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Why Alabama Can't Afford to Lose Lane Kiffin

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We figured this was coming, it just might be coming a little sooner than we thought.

The Lane Kiffin era in Tuscaloosa wasn’t going to be a long one like defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s has been. Kiffin is too talented of a football mind to not get snatched up, especially coaching under the watchful eye of Nick Saban, who has largely kept him out of the public spotlight and let the focus be on his offense.

But not very many expected his departure would be after just one year.

That could be the case, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

Kiffin’s home is on the West Coast. This wouldn’t be an unprecedented move. The last time Kiffin had an SEC job (head coach at Tennessee in 2009), he left after just one year to become the head coach at USC.

ESPN’s Chris Low and The Tuscaloosa News’ Cecil Hurt think Kiffin would make the move, should he get an offer:

Schefter is not the first credible source to broach the possible move, either. The San Jose-Mercury News’ Cam Inman wrote on Friday that Kiffin “might consider returning to the NFL” and could be a candidate for the job, along with former Washington head coach Mike Shanahan.

These are more than just rumblings.

Kiffin seemingly got ahead of potential rumors like this in New Orleans, while Alabama was prepping for the Sugar Bowl, saying he would be returning to Tuscaloosa next season.

"Yes, definitely," Kiffin said, according to al.com’s Michael Casagrande. "I think that we still have a lot of stuff that we can do better. Working with a new quarterback, that will be exciting. To me, the excitement of the unknown when you have the quarterback, to see if we can do this again, if we can perform really well and obviously coach has recruited very well year in and year out.”

There have been no indications that Kiffin has been or will be offered the job. He is still performing his duties as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, which right now are focused on recruiting.

Al.com’s Drew Champlin writes that Kiffin was in Tuscaloosa this weekend as Alabama hosted official visits from top recruits.

TideSports.com’s Aaron Suttles said that Kiffin was also out on the road last week:

Losing Kiffin, though, would be a major blow to a Crimson Tide offense that sported a new look than we’re accustomed to seeing at Alabama and set records for most yards in school history.

 

Recruiting

Kiffin has played a major role in recruiting Alabama in his year since joining the coaching staff.

247Sports lists Kiffin as the primary recruiter on 2015 commits and early enrollees Blake Barnett and Dallas Warmack.

Barnett, in particular, seems to be a tailor-made Kiffin prospect. He is a quarterback from the West Coast, has a live arm and is a good runner—something that Kiffin had success this year with Blake Sims.

Kiffin is also listed as the primary recruiter on several more remaining 2015 targets like Byron Cowart and Iman Marshall.

Wide receiver Lawrence Cager told al.com’s Drew Champlin that Kiffin and Alabama are still hard on the Miami commit.

"They still want me at 'Bama," Cager said, per Champlin. "Coach (Lane) Kiffin and Coach (Billy) Napier are recruiting me hard. I thought the visit was great. Another great visit to Alabama. I really enjoyed spending time with Coach (Nick) Saban a lot and the fellow recruits."

Losing Kiffin right now could have a few ripple effects for Alabama before 2015’s national signing day.

 

Quarterback

Kiffin's success at Alabama this year was in large part because of what he was able to do at the quarterback position.

He took Blake Sims from career backup to Alabama record-holder. His track record of quarterback development extends beyond Alabama, where he worked with talent like Matt Leinart at USC and made Jonathan Crompton an SEC-caliber starter at Tennessee.

The Crimson Tide will need him to work some of that magic again this offseason.

The only sure thing about Alabama’s 2015 quarterback battle is that there is no sure thing. The Crimson Tide doesn’t have a quarterback on its roster with more than a year on campus and a pass attempt in a game.

With Kiffin leading the charge, Alabama fans could be a little less anxious about that process, given his history at the position. If he goes, Saban will need to find another quarterback-minded coordinator to make sure there isn’t much drop-off under center.

 

Another Scheme Change

It’s not a stretch to say Kiffin gave Alabama an entirely new identity on offense.

Part of that was personnel-wise. He tailored his system to a roster that had a mobile quarterback with a strong arm, an electric wide receiver in Amari Cooper and a run game that was less power and more finesse than in years past.

It speaks to Kiffin’s acumen that he was able to squeeze just about all of the potential out of an offense with a first-year quarterback and the weapons around him.

Alabama also needed an offense that could keep up with the high-scoring trends of the SEC and college football, and Kiffin provided that, too.

If Kiffin leaves, Alabama will need to find that again, after the dust from the coaching carousel is largely settled. To complicate things further, Alabama will already be nearly starting over on offense, with just two starters returning.

High-profile offensive coordinators like Ohio State’s Tom Herman and Clemson’s Chad Morris have already moved to head-coaching jobs.

Saban would have to dig deep to find his next offensive coordinator, and Alabama will be looking at its third coordinator in as many years.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football National Championship Futures Odds

While the memory of Ohio State’s impressive 42-20 romp over Oregon as a six-point underdog in the first-ever College Football Playoff Championship Game remains fresh in our heads, Doc’s Sports has already turned its attention to next season with a complete set of college football futures betting odds to win the 2015 national title.

Few college football fans would argue against the fact that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is one of the best in the game, especially in light of what his team did this season in its run to the title. He will now get a chance to further enhance that status with his Buckeyes favored to repeat as champions at 5/1 betting odds.

Since taking over this program in 2012, Meyer’s teams have gone 38-3 straight-up, and they have yet to lose a regular-season game in Big Ten play. This past season, Ohio State posted a 14-1 SU record with a 10-5 mark against the spread. The offense could very well have three quality starters at quarterback on the roster when play begins next season, and Meyer’s recruiting efforts over the past three years should only improve the overall talent level Ohio State moving forward.

