Feed aggregator

Michigan RB Drake Johnson Hospitalized After Being Hit by Forklift at Practice

The Michigan Wolverines announced on Thursday that senior running back Drake Johnson was hospitalized for a freak accident that reportedly involved a forklift.

Per Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News, the university confirmed that Johnson was involved in an accident at an indoor track building, although it didn't provide an update on his status.  

According to Derick Hutchinson of Local 4 WDIV in Detroit, a source reported that Johnson was hit by a forklift while stretching at practice.

The incident reportedly occurred Wednesday, and a tweet from Johnson may have been in reference to his hospitalization:

Johnson is an Ann Arbor, Michigan, native who is currently slotted as the Wolverines' No. 2 running back behind De'Veon Smith.

After gaining a career-high 361 yards on the ground in 2014, Johnson rushed for 271 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries last season. He also caught six passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of scores in a 41-7 thrashing of Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

Johnson figures to be a key member of Michigan's offense in 2016 and could be in for his best statistical season yet if healthy.

Details surrounding any potential injuries he may have suffered remain scarce, but if they do force him to miss any or all of the 2016 campaign, it will be a huge blow to head coach Jim Harbaugh's backfield depth.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 5 Injured Vols We'll Miss Watching in Saturday's Spring Game

The old cliche says teams with bad luck are snake-bit, but that's seemingly about the only injury the Tennessee football team hasn't suffered since last season.

For the second spring in a row, multiple Volunteers have fallen victim to the injury bugaboo, and when head coach Butch Jones' team heads onto the field at Neyland Stadium on Saturday for the annual Orange and White Game, it's going to be a veritable skeleton crew dressed out.

Nearly 20 players either didn't participate in spring drills or have been lost since the start of them nearly a month ago. Though, thankfully for the Vols, none of the setbacks are expected to last into the season, they'll be a hindrance to a program seeking big things in 2016.

The biggest (and most bizarre) injury has been a rash of bum shoulders, some of which have led to surgeries.

According to VolQuest's Brent Hubbs and John Brice

The Vols entered spring camp with a bevy of players held out, largely due to offseason shoulder surgeries such as Derek Barnett, Josh Malone, Kendal Vickers, Chance Hall, Jashon Robertson and others. Since spring camp opened, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Austin Smith also suffered shoulder injuries after the onset of practice while Perry, Jennings and Stephen Griffin (hand/wrist that required surgery) also have endured spring-ending injuries.

That's a who's who among UT star players. About the only big-time players on Tennessee's roster who haven't dealt with their share of setbacks are quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, and cornerback Cameron Sutton.

Numerous hurt players means the Vols won't be able to do a full-fledged, all-out scrimmage Saturday in front of the Neyland crowd and thousands more watching at home on the SEC Network. Instead, they'll do some of the classic format, followed by individual drills and skills competitions.

The challenge will be to get out of that game unscathed and get to fall camp with enough players to make a championship run.

There are a bunch of players out, but let's take a look at the five Vols we'd most like to watch perform on Saturday who'll instead be standing on the sideline.

Begin Slideshow

Terrell Bynum to Washington: Huskies Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Terrell Bynum emerged as a 4-star wide receiver recruit at St. John Bosco and Servite High Schools in California, and he parlayed that status into a future at Washington on Wednesday when he made his college commitment official. 

Bynum took to Twitter to announce his decision:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Bynum is the 137th-ranked player overall and the 19th-ranked receiver in the class of 2017. Among California recruits in his class, Bynum grades out 16th overall.

All along, Bynum said he intended to make his commitment official before the start of his senior season. 

"I want to make an early decision, sometime in the spring," he said, per Scout.com's Greg Biggins. "I want to get through signing day first and see what coaches are still with their programs to make sure it's a stable, secure situation for me."

Now that he's committed to the Huskies, Bynum can focus on fine-tuning his skill set to mask the fact he's not the class of 2017's most physically imposing pass-catcher. 

Although he flashed terrific speed and change-of-pace capabilities, Bynum is still just 6'1" and 175 pounds—making him more of a viable long-term option in the slot thanks to his ability to create yards after the catch. 

