NCAA Football News

Malcolm Askew to Auburn: Tiger Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Malcolm Askew, one of the top athlete prospects in the class of 2017, is headed to the Auburn Tigers after developing into a force at McAdory High School in McCalla, Alabama. 

Rivals.com's Jeffrey Lee first reported the news of Askew's decision. 

"It’s just the relationships I have with the coaches," Askew said of choosing Auburn, per Lee. "I've talked to Coach (Gus) Malzahn, Coach [Kevin] Steele and Coach [Wesley] McGriff numerous times now on campus and on the phone. The relationships are getting stronger and they talk to me about family. It’s a great family feel there, too."

The 4-star speedster is the 202nd-ranked player in 247Sports' composite rankings, and he graded out No. 10th among all athlete prospects in the class of 2017. Among recruits in the state of Alabama, Askew clocked in at No. 11 overall. 

The big question now is which position the 5'10.5", 183-pound athlete will play in college after spending time at receiver and cornerback in high school. 

"I’m leaning more toward DB because of the longevity," Askew told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani in March. "Defensive players usually last longer playing the game in comparison to offensive players, and that’s why I’m leaning toward defense right now."

Askew elaborated on that stance in a separate conversation with Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue

"The NFL loves guys who can play man-to-man coverage, play on an island," he said. "I feel like I can be that type of guy. I think my best credentials will be on defense in the future."

With aspirations of one day lining up as a shutdown cornerback at the professional level, Askew appears motivated to parlay his athletic prowess into being one of the nation's most dangerous defenders when he suits up for Auburn. 

 

Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every 2016 1st-Year Coach's Biggest Offseason Question

In the pressure-filled world of college football, the coaching carousel is always busy, but it was especially hectic this offseason. A number of FBS programs decided that they weren’t happy with their current leaders, which led to something of a domino effect. Scandal and new athletic department leadership also played a role, and 28 programs ultimately changed head coaches.

This season’s new head coaches take over programs in various states of success. Some are set up to win immediately, while others are clear rebuilding jobs. They all have questions surrounding their first seasons in charge, though. Here’s a look at the biggest question facing each first-year head coach this fall.

Begin Slideshow

5-Star QB Tate Martell Talks Top Contenders, Hopes for Oregon Offer

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Nearly four years after Tate Martell received his first collegiate scholarship offer, the coveted quarterback arrived at Elite 11 finals Friday still searching for the right fit.

A middle school commitment to Washington didn't last through sophomore year, while an eight-month pact with Texas A&M ended last month. Now approaching his senior season at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School, Martell seems to have found some clarity in a lengthy recruitment.

"I think I've got it all figured out now," he told Bleacher Report hours before the first Elite 11 practice session. "I don't know exactly where I'll be, but I know exactly what I want."

He revealed a top-six list Friday morning, eliminating Miami from the group of favorites he shared just three days ago:

Academics and campus life are unsurprisingly key priorities for him in this process, but one element looms largest.

"I need to have a really good connection with the head coach, quarterback coach and offensive coordinator," Martell said. "That's huge. That's the biggest thing for me."

While things started in strong fashion with Texas A&M after his August pledge, the situation began to deteriorate during the winter when the program and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital parted ways. 

This drastically altered his rapport with the Aggies, as Martell's dad, Al, detailed during a discussion with Adam Gorney of Rivals.com:

It was different with [new Aggies offensive coordinator Noel] Mazzone with the whole communication. Mazzone had been there two weeks for our visit in January, he had been there maybe all of 10 days, so I get it. If the guy didn’t want to talk a whole lot, he’s still feeling out his job and his co-workers and his staff and where he fits in. 

I get that but when you go out a month later, for two days on that trip, didn’t talk to him once and then when we were there in March for their scrimmage, again, we were there for four days and not once did Mazzone ever talk, and I was five feet from him. Not a handshake, not anything.

Spavital landed at Cal in February and will coordinate the Golden Bears attack. This immediately placed the program on Martell's radar and momentum has grown since.

"I wasn't even looking at Cal before Spav was there, and now it's probably going to end up as one of my top three schools with him being there," he said. "I have a great relationship with him, plus Cal is such a good school. That's obviously a good spot when you look at the depth chart. It's definitely high on my list right now."

Martell, rated No. 1 overall among dual-threat quarterbacks in 2017 composite rankings, also has significant interest in an alternative Pac-12 university. However, one of America's most prized passers continues to wait for that offer.

"I'm still hoping Oregon offers me, but we'll see," he said, noting there's been consistent contact with Ducks coaches. "It's not like that's definitely where I'm going if they offer me, but it would be a great place to look at."

Another trio of Pac-12 programs remain the picture with Colorado, UCLA and USC featured in his top six. Martell, a Southern California native, is intrigued by the possibility of returning home for college.

Shortly before his commitment to Texas A&M, he told B/R the Trojans were essentially battling with the Aggies during the final stretch of decision-making efforts. Though Steve Sarkisian—who first collected Martell's commitment at Washington—is no longer the head coach at USC, much of the staff remains intact, and there's an inherent appeal to the program, according to Martell.

"USC is always kind of a Southern California kid's dream school. That's where you want to go," he said. "They've been recruiting me for a while, since the beginning of my sophomore year, and I've had a good relationship with them. It's back home, so it would be easy for my whole family to come see me play."

Proximity is also a positive for UCLA. The Bruins landed No. 1 overall 2015 quarterback recruit Josh Rosen, who enjoyed an outstanding freshman season last fall. Martell could envision a situation in which head coach Jim Mora is able to bridge his offense between two blue-chip talents.

"Josh would probably stay for one year and then leave for the NFL after that," he said. "So I would just have to sit behind him, and that's not a bad situation because he'll probably end up being a top-10 draft pick if he stays on the path he's on right now."

Cal is the Pac-12 leader in Martell's 247Sports crystal ball with 21 percent of experts' predictions. Ohio State leads all schools with 39 percent of signing day projections and hosted him on campus earlier this year.

