What makes for a great head coaching rivalry?
Mainly, it's a mix of two factors.
A history of playing memorable, competitive games plays a big role, but so does drama between the characters. The best head coaching rivalries feature both on-field and interpersonal intrigue.
By this definition, Alabama's Nick Saban and LSU's Les Miles aren't "rivals" as much as opponents. Their teams are definitely rivals, but Saban and Miles are friends who in 2014 shared a touching on-field moment where Saban consoled Miles after the loss of his mother.
The rivalries that follow—unlike Saban-Miles or even Saban-Gus Malzahn—check both boxes of criteria.
Sound off below and let us know what you think.
The pipeline between Miami and nearby Gulliver Prep continued to strengthen on Monday morning, as standout 2017 running back Robert Burns committed to the Hurricanes:
The 5'10", 210-pound prospect becomes the fourth player from the Miami-Dade County institution to pledge to Miami since last summer. That group includes teammates Joseph Jackson (defensive end), Cedrick Wright (safety) and Dionte Mullins (wide receiver), who are each members of the 2016 class.
Burns became the progam's next coveted recruit with strong underclassman campaigns. The speedy sophomore has developed a reputation as a playmaker who is capable of taking it the distance regardless of where he receives the football.
He is tremendously agile, a credit to sustained balance in the trenches and beyond. Burns exhibits excellent bend, building momentum that results in violent collisions at the point of contact.
His size at this stage suggests he could eventually develop into a physical specimen with workhorse potential in college. Burns' blend of burst and physicality brings a balanced approach to the offensive backfield.
Though complete composite rankings haven't yet been created for the 2017 class, expect Burns to land among the top-rated rushers in Florida. Surrounded by significant talent at Gulliver Prep and bolstered by another year of physical maturation, he appears primed for a dominant junior campaign this fall.
Plenty of coaching staffs have already identified Burns as a valuable commodity in his class. The Hurricanes overcame nearly 20 other collegiate suitors, including Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio State.
Burns was drawn to the Hurricanes because he believes plenty of promise is in place for a program renaissance.
"They've made some coaching changes. They seem like they are going back to how it was in the past," Burns told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. "It's intriguing."
Miami has enjoyed an impressive stretch on the recruiting trail, holding 18 pledges in a 2016 class that tops 247Sports' composite rankings.
Head coach Al Golden and his staff are also off to a strong start in the 2017 cycle. Burns gives the Hurricanes four sophomore commitments in a haul that also includes fellow local running back Bentavious Thompson.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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The recruiting process is a marathon, not a sprint—particularly this early in the process. This is the time of year when it's vital for athletes to weigh all options and take unofficial visits in an effort to make the right decision for their futures.
Even the committed athletes.
Florida State has seen a couple of its 2016 pledges make visits to other programs in recent weeks. To raise any red flags regarding the commits' loyalty to the Seminoles, however, may be a little premature.
After all, this is the time of the year where unofficial visits happen. While commitments seem to happen earlier and earlier in college football recruiting as a whole, few commits sign letters of intent to a program without checking out at least one other option.
Florida State has nine commits. Six are 4-star athletes, and a seventh, quarterback Malik Henry, is a 5-star prospect. But like many other schools nationwide, the Seminoles are dealing with the concern of losing commits to other programs.
Take 4-star defensive end Janarius Robinson, for example. The in-state prospect, who has been committed to Florida State since Sept. 21, recently took in the junior day at Alabama and told Luke Stampini of 247Sports that Florida could get an unofficial visit, as well as Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State and Tennessee.
North Carolina 4-star defensive end Josh Brown, who committed to Florida State the same day as Robinson did, was at Tennessee's junior day over the weekend and told Ryan Callahan of 247Sports he enjoyed his time in Knoxville. Brown picked up a Tennessee offer on Saturday and added that he's considering taking in the Volunteers' spring game.
Brown then told Callahan something that a lot of committed athletes are saying around this time of the recruiting process:
"My commitment is firm," he said, "[but] I'm still taking all my visits."
The Seminoles and coach Jimbo Fisher love to hear the first part. And being so early in the game, they understand the latter. It's the latter, however, that determines this game called recruiting for many coaches.
Who can close the deal? What can a coach do to keep a prize player committed? How does a program compete with programs who are as sexy—if not sexier—from now until next February?
Florida State picked up two 3-star 2016 commits over the weekend in defensive end Keir Thomas and athlete Jamel Cook, as well as a third commit in 2017 running back Zaquandre White during its junior day. These environments are when a program can sell itself best during the offseason—and having multiple commits the same day helps a program's recruiting resume in targeting the next top prospect.
Florida State shouldn't be worried for now about losing any commitments. The Seminoles have nearly a year until the next signing day, which means two things:
No. 1, pledges will consider taking other visits.
No. 2, Florida State coaches have plenty of time to continue selling to prospects why they committed there in the first place.
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Former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was on double duty at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, working with the quarterbacks and defensive backs as he attempts to make the move back to the defensive side of the ball while serving as an emergency quarterback on an NFL roster.
In 2013, the Pineview, Georgia, native led Auburn to an SEC title and to within 13 seconds of a national title after transferring from junior college. He followed it up by throwing for 2,532 yards, 20 touchdowns and rushing for 798 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior for the Tigers.
Head coach Gus Malzahn said at the Senior Bowl in January that the change came as a surprise, according to Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News.
What does it say, though, that such a highly decorated quarterback in Malzahn's system is forced to make a position change at the NFL and may only see snaps as signal-caller in running packages or in case of emergency?
This isn't a Malzahn trend; it's something that is pervasive in college football, as Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians noted at the combine (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com):
So many times, you're evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That ain't playing quarterback. There's no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.
For Malzahn specifically, though, he's been typecast as a coach who thrives with a dual-threat quarterback after his success with Marshall and the national title he won with Cam Newton as Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2010.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While Newton hasn't exactly set the world on fire, he did win the Heisman Trophy and get drafted No. 1 overall due in part to his big arm and ability to make all the throws in college. His career in the NFL isn't exactly that of Peyton Manning, but he has led the Carolina Panthers to back-to-back playoff appearances.
Malzahn's system is founded on the running game but still can be very passer-friendly.
During his time as Tulsa's offensive coordinator, he helped the Golden Hurricane become the first team in FBS history to boast a 5,000-yard passer (Paul Smith, 5,065), a 1,000-yard rusher (Tarrion Adams, 1,225) and three 1,000-yard receivers (Brennan Marion, Trae Johnson, Charles Clay) in the same season, according to Paul Myerberg of The New York Times.
