NCAA Football News

University of Nebraska Sued over Balloon Release Touchdown Celebration

The Nebraska Cornhuskers may have to find another way to celebrate their first touchdown of the game if one fan has his way. 

According to ESPN.com's Josh Moyer, Omaha resident Randall S. Krause is suing the school, arguing the balloons released by fans during games causes environmental harm and poses a threat to children.

In his lawsuit, Krause alleges balloons from football games can end up in far-flung bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, per Chris Dunker of the Lincoln Journal Star.

In 2011, Matt Havelka of the Daily Nebraskan wrote the school had taken proactive steps to ensure the tradition left as little an impact on the environment as possible:

"Many years ago we switched to biodegradable balloons," [Chris Anderson, the director of athletic community relations] said. "That way we can keep the tradition alive without hurting the environment."

Additionally, when the balloons reach their maximum height of about five miles, the atmospheric pressure causes the balloons to expand and eventually shatter into thousands of tiny little pieces, which makes it nearly impossible for animals to eat.

In 2014, however, Benjamin Vogt, an English lecturer at Nebraska, filed a petition to stop the balloon release. On his personal website, Vogt argued biodegradable balloons still took a long period to decompose, thus putting wildlife in danger if they attempted to ingest the balloons.

Clemson also releases balloons during football games, which led to a 2012 study by the university's Creative Inquiry. The study noted balloons can decompose more slowly in wet areas and travel up to hundreds of miles:

It's important to remember that this research focused solely on natural latex balloons without any strings, ribbons, or plastic clasps, and the balloons were not tied together. The balloons degraded well in a variety of terrestrial environments, but took considerably longer in aquatic environments, raising concerns about their effects on marine life. To see if the balloons could travel as far as the ocean, the team used a combination of GPS devices to track movements. The balloons traveled a median distance of 23 miles, but two or three made it as far as 280 miles (the distance from Clemson to the shore is about 250 miles).

Various schools' unique traditions are part of what sets college football apart. If that tradition is causing harm to local wildlife, though, then it would be a good idea to bring it to an end.

Perhaps Krause's lawsuit will make Nebraska take a more in-depth look to determine whether the balloons leave too large an environmental footprint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Predicting Fighting Irish's 2016 Win-Loss Record

Notre Dame's path to the 2016 College Football Playoff mostly travels through South Bend, but the Fighting Irish need to avoid road upsets along the way.

Most key matchups bring the opponent to Notre Dame, which has nine power-conference opponents on the upcoming slate. A particular league presents the biggest obstacles, though.

While the Irish don't yet have a starting quarterback, their outlook for 2016 shouldn't change much with either DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire theoretically under center.

Rather, the X-factor for the upcoming year is Notre Dame's defense, as a few of the nation's best players will challenge the unit.

 

Note: Although most predictions won't change, the smallest factors can change the biggest games. For better or worse, those projections might not last once the regular season arrives.

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Elite 2018 QB Phil Jurkovec Plans Several Summer Visits, Wants Stanford Offer

The recruitment process has progressed rapidly for Pennsylvania quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who received his first scholarship offer from the Pittsburgh Panthers last fall.

Just seven months later, the Pine-Richland High School sophomore has already lost track of an expanding offer total.

"I think it's over 10, but I'm not sure," he told Bleacher Report.

For the record, 247Sports reports Jurkovec currently holds 16 scholarship opportunities, including several from America's most marquee college football programs. The reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide added itself to the list earlier this spring, joining a collection that also features the Clemson Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers, Penn State Nittany Lions and UCLA Bruins.

"It gets a little bit crazy, but it's been a whole lot of fun so far," he said.

Jurkovec, who measured in at 6'5", 202 pounds Saturday, May 7, at The Opening's Columbus regional camp, is rated No. 1 among 2018 dual-threat quarterback prospects by 247Sports. Listed No. 9 overall in class rankings, he has risen to prominence as an underclassman.

The 16-year-old gunslinger showed off a versatile skill set for his size last season. Jurkovec gained 1,250 yards on the ground, threw for 2,560 yards and tallied 31 total touchdowns with just four interceptions. 

He impressed Elite 11 coaches in Columbus, establishing himself as the top underclassman in attendance. He was the lone 2018 class member to compete in "pressure chamber" action, a drill comprised of five quarterbacks selected by the staff.

"He's got a frame that gives him a lot of room to grow," Elite 11 instructor Matt James said. "He has big hands. The ball comes slinging out of his hands. He's still learning, but he can make all the throws downfield. Once he kind of gets some of the drills down and becomes more polished with his footwork, that's going to help his arm."

Despite mounting adulation from collegiate scouts, Jurkovec understands he remains a work in progress at this point of his development.

"I just try to take it all in stride and realize [coaching staffs] show you a lot of love right now, but you have to keep working, have to keep getting better," he said. "Every weakness I have, I try to make that a strength."

This untapped potential makes Jurkovec a particularly compelling talent, according to James.

"He's got a lot of room to improve, and I think that ceiling is what makes him so high on people's boards," the Elite 11 leader said.

His latest contact with coaches included visits to in-state Pittsburgh and Penn State. Jurkovec also traveled to Ohio State and Notre Dame in March.

It was his second trip to South Bend.

"The Notre Dame visits were a lot of fun," he said. "I got to meet with all the coaches and see all the facilities."

Jurkovec competed Saturday just minutes away from Buckeyes facilities, and he continues to establish a relationship with Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. He developed increased admiration for Urban Meyer's program after watching the NFL draft unfold on April 28-30.

"If you watch the draft you see all the players that got drafted and all the talent they're bringing in there. It's amazing," Jurkovec said. "They have a great coaching staff. [The Ohio State offer] was huge."

He already has one premier member of the Buckeyes top-ranked 2017 recruiting class watching closely.

"We were on a visit together this spring," 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers said. "He's 6'5" and a dual-threat quarterback, which is something you don't see very often. Most taller quarterbacks don't have that mobility. He's a talented guy and cool to be around. I talk to him all the time."

The Buckeyes boast significant young quarterback depth with incoming freshman Dwayne Haskins—a 2015 Elite 11 finalist—enrolling this summer, 4-star commit Danny Clark and the possibility of another blue-chip pledge at the position later in the 2017 cycle. 

There are several alternative schools on Jurkovec's list that also feature a potential log jam for starting reps. It's a dynamic he's monitoring, but depth won't serve as a major deterrent in his search for an ideal fit. 

"It's important to me because you want to play, but you're going to have good competition at every major school, so I don't pay attention to it that much," Jurkovec said.

His recruitment will expand further this summer.

Jurkovec is targeting campus trips to several universities he has yet to visit, such as Clemson, Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels and Wisconsin Badgers. Penn State, Pittsburgh, Ohio State and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are expected to receive return visits from the coveted quarterback, who plans to attend camps at those schools.

While he seems very much content with current college opportunities, Jurkovec pointed to a West Coast program he'd like to add to the list.

"Stanford would be one," Jurkovec said, though he expressed it would likely require travel to Palo Alto in order to attend a Cardinal camp.