The Big 12’s TCU Horned Frogs could have made a pretty strong argument that they should have been in the national playoffs this season after going 11-1 SU (10-2 ATS) in the regular season. They actually ended up sixth in the final College Football Playoff Rankings behind No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor, but TCU climbed to No. 3 in the final AP Top 25 after pasting Ole Miss 42-3 in this season’s Chick-fil-A Bowl as a three-point favorite. TCU’s betting odds to take the next step to a national title in 2015 have been set at 15/2.

The Horned Frogs finished the season ranked second in the nation in scoring with an average of 46.5 points a game behind a passing attack that racked up an average of 326.2 yards a game. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is expected back next season to pick up where he left off after throwing for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns while adding another 707 yards and eight scores on the ground.

The third favorite at 9/1 betting odds is perennial national title contender Alabama. Much like Meyer in Columbus, the man behind the team in Tuscaloosa is no stranger to fielding winners on a yearly basis. Nick Saban will be entering his ninth season as the Crimson Tide’s head coach, and in that time he has already led his team to three national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The two-year hiatus from the top spot in the nation is only bound to fuel this team’s motivation for another run at a title in 2015.

The driving force behind Alabama’s success over the last eight seasons can be primarily attributed to a solid ground game no matter who is running the ball and a shutdown defense that is very adept at keeping opposing teams out of the end zone. This past season, Alabama was ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed (18.4).

There is a logjam of teams on the list following these top three favorites, starting with Baylor at 14/1 odds to win it all. There is a trio of title contenders at 16/1 that includes another Big 12 team in Oklahoma, as well as the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans from the Pac-12.

The ACC’s Florida State Seminoles have been listed at 20/1 odds moving forward without quarterback Jameis Winston. The SEC’s Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers also come in at 20/1 odds. Two other programs at 20/1 are the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Heisman Watch List 2015: Early Odds for 2015 College Football Season

The 2015 college football season is seven-plus months away, but it won't be long until we get our first Heisman Trophy odds board. Last year, Bovada released its first numbers on Jan. 24 and updated them in early February.

There is no reason to expect a difference in 2015.

The list that follows, however, is not a projection of the first official numbers. It is a subjective assessment of how the top 10 Heisman candidates should be valued, not how they will be.

The Vegas numbers are created based on public sentiment, on how the book thinks bettors will react to a line. Even if the book doesn't love LSU running back Leonard Fournette (which isn't necessarily true), it will rank him high because he's a big name who ended the season on a high note. Those are factors the book takes into account.

They are not factors this list takes into account.

Sound off below and let us know whom else you would add.

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Miami Football: 5 Biggest Offseason Goals for Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes are in the midst of a critical offseason, one during which the program must overcome the constant negativity that surrounds it.

Following an underwhelming 6-7 campaign, the pressure to win has reached levels unseen since the probation-shadowed days of the late 1990s.

Al Golden and Co. have a few goals to attain during the seven-month stretch before the 2015 regular season begins, and it starts with replenishing the roster.

The list contains four tasks that will probably last for the entire offseason, ending with one item that, well, doesn't.

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OSU Recruit Says He's Going to 'Marshawn Lynch' the Media After Alleged Misquote

Marshawn Lynch’s name has been a verb for a while now, typically used to indicate the running over and/or wholesale destruction of someone or something. 

In the case of Torrance Gibson, Lynch’s name will serve as a model for future encounters with the press. Gibson, a 4-star quarterback recruit committed to Ohio State, recently tweeted he intended to give media the "Marshawn Lynch" treatment after allegedly being misquoted by an Alabama newspaper. 

CollegeSpun.com’s Andrew Holleran spotted the tweets, which were sent out Sunday night. 

According to Holleran, Gibson’s gripe stems from a story published Sunday by AuburnSports.com’s Jeffrey Lee. The 6’4” senior out of Plantation, Florida, visited Auburn University over the weekend and met with team officials, including head football coach Gus Malzahn. Gibson also spoke to Lee and other members of the media, who quoted Gibson as saying his trip “changed things a lot” regarding his outlook on his future.

Here are Gibson’s alleged quotes, as published by Lee. 

Everything went well. Everything is looking good. (The visit) changed things a lot. We'll see what the future holds.

I sat in Coach Malzahn's office and he told me that I'm their guy. He said he wants me to come in and I would get a fair opportunity to play quarterback, and I believe him.

What he did with Cam Newton in one year and Nick Marshall in two, … imagine what he could do with me in three."

I'm committed (to Ohio State), but I'm considering Auburn a lot. I don't have a problem redshirting, but sitting two or three years, that's not what I want to do. I want to come in and get a fair opportunity to play quarterback. 

It’s unclear which quote Gibson disagrees with, but Al.com’s Wesley Sinor and ESPN’s Derek Tyson published stories with identical quotes from the Florida native over the weekend. It could be that Gibson was properly quoted, but is second-guessing his words.

In any case, Urban Meyers' Buckeyes are currently three experienced quarterbacks deep with a titanic battle for starting rights ahead of them this offseason. As of this moment, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones remain adamant on their intention to stay in Columbus and fight for the keys to Ohio State’s high-powered offense.

It would be difficult to blame this young man if he were to second-guess his commitment to the Buckeyes.

After all, Gibson made his decision in early November, a month before Barrett went down with a nasty ankle injury and Jones took the team to a national title. The situation at quarterback has shifted drastically since Gibson committed, and no one would argue that with three experienced potential starters (two of whom are underclassmen), there are too many cooks in Meyers’ kitchen for Gibson to see significant playing time in the next two years.