He followed it up with quarterback David Johnson producing another prolific passing season in 2008 with 4,059 yards and 46 touchdown passes.
He used Marshall's best skills—his running ability and big arm—to his advantage over the last two years. While the Auburn offense is a true, two-back, power attack out of the spread that thrives with a punishing running game, the addition of a passing quarterback doesn't change the system, it's a supplement.
That should become apparent in 2015 on the Plains.
Auburn will still produce a punishing running attack with Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas, but a more pass-happy approach with quarterback Jeremy Johnson, wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams and a deep wide receiving corps should add some fuel additive to the offensive machine that's already clicking on all cylinders.
The simplicity of Auburn's offense exists primarily due to the desire to play faster, which has become more popular in college after it became the norm over the last few years in high school. That's not going to change in the future. The bottom-up transformation of football that puts a bigger emphasis on tempo will continue to challenge NFL scouts and force NFL teams to adapt—not the other way around.
Even this year in college football, some of the "traditional, pro-style offenses" adapted to new-school football.
Alabama ran 72.7 plays per game in 2014 with dual-threat quarterback Blake Sims incorporating spread elements into the offense. That's more plays per game than tempo-based teams Auburn (72.2), Texas A&M (71.9) and Ole Miss (69.5). Michigan State, which isn't exactly known for its innovative offense, averaged 76.5 plays per game.
"Scouting quarterbacks is now, more than ever, about projection," said B/R NFL draft lead analyst Matt Miller. "You have to focus so much on traits over production and try to guess at how they'll translate. It's what makes the Jameis Winston's and Andrew Luck's so valuable, because you've seen them do it."
College football has adapted, and the NFL is struggling with how to evaluate players as a result. Ten years ago, college football went through the same frustration, and it turned out just fine.
Don't view the critics of Malzahn's system, Marshall or spread offenses in general as anything more than people voicing their frustrations with the evolving game.
Instead of venting, though, maybe they should just adapt.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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With the coaching staff settled and national signing day in the rearview mirror, the Georgia Bulldogs now shift their collective focus to spring practice.
For a team looking to maintain a prolific offensive profile under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer while improving defensively under second-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, there is a lot to look forward to. And much of that anticipation centers on individual player development.
Though spring practice isn't the only measure of growth for athletes, it does serve as a good barometer for evaluating who's checking the right boxes. This spring, five players in particular stand to gain a lot from practice and scrimmage time.
Here's a closer look.
Although winter has much of America in its icy grip, it’s never too early to start thinking about football. Before spring practice begins, we have plenty of time to go over 2015 schedules, week by week, and examine what they mean for teams across the nation.
We all have our eyes on the biggest matchups of the season: key nonconference games and rivalries that will determine which teams make their way into the 2015 College Football Playoff. But what about games that might slip under the radar and cause teams to fall off their track to a national title?
They’re trap games, and they happen every season. Here’s a look at the top 25 trap games that will take place this college football season.
Winning the Big Ten and reaching the College Football Playoff has to top Jim Harbaugh’s list of team-specific priorities. However, the Michigan coach doesn’t have to incite overnight change in 2015 in order to have a successful first season in Ann Arbor.
Harbaugh, who previously coached the San Francisco 49ers, faces the task of rebuilding his unstable alma mater—and that task will take a couple of years, maybe longer, to accomplish. The Wolverines’ circumstances probably won’t immediately change this fall, but Harbaugh is capable of coaching them to seven or eight wins in their current condition.
After plummeting to 5-7 under former coach Brady Hoke in 2014, it’s safe to assume that a record of 8-4 or 7-5 would suit Harbaugh just fine. It'd probably satisfy a hungry fanbase, too.
Expectations are justifiably high, but it’s important for Michigan—and its fans—to keep things in perspective. Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the game, but he needed three years to dust off Stanford, which went 4-8, 5-7 and 8-5 before topping out at 12-1 in 2010.
Time tells all. With that said, this fall will likely serve a rough sketch for Harbaugh.
Start the Winning Ways
As mentioned, a record of 7-5 or 8-4 would be a vast improvement upon recent efforts. Hoke had the talent, but he had trouble making it work on the field. As of now, Harbaugh’s cupboards aren’t bare, but he’s essentially starting from scratch.
That’s never easy. Then again, Hoke went 11-2 in 2011, his first year, with former coach Rich Rodriguez’s guys—so go figure.
Today, it’s difficult to see better than 8-4, which is the absolute high end for Michigan in 2015. For starters, it doesn’t have a starting quarterback. On top of that, its O-line is in desperate need of care. The Wolverines are a decent team, on paper, but they lack strength at the core.
Now that’s not to say Harbaugh won’t find a bit of magic, lock in a starter and craft the line to his liking this spring and into summer. That’d be a recipe for an 8-4 team.
However, remember the three-year reference in regards to Stanford? It took time for Harbaugh to groom Andrew Luck and establish balance in the trenches, but once accomplished, Harbaugh had a national power.
Stanford didn't have half the foundation Michigan sits upon. So that has to encourage optimism all around.
As for the Wolverines, they could see real, honest-to-goodness progress as early as midseason.
Back in the Spotlight
In 2006, the Wolverines were involved in one of the greatest college football games ever played. Then ranked No. 2, they ended their season with a 42-39 loss to No. 1-ranked Ohio State—but they haven’t been nationally relevant since.
With exception to former quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan hasn’t had much to cheer about during the past decade or so. Harbaugh can and will change that—but again, it’ll take more than one season to flip fortunes.
Due to his NFL pedigree, Harbaugh has commanded the attention of the national media. His khaki’d, “football dude” persona has already thrust Michigan back into the limelight. Everyone is talking about a team that’s yet to start practice, but in a good way. There is nothing but optimism oozing from The Big House.
Of course, he helped matters by picking up eight recruits during the month prior to national signing day.
That’s always a good way to set the wheels in motion, especially after losing eight members of the 2015 class, a cascade started by 5-star wide receiver George Campbell in December 2013.
That said, there aren’t many coaches who could have pulled off such a move in just 30 days. Imagine him during a full recruiting period, which is the next point of discussion.
Come One, Come All
Michigan’s already a favorite for Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive tackle out of Paramus Catholic (New Jersey). The 6’4”, 285-pounder is the No. 2-ranked prospect of 2016 and comes in at No. 1 at his position, per 247Sports.
A show of serious intent, Harbaugh hired former Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge to head Michigan’s recruiting operations. Talk about a power play.