A speedy weapon who gets out of his breaks in a flash, Bynum is the sort of playmaker capable of breaking a game wide-open with his open-field acumen.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Terrell Bynum to Washington: Huskies Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Terrell Bynum emerged as a 4-star wide receiver recruit at St. John Bosco and Servite High Schools in California, and he parlayed that status into a future at Washington on Wednesday when he made his college commitment official...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

4-Star Todd Harris Talks Favorites, Visit Plans and Key Factors in Decision

NEW ORLEANS — Entering Sunday’s New Orleans Nike Regional, 4-star safety Todd Harris was one of a handful of in-state stars looking to make a statement.

For the 6’0”, 180-pounder out of Plaquemine High School, the event gave him a chance to showcase why he and other stars from “the boot” deserve to be rated among the nation’s elite.

“It’s a privilege to be born in Louisiana. We’re basically off the radar so a lot of guys sleep on us,” Harris told Bleacher Report. “That’s a good thing because it just motivates us more to compete.”

His day started off with a couple of personal bests in the testing portion of the event.

“I broke some of my records today. I ran a 4.51 [in the 40-yard dash],” Harris said. “I increased my vertical jump, but my power ball went down.” 

The event concluded with him being the only defensive back to earn an invitation to The Opening in July.

Harris was able to display the range and athleticism needed to play corner or safety at the next level—which is why he’s earned more than 15 offers to date.

A trio of SEC West powers are among the schools that are standing out to Harris at the moment.

“As of right now, I don’t really have a definite top school. A top 3 right now would be LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. But that is indefinite,” Harris stated. “It’s more of the three schools I’ve been speaking with.”

He elaborated on why those schools are in a good spot early with him.

LSU Tigers: "They are basically in my backyard. It’s probably going to be tough to pull me away from them. After I take more visits throughout the summer and during my senior year, maybe that could change."

Ole Miss Rebels: "I haven’t really been to Ole Miss yet. I was planning to go a week or two ago, but we ended up having to go to Georgia to play in a seven-on-seven tournament. So I will probably end up going to Ole Miss in the summertime, probably for their summer camp. But, I like how they use their defensive backs in their scheme."

Mississippi State Bulldogs: "I was up there like a month or two ago. I enjoyed my time up there. We got to watch a basketball game, meet some players and meet the coaches. We got to tour the school and the field and learn about the academic program there. It was pretty nice."

Additionally, he took a recent visit to see another heavyweight out of the SEC.

“I took a visit to Georgia last weekend. Georgia was nice. The coaching staff was nice,” Harris said. “The campus is amazing. Their players were getting after it. It’s just something about Athens.”

Harris notes that out-of-state trips are random occurrences, which complicates his attempts to map out visit plans in the coming months. Still, he has an idea on the schools he wants to see soon, and he has an immediate trip lined up for this weekend.

“I want to go back to visit Alabama again,” Harris said. “I want to go visit Ole Miss, TCU, Tennessee. Me and [defensive backs] coach [Willie] Martinez have been talking, so I want to check them out. Obviously, I want to go to LSU. It’s like I stay over there. It’s my second home, so I can always go to LSU. I’ll be there next week for the spring game.”

He singled out Clemson, Kentucky, UCLA and USC as schools he wants to hear from more. Of the schools who have offered him, LSU and Ole Miss are the two he said are coming after him the hardest.

He also hasn’t identified when he wants to make his decision, although he has flirted with two events as possibilities.

“Maybe at the Under Armour game or on signing day. I haven’t really decided. I’m going to talk it over with my parents and see what they think about it first,” Harris said.

The nation’s No. 4 safety and the No. 57 player overall reports a 3.5 GPA with tentative plans to major in either law or sports medicine. There are a few factors that will weigh heavily on him when it’s time to pick his home at the college level.

“It’s going to be a tough one. I want to make sure I have a good relationship with the coaches and that I’m comfortable with the school,” Harris said. “I want the school to have a great education background. I will just leave everything else in God’s hands.”

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the Top 25 Juniors Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

College football wasn't intended to become a breeding ground for future NFL stars, but there's no doubt it's become this over the years. And nowhere do pro teams spend more time evaluating prospective talent than among the junior class.