As for going “Marshawn Lynch” on the media, that’s Gibson’s decision to make, boss. Just know that if you’re about that action, reporters are going to come buzzing every game.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Breaking Down the Longhorns' QB Contenders for 2015 Season

Texas' success in 2015 will depend on a quarterback's ability to lead a young roster to victory. Who that quarterback will be remains a mystery.

Down their top two receivers from last season and returning an offensive line that struggled mightily to jell, Charlie Strong and his staff need to get a playmaker at quarterback.

Tyrone Swoopes will get another look despite his brutal finish to 2014, but the odds-on favorite has to be Jerrod Heard. The redshirt freshman brings real dual-threat ability as well as a track record as a successful player in multiple phases of the game.

Should neither emerge, the Horns would be in real trouble, as recruit Zach Gentry will not be ready to go when he arrives in the summer and transfer options are limited.

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Senior Bowl 2015 Roster: Highlighting Top NFL Prospects in College Showcase

Many NFL hopefuls can secure an invite to a postseason collegiate all-star game, but only the best of the best make it to the Senior Bowl.

Reserved for the best standout upperclassmen in college football, the rosters are traditionally flooded with future NFL talent, and this year looks to be no different. Impact playmakers from the college football season are everywhere, but it takes a special breed to make the jump to the next level without many hiccups.

Coached by the coaching staffs of the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, the players will not only get a chance to work with NFL personnel, but they'll have the opportunity to impress the hundreds of scouts and coaches alike who will be watching closely.

Let's take a look at the complete rosters for both the North and South teams and analyze three future NFL stars.

Note: Team rosters are available at the Senior Bowl's official site.

 

Top NFL Prospects in Senior Bowl

Missouri DE Markus Golden (South)

Don't let the hype around Missouri Tigers defensive end Shane Ray distract you from the potential of teammate and fellow edge-rusher Markus Golden.

Golden came to Missouri as a linebacker but has made the transition to playing with his hand in the ground and done so magnificently. He finished fifth in the SEC in sacks with nine on the year and took down ball-carriers in the backfield as well as anyone in the conference with a whopping 20 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. 

He's attempting to emerge as a potential first-round pick, and the Senior Bowl is the perfect opportunity to do so, as he explained to David Morrison of the Columbia Tribune:

I know it’s a process. There’s a long time from now to the draft, where I can prove myself. Of course, I feel like I’m a first-round draft pick. I’ve worked hard enough, and I feel like my skills have me being a first-round draft pick.

I just want to keep on working, and whatever comes, I’m just blessed to say I have the opportunity to play in the NFL.

Ray has deservedly jumped up to the No. 6 overall player on the draft board of Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, but don't sleep on Golden, who is Miller's 13th-ranked defensive end in the class. This draft is loaded with elite pass-rushers, which means Golden should prove to be a fantastic value for a team in the second or third round.

 

Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (North)

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah has accomplished about all there is to accomplish individually at the college level. Now, it's a matter of transitioning to the NFL.

And nothing about Abdullah suggests that he will have much trouble in doing so. 

He's small for an NFL back at 5'9" but packs a major punch with a 195-pound frame that is capable of dragging the pile and breaking through would-be tacklers. With breakaway speed in space and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Abdullah should be high on teams' draft boards.

Few players in college football carried for more long gains than Abdullah in 2014, as Tony Gerdeman of The-Ozone.net noted:

Those who kept up with college football are used to seeing Abdullah carve up opposing defenses, but continuing that effectiveness when going up against future NFL players is a different story.

He won't get his typical number of touches, but if Abdullah is able to make a similar impact in the Senior Bowl, NFL scouts will take notice.

 

LSU OT La'El Collins (South)

La'El Collins of LSU leads a star-studded pack of offensive tackles in the Senior Bowl who are set to crash the NFL draft party in a big way.

There might be a number of tackles in the Senior Bowl to come off the board in Round 1 come late April, with Colorado State's Ty Sambrailo and Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings being two names that will definitely be in the mix. But none are as much of a sure thing as Collins.

He is ranked as the second-best offensive tackle in the class, according to Miller, and it's not hard to see why. The 6'5", 321-pound tackle has always possessed the skill set to dominate, but he never truly showed his full potential until the 2014 season.

With that said, Joe Marino of DraftBreakdown.com isn't sold just yet:

The former LSU standout might not be a plug-and-play guy right away, but very few offensive linemen in any draft class truly are. What Collins does bring to the table, however, is an insane skill set and body type that NFL teams can work with to develop into a star offensive tackle.

But with a few other stars at his position in the Senior Bowl, the onus will be on Collins to prove that.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Biggest Offseason Goals for Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh has assembled his coaching staff and is working with an "enthusiasm unknown to mankind” to rebuild Michigan.

He attended Michigan’s home basketball game this weekend and took time for some photos in the student section.

Fans tweeted about meeting him and cheered their new head coach, but Harbaugh has a lot of work to do before next season begins. Both Ohio State and Michigan State are waiting to baptize the new coach into the Big Ten East— a division dominated by Michigan’s rivals. Both Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio have shrugged off questions about Harbaugh while Michigan fans are expecting fast results.

Here are Michigan’s top five offseason goals to start competing for a Big Ten championship.

 

All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.

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Tennessee Football: 2015 Vols with the Most NFL Talent

This spring, another NFL draft will come and go without Tennessee football feeling much impact, but with all the talent on the 2015 roster, that won't be the case for long.