Still just halfway through his high school career, Jurkovec doesn't anticipate a lengthy recruitment.

"I feel like junior year might be the time to commit," he said.

That would set the stage for him to join a class well in advance of national signing day. The chosen program would acquire both a premier passer and a peer recruiter who can help construct a strong class around him.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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Projecting Biggest Upset for Each Week of 2016 College Football Season

Upsets are a key storyline during the college football season, and the 2016 campaign assuredly will bring unexpected results.

But when and where will the shockers occur?

Each week, an underdog will rise and knock off the favorite. We're giving it our best shot to project the timing. Most memorable upsets impact conference races, cause a shake-up in the polls or crush a program's championship dreams.

The list is composed of primarily power-conference tilts, though a couple of "Group of Five" matchups made the cut. Just remember, we don't hate your team, but we love Team Chaos.

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Montaric Brown Tweets Top 7: Which School Best Fits 4-Star Safety?

After a quick glance at his Hudl highlight reel, the first thing that stands out with Ashdown, Arkansas, prospect Montaric Brown are the statistics that precede the actual highlights.

The intro to the tape reads 122 tackles and five interceptions for his junior year. Of those five picks, three were returned for touchdowns.

Those are ridiculous numbers for a safety, but Brown has shown himself as your better-than-average athlete, whether he's playing in the secondary or at wide receiver. Brown is listed as the top-ranked player in Arkansas, and he's ranked as a top-20 safety and a top-200 player overall in the 2017 class.

Tuesday afternoon, Brown announced his top seven via Twitter. At this time, the race will come down to the SEC and the Big 12.

At 6'1" and 175 pounds, Brown is a hard-hitting defender who has an excellent nose for where the football is. He makes a beeline to offensive players, and when he finds the ball-handler, he strikes with fury. Additionally, he plays larger than his 175-pound frame.

It's exactly what college defensive coaches are looking for in their players. The big question now involves which school best fits his playing style.

The generic answer is "all of them fit," but if Brown is looking to play in the SEC, Arkansas may be the best opportunity for him. Arkansas is the in-state school, and he has made the four-hour-plus trek to Fayetteville, Arkansas, a couple of times, including last month for the Red-White Spring Game.

Arkansas has signed two of the last three top-ranked in-state athletes in defensive end McTelvin Agim (2016) and defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson (2014). You can bet this is a tradition Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema and his staff hope to continue with Brown.

Arkansas currently has nine commitments in the 2017 class, but none of them are listed as safeties. Brown, if he were to commit today, would be the Razorbacks' first 4-star pledge of the class.

Alabama is the school believed to be Arkansas' main competitor in the race for Brown. Also with nine commitments in the 2017 class, the Crimson Tide are hoping to add more fuel to their recruiting fire with Brown, who would join 4-star safety Xavier McKinney if he committed.

Alabama already has the nation's No. 3 recruiting class for the 2017 cycle. Adding a player like Brown would help push the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 spot—a position the team has been used to since 2011.

The wild card of Brown's recruiting may involve Oklahoma, which is in the middle of one of its best recruiting runs in years this early in the process. Ten of the Sooners' 12 commits are 4-star players, and Brown would be a solid complement to 4-star safety pledge Robert Barnes.

The Sooners are ranked No. 2 behind Ohio State in 247Sports' 2017 team recruiting rankings. The idea of being a potential playmaker in a Big 12 conference that loves to throw the football—primarily Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU—can be very intriguing for any defensive back.

A decision date is expected to come Aug. 24, according to Otis Kirk of 247Sports. Brown told Kirk that he wanted to commit on his birthday.

"By committing on my birthday," Brown said, "this allows me to finalize the recruiting process this summer and focus on my academics and enjoy my senior season as we pursue the state title."

The winning school gets an athlete who not only can play passing situations well but also is an outstanding downfield tackler and someone who likes to deliver the big hit. Brown's quickness and explosiveness meshes well with his football IQ and instincts.

Look for him to be a player wherever he ends up. And look for the Razorbacks to put up a major fight against the reigning national champions and an Oklahoma team working toward arguably one of its best classes in years.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest Defenders Buckeyes Will Face in 2016

The Big Ten had 24 of its premier defenders selected in this year's NFL draft, but with players such as Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker and Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers back, Ohio State will see no shortage of defensive standouts this fall. 

The elite playmakers won't just come in conference play, though, as a Week 3 showdown with Oklahoma will throw a talented cornerback at quarterback J.T. Barrett and a young wide receiver corps.

Ohio State is looking to continue its incredible run under head coach Urban Meyer, averaging just one loss per season since the start of 2012.

The Buckeyes will have to come up with answers for these five defenders for that success to continue. 

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If College Football Ever Added a Commissioner, Who Would Be Good Candidates?

In this election year for the United States, several of college football's top names are speaking out in favor of new leadership.

But they're not talking about any particular presidential candidate. No, they're pushing for a new head figure in charge of their sport—a commissioner for college football.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban voiced his desire for a commissioner multiple times in the past few weeks, including an interview with Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com and a recent appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show.

"I think we need somebody...who can be unbiased in how decisions are getting made on what can and can't be done and have the best interests of college football," Saban told Finebaum, per Chris Vannini of Coaching Search. "Whether it's the rules we play by or the way we recruit or whether you can have satellite camps or not, there should be an unbiased way somebody’s in charge of all that."

In his piece, Rittenberg also quoted Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Stanford's David Shaw and TCU's Gary Patterson among those wanting a commissioner. On Tuesday, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher added his name to the growing and vocal list, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN:

The concept of a college football commissioner, which has spread rapidly in the wake of the fractured and messy satellite camp vote and repeal, has its pros and cons. That debate is for another column. But no matter what one thinks of the idea, there's no denying it's gaining momentum right now.

So if these key coaches get their wish and college football adds a commissioner, who would be the best candidate for the job?

First, let's set up some guidelines.

The one issue that immediately jumps to fans and critics' minds in this debate is the notion of bias. The sport will want a commissioner who won't just look out for a certain conference or region. The commissioner's goal would be to bring unity, not bring more division.

"We speak in factions," Dantonio said, per Rittenberg. "That's the problem."

However, it's virtually impossible to appoint someone who won't ever be accused of favoritism. Most candidates will have experience in leading certain college football programs and conferences, or they'll at least have an alma mater they claim.

Some media members have suggested avoiding this problem by bringing someone in from another sport to be the commissioner, a strong decision-maker who can still tackle the issues that come up in leadership of a particular league.

A complete outsider to the world of college football would make some happy if he or she were brought into the fold. But would he or she know what the sport truly needs? The coaches in favor of a commissioner have made it clear they want someone who knows college football.

Instead, college football would need a commissioner who is already well-versed in the sport's landscape and has experience with multiple leagues or areas. The wider the range of experience, the better in both practice and appearance.

With that in mind, here are a few candidates college football would target if it ever went in the direction of a commissioner.

 

Oliver Luck

When it comes to leadership in the game of football, Oliver Luck has a resume of which few can compete. The former West Virginia and NFL quarterback has spent time in key positions at various levels, with a strong amount of experience with the college game.