With few exceptions, the best juniors in the country tend to make that their last year at the college level. Because they're eligible for the NFL draft after that season, and with the window to make it at the next level growing smaller by the year, the best of the best in college often jump at the chance to get their pro clock started.

Because of this, our list of the 25 best juniors in college football heading into the 2016 season could almost serve as an unofficial 2017 NFL draft big board. Though seniors and even some draft-eligible sophomores will end up getting picked very high next spring, by and large the bulk of those top picks will come from the current junior class.

Scroll our list to see who made the cut, and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Texas A&M's Aggies Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Football

One has the feeling that Kevin Sumlin is sleeping a little better this week.

Spring practices have already concluded at Texas A&M, which on Saturday held its first Maroon & White Game in three years due to the massive rebuilding of Kyle Field.

It wasn’t perfect—spring games never are—yet it was obvious that the biggest concern from last year has been successfully addressed to the point that Aggies fans can start feeling pretty good about the team’s chances in 2016.

Yes, there is a quarterback in College Station.

In case you missed it, Texas A&M’s 2015 season essentially fell apart after a 5-0 start, with former 5-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both leaving the program.

The departures were seen as giving the Aggies not one black eye but two, and Sumlin’s name subsequently started being mentioned as being on the hot seat.

He has a six-year, $30 million contract and the renovation of Kyle Field cost more than $450 million. Yet the Aggies are coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons and haven’t been above .500 in Southeastern Conference play since 2012. 

Things weren’t adding up in College Station, and Sumlin had to act quickly to turn them around. 

It began when the school announced that it and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital had “mutually decided to part ways,” and offensive line coach Dave Christensen, who also served as the running game coordinator, was dismissed. 

Two additions started to turn the momentum. Noel Mazzone was lured away from UCLA to be the offensive coordinator, and quarterback Trevor Knight transferred from Oklahoma.

The graduate senior has done nothing but impress during this first three months at Texas A&M, including Saturday. While Jake Hubenak, who started in the Music City Bowl (a 27-21 loss to Louisville), was trying to play while under the weather, Knight was 25-for-36 for 282 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

More importantly he showed poise, confidence and command. Recognizing he had someone to build the offense around, Sumlin named him the starter on Monday.

That shifted the head coaches’ biggest post-spring concern to making sure that nothing happens to Knight.

With a veteran quarterback running the offense, there’s a lot to like about the Aggies.

The collection of big, talented wide receivers will be a major problem for every opponent. Christian Kirk finished his freshman season with 1,009 receiving yards, and there’s also Ricky Seals-Jones, Damion Ratley, Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noll—if he can curtail his string of off-field issues (Noil was suspended for the Music City Bowl and will miss the opener against UCLA on September 3).

With early enrollee Trayveon Williams having an impressive spring, there’s some depth at running back and players who can be a bigger part of the passing game.

That’ll give Mazzone a lot to play with, and he didn’t give away anything during the final spring scrimmage, as he and Sumlin had the other offensive coaches call the plays.  

“The tempo was not at the point we want it to be, but we were able to change speeds two or three times today,” Sumlin said during the post-scrimmage press conference. “When we’re going to be most effective is being able to dictate the speed of the game, and not just go fast. Be able to change our speeds.”

Meanwhile, the defense is clearly better under second-year year coordinator John Chavis, and the tackling has improved. Led by the likes of Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall and Daylon Mack, the line should be nothing short of outstanding.

“We’ve all come together, gotten older and had more time to jell,” Garrett said during the presser. “We all know we’re going to get the job done."

“Without a doubt we have more experienced players on defense, and probably a number of NFL players on the defense,” Sumlin said.

That doesn’t mean the Aggies are completely set. A&M will have two new starting cornerbacks, there’s not much depth at linebacker and special teams lost a lot. 

But the season might boil down to the offensive line.

With guard Keaton Sutherland held out due to an injury, Texas A&M had just one returning starter playing during the Maroon & White Game, Avery Gennesy. The coaches are high on right tackle Koda Martin, but check out the overall defensive numbers: six sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles (one recovered) and two interceptions.

Some of that’s going to happen while facing Garrett and Co., but if the Aggies allow that in the fall, it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.