Other than linebacker A.J. Johnson, the Vols may not even have any players taken this spring.  Starting with 2016's draft, however, UT is going to have to replace some key personnel.

With the arrival of head coach Butch Jones in December of 2012, the Vols began recruiting at a higher level. Players such as Marquez North and Cameron Sutton—rising juniors—have immense NFL potential.

Beginning with 2014's seventh-ranked recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite, the star potential elevated considerably. This year's third-ranked class continues the trend.

By next year, Shields-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium will be littered with future NFL prospects. There are 5-7 other players who probably have pro futures who didn't even make this list. There is that much talent being stockpiled in Knoxville.

From Tennessee's rising star quarterback to a stable of playmakers to a defensive front that has the potential to be as talented as any in the SEC, Jones will have his roster ready to win.

Let's take a look at the top players with the most pro potential taking the field for the Vols in 2015. The criteria to make this list take into consideration the players' physical attributes, projections to the next level and input from experts (where available).

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With signing day a little more than two weeks away, teams across the country are putting their best foot forward in the hopes of meeting their needs with the last few scholarships they have left.

Take the case of the Georgia Bulldogs, for instance.

After the hire of new offensive line coach Rob Sale, the Dawgs have been busy handing out a flurry of offers to 2015 offensive linemen. 

In all, Mark Richt and his staff extended offers to four 2015 offensive linemen who are committed to other schools—three of whom are in-state targets.

Current Tennessee pledge and 3-star Venzell Boulware received an offer on Tuesday. Boulware initially considered taking a trip to Athens at the weekend before scrapping those plans, according to Ryan Callahan of Vols247 (subscription required).

Marquel Harrell, a 4-star offensive guard prospect who is committed to Auburn, also received an offer from the Bulldogs on Tuesday. According to Justin Hokanson of AuburnUndercover, Harrell shot down any talk of him flipping to the in-state Bulldogs and reaffirmed his commitment to the Tigers.

The final in-state linemen targeted by the Dawgs is 2-star prospect and current California commitment Nick Buchanan. The 6’4”, 280-pound tackle prospect was also offered by South Carolina.

Finally, 4-star Florida product and current Miami commitment Tyree St. Louis earned a Georgia offer. According to Luke Stampini of GatorBait, Tennessee and Florida are among the schools who will host St. Louis on visits in an effort to flip him before national signing day.

For Georgia, it will be interesting to monitor whether they can gain traction with any of the four players they offered last week or if they continue to target other prospects along the offensive line until they meet their goal.

 

Michigan Hits Florida, Georgia 2015 Prospects

Now that Jim Harbaugh is settled in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines figure to be one of the more active teams between now and national signing day.

Harbaugh and his staff were aggressive last week in targeting 2015 prospects in Florida and Georgia.

In the Peach State, the Wolverines joined the race for one of the nation’s hottest prospects in 3-star athlete Chris Williamson.

The Wolverines also offered a trio of 2015 standouts in 4-star wide receiver Ryan Davis, 3-star corner and current Rutgers commitment Jarius Adams and 3-star defensive end Shelton Johnson.

With only six current commitments in their 2015 class, expect the flood of recent activity on the recruiting trail to continue.

 

Michigan/MSU Offer 2016 In-State DE

One of the top prospects in the state of Michigan for the 2016 cycle is 3-star defensive end Khalid Kareem.

Before last week, the 6’4”, 240-pound pass-rusher had 18 offers—but none from in-state powers Michigan and Michigan State.

That changed last week, as the Spartans offered on Wednesday, and the Wolverines followed a day later.

"Even though I haven't made a final decision on where I want to go to school, it does feel good to have in-state schools as options," Kareem told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports. "The U of M offer is huge for me. To get it from Coach Harbaugh personally was a good feeling."

Will Kareem stay in-state, and if so, which school holds the upper hand?

The answer to those questions is likely to play out in the next few months.

 

Auburn Offers Elite 2018 ATH

With most schools already having the majority of their 2015 classes filled, coaches are hitting the road with an eye toward scouring talent in future classes.

Auburn hit the Sunshine State hard last week and offered 2018 athlete Tyreke Johnson.

According to Fred Marion of 247Sports, Johnson—whose older brother De’Andre Johnson is a 2015 quarterback who enrolled at Florida State earlier this month—has more than 10 offers despite just completing his freshman year of high school.

Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Miami and Ohio State are among the other schools pursuing the 6’1”, 175-pounder.

 

Best of the Rest

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: 5 Biggest Offseason Goals for Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs finished the season ranked in the top 10 of both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, and with a host of returning talent, they should open the 2015 campaign ranked similarly.  But top-10 rankings aren't what Georgia is playing for; the Dawgs want an SEC Championship.

Nick Chubb is back to lead the ground attack, a host of talented pass-rushers (Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Carter) will captain the defense and a strong crew of assistant coaches led by new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been assembled.  Accordingly, Georgia seems poised to make news in the SEC East and beyond.  But how do the Bulldogs get over the hump?

Here are Georgia's five most crucial goals this offseason.

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LSU Football: Breaking Down Tigers' Quarterback Contenders for 2015 Season

LSU head coach Les Miles has a quarterback problem, yet he is afraid to admit it.

“We would think that we’re through the quarterback misery…development, if you will,” said Miles earlier this week, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate.

Miles could not be more wrong. What he has now under center is far from complete.

LSU quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris combined to form the worst quarterback play in the SEC West. The stats speak for themselves:

Despite Jennings and Harris' mediocre 2014, Miles raved about their potential when discussing the two quarterbacks heading into spring practice.

“I think that Brandon Harris will absolutely compete for the job, and I’m not discounting Anthony Jennings, just not going to do it...but Brandon Harris is faster, throws the ball harder and really runs hard," he said, per Dellenger. "Some fundamental things that he will improve on, and he’s ready to do so.”

Unless LSU gets a miracle transfer, it looks as if it will be Jennings or Harris leading the charge next season. Here is a look at the quarterback position for Miles in 2015.

 

Anthony Jennings

The Tigers were atrocious at the game's most important position last season due in large part to Jennings. He completed 50 percent or less of his passes in nine of 13 games. The sophomore also only eclipsed 200 passing yards once.

There were times when Jennings shined.

His lone 200-yard game came in the season opener against Wisconsin, when he rallied the Tigers from a 24-7 second-half deficit to win 28-24. Jennings was clutch on the road against Florida as well, completing two late passes to receiver Travin Dural for the win.

Jennings should also be respected for his leadership. Fellow Tigers respect the effort he displays on every down he plays. Also, he never shies away from taking the blame for his mistakes.

Yet Jennings' ceiling is alarmingly low. His arm strength and accuracy are average. He can make plays with his legs, but his speed is nothing that scares defenses.

The area in which Jennings needs to improve the most is reading defenses. He often locks on to receivers, which allows talented secondaries to break up and intercept passes. Too often, he trusted Dural in heavy coverage instead of looking at his second and third options.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a lot of work to do with Jennings if the Tigers are going to win with him under center.

 

Brandon Harris

Why Harris did not play more last season will forever be a mystery.

His ability shined early with spectacular performances against Mississippi State and New Mexico State in relief of Jennings. Nine of the 10 combined drives he led in those games resulted in touchdowns.

Harris was rewarded with a start on the road against Auburn. The true freshman performed atrociously, as he went 3-of-14 for 58 yards.

Miles would keep Harris mostly on the bench for the rest of the season. He only attempted one pass, as he stood on the sideline mainly to watch Jennings play below-average football.

After LSU's loss to Notre Dame, fans took to social media to display their frustration at the quarterback position. Harris responded that patience is the key:

We have one! FBF #justwaitonitpic.twitter.com/VBSIkxQSHq

— bharris (@bharrisqb1) January 2, 2015

The coaching staff is still high on Harris. He has a better arm and is a more potent runner than Jennings. It is now time for him to take the keys in the offseason and become the driving force of the offense.

 

The Others

LSU will have Brad Kragthorpe, Brandon Bergeron, Jake Clise and Jared Foster returning to the roster next season.

Kragthorpe served as the No. 3 quarterback last season, but like the others mentioned, he held a clipboard for most of the season.

The newcomer to the group will be early enrollee Justin McMillan of the 2015 recruiting class. McMillan, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback out of Cedar Hill, Texas, has an uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to challenge Jennings and Harris.

McMillan's numbers at Cedar Hill High School were impressive, but he was aided by having 4-star 2015 receiving prospect Damarkus Lodge as his top target.

McMillan has an average arm strength and a light frame (6'1.5", 170 lbs). His elusiveness with his legs makes him dangerous when plays break down, though.

 

Transfers?

Louisiana church attendance records would be broken next Sunday if Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller announced he was transferring to LSU.

Miller, the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year, suffered a shoulder injury before Ohio State's season began. Backups J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones performed just fine without him, leading the Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.

Miller could easily be the No. 3 quarterback in Columbus behind Barrett and Jones. The senior could transfer elsewhere to play his final year of eligibility without having to sit out a season.

Steve Schneider of WAFB reports there has been meaningful contact between him and LSU.

Notre Dame senior quarterback Everett Golson has also been in contact with LSU about possibly transferring to LSU, per Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune.

Golson was once considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football, but his sluggish close to 2014 cost him his starting job to Malik Zaire in the Music City Bowl against the Tigers.

Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold states there are multiple hurdles Golson must overcome in order to leave South Bend. With that said, if the Fighting Irish the signal-caller gets to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he would immediately put pressure on Jennings and Harris.

Miles is likelier to land Miller than Golson, though there is fierce competition for his services. Golson will likely participate in spring practice and can still get the job back from Zaire.

 

Conclusion

LSU would be beyond fortunate to land Miller, Golson or any transfer at all. Miles will not rule it out, but he said it is "unlikely" it will happen, per Dellenger.

Fans will not be entirely enthused about next year's team being led by Jennings or Harris. The quarterback position held the Tigers back last season and could do so again in 2015.

One should hope Harris makes major strides in the offseason because he is the most talented quarterback on LSU's roster. He has a better arm and can run faster than the other candidates for the starting job.

The Tigers are talented enough to win games with Jennings, yet LSU cannot consistently beat the SEC's best with him under center.

If Miles wants to reach the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011, he needs to hope Harris becomes one of the SEC's best signal-callers.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: The X-Factors That Could Prevent Ohio State from Repeating

Ohio State successfully pulled off one of the most difficult tasks in modern athletics: winning a college football national championship.  What's more, the Buckeyes did it within the confines of the first-ever College Football Playoff.  

The accomplishment was no easy task, but at least one thing is more difficult: doing it again.

Ohio State wasn't supposed to be here.  Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury before the new season got underway.  J.T. Barrett led Ohio State to its first home-opening loss in nearly four decades—to a pretty bad Virginia Tech team.  We were supposed to crown Michigan State the champions of the Big Ten and whichever team won the almighty SEC the champions of the universe, right?

In the "good old days," the SEC was dominant, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 were on the rise, the ACC was top-heavy, and the Big Ten was awful.  Almost overnight, there has been a sea change in the college football landscape.  No matter the underlying reason, the Big Ten—specifically Ohio State—has benefited.

But can the Buckeyes continue to ride their amazing momentum?  With such a young roster, Ohio State looks poised to be an early favorite next season.  So what can derail the Buckeyes' run at back-to-back titles?

We're so glad you asked.

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Ohio State Football: Is 4-Star QB Torrance Gibson Wavering on Commitment?

Torrance Gibson is one of the prized recruits in Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class, but after a weekend visit to Auburn and a trip to LSU on the horizon, he could be wavering on his commitment to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

The 4-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is rated the fifth-best dual-threat quarterback and the No. 75 recruit overall. He verbally pledged to Ohio State in November over offers from a host of SEC schools, highlighted by Auburn, LSU and Tennessee. 

In a recent self-written blog posted by USA Today, Gibson wrote that his mother wanted him to explore other options to ensure he was 100 percent comfortable with his decision. He wrote that Ohio State fans "shouldn't worry at all," but after his visit to Auburn, Buckeye nation has plenty to be worried about.

According to Justin Hokanson of 247Sports, Gibson had a blast on his trip to Auburn over the weekend.

"It changed things a lot," Gibson said of his visit, via Hokanson. "Coming here and seeing all the players, I've played with some of these guys that go to Auburn, I've played high school ball with them. It's great seeing them again."

While his former teammates made an impression, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn put it all on the line. 

"I sat in Gus Malzahn's office and he told me I'm his guy," Gibson said, according to Wesley Sinor of AL.com. "He wants me to come in and get a fair opportunity at playing quarterback. That's what he told me, and I believe him."

Gibson is a big fan of the spread offense Malzahn runs, and he's very aware of the success the coach has had with previous quarterbacks.

"Look what he did with Cam Newton in one year and Nick Marshall in two," Gibson said, via Sinor. "Imagine what he could do with me in three."

Of course, Meyer is no slouch when it comes to developing quarterbacks. Proof of that unfolded this season, as the Buckeyes replaced not one, but two Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterbacks with backups who were ready to fill the void.

But that fact also hurts the Buckeyes, because their current quarterback depth chart isn't appealing to a potential newcomer. With Cardale Jones (redshirt junior) and J.T. Barrett (redshirt sophomore) returning—not to mention the unknown status of Braxton Miller—it's easy to see why Gibson would want to explore other options. As one of the nation's top recruits, it wouldn't be ideal to ride the bench for multiple years.

"That's pretty tough," Gibson said of Ohio State's quarterback situation, via Sinor. "I would have no problem redshirting, but sitting two or three years -- that's not what I have to do. I want to come in, get a fair opportunity to play quarterback."

Will that opportunity be given to him by one of his SEC suitors? Auburn's depth chart is wide open with the departure of Marshall, and LSU's quarterback situation is in flux after Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris struggled this season.

The Buckeyes will have to prove to Gibson that he's their future, and more importantly, that his future won't be three years in the making. 

Meyer will get that chance. Gibson told Sinor that Ohio State will be making an in-home visit soon. That's when the Buckeyes will get their chance to solidify his commitment.

But with the Auburn visit last weekend and a trip to LSU coming, will it be too late?

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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Tennessee Football: The 5 Biggest Accomplishments for Butch Jones in 2014

With a recent bowl victory and another elite recruiting class on the way, the Tennessee Volunteers begin the offseason with as much hype and momentum as any program not named Ohio State—and a lot of that momentum is due to head coach Butch Jones.

In his first meeting with his new team on Dec. 7, 2012, Jones said he wanted to win championships at Tennessee. 

And to his credit, he's putting all of the pieces in place to make Tennessee a championship-level program. 

Jones' accomplishments in 2013 were essential to make the Vols a competitive team moving forward. He avoided a grades-related disaster by improving the team's APR, he locked down the state in terms of recruiting and he finally ended Tennessee's embarrassing losing streak to ranked teams.

Roster-wise, the 2014 season looked like it might be even worse than 2013 from a win-loss standpoint, but Jones exceeded expectations and got Tennessee back to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

While he didn't have the second-year on-the-field success of coaches like Urban Meyer, Nick Saban or Mark Richt, Jones did a great job winning the games he was supposed to and continuing to change the culture in Knoxville this past season.

Here are five of his biggest accomplishments in 2014 and a breakdown of how they will benefit the team in 2015 and beyond. 

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Texas A&M Football: 5 Things That Must Change for Aggies to Improve in 2015

The Texas A&M Aggies went 8-5 this season, which was a transition year for the program. There are multiple areas that need to change in order for the team to improve on that record in 2015.

The face of the college football landscape has changed with the advent of the College Football Playoff. It is no longer necessary to go undefeated in order to have a chance at the national title.

Now a one-loss team that is the conference champion will likely have a shot at playing for it all. The strength of the SEC means the winner of the conference title will qualify for the four-team playoff more often than not.

The Aggies need to focus on building a team that can compete for SEC titles every year. They are well on their way toward accomplishing this goal with a young team returning and some recent coachingchanges.

Here are a few areas that must change in order for the Aggies to compete for an SEC title in 2015.

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NFLPA Collegiate Bowl 2015: Highlights, Top Performers Who Boosted Draft Stock

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl—essentially the infant sibling of post-postseason college football all-star games—went through a growing-pains game on Saturday. The fourth edition of this nascent event was a drab, dour 17-0 victory by Mike Martz's National Team over Mike Holmgren's American Team.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl lacks the prestige of the East-West Shrine Game, as a sampling of the smaller universities represented—Northwestern State, Prairie View A&M and Wisconsin-Whitewater, to name a few—might tell you. At the very least, it serves as a chance for those players from overlooked schools to see a different level of coaching and rub elbows with prospects from bigger programs. 

It was a tough event for anyone who was looking to make a name for himself in the passing game. As a quick example of the game's turgid output, Marshall's Rakeem Cato, one of the biggest names participating in the contest, managed to complete just five of 10 passes for 31 yards. Truly, it was a quiet day for skill players all around, and defense ruled much of the afternoon.

And yet, the disappointing scoreline is not only purely academic (the game itself is just one small part of the job interview, and winning is immaterial in this contest) but actually not that discouraging considering the 2015 Shrine game ended with a 19-3 East squad win.

The biggest passing play of the day was a 25-yarder to Georgia's Chris Conley, one of the higher-profile players in the event, per the game's official Twitter account: 

The official Twitter account provided a look at some of the best photos from the first quarter, in which game MVP Terrell Watson—a running back out of Azusa Pacific—scored on a two-yard fumble pickup for his only score of the game:

NFLPA provided a link to a treasure trove of photos from the event:

At least one play will serve as a lasting impact from this game.

Bleacher Report CFB noted Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley nearly blinked out of existence after this crushing blow from Southern Miss defensive back Emmanuel Johnson:

The frustrating play couldn't stop the National Team members from enjoying their trophy, per the game's official Twitter account: 

The highlights were few and far between in this contest—you can blame the quarterback play for much of the difficulties—but the game still has merit as a showcase for some of college football's fringe stars who might have a shot at the next level. 

ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted one recent NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participant who made good on a strong performance:

Every NFL team has to search far and wide to find that nugget of talent that other franchises might have passed over. This contest didn't provide too many fireworks, but it could turn out to be a beneficial investment for a couple of players who stood out above the rest on Saturday.



NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Top Performers

Marcus Rush, DE, Michigan State

Some small-school players had a chance to shine on Saturday, but perhaps the best performance of the day came from a big program in Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush, who—get ready for this—excels on the pass rush.

Rush picked up 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2014, but teammate Shilique Calhoun, who could be a Day 1 draft pick, overshadowed him on the line. Rush dominated the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, starting with a sack of Clemson's Cole Stoudt early on, per SB Nation's Anthony Cosenza:

He showed off a great motor throughout the contest and handled his assignments well. Rush is CBS Sports' No. 405-ranked prospect in this year's class, but NFL Draft Guide's Thomas Melton sees him as a viable contributor at the next level:

Rush did well on Saturday to prove he knows what he does best and does it well. It's a great launching point for him heading into the remainder of the extended job interview that is the predraft circuit.

 

Zaire Anderson, OLB, Nebraska

Defense ruled the day in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and no defender did more to patrol the field than Nebraska's Zaire Anderson, who finished with a game-high eight tackles:

He was all over the field, penetrating into the backfield, chasing down ball-carriers and just generally creating a ruckus.

The practices leading up to the game, where many of these players get a first taste of NFL-style coaching, are often more important than the game itself. Anderson didn't disappoint there either, per Cosenza: 

CBS Sports currently has Anderson ranked as the 536th best overall prospect in the 2015 draft. That's a steep, K2 North Ridge of a slope to climb, but an extra 60 minutes of stellar game film can't hurt the Cornhusker.

 

Terrell Watson, RB, Azusa Pacific

Watson didn't have to do much to win the game MVP award—all it took was a tidy 55 yards on nine carries and the aforementioned touchdown—but the event might have been a good investment of his time nonetheless.

"He belongs in the NFL," Martz said, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "I don't think there's any question in my mind after seeing him all week he belongs. Somebody in the league is going to get a terrific player."

Watson won't lack for highlight-reel plays from his Azusa Pacific days; the Oxnard High graduate racked up 2,212 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns on 319 carries in 2014. He's yet to develop a presence in the receiving game, but that's a common issue for collegiate running backs and shouldn't hold him back too much.

It's not easy to draw the attention of the NFL when coming out of a Division II school with little in the way of league pedigree, unless you're Christian Okoye aka The Nigerian Nightmare. But this performance, and the MVP award, will go a long way toward boosting Watson's Q rating heading into the draft. The former Kansas City Chiefs star even gave Watson a shoutout after the game:

A curious scout or two might be more inclined to go over his game tape after this performance. The game wasn't that special, but the chance to make a name for oneself and perhaps reach the NFL is—that's the dream, anyway.

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East-West Shrine Game 2015: Highlights, Top Performers Who Boosted Draft Stock

The East-West Shrine Game is an annual college football showcase pitting some of the best prospects in the nation against each other in a postseason exhibition that has now become perhaps an unofficial kickoff to the NFL draft season.

The 2015 version of the game was hardly an affair worth dwelling on, as a disjointed East team defeated the listless West 19-3 on Saturday. 

This is a game in which six total quarterbacks combined to complete just 26-of-50 passes for 185 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. The West averaged 2.3 yards per carry, while the East toted the ball for 3.5 yards per attempt. A kicker, South Florida's Marvin Kloss (playing for the East, naturally), won the offensive MVP award with four made field goals.

With little in the way of offense to speak of, the defensive players stood out during the game itself.

However, 95.7 The Game's John Middlekauff reminded us and all the nervous skill players who may feel a golden opportunity has passed them by that it's perhaps unwise to put too much stock into the 60 minutes of football played on Saturday:

The Houston Texans provide a link to the game highlights:

While Deadspin could find but one play worthy of distinction as a highlight:

Then again, this nifty first-down jaunt from shifty North Dakota State running back John Crockett was fairly noteworthy:

A contest bereft of highlights to be sure, but getting bogged down in the narrative of the game would lose sight of the ultimate purpose, which is giving players another chance to shine in front of NFL scouts and observers with a game and a few days of practice.

Players such as William & Mary wideout Tre McBride and LSU running back Terrence Magee certainly stood out during the week of practice leading up to the event, but the game tape could go a long way toward determining the fate of some of these mid-tier prospects. Here is a look at three players who did themselves a favor with strong performances in the Shrine Game. 

 

2015 East West Shrine Game Top Performers

Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky

Alvin "Bud" Dupree will likely be the first Kentucky product to hear his name called on draft day, but fellow pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith and his high-motor playing style might not be far behind after an excellent Shrine Game showing.

Smith elicited praise from multiple observers for his pass-rushing acumen. Bleacher Report's Dan Hope noted his strong work prior to the game, while NFL Network's Charles Davis praised his performance in the first half of the Shrine Game:

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah put himself in an NFL scout's shoes and singled out Smith as the player to take note of from this contest:

Smith was a disruptive force on the edge all game long—just like he was during the 2014 season. Smith racked up 34 tackles (seven for a loss) and 4.5 sacks as a senior. His long arms help him to maintain leverage and bully the opposition.

He could be a bit undersized as an NFL 4-3 defensive end, but if he can add some muscle and maintain his explosiveness there is nothing to hold him back from becoming a solid NFL rotation player.

CBS Sports currently has Smith projected as a third or fourth-round pick but don't be surprised if the Wildcat builds on this star turn in the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine.

 

Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami (Fla.)

Smith wasn't the only standout East pass-rusher garnering praise during this contest. Miami's Anthony Chickillo put on the type of display that could have scouts wondering why his college numbers were so pedestrian. 

Like Smith, Chickillo made his presence felt on several first-half plays. NBC Sports' Josh Norris noted he got some help from Smith on a first-half sack:

CBS Sports' Rob Rang passed along an interesting comparison for Chickillo:

The 6'4", 282-pound Chickillo hasn't received too much attention coming into the draft; not an unsurprising development considering he registered just three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2014. There could be a place for him in the NFL, however, if he is drafted into the right scheme.

Chickillo seemed grateful for the opportunity to perform in a 4-3 system that is best suited to his skill set, per South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly: 

At Miami, he was perhaps miscast in a shifting, 3-4-based scheme. Chickillo had a fifth- to sixth-round projection from CBS Sports coming into this weekend. Look for him to scale the rankings after an excellent Shrine Game showing.

 

John Miller, OG, Louisville

In a game where the trench battles were often the the only part worth watching, Louisville guard John Miller had himself a fine day of run blocking.

DraftBrowns.com's Justin Higdon and SB Nation's Jason Marcum noted Miller's strong work in the trenches on the day:

Miller's solid work wasn't enough to spring too many big runs in this contest—the East offense spun its wheels for the majority of the afternoon—but he likely did enough to prove his grit and determination will translate well to the NFL. 

CBS Sports has Miller as the ninth-rated guard in a fairly weak draft class for the position, but his nasty streak and ability to bulldoze a path in the running game could prove to be a nice pickup for a team looking to get younger and add depth to the interior of the offensive line.

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10 Most Difficult College Football Players to Replace in 2015 Season

The offseason can be a disappointing time for college football programs around the nation. When a year ends, key players run out of eligibility or star underclassmen declare for the NFL draft, leaving a noticeable hole on a team they once filled.

Organized by school, this list focuses on talents who—while they aren't necessarily irreplaceable—cannot be replaced without much difficulty.

Inclusion is not always the result of a single standout season, because overall contributions are the major factor. Oftentimes, the mentioned players hold career records at the school, in the conference or, most impressively, on the national level.

If you feel another player is deserving, please add the athlete in the comments section.

 

Note: Each player is accompanied by his respective standing on B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller's latest big board. Every reference to an "All-American" award reflects the AP teams.

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Mique Juarez to USC: Trojans Land 4-Star ATH Prospect

USC Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian added to what is becoming a loaded 2016 recruiting class late Saturday night.

247Sports' Ryan Bartow reported that the Trojans got a commitment from 4-star linebacker/quarterback Mique Juarez. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Juarez is ranked as the 150th-best recruit in the country and listed as a dual-threat quarterback.

Given the fact that USC secured a commitment from Ricky Town for 2015 and already has Max Browne on the roster, playing time at QB would be hard to find for Juarez.

According to Bartow, he will make a more permanent shift to linebacker upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Gerard Martinez of USCFootball.com added that Juarez could be an option to play safety as well:

"Linebacker, defensive end, he can even go out and play corner and safety at times, so he'll be all over the place," said Juarez's high school coach, Todd Croce, back in August, per Dave Thorpe of the Daily Breeze in Torrance, California. "By the time he graduates, he will have done every single thing on the field—we may even get him on the O-line at some point."

Juarez is extremely athletic, which is always a plus at linebacker, but splitting time at two positions almost always means sacrificing a bit of technique. Now that he's more locked into one position, he might be able to more finely tune his game before he comes to USC.

In addition to his supreme athleticism, Juarez knows how to lay the lumber, which can be good and bad. Being too aggressive can lead to needless flags.

USC has produced quite a few great linebackers over the years, and should he fulfill his potential, Juarez will be the next guy on that list.

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