"It's a great program, and everyone understands how successful Urban Meyer has been, especially with his offense," Martell said. "There's a lot to like about Ohio State."

The Buckeyes boast impressive young quarterback talent behind starter J.T. Barrett, who could return to Columbus in 2017. Expectations are building for second-year passer Joe Burrow and incoming freshman Dwayne Haskins, an Elite 11 finalist, was a premier recruit in the 2016 cycle.

Ultimately, Martell aims to select a school that presents him a realistic shot at immediate starting duties.

"I want to go to a spot where I have an opportunity to compete as a freshman," he said. "That's really important. A place where I can compete to play early and develop with coaches who can prepare me for the NFL."  

Martell is 28-0 as a starter at Bishop Gorman, totaling 5,145 passing yards, 1,037 rushing yards, 86 total touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He'll enter the 2016 campaign as a major contender for National Player of the Year.

On the recruiting radar since seventh grade, his sights are firmly set on concluding a lengthy journey in decisive fashion.

"I wouldn't say I'm burnt out with this process, but I'm definitely ready to find the right place for me," Martell said.

 

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

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Grobe Comments on Baylor Football Program, Coaching Staff, More

Baylor Bears interim head football coach Jim Grobe addressed reporters Friday for the first time since he assumed the post in place of Art Briles, and he expressed a desire to reform the program's culture in the weeks and months ahead.  

For starters, according to the Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry, Grobe said there will be a zero-tolerance policy for misbehavior in light of an investigation led by Pepper Hamilton, LLP that said the school failed "to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence." 

"Winning is very, very important, but not at the expense of character and integrity," Grobe added, according to BaylorProud on Twitter

"Playing is not a right," he said, according to Cherry. "Going on the field is not a right. If you're not going to be a good citizen, you're not going to play for [Baylor University]."

Grobe reiterated that the thing he was most concerned with after reading the Pepper Hamilton report was the "lack of organization in dealing with problems," according to the Austin American-Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton

That issue was spelled out clearly in Pepper Hamilton's findings, which stated "the football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response" to "reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players."

With regard to personnel matters, Grobe confirmed all of Briles' assistants will stay on, per Halliburton. Grobe also confirmed the team will continue to run the same offensive and defensive schemes in 2016. 

On the recruiting front, Baylor's new boss said the program won't yet release commits from their national letters of intent, according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman: 

On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree reported seven of Baylor's 2016 recruits had filed for release from their national letters of intent.

However, the school isn't obligated to let them seek out other collegiate opportunities since formally signing a letter of intent bounds a player to the program "unless he doesn't meet admissions or eligibility requirements, he doesn't attend any institution for at least one academic year, the school has been charged with breaking NCAA recruiting rules, or he is released by the university."

According to Crabtree, Baylor has 30 days to respond to the release requests. 

Finally, Grobe—whose contract spans only the 2016 season, per Halliburton—expressed a desire to continue coaching in Waco if the team prospers under his guidance. 

"If things go well, I like Baylor," he said, according to Cherry. "I could see myself being here for a while. ... I would be blessed to have the opportunity to coach."

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama, Michigan to Work Satellite Camps Together: Comments and Reaction

Coaches from both Alabama and Michigan will attend a pair of satellite camps together next week amid verbal warfare between head coaches Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh about the use of such camps.

Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports passed along the news. Old Dominion quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb confirmed Alabama's expected attendance at an ODU camp on Sunday. St. Frances Academy (Md.) coach Henry Russell noted that both Alabama and Michigan are expected at its camp on June 6.

It's unclear whether Saban and Harbaugh will cross paths at some point next week, though.

Harry Minium and Tom White of the Virginian-Pilot provided reaction from Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder, who noted that Alabama is holding its own camp with 600 players expected. He also stated that Harbaugh and Michigan, which is co-hosting the ODU event, had no problem with adding Tide coaches.

"Like I always do, I asked the school we're partnering with to get permission for another Power Five school to attend," Wilder said. "Like [Harbaugh] was with Wake Forest, he was fine with Alabama joining. He said, 'It's your camp, whatever you think is best for the kids is fine with us.'"

The exchange between the high-profile coaches began earlier in the week when Saban described satellite camps as the "Wild Wild West" due to the lack of standards. Brandon Marcello of SEC Country provided more of the Alabama head coach's thoughts on the subject:

Anybody can have a camp now. If they have a prospect, they can have a camp and then you're expected to go to that camp and then they can use you to promote their camp because Ohio State is coming, Alabama is coming, whoever else is coming. Somebody sponsors a camp, they pay them the money. What do they do with the money? And who makes sure the kid paid to go to the camp? I mean, this is the Wild Wild West at its best. There's been no specific guidelines relative to how we're managing and controlling this stuff. It's happening outside our normal evaluation window, which means we're taking time away from our players.

Harbaugh responded with a post on Twitter that generated a lot of buzz on social media:

Chris Low of ESPN.com provided Saban's response to that message: "That's his business. I don't really care what he thinks or tweets. I say what I think is best for college football and say what I think is best for the players and the kids. As I said [Tuesday], it's not about him or anybody else."

More than anything else, Alabama and Michigan attending the same camps showcases the importance of staying ahead of the curve on the recruiting trail.

Saban may not approve of the events, but he's not going to let Michigan get a leg up with potential recruits so long as they remain within the rules.

The NCAA Division I Council originally made a ruling to shut down satellite camps in early April. Paul Myerberg of USA Today reported that the NCAA Board of Governors reversed the decision less than three weeks later pending further recommendations, which are expected by Sept. 1.

In turn, the events will likely continue to generate massive interest throughout the summer.

Perhaps Saban and Harbaugh can get a chance to discuss their differences during one of them, even if it doesn't happen at the two camps their staffs will attend next week.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Position-by-Position Preview of Alabama's 2016 Roster

Although the University of Alabama football team is coming off its fourth national championship in seven years, something that’s never been previously done before during the modern era of the game, Nick Saban’s dynasty is showing no signs of slowing down.