 

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

Baylor Allegedly Took 2 Years to Look into Sexual Assault Claim Against Players

Baylor University reportedly didn't investigate sexual assault claims against two football players for more than two years.  

According to Paula Lavigne of ESPN's Outside the Lines, despite being required under federal law to immediately investigate any allegation of sexual violence, Baylor waited over two years to look into claims made against former tight end Tre'Von Armstead and former practice squad player Myke Chatman. 

Included in Lavigne's report is the police report written by the Waco Police Department from April 20, 2013, in which the officers stated they notified university officials about "an off-campus incident" involving Armstead and Chatman. The university didn’t begin an investigation until September 2015.

Lavigne's report also noted the alleged victim in the case "told Waco police she was too drunk to remember exactly what occurred that night and that she didn't wish to pursue charges against the players, given her state of mind."

As a result of the alleged victim's statement, Armstead and Chatman were not charged in the case. Armstead was dismissed from the Baylor program in September 2015, with head coach Art Briles saying the decision was made for an unspecified violation of team rules, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). 

Per Lavigne's report, the Waco police investigation into the allegations against Armstead and Chatman was suspended in May 2013 without either player being interviewed, and no school officials contacted the alleged victim in the case. 

This is not the first time Baylor has been in the news for problems involving alleged sexual assault. In August, former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, who transferred to the program from Boise State, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female student and former Baylor soccer player. 

In September, the university hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the school's handling of its investigation into rape allegations made against Ukwuachu. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Ranking Every Team by 2016 Coaching Staff

Between Urban Meyer's arrival in 2012 and Jim Harbaugh's return to Ann Arbor, Michigan, just over a year ago, the Big Ten possessed one of the more interesting coaching stables in all of college football in 2015.

And after a trio off offseason head coaching hires that included two in-conference coordinators and a former NFL headman, the conference's coaching roster has only become even more fascinating in 2016.

It's not just the head coaches who matter but also each team's respective coaching staff. A lot of times, a program will get out what it puts into its coaching salary pool, a line of thinking the Big Ten has wrestled with in recent years.

Even if every team isn't on equal footing as far as compensation is concerned, each program's staff will inevitably continue to be measured against its competition in the league.

With that in mind, here's how we rank each Big Ten staff entering 2016, based on its top-to-bottom ability to maximize its program.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Ranking Every Team by 2016 Coaching Staff

A good head coach is only as good as his staff, and the SEC boasts some of the best coaching staffs in the country.

From Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, the conference is loaded with experienced assistants who either have been head coaches before or are on the fast track to running a program.

Which staffs are the best? We rank them based on production, recruiting and success in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Summer Arrivals with Best Chance to Earn Playing Time in 2016

Devin Bush Jr. and Ahmir Mitchell have started their push for immediate playing time at Michigan, but several summer arrivals should also make an impact in Ann Arbor in 2016.

Headlined by Rashan Gary, the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, a collection of non-early enrollees have a chance to break into the Wolverines lineup.

The following signees aren't the only incoming freshmen who will see the field, but the depth chart is more favorable for the players mentioned. For example, Michigan is loaded with experience at cornerback, so prospects at that position are less likely to play than linebackers.

While starring roles shouldn't be expected, notable production in limited action has already provided a reasonable amount of hope.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Players to Watch in Fighting Irish's 2016 Spring Game

The 2016 Blue-Gold game is a chance for Notre Dame supporters—and perhaps detractors—to check out some potential under-the-radar contributors for the coming season.

Although the Irish's quarterback situation is the overwhelming topic of discussion, seeing which players will replenish departed depth is a major storyline to watch.

And it's not limited to one side of the football.

On both offense and defense, Notre Dame has a true freshman already challenging for a starting role—or at least significant playing time. Plus, a few veterans are pushing for additional responsibilities and the right to replace previous team leaders.  

Begin Slideshow

Complete Previews for Top College Football Spring Games This Weekend

If the jam-packed opening weekend of the 2016 college football season is an all-you-can-eat buffet, consider this Friday and Saturday as snacks to help hold everyone over until then.