Luck was a former league president of the World League of American Football, which was later rebranded as NFL Europe during his tenure. He was later the president of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo—another kind of perspective—before becoming athletic director of his alma mater in 2008.

The father of Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck was named to the first edition of the College Football Playoff committee, and he now works as a vice president for the NCAA. 

In 2011, while Luck was leading West Virginia's transition from the Big East to the Big 12, John Canzano of the Oregonian wrote a column explaining why Luck would be the perfect college football commissioner. Luck even seemed open to the idea.

"First thing I'd do is look at the structure of the game and see what could be done to put a group of three in charge," Luck told Canzano. "Right now, in college football, you don't have anything resembling a commissioner. The NCAA president is effectively neutered."

With plenty of administrative experience both at the school and associational level, Luck is a highly respected name in college athletics who knows football inside and out. He could work with the skyrocketing game of college football and the complicated NCAA system in order to make the tough decisions.

 

Jeff Long

Before he was the face of the College Football Playoff committee during those cringe-inducing rankings shows in 2014, Jeff Long was more known as a well-traveled college athletics leader.

Long, the current athletic director at Arkansas and the former chairman of the sport's playoff committee, has previous administrative stops at Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Eastern Kentucky. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Rice, Duke and North Carolina State.

For those keeping score at home, Long's experience list features four of the Power Five conferences in college football, the Group of Five leagues and even the FCS level. And even though his work as an athletic director in a variety of sports has garnered him several awards, there's no denying Long is a football mind.

"Football has been the genesis of my collegiate and professional life and remains as important to me today as it was when I fell in love with the sport in the third grade," Long told Jon Finkel of FootballMatters.org last November. "Football has been the motivating, driving force and love of my life."

Long has been in charge of college football's most important body and could dot an impressive map of experience at schools across the country. He's got the experience and scope people would love to see in a potential commissioner.

 

Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice definitely knows what it takes to hold a high position of power and authority. And her connections with the college football world are strong.

Rice grew up in Alabama a fan of Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide football teams, and she was the daughter of a high school football coach. As Heather Dinich of ESPN.com wrote last year, Rice is close friends with David Shaw and former head coach Tyrone Willingham. She currently serves with Willingham as a member of the CFP committee.

"One of the requisite categories of committee members—along with former coaches and players—is university administrators, and Rice fit into that group as former provost of Stanford," Dinich wrote. "Each of the 10 FBS conferences had a chance to nominate 10 people, and Rice's name appeared on several lists, according to CFP executive director Bill Hancock."

People inside the college game aren't the only ones who thought Rice would make a good commissioner. In 2014, there was a huge amount of public support for Rice to become the commissioner of the NFL, a job she told the New York Times she wanted back during her time with the George W. Bush administration.

Rice is a self-professed "student of the game," and she has utilized her leadership qualities at the college administrative level and in the sport of college football as a member of the playoff committee.

 

Tom Jernstedt

Another member of the College Football Playoff committee with a wide range of leadership experience, Tom Jernstedt could provide a unique perspective as a hypothetical commissioner.

Jernstedt is a former executive vice president of the NCAA who is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame for his work in transforming college basketball over several decades. TV revenue exploded from $1.2 million in 1970 to $10.8 billion in 2010 during his tenure with the NCAA.

While "The Father of the Final Four" is known for his great success on the hardwood, Jernstedt has a good amount of experience with college football. He was a quarterback at Oregon, and he supervised all three divisions of NCAA football during his time with the association.

Jernstedt has been all over the map during his time as an athletics administrator, working at Oregon and later serving as a consultant for both the Big 12 and the Mountain West conferences. He has plenty of experience with the grand scope of college football at all levels—not just the Power Five leagues.

His success with college basketball and continued time in college football would make Jernstedt an interesting candidate to launch the commissioner role. From broadcasting to officiating to rules oversight, Jernstedt has done it all during his career with college athletics.

 

Nick Saban

Rival fans might not want to see his name on here, but consider the best coach in the game as a possible candidate for the job he wants to see created somewhere down the road.

Saban has been coaching football since the early 1970s, with stops at Kent State, West Virginia, Syracuse, Ohio State, Navy, Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and now Alabama. He's well-respected among coaches around the country, and he's proven to be an outstanding leader with the way he's built a dynasty with the Crimson Tide.

And before anyone argues Commissioner Saban would be too biased toward the SEC, Rittenberg made the excellent point that the veteran head coach hasn't always seen eye to eye with the conference during his time in the league—most notably with the eight- versus nine-game conference schedule debate.

It's not a stretch to say the 64-year-old Saban could be stepping away from coaching within the next few years, and he could transition into life as the top decision-maker in college football. He would have a coach's mindset in the role and lead with plenty of stern conviction and toughness. 

Saban wouldn't be the typical appointment to a key position of power like this. Then again, the hypothetical job description of a commissioner in a sport like college football would be far from typical.

 

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Power Ranking Top 25 College Football Recruiting Classes

With the offseason camp circuit in full swing, the next few months before the season starts are a critical part of the recruiting calendar for the 2017 class.

Coaches from around the nation are busy evaluating prospects and setting up their recruiting boards for the final push before national signing day. 

A few powerhouse programs have gotten off to fast starts—including the Ohio State Buckeyes, who currently hold the nation’s top-rated class with 13 pledges already bound to play for head coach Urban Meyer

A few surprise teams have also made a mark early in the 2017 cycle, as the 247Sports team rankings illustrate.

Which programs have put themselves in a position to close strong next February?

Find out as we take a crack at power ranking the nation’s 25 best classes to date.

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Why Auburn's QB Battle Won't Linger into the Season

ATLANTA — Tempo is one of the staples of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn's offense, so it makes sense that he would be in a little more of hurry than most to name a starting quarterback.

In each of the five quarterback battles Malzahn has been a part of either as Auburn's offensive coordinator (2009-2011) or head coach (2013-present), he has named a starting quarterback prior to the season. The latest he has named a starting quarterback was as Auburn's coordinator in 2011, when he named Barrett Trotter the No. 1 guy on Aug. 18, according to the school

Expect the current quarterback battle taking place among Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and junior college transfer John Franklin III to follow the same path.

"We're going to name somebody," Malzahn said prior to his Tiger Trek event at the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday. "Hopefully sooner rather than later once we start fall camp."

Johnson has the most experience running the offense. After serving as Nick Marshall's primary backup and starting two games in his stead, he entered the 2015 season with a ton of hype. But he threw six interceptions in the first three games of the season, was benched in favor of Sean White for the fourth game of the year against Mississippi State and Auburn played "musical quarterbacks" for the rest of the season.

White wasn't bad in a pinch. 

The 2013 Elite 11 camp MVP and 2014 Under Armour All-American Game MVP completed 58 percent of his passes (83-of-143) and showed off the accuracy that made him such a highly decorated prospect at times as a redshirt freshman. 

But the presence of Franklin—a former Florida State Seminole who served as "Nick Marshall" on the FSU scout team leading up to the 2014 BCS Championship Game between the Seminoles and Tigers—makes a two-quarterback system a possibility again in 2016.

Consider that "Plan B."