After claiming his sixth straight recruiting title, per the 247Sports composite rankings, the Crimson Tide roster remains loaded, and even though Alabama has another brutal schedule in 2016, many are again considering it the team to beat even though no one knows yet who the starting quarterback will be.

Actually, there’s no proven player in the backfield, the offensive line is now suddenly a mess, and the entire defensive coaching staff minus Tosh Lupoi has been replaced, but many are predicting a third straight appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Part of that optimism stems from what Alabama’s done over the previous nine seasons, including having the most consensus All-Americans (25), NFL draft picks (55) and first-round selections (18) of any college football program.

What can Saban do for an encore as he closes out a decade at Alabama? This group hasn’t done anything yet and has a tough opener against Southern California at A&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on September 3, but it has the talent to potentially win some more rings.

Begin Slideshow

Big 12 Unanimously Approves Conference Championship Game: Details, Reaction

The Big 12 will soon no longer be the only major football conference without a championship game, as its board unanimously voted in favor of implementing one. 

Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman was among the first to report the news. He also provided a comment from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby regarding the timeline for the title game:

The Big 12 has not staged a conference championship game since 2010 because of the departures of Nebraska and Colorado, which left the league with fewer teams than required to hold such an event.

That rule is gone, as the Division I council voted in January to let conferences with fewer than 12 teams have a championship game as long as every team plays one another during the regular season, per Max Olson of ESPN.com.

Per George Schroeder of USA Today, the Big 12 is in line to generate a considerable amount of revenue via a conference title game:

Schroeder also reported it is unclear where the initial championship game will take place in 2017 assuming plans move forward as expected:

ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg provided television viewing information and potential venue plans as well:

The lack of a conference championship game may have prevented the Big 12 from putting a team in the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014. Although Oklahoma qualified in 2015, both Baylor and TCU missed out during the first season despite each losing only one game.

Had the Bears and Horned Frogs met in a conference title game, there is a strong chance the winner would have made it over the eventual national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Big 12 has been at a disadvantage despite being stacked with talented teams, but that promises to change in 2017 since a championship game will put every major conference on a level playing field once again.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Spring Meetings Wrap Up: Satellite Camps, Discipline, Replay and More

DESTIN, Fla. — Four days on the Gulf Coast have come to a close, as the SEC closed up shop Friday on its annual spring meetings held at the SanDestin Hilton.

When it did, the future of satellite camps, player discipline, underclassmen paths back to college and collaborative replay came into focus.

What were some of the hottest topics to come out of the sunny panhandle of Florida? 

 

As The Satellite Turns

Another year, another four-day discussion involving satellite camps.

In what has become a spring meetings tradition over the last three years, talks of head coaches and staffs "guest-coaching" at the camps of other four-year schools, junior colleges, high schools and at third-party events dominated the discussion in Destin.

In the end, the SEC came out of spring meetings steadfast in its opposition to the practice, despite the fact that its coaches can—and already have—participated in satellite camps since the old ban was lifted on May 29.

"A range of conversation from them," commissioner Greg Sankey said. "I think, in a uniform voice, our coaches do not believe that a summer recruiting environment is healthy in this camp situation. We don't think these are part of recruiting. These are not instructional. There are videos and pictures out there that don't look very instructional to me."

So for now, the SEC will allows its coaches on the road this summer at their own discretion to participate in satellite camps but will leave the door open to shut it down.

"The dynamics that are developing will guide us," he said. "We're obviously more flexible with our rule. But I'm not certain that it will always remain that way for ourselves."

So stay tuned for more satellite camp talk, because it isn't going away anytime soon.

 

Expansion of the Serious Misconduct Rule

The SEC led the charge last spring when it introduced the "serious misconduct rule," which prevents potential transfers with a history of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual violence from transferring into the program.

It went a step further this year by expanding the transgressions that would apply to individuals who are interested in playing in the SEC from other four-year or two-year colleges.

Those new transgressions that are classified as "serious misconduct" include dating violence or stalking, or conduct of a nature that creates serious concerns about the safety of others. Students who have pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving serious misconduct after enrollment at another collegiate institution will not be allowed in.

The rule is still limited to transfers, due in part to the lack of access the conference and its member institutions have to the legal records of minors. 

"Do I anticipate continued dialogue on these issues? Absolutely," Sankey said. "The question will be asked, 'is that sufficient? Should we remain there?' It doesn't predict outcomes, but I envision that it will be a conversation topic moving forward. I never anticipated that we were done."

As a result of the rule not applying to incoming freshmen, 5-star Mississippi State defensive end Jeffery Simmons will be allowed to play this year in Starkville after undergoing a school-sponsored counseling and serving the one-game suspension that the school announced on Thursday.

"It's an institutional responsibility," Sankey said.

When asked if he was comfortable with the decision he elaborated, "I would not express comfort with a situation like that."

"As a conference, we are wrestling with issues like that in a public way," Sankey said.

 

Bowl Games Pay

Bowl games now pay off more for teams who make them.

The take-home pay for each team was raised by $25,000 plus travel allowance as determined by the SEC Executive committee. Those revenue distribution numbers are as follows (all figures are after allowable deductions):

  • $1,025,000 for teams that provide receipts which result in a balance of less than $1,500,000.
  • $1,300,000 for teams that provide receipts which result in a balance between $1,500,000 and $3,999,999.
  • $1,500,000 for teams that provide receipts which result in a balance between $4,000,000 and $5,999,999.
  • $2,025,000 for teams that provide receipts which result in a balance of $6,000,000 or more and all College Football Playoff games. If the team makes the College Football Playoff National Championship, it will receive an additional $2,125,000.

 

Do You See What I See?

The SEC announced last month that it will institute a collaborative replay system in games at SEC home stadiums, the SEC Championship Game and EverBank Field in Jacksonville for the Florida/Georgia games when they include conference referee crews.

How will it work?

The on-site replay official will have the authority to stop the games when needed (as has been the case in the past), to review plays that he or she deems need a second look. When that happens, that official will be in contact with three officials at the SEC's video center in its Birmingham, Alabama, headquarters. The group will collaborate on each call, with the on-site official having the final say, in the hopes of getting it right in a timely fashion.

"I think it's great," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "With everything that goes on, everybody—coaches, players, fans—want to get it right. The more eyes that are more on it and the more people who are able to review something, the better chance you have to get it right."

All SEC officials will be eligible to serve in the video command center on any given week, with the specific individuals being rotated based on assignments. One change is that longtime referee Tom Ritter will retire from his duties as the lead official on one of the SEC's primary crews; however, he will serve as a replay official.

It's a great move for the SEC to use the video center that's already in place to expedite the replay process. 

Make no mistake, it will expedite it.

When it's just one official in the stadium looking at replays, that person oftentimes will have discussions internally to make sure the call is right. With a crew available to look at it in real time, a consensus will likely be achieved quicker than it would with one replay official, limiting the unplanned breaks in action.

 

Grains of Sand

  • The SEC will continue to use an independent medical observer in the press box for all games that take place in SEC stadiums.
  • There was discussion on lifting the three-decade old ban on alcohol sales in general seating areas of SEC stadiums, but the ban will stay in place for now.
  • Fans in stadiums will now see the replay angles that are being reviewed by officials on stadium video boards in addition to broadcast angles. 
  • Suspended games will not be resumed if it is determined by the head referee and the commissioner (and/or his designee on site) that it can be reasonably completed by 1:30 a.m. local time. The commissioner does have sole authority to extend that deadline.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Expands Serious Misconduct Policy: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

The Southeastern Conference announced changes to its serious misconduct policy Friday to strengthen the regulations concerning the acceptance of incoming transfers. 

Seth Emerson of SEC Country reported the updated rule, which originally prohibited transfer students who were convicted, pleaded guilty or pleaded no contest to sexual assault, domestic violence or "other forms" of sexual violence, still won't cover high school recruits.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted the changes include adding transfers who pleaded guilty or no contest to any "felony involving serious misconduct" to the prohibited list. Sallee pointed out other additions to the rule are stalking and "dating violence behavior that concerns safety to others."

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey stated schools are still allowed to make the decisions involving incoming freshmen with prior issues, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.

The news comes one day after Chip Patterson of CBS Sports reported Mississippi State confirmed the enrollment of 5-star defensive line prospect Jeffery Simmons, per 247Sports, despite a video being posted from March that showed him hitting a woman multiple times.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin posted a statement on the school's official athletics site, which also noted Simmons is waiting on a final decision about misdemeanor charges after allegedly trying to break up a fight between his sister and another woman:

Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery. It's a highly unique circumstance to administer discipline to a student for an incident that occurred prior to that individual joining our university. However, it's important that Jeffery and other potential MSU students understand that these type of actions and poor decisions are not acceptable.

We expect the structure and discipline Jeffery will be a part of in our football program to benefit him. Jeffery will be held accountable for his actions while at MSU, and there will be consequences for any future incidents.

Sankey didn't take the idea of potentially including incoming freshmen in the serious misconduct policy in the future completely off the table. "We'll continue to talk," he said when asked about that possibility, according to the SEC Country report.

The SEC didn't provide a timetable on when to expect a final decision regarding the issue, though.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ken Starr Discusses Baylor Resignation, Art Briles, More

Following his demotion as president and resignation as chancellor at Baylor University, Ken Starr commented in an interview with KWTX on the sexual assault scandal that rocked the school.

Starr announced his resignation Wednesday in an interview with Outside the Lines (h/t ESPN.com), and he addressed the reasoning behind his decision in the interview, via KWTX.com: "That's why I resigned, as a matter of conscience, so I can call on the board of regents, who are good people and love Baylor, but they have continued to follow a policy that I had to follow as an official. But I urge them toward transparency, transparency."

An awkward moment occurred when interviewer Julie Hays asked him if he had seen an email with the subject line "I was raped at Baylor" sent to him by a former Baylor student who alleged she was raped at the school in 2010.

Starr initially replied, "I honestly may have. I'm not denying that I saw it," before communication specialist Merrie Spaeth interrupted the interview and had Starr change his answer, as seen in this video via KWTX News 10's Facebook page:

Starr's revised response upon returning to the interview was, "I honestly have no recollection of seeing such an email, and I believe that I would remember seeing such an email. The president of the University gets lots of emails. I don't even see a lot of the emails that come into the office of the President. I have no recollection of it. None," per KWTX.com.

Additionally, Baylor head football coach Art Briles was fired May 26, but Starr stood behind him and the winning program he built at the school:

Art Briles is a coach of second chance. Did he make misjudgments? I'll leave that to the board, the board has made its judgment. I am here to say coach Briles and this program are good. He's a good person, the program is a good person, [and] I'm going to vigorously defend it because I love these young men.

Briles has since been replaced by interim head coach Jim Grobe, while David Garland was named interim president in Starr's stead.

Along with those shakeups, several recruits have decommitted from Baylor following the scandal. 

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish's 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

Notre Dame football could hardly avoid injuries last year, and collective health is the primary storyline of the 2016 offseason.

Most everyone knows about Malik Zaire's situation, but spring practice brought new issues and ailments—one of which could end the football days of a potential starter.

While one college career might finish, though, the coaching staff will be working to start many others via the recruiting trail. One particular weekend could bring a flurry of commitments.

Off-the-field successes will soon become a secondary topic, though. Since Notre Dame has national championship aspirations in 2016, a new starter must have a complete understanding of the defense.

Without that, a healthy team might not be enough for a title.

Begin Slideshow

4-Star LB Markail Benton Breaks Down Top 3, Decision Timeline

From a recruiting perspective, Phenix City, Alabama, linebacker Markail Benton can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With nearly 20 reported offers to choose from, the 4-star prospect trimmed his list to three schools—Auburn, Alabama and Florida State— on Thursday.

In short, Benton will play college football either in the SEC or the ACC. On Thursday evening, Benton told Bleacher Report that the race is open for any of those three teams.

"It was pretty tough," Benton said of his decision. "I had some other big schools in, like LSU, Clemson and Mississippi State. It just came down to what schools I liked best. I want to go somewhere that's a winning program and with a great academic program and great coaching."

Benton, now at 6'2" and 237 pounds, went from a top six in April to a top three on Thursday. He's had Auburn, Alabama and Florida State high on his list for quite some time, as he's built solid relationships with the coaching staffs over the last few months.

He said he's looking at the next few weeks as an opportunity to further associate himself with the coaches.

Benton said he has made multiple trips to each school in his top three. Each school has something different to offer, which he appreciates as he prepares to make his final decision.

"Alabama's got great coaching. You can't get better coaching than Nick Saban," Benton said. "With Auburn, I really get along with Coach [Travis] Williams, the linebackers coach. Plus, he went there, so he's told me a lot about [the school].

"Florida State's been recruiting me for a while. I really like [defensive coordinator] Coach [Charles] Kelly. He said if I got bigger, he would offer me. I did, and he offered. That's big that he kept his word."

Auburn fans are hoping proximity plays a major role in Benton's decision. Auburn's campus is roughly 35 miles away from Phenix City's Central High School. Additionally, Benton's former teammate at Central, 2016 cornerback John Broussard, is an early enrollee there.

Benton said the championship pedigree of Alabama is intriguing to him, but if he chooses the Crimson Tide, that won't be the ultimate X-factor.

"Wherever I go, I just want to get better," he said.

Florida State would love to add Benton to its class. Both Auburn and Alabama have two linebackers committed in the 2017 class. The Seminoles have one linebacker pledge in 3-star Bradley Jennings Jr., and Jennings is an outside linebacker.

Benton is expecting to play inside linebacker on first and second downs and see time as a rush defender in third-down packages at the next level. He's a versatile linebacker who can not only play sideline to sideline but also cover tight ends and slot receivers in passing situations.

Benton, an Under Armour All-American, said he's considered making a verbal commitment during the Under Armour All-America Game in January, but there's a good chance he may push his decision up to the summer.

"I may try to do it [in] July before the season," he said. "I want to get it over with so I can focus on my school work and my team."

Benton said he wants to study sports medicine wherever he ends up. He added that he's planning to give all three schools an official visit when it's time to schedule his designated five visits.

For now, Benton said he'll continue studying his finalists and keep the process as stress-free as possible.

"I'm just living the life right now. I'm very humbled and thank the lord every day he's blessed me with," Benton said. "The team that wins will be another family where I can leave from high school to college and learn a lot."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

With a number of key players working their way back to full health and the height of recruiting season on the horizon, head coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are on the brink of a busy and pivotal summer in Columbus.

The championship expectations haven't faded for Buckeye nation, even after Ohio State sent a historic 12 players to the NFL draft and lost 16 starters total. That's because quarterback J.T. Barrett is back as the clear leader of a young but explosively talented team.

True, on-field preparation for the 2016 season won't commence until the start of fall camp, so what should Meyer and the Buckeyes focus on over the next two months? 

 

Get (and Stay) Healthy

Ohio State escaped the spring session relatively intact, at least from the first-team perspective, as the only major injury befell third-string quarterback Stephen Collier (ACL tear). 

Meanwhile, a trio of key wideouts—Noah Brown, Corey Smith and Curtis Samuel—spent the spring working their way back from injuries that either ended or hindered their 2015 campaigns.

Brown and Smith both suffered season-ending broken legs. Brown's injury came in fall camp, derailing what many anticipated to be a breakout year for the bulldozing playmaker. Smith stepped up in his absence, but he suffered the same injury in Week 5 against Indiana.

Samuel, however, fought his way through a nagging foot injury that required surgery after Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. He's expected to make a full recovery, as are Brown and Smith, and be ready to go when fall camp opens.

On the other side of the ball, defensive end Tyquan Lewis spent the spring rehabbing from shoulder surgery, and Marshon Lattimore, who's battling for the open cornerback position, rested throughout spring practice as he tested his bothersome hamstring.

With so many players on the mend this spring, Meyer expressed frustration about trying to piece together a two-deep rotation.

"With 11 guys out, that's the thing that kicks you in the teeth," Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "If everybody's ready to go, I think you could do that. But we're not."

Meyer doesn't want that frustration to stretch into fall camp, because the Buckeyes will need to come out firing on all cylinders with an early date at Oklahoma on the schedule. Getting healthy, and then staying healthy, has to be the top priority.

 

Get the Freshmen Acclimated

Seven recruits from Ohio State's 25-member and fourth-ranked recruiting class graduated high school early to participate in winter workouts and spring practice. This month, the other 18 freshmen will report to campus for summer conditioning.

That group will be headlined by the crown jewel of Ohio State's 2016 recruiting efforts—5-star defensive end Nick Bosa. The younger brother of former superstar Buckeye Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa is expected to come in and provide immediate depth in the rotation behind Sam Hubbard on the strong side.

It doesn't stop there, of course. There's 4-star all-purpose back Demario McCall, who could provide a boost at H-back. There's Dwayne Haskins, the 4-star quarterback who will need to engage early with the injury to Collier and no proven option behind Barrett and backup Joe Burrow. And 4-stars Binjimen Victor (wideout), Keandre Jones (linebacker), Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell (tight ends) and Jordan Fuller (cornerback) all have the talent and opportunity to see the playing field this year.

The key for these young guys will be their transition to the speed at the collegiate level. That is, across the board, the biggest adjustment for first-year players to make when embarking on their college careers.

The faster that adjustment is made, the sooner (and more significant) the impact they'll be able to make.

 

Build on the Recruiting Momentum

While the coaching staff works to get its 2016 recruiting class up to speed, it will continue its pursuit of signing the country's No. 1 class for the 2017 cycle.

The Buckeyes got off to a roaring start this year, and with 13 verbal pledges already in the fold, they have a firm grasp on the top spot in the rankings. The class is anchored by a pair of 5-star standouts—offensive tackle Josh Myers and cornerback Shaun Wade—the No. 4- and No. 13-ranked recruits in the country, respectively.

And while the Buckeyes have a commanding lead in the race for the No. 1 recruiting class, they haven't gained a verbal commitment since early March, when 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins pulled the trigger.

But the summer months are when the Ohio State staff get to see a lot of their top targets, whether on visits or on the camp circuit. That's when Ohio State could see its class grow.

One of Meyer's top targets is 5-star wide receiver Trevon Grimes, and the Buckeyes have a great opportunity to seal the deal this month. They'll be at his school—St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—later this month to host a satellite camp, and a few weeks later, he'll be up in Columbus with his family to visit the campus, according to Andrew Ellis of Eleven Warriors.

If things go well, the Buckeyes, who are listed as the enormous favorite to earn his commitment, via 247Sports' "crystal ball" predictions, have a good chance to close the deal before month's end.

Other players such as 5-star quarterback Tate Martell and 5-star safety/wide receiver Jeffrey Okudah could pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

With the scholarship crunch Ohio State is undergoing this year, Meyer has to be selective with the open spots in the 2017 class. But if any of the Buckeyes' top targets want to pull the trigger this summer, Ohio State's quest for the top class will remain on track.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Q&A: What's the B1G's Most Important Position Battle in 2016?

After a month of #QuietTime (shoutout to Jim Tressel), it's about to get much louder in Big Ten country as June brings the start of satellite camp season across the conference.

And it didn't take long for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to find himself back in the headlines either, with his not-so-subtle shot at Alabama head coach Nick Saban's criticisms of his controversial recruiting practice:

OK, Jim. How do you really feel?

With satellite camp tours in full force and Harbaugh back atop the college football news cycle, only three months remain until the start of the 2016 season. With that in mind, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A, where we'll tackle the conference's most important position battle, the ceiling of one of Michigan's star players, the importance of satellite camps and Ohio State's Achilles' heel.

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

Let's get started.

 

While there is certainly no shortage of position battles to be found in Piscataway this offseason, it'd be hard to refer to any of their outcomes as "the most important" in the Big Ten. That would imply any one of Rutgers' position battles is capable of affecting the conference's championship picture, which simply isn't a reality in the first year of the Chris Ash era.

There is, however, at least one position battle in the Big Ten that could determine whether or not a program remains a consistent contender or begins to play the role of pretender.

In fact, it's a competition being held by the reigning Big Ten champions, as Michigan State looks to find a replacement for Connor Cook as the Spartans' starting quarterback.

While most of the league's preseason hype has pertained to Michigan and Ohio State, few seem to remember it's Michigan State that lays claim to the conference crown. That's because with Cook now a member of the Oakland Raiders, the Spartans find themselves without their most accomplished quarterback in program history in a year where their two biggest divisional rivals could each be considered national title contenders.

Only the same could realistically be said of Michigan State this year, should the right signal-caller emerge to take Cook's place in the starting lineup. Right now, fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor looks like the odds-on favorite, after Cook's former backup completed 10 of his 16 pass attempts for 138 yards in the Spartans' spring game—an unspectacular but steady effort reminiscent of his win over the Buckeyes in place of Cook last November.

Behind O'Connor, intriguing options remain in junior Damion Terry and true freshman Messiah deWeaver. But it will be up to head coach Mark Dantonio to pick the right player for his team, in a decision that could ultimately have far-reaching implications in the Big Ten title race.

 

When I wrote last week that Michigan's 2016 defense possessed the potential to go down as one of college football's all-time greats, it was met with plenty of skepticism—most of which came from Ohio State fans. 

The Scarlet and Gray faithful's primary argument: How can a defense be as great as I said the Wolverines could be if Michigan's linebackers remain such a question mark?

My response: Just wait until you see Jabrill Peppers at linebacker.

Don't take my word for it. Just take a look at the numbers of the past four players to play the role Peppers is preparing to occupy in defensive coordinator Don Brown's defense:

Three of those players now find themselves in the NFL, while Matt Milano enters his senior season at Boston College as one of college football's top returning linebackers. And none of them possessed nearly as much natural talent as the former 5-star prospect Peppers brings to the table heading into his sophomore season.

As for Peppers' ceiling, think former Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, who the New York Jets just selected with the 20th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft. Peppers, however, already has better cover skills and more versatility than his former rival, who also began his college career primarily playing safety.

Already one of college football's biggest names, a potential Heisman run has also been mentioned in connection to Peppers, even by this Big Ten writer. As far-fetched as it might seem for a defensive player to win college football's most prestigious individual award, Peppers has all the tools necessary to be considered a serious candidate.

And with his new role, he should soon have the numbers to match as well.

 

From the actual camps themselves?

Honestly, probably not much.

At a program like Michigan—and especially with a coach like Harbaugh—your top targets are already zeroed in on, and what happens on one day in the summer probably isn't going to overshadow fall visits or unofficial trips taken at a prospect's discretion. Add in that the Wolverines are sharing several of their camps with other schools and that rivals like Ohio State are now taking advantage of the loophole as well, and it's hard to imagine Michigan gaining a tangible advantage, even with 40 camps slated for this summer.

But as far as the spectacle Harbaugh has created is concerned, that's where the real edge from all of this comes from. After all, since returning to Ann Arbor at the end of 2014, no coach has found himself in the headlines more consistently than Harbaugh, and satellite camps have been a big reason why.

The aforementioned shot at Saban? That stemmed from satellite camps. And don't think for a second he didn't know what he was doing and the attention it would bring to both his brand and program.

"The publicity is something he's obviously gaining from this for sure," Rivals.com National Director of Recruiting Mike Farrell told me. "From a marketing and publicity standpoint, he is an absolute genius. This is going to play out very very well for him."