They might not be the most substantial items on the football menu, but spring games are tastes of what's to come later. And this weekend, college football fans can sample from a large list of televised scrimmages featuring some of the biggest brand names in the sport.

This upcoming weekend will be one of quarterback battles and depth chart dissections all over the country, from some strongholds down in the SEC all the way to a powerhouse in the Pac-12. There will be unofficial debuts for new head coaches at possible contenders. New schemes will be put on full display for the first time.

Here are the full FBS schedules for the busiest spring game weekend of the year—which features the last two national champions—and complete previews for a dozen of the biggest names on the slate.

What is the biggest offseason storyline for each big-name program in action this weekend? Which position battles deserve the closest attention? Who will stand out as the stars of the spring? Let's span the college football landscape and take a look.

Begin Slideshow

How Jim Harbaugh Can Still Benefit from Satellite Camp Ban

After the NCAA announced its ban on satellite camps last Friday, it took Jim Harbaugh a little longer than many expected to respond publicly.

But once the Michigan head coach did let his thoughts on the matter be known, boy, was it worth the wait.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg for a story that ran on CampusRush.com Tuesday, Harbaugh broke his silence—in a fashion only Harbaugh can.

Perhaps the only reason the second-year Wolverines head coach saved his screed against the NCAA from his Twitter account is because he had so much to say, with thoughts that wouldn't have befit 140-characters-or-less segments.

"Knee-jerk," Harbaugh said of the ruling, echoing Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's comments on the ban earlier this week. "Like somebody was shaving in the morning, cut themselves when they were shaving and said, 'Let's just ban satellite camps.'"

Harbaugh didn't stop there, firing personal shots at Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and the NCAA as a whole. The former Michigan quarterback even went as far as to suggest the idea of amateurism was a sham, pointing out the inconsistencies of promoting "student-athletes" during the NCAA Tournament but abandoning a practice that even Meyer—Harbaugh's chief rival in the Big Ten—estimated led to "hundreds" of scholarships being handed out at the Buckeyes camp alone.

"I suggest we drop the term 'student-athlete' for consistency," Harbaugh told Rosenberg.

Sharp, provocative and to the point. In other words, it was vintage Harbaugh.

It also may have been a glimpse into where the Wolverines plan on going from here, now that their second "Summer Swarm Tour" of satellite camps appears to have been cancelled.

After all, a byproduct of Harbaugh's first Swarm Tour, a 10-day, seven-state string of satellite camps that included stops in Alabama, Florida, Texas and California, was the publicity it helped generate for a Michigan program that was in need of just that at the time.

Whether it was the mere announcement of the innovative tour itself or the images from it that eventually emerged, the Wolverines managed to consistently stay in the headlines during what's typically a dead period for publicity on the college football calendar.

"He's an extremely creative person," Rivals.com National Director of Recruiting Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report. "He knows how to rattle some cages and stay in the media focus, which is always helpful for recruiting and for your program."

Only this time, Harbaugh appears to have public support on his side, at least when it comes to his primary targets in this whole process: high school coaches and their prospects.

Since Friday's ban was revealed, multiple current and future college players have spoken out against the elimination of satellite camps, which not only ends practices like Harbaugh's Swarm Tour but also bans coaches from smaller schools from attending larger schools' camps, as well as the popular Sound Mind Sound Body camp out of Detroit, which was slated to go national this year.

According to Harbaugh, "thousands" of people will be affected by the ruling, the clearest of which are the players who used such camps to audition for scholarship offers.

"For me, personally, it's all about opportunity," Gibsonton (Florida) East Bay head coach Frank LaRosa told Bleacher Report before the ban. "What you see is opportunity for your kids and that's ultimately what's so important for these guys is having that.

"From a competitive standpoint, if you had to coach against Coach Harbaugh, I could see how that would ruffle your feathers. If he's not breaking any rules, then he's doing what he's gotta do for his program."

Only now, such practices are no longer legal, seemingly thanks in large part to the SEC, which has been fighting satellite camps since Penn State's James Franklin held two—one in Georgia and one in Florida—in 2014. One of the camps' more outspoken critics, Freeze even went as far as to state that one reason he was against the practice was that he wanted to preserve his vacation time—which the SEC has insisted it would have taken part of had Harbaugh been allowed to continue to do hold camps.

