Gators Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

The Florida Gators spring game is only one day away. We’ll finally get to see firsthand what the coaches have been talking about and what the players have been working on.

Questions on both sides of the ball will be answered, while concerns in certain areas are bound to remain just that until fall camp rolls around. All in all, the spring game is still one of the more exciting events of the offseason. The score may not mean much and it’s a little weird watching players tackle their teammates, but it’s still football.

Are you excited yet?

Here’s a complete breakdown of the Florida Gators 2014 spring game. 

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USC Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

The spring game quickly approaches at USC, as the Trojans completed another week of spring practices on Thursday. Things are really starting to come together for Steve Sarkisian, and despite the new offense, the atmosphere around practices feels like the old USC style.

In a week, we will get our first true glimpse of what we can expect from the Trojans come the fall, but for now, let's revisit the standout moments from this installment of spring ball.

 

The Future of Adoree' Jackson

Easily USC's biggest catch of the 2014 season, Adoree' Jackson has many anxiously anticipating his arrival to the Trojan ranks. On Thursday, Sarkisian volunteered some insight about how Jackson could be used next season, and it's a pretty exciting development:

There hasn't been a notable two-way player at USC in recent memory, with the exception of Marqise Lee, who briefly lined up at cornerback against Oregon in 2012. Jackson's place at USC has been debated since the 5-star athlete signed with the cardinal and gold, and playing him at both wide receiver and cornerback solves that dilemma.

Furthermore, Jackson isn't the only one that could pull double-duty:

Sark did say they would revisit these options over the fall, but it's a promising possibility to think about nonetheless.

If Jackson, Juju Smith and Rahshead Johnson (or any of these three, for that matter) truly do end up playing on both sides of the field for USC, the Trojans become that much more dynamic of a team in 2014. 

 

QB Battle in the Homestretch 

At the beginning of spring camp, Sarkisian said he didn't have a timeline for naming a starter and that he would do so when it felt right. As practices went on, the head coach alluded to separation between returning starter Cody Kessler and his challenger, Max Browne, with Kessler having the advantage. On Tuesday, Sark all but declared the competition over:

Sark reiterated that after Thursday's practice as well:

Kessler and Browne will have their final showdown next Saturday, and at some point after that, we can expect Sark to announce that Kessler has retained his job. 

To Garry Paskwietz of ESPN.com, Sark elaborated about having (mostly) reached a decision:

I would suspect we’ll name one before the end of spring. As I’ve said before, when I have a pretty good feeling for it I’m going to let it sit for a little bit, maybe watch for a bit and view it that way, see what that feels like. I feel like that’s a good way to go about it.

Choosing a starting quarterback has been Sark's most important, most pressing issue since he got hired, and with that in the bag, he can move on to further shaping the offense around that athlete's skill set. 

 

Defense Rising to the Occasion 

During the third week of spring practices, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox told the media that while the defense would start strong against the uptempo offense, productivity would taper off throughout the scrimmage sessions. This week, it appears the defense has responded.

Sark lauded the unit after practice on Tuesday:

 On Thursday, more positive feedback came from the coaches about their effort:

Rahshaun Haylock of FoxSports.com outlined just how important Woods is to USC's defense and what his progression means to the team going forward. 

The fact that the defense is starting to gel is particularly good news, as the Trojans have kept contact in practices to a minimum due to injury and depth concerns. 

With the veteran Trojans that Sark mentioned stepping up to lead the defense, we can expect an even more spirited and competitive fall camp in four months. 

 

Other Notes

 A handful of former Trojans attended Thursday's practice:

Sark plans to baptize the incoming freshman by fire:

Sark praises the efforts of strength coach Ivan Lewis, who previously worked with Sark at Washington:

The Trojans will hold another light scrimmage Saturday, before the annual spring game takes place in the Coliseum next Saturday, April 19, at 3 p.m. PT. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

12 Starting Quarterbacks Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs Before the End of 2014

Forget the old adage about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame in today’s college football.

If programs want to win, they are best advised to field dynamic playmakers and fantastic decision-makers at the sport’s most important position.

Case in point: 2014 Florida State.

The Seminoles graduated first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel but upgraded with redshirt freshman Jameis Winston.

Fourteen games later, Winston and his teammates lifted the BCS National Championship trophy.

The team across the field—Auburn—had suffered through a 0-8 SEC campaign in 2012. Junior college transfer quarterback Nick Marshall can’t take all the credit, but he played no small role in turning the Tigers around to within mere seconds of a national title.

Backup quarterbacks have long been the biggest fan favorites on rosters because they, like the start of a new season, represent the unknown and—more importantly—hope.