In fact, it already has, with Michigan laying claim to the nation's fifth-ranked class in 2016, with another top haul in 2017 likely on its way. When it comes to the camps themselves, there will be plenty of buzz, even if they end with little in terms of tangible results.

But that buzz counts for something, and it's what Harbaugh has built his already successful tenure with the Wolverines on thus far.

 

What's so crazy about this year's Ohio State team is that with all the talent lost from last year's squad, so much remains unknown about the Buckeyes entering 2016.

And that includes their weaknesses.

Point to any position group on the OSU roster aside from quarterback, and you could make a compelling case for that becoming the Buckeyes' downfall in the coming year. In total, Ohio State finds itself replacing three starting offensive linemen, three wide receivers plus a tight end, the reigning Big Ten MVP at running back, three defensive linemen—including No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa—two linebackers, a first-round cornerback in Eli Apple and both starting safeties.

It's also worth noting the Buckeyes will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, although Greg Schiano should be a more than suitable replacement for Chris Ash.

And for as well as Urban Meyer has recruited in Columbus, it wouldn't be surprising if at least one position group fell short of Ohio State's standards in 2016. If forced to pick one, however, I'd go with the wide receivers, given their overall lack of experience and vitality to the Buckeyes offense.

With the losses of Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall, the Buckeyes find themselves replacing 118 receptions, 1,599 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches from last year's team. In their place will be a corps of inexperienced players with high upsides in Noah Brown, Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon and Torrance Gibson—players who have shown flashes, but not much else at this point in their college careers.

The wild card of the bunch is Austin Mack, a true freshman who enrolled early and put together a promising spring before looking every bit like the first-year player he is in the Buckeyes' spring game. But if Mack can continue to accelerate his development and a player like Gibson can realize his potential, Ohio State's passing game shouldn't miss a step in the coming year.

At the moment, that seems like a lot of "ifs" to rely on. But the Buckeyes' track record with player development speaks for itself and will be paramount to Ohio State's success in 2016. 

 

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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Perfect College Football Starting Lineup for 2016

(Note: The following is best read in the voice of a sympathetic product spokesperson.)

As a college football fan, we get that you're fed up with the game. There are just so many great players spread across the country that nearly every team has at least one guy who's worth tuning in to watch. It can make Saturdays in the fall quite enjoyable—but also quite time-consuming.

So frustrating, right? It'd be a lot easier if they could all be together on one team—a perfect lineup, if you will—featuring the best players at every position. Watch that one team in action, and the rest of your day would be free!

Lucky for you, we at Bleacher Report have assembled just such a team to make your college football fandom easier. With this lineup there are no flaws, no weaknesses and—most importantly—no reason to look elsewhere for top-quality players.

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Football: Volunteers' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

It's the time of year where we all sit around, grab the nearest calendar and tick off the number of days until the Tennessee (or insert favorite team here) football season starts.

Most everybody is enjoying the hottest months of the year around some body of water or on a baseball diamond somewhere, but in the back of every real football fan's mind, you've got the pigskin on the brain.

For the actual football players and coaches themselves, this is their time out of the spotlight. But away from the scribes' tape recorders and the glare of the television cameras, it's where championship programs begin to sprout from the seclusion of weight rooms and practice fields around campuses across the country.

The Vols hope to be no different. Coach Butch Jones always takes a meticulous, calculated approach to every moment of the offseason. So he'll have players on proper weight regimens, conditioning or rehab programs and utilize every moment he has with his team in the film room.

Like most coaches, Jones is dialed in to what needs to happen with every individual.

For some, it's maintaining that star potential. For others, such as center Coleman Thomas, it's taking that next step to being an elite player, Jones recently said at a Big Orange Caravan stop, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown:

Coleman's made great progress and taken tremendous strides. We expect a big summer out of him. He's really committed himself in the strength and conditioning area in getting stronger. He's an individual now who's played a number of snaps for us, has been in a lot of battles, so to speak, and understands what it takes now to prepare at this level. I think it's a testament to his work as he continues to grow and elevate his game.

When you're referring to individuals, you know you've got a detailed mental list. Let's take a look at some of the things that need to be on there as the Vols begin marking things off their summer checklist on the way to one of the most anticipated seasons in a long time on Rocky Top.

Begin Slideshow

Mississippi State Sets Horrible Example by Admitting Jeffery Simmons

DESTIN, Fla. — In a day and age in which player discipline, domestic violence and violence toward women is at the forefront of the national conversation due to the situation at Baylor, Mississippi State could have made a statement.

It could have made a statement that violence toward women is wrong in all instances. 

It could have prevented 5-star defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons from enrolling in the school after he was charged in March for simple assault and disturbing the peace after video surfaced on WCBI (via the Clarion-Ledger) of Simmons hitting a woman who was on the ground. 

It didn't. 

The school announced Thursday it will allow Simmons to enroll as a student in the summer semester, but it will suspend him for his first collegiate game. He will also "be evaluated by the licensed professionals at the university’s [on-campus] Student Counseling Services."

"We took our time and vetted this thing as best we could," athletics director Scott Stricklin told reporters at SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Hilton. "The second thing is that we wanted to make sure that we weren't making our campus unsafe. We weren't introducing something on campus that would create an issue, which is why we spent a lot of time in his hometown talking to a lot of people.

"We looked at his police background, and there was nothing in there other than this situation. We got his student conduct records from Noxubee County [Mississippi] High School. There was nothing in there to make you think that this is a kid who's a troublemaker—that's going to be someone who causes violence on campus."

One instance of hitting a woman shouldn't be acceptable, especially when Mississippi State was in a position to prove it.

The counseling Mississippi State mentioned in its press release and Stricklin acknowledged to reporters in Destin hasn't happened yet.

So why admit him now? Because classes started Thursday? Because it was, as Stricklin described, "a parking lot fight that got out of control?"

Give me a break.

Yes, Stricklin pointed out that just because it was a parking lot fight doesn't make it OK. Yes, by admitting Simmons, Mississippi St. gives him access to the student opportunity fund and other on-campus treatment programs that he wouldn't have access to otherwise. 