"We really want to have a starter," Malzahn said. "We have ways that we'll put our guys in situations for somebody to step up. Like Nick Marshall a couple of years ago. It was pretty equal for two or three weeks, but we decided to go 'live' one time and he won the job that day. Hopefully we won't get to a point where our quarterbacks have to go live in fall camp."

Auburn did make its primary quarterback contenders go live twice during spring practice, and it was something that benefited Franklin—who's very similar to Marshall as an edge threat who can make defenders miss in space.

The only chance the public got to see the former East Mississippi Community College backup this spring was in the spring game, when quarterbacks were whistled down anytime a defender took a breath anywhere near them.

"I wish I played 'live' today," Franklin said after Auburn's spring game. "I could have gotten some other stuff done."

Malzahn's trend and statement suggest that he'll pick a guy in mid-August and roll with him. But with national runner-up Clemson looming in Week 1—by far, the most difficult season opener he has faced at Auburn—Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn't ruling anything out.

"Still don't know a lot about them offensively because we're not sure who the quarterback is, but we'll continue to prepare for what they do," he said at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge. "Openers are always tough because there are new faces on both sides with a lot of unknowns. You have a long time to prepare for one game. A tough opener for us, no doubt."

Malzahn has made a change in how he approaches life as a head coach. Instead of taking more of a CEO role, he was more hands-on this spring with all of his offensive players—but specifically with his quarterbacks. 

"In the spring, I was pretty hands-on with the entire offense," he said. "Kind of back to what I used do with the past. Tried to get a really good feel for [Franklin], but at the same time, make sure that I'm part of the everyday function of the offense."

Because of that change, Malzahn's trend of naming starters well before the season starts, and this being such a critical year for Malzahn's professional life, expect him to stay true to his roots and let the offense grow behind one player during the final few weeks of fall camp.

With White still relatively inexperienced and Franklin still learning, unquestioned first-team snaps are imperative for the 2016 Tigers.

 

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

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Despite Offseason Controversies, Urban Meyer Remains Big Ten's Best Recruiter

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although college football has entered the quietest portion of its offseason, Urban Meyer's name has made a habit of staying in the headlines recently.

And not necessarily for the best of reasons.

While satellite camp announcements have seemed to be the only consistent mainstay in the college football news cycle this spring, the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach has come under attack publicly not once, but twice from prospects whom the Buckeyes once had interest in but ultimately didn't land.

The result has been a pair of mini-controversies during a particularly slow period on the sport's calendar, which when combined with one another, have made Meyer's notoriously aggressive recruiting approach a hot topic of conversation.

Yet despite the negative press, Ohio State has never been hotter on the recruiting trail.

You don't have to take my word for it. Just look at the recruiting rankings, where the Buckeyes currently lay claim to the nation's top-ranked 2017 class.

You wouldn't necessarily know it based on a pair of recent interviews on SECCountry.com, the first of which ran in early April. In a Q&A with David Collier, 2016 Kentucky signee and 4-star offensive tackle Landon Young recalled his recruitment, where he claimed to be "treated like crap" by Ohio State's three-time national championship head coach.

In particular, the Lexington, Kentucky, native took issue with Meyer's response to an inquiry about why the Buckeyes waited so long to offer him after he had previously attended a camp in Columbus.

[Meyer] said, "Well, if you look back at that time, you were how big?" I said, "6'7", 270, just like I am now." He said, "Well, you were an insubstantial tackle, an insubstantial player," so he was saying I [didn't] even amount to being able to be recruited by Ohio State as a 4-star tackle. He said, "Now what offers did you have?" I said, "I had my one from Kentucky," and he said, "Well, you were an insubstantial player with insubstantial offers from an insubstantial school."

That sort of put me on a bad note because that's the team I'm committed to.

From there, it didn't take long for the "Recruit Says 'Urban Meyer Treated Me Like Crap'" headlines to spread across the Twittersphere like a rash.

Approached with the accusation at a spring practice press conference, the Buckeyes head coach admitted he saw the story. And while he defended himself, he also said he'd examine his program's philosophy when it comes to such matters.

"I was very disappointed in our staff that we didn't offer him earlier," Meyer said of Young. "Then about the treatment thing, we don't do that on purpose, if that's his feelings. I went back and talked to our staff about it because we don't want that out there. But when you have one out of 650 [prospects] that say someone is treated bad—you know?"

A couple of days later, Young took to Twitter to issue a public apology to Meyer.

Crisis adverted.

Or so Meyer thought.

Just a few weeks later, former Ohio State commit and 2017 4-star receiver Bruce Judson gave an interview to the same site Young did, SECCountry.com. Speaking to Zach Abolverdi, the Cocoa, Florida, product explained his reasoning for de-committing from the Buckeyes last October, which included an anecdote about Meyer not even knowing who he was as he showed fellow 2017 prospect Richard LeCounte III around Ohio State on a visit.

[Meyer] was like, "How you doing, you like your visit?" I said, "Yeah." Then he's like, "What up Richard LeCounte? Are you showing this guy around?," I was like, "Coach, I'm showing him around." He asked me, "Who are you?" I told him Bruce. He said, "Oh, Bruce Judson from Florida. The speedy guy." I was like, "Yeah." He said, "I’m glad that you're on board and glad you got up here." After that, I knew I was de-committing.

Cue the negative headlines and this time, make them double. Aside from this offseason's satellite camp calendar unfolding, there isn't much to talk about in college football this time of year.

But while he has yet to take part in a public forum since Judson's interview ran on May 5, Meyer has hardly needed to defend his actions. At this point in his coaching career, the Buckeyes head coach's track record speaks for itself, particularly when it comes to his recruiting.

Since arriving in Columbus in 2012, no coach in the Big Ten has been able to rival Meyer on the recruiting trail—not even Michigan Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh, for all the attention his own controversial tactics have garnered at Michigan.

But before Harbaugh was making noise with spring practices in Florida and satellite camps in Australia, it was Meyer ruffling feathers by ignoring unwritten rules about recruiting prospects already committed elsewhere in the conference.

"I honestly think prior to Urban Meyer arriving in the Big Ten, a lot of the recruiting was very basic. There was a feeling of some sort of gentlemen’s agreement where, 'We are the Big Ten and this is the way that we recruit,'" Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report.

"[Former Wisconsin coach] Bret Bielema went nuts about Urban Meyer stealing his recruits and stuff like that. I don't think they really looked into how things are done elsewhere, which is pushing limits and really being aggressive."

A step ahead of his in-conference competition after six years in the ruthless recruiting land that is the SEC, Meyer has signed five top-seven nationally ranked classes at Ohio State—each one ranking the highest in the Big Ten in its respective year.

And for all the hubbub about Young and Judson's comments, Meyer isn't showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. Already, his 2017 class is drawing comparisons to his 2013 haul, which helped catapult the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff championship in 2014.

That class also played a key role in Ohio State dominating the conversation of the NFL draft from a college football perspective, with five first-rounders and 12 overall players picked during last month's selection show. That gave Meyer an equalizer—and them some—to use against any negative publicity this offseason has brought, as the Buckeyes' recent pipeline to the NFL has served as one of his most potent recruiting weapons.