Today we examine 12 starting quarterbacks who could lose their jobs during the 2014 season.

To be considered for the list, the quarterback in question must have started at least half the 2013 season, or there has to be reason to believe he will be the starter in 2014.

Reasons to believe someone has a chance to start include participation as a starter in past seasons or games started during injury situations.

Fill-in moments—such as when Texas A&M quarterback hopeful Matt Joeckel stepped in for Johnny Manziel—are not considered.

Many quarterbacks on the list will have either endured struggles or injuries at times during their careers. Having former highly rated prospects as backups can also impact a player’s spot on the list.

Here is our list of quarterbacks on the hot seat.

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Reviewing Vinnie Sunseri's ACL Tear, Impressive Recovery and NFL Draft Stock

In January, former University of Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri declared for the 2014 NFL draft—a move AL.com's Andrew Gribble called a "stunner"—about three months after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

Tuesday, at Alabama's second pro day, Sunseri proved just how far he'd come. Gribble notes that the former Crimson Tide standout posted 40-yard dash times between 4.48 and 4.52 seconds—while also completing multiple agility drills—less than six months after rupturing his ACL.

In short, that's impressive.

Despite recent, nearly incomprehensible recoveries—such as that of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson—ACL tears remain a threatening knee injury for any football player.

Then again, for Sunseri, it seems the stars aligned.

For instance, Gribble mentions that his injury involved only the ACL:

Sunseri's therapist, Kevin Wilk, worked with Peterson and has told Sunseri that he's following a similar path back to 100 percent health.

Working in Sunseri's favor is that his ACL tear was "clean" and did not affect any of the other ligaments.

The fact that Sunseri's medical team consisted of experts such as Wilk and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain—among others—certainly didn't hurt, either.

Ordinarily, an average elite athlete will work back from an ACL tear between seven or eight months to well over a year after suffering the dreaded injury. The slow, wide-ranged timeline is necessary to allow the reconstructed ACL—usually a piece of the athlete's own hamstring muscle tendon—to safely meet the progressively increasing demands of rehab and, eventually, top-level competition.

Yet just how well is Sunseri doing?

While sprinting in a straight line and performing basic drills does not necessarily constitute game-readiness, doing so marks the penultimate steps. As such, there is no reason to think the defensive back will not be ready for action in advance of the 2014 NFL season.

Given his current draft stock, his excellent recovery may carry even more weight than other surefire NFL prospects who are rehabbing comparable injuries.

According to multiple analyses—such as Rotoworld, NFL.com and Rob Rang of CBSSports.com—Sunseri projects to be, at best, a late-round draft pick in May.

Originally, Sunseri's ACL injury likely significantly influenced such projections—perhaps even knocking him off most big boards altogether—but his rehab success may be assuaging some of those fears.

Will Carroll, Bleacher Report's lead writer for Sports Medicine, notes that for some athletes, everything simply falls into place.

"Healing response is individual," Carroll said. "For some, it's hard work. For others, it's a bit of luck with genetics. Every injury is different, and every surgery is different, so we shouldn't expect every result to be the same."

In other words, some injuries just, well, heal.

In the end, when NFL teams look at Sunseri, one may see a football-smart safety coming off an injury that will end up proving merely a minor speed bump, and another might focus on his injury risk and relative football shortcomings.

A third might question his decision to opt out of his senior year with so many unknowns still swirling, and a fourth may fall somewhere in between them all.

All told, when draft weekend rolls around, Sunseri's ACL tear will undoubtedly come up in all 32 draft circles. However, if Tuesday's pro day proves anything, it's that he's making every attempt to minimize its impact.

And doing a darn good job, at that.

 

Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington who plans to pursue fellowship training in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

On Saturday, James Franklin will take the Beaver Stadium turf for the first time and officially debut as Penn State's head coach. 

Since his hiring in early January, Franklin has excited fans with his active presence on social media. While his engagement has been welcoming, he's yet to showcase the football side of things. 

Weeks of spring practice sessions will culminate with the annual Blue-White game, an event that brings thousands of fans and alumni back to Happy Valley. It will be the public's first time watching the Nittany Lions under the tutelage of Franklin and his staff.  

Here's a comprehensive preview of Penn State's 2014 spring game. 

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South Carolina Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

Gamecocks fans, football season is finally here.

Well, sort of. 

South Carolina ends its spring season with the annual Garnet and Black spring football game, and it's the first dose of big-stage South Carolina football since the 2013 season's bowl game. 

The Gamecocks have been hard at work this spring trying to find answers to fill the defense and turn the offense into a finely tuned machine. 

This Saturday, the public catches a first glimpse of the team's progress, while head ball coach Steve Spurrier can experiment by testing his players on a bigger stage despite the fact it's just a spring game. 

Spring football is a great way to learn about your team for the next season.

Here is your complete preview for South Carolina's Garnet and Black Spring Game. 

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Miami Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

The Miami Hurricanes annual spring game is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET Saturday, April 12, bringing college football back to Sun Life Stadium for the first time in 2014.

From a new quarterback and new offensive linemen to a handful of new defensive starters, the 'Canes are showcasing talent Al Golden and his coaching staff have been developing.

A few positions battles are in full force, and a couple storylines are worth following throughout the day.

As a bonus, the new Nike uniforms for the upcoming season will be unveiled Saturday, making for an exciting night in South Florida.

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Is College Football's 'Bag Man' Phenomenon Really Such a Bad Thing?

Steven Godfrey of SBNation penned an extraordinary long-form piece titled "Meet the Bag Man: How to buy college football players, in the words of the man who delivers the money." It was a striking expose in which Godfrey talked at length with an unnamed "bag man" about the standards and practices when it comes to money flowing into the pockets of college football players in the SEC.

In the piece Godfrey publicized the underground culture that insiders would never dare discuss with outsiders. Simply put, he gave readers a look at the topics that college football players really talk about. Whether it is recruits comparing notes about the "perks" at certain schools or former players recalling the "help" that came out of nowhere, fans got an inside view of what it looks like from the other side. Not message board rumors. Not disgruntled players hoping to bring someone down. Not a coach reporting another coach because he lost a recruiting battle. No, this was an unbridled look at how the money changes hands and, more importantly, the way it flows from one area to another.

Godfrey has sparked his own news event, including an appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show and an "Ask Me Anything" with Reddit scheduled. His facts are undeniable, but the morality of it all is an interesting element worth delving into and examining. Undoubtedly, the topic of "How to buy college football players" will leave a bad taste in some folks' mouths. However, as Godfrey showed, it is far more than just about big money and throwing it around at stud players. It's a delicate ecosystem of funding, relationships and hopes of upward mobility. An ecosystem where against the rules is not synonymous with bad. Where it is a facet of the business structure, and not necessarily a cause for outrage.

Who really gets hurt if, as Godfrey mentions, a "bag man" gives a recruit money to fix the family tractor?

Certainly, the bag men, coaches and schools want to win, but on the players' side, winning is rivaled by family stability, simply going to college and having a relatively normal collegiate experience.

Those goals align. Programs need talent. Talents need school, and football is often their way in. It is that synergy that creates a near-symbiotic relationship between the two sides. And relationship is key, because more than money, both sides have to grow to trust the other for the preliminary seed to grow.

Meanwhile, the judgment from the outside is real. Non-participants discussing rules and glorifying amateurism. Of course it's better to let that 5-star's family tractor go unfixed than it is to help his family and reap the benefits. Surely, giving that 4-star's mom a better job to make School A more attractive is poor form compared to allowing her to spin her wheels to make ends meet.

At least that is what those bound to the NCAA structure believe.

Luckily, for those involved, the NCAA structure is not a moral barometer. Getting caught is bad, but offering the help and keeping it off the books is acceptable and tends to benefit the kids, all while sometimes leading to championships.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

With Alabama’s A-Day spring game set for April 19, the Tide are nearing the conclusion of spring practice.

A critical loss in the secondary and the fallout from the Tide’s first scrimmage held last Saturday headline the biggest news of the week.

 

News of the Week

As detailed by Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser, Nick Saban expressed optimism following the scrimmage.

“I was really pleased with the effort and intensity the players had,” Saban said. “I really like the attitude of this team in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they work, the effort that they give and the mental and physical toughness that we play with.”

The biggest headliners on offense were quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper, while linebackers Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall led the charge defensively.

Cooper, who caught 10 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, looks primed to have a monster season under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

However, the news wasn’t all good. Sophomore corner Eddie Jackson suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill during the scrimmage, according to ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.

Jackson’s injury means a corner rotation already thin on experience will be without a key contributor—one who was seeing reps with the first team for a majority of the spring—for the foreseeable future.

Another distraction for the Tide came on Thursday when junior linebacker Dillon Lee was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

In a statement released by Alabama’s media relations department, Saban said he will handle the situation appropriately, "once I’ve had a chance to review all of the information.”

Lee has been one of the spring’s most notable standouts, and his off-field mishap is concerning for a team looking to regain its focus and discipline heading into the season.

 

Sims Takes Charge

While Saban has repeated that the quarterback competition is one that will play out well into fall camp, Sims took a step forward in separating himself from the pack in the first scrimmage.

The senior went 16-of-23 for 227 yards and two scores with no interceptions. Those numbers were good enough to get the attention of Saban, who praised Sims for “taking some command,” as noted by Scarborough.

Considering Sims was able to hurt the defense by making big plays through the air, his continued development as a passer gives the Tide’s offense an added dimension when his ability to create plays with his legs factor into the equation.

“There are two plays with Blake: the one they call on offense and then when that one doesn't go right, it's the one he makes with his feet,” senior safety Nick Perry said.

If Sims continues to make progress, he has a strong chance of exiting the spring as the prime challenger to incoming transfer Jacob Coker when fall camp begins in August.

 

Defensive Notes

Last week’s report featured a note on Saban’s unhappiness with the perceived depth and talent along the defensive line. However, Saban clarified his thoughts on that position during a visit to Mobile for a charity dinner, according to AL.com’s Mike Herndon.

I was told what a great defensive line we have, by someone in your position. So I asked: 'What's the basis of your criteria that you're using to make this assessment?' And he says: 'Well, it looks that way on paper.' So, I just kind of took offense to that and said that we're not satisfied with how they're playing, but we're looking forward to them getting better. And they are getting better, and I think probably will be better, more athletic than we were a year ago.

Elsewhere, despite the Tide’s base defense being a 3-4 scheme, Alabama is spending more snaps in nickel sets due to the number of teams using spread offenses with three and four receiver sets.

During the first two practices earlier this week, the Tide’s nickel package featured Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve at the corners, Landon Collins and Geno Smith at safety with Jarrick Williams at star, according to Gribble.

With the injury to Jackson and freshman Tony Brown nursing a shoulder injury, the rotation at corner will be worth monitoring as A-Day approaches. Smith getting a chance to work alongside Collins at safety is also a new development that could stick depending on how things play out until the end of spring.

 

What’s Next

Spring practice is nearing its conclusion, and the next date to pay attention to is Saturday when the Tide will hold their second scrimmage, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

The position battles at critical spots such as offensive line, defensive end, linebacker and at various spots in the secondary are ones to watch over the final handful of practices.

With precious few opportunities for players to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff, expect the intensity to pick up with this scrimmage and the subsequent practices leading up to next weekend’s spring game.

 

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

Nebraska football fans know it’s close—so close they can almost taste it. This Saturday, Memorial Stadium will fill up with the faithful once again to watch the spring game, the annual last gasp of football before a long summer.

So if you want to get the most out of this last look at Nebraska football until August, make sure that you’re prepared. Here’s all the information you’ll need.

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Dabo Swinney Gives 2017 WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. Clemson Offer

Keyshawn Johnson Jr.'s recruitment has been heating up, as the 2017 WR has fielded offers from top programs such as Ohio State, Florida State and Arizona State. 

You may now add Clemson to the list. The 6'1", 180-pound ninth grader has yet to record a varsity reception, but his potential has the scouts drooling. 

Johnson Jr. and fellow class of 2017 prospect Darnay Holmes took a visit to Clemson recently and met with Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris.  

Holmes, a 5'11", 180-pound athlete, whose father, Darick Holmes, was an NFL running back for five seasons, was also offered a scholarship to Clemson. 

Both Johnson Jr. and Holmes have a long way to go before college, but with their NFL pedigree, they should have a leg up on the competition. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Is Donald Catalon Texas' Most Important Newcomer for 2014?

The Texas Longhorns have 23 new players arriving this offseason as members of their 2014 recruiting class. After losing significant depth at tailback, none could be more instrumental to the program's immediate success than running back Donald Catalon.

Jerrod Heard and Derick Roberson are the faces of this group of newcomers. Over the next four years, no two players will be more important than the quarterback and pass-rusher of the future. As for the 2014 season, Catalon is already on the fast track to a major role without even stepping on the practice field.

Since they did not land an impact safety, the Longhorns do not have a 2014 recruit that needs to contribute immediately. The 'Horns return eight starters on defense, and every departed offensive player has a backup that is ready to assume more responsibility.

At least that was the case before spring practice began. Now that Joe Bergeron has been suspended due to academic issues, the Longhorns need all the help they can get behind returning All-Big 12 runner Malcolm Brown.

Even with Johnathan Gray out for the foreseeable future with a ruptured Achilles, the Longhorns entered the offseason with a deep stable of runners led by Brown. The senior rushed for 462 yards in the four games Gray was out, and Bergeron's 1,392 career yards gave Texas a trusted backup with offensive weapon Daje Johnson on hand as a change-of-pace back. 

Losing Bergeron complicates that expected depth, especially because Brown has missed eight games in his career. Johnson and redshirt sophomore Jalen Overstreet are the other Longhorn backs that carried the ball 10-plus times last season, though, neither should be relied upon to spell Brown on a regular basis.

Weighing just 180 pounds, Johnson is in no way built to handle the ball between the tackles. What he brings is pure, game-changing speed that is better utilized when he is moved around the formation. He possesses great talent, but trying to give him heavy carries would be counterproductive.

Overstreet, a converted quarterback, is less of a known commodity. He rushed for 92 yards on nine carries last season against New Mexico State, but his other 11 totes gained just 10 yards. Coming in at a sleight 215 pounds, the 6'2" glider is no more built for an increased role than Johnson.

In all, that's one out of three tailbacks with proven skill to handle a solid workload. And there's no guarantee he can stay healthy.

For the incoming Catalon, that provides an opportunity to immediately step in as the backup until Gray and/or Bergeron is back in action. The Houston product was 247Sports' top running back recruit in the state, and he possesses a skill set that would be a nice complement to Brown's punishing style.

Catalon's scouting report, courtesy of SB Nation's Wescott Eberts:

And in any case, Catalon's speed in pads is what will be important once he makes the transition to college. In that regard, the opening highlight from the above video shows Catalon bursting into the open field and outrunning a defender with an angle, as well as every other player on the opposing defense.

So it's safe to say that he possesses more than enough explosiveness. A decisive runner who likes to plant his foot and get upfield, Catalon prefers to make subtle cuts at top speed -- he's more of a slide cutter than a jump cutter with elite lateral agility.

A prerequisite for any good running back is good balance and Catalon certainly has it, as he can keep his feet if opponents try to tackle him too high.

One area of improvement for Catalon is to consistently use his 190-pound frame to move the pile at the end of runs. While he can occasionally break arm tackles and drive his legs on contact, he doesn't always maximize runs by finishing strong against smaller opponents in the secondary.

An added bonus to his game is that he has experience out of the backfield as a receiver, so he could be a candidate to split out wide at times in college.

As indicated above, Catalon brings good speed and lateral quickness to the position, while his receiving ability would make him useful on third down. So long as he can add 10 pounds to his 5'11" frame, which shouldn't be a problem, there is enough there for him to spell Brown for 10 totes a game.

A lot can change for Texas by the start of the season. More injuries can befall key contributors, Overstreet or Johnson may prove more ready than expected or one of Texas' missing backs could return to the field in time for the opener. All of which could temper the need to get Catalon rolling as a freshman.

For now, the backfield is the area that needs a fresh body, and the Longhorns are fortunate have a guy like him ready to fill the void.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bralon Addison Injury: Updates on Oregon WR's ACL Tear and Recovery

Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison could miss the entire 2014 college football season after tearing his ACL.

Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com reported that the wideout injured his knee during a non-contact drill on Wednesday. A torn ACL can require up to nine months of recovery, and should that happen, Addison would be out for almost all of the Ducks' 2014 campaign.    

He tweeted out his disappointment on Thursday:

The impact of the injury wasn't lost on USA Today's Paul Myerberg:

Addison was second on the team in receptions (61), receiving yards (890) and receiving touchdowns (seven) in 2013. With Josh Huff having graduated and De'Anthony Thomas off to the NFL, Addison was set for a major breakout this year.

The silver lining—if you can call it that, given the severity of the injury—is that it occurred during the spring. The team has enough time to figure out how Addison can be replaced and should be able to use a medical redshirt to save him a year of eligibility.

Addison, meanwhile, has time to fully focus on his recovery in order to be prepared for the 2015 season.

While this is a blow for second-year head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks are never bereft of weapons in the offense. One door has seemingly closed on Addison for 2014 and opened for somebody else to fill the void.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Head Coach Les Miles Sits in on Texas History Class

Not every day do you see an SEC head coach with time to spare, but Les Miles was in Austin and decided to kill some time by sitting in on a history lecture at the University of Texas. 

There isn't much detail on why the "Mad Hatter" was in town, but one thing is clear: Les Miles likes history classes. 

[Longhorn Network, h/t The Big Lead]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

The second week of spring practice is underway in Westwood. 

This stock report will primarily focus upon recent entries to the program. Two of the respective risers are in their first seasons under the direction of Jim Mora. 

One member of the team has struggled thus far in camp. It is a mild surprise considering the hype surrounding the former Scout 5-star prospect

Here's a look at the Week 2 stock report for the UCLA Bruins. 

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