Can't that wait? 

The SEC made a bold move last season by passing the "serious conduct rule," which prevents players with a history of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual violence from transferring to programs in the conference. It doesn't (and likely won't) pertain to incoming freshmen, due in part to the fact that legal records of minors are sometimes difficult to access.

Simmons' legal records, at least in this instance, are not.

The two misdemeanor charges are out there, with video of the incident, for everybody to see. Isn't that enough to apply the same rule to an incoming freshman?

Evidently not.

"I was on the student misconduct committee, and I think it would be a question mark," Stricklin said. "If you look at the triggers that are in the due diligence, he has two misdemeanors. ... It's questionable if he were a transfer. Greg [Sankey] pointed out, there's a different expectation for somebody who's been out on their own in a college environment versus somebody who's never left home."

The expectation should be to not hit women. 

The expectation should be that if you have a clear path to let the legal system play out without welcoming a danger to your campus, take it.

The expectation should be to use common sense and recognize that, while Simmons might have a background that's as crystal clear as the water in the Gulf of Mexico—a mere 100 yards from where Stricklin was sitting when he met with reporters—one instance of violence toward a woman creates a history that should be addressed more harshly.

The expectation should be that a one-game suspension—the rough equivalent of a targeting penalty that occurs early in the first quarter of a contest—isn't enough when it involves violence toward a woman.

Those expectations don't rush the quarterback, though.

Simmons does, and he'll likely be doing it by mid-September for a Mississippi State program that chose to take the low road Thursday. 

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jeffery Simmons, 5-Star DL, Admitted to Mississippi State: Details, Reaction

Five-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons has been admitted to Mississippi State University, with conditions, after he was charged with misdemeanor assault in March, the school announced Thursday. 

"After careful assessment, the MSU athletics department has determined Simmons may be a part of the football team, but he will be evaluated by the licensed professionals at the university’s Student Counseling Services and be required to complete any program prescribed by that office," the school wrote in a statement. "Additionally, he will be suspended for the first game of his college career."

According to the Clarion-Ledger's Sarah Fowler, Simmons was formally charged with simple assault and disturbing the peace after a video emerged that showed him striking a woman. 

The school's official statement says Simmons "used physical force against one of those involved in the altercation" after he attempted to break up a fight between his sister and another woman. 

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin explained why the school moved forward and admitted Simmons before the charges were resolved: 

Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery. It’s a highly unique circumstance to administer discipline to a student for an incident that occurred prior to that individual joining our university. However, it’s important that Jeffery and other potential MSU students understand that these type of actions and poor decisions are not acceptable. 

We expect the structure and discipline Jeffery will be a part of in our football program to benefit him. Jeffery will be held accountable for his actions while at MSU, and there will be consequences for any future incidents.

Citing a source, Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network reported "Simmons has been told he has no margin for error and will be 'monitored closely.'"

Simmons ranks No. 19 overall among all recruits in 247 Sports' class of 2016. He's also the top-ranked player in the state of Mississippi and the third-ranked strong-side defensive end in his class. 

 

Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Wolverines' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

If everything goes as planned for Michigan during the offseason, Jim Harbaugh will make noise everywhere while the rest of the Wolverines quietly prepare for the 2016 campaign.

Harbaugh and the coaching staff are quite literally traveling the world to participate in satellite camps—39, to be exact, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. In addition to stops in SEC Country, Michigan is headed to American Samoa and Australia.

While that effort should reap success on the recruiting trail, a top priority for the Wolverines is immersing summer-arriving freshmen in the next level of football.

The newcomers will join an established group of players with a few objectives to work toward before fall camp.

Begin Slideshow

Corey Malone-Hatcher to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Corey Malone-Hatcher announced Thursday that he's planning to play college football at Michigan, providing a boost to the Wolverines' 2017 recruiting class.

Tyler James of NDInsider.com provided video of Malone-Hatcher's announcement:

Malone-Hatcher also provided his thoughts on joining the Wolverines, per Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports:

I take a tremendous amount of pride. The message Coach (Jim) Harbaugh gave me the last time I talked to him sums it up. He said when you wake up the next morning and you realize you’re going to be a Wolverine, that Go Blue takes on a different meaning. You start to say it differently. It becomes a symbol for you. You’re part of something bigger. You’re part of something that represents academic excellent success and tradition on the football field.

It’s an honor to carry on that tradition.

Malone-Hatcher is a 4-star prospect and the No. 247 overall recruit in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also rates as the No. 16 weak-side defensive end and the sixth-best incoming player from the state of Michigan.

The St. Joseph High School star features a frame that should allow him to play defensive end or linebacker. He combines intriguing power with a growing understanding of how to attack the passer on a consistent basis.

His junior campaign did come to an early end because of a leg injury. Josh Helmholdt of Rivals noted the lineman could have just tried to let it heal, but he opted to fix the problem with the hope of putting it in his rearview mirror for good.

"I had two options: either put it in a boot and let it heal, or just go get it fixed and make sure it is not a reoccurring issue," Malone-Hatcher said. "We opted to just get it taken care of right now and not have to worry about it anymore."

Before that, Eric Rutter of Today's U Sports liked the progress he witnessed:

Malone-Hatcher's improved play also led to increased interest from around the nation as he prepared for his senior campaign, as he illustrated on social media:

Of course, it didn't come as much surprise that several top programs made contact with him, given his long-term upside. It's still going to take some development time before he becomes an every-down contributor on defense, though.

Keeping Malone-Hatcher in Michigan is a major recruiting victory for Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff. He generated interest from other high-profile programs such as Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame, so it's a strong get for the Wolverines.

While it's always tricky to gauge how quickly a prospect might make an impact this far out, Michigan has several upperclassmen among its defensive line. So by the time he arrives on campus, there should be an opportunity to earn at least a place in the rotation.

Malone-Hatcher is probably going to take a full season or two before he really starts to make his presence felt for the Wolverines. He has the skill set to become a star, though.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages