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Big 12 Unanimously Approves Conference Championship Game: Details, Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

 

As The Satellite Turns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Expansion of the Serious Misconduct Rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bowl Games Pay

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

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

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

 

Do You See What I See?

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

How will it work?

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

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

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

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

Make no mistake, it will expedite it.

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

 

Grains of Sand

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

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ken Starr Discusses Baylor Resignation, Art Briles, More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

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

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

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

 

Get (and Stay) Healthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Get the Freshmen Acclimated

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

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

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

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

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

 

Build on the Recruiting Momentum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

OK, Jim. How do you really feel?

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

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

Let's get started.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From the actual camps themselves?

Honestly, probably not much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

And that includes their weaknesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Perfect College Football Starting Lineup for 2016

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

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

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

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

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Tennessee Football: Volunteers' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mississippi State Sets Horrible Example by Admitting Jeffery Simmons

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

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

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

It didn't. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give me a break.

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

Can't that wait? 

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

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

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

Evidently not.

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

The expectation should be to not hit women. 

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

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

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

Those expectations don't rush the quarterback, though.

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

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Wolverines' 2016 Offseason Summer Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s an honor to carry on that tradition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Reportedly Reconsidering Transfer Rule for Walk-Ons: Details and Reaction

The Big 12 is reportedly rethinking a transfer rule for walk-ons that would allow them to change schools within the conference and not lose a year of eligibility.

Citing sources, ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reported Thursday the proposal is being re-examined "with different language" after a 5-5 vote Wednesday failed to produce the majority necessary to pass new rules. 

"Sources said part of the new language being discussed would allow a walk-on's school to offer a scholarship to keep him," Trotter added. "If the walk-on then still elected to transfer within the conference, the player would face the league's transfer eligibility restrictions."

On Wednesday, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Trotter "opposition to the walk-on rule change didn’t want Big 12 teams luring other team’s walk-ons with the promise of scholarships."

While the passage of a new rule with that language would have major implications, there would be none more significant in the short term than the altered playing status of Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield. 

The reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech following his freshman season and is slated to enter his final year of eligibility after being forced to sit out the 2014 season. But under the new rules, Mayfield would reportedly be able to recoup that season since he walked on at Texas Tech before latching on with the Sooners. 

Trotter also noted that even if the Big 12 doesn't change its rules regarding walk-on transfer eligibility, Mayfield could still snag a fourth year of eligibility if he becomes a graduate transfer and moves to another Power Five school. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Uniform Trends to Watch for in 2016

New York City's renowned Fashion Week extravaganza came and went back in February without a single mention of some of the hottest fads sweeping the world. The college football world, that is.

Uniform changes and updates remain all the rage in college football, and each year when these tweaks happen, we look for new trends.

In the past, this has included the move toward thinner, tighter and more breathable materials as well as the push to include black or gray into the color palette regardless of whether it was part of a school's colors.

One of the most anticipated changes won't happen until August. That's when Michigan shifts from Adidas to Jordan Brand, the first football team to do so. We have no idea what the Wolverines' uniforms will look like—though assistant coach Jay Harbaugh previewed a possible look last summer in a since-deleted tweet—but they could usher in a new era of football gear from a line previously known for only basketball.

Until the official unveiling happens, though, we can only speculate. But several other teams have released new uniforms for 2016, so take a stroll with us down the runway for the latest styles and trends.

 

Past and Present

The millennial generation gets picked on for its overall sense of entitlement and narcissism, so it makes sense that college football teams want to stay as relevant as possible on the uniform front. But there are also the fans to consider, particularly those who have been around for quite some time and fondly remember a program's past glories.

Now more teams are looking to combine past and present with their gear in hopes of pleasing all factions.

Clemson is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, winning its first 14 games and reaching the national championship. Had the Tigers managed to beat Alabama, it would have marked their first title since 1981.

Now their quest to win it all in 2016 will be in gear that harkens back to that championship squad of 35 years ago.

"Who says you can't go back?" the above video's narrator asks. "Who says you can't recreate history?"

Instead of a major overhaul, Clemson tweaked its threads to look more like the ones it wore in 1981, with bigger numbers on the front and back, and a return of the tiger paw logo to the top of the shoulders.

That frees up the side of the shoulder for smaller numbers, just like Clemson wore when it beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 35 years ago.

The last of Pittsburgh's nine national titles came in 1976, when coach Johnny Majors and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Tony Dorsett led the Panthers to a 12-0 mark. That team's helmets had “Pitt” written in script on the sides, a style that lasted until 1996, when the school switched to a Panthers logo.

What's old is new again, though, and the Pitt script is back. According to coach Pat Narduzzi, today's college football players like donning vintage designs as much as new ones.

"I think it’s very attractive to recruits," he told ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson. "You’ve got to have a little swag to you. I think our kids got some swag, and we’ll continue to add to the swag."

Also looking to the past for a “new” look is Virginia Tech, which under first-year coach Justin Fuente will have new uniforms that include a change in font.

According to the school's website, the lettering pays homage to Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr., a Hokies alum from the 1940s who went on to become a NASA engineer. This also ties in well with the school's tradition as a polytechnic research institution.

 

Fringe Benefits

At this rate, it shouldn't be long before the jerseys start getting bedazzled or include epaulets on the shoulders.

A continuing trend with college football uniforms of late has been the inclusion of different patterns that stand out alongside the solid color of the rest of the material. Last year saw Michigan State add an alternate kit with a Greek "key pattern" on the shoulders, and Florida State added some flair to both the sleeves and neck line in 2014.

Not willing to be left behind, schools like Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Purdue are joining the fringe party for 2016.

Oklahoma State, a past pioneer in the world of chrome lids and oversized mascot logos, is jumping on the pattern bandwagon by including a "custom paisley print" around the neck and sleeve edges.

Purdue, which previously harkened back to the glory days of the locomotive with train tracks running down the center of its helmet, now has added a "cowcatcher" design on both shoulders. For those not well versed in train history, that's the pointed guard on the front of engines that are meant to clear away any debris—cows, included—that might be scattered on the tracks.

And Kentucky has thrown a checkerboard design onto its sleeves, though that's managed to draw as much praise from fans of one of the Wildcats' rivals as from its own supporters.

 

Numbers Never Lie

Uniform updates have been going on for quite some time, but one area that tended to stay the same was the jersey numbers.

Go back as recently as a decade ago, and almost every college football team had the same basic block font for its numbers—both on the chest and back as well as the shoulders—and any uniform tweaks were to the colors or helmet designs.

Now it's getting to where every FBS team seems to have its own unique set of stylized digits, and most of the updated uniforms for 2016 are following suit with this.

Oklahoma State's latest set of changes also includes a "barbed wire typeface" to further drive home that program's cowboy culture, while Central Florida's update features numbers that all have tiny notches carved into them. It falls in line with the school's UCF logo and works well with new coach Scott Frost's push of the #UCFast motto he introduced after being hired.

Rutgers's fresh uniforms are meant to "go back to a traditional Rutgers look," new coach Chris Ash said, per Ryan Dunleavy of APP.com. They scrap the the odd medieval/gunmetal motif the Scarlet Knights had been using for a few years. "I wanted a nice, clean, professional look that is traditional and identifiable with Rutgers."

Apparently, that also includes having a special serif-style font for the uniform numbers instead of old-style block numbers.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Under-the-Radar College Football Quarterbacks to Watch in 2016

Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield are household names, but the 2016 campaign is spotted with lesser-known college football quarterbacks worth watching.

Some may be underrated when it comes to NFL draft prospects, while others are flat-out fun to track in the fall.

In most cases, the team isn't a national or even conference championship contender. However, a select group of signal-callers will be under center for a program prepared for a breakout year.

Although the list—organized alphabetically—is subjective, an under-the-radar quarterback is different for almost every fan, largely depending on allegiances and location.

The following players are among the most entertaining talents the average fan doesn't know much—if anything—about. And that's OK! We're here to help.

