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Oregon Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

Oregon's third week of spring practices was the Ducks' first without wide receiver Bralon Addison, who suffered a knee injury April 10...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: Top Recruits Visiting Tide for Spring Game Weekend

Alabama head coach Nick Saban annually uses the A-Day spring football game to keep his current players competitive and his fanbase frenzied. It also serves as a tool to lure in eventual roster replacements.

The Crimson Tide annually welcome an abundance of impressive high school prospects to Tuscaloosa during this event weekend, showcasing the campus, stadium atmosphere and all those recent championship rings.

In addition, it gives visitors and their families an opportunity to build personal relationships with members of the coaching staff. It's an element to watch closely as first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin acclimates to his new role.

The list of anticipated recruits on campus continues to emerge and could still grow to include more prospects as the weekend approaches. Here's a look at those expected to be en route to Tuscaloosa.

 

Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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NCAA Division I Leadership Council Proposes Transfer Policy Rule Change

The Division I Leadership Council has proposed a new rule that would alter the NCAA's transfer policy, granting players who apply to transfer because of hardship or family circumstances an extra (sixth) year of eligibility if they qualify, according to a press release from NCAA.org.

Per the release:

Council members propose that student-athletes who cannot transfer and play immediately without a waiver be allowed a sixth year to complete their four years of eligibility, if they qualify. 

The change would primarily impact student-athletes who play baseball, basketball, bowl subdivision football and men’s ice hockey as well as those in other sports who already used the one-time transfer exception.

These student-athletes would no longer be able to seek a waiver to transfer and compete immediately.

That last part is important. Previously, players who transfer in these circumstances could apply to become eligible immediately—without sitting out the otherwise mandatory year.

An example of this would be now-sophomore defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who asked to be released from his national letter of intent by Notre Dame in July 2013 so he could transfer to UCLA and be close to a sick family member.

Vanderdoes won his appeal and was allowed to play last season, finishing with 37 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Had Vanderdoes lost his appeal, he would have had to sit out last season and would have lost a year of eligibility, per Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

Under the new proposed rule, Vanderdoes would not have been able to play last season, but he still would have been granted five years to play four seasons rather than four years to play three.

Amy Huchthausen, chair of the Leadership Council subcommittee that examined the transfer issue, said the following, per the release:

We hope this change will encourage student-athletes who must transfer based on hardships to focus on the circumstances prompting the transfer during their first year and adjust to their new school, while giving them a season back to complete their eligibility.

The proposal will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its meeting April 24. If passed, the rule would go into effect for the 2015-16 academic year.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

After a long slate of spring practices, the Auburn Tigers will return Saturday to where their remarkable run to the 2014 BCS National Championship began last season—A-Day.

The Tigers will kick off their annual spring game April 19 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where 83,401 Auburn fans watched the return of new head coach Gus Malzahn's hurry-Up, no-huddle offense and celebrated the final rolling of the historic oak trees at Toomer's Corner.

Fans on the Plains and all over the country (thanks to an ESPN broadcast) will get their first look at the Tigers' high-powered attack, a more experienced 4-2-5 defense and a brand-new special teams unit at A-Day. 

With all the spring game festivities just hours away, here is what you need to know about the defending SEC champions' A-Day Game.

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Your Best 11 Mailbag: The ACC Coastal Division, Hoosiers Football and More

I was in New York getting ready for the draft with some B/R colleagues and folks. We are excited for what the offseason Super Bowl will bring come May. Now, I'm back in Charlotte and ready to get into the college football life after spending a couple of days talking potential, upside and best player available. Here we go!

The defense is going to be better. The offense gets a healthy Duke Johnson, Clive Walford and Phillip Dorsett to go with Stacy Coley. Mix in nine early enrollees, many of whom will have a shot to make an impact, and Miami is in good shape. 

All the Canes need is a quarterback, and Kevin Olsen seems to have won that job, as Ryan Williams is sidelined with a knee injury.

Independent of all things, Miami is trending upward. This team played good football in spots and just has to improve its consistency to turn nine wins into double digits and an ACC Championship Game berth.

This season, the fourth under Al Golden, should be pushing toward 10 wins as he gets his personnel into the mix and players understand the schemes.

Now, in looking at the schedule, three games jump out: Louisville, Nebraska and Florida State.