Plus he has defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and D-line coach Greg Mattison, a pair of renowned recruiters, to lure the best to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have two commits for 2016—linebacker Dele Harding and offensive tackle Erik Swenson—and they’ll undoubtedly stock the shelves with more elites this spring, summer and into fall.
Ten of Harbaugh’s top 14 targets are ranked among the top 10 at their respective positions.
National signing day 2016 could be a massive success for Harbaugh, who could easily land a top-20 class or better.
Harbaugh’s prowess will get the job done. Just don’t expect miracles during the first 12 months. He’ll recruit with the best in the land, that’s a given. He’ll field competitive teams, too.
But give him time. On Dec. 30, the date of his official introduction as coach, Harbaugh brought up his record of constructing palatial estates—a reference to molding teams—but not one was built overnight.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes via 247Sports.com.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Defensive Ends.
- Top 100 Overall
- Top 8 Quarterbacks
- Top 20 Wide Receivers
- Top 6 Running Backs
- Top 14 Defensive Backs
- Top 5 Athletes
- Top 11 Defensive Tackles
Among the group of rising seniors around the nation, one of the deepest positions in the 2016 class is pass-rusher.
In fact, 12 edge-rushers make up the Top 100 players overall in the 2016 class.
A Sunshine State standout and 5-star defensive end, Shavar Manuel headlines the 2016 crop at his position, but the class as a whole has its share of lighter, more explosive rushers and bigger bodies who can also excel against the run.
The latest edition of the CFB Recruiting Future 100 series will dig deep into the 2016 class of defensive ends.
Bleacher Report scored the defensive end class on traits such as pass-rushing ability (15 points), tackling (15 points), strength (20 points), run defense (25 points), hands (15 points) and motor (10 points). The cumulative figures from those traits resulted in our overall grade for each prospect.
How do the nation’s top defensive ends measure up to one another?
*All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani. All rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings. WDE denotes weak-side defensive end, SDE denotes strong-side defensive end.
This is Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee Vols commit. You've reached my voice mail. I'll try to get back with you, but if I can't, it's probably because I'm out recruiting the greatest class in Tennessee history.
The voice-mail message smacks you around a little, much more than welcomes you with the standard warm greeting normally received on an unanswered call.
Much like McKenzie himself, it isn't passive or shy. You know who it is up front, you know what's important to him, and there's a little good-natured trash talk at the end for good measure.
It's the perfect window into the mind of McKenzie, Tennessee's 5-star defensive tackle signee saddled with massive expectations mirroring those of the team where he's headed.
Most Vols fans already have labeled McKenzie the next big thing, a player who hearkens back to the days of John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth. In their minds, he's already a 6'3", 354-pound, quarterback-eating, bucket-hat-wearing surefire starter.
It's heavy stuff for a high school kid who still isn't on campus. But for a player who makes a hobby of trolling Big Bad Bama and destroys the nation's top offensive linemen, it's just another task to tackle.
"Sometimes, I just laugh about it," McKenzie said of already being anointed a program savior. "Sometimes, it's just crazy that we haven't even stepped foot on the field, haven't put on pads, practiced a day, worked out a day, even stepped on campus as a student, and people are saying that kind of stuff.
"But, I mean, it does make you feel a little bit like, 'OK this is real.' There's no more messing around. This isn't high school football. This isn't middle school football. It's time to go now. We all understand that, and we're all looking forward to it, and we all accept that challenge. I don't look at it as being nervous or anything like that. I look at it straight up as a challenge."
A player who exudes confidence, McKenzie backs up that swagger with a game that has made him the nation's sixth-rated player on the 247Sports composite rankings.
"Can't-misses" don't exist, but McKenzie is about as close as they come. Last year, LSU's Leonard Fournette was the big talker who announced his arrival on scene then backed it up with his play. Now, it's McKenzie's turn.
He appears ready to lead, ready to star and ready to become the face—and the voice—of the brash new era of Vols football.
The first thing that strikes you about Kahlil McKenzie isn't his keen football acumen that comes from having grown up in a football family. His father is Reggie McKenzie, a former Vol and NFL player who is currently the Oakland Raiders general manager.
He possesses that quality, sure. But the thing that stands out the most for a kid who likes to swat offensive linemen to the side like cornstalks and then jaw to anybody who'll listen is that his confidence is devoid of arrogance.
For all the joking around he does with peers, future teammates and rivals, it's all in good fun. You'll find it difficult to locate anybody who dislikes him.
"I think I'm sort of a fun-loving guy," McKenzie said with a chuckle. "Even guys I've gone against, I try to joke with all of them. I try not to not be friends with anybody. I don't think many people out there hate me, and if they do, I don't really care.
"Trash talking, to me, is kind of fun, especially if it's in a game… I feel like I've been recruiting guys who feel like they're the best player you're going to go against and there's no way they can be beat. I think that's the mentality everybody should have. You should think nobody's going to stop you."
Rarely, anybody stops McKenzie.
At The Opening, Nike's prestigious summer all-star showcase, he dominated future Alabama signee Richie Petitbon more than once. He also made a "signature play" bull-rushing Ohio State signee Matthew Burrell and putting him on his back.
He and Burrell still became fast friends despite the competition.
It's that kind of swagger without stepping over the lines of respect that make people want to follow McKenzie.
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones recalled a story about McKenzie's trip to Knoxville that bodes well for a team losing vocal leader Curt Maggitt after this season. It seems the big newcomer is already ready to fill that role.
"I joke about it: When he came in on his official visit, even the older kids were following him," Jones said. "He just has that unique personality, a confidence about him but also a humbleness about him as well. I love everything about him.
"I think Kahlil is a byproduct of his upbringing. He has tremendous passion for the game, his attitude, his enthusiasm is infectious and it's contagious, and he took ownership of this recruiting class and basically did everything on his own. The other thing about it is he had respect of his peers across the country. So whenever Kahlil spoke, people listened."
The perfect illustration of McKenzie's efforts to talk trash without being trashy came the weekend before national signing day.
After a whirlwind recruitment, UT had star in-state offensive lineman Drew Richmond on campus. McKenzie had recruited Richmond heavily, and as news began to leak over social media that Richmond was enjoying himself on the trip, McKenzie admittedly let the emotions get to him.
He let an errant tweet fly in the direction of Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
Some five hours later, with what he dubbed a "disrespectful" tweet still on his mind, McKenzie offered an apology. The Vols wound up flipping Richmond, and McKenzie showed what kind of person he is by swallowing his pride.
"After I sent that, I thought, 'Man, this wasn't right,'" he said. "I felt like it was disrespectful. Nobody needed to tell me that. Nobody really did. I took it upon myself to get rid of that tweet and apologize to Coach and that kind of stuff. That's what I did, and I just left it at that.
"I really couldn't sleep without apologizing, so I made sure I did that."
A Program Ripe for His Arrival
From a nasty-natured Derek Barnett pushing around quarterbacks to Maggitt saluting after big plays to anthem "Third Down For What" blaring over the Neyland Stadium loudspeakers, UT's defense got its groove back last year.
Enter McKenzie, the ultimate alpha dog, into a powder keg of pent-up frustration from years of losing that permeates the Tennessee football program. For him, that budding mentality and total program makeover was just another huge reason why he signed with Tennessee.
"I feel like that's been Coach Jones' main focus, which is why I really appreciated him as a coach," McKenzie said. "He was getting guys who really cared about the university, who really wanted to see Tennessee be a great football team.
"You have some coaches out there who want you on the team, but Coach Jones wants guys who really love the university and want to be a part of bringing Tennessee football back. It was really cool to see a coach who cared about the team and the university like that."
When Jones took over, UT had a loser mentality. The Vols had struggled to win for so long, the belief was gone.
That culture had to change, and it has. That first step was a big one, and it was completed with a TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa that gave them their first winning record since 2009. The next step is getting guys like McKenzie to buy in.
From the time Jones got to Knoxville until now, the difference in the aura of confidence surrounding the program is immense.
"Monumental change," Jones said. "But that's a byproduct of the culture that's in place, but it's not fake. That's a direct byproduct of everyone's hard work and efforts, and it starts with our players first and foremost.
"I'm proud of our players…they've started to understand now the magnitude, the relevance of Tennessee football, what they represent, who they represent on a day-to-day basis, not just on the field but off the field, in the community and in the classroom."
McKenzie embodies all of that.
Not only has he been ingrained with a love for the Vols that stems from having a father who played for UT alongside McKenzie's uncle Raleigh, he also is a football gym rat and a student of the game.
He's a kid who's grown up around football at its highest level, spending the first 16 years of his life in Green Bay as his father worked for the Packers and the past three in California with Reggie making all the key personnel decisions for the Raiders.
McKenzie witnessed firsthand what it takes to play at the highest level.
When it came to discussing the recruiting process, he talked with family friend Alonzo Highsmith, a Miami Hurricanes great and former NFL running back, as well as Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck.
Other brilliant football minds from which he's sought advice, he said, are family friends Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, former Vol and current Oakland Director of Player Personnel Joey Clinkscales and several others.
That's not to even mention his dad.
It's a reservoir of knowledge few players are fortunate to drink from, and McKenzie knows it. Perhaps having those resources and taking advantage of them help fuel his desire to be great.
"It's something that I definitely look at as a blessing," McKenzie said. "Being around football my whole life, I know what to expect in certain situations; I've talked to countless guys who've been through every single stage of the game: being a high school player, being a top-rated guy, being a non-rated guy, being just in the middle, what it takes to get to college and the NFL and that stuff.
"I've listened to all them and learned what it really takes to get to the NFL and what it takes to be great. So, it's a blessing. That's the only way I can really think about it."
Homecoming to a 'Second Home'
McKenzie will lean on that advice when he travels across the country to his new home. While Knoxville will be a new place for him to lay his head, it's certainly not unfamiliar territory.
His paternal grandfather still lives there, and he has other family in Knoxville and nearby Chattanooga.
Tennessee became a home away from home to him. When asked what he remembers most, McKenzie beamed about time spent with people he loves.
"Just being there with my family; just being able to hang with them in Knoxville," he said. "Really, once I started getting recruited is like the first time I really went to Tennessee as a college. But Knoxville is really like a second home to me, because I've been there so many times with family and stuff."
Though he said he only went to one UT game growing up because of other football obligations, his life was filled with influences from Tennessee and UCLA, his parents' alma maters.
Once he visited UT and got to know the players and coaches, he felt he had another family in Knoxville. Maybe it wasn't biological, but the bond was still deep. It just verified his ultimate decision made to attend UT, which he announced at The Opening last July.
The months following his commitment to Tennessee were rife with trials.
His transfer to Clayton Valley Charter High School led to the North Coast Section ruling him ineligible for his senior season, a decision met with disappointment from his family, according to an official statement relayed by the San Jose Mercury-News' Stephanie Hammon:
Like any family, we have always made decisions based on what's in the best interest of our children, according to our Christian values. The fact that a system would deny any child of his or her senior year, in any activity for which that student has a God-given passion, is highly disheartening.
McKenzie also tore a meniscus in his left knee, forcing him to rehab the injury.
Even so, the time away from football, he said, taught him valuable lessons as he learned to lead in other ways besides dominating on the field.
"I started to look at all the blessings I was getting, and at the end of the season, I really learned what the true meaning of being a teammate was," he said. "Being on the sideline every single game, being at practice and knowing you can't go out there and help your team win football games really lets you know what it's like to be a true teammate, to be there for your team, encourage your team and do everything you can to help the team.
"But knowing that you aren't going to play, it makes you look at how blessed you are and it humbles you like you have no idea. Especially with an injury, too, on top of that, you go from, 'I couldn't play this one game,' to you could get injured and not play ever again. It's something like that that really opens your eyes, and you see what it really means to be part of a team and the sacrifices you have to make."
Despite not playing in a game for 13 months, he was invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as one of the best players in the country. He consistently starred, leading 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons to tell GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that McKenzie was "dominant all week long."
Now, McKenzie is wrapping up the last few months of school, continuing to get back to full strength, and before long, he'll be heading to Knoxville to compete for a spot in the middle of UT's defense.
That side of the ball played with a chip on its shoulder for UT in 2014, but it still needed run-stuffing forces up front.
McKenzie said he's ready to get in there and work to be that guy, and with the confidence pushing a young man that big and powerful who shouldn't be able to move that quickly, the sky is the limit to what he can do.
He hears the massive expectations being placed on his broad shoulders. While he can't control them, he can control what he does about them.
"You feel that pressure, yeah, but you just kind of learn to embrace it," McKenzie said. "You sort of accept it for what it is and know that you're just you and all that other stuff doesn't really matter. It's about what you do, it's about what you show, how you perform and how you work. That's how I look at it.
"I think Tennessee swagger is coming back. The guys who are there now, the work they are putting in, the will to win. It's no longer the Tennessee attitude 'If we win.' Now it's like, 'We're going to win.' That's how the guys there are working and that's how their mindset is. I can't wait to be a part of it honestly."
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted. All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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It's been slightly more than one month since Urban Meyer lifted up the national championship trophy after his Ohio State Buckeyes won the title and put an end to college football until the fall.
That is one month too long.
In a country that is starving for anything football related—how else could you explain the fascination and televised broadcast of something like the NFL combine—spring football is not that far away. That is music to the ears of fans across the country.
While spring practice and games can never match the allure of a fall Saturday that is dominated by tailgating and the sounds of fight songs carrying through the crisp air, at least it's football. With that in mind, here is a look at the spring game dates for the top 25 heading into the 2015 campaign and some key storylines to watch during practices.
The top 25 consists of my own personal rankings, and the spring game schedules can be found here, courtesy of FBSchedules.com.
Cardale Jones Show Continues
There is one storyline that is going to dominate all of college football during spring practice and the entire lead-up to the season—the race to become Ohio State's starting quarterback.
It really is an incredibly unique situation. Braxton Miller was a Heisman Trophy candidate throughout the 2013 season and was the assumed starter for 2014 before he got hurt in fall camp. J.T. Barrett took over and played his way into Heisman consideration before getting hurt himself in the Michigan game.
Then third-stringer Cardale Jones not only stepped into the open spot, he won the Big Ten and national championships by beating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.
With all three returning to Columbus, the question naturally becomes who will start in 2015? Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk pointed out just how ridiculous the whole situation truly is:
Jones will have a substantial advantage over the other two in spring practice because Miller and Barrett are still recovering from their injuries and won't be nearly 100 percent in April. Throw in the momentum on his side from the national title run (remember, he made mincemeat of the vaunted Alabama defense in the Sugar Bowl), and it is hard to make a case against Jones.
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and Dave Briggs of The Toledo Blade noted that some former Buckeyes think Jones will win the job:
If Jones comes out in spring practice and the spring game (in front of what could be a crowd of almost 100,000 in "The Horseshoe" given the national championship) and dominates, he will have a substantial lead in this high-profile race. He has certainly come through under pressure before, so this will be an interesting storyline to follow.
SEC West Healing Begins
The SEC has been the king of college football for nearly a decade, but it took some lumps during bowl season.
Alabama lost to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, Auburn lost to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, LSU lost to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, Ole Miss lost to TCU in the Peach Bowl (by 39 points), and Mississippi State lost to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
That’s right, the big, bad SEC West went 2-5 in bowl season, and the only wins were low-profile victories by Arkansas and Texas A&M over Texas and West Virginia, respectively. So much for the untouchable division in the best conference (to the SEC East's credit, it played very well in bowl season and redeemed itself for what was perceived to be a down year).
If the SEC West is going to reclaim its throne in the 2015 season, it begins with spring practice.
Alabama will have to find a way to replace superstar wide receiver Amari Cooper, impact safety Landon Collins and quarterback Blake Sims, among others. Auburn needs to find the quarterback of the future after the departure of Nick Marshall. LSU has to find a way to score points this year, and Ole Miss needs to simply put the Peach Bowl behind it.
Throw in Arkansas' quest to prove that its late-season momentum was not a fluke, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines to watch in the SEC West during spring practice. You can bet college football fans across the nation will be watching.
Marcus Mariota's Replacement
The last time we saw Oregon, the Ducks were walking off the field after a national championship loss. The future was unclear, especially since Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was expected to leave for the NFL draft, which he eventually did.
It was only natural to wonder who was going to play quarterback in 2015. After all, Oregon has developed into an elite program, but it needs a dual-threat signal-caller running the no-huddle offense who can make plays with his legs and arm.
Enter Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams.
All Adams did in three seasons at Eastern Washington was rack up 110 passing touchdowns, 10,348 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He is the exact type of quarterback who can step in right away in Oregon's system and make those winning plays with his running and passing abilities, and he already beat the Ducks' archrival, Oregon State, once when he was at Eastern Washington.
Adams may have finished in second place in the race for the Walter Payton Award (the FCS' equivalent to the Heisman), but playing at Oregon with national title aspirations is a new set of pressure. How he handles it will go a long way toward determining how the season unfolds.
Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler discussed Adams’ ability, via Andrew Grief of The Oregonian:
Is he Marcus Mariota? There is only one of those who is pretty special. But he's a really talented kid who when you put a special group of athletes around him.
When he goes to the practice field, they're not going to say he's a guy who moved up from FCS. He'll be every bit as talented as the guys in the locker room he's with.
Given the talent and the fit in the system, it makes sense that Adams would be the favorite to land the job. The problem is, he cannot officially join the program until summer, which leaves the door open for the likes of Jeff Lockie, Ty Griffin, Taylor Alie and even Morgan Mahalak and Travis Waller to make some early strides.
Much like Miller and Barrett will be forced to watch spring practice while Jones takes control of the Ohio State job, Adams will be digging out from a hole once fall camp gets under way in Eugene. How big of a hole that is depends on the other quarterback performances in spring practice, which is what makes this storyline so intriguing.
Fortunately for Ducks fans, Adams may just have the talent to overcome that deficit come fall.
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LSU head coach Les Miles cannot wait until March 7. The date marks the first day of spring practice, which will allow Miles to evaluate his 2015 Tigers for the first time.
To the excitement of Miles, he will not have to deal with as much roster turnover as in years past. LSU only had three early entries into the NFL draft. The Tigers did also lose some major senior contributors, but they are well-equipped to fill the holes.
Spring practice will be a crucial time for players who were backups last season. They can show why they deserve to be starters or rotation players next season.
The competition will be intense on both sides of the ball as Miles and his staff will search for players they can trust.
The pressure on Miles to improve on LSU's mediocre 8-5 record is immense. Last season was the first since 2009 when the Tigers failed to win at least 10 games.
Here are four players who can help get LSU back to 10-plus wins next season. But first, they must take a major leap forward this spring.
The Miami Hurricanes must replace half of their starters from the 2014 season, and spring practice is a perfect opportunity for returning players to stake a claim at the vacated positions.
Al Golden's crew is entering its second week of spring practice, and top performers will slowly—and consistently—begin to separate themselves. The following players have some of the most favorable outlooks on the roster, but they must take advantage of their chances this spring.