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Schools to Watch for After 4-Star QB Kellen Mond Decommitted from Baylor

Consider the proverbial hammer dropped in Waco, Texas.

With everything that's gone on with Baylor in the past week—the dismissal of Art Briles, the removal of Kenneth Starr as president (and then Starr's resignation as chancellor, per ESPN's Joe Schad), the multiple players from the 2017 class decommitting and the 2016 signees reportedly requesting releases (per ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree) from their national letters of intent—things hit rock bottom from a recruiting perspective right around 6:11 p.m. CT.

IMG Academy's Kellen Mond, a 4-star quarterback and arguably Baylor's most important recruit of the 2017 class, announced his decommitment via Twitter and once again became a free agent among a pool of schools looking to land that prize target at the quarterback position.

Mond is the nation's No. 4-ranked dual-threat quarterback. Of the nation's top 10 dual-threat options, only two are uncommitted: Mond and Tate Martell.

Mond, who will participate in this weekend's Elite 11 Finals in Los Angeles, was on WOAI-TV in his hometown of San Antonio explaining his decision and thanking the coaches for recruiting him. He also announced that his top three schools are Auburn, Ohio State and Texas A&M, with Auburn currently in the lead.

The race for Mond becomes a very intriguing one for Auburn. Of the three schools Mond mentioned, Auburn is the only one without a quarterback commit in its class. The Tigers have five pledges in their 2017 class, including 5-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley and 4-star running back/athlete Alaric Williams.

From an offensive standpoint, Auburn has solid pieces to build its class around. A quarterback commit like Mond would help solidify the needs of the class without question.

Texas A&M's 2017 class is nine deep and includes 3-star quarterback pledge Connor Blumrick, a big prospect at 6'6" and 203 pounds who announced his verbal two weeks ago.

Ohio State's 2017 class, currently ranked No. 1 in the country, has 13 pledges, including 4-star quarterback commit Danny Clark, a Buckeyes commit since December 2013.

The idea of Mond choosing Auburn would make a lot of sense, and his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions are trending that way. With him admitting Auburn is his front-runner, he's basically the Tigers' to lose.

The one thing about recruiting that never changes, however, is that the process is a marathon and never a sprint. There are still eight months remaining until national signing day, and you can bet those three teams—and others—will be fighting passionately for Mond, a classic dual-threat option.

Per the San Antonio Express-News' Ben Baby, Mond threw for 1,991 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 898 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior at Reagan High School in San Antonio. He transferred to IMG at the beginning of the spring semester.

Those talents will be warranted at the school of his choice. Auburn is hoping to close the deal and land its quarterback of the class. Ohio State and Texas A&M are hoping to make moves to add depth to the position.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Art Briles Issues Statement Regarding Firing from Baylor

In the wake of his firing as Baylor's head football coach, Art Briles issued his first statement Thursday, expressing regret and a desire to tell his side of the story eventually.

Here is the statement, first sent to Julie Hays of KWTX News 10:

Baylor Nation,

My heart goes out to the victims for the pain that they have endured. Sexual assault has no place on our campus or in our society. As a father of two daughters, a grandfather, and a husband, my prayers are with the victims of this type of abuse, wherever they are. After 38 years of coaching, I have certainly made mistakes and, in hindsight, I would have done certain things differently. I always strive to be a better coach, a better father and husband, and a better person.

Keep in mind, the complete scope of what happened here has not been disclosed and unfortunately at this time I am contractually obligated to remain silent on the matter. The report prepared by Pepper Hamilton, the law firm hired and paid for by Baylor's Board of Regents, has not been shared with me directly, despite my full cooperation with the investigation. I can only assume that the report, which is not independent, supports the conclusions that the Board has already drawn. I hope to share with you what I was aware of as soon as I can so Baylor Nation can begin the healing process.

I have the utmost admiration for Baylor University, its community, and its important mission. I am truly grateful for having had the chance to coach hundreds of young student-athletes at this University. I am deeply humbled for having had the opportunity to be a part of Baylor Nation.

Coach Art Briles

Baylor fired Briles last week amid a sexual assault scandal that allegedly involved multiple football players.

According to Dan Wolken of USA Today, law firm Pepper Hamilton determined Baylor "failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University."

Along with Briles' firing, Kenneth Starr announced his decision to resign as Baylor's chancellor. The school named former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe as the Bears' interim head coach.

The 60-year-old Briles served as Baylor's head coach from 2008 through 2015 after five seasons at Houston. He went 65-37 with the Bears, including a 32-7 mark over the past three campaigns.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points: Expanding Player Discipline Standards Easier Said Than Done

DESTIN, Fla. — While the war of words between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh dominated headlines early during SEC spring meetings, the increased focus on player discipline has been the one constant through the first two days of the four-day event. 

The conference stepped out and began to lead the charge in reforming player discipline at this event last year, when it passed the "Jonathan Taylor rule" that prevents potential transfer players who have a history of sexual assault, sexual violence and domestic violence from being admitted to a school.

Since that time, the SEC established a working group to broaden the definition of what "serious misconduct" actually is. The hope is that, in conjunction with the information received from that group, the conference will continue to lead the national charge to improve player behavior.

"What's come back is two pieces. One, a little bit of a broader definition of serious misconduct that picks up stalking," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "It's really about interpersonal violence beyond only sexual assault. It's still pretty focused. It's not a wholesale list of felonies or anything like that. It's pretty focused on interpersonal violence.

"The other addition is the expectation of certain due diligence work. That expectation predated what I read as an outcome of the report of Baylor University's circumstances. I think at the very end, it mentioned that. What we will do is create a set of questions that will be expected to be asked for information sought from a potential transfer student."

What likely won't be included in the new legislation—which should be announced at the conclusion of spring meetings on Friday—is the expansion of the rule to include incoming freshmen in addition to potential transfers.

There's a good reason for that.

"If you're transferring from a university, you're generally of age," Sankey said. "You're generally 18 years of age or older. You're in a higher-education setting. You're in an environment that could be very different from the one you lived in as a child...a minor. Generally speaking, before enrollment, they are minors, so you might have different access to legal records and information."

Make no mistake, though, the push to build on the momentum that the "Jonathan Taylor rule" created last year is another sign that the SEC is taking player behavior issues as seriously as possible, while remaining realistic on what hurdles exist from a legal standpoint that could delay implementation.

After what's gone on at Baylor and Alabama's signing of Taylor—who was at junior college after being dismissed from Georgia for domestic violence, and subsequently dismissed for similar reasons at Alabama—a much-needed bright light has been cast on making sure that college campuses are safe.

The SEC is trying to make theirs even safer, but it's easier said than done.

 

Status Is Pending

Mississippi State shocked the recruiting world on national signing day when it inked former 5-star defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons over several higher-profile suitors.

But his admission into the school remains uncertain after video surfaced on WCBI (via the Jackson Clarion-Ledger), of Simmons hitting a woman in March. He was later charged with misdemeanor simple assault and disturbing the peace.

"I think the University and the athletic department are going to comment on that later in the week," head coach Dan Mullen said.

Mississippi State starts class on Thursday, so it won't be long before the future of the Noxubee County (Mississippi) native is determined—if he's even admitted at all.

"I think we want to be as fair as we can to student-athletes in making sure we're not taking opportunities away from people who deserve opportunities in people's minds," Mullen said. "But also not making decisions without other students' safety or bringing people that might not be great for the university on the campus."

Could the SEC's push to tighten up which players with history of interpersonal violence are allowed into the conference come into play? That remains to be seen.

It was clear that the SEC is again taking steps forward to ensure the safety of students on all 14 campuses. But it would only be a small step forward if it comes out of Destin with increased measures on player discipline while also allowing a player with said issue to enroll at a member institution during the same week.

 

No News Is Bad News for Gators

While headlines involving legislative issues like satellite camps, player discipline rules and underclassmen who could return to school have dominated talk at spring meetings, Florida head coach Jim McElwain dropped a nugget on Tuesday that might have been lost in the noise.

Star Gator wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who hasn't been with the team since January, remains suspended, and it doesn't appear that much progress has been made toward a potential reinstatement.

"Same deal," McElwain said.

When pressed on whether Callaway—who caught 35 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns, and returned two more punts for scores—is enrolled in the "Summer A" session, McElwain dropped some news that should concern Gator fans.

"No...no, not right now," he said. "It's being handled."

We're now going on six months in which Callaway—a rising sophomore who's being counted on to be the top weapon in a Gator passing game that desperately needs a boost—has been away from his teammates.

That means no work with quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby this spring, none planned during "optional" summer workouts and no development as a player with Florida's coaching staff.

For some teams that have multiple downfield threats to rely on, it wouldn't be a big deal. For Florida, it's huge, because Callaway is the threat. 

The longer this drags on, the more concerned Florida fans should be that the offense won't reach its potential in 2016.

 

A Devastating Loss

The one constant on a South Carolina defense that has struggled lately has been the play of ultraversatile linebacker Skai Moore.

The 6'2", 218-pounder from Cooper City, Florida, has led the Gamecocks in tackles in each of his first three seasons with the program, but will miss the season and undergo neck fusion surgery on Friday in Charlotte.

"He’ll be fine. This is not a career-threatening situation," head coach Will Muschamp said on Tuesday. "This is a very common procedure for a herniated disc. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t heal on its own."

The surgery will prevent Moore from taking contact for six months, but he will take his redshirt, and Muschamp expects him to return to school in 2017.

For South Carolina, it's an enormous injury.

Moore's speed and versatility would have allowed Muschamp to use him at linebacker and at more of a hybrid safety spot in certain situations. Because of that, he was going to be the centerpiece of the defense despite missing spring practice with the same injury. 

Without him, it's going to be a struggle for South Carolina to win games without scoring 30 points. With potentially a true freshman quarterback in Brandon McIlwain, a vastly inexperienced wide receiving corps and a running back group that isn't exactly the SEC's best, do you see that happening?

I don't. 

 

Alcohol In Stadiums?

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva is pushing for the SEC's ban on alcohol sales in general seating areas of stadiums to be lifted, and hopes that it happens sooner rather than later.

"Personally, I would entertain it. I think it's a good idea," he said. "I think it's good for the fan experience and I think it's good for the safety, because people overload before they come into the game. If they knew they could buy a beer in the stadium, they might not get as intoxicated before the game."

The SEC's ban on alcohol sales in areas except luxury seating has been in existence for more than three decades. The idea of allowing limited sales of beer and wine has proved Alleva's theory to be true on other campuses.

Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman reported last year that alcohol-related arrests before, during and after West Virginia home games dropped 35 percent when it allowed sales in 2011.

As Bleacher Report reported last year, the subject of lifting the conferencewide ban hasn't been broached at spring meetings in a few years. Alleva said that he "hopes" it gets brought up this year. It hasn't yet, according to Sankey, but that could change over the next couple of days. 

"Most likely, yes, in some form or fashion," Sankey said when asked if he anticipated discussion on the topic prior to the close of SEC spring meetings.

There's no time like the present. After all, isn't that what spring meetings is for?

It's unrealistic that, if the ban is lifted, it could go into effect in 2016. But it appears that there could be at least some movement on the topic.

 

Quick Outs

  • Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said that talk of division realignment hasn't been brought up, and Sankey said that the most he's heard about it is in the media and in the press conference room at the Hilton in Destin. "We have a long history of divisions," Sankey said. "It’s worked incredibly well. The chance to be in Atlanta means something to both teams."
  • The SEC's decision to use a collaborative replay system with an official on-site and a replay center in Birmingham, Alabama, was a smash hit with coaches. "I think it's great," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "With everything that goes on, everybody—coaches, players, fans—want to get it right. The more eyes that are more on it and the more people who are able to review something, the better chance you have to get it right."
  • Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops confirmed that running back Stanley "Boom" Williams is good to go for fall camp following offseason elbow surgery.

 

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

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

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