"It was like a three-hour infomercial for our program," Meyer said of his program's heavy first round presence as he served as a guest analyst for the NFL Network during the second day of the draft.

A three-hour informercial on national television is always going to sell better than a couple of viral stories that hit the web during the doldrums of the college football offseason. As for the tiffs caused by the pair of SECCountry.com interviews, consider them the price of doing business for one of college football's most aggressive—and successful—recruiters.

It's tough to argue with the methods, as Meyer remains unmatched on the Big Ten recruiting trail.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 5 Toughest Defenders Vols Will Face in 2016

When it comes to top-notch defensive players, the Southeastern Conference is loaded with them, and it seems like the Tennessee football team must battle against the majority of them in 2016.

Ranking the top five is an extremely difficult chore with all the talent in the SEC on that side of the ball, and you know any time a Missouri defensive lineman or Georgia defender failed to make the list that it's a strong year in the league.

Not even anybody on Virginia Tech legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster's unit made this list, and you know the Hokies always have stellar defensive playmakers.

The Volunteers are just glad they don't have to go up against Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Cameron Sutton and Derek Barnett. At least they're on the right side of the ball.

But that won't keep there from being studs the Vols must deal with each week. Rival Alabama is absolutely loaded with defensive studs, even after a season where the Crimson Tide placed several of their national championship defense in the NFL. A couple of those guys made the list.

Florida has its annual recipient of "Player Who Is Most Likely to Give Tennessee Fits." And that isn't even counting the top-ranked player on this list, who may just be the top overall pro prospect in the nation.

Yes, UT has a slew of stars for offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to game-plan against this year. Let's rank the top five defenders the Vols will face, taking into consideration their collegiate production, pro prospects and overall leadership makeup, and big-game swagger.

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Defensive Catalyst for 2016

The high scores and bloated statistics might say otherwise, but college football is just as dependent on big defensive plays as any other sport.

The ability to make a stop in a key situation is usually what separates the great teams from the rest of the pack and what keeps the good ones from making it to the next level.

Most teams don't have the luxury of across-the-board dominance on defense, but they all have at least one player who tends to set things in motion. We're calling them the defensive catalyst, an individual who might not be the best overall player but tends to be most involved in the big plays on that side of the ball.

Using Bleacher Report's post-spring practice Top 25 as a guide, we've identified that one player on each of college football's top teams for 2016.

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One Player Each Top 25 Team Should Be Most Hyped for Ahead of 2016 Season

College football and hype go hand-in-hand. The regular season lasts 12 games, and counting bowl season, it stretches out just over four months on the calendar from early September to mid-January. Beyond the action, there’s a lot of time to fill and a lot of time to talk.

College fans fill it with discussion about recruiting, the NFL draft, offseason workouts and, this spring, satellite camps, among other things. And they talk about their teams. There’s plenty of time for hype, and fans rely on it to get them through the long offseason.

2016 is no different. A number of talented players will attract attention and hype from fans and reporters alike for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re a standout freshman. A Heisman contender. Or just a cog a team can’t succeed without. Regardless, you’ll be hearing a lot about these guys.

Here’s a look at the most hyped players for the 2016 season for the Top 25 teams. This Top 25 was created via a Bleacher Report consensus of preseason polls.

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Greg Bryant's Tragic Death a Devastating End to His Inspiring New Beginning

I will always remember my last conversation with Greg Bryant. We spoke of football and life and second chances. He shared his deep affection for the game, his eagerness for a fresh start and his unrelenting aspiration to play in the NFL.

Having committed to play at UAB, he was anxious to join a new program that just so happened to be starting over. They both were, which in many ways made this pairing more appealing.

Bryant called me in December from Room 320 of the Hotel Roma Resort in Miami Gardens—the living situation he had endured for an entire semester. The very notion of spending his days in a dimly lit hotel was alarming, though he was able to laugh about it then. He would be leaving soon.

The last few months had drained him emotionally, and he opened up about just how difficult it was. How much he despised that cluttered, stuffy hotel room. How much he missed playing the game he loved in a place befitting his physical gifts.

He never once blamed anyone for his uncommon, winding journey. He accepted responsibility for how things ended at Notre Dame—how he arrived to this point of transition.

For every negative, there was a positive. For every misstep, there was a way to make things right. His voice was full of life and enthusiasm.

Even though I couldn't see his face, I could hear him smile.

When the conversation ended, I couldn't help but get swept up in the promise and potential. I couldn't help but leave with a rooting interest, which is not something we're supposed to do in this profession. I'll come clean now, I suppose. The idea that he could finally tap into his swimming pool of football potential was intoxicating.

But on Sunday, those possibilities were erased without an ounce of warning. Bryant was shot in the car he was driving on a Florida highway a few hours before sunrise and pronounced brain dead that afternoon. Little is known about the events at this point beyond the senseless death the West Palm Beach Police Department views as a homicide.

Bryant's uncle, Allen Mosley, met with media Monday and confirmed that Bryant had been taken off life support Sunday.

"To say it's taken a huge hit to us as a family, that's an understatement," Mosley told reporters. "We are literally devastated by this loss. I surmise that, at the end of it all, God needed a running back, and Greg's number was called."

Though his success at the collegiate level was moderate, the football world—in particular, the recruiting world—was deeply familiar with Bryant.

Back in 2013, he was the nation's No. 6 running back, according to 247Sports' composite ratings. Bryant was a dominant talent at American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida, and his commitment to the Irish made national news. He was going to transform their backfield.

Brian Kelly, Bryant's head coach at Notre Dame, released a statement over the weekend as the somber news spread.

"This is such a sad and tragic situation," Kelly said via Michael Bertsch, the Irish's director of football media relations. "My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of everyone associated with the University of Notre Dame and its football program, are with Greg's family at this incredibly difficult time."

Had Bryant played in South Bend, Indiana, last fall, perhaps his breakthrough could have come then. With so many injuries in the Notre Dame backfield, Bryant would have had an opportunity to shine.

In the two years leading up to last fall, however, he never established a rhythm—logging carries only here and there. Then, shortly before the 2015 season began, he was declared academically ineligible.

"I needed a B-plus in my summer school class," Bryant told me. "But I got a B-minus."

This prompted a move to ASA College Miami, which came out of desperation more than anything else. If Bryant wanted to play immediately, it would have to be at the JUCO level. He had waited long enough.

In the months that followed, he lived out of a suitcase in a hotel room he couldn't stand, eating canned or fast food for almost every meal. Worst of all, a paperwork snafu essentially sidelined Bryant for the entire season.

"I'll keep it real," Bryant told me days before he moved out of the hotel. "This past year has been the hardest part of my life. Not playing football, going from the luxurious life at Notre Dame and coming back home and living in the hood at Miami while playing JUCO—it's been real tough."

Hope arrived from an unexpected place. It came when a dormant football program approached Bryant with open arms and an offer.

Because UAB's team was disbanded in December 2014—only to be reinstated months later—it will not play its next game until fall 2017. This crucial element—a snag in the sales pitch for many—seemed almost insignificant to Bryant as he weighed his options.

Suddenly, he didn't mind waiting. The wait was an opportunity. He could still practice. He could chisel his 200-pound frame into NFL form. He could get faster, stronger, better. And perhaps most important of all, he could work toward something more.

"It's a whole year of football, but it's better than sitting in a hotel. And I can possibly get my degree in 2016 going into 2017, and that's a dream come true," Bryant said. "Somebody like me getting a degree where I come from is unheard of."

Bryant and former LSU linebacker Clifton Garrett—who also committed to the Blazers last year after spending a season at the JUCO level—stood as symbols of this tremendous rebuild.

They were the present and the future—the faces of a new generation and a bridge back to prominence. In the present, they were the sparks that head coach Bill Clark so desperately needed.

The benefits, at least in Bryant's situation, were mutual. As much as he meant to UAB, this opportunity was equally pivotal for him. This was a life raft in turbulent seas: a roof, warm meals each day and a loving coach anxious to help him reach where he wanted to go.

"He's basically changing my life right now," Bryant said of Clark. "He's giving me something from nothing."

While Bryant's football ceiling was still to be determined, this was the place that could help him realize what was out there. And if that ceiling was lower than what he hoped, he could nevertheless walk away from school with his diploma.

Everything had fallen into place. The situation was too perfect. Going back through our conversations, I could sense that he knew it, too.

"It's just such a hit to our program, his family, just everybody," Garrett told Bleacher Report on Sunday night. "He was such a great person, and he will definitely be missed. He was the one always bringing energy to our team."

The physical makeup was there—the size and speed coveted for running backs at this level and the next. He had a chip on his shoulder the size of Alabama coupled with a drive to maximize what was inside.

He could have been one hell of a running back. But football, the thing Bryant loved more than anything on this earth, now feels insignificant.

The death of a human being—a young man who sounded like he was starting to figure it out—transcends the sport he played. Sure, he was good at it, but he had other plans if football didn't work out.

Free of that hotel room, Greg Bryant was just happy to be heading to a school that wanted him—"a safe place," he called UAB—where he could pursue his dream to play at the next level and earn a degree.

It was such a perfect combination in every sense. It was right there in front of him. He was living it. But instead of anticipating what's next, we're left wondering what might have been.

 

Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @KegsnEggs.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should High Schools Really Be Building Multimillion-Dollar Football Stadiums?

Everything's bigger in Texas. That's what they say, right?

As cliche as it is (take it from this Texan, it's cliche), facts are facts. Texans love big things. Texans also love their high school football. Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine, one of the longstanding sources for previewing high school football each summer, is nicknamed the "Bible to Texas football fans."

If you're not from Texas, there's a good chance you simply won't understand. Apply that same sentence to what's going on with the state's megastadiums for high school games. Four years ago, Allen High School opened a glamorous, 18,000-seat facility worth $60 million.

Over the weekend, voters in McKinney, Texas—a city separated from Allen, Texas, by all of roughly eight miles—decided in favor of its own megastadium. A positive vote for a $220 million bond includes the construction of a 12,000-seat venue that will run the price range of $62.8 million.

Not far from Allen and McKinney is Frisco, Texas, another thriving city split between Denton and Collin counties (sidenote: Allen and McKinney both are in Collin County). The Frisco school district is planning this year to play games at The Star, a 12,000-seat indoor venue that also will serve as the Dallas Cowboys' new practice facility and headquarters. The price of the joint venture involving the Cowboys, Frisco ISD and the City of Frisco: $255.5 million.

If that isn't enough, the Katy school district outside of Houston—which features traditional high school football national power Katy High School—is preparing to open a new stadium next year. That facility, which costs $62.5 million, is under construction.

Dollar, dollar bill, y'all.

The non-football fan reading this probably is boiling. Why spend so much money on football facilities for high school athletes? Are these megastadiums necessary?

Perhaps a bigger question: Does it matter what the nonvoters think?

"Honestly, my view on it is the will of the people is being done," said Matt Stepp, senior staff writer for Scout.com's The Old Coach. "The people in the community, if they vote for it, if that's how they choose to spend their money and use their tax dollars, then that's their prerogative. If that's what those folks want, have at it.

"A lot of people looking on the outside don't understand how Texas school finance works. Bond money is not taking away money from academics; bond money is used for construction of facilities and for maintenance. I think a lot of people don't understand that if a bond is passed for facilities, it's only to be used for facilities."

I'm all for letting people do what they want with their money. I understand the frustration from an outsider, but these things are voted on for a reason. And the voters have spoken.

I still remember being at Allen's 2012 season opener when the team opened its new stadium. Sure, there were some angry folks—some of those angry also were jealous—but the consensus response about the stadium was pure excitement. In fact, that season opener against Southlake Carroll had more than 18,000 in attendance.

McKinney voters will argue that its new facility will resolve several upgrades with the new bond, including HVAC replacement, plumbing and electrical maintenance. The bond, however, isn't just for athletic purposes.

Katy's upcoming project will include improving turning lanes for roads next to the stadium site, as well as upgrading underground technology connectivity between the new stadium and Rhodes Stadium, the current football facility.

Naturally, there will be people angry that the majority of the dollars won't go into upgrading the academic side of the school district. It's an ongoing argument that goes all the way up to the college level.

Stepp reminds us, however, that these megastadiums aren't located in areas that struggle financially. Or academically.

"Could that money be allocated to building new academic facilities? Possibly," he said. "When I walk around Allen or McKinney or Katy, it's not like those schools are in bad shape. They already have everything they need.

"If I went to a school that looked bad but had a $60 million football field, you'd have an issue. I don't feel like building new facilities is devaluing anything academically with those schools. They are well-performing schools."

In short, the decision of the facilities belongs to the voters. And the voters are all-in for their Friday night football eye candy. So be it.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Predicting the Tigers' 2016 Win-Loss Record

For the most part, the talk was directed elsewhere in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this spring, at least on the surface.

LSU football fans know that they have a good team for 2016. The offense might have the best player in college football, running back Leonard Fournette. The defense has all the markings of potentially being terrific, again. 

Overall, the Tigers return nearly every starter, and they might have as much overall talent as any team in college football. Last year, LSU was fifth in team talent in the 247Sports composite rankings, which were based on recruiting results, and Matt Miller’s early big board for the 2017 NFL draft lists six LSU players in the 50.

“I like our personnel on offense,” head coach Les Miles said during the league’s recent spring coaches’ teleconference with reporters. “I think the offensive line will be a strength.”

Actually, the two things Miles has talked about the most this offseason have been the passing game, which LSU has worked on nearly nonstop to improve (and yes, it did look better during spring practices), and the three new assistant coaches.

He regularly praised new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who was hired away from Wisconsin, saying that after the departure of Kevin Steele, he wanted to hire “the best” coordinator out there and might have done just that.

“We’re still going to play some 4-3, and have 4-3 personnel, but we’re also going to be a 3-4 as well,” Miles said. “It’s going to give opponents a bit of a scheme issue that they’re going to have to prepare for.

“But the defense looked like a very fast, very talented defense.”

Yet everyone also knows that this is pretty much an all-or-nothing year for Miles, who came extremely close to being dismissed at the end of the 2015 season. It was widely celebrated when he got a reprieve, yet the stakes only intensified for this fall.

Should we talk about the elephant in the division?

Although LSU won the national championship in 2007, it’s otherwise been a pretty frustrating decade on the bayou, where Miles’ impressive 112-32 record (61-27 in Southeastern Conference games) has been overshadowed by his predecessor.

Since LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory during the 2011 regular season, Nick Saban has enjoyed five straight wins against LSU, including the subsequent BCS National Championship Game, a 21-0 win in the Tigers’ back yard, New Orleans.

LSU hasn’t reached the SEC Championship Game since then, while Alabama has won three along with three national crowns.

Saban also came out on top during the 2012 rematch, the heartbreaking overtime game in 2014, and along the way, he plucked away some top recruits from Louisiana. However, last year’s game wasn’t close, derailing both a 7-0 start and Fournette’s Heisman Trophy chances as he had entered the game with an unbelievable average of 193.1 rushing yards per game.

It was the start of a three-game tailspin against SEC West teams, by a combined score of 99-47.

A program’s status shouldn’t be decided by another team, but in this case, there’s no getting around that how LSU measures up to Alabama will determine where the Tigers go from here.

There will be two important benchmarks along the way.

The first will be during the opener, when LSU heads up to historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay to face Wisconsin on September 3.

In 2014, LSU barely defeated Wisconsin in the Texas Kickoff in Houston, 28-24.

Alabama opened the 2015 season by defeating Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, 35-17. Derrick Henry began his Heisman campaign with 147 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Aranda’s defense.

Meanwhile, the Badgers were held to 40 rushing yards, their fewest since notching just 19 against Michigan State on Oct. 27, 2012.

LSU needs to do something comparable to set an early tone.

“I think our schedule, and philosophy of schedule, wanting to play very talented, capable teams intermittently, in the opener and/or in the body of our schedule, is the right thing to do,” Miles said. “We’ve certainly played them before, in Houston, and found that they were very, very talented and a very capable football team. Our team realizes that we’re going to be challenged and need to play well at Lambeau Field.”

The second benchmark will be October 22 against visiting Ole Miss. Like Alabama, LSU lost this game in 2015, but while the Crimson Tide could point to five turnovers as doing them in, the Rebels pretty much dominated from start to finish.

Chad Kelly threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards and two more scores in the 38-17 game that put Miles so firmly on the hot seat that he was more than smoldering.

Alabama gets Ole Miss early again, on September 17, with the possible advantage of a blueprint for success as the Rebels open the season against former Saban assistant coach Jimbo Fisher.

Regardless, it wouldn’t be surprising if both Alabama and LSU are undefeated or have one loss between them when they meet on November 5. If so, it could be the game of the year, again, and it could also be the last time we see Miles vs. Saban as SEC West rivals. 

The guess here is that LSU and Miles finish the regular season 10-2.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Summer Goals for Every Top 25 College Football Team

College football teams enter the summer with checklists of goals to accomplish, but they can complete only a select group of major items.

Barring injuries, quarterback competitions will not be decided until fall camp. While those battles control the nation's attention during spring practice, pad-less workouts won't decide the winner.

Now, that doesn't eliminate the position from potential points of emphasis. Programs will continue addressing weaknesses on the roster, develop young players and hit the recruiting trail.

We used Bleacher Report's post-spring practice rankings to determine the order of this list.

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5-Star WR Donovan Peoples-Jones Focused on Forming Top 5, Chased by Many QBs

Despite his recognition as America's top high school player at a position occasionally defined by divas, Donovan Peoples-Jones brings a workman's approach to wide receiver.

Sure, he hears the accolades, deals with constant media attention and commands attention from the most notable coaches in college football, but the 5-star prospect is doing his best to keep things simple while surrounded by a recruiting whirlwind.

"Really what I can control is going out there to compete, having fun and doing my best," Peoples-Jones told Bleacher Report. "I want to put forth my best effort... I have no control over what someone else is doing. I just want to make the best out of my opportunities."

Those opportunities include scholarship offers from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, Miami Hurricanes, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes and a relative who's who of college football.

Consistently tight-lipped about details of his thought process regarding national signing day plans, Peoples-Jones isn't the kind of recruit you'll find dropping hints throughout social media. So when he announced a top 10 in January, folks took notice:

His initial collection of potential landing spots featured the Florida Gators, Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Michigan State Spartans, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Ohio State, Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans. Now approaching the end of his junior year at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, expect that outlook to change.

Peoples-Jones isn't placing pressure on himself to hurry toward a decision, but he would like to whittle down an expansive process. The goal is to cut schools under consideration to five favorites before entering the final phase of his recruitment.

“I’ll probably come out with a top five at some point just so I can focus on those five,” he said. “I don’t really know when that’s going to come, but it’s probably going to come with the more visits I take. As soon as I get as comfortable as I want to be then I’ll make a top five and I’ll go from there, take my officials and ultimately make my decision.”

Rated No. 6 overall among 2017 prospects in 247Sports composite rankings, Peoples-Jones is still preparing a travel itinerary for the summer. He's not ready to reveal those intentions just yet, though he did lock down one trip Saturday.

It's a return flight to Beaverton, Oregon, where Peoples-Jones solidified his spot among the nation's elite athletes last summer. He'll head back to Nike's world headquarters in July after earning a rare repeat invitation to The Opening following his performance at the Columbus regional.

Last year, Peoples-Jones dazzled during SPARQ testing, which measures athleticism through combine-like drills that include the 40-yard dash, agility shuttle run, power ball toss and vertical jump. Standing 6'2", 192 pounds, he clocked a 4.42 in the 40-yard sprint during competition finals en route to prestigious SPARQ national champion honors.

"I would like to go out there and reclaim my title," Peoples-Jones said. "I'm just going to have fun. This is a fun football event with the nation's top prospects. We're just all out there working and having fun with each other."

The Opening will also allow him to further bond with top-tier quarterback prospects, who will be in attendance as Elite 11 finalists. Many premier passers view Peoples-Jones as a primary target and continue to make an effort toward teaming up with the prized receiver.

He identified these quarterbacks as prospects affiliated with members of his top 10 and elsewhere, including 2016 Florida State signee Malik Henry and Clemson commit Hunter Johnson. Peoples-Jones also pointed to Tate Martell (uncommitted), Dwayne Haskins (2016 Ohio State signee), Jake Allen (Florida commit), Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State commit) and Dylan McCaffrey (Michigan commit) as ardent pursuers. 

"I'm building my relationship with all of them," he said. 

Peoples-Jones possesses all the characteristics coaches covet in a legitimate No. 1 target downfield. He doesn't underestimate the importance of having a capable trigger man behind center who can set the stage for his success.

"That's a duo," Peoples-Jones said. "I'll be with that duo for the next three or four years so I always got to have a great quarterback. That's definitely special. You and your quarterback have to be best buddies."

He certainly looks the part of a quarterback's best friend. Peoples-Jones averaged 25.9 yards per catch last fall, tallying 1,012 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Opinions vary among recruiting analysts when it comes to his ultimate collegiate destination. Michigan leads Peoples-Jones' 247Sports crystal ball, carrying 36 percent of experts' predictions, while Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan State (18 percent apiece) follow behind.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Remaining College Football Position Battles for 2016

Position battles are rarely won or lost in spring ball. Coaches love to keep a culture of competition open through summer workouts and into fall camp, so final decisions usually don't come until the calendar flips to August.

That means most of the top position battles that caught college football fans' eyes during spring practices and scrimmages will still be hotly contested over the next few months. 

These battles could go a long way in determining how the 2016 season looks not just for the individual teams, but for conference title races and even playoff contention. The right decisions at certain positions might be the difference between triumph or tribulation for a program.

Here are the biggest position battles still going on in college football—one for each program—based on competition, position importance and overall team strength. The bigger the team and the bigger the responsibility, the better chance of the battle landing on this countdown. (Hint: Expect a good bit of quarterback talk in here.)

Which position battle do you think is the biggest left on the board? Who do you see winning these key races? Sound off in the comments below.

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Inside Ohio State's No. 1 Recruiting Class: 'We're Ready to Chase Championships'

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer established himself as one of college football's premier closers on the recruiting trail during last decade's successful stretch with the Florida Gators.

Now approaching his fifth season in Columbus, Meyer continues to attract America's top talent. The three-time national champion has secured a top-10 recruiting class each national signing day since he arrived at OSU, with the Buckeyes bringing in four top-five hauls and never finishing lower than No. 7 overall in 247Sports' composite class rankings.

A top-ranked class has eluded Ohio State—and every other college program aside from one–during this impressive span. Alabama, led by Meyer's most notable coaching contemporary in Nick Saban, is riding an unprecedented six-year streak of No. 1 classes.

Still nine months shy of next national signing day, Ohio State is sitting atop national class rankings and in excellent shape to finally steal the Crimson Tide's recruiting crown. No coaching staff has accumulated more blue-chip commitments than the Buckeyes for 2017.

"It's developed to become one of the best classes Ohio State has seen, and we're not done yet," 4-star pledge and Ohio State legacy Brendon White told Bleacher Report. "I want every great athlete to join us because that creates great competition."

Rest assured, further reinforcements are on the way for a group that already boasts a pair of 5-star prospects and 10 4-star athletes, totals unsurpassed on the 2017 recruiting trail. Several standout players across America are taking long looks at a Buckeyes class that includes 10 percent of the nation's top 60 overall high school juniors, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

"It's been awesome to watch this thing kind of snowball since I committed [in January 2015]," No. 1 offensive tackle recruit Josh Myers said. "These huge commitments keep coming. We have an incredible group of talent at practically every position."

The Buckeyes boast six pledges considered top-three overall prospects at their respective positions, and no commitment falls outside the top 25 in that category. 

As the table above illustrates, this is a regionally diverse collection of athletes. The class is represented by seven states, ranging from the product of a Las Vegas powerhouse (defensive tackle Haskell Garrett) to a linebacker attending high school in enemy territory (Ann Arbor linebacker Antjuan Simmons).

For now, the potential collective impact of these players is simply a projection. Verbal commitments aren't binding for the Buckeyes or the celebrated teenagers, but it's difficult to ignore the promise, even if things won't come to fruition until summer 2017.

"When we get to campus and actually start practicing, people are going to see we're ready to chase championships," White said. "That's when it's time for us to come together, work hard and find out where this journey takes us."

The journey began three years ago for Akron quarterback Danny Clark, who kicked off Ohio State's rewarding 2017 recruiting cycle when he committed midway through his freshman year. The Archbishop Hoban High School star has spent his prep career targeting elite peers to join him in Columbus.

"If you're playing a backyard football game, you're going to get the best players in your neighborhood," he said. "You don't want to go into a game with scrubs. We find kids with serious talent, and we go after them. That's all there is to it."

It's a sentiment that's far easier said than done for most college coaches. This is where Meyer, a legend in the eyes of young playmakers who grew up watching him hoist championship trophies with two storied programs, makes all the difference.

"He's as big as it gets," Myers said. "Coach Meyer is literally a king in his castle. He's straight-up famous but acts normal and treats people like he truly cares, which creates a feeling of comfort on campus."

The future Hall of Famer carries a 50-4 record through four seasons at Ohio State, has helped multiple assistants land head coaching jobs and, most importantly in the eyes of recruits, can point to his exemplary track record of producing NFL talent.

The Buckeyes commanded a major spotlight last month in Chicago, as 12 Ohio State players were selected in the 2016 NFL draft. That total featured five first-round picks and a single-school record 10 athletes off the board before Round 4. 

"If you're a high school player who wants to reach the NFL—and 99.99 percent of recruits do—there's no better place than Ohio State," Clark said. "Coach Meyer and his staff do a great job getting guys prepared for football and life after college."

The draft's developments demanded attention from top-tier Buckeyes targets, including 5-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones:

Peoples-Jones, a Detroit talent considered the country's No. 1 overall pass-catcher, includes Ohio State on his list of contenders. He has plenty of company in that regard.

The most compelling potential additions to this class could come in the form of a package deal.

Quarterback Tate Martell and receiver Tyjon Lindsey are 5-star prospects who consider themselves brothers. They visited Columbus together in March.

Following Martell's recent decommitment from Texas A&M, speculation has mounted that Ohio State may emerge as the university to beat moving forward. Both are now projected to sign with the Buckeyes based on experts' projections in 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, though other contenders will challenge along the way.

"It's no joke if we add those two guys," Myers said. "Bringing in two seriously good players like them would take a strong class to an even greater level. It's definitely something I'm monitoring."

Meyer already enjoys significant momentum on the 2017 recruiting trail. Imagine if he's able to land the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and a top-five receiver in one fell swoop.

"If they decide Ohio State is the perfect spot for them, what's stopping anyone else?" asked White.

Even Clark, a quarterback whose path to playing time would become more challenging with Martell on board, understands the importance of establishing elite depth across the roster.

"Coach Meyer is a smart guy," he said. "Every big-time program needs to have at least four legit quarterbacks at one time. Just like Ohio State showed in 2014, that depth is so important. The star Heisman candidate (Braxton Miller) gets hurt in the offseason, then J.T. Barrett dominates the Big Ten and sets records before breaking his ankle in the Michigan game, then the third-stringer (Cardale Jones) rises up and wins a national championship."

Ultimately, this is why coaching staffs invest countless hours into each recruiting cycle. Injuries happen, some players underachieve and others depart early for a professional payday.

"As guys leave the program, younger players have to step up big-time and take care of business," Myers said. "That's how you maintain success, and we've seen that happen every year in Columbus."

Despite losing a dozen NFL draft picks from its 2015 squad, Ohio State is still primed to enter this fall with a Top 10 ranking. As the Buckeyes continue to string together exemplary signing days, this program's mantra has never been more clear.

Don't rebuild; reload.

"We'll be ready when it's our turn," Myers said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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