One athlete listed transferred to "The U" during the offseason, while a pair of 'Canes were sidelined last year, and two more logged little meaningful action.
The expected depth chart and current injuries were the predominant factors in compiling the list.
Spring practice starts this week for Michigan football, and head coach Jim Harbaugh will finally get to see his new team take the field. Harbaugh spent the week before practice tutoring NFL quarterback prospects and making appearances at Michigan basketball and hockey games versus archrival Ohio State.
Harbaugh continues to be a crowd favorite wherever he appears, but that popularity will wane quickly if he can't find success next season.
Michigan fans are hungry for victories—it’s been a decade since the team won or shared the Big Ten title, and with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State basking in national acclaim, patience is scarce in Ann Arbor.
These players have the most to gain as Harbaugh begins to evaluate talent for next season.
The Ohio State coaching staff is coming off a busy week that revealed one of its top priorities for the 2016 recruiting cycle—defensive backs.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes sent out 10 offers, eight of which went to cornerback and safety prospects.
Here's a look at whom Meyer and Ohio State targeted on the recruiting front last week.
Marlon Character, 4-Star Safety (2016)
The Buckeyes' first offer of the week went out to Marlon Character, a 4-star safety out of Atlanta. The 6'0", 170-pound defensive back has put together a solid list of offers with schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Wisconsin already in the mix.
Ohio State will have to work hard to pull Character from the SEC, though. 247Sports is forecasting a battle between Georgia and South Carolina, with the home-state Bulldogs as the early favorites.
The Buckeyes might be too late to the party. Last month, Character told Jake Reuse of UGASports.com that he was nearing a final decision. With the 4-star safety looking to commit early, Ohio State's chances are looking slim.
Nygel Edmonds, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)
Looking to add depth at cornerback, the Buckeyes would love to add Nygel Edmonds, a 4-star cornerback from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ohio State joined schools such as Auburn, Clemson, Louisville, Miami, Penn State and Tennessee when it offered on Monday.
At 5'11" and 181 pounds, Edmonds brings the kind of athleticism to the corner position that Meyer covets. His high school coach—Ralph Potter—explained why so many schools are throwing their hat in the ring, via Ward Gossett of TimesFreePress.com.
He's pretty much the prototype for what colleges are looking for in a corner prospect. He has all the physical tools. He's tall -- well, long -- good speed; a good cover guy. He could also play safety, and he played some wide receiver for us last year and will play more there next season. But I think corner is where folks see him at the next level.
Edmonds has already wracked up 22 offers, but his recruitment hasn't narrowed enough for any recruiting expert to predict where he'll end up.
Dylan Singleton, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)
Ohio State's invasion of the SEC footprint continued on Tuesday when it offered 4-star cornerback Dylan Singleton out of Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Rated as the No. 27 cornerback and the No. 281 prospect overall, Singleton's recruitment has really picked up recently. Georgia, Auburn and Ohio State have offered in the last three months after he entered 2015 with schools such as Duke, Georgia Tech and Kentucky vying for his pledge.
According to Jake Rowe of 247Sports, Singleton made plans to visit Auburn and Georgia over the weekend. The Buckeyes will have some ground to make up, but with only seven offers to date, they're one of the top schools on his offer list.
Antwuan Jackson, 4-Star Defensive Tackle (2016)
The Buckeyes took a bit of their focus away from defensive backs to offer one of the top defensive tackles in the country in Antwuan Jackson.
The 4-star prospect is rated the No. 56 recruit overall and the No. 10 defensive tackle nationally, and he has an offer list that's absolutely loaded with top programs. Schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame and USC have offered, and Ohio State joined the fight with an offer on Tuesday.
According to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports, Jackson wants to make the trip north from his home in Ellenwood, Georgia, to visit the Ohio State campus.
“I’ve never been to Ohio State. I think I’ll get up there this summer," Jackson said, via Kurelic. "Ohio State has a great program for football and academics. I love how Coach [Urban] Meyer coaches.”
The Buckeyes will have to battle in order to get Jackson out of the SEC, however. South Carolina leads the way in 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions followed by Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia.
Kareem Felder, 3-Star Cornerback (2016)
Ohio State fell to Virginia Tech on the field last season, so Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are hoping for a little payback on the recruiting trail after offering current Hokies commit Kareem Felder last Thursday.
The 3-star prospect is rated the No. 87 cornerback nationally and the No. 24 recruit in the state of Maryland. Felder committed to the Hokies on February 7 over offers from Boston College, Iowa, North Carolina, Rutgers and West Virginia.
Felder is a physical corner who packs a huge punch when he lowers his shoulder. He's athletic enough to make an impact in the return game as well, boasting a versatility that makes him an attractive athlete for Meyer.
"He's a fast kid, physical, can really cover," said Robinson, Felder's personal coach, according to Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times. "Really an all-around good player. A playmaker who has really good ball skills. I guess his biggest attribute is his physicality and his tackling as a corner."
Zechariah McPhearson, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)
Considering he's a 4-star cornerback from the talent-rich state of Maryland, Zechariah McPhearson has had a relatively quiet recruitment so far.
With just eight offers on the table from schools, highlighted by Boston College, Clemson and Michigan State, the 6'1", 180-pound speedster has been thrilled with the recent upswing in attention, according to Scout's Mike Wilson.
McPhearson told Charles Doss of Land-Grant Holy Land that Ohio State was really impressed with his speed.
"They mentioned my speed, and how I can produce big plays defensively with it," McPhearson said, via Doss. "They said they were really impressed with my highlight film."
Meyer loves playmaking defensive backs with speed, and McPhearson—who has been clocked running a 4.49 40-yard dash—can fly.
Andrew Pryts, 3-Star Safety (2016)
February has been a huge month for 3-star safety Andrew Pryts.
The 6'2", 195-pound defensive back out of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, added offers from Stanford, Alabama, Kansas State and Michigan before the Buckeyes offered on Thursday, according to his Twitter profile.
Rated the No. 47 safety and the No. 678 prospect nationally, it's seems the top colleges around the country are seeing something the recruiting services have missed. With an impressive offer list that includes 14 schools—a number that's growing rapidly—it's clear Pryts is underrated and due for a rankings boost.
Pryts has the frame to grow into an outside linebacker position similar to the way Darron Lee did for the Buckeyes a season ago. As of now, though, he's projecting to safety, and 247Sports is forecasting he'll wind up with James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Demetric Vance, 3-Star Wide Receiver, Safety (2016)
Over the last few years, Ohio State has made a point of disrupting Michigan's top in-state recruiting pipeline—Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
The Buckeyes have stolen the top three prospects from Cass Tech over the last two recruiting cycles, and they're looking to continue that trend in the future. They're favored to land 4-star offensive guard Michael Onwenu for the '16 class and 4-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for 2017.
But Meyer wants more, and that became evident when the Buckeyes offered Demetric Vance.
The 3-star prospect is a two-way player who lines up at receiver and safety for Cass Tech. He boasts offers from Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Purdue along with Ohio State.
Rated as the top safety in Michigan, that's the position he's projecting to at the next level. 247Sports' Crystal Ball pegs the Spartans as unanimous favorites, but Ohio State's recruiting success in Detroit can't be overlooked.
Naquan Jones, 3-Star Defensive Tackle (2016)
Naquan Jones, a 6'4", 283-pound mauler out of Evanston, Illinois, was the second defensive tackle to receive an Ohio State offer this week.
With offers from Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin (among others), Jones is getting heavy interest from schools in the Big Ten footprint. He has a high motor and is very aggressive on the interior—a disruptive force Meyer needs after missing out on big defensive tackle targets such as Christian Wilkins, Neville Gallimore and Terry Beckner Jr. in 2015.
The recruiting experts are waiting for a battle between Michigan State and Wisconsin to materialize with Notre Dame, who has yet to offer. If Brian Kelly and the Irish continue to drag their feet, the Buckeyes could establish themselves in the fight for Jones' commitment
Brandon Burton, 4-Star Safety (2016)
The week's final offer went to one of the country's top prospects in Brandon Burton.
The 4-star safety out of Gardena, California, is rated the No. 76 prospect nationally and the No. 5 safety. Boasting offers from Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC, Burton is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.
That means the Buckeyes have a lot of ground to make up in the race for his commitment.
In Meyer's three-year tenure with the Buckeyes, he's only managed to land one prospect—Marcus Baugh—from the state of California. It's hard to pull players from the West Coast away from the Pac-12, and that challenge will be hard to overcome in the battle for Burton. USC has a 92 percent chance of landing the 4-star defensive back, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball.
That could change, though, if the Buckeyes convince Burton to make the trip east for an official visit.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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The Texas A&M Aggies have seen a lot of change on their coaching staff since the end of the regular season. There are a number of players who should benefit from those changes during spring practice and going forward.
There are three new coaches on staff: John Chavis is the defensive coordinator, Aaron Moorehead is the wide receiver coach and Dave Christensen is the offensive line coach. Chavis is going to coach the linebackers, so Mark Hagen will move over and coach the defensive tackles.
The coaching changes will result in a lot of opportunities for players; those who were previously backups will start over with a clean slate.
This is a look at some of the players who have the most to gain in spring practice.
Depending on the perspective, Dorial Green-Beckham may have the most to gain of any wide receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine, or his fate has already been determined due to the string of issues off the field.
Whatever happened in the past, there's no denying that Green-Beckham was going to have every team watching his workout in Indianapolis closely. The former Missouri wideout is a physical freak, as he showed during the combine workouts.
Let's take a deeper dive into Green-Beckham's workout now that it's in the books.
The first major test of the day for DGB was the 40-yard dash. It's not a perfect measure of what a wide receiver can do on the field, as it doesn't show separation, but teams do love to see what a player does on a straight sprint.
Green-Beckham's best 40 time was unofficially 4.49 seconds. It wasn't the best of the day, though considering he's 6'5" and 237 pounds, there were some rave reviews like this one from Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt:
Here's what his 40-yard dash looked like, via NFL.com:
One player Green-Beckham has drawn physical comparisons to is Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Before the combine began, Albert Breer of NFL.com spoke to one AFC college scout who brought up the correlation.
He's one of the best receivers I've ever seen. He's special. He's gigantic; he has tremendous body control, balance; he runs like a deer and can leap out of the gym and high-point the ball. He's special. It's impressive. If not for all that stuff, he'd be the best receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson.
Yet for all the physical comparisons that Green-Beckham might draw to Johnson, ESPN's Todd McShay pointed out Megatron had superior speed:
It's unfair to compare anyone to Johnson, especially before he enters the NFL, so Green-Beckham shouldn't pay attention to those kinds of things and should focus on playing to the best of his ability.
The main question with Green-Beckham is all the baggage he brings, but NFL on Fox analyst Charles Davis notes that Oklahoma's coaching staff was high on the wide receiver's maturity last year:
Keep in mind, Green-Beckham did that without being able to play in an actual game when the NCAA denied his waiver request to play immediately after transferring.
One area where DGB did shine was in the gauntlet drill, which is when receivers catch two passes from a quick turn and run a straight line from sideline to sideline catching five passes.
Per Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star, Green-Beckham was smooth in his actions in that particular area:
That's important because he hasn't played an actual game since the Cotton Bowl in January 2014. Teams want to see how his hands look, if he's able to make catches out in front instead of waiting for them to come into his body.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 49ers were at least impressed enough to meet with Green-Beckham at the Indianapolis airport.
Overall, it was a good day for Green-Beckham. He may not be the "next Calvin Johnson," because only a very select few players can warrant praise that high. Most of them are already in the NFL.
The controversial wideout did exactly what he needed to do on the field. Green-Beckham displayed good speed, especially given his size, and showed strong hands and ease running the field during catching drills. No one questions the talent that will be on display every Sunday.
More than any other player in this class, especially among the marquee guys, Green-Beckham will have to answer for everything that happened off the field. He's got supporters in Oklahoma, which is sure to help his case, but that may only carry him so far.
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No matter what former Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham does on the field during the 2015 NFL combine, his athletic performance remains secondary to the questions he has to answer about his off-the-field actions.
There is absolutely no way to deny Green-Beckham's physical talent
He stands 6'5" and weighs 237 pounds. Comparisons are readily made to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, because the two are very similar physically.
The comparison is a little over the top, though, as Detroit Lions staff writer Tim Twentyman illustrated:
However, many were impressed with Green-Beckham's speed at his size.
The former Missouri Tiger ran an unofficial 4.50-second 40-yard dash in his first attempt. The wide receiver bettered himself on his second run, clocking in at 4.49.
Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen wasn't shy about the growing interest in Green-Beckham:
Fox Sports' Joel Klatt was also blown away by the massive wide receiver's speed:
While the Johnson comparison may be over the top, Green-Beckham is much closer to Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who was selected seventh overall in the 2014 draft and played tremendously well as a rookie.
If the two stood back-to-back, they would appear nearly identical. At least year's combine, Evans measured in at 6'5" and 231 pounds. He also ran an official 4.53-second 40-yard dash.
The one major difference between the two is arm length.
Green-Beckham's arm length is surprisingly small for a 6'5" wide receiver. His arms measured at 32.5 inches. Evans, on the other hand, has arms that are over 35 inches long.
The wide receiver's workout went beyond an impressive 40-yard dash time, too.
The native of Springfield, Missouri, appeared smooth and athletic with strong hands during position-specific drills, as The Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor noted:
A strong workout even has some, such as NFL Network's Brian Billick, wondering if Green-Beckham can overtake the class' top three wide receivers—Alabama's Amari Cooper, Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White:
Bleacher Report's Dan Hope even placed Green-Beckham in elite territory:
Green-Beckham is clearly talented. He owns first-round ability. His past history, though, remains the primary concern.
Talent will eventually trump trepidation in nearly every instance, but when that happens is in question.
Will a team be willing to spend a first-round pick on Green-Beckham with his history? Does it make the pick easier if he starts to slide into Round 2 or 3?
Each organization will make that decision individually.
"I think the consistent problems for [Cleveland Browns wide receiver] Josh Gordon are going to leak over and hurt his draft stock," an anonymous NFC director of personnel told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He couldn't keep himself out of trouble, had no structure growing up and didn't take coaching at Missouri. He's tall and fast and has good hands, but he can't be trusted. Why would you take a guy like that before the third day?"
All of the physical talent in the world doesn't mean anything if that player can't stay on the field.
Gordon led the NFL in receiving yardage during the 2013 season, but he's also been suspended numerous times and he won't play during the upcoming season as a result.
Like Gordon, Green-Beckham was dismissed from one university before trying to unsuccessfully transfer and eventually pursuing a path to the NFL.
Green-Beckham was dismissed from the University of Missouri after a particularly disturbing allegation that involved a burglary and pushing a woman down a flight of stairs. It wasn't his only incident during his time in Columbia either. The wide receiver was arrested on drug charges at one point. He was also suspended twice by head coach Gary Pinkel before his eventual dismissal.
When asked about his past history at the combine, Green-Beckham didn't provide much on an answer.
"All the decisions I made, I wish I could take them back," the wide receiver offered, via SI.com's Joan Niesen. "It happened. I was young. I made mistakes. I understand that.
"I know what’s at stake. I know what type of person I am, and I realize what the NFL is looking for in me as a person. I want them to know that I’m going to go out there and give it my all."
Hint: The NFL isn't worried about what you can do on the field. They're scared to death by another public relations nightmare. The league took hit after hit because of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and others. Green-Beckham isn't exactly entering the league at the best time based on his past history.
Some team will eventually take a chance on a truly talented player, but it will only do so once it's completely comfortable with the person more so than the player.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.
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During spring practice, some players move up the depth chart into starting positions. The most common reason for this is because the previous starters have left their programs.
Another reason is because the previous starters aren't the best options for their programs anymore. We'll take a look at a few situations in which the latter may apply.
The players in this slideshow were starters for their teams in 2014. Therefore, players who could be considered starters heading into 2015 but did not start in 2014 are not included.
If there are other cases in college football where you believe this will happen, please include them in the comments section below.
With that, here's the list.
Ranking each SEC coach by his recruiting prowess is like ranking each All-American by his numbers: No matter which order you choose, quality candidates will place near the bottom.
Such is the curse of being the most dominant recruiting conference in the country—and maybe of all time. The SEC's average grade in the 247Sports composite team rankings (244.4) over the past four cycles is almost 35 points higher than the second-best conference (Pac-12, 209.6) and over 40 points higher than No. 3 (Big 12, 199.6).
To grade this list, then, we had to make some subjective calls. But most of it was grounded in numbers.
How have head coaches recruited at their current schools? How did they recruit before that? And almost as important, how did their current schools recruit before they got there?
Sample size was also a heavy factor, so newer head coaches have a chance to ascend as they spend more time in the SEC.
Sound off below and let us know what you think.
In the search for a quarterback commit, the Texas Longhorns' 2015 class ended with last-minute dramatics. Head coach Charlie Strong and his staff are making sure that doesn't happen in 2016.
In the past week, the Longhorns offered a scholarship to seven quarterbacks—in-state prospects Tristen Wallace, Zach Smith and Bowman Sells; Minnesota's top-ranked player Seth Green; and the Florida trio of Feleipe Franks, Xavier Gaines and, most recently, Ervin Barrett.
All but Sells are 4-star prospects; Sells is a 3-star talent with a strong arm.
Texas now has offered 11 quarterbacks in the class.
The Longhorns previously offered 5-stars Malik Henry and Shea Patterson, who have committed to Florida State and Ole Miss, respectively. They also offered 4-star, in-state talent Shane Buechele and 4-star Dwayne Haskins, the No. 2 overall player from the state of Maryland.
Entering the final week of recruiting, the Longhorns only had a pledge from Matthew Merrick, who agreed to a grayshirt offer.
It was two days before signing day when Strong was able to flip Kai Locksley from Florida State. The 11th-hour scenario worked out in Texas' favor. This time.
Strong and his staff want to make sure last year doesn't happen again.
It'll be tough to flip Franks (LSU commit), Smith (Baylor), Green (Oregon) and Wallace (Texas Tech), but the coaching staff is confident it can land one of the players on its board. Additionally, Barrett, Gaines and Buechele all are uncommitted, and the Longhorns are working hard to get their pledges.
Of these names, Haskins and Buechele are two who can be intriguing as recruiting continues.
Both have great arms and solid footwork. Haskins is a great athlete who focuses on being technically sound. He also throws well on the run. Buechele loves to extend plays by running out of the pocket and giving extra effort. He is the son of former pro baseball infielder Steve Buechele, so he understands poise and letting the game come to him.
The Longhorns under Strong seem to have everything going at every position except for quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes threw for only 57 yards in a Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas in December. He threw for more than 2,400 yards and 13 touchdowns last season but also had 11 interceptions.
Will Texas fans see Swoopes again as the starter? Or does 2015 begin with the era of redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, who, according to Chris Hummer of 247Sports, is ready to accept the responsibilities of being a starter?
Whatever the case, look for the team to build depth at the position. The 2016 class will need a reliable quarterback, and there are plenty of names out there. The good news for Texas fans: The Longhorns coaches are on the prowl.
It's just a matter of Texas landing one. Or flipping one.
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