The Cardinals are an interesting wild card because they lose Teddy Bridgewater, but they have so many offensive weapons that it makes them a tough opponent to start to the season—especially when it is Bobby Petrino pulling the strings on those weapons.

Nebraska in Lincoln is never easy, even as it hopes Tommy Armstrong emerges as a reliable quarterback on a game-to-game basis.

Florida State is loaded to the gills and that game is going to be an uphill battle.

The rest of the schedule should be manageable, although Virginia Tech and North Carolina are pushing to be Coastal Division champions—the same as Miami. The Coastal Division champ will likely come from this mix of three, with Duke hoping to make it a four-horse race.

Right now, I think Miami should win. To do that, however, it has to be consistent and show up big—that means avoiding efforts such as the ones against the Hokies and Devils in 2013.

A healthy Duke Johnson should help in that regard. At the moment, in April, I'm penciling the 'Canes in for nine wins and an ACC Championship Game appearance.

Speaking of the ACC Coastal Division, the Tar Heels are going to be the biggest threat to Miami, and part of UNC being successful is going to be running the ball.

I actually did get to watch some of the spring game and did not notice as much of a focus on the run game. T.J. Logan looked great, as expected, plus the Charles Brunson and Khris Francis kids looked like they will be contributors.

Big-time early enrollee Elijah Hood is still learning how to run in this system and UNC is still trying to figure out how to use a running back with Hood's very different skill set.

In the land of shifty backs where Logan and Francis work solid on the wide runs and zones that allow them to pick their way through traffic, Hood's bruising, straight-line approach is going to take time to figure out.

Getting Bentley Spain and Caleb Peterson healthy on the offensive line will help the rushing effort, and that is a positive for the Heels.

Logan will be the leading rusher, but we will all be watching UNC to see if it does commit to running the ball more than it did in 2013. That means Logan with more than 150 carries, compared to the 93 that led all running backs a season ago.

I was high on Indiana last year. I thought that it would be in a bowl game for sure with the high-powered offense leading the way. The losses to Navy and Minnesota were crushing, and I was hoping to see Kevin Wilson's team pull them out.

As for this year, I love Tim Bennett. He is one of my favorite college football corners for the 2014 season—he's just a kid who understands how to play the position at the collegiate level.

However, losing Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser hurts. It hurts a lot. Latimer is one of those big-time sleeper picks in the NFL draft and he would have been a beast for whoever plays quarterback in Bloomington.

This brings me to Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. I do not mind that the Hoosiers run with the hot hand. It works for them and both quarterbacks are so different that they tax defenses in a myriad of ways that create drive-extending moments for Indiana.

Defensively, outside of Bennett, I am not in love with a lot of what Indiana has on that side of the ball.

With that said, it played a ton of youth a season ago at key positions and players tend to fully understand the schemes and fits in their second year, which should lead to some positive results for the Hoosiers.

The new alignment is not doing Wilson's team any favors whatsoever, though. Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State are on the schedule, and that is an uphill battle. Throw in Mizzou in the nonconference slate and the Hoosiers will have to be nearly flawless the rest of the way.

Flawless will be tough because of the youth at the receiver position.

However, Indiana should be in the hunt for a bowl game entering the final three weeks of the season against Rutgers, Ohio State and Purdue. Beating the Scarlet Knights and the Boilermakers to get to six or seven wins would be a solid achievement for Indiana. 

Honestly, probably nothing. Over the course of the last two seasons I've saved my cooking for during the week and in the offseason. Saturdays are full-blown workdays, and that means standing up from noon until two in the morning with a couple sit-downs to write reaction pieces.

Just a lot of water and whatever leftovers I have in the fridge.

The more football I get to on Saturdays, the less I have to go back and re-watch on Sunday and the more forward planning I can do for weekly videos, articles and the like.

Therefore, I've sacrificed cooking on Saturdays in favor of getting work done and set up for the week.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA President Mark Emmert Held #AskEmmert Q&A, and It Didn't Go so Well

NCAA President Mark Emmert appeared on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show Friday morning, ostensibly to help clean up some of the comments he's made about college unionization over the past month.

The highlight (lowlight?) of the interview was Emmert's response to Northwestern University football players, who were recently deemed employees of the school by the National Labor Relations Board, according to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com.

In Emmert's own words:

On discussing the new change to the NCAA's food policy, whereby players can now enjoy free meals without restriction, Emmert also had a flippant reply to Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier, who claimed there were some hungry nights were he "goes to bed starving," per Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:

Interviews like these do not endear Emmert to the public, which is troubling because, in that respect, he is digging himself out of a perpetual hole. Perhaps, as Bill Connelly of SB Nation suggests, we've reached the point where he should stop granting interview requests altogether:

Ridiculous as those two comments were, the rest of Emmert's morning didn't go so well either. Mike & Mike prompted viewers to tweet questions for the president with the hashtag #AskEmmert, but the exercise predictably devolved into ridicule (h/t Deadspin):

Emmert has a difficult job. He is the public face of a disliked organization. His job, in part, is to placate the gluttonous college presidents, and doing so makes him an easy target of scorn in the sporting world. 

He's only part of the problem, but he's the easiest and most convenient NCAA figurehead to attack.

But, hey. You have to earn that $1.7 million somehow.

 

You can listen to the full, 26-minute interview here

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama's Landon Collins Trash Talking Oklahoma Is Not a Good Look

Twitter is a wonderful tool that allows all of us to communicate, share news and information and interact with people who we normally wouldn't interact with instantaneously in 140 characters or less.

Alabama safety Landon Collins didn't use it wisely Thursday night.

The rising junior safety for the Crimson Tide went on a Twitter rant against Oklahoma fans who haven't let him forget about the Sooners' 45-31 victory over Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl in January.

What were some of Collins' posts?

I guess OU fans fill some way lol 😂😂😂y'all feel some type of way...but y'all coming at me like I care about y'all...watch our successe

— LANDON COLLINS (@ALLAMERICAN_2) April 17, 2014 

He wasn't done.

Plus OU when the last time y'all played for a BCS or was in the running smh lol respect the SEC

— LANDON COLLINS (@ALLAMERICAN_2) April 17, 2014

What does the SEC have to do with it? Oklahoma beat Alabama straight up in a BCS game just three-and-a-half months ago.

Much love to y'all bruh...but all in all son y'all riding off one game...smh play for the BCS then talk noise..something that we always do

— LANDON COLLINS (@ALLAMERICAN_2) April 17, 2014

Again, is talking smack to the fanbase of a team that lit up the SEC's second-best defense to the tune of 348 passing yards really the best thing to do?

Yes, those Oklahoma fans that have Collins all riled up are riding on one game. The last game. One in which a quarterback, Trevor Knight, passed for 42.5 percent (348 yards) of his yardage total for the entire season (819 yards) against what's supposed to be a stingy and consistent pass defense.

Not to be big head but I don't respond because I'm watch by the nation..y'all are apart of the nation that just hates #bama #RTR

— LANDON COLLINS (@ALLAMERICAN_2) April 18, 2014

Is talking trash to Oklahoma fans really a smart move?

This speaks to the complacency that set in towards the end of last season. You know, the complacency that, according to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Saban and linebacker Trey DePriest said has been disappearing since the Sugar Bowl.

Apparently it's not completely gone yet.

Alabama isn't going to beat teams simply because it's wearing crimson and white. It's going to beat teams because it respects the opponent and executes the game plan that the coaches come up with. Simply "being Alabama" shouldn't be anywhere in the minds of its players, especially after back-to-back losses to Auburn and Oklahoma to end last season.

It's a bad look for Collins.

Twitter is great way to connect with people, but using it to talk trash to Oklahoma fans after what happened in New Orleans is not responsible Twitter usage.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Players with Most Pressure on Their Shoulders in 2014

Pressure is derived from stakes. The more you have at stake, the more pressure you are under; the more you have to lose, the more you need to win.

Because of the way we talk about football, quarterbacks are almost always under more pressure than their counterparts at other positions. They are the ones whose legacies are tainted by the stain of non-accomplishment, who live with the burden of never having won "the big one" during college.

I'll give you an example. Adrian Peterson was one of the best running backs in college football history. His numbers are deflated because he only played three years and suffered a couple of injuries, but when he was on the field, there was almost nothing like him.

Because he played running back, though, we tend to forget that he was 0-2 in BCS bowl games, losing the national championship game by 36 points to USC as a freshman and the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State as a junior. But no one brings any of that up, and when he got to the NFL—where he has still yet to win anything of import—Peterson was not labeled someone with a monkey on his back.

Compare this with how we talk about Peyton Manning. He always came up short in college, and if not for his one Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, he would still be regarded among the greatest losers of all-time, alongside other quarterbacks such as Dan Marino.

Which is to say: There's a reason this list skews toward quarterbacks. They do not make up the entire list, but they make up most of the list, and they do so with purpose.

In some cases, they need to justify their old recruiting ranking. In others, they already have by putting up big stats...but now only winning will ensure their name gets remembered fondly.

The pressure has been cranked up to 10.

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Virginia Tech Football: Frank Beamer's 3 Biggest Spring Practice Concerns

The Virginia Tech football team has been practicing for the better part of three weeks this spring, yet there are still a few position battles that have to be giving head coach Frank Beamer headaches.

While some players have stepped up to make their roles more clear, others haven’t shown the kind of progress the coaching staff had hoped for.

Others still are struggling with injuries, making it difficult for the Hokies to make definitive decisions about how several position groups will shake out. 

With another week to go before Tech’s spring game, the Hokies still have some time to sort things out, but these three position battles have to be concerning for Beamer.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes come from the team’s media availability after its second open scrimmage.

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Is Kyle Allen Lock to Win Texas A&M QB Job with Matt Joeckel's Transfer?

That three-man quarterback rack in College Station got reduced to two this week, when Texas A&M announced that senior quarterback Matt Joeckel will transfer for his senior season. 

Joeckel started the 2013 season opener versus Rice and finished his Aggie career with 335 passing yards and two touchdowns.

"I have loved my four and a half years at Texas A&M," Joeckel said in a release from Texas A&M. "I am glad I had the opportunity to play for Coach Sumlin, [quarterback coach] Coach [Jake] Spavital and the rest of the coaches."

That leaves sophomore dual-threat quarterback Kenny Hill and true freshman early enrollee Kyle Allen as the two contenders to the throne formerly occupied by 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Hill threw for 183 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last season, and was recently reinstated to the program after a brief suspension following an arrest for public intoxication, according to Andrea Salazar of the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

Who has the advantage?

Right now, it has to be Allen.

The former 5-star prospect and No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2014 has everything it takes to be a superstar in head coach Kevin Sumlin's system. He has a big arm, is accurate downfield and doesn't sacrifice accuracy when he takes velocity off on short and intermediate routes. 

Joeckel's departure is bigger news for the 6'3", 205-pound Allen, because now Allen's primary competition for the job is gone. Since Joeckel was the other pro-style contender, half of Allen's battle has already been won. He's made himself the No. 1 pro-style option, and now his job is to convince he coaching staff that veering more towards the air-raid style that Sumlin was successful with at Houston is a better option than using Hill to run an offense more similar to the one under Manziel in College Station.

Does that make him a lock to win the job?

Not yet.

But since Hill was suspended for the final week of spring practice, the Texas A&M offense veered more towards his strengths as it came to a close. That experience will be beneficial not only to him, but to the rest of the players on that offense who got more reps in an offense that's more suited to his skills. 

That was an unexpected development and will undoubtedly benefit Allen as he heads into summer workouts.

Right now, Allen has to be the favorite. If he impresses the coaching staff early in fall camp, don't be surprised if he wins the job.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: The Top 10 Opposing Players the Irish Will Face in 2014

With a schedule ranked as the eighth-hardest in the nation, Notre Dame will face some of the premier players in college football during the 2014 season. The difficult slate includes a trip to defending national champion Florida State, the Irish's first regular-season game against the reigning title winner since the "Bush Push" game against USC in 2005.

Notre Dame will also face the previous year's Heisman Trophy winner for the first time since that October Saturday nine years ago. Jameis Winston is just one of multiple Seminoles, by far the most talented team on the Notre Dame schedule this year, to make this list.

Which Irish opponents cracked the Top 10? Let's dive in.

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Penn State Football: Where Does Cole Chiappialle Fit in the Backfield?

The most impressive performance during Penn State's annual Blue-White spring game came from a relatively unknown walk-on who happens to play a position that's easily the Nittany Lions' deepest.

Sophomore running back Cole Chiappialle had nine carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Blue team to a 37-0 victory over the White team. For a kid who had only a couple Division II scholarship offers coming out of high school, that's quite the stat line. 

He looked very patient on his runs, waiting for holes to open up and exploding through them. At 5'8" and 197 pounds, Chiappialle has a thick, compact frame that allows him to absorb initial contact and fight for extra yards. He may be small, but he's tough. 

It's hard to question that Chiappialle made a case for playing time with his performance. But with how loaded Penn State's backfield already is, where exactly does he fit in?

Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch make up one of the Big Ten's deepest and most talented running back corps. Even while talent abounds at the position, there's still a way for Chiappialle to find the field given the type of running back he is. 

One of the easily identifiable characteristics of his game is that Chiappialle is a north-south runner. He's more comparable to Zwinak than he is to Belton or Lynch, giving Penn State a balance of running backs that do different things. 

PennLive's David Jones pointed this out, noting that Chiappialle could play a critical role in different stages of the game come the fall:

Chiappialle’s compass has no east or west, only south, as in straight downhill. He conceivably could be a change-up back in the manner of a diminutive Zwinak, someone to insert for a few carries against tiring defenses in the second or fourth quarters, a clock eater who won’t get tricky and, hopefully, hangs onto the ball no matter the hits absorbed.

Sure, Chiappialle was able to star in the spring game because the other three backs received little to no playing time. But that doesn't take away from his accomplishment—or the fact that he already had a tremendous spring prior to the Blue-White game.

Head coach James Franklin recently mentioned Chiappialle's name during a Big Ten conference call, praising his efforts over the last few weeks in practice. According to Walt Moody of the Centre Daily Times, Franklin also believes that Chiappialle can contribute in 2014: 

I’ve been very impressed with him. I though we had four backs that have shown some flashes of really good things. He’s got great vision. He’s got great toughness and balance. I think there is a role for him in this football program.

At the very, very least, that role will be on special teams. Chiappialle made four tackles playing on the unit last year, and his toughness and passion for the game fit the mold of your traditional special teamer for the Nittany Lions. 

Special teams coordinator Charles Huff, according to Lions247's Jeff Rice, has praised Chiappialle for being a player who "does the little things right."

Chiappialle isn't going to rush for 1,000 yards in 2014 and probably won't supplant the other three backs on the depth chart. But for a guy who can add an extra punch to the offense, even if only for a few carries a game, there should be an opportunity for him down the road. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

USC's spring game this Saturday gives players a chance to show the coaches what they can do in an effort to work their way up the depth chart.

There are several position battles to watch out for, while this year's game has also been affected by injuries.

Read on to find out all the key information ahead of the game.

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USC Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

USC's spring game this Saturday gives players a chance to show the coaches what they can do in an effort to work their way up the depth chart...

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Texas Football: The Unanswered Questions Heading into Texas' Spring Game

Can Tyrone Swoopes become Texas' starting quarterback? That's just one of the Longhorns' pressing questions as they gear up for Saturday's spring game.

Elevated to the starting role following David Ash's foot injury, the Swoopes storyline will command most of the attention in Charlie Strong's first Orange-White Scrimmage. How he handles first-team duty will set the tone for the rest of his and the program's offseason.

But Swoopes' passing isn't the only issue that requires special attention. The Longhorns still have to sort out which of the spring stars are ready to ascend the ranks. The projected starters at safety and tight end also bear significant importance, not to mention figuring out who will replace All-American placekicker Anthony Fera.

To a certain degree, each of these questions will be answered by the game's conclusion.

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Boise State Football: Bryan Harsin's 3 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

When Bryan Harsin arrived in Boise to become the new head coach of the Broncos, there was much work to be done. Now, nearly four months later, the considerable amount of work that he, his staff and his players have put in appears to be paying big dividends.

Last week was the first Blue and Orange Spring Game with Harsin at the helm for Boise State, and overall it would have to be deemed a success.

The newly installed defense stole the show, with several players on that side of the ball making big plays and flying around the field. The offense, on the other hand, struggled at times. However, they also had some decent individual efforts that should encourage Boise State fans.

As spring practice ends, the Boise State coaching staff will now look forward as the first game of the season against Ole Miss rapidly approaches.

But before the staff can concern themselves with the details of the game plan against the Rebels, Harsin and his team will need to deal with some other concerns closer to home.

Let's take a look at three of the biggest concerns coach Harsin might have as the 2014 season approaches.

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Georgia Football: Why Aaron Murray's Draft Stock Is on the Rise

The pro day is the final shot for college players to show scouts what they can do before the NFL draft takes place in early May.

For Aaron Murray, it was his only shot as he has been recovering from an ACL injury.

So when Murray took the stage on Wednesday to throw in front of scouts, he knew he had to be nearly flawless. And he did just that as he completed 48 of his 54 throws, according to Gentry Estes of 247 Sports.

Granted, the pro day is scripted, and everyone who takes part in it should do well. But this was really the first time Murray has shown the scouts his ability live. He did attend the NFL combine, but he was there only to meet with scouts, coaches and general managers to let them know that he will be healthy once the 2014 season begins.

So with a combination of his performance at Georgia's pro day and him doing the little things right, Murray’s draft stock is on the rise.

Many draft experts, including Mel Kiper (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), believe Murray will be a mid-round pick. The big thing Murray has going for him is that he has a big arm and throws with accuracy. But he is a smaller quarterback who needs a clean pocket to be efficient.

One of the reasons Murray's stock is rising is that he has the work ethic one needs to survive in the NFL. The ACL injury he suffered in November was a blow, but he worked hard for the last five months and is on his way to being a key contributor for an NFL team.

Now where he will be drafted will be interesting, because it will all depend on how the first two rounds go. If there is a run of quarterbacks in the first round, which is possible, Murray could go in the third round. But if there are only two quarterbacks taken in the first day, there’s a chance Murray could drop to the fifth round.

Aaron Murray in pass drills, looks good, very sharp. But I still don't know what you learn here that 4 yrs of SEC football can't teach you.

— Gentry Estes (@GentryEstes247) April 16, 2014

Jon Gruden said (via The Red and Black) that he would be surprised that Murray doesn’t go in the third round. Gruden went on to say that he was impressed with the workout, and he's got head coaching experience.,

We all know what Murray can do on the field; he leaves Georgia as the most prolific passer in school and SEC history. So there is no question he can play the position. But the NFL is an entirely different ballgame, and Murray will have to make improvements to his game in order to be a starter.

What it comes down to is this:  Murray will be drafted by a team that needs depth at quarterback. When he’ll be drafted remains to be seen, but based on the work he has put in the last five months, Murray is a prospect on the rise—and the NFL is starting to take notice.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: What Tommy Armstrong Must Do to Succeed

Coming out of spring practice, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong has established himself as the clear-cut starter for 2014. It certainly wasn’t on the performance at the spring game, where he went 4-of-8 for 97 yards and an interception.

But based on all reports, at the conclusion of spring practice, Armstrong was pretty well-ensconced as Nebraska’s starting quarterback next year. So if Armstrong is to lead Nebraska to greater glories, what must he accomplish?

 

Be More Accurate

Let’s do a thought experiment. Here are the blind statistics of two quarterbacks. Take a look, and think about what conclusions you can draw.

 

Completion Percentage

Touchdown/Interception Ratio

Quarterback A

51.9

9/8

Quarterback B

59.2

10/7

In comparing the two, it’s pretty clear that while neither signal-caller would be confused with Peyton Manning, Quarterback B had a fairly decided advantage in terms of general accuracy, scoring and avoiding turnovers.

Quarterback A is, of course, Armstrong’s stat line from 2013. Quarterback B? That would be for Taylor Martinez in his freshman year of 2010.  Yes, that Martinez, the one who wowed us all with his legs but terrified us with his mechanically awkward throwing motion and predilection for incompletions and interceptions. That Martinez is the one who looks statistically superior to Armstrong’s production in 2013.

Now, in many ways, the comparisons aren’t really fair. Martinez won the starting job in fall camp, where Armstrong was pressed into service midway through the season due to injury. Martinez in 2010 had a defense that was much more reliable than Armstrong did in 2013. And Martinez was so dangerous with his legs that the passing game was far more open than it was—or will be—for Armstrong.

But the numbers don’t lie, regardless of what Mark Twain said. If Armstrong is to be successful as Nebraska’s quarterback, those numbers simply have to get better.

 

Manage The Game

It may very well be unfair to ask Armstrong to make a quantum leap in his passing stats from 2013 to 2014. But given what Nebraska has on offense, the onus likely will not be on Armstrong to be successful.

Nebraska’s best weapon on offense, pretty clearly, will be I-back Ameer Abdullah. Behind Abdullah are a number of talented backs, including Imani Cross and Terrell Newby who both demonstrated unexpected flexibility in the spring game. Nebraska’s receiving corps, led by Kenny Bell and including Jamal Turner and Jordan Westerkamp, may be the deepest and most talented in the school’s history.

Of course, what Armstrong does under center will be critically important. But it doesn’t look like Nebraska will need to lean on Armstrong to be the driving offensive force. Instead, Nebraska will need Armstrong to perform in a role similar to Russell Wilson for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks—provide leadership, make plays and move the chains when needed and protect the football.

(And yes, that gratuitous reference to Wilson comes from a Seahawks fan still basking in the glow of Super Bowl XLVIII and looking for any excuse to bring it up in print. Get used to it.)

 

Just Win, Baby

Yes, I understand this argument is circular—the thing Armstrong needs to do in order to win is to win. But at a certain level, that’s the nature of the job. In his freshman year, Armstrong was dazzling at times and cringe-worthy at other times.

But ultimately, Armstrong is 7-1 as a starter. That kind of momentum and production is part of the reason he has been able to establish himself as a leader in the huddle and on the field. Football is, ultimately, a funny game with an odd-shaped ball that takes weird bounces. Throughout the course of the 2014 season, Armstrong will be presented with unpredictable obstacles to overcome.

If he is able to figure out a way to guide Nebraska through those obstacles and keep winning, he will be able to keep the momentum going he has generated already and allow his success to beget further success.

 

Statistics courtesy of the invaluable cfbstats.com.

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Clemson Football: Top Performers from the Tigers' Spring Game

Clemson's annual spring game is now in the books. While the most noteworthy topic surrounding Clemson football this week was the dismissal of sophomore quarterback Chad Kelly, the spring game saw several Tigers stand out in a big way.

The White squad, led by senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, easily won the game by a score of 24-5.

While he played well, it was the defense that left Death Valley buzzing.

Both the Orange and White squads combined to allow just 588 total yards on 132 plays for an average of less than 4.5 yards per play. 

Is this a sign of things to come? Or was the offense's inability to consistently move the ball a direct result of several key departures on that side of the ball?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

So what players stood out the most? Here are some of the Tigers' top performers from Saturday's spring game.

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UCLA Football: Detailing Jim Mora's Recruiting Philosophy

Jim Mora's recruiting philosophy is a fascinating sight to behold. A revamped strategy from the previous regime has UCLA football recruiting at an extremely high level.

During his time in Westwood, Mora has utilized a five-pronged plan in regards to garnering sustained success on the recruiting trails. By demonstrating vigor, zeal and doggedness, Mora and his staff are truly attempting to catapult UCLA into the upper echelon of college football. 

Below will detail Mora's philosophy when it comes to recruiting. Each part of the five-pronged plan will be detailed in its own section. 

 

Target Versatile Prospects

Mora has been a part of three recruiting classes during his time in Westwood. A recurring theme is versatility. This characteristic might be the most integral for Mora when evaluating a prospect. 

Versatility allows for a myriad of things. For one, a prospect (or player) won't be specifically defined to one single position. Positional versatility offers more flexibility from both a personnel and schematic standpoint.  

Myles Jack is a perfect example. Mora has utilized Jack at both linebacker and in the backfield as a running back. When speaking purely about Jack's ability as a defender, he's got the versatility to perform in the base defense, as well as in the nickel formation (when tasked with covering more ground). 

With regards to the 2013 recruiting class, multiple members were employed on both sides of the ball.

Starting defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes were used in UCLA's defensive-laden package on offense. Vanderdoes even scored a rushing touchdown in the 35-14 victory over Southern Cal in the Coliseum. Defenders Cassius Marsh, Jordan Zumwalt and Keenan Graham were also deployed as blockers in this package. 

In regards to a possible recruiting pitch, schools will mention the possibility of a prospect competing on both sides of the ball in college. In some cases, this sentiment could even be promised (should the said recruit opt to sign with the school).

UCLA can illustrate this thought with actual game tape. This should make UCLA even more attractive to elite high school athletes. 

In the 2014 class, expect the likes of Adarius Pickett, Ainuu Taua and Jaleel Wadood to be given the opportunity to participate on both offense and defense (in some capacity). 

By employing players on both sides of the ball, Mora is catering to the unique attributes of each athlete. He's essentially utilizing their respective talents to the fullest. 

 

Making Inroads in the Southeast

There's no question the Southeastern portion of the country is a hotbed for elite high school football talent. 

UCLA has had mild success during Mora's tenure—in large part to his NFL experience. He was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons for three seasons. At the time, the athletic brilliance of Michael Vick was on full display. 

Mora's name still holds tremendous clout in the general area. High school recruits are perhaps too young to remember Mora's tenure in Atlanta, but their respective families likely remember his time as the head man. 

Under Mora, UCLA has gotten its proverbial foot in the door with many highly regarded recruits in the South. The Bruins were a finalist for top recruits such as Malachi Dupre and Rashaan Evans. 

UCLA was able to poach starting corner Fabian Moreau and starting punter Sean Covington out of Florida. Asiantii Woulard—the quarterback of the future—also hails from the Sunshine State. Stud linebacker Kenny Young—a native of New Orleans—chose to sign with the Bruins over the likes of LSU and Texas A&M. 

Within the last three years, the state of Texas has been particularly good to the Bruins. Simon Goines, Caleb Benenoch, Zach Whitley, Najee Toran, Aaron Sharp, Deon Hollins and Eldridge Massington all hail from the Lone Star State. Whitley was committed to Alabama before switching his pledge to UCLA. 

The vigor of recruiting in the South for 2015 hasn't waned one bit. Elite defensive tackle and Florida native CeCe Jefferson has been effusive in his praise of UCLA. Other prospects such as Roquan Smith, Jeffery Holland, Ryan Newsome and Soso Jamabo figure to be targeted as well. 

Even if the percentage of signing recruits from the South isn't overly high, UCLA is making itself known in the region. If the Bruins continue to win at a high clip, the interest in coming to Westwood will continue to grow. 

 

Reestablishing Ties to Local High School Power Programs

Mora is doing, and has done, a fantastic job of targeting top high schools in the greater Los Angeles area. 

Traditionally speaking, UCLA hasn't recruited well at two of the top high schools in the area: Gardena Serra High School and St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. 

In the '14 class, UCLA was able to sign two Serra prospects in Dwight Williams and Jordan Lasley. 2014 signees Wadood and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner both hail from St. John Bosco. UCLA has a commitment from 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen—also a Bosco product. 

It's imperative for UCLA to put a fence around the Southern California area. Realistically, the Bruins don't have to leave California. The talent pool in California is amongst the best in the entire country. 

By keeping tabs on the top high school programs in the state, it enables UCLA to build relationships at these schools. It should, in theory, pay dividends down the road. 

 

Being Active on Twitter

Mora is extremely active on the social media site Twitter.

Much of his content addresses the program as a whole. Anything from practice schedules to motivational messages or even pictures of the campus are constantly shown. 

For recruits residing outside of Los Angeles, it offers a great grasp of life from within the university and the football program itself. Twitter also allows for Mora to connect with recruits in a more convenient fashion. In this day and age, it's also more conventional for teenagers. 

Quarterback Brett Hundley's Heisman campaign has been virtually birthed by Mora on the social media website. The #BruinRevolution has also become a staple. 

It's a very shrewd course of action from Mora's perspective. By promoting the brand of UCLA football across social media in such an ardent fashion, he's drumming up considerable excitement for the program. 

 

NFL Experience

Mora has compiled a staff with possibly more National Football League experience than any other currently existing in the collegiate game. Mora himself has been associated with the NFL for 25 years.

Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots. Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber has coached Pro Bowl receivers in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was a 10-year veteran with the San Francisco 49ers. 

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had prior experience coaching with the New York Jets. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu is widely respected as an excellent teacher of the game.

During his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and fullback Greg Jones all garnered Pro Bowl honors. 

This could be perhaps the most important recruiting tool UCLA has to offer. Mora and his staff have the ability to get perspective recruits to the NFL. The mass amount of experience proves this notion.

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