"I'm selfish with my time," the Ole Miss head coach said, per Daniel Paulling of the Clarion-Ledger. "I'm away from my family enough, and I just did not want to go. I was ready to. We would've jumped in with the rest of them and gone to work. But I'm glad we can have a camp and I can sleep at home."

Unsurprisingly, that line of thinking didn't sit well with a head coach who's previously described himself to the media as a "jackhammer" who doesn't partake in vacations or observing major holidays.

"You've got a guy sitting in a big house, making $5 million a year, saying he does not want to sacrifice his time," Harbaugh told Rosenberg. "What most of these coaches are saying is they don't want to work harder." 

That may be all the ammunition needed by Harbaugh, the symbol of a practice that's clearly in demand with high school coaches and players. With those camps now banned, Harbaugh can position himself as the voice of the people—or more accurately, prospects—against the rival conferences and coaches who served as the camps' loudest critics.

With his comments to Sports Illustrated, that appears to be the route Harbaugh plans on taking, even if his hard-hitting comments don't result in an actual repeal of the ban.

And if his rerouted course of action results in more attention for his program, so be it. But after Tuesday, one thing is clear: Harbaugh won't be quieting down anytime soon.

 

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. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star RB Cam Akers Breaks Down Recruitment, Talks Upcoming Visits

NEW ORLEANS — One of the headliners of Sunday’s New Orleans Nike Opening Regional camp was 5-star running back Cam Akers.

The 5’11 ½”, 212-pounder from Clinton High School (Mississippi) didn’t disappoint en route to earning a coveted invitation to The Opening.

The Magnolia State’s top overall prospect didn’t wait long to announce his presence, as he posted eye-popping numbers in the testing portion before the drills began.

Akers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and posted a vertical jump a shade under 41 inches. Those numbers helped him also earn the ratings title for Sunday’s event:

“I just want to prove myself," Akers told Bleacher Report. "A lot of people thought I was slow coming into this camp. I had to come out here and prove some people wrong. I just want to earn my stripes.”

The former Alabama pledge has attracted interest from heavyweight programs across the country since reopening his recruitment last month.

“Recruiting can’t pick up much more than it already has,” Akers joked.

Three programs that have been able to get Akers on campus recently include Georgia, Ohio State and Tennessee.

He spoke a bit on each of those visits.

Georgia: “[Head] Coach [Kirby] Smart being a family-oriented man, I like him. I like [running backs] coach Dell McGee and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Jim] Chaney, too. Everybody there is family-oriented, and they produce great backs also.”

Ohio State: “It’s rich in tradition, and they have a great coaching staff. With [Head] Coach [Urban] Meyer, they have a really good tradition with running backs.”

Tennessee: “I have a great relationship with [Running Backs] Coach [Robert] Gillespie and [Head] Coach [Butch] Jones. They have a great situation there and a great school.”

The coming weeks and months should be busy for the nation’s No. 3 running back and the No. 35 player overall in the 2017 cycle. Return trips to Athens and Knoxville are on his agenda, but a powerhouse from the ACC will get the chance to impress him.

“This summer, I’m going back to Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson," Akers said. "I’ll be at Florida State next weekend. I plan to get back to Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and a lot of other places too this summer." 

Despite losing his pledge, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and his staff aren’t giving up on a player who has accounted for more than 8,000 yards of total offense and 84 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

“I decommitted because I wanted to re-evaluate things, not because [Alabama] did something wrong,” Akers said. “I just wanted to take a step back and make sure it is the best decision for me and my family. The schools on my list, I just want them to recruit me and my family. Everyone is equal.”

With Akers—who reports a 3.1 GPA and plans to major in sports medicine, business or communications—planning to become an early enrollee, the summer visit spree will be critical for each school that is lucky enough to get him on campus.

However, Akers said he’s still in the process of mapping out a firm plan of when a final decision could come.

“I’m not sure," Akers said. "Me and my family will sit down and talk about it soon. I will be an early graduate, so we will talk about whether we want to wait until the end before enrolling or if I want to commit before then.”

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Trey Sermon Discusses Top 6: 4-Star RB Eyeing SEC, Pac-12, Big 12

In many cases, Marietta, Georgia, running back Trey Sermon is like any other running back. He's someone who wants the ball in his hands early and often, and who delivers results when he has the ball.

Sermon's 32 reported offers are a good indication of his talent level. Early Tuesday afternoon, the Sprayberry High School 4-star running back trimmed his list to six schools.

Sermon tweeted that Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon and Oklahoma were his finalists in his recruiting process. He told Bleacher Report that he's looking to turn his top six into a verbal commitment "no later than September."

"Those are all the schools I talk to the most consistently," Sermon said of the half-dozen schools. "I have visited all of them except for Oregon, and I'm visiting there April 26."

Announcing a top six was huge for Sermon. A few months ago, he wondered if he'd be able to play college football because of his health.

During the second game of the 2015 season, Sermon took a shot in the back and dealt with pain for a couple of weeks. He later found out that hit resulted in a fractured bone in his back. He was sidelined indefinitely.

With the help of physical therapy and a never-quit attitude, Sermon is now healthy and ready for his senior season. But first, he's focused on solidifying his college plans.

"My injury scared me once the doctor said I was out for the season," Sermon said. "I was playing on the injury and was never nervous; I just wanted to compete. Now that I am fully healed, I'm confident that I will be even better than I was last year."

In narrowing his list, Sermon said his decision "wasn't too hard" and added that he will use the spring and summer to weigh each school. He likes what each has to offer athletically and academically, and he's a fan of all the head coaches and running back coaches in his top list.

At 6'1", 214 pounds, Sermon has good size, a muscular build and a second gear in open space. His quickness and speed meshes well with his power game. Sermon also sees the field well and uses his elusiveness to make defenders miss on tackles.

As the nation's No. 9 running back and No. 123 player overall in the 2017 class, Sermon is looking for early opportunities to see playing time in college. None of the six schools on his list have a running back committed as of yet.

What will determine a winner for Sermon?

"Just the environment at each school and how well I connect with the coaches," Sermon said. "I'm looking at how well I fit into the program and whoever I have the best relationship with as far as coaches."

All eyes will be on Sermon as he takes his recruitment into September. He said he is looking to enroll early wherever he attends.

 

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

College Football Players with Most Pressure Riding on Their Shoulders

By its very nature, college football is defined by pressure. To succeed at the highest levels, the margin for error is incredibly thin. One loss, if suffered at the wrong time or to the wrong team, can derail any hopes of a national title. The four-team College Football Playoff is an exclusive club, and running the table against a quality schedule is the only way to ensure yourself a seat.

Escalating salaries and facility costs, fueled by increasing TV money, only increase the pressure. The level of tolerance for mistakes is lower, both from coaches and boosters writing checks and sitting in luxury suites.

In short, plenty of players will feel the pressure in 2016. Here are 10 players who’ll feel it particularly acutely. They are players who will be stepping into new roles, playing for new coaches or perhaps carrying more responsibility than they did a year ago. Either way, they’ll be under pressure. When you watch these guys this fall, you’ll hear the Queen and David Bowie classic in your head.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Players to Watch in Buckeyes' 2016 Spring Game

Ohio State's spring game is set to kick off on April 16 in Ohio Stadium, and a number of new faces will make their first legitimate appearances of their Buckeye careers.

With eight new starters needed on each side of the ball, head coach Urban Meyer is eager to see how his younger players react to playing in front of a big crowd.

"There's nothing like performing in front of 100,000 people and I watch that," Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors.

That six-figure fan projection is something Meyer hopes to see with a sunny, cloudless day in Columbus expected for the game. Ohio State's head man also hopes to see some growth from his young team, and he'll have a particularly close eye on the following players because they could end up playing huge roles for the 2016 season.

Begin Slideshow

Jim Harbaugh Comments on Satellite Camp Ban, Calling Players 'Student-Athletes'

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has been among the most vocal supporters of satellite camps, but a recent NCAA ban of the showcases has the khaki-clad boss steaming. 

In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg released Tuesday, Harbaugh said with regard to the newly imposed ban, "The incompetence of the NCAA has reared its ugly head yet again," and added the ruling was "knee-jerk...like somebody was shaving in the morning, cut themselves when they were shaving and said, 'Let's just ban satellite camps.'"

The Southeastern Conference originally proposed the ban after notable Big Ten programs such as Michigan and Penn State held camps "in the South and regions rich in recruiting prospects," according to ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman.  

However, Harbaugh told Rosenberg he didn't agree with the decision, namely because it stripped underprivileged prospects of a chance to showcase their capabilities in front of an audience they ordinarily wouldn't be able to reach.     

"It seems to be outrage by the SEC and ACC," Harbaugh said. "They power-brokered that out...the image that comes to my mind is guys in a back room smoking cigars, doing what they perceive is best for them. It certainly isn't the best thing for the youngsters. It's not the best thing for the student-athletes."

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was among those who noted proponents and opponents of satellite camps ultimately failed to do right by the athletes:

"This is going to affect thousands and thousands of people," Harbaugh added, per Rosenberg.

Harbaugh also took exception with the term "student-athlete," since he believes the NCAA is shying away from making a commitment to players who commit themselves to upholding positive academic standing as a way to eventually get a foot in the door through camps:

During the NCAA basketball tournament we discuss the term 'student-athlete' ad nauseam in promoting our governing institution and our member institutions. Then, when we have an opportunity to truly promote the 'student-athlete' with a concept shared by educators and football men from all backgrounds, our leadership goes into hiding.

I suggest we drop the term 'student-athlete' for consistency.

Harbaugh's points are compelling, but resistance from high-profile bosses in every Power Five conference but the Big Ten ultimately squashed the camps as a way to limit perceived recruiting edges certain schools gained. 

But even though the camps are a thing of the past for now, one thing's for sure: This won't be the last time we hear Harbaugh's opinion on the topic. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nathan Tilford to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Arizona picked up a major commitment along the recruiting trail Tuesday, adding Nathan Tilford to its upcoming class, per Zack Rosenblatt of the Tucson Star.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Tilford is the No. 10 running back and No. 141 overall in the 2017 recruiting class. He's also the 17th-best player in the state of California.

Ever since his freshman year, Tilford has wreaked havoc on opposing teams:

Here's a look at his rushing and receiving totals from his first three seasons, per MaxPreps:

Top schools have been following Tilford for years, with USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—reportedly offering him a scholarship in 2013 when he was in eighth grade, per Blair Angulo of WeAreSC.com (via ESPN.com). That didn't necessarily give the Trojans an edge, though. Last December, Tilford made it clear he wasn't in any rush to make a decision about his college future.

"I'm not looking at recruiting at all right now," Tilford said, per Michael Luke of Scout's Wildcat Authority. "And I mean that seriously. If I take care of business the way that I know I can I will be fine. I'm not going to be one of these guys who lets things go to their heads. I've got a lot of schools giving me love and I know that I just need to keep improving and doing the things that got me to this point."

The end result will be well worth the wait for the Wildcats. It's not hard to see why Kiffin was so proactive in his recruitment of Tilford nearly four years ago. 

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic recruiting job for 2017 already. Tilford is Rodriguez's sixth commit for next season and second 4-star athlete after Greg Johnson, per 247Sports

Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, albeit capped off with a nice win in the New Mexico Bowl, the Wildcats needed to build momentum as the Pac-12 continues to get stronger with Stanford, USC, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and UCLA being formidable. 

The prep standout could play on either side of the ball at the next level. He has made his biggest impact in high school at running back, but he could easily feature at safety or linebacker on a full-time basis. If anything, defense might be his best option.

Tilford is a good athlete but doesn't possess the electrifying speed necessary to break big runs on a regular basis. Listed at 6'2", 190 pounds, he is a capable inside runner who can break tackles and also make defenders miss in space.

Should he transition to safety or linebacker, though, his lack of top-end speed (4.72 40-yard dash) would be much less of an issue. Tilford would have equal success lining up close to the line of scrimmage to pressure the quarterback, stopping the run or dropping back in pass coverage.

Arizona's staff will have plenty of time to figure out how to utilize Tilford next year now that he has committed to the school.

 

Recruiting information and star ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages