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Gary Patterson Criticizes College Football Playoff Committee for Leaving out TCU

It took until April, but TCU coach Gary Patterson has finally broken his silence when it comes to being left out of the initial College Football Playoff.    

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com noted that the Horned Frogs' leader spoke to a small group of reporters and was critical of dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final rankings despite beating Iowa State 55-3 in his team’s last regular-season game. The eventual national champion Ohio State Buckeyes leapfrogged TCU after destroying Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Dodd passed along some of Patterson’s comments:

I was told the reason we had a [selection] committee is we were going to take all that stuff out of it. [Conference] championship games shouldn't have mattered.

Their job was to watch all this film and pick the four best teams no matter who you played, what you did. All the sudden it came down to, ‘Well, they played a championship game but they didn't.' That's not what we were told. We were told they were going to pick the four best teams.

Interestingly, Dodd noted that Patterson told Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads before their two teams squared off that he believed his own squad would not reach the playoff. Turns out, he was right.

Patterson was also quick to point out that things may have gone differently if his team was a national brand school, like a Texas, Oklahoma or the Ohio State squad that got into the playoffs instead.

"There was that motto out there, if we would have been an Oklahoma and Texas with a larger fan base and sold more T-shirts, that we would have been in the playoffs," he said. "I think we gained more possibly by not being in the playoffs -- and how we handled it -- than by being in the playoffs."

That may be the case, but TCU suffered a 61-58 loss to Baylor, and the Bears ultimately ended the season in the No. 5 spot in the playoff rankings. It would have been difficult to explain to Baylor how it was left out of the top four in favor of a team it beat in a head-to-head matchup from its own conference.

By including Ohio State instead of Baylor or TCU, the potential controversy of choosing between Big 12 teams was eliminated.

If the Big 12 had a conference title game that allowed its teams to make one final statement against quality competition like the Buckeyes did, things may have unfolded differently for the eventual winner as well. However, David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest believes there is a downside to that avenue moving forward:

TCU ultimately made a rather loud statement when it dismantled an Ole Miss team from the mighty SEC to the tune of 42-3 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Of course, that statement may have rung louder if the Ohio State squad that controversially jumped TCU didn’t go out and knock off Alabama and Oregon en route to a national title or the Michigan State team that Ohio State beat during the season didn't win the Cotton Bowl against the same Baylor squad that beat TCU.

All is not lost for the Horned Frogs, though, especially after the bowl performance.

Quarterback Trevone Boykin is one of many talented returnees, and TCU figures to be among the top two or three teams in the country when the initial polls come out before the 2015 season. As long as it takes care of business, it is difficult to envision a scenario where it would be left out of the playoff this year.   

That may not help remove the pain of being left out a season ago, but at least the Horned Frogs have a bright future to look forward to in 2015 and beyond.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Life After Jameis: What Is the Future at QB for Florida State?

The spotlight on Tallahassee has dimmed, at least temporarily. With the mass exodus of talent from Florida State—headlined by the departure of its former Heisman-winning, headline-grabbing quarterback—expectations for the Seminoles have cooled to room temperature for the upcoming season.

There are holes along the offensive line. There are large holes at tight end and wide receiver. There are holes along the defensive line and in the secondary. But for all these notable vacancies and empty roster spots scattered across Jimbo Fisher’s evolving depth chart, none are more glaring than the one at quarterback.

Jameis Winston’s brief tenure at Florida State was chaotic. There is no other way to put it. Without him, however, the Seminoles never win a national championship. They also don’t come just short of another.

His wizardry against the clock and under duress gave Florida State a chance—even when the prospects looked bleak. But now, much like many of his talented teammates, he’s gone.

What’s left is a roster ripe with talent and a group of quarterbacks with ample promise and even more questions. This group will take center stage this weekend as Florida State celebrates its offseason with a spring game. A starter could be named shortly after.

There is a defined hierarchy of hopefuls—at least starting at the top—though the player who ultimately replaces Winston may not actually be on campus yet. Taking this uncertainty one cryptic step further, the next great quarterback at Florida State might not be on the roster this season.

 

The Favorite

In September of last year, the football world learned the name Sean Maguire. After Winston was suspended—at first for one half but later for a full game—Maguire was thrown into action against Clemson, one of the premier defenses in the nation and a critical conference foe.

Given the circumstances, Maguire played well. He looked inexperienced, nervous and slightly out of place, but it was anticipated that he would look inexperienced, nervous and slightly out of place. The 6'3", 224-pound QB also flashed brightly at moments—throwing for more than 300 yards and a touchdown.

Most important to its eventual College Football Playoff appearance, Florida State eked out a win.

Seven months and many reps later, the soon-to-be redshirt junior is in line to be the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. His head coach has not been shy in admitting as such.

“If I had to bet right now, yes, but we’ll wait and see,” Fisher told Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com when asked about Maguire’s prospects to start. “As of right now, he’s done the things he needs to be doing.”

Maguire certainly feels like the safe option, and perhaps that’s not doing his ability the appropriate justice. The reality is that we simply don’t know—not with such limited reps. Unless something drastically changes on Saturday, he could be named the starter shortly after.

What happens from there is another conversation entirely.

 

The Hopefuls

There are four quarterbacks currently on Florida State’s roster. Please take note of the word “currently” and store it for later use.

Joining Maguire are John Franklin III, J.J. Cosentino—both were with the team last season—and freshman early enrollee De'Andre Johnson.

Franklin, who redshirted in 2013, is the most athletic quarterback on the roster. He’s taken reps at wideout, run track and been a valuable asset on the scout team. When the Seminoles played a mobile quarterback, Franklin assumed the role. Given his range of skills, he fit this position quite nicely. He’s also still incredibly raw.

Cosentino was a true freshman in 2014 and the No. 15-rated pro-style quarterback in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports. He has the size—listed at 6'4" and 237 pounds—and a big arm to go with this size. For further proof of the mortar sitting on top of his shoulder, here he is throwing a football over a four-story building.

The rest of Cosentino’s game is relatively unknown. Clearly he has the tools necessary to succeed at the position, although he’s a wild card—and an underdog—in this race.

The same can be said about Johnson, who is still acclimating himself to the college lifestyle and Florida State’s offense. Johnson, 247Sports’ No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in this past class, has electric ability. He’s also remarkably raw and listed at 6'0" and 174 pounds on his recruiting profile.

Much like the others mentioned above, there is plenty to like about Johnson’s game. He’s a playmaker, though the buzz over his potential to start hasn’t exactly blossomed this spring, nor would you expect it to. There is still so much to learn.

 

The Wild Card

The most intriguing and enticing quarterback option of the whole bunch isn’t even there just yet. Deondre Francois—still months away from arriving on campus—doesn’t seem the least bit worried when it comes to the steep challenge ahead.

When speaking of Winston in a Bleacher Report piece earlier this year, Francois seemed comfortable with the idea of being next in line.

“He’s a good player,” Francois said of Winston. “But I like to play my own game, have my own swag.”

Yes, 247Sports’ No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015 has plenty of it. He also has plenty of game, too.

Though he’s listed as a pro-style quarterback, Francois also brings plenty of speed to his game. He’s not a towering prospect just yet at 6'1" and 195 pounds, but he was one of the better deep-ball throwers in the class.

In terms of overall ability, Francois might be, in time, the best quarterback on the roster. Given the fact that he won’t have the benefit of spring practice, he will likely spend the better part of camp simply settling in.

The likelihood of him starting in the first game seems remote, especially as Fisher seems to lean more toward experience with his complex offense. Remember, it took Winston, one of the sharpest football minds out there, a redshirt season to learn the ins and outs of Fisher's system. 

That doesn’t mean Francois won’t play this upcoming year. Clearly he’s entering with eyes on the opening. But it would take a miraculous early impression for such unlikely scenarios to be considered, confident or not.

 

The Future

To truly replace Winston, you can’t simply name a starter. Technically, the individual dubbed the starter for the team’s first game against Texas State will be his replacement, but this does little to guarantee short- or long-term success.

Winston’s replacement may not be on the roster this spring. Heck, he may not be on the roster by the time Florida State’s upcoming season comes to a close.

Malik Henry, 247Sports’ No. 9 player overall and No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2016, is currently garnering rave reviews in the high school ranks. And yes, the new IMG Academy product just so happens to be a Florida State verbal commit.

Although a lot can happen in the recruiting world between now and signing day, Henry already has his sights set on an early arrival.

"I'm graduating early, so in a few months, I'll officially be a Seminole," Henry told Bleacher Report’s Sanjay Kirpalani.

Assuming Henry will be the next great quarterback at Florida State is a magnificent stretch, at least as it stands in April. Recruiting is a strange, unpredictable craft, and projecting young quarterbacks is an art form that has yet to be mastered. But there’s no denying his enormous potential and possible presence on the roster. Regardless of what happens this fall, Henry could shift the depth chart simply by showing up.

But that won’t be, at the very earliest, until the end of the year. By that point, perhaps a quarterback will have unexpectedly grabbed the baton from the best quarterback in the country and take off running.

This is not about finding the next Jameis Winston. In all likelihood, you’ll be searching for a while. This is about finding a quarterback capable of winning games through whatever means necessary. It's about winning games and keeping momentum churning, and Florida State, despite the exodus, has a great deal of it.

Maguire will likely be the one who gets the first crack to keep things moving forward, and he could very well outperform modest expectations.

With a young core of wideouts, a future star at running back and talent scattered throughout an inexperienced and youthful roster, Maguire won’t have to be his successor’s reincarnation for the Seminoles to better than anticipated. And whether he does or not, Florida State will have no shortage of quarterback options.

More help, whether the Seminoles need it or not, is coming.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What College Coaches Really Think of Spring Football

It's not December, but this is Christmas time for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. Spring football: It's the most wonderful time of the year. 

He may as well be a kid again. 

"It’s the greatest time in the world to coach," said Bielema. "You don’t have a dark cloud hanging over your head of an opponent on Saturday. We’re not trying to beat LSU, Alabama or Auburn. You don’t have to worry about the task of a game plan.

"It allows you to focus on everything that is right about football."

It's the right time to be Bielema. The Razorbacks won three of their final four games, including a 31-7 rout over Texas in the Texas Bowl, to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011. There's some mojo around the program that hasn't been present in awhile; the irony, of course, is that Arkansas still finished dead last in the SEC West. 

But there is a contagious optimism in spring, even for coaches coming off of losing seasons. Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and North Texas' Dan McCarney finished with 4-8 records and are tasked with getting back on the right track. 

Everyone is 0-0, especially Pitt's Pat Narduzzi. He enters his first spring as a head coach after serving as a defensive coordinator for 10 years under Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati and Michigan State. 

How each coach conducts his spring practice, though, is like having a batting stance: Everyone does it a little differently. What they all want, though, is to come out better prepared for the chaos of the regular season. 

Here's what they really think about college football's best season. 

 

Keeping It Fun

Major college football is a multibillion dollar business, and it will never go back to what it was. There's a lot at stake—namely jobs at every level—week in and week out.

It is still a game, though.

To keep things loose, McCarney created the Mean Green Laugh of the Day. It can be anything that happened in practice that day. "Maybe someone fell asleep in a meeting and the position coach got him with a bullhorn," he said. "And everything is recorded, you know." 

The program favorite, though, is the look-a-like contest. It's just like it sounds: Someone puts a player or coach's picture on a wall in the facilities building next to his respective doppelganger. 

Who was McCarney's?

"Ernest Borgnine," he said, "and it wasn't a very becoming picture, either." 

He pauses and then chuckles.

"If you can't laugh at yourself..." 

Yes, coaches ride their players hard. They yell, and they push others to their limits. The chaos and fatigue that exist in the regular season are created in the months between February and May when there are no opponents on the schedule. It's the ultimate form of preparation. 

"It's about building faith and trust," Narduzzi said. "Take the Cotton Bowl against Baylor. We were down at the half, but because we had trust in one another, we were able to go out and play the second half. We didn't allow a single fourth-quarter point." 

However, practices have to have an element of fun. There's too much hard work being put in for there not to be. Narduzzi likes to blast music and run around with his team. It's not a good day if he's not sweating. Standing around with a clipboard is the "old-school way of doing it," he said. "We're new school." 

Bielema and Kingsbury love team-building competitions, both during and beyond spring practices. They are the crucibles in which team chemistry is organically grown. They range from paintball games to bowling, cookouts to dance-offs, as Kingsbury headed last spring.  

"Your team grows more between that last play of the spring game to the first day of fall camp than at any other time of the year," Bielema said. 

 

Competing All Day, Every Day, With Everyone 

Bielema and McCarney have something in common. Both are former underrecruited players who ended up at Iowa trying to make a name for themselves. Spring football was their means to do it. 

"When I was a player, I was an unrecruited walk-on," Bielema said. "I made my biggest gain in the program in my very first spring because I moved past people on the depth chart. I knew how to work. I could learn well, and I carried that over to the playing field. I’ve seen so many kids have a similar approach in our program." 

Now on the other end of things, they see their players carving similar paths. 

McCarney added, "You have walk-ons, guys coming off of redshirts, guys who have had disappointing careers so far. They all have something to prove." 

Including early enrollees. The Razorbacks have seven freshmen early enrollees for 2015, many of whom are competing at positions of need. One player specifically, 4-star defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt from Denmark, is taking first-team reps.  

"He's played both the nose tackle and 3-technique," Bielema said. "He’s 6’5”, runs like a deer, learns like Einstein and plays like Rocky Balboa."

Bielema is a fan of early enrollees because they've already succeeded in academics and athletics. "They're not dumb," he explained. 

It's true; there's something to be said for a teenager bright enough to handle three-and-a-half years of high school and football. With the rise of summer camps and seven-on-seven competitions, more football players are coming into college better prepared for competition. 

Physically, there will be room to grow, but mentally, freshmen are catching up. 

"Now, a lot of them do get homesick. There is that, " Bielema added. "Little Johnny should be going to prom, but instead he’s getting his head beat in for 64 plays in a Saturday scrimmage."

Kingsbury started two freshmen quarterbacks in 2013—Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield—and won eight games. He knows firsthand what they're capable of doing.

He isn't alone in this philosophy, but Kingsbury is a big believer that winning is a destination and competition is the road that gets you there. "That raises the level of play for everybody," he said. "You have your schemes, the things you want to tweak; but for us, spring is about watching your guys compete for their position." 

Kingsbury comes across as cool and collected, someone who has it together all the time. And he is, and he does. However, he's not OK with the status quo. There has to be a level of discomfort every day. One of his bigger frustrations from 2015 stemmed from the fact that he didn't have quarterback competition in the spring. Webb, who played in 10 games as freshman in '13, was the only scholarship signal-caller available. 

This spring, Webb, though recovering from a shoulder injury, has been competing with sophomore Patrick Mahomes. "With Davis and Patrick, each day knowing they have to bring it, it’s been huge," Kingsbury said. "They’ve improved dramatically. They’ve been protecting the ball more."  

That competition is expected to continue into preseason practices. 

 

Players Developing on Their Own 

There's only so much coaches can do during spring. That's a technicality. 

The NCAA allows coaches 20 hours a week to work with players and up to 15 spring practices. Beyond that, players are on their own. If they want to stay after practice and run routes, that's on them. If they want to watch film outside of meetings, it's their time.

But that's when the real growth occurs. 

"The technology is there," McCarney said. "When I was in school, I had to drive from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids to get film.

"The best players are the ones who are willing to sacrifice their personal time to be better." 

Bielema uses a buddy system with older and younger players. The idea, he explained, is to get young players into the right habits early. It's not just an on-the-field partnership either. He wants older players explaining to newer ones where the best places are to live and which foods are the best ones to eat at the training table. 

Football, like all sports, is a game of "want to." 

One of the most rewarding aspects of spring practices for coaches is to watch players grow knowing they put in the work on their own. 

"Every guy has the one thing that makes them tick," Narduzzi said. "Great players are the ones who have the desire to do things—the things they're not as good at—on their own." 

In between, coaches do what they can to develop players physically and mentally without crushing them. Those interviewed preferred three practices per week—and no back-to-back practices to keep players from physically breaking down. 

"Because you don’t have games, you want to make spring practices physical, you want to bang 'em around pretty good, but you want these guys healthy," Kingsbury said. "There’s a fine line, but spring is a time to up the physicality because you want to make it a demanding environment. At the same time, you don’t want to have 300-play scrimmages."

Additionally, the coaches polled said they like about eight weeks of strength and conditioning in the winter to get players ready. Strength coaches have become the unofficial assistant head coach. They're as important as anyone on the staff because of the amount of time they spend with players when coaches aren't permitted.  

"Effort is great, but it’s a byproduct of getting better," Bielema said. "Take (former defensive end) Trey Flowers last year. This was a guy that could have left for the NFL but grew as much as anyone last spring because he developed on his mental and physical tools.

"When you have a player of elite status get better during spring, I know that someone who’s just beginning can get better as well."

 

New Beginnings

Things are even more wide-open for Narduzzi. This is a new coaching staff trying to earn the trust of players who have been there longer and know the program better. 

This is Narduzzi's first spring as the head honcho of a college football program after spending years as an assistant. So how does it feel?

"Is there a difference?"  

Don't know, is there?

"Not really."

Narduzzi wants to have fun. He wants to create competition, and he wants to win above all. But he also knows that he can't do any of that without earning the respect of his players. 

It's a twofold approach really. Narduzzi employs the "I'll trust you until you give me a reason not to" philosophy and would like the same in return. He also understands, though, that the players have to buy into the concepts he's teaching. 

If nothing else, time demands it. During the summer, players are mostly on their own. Not everything will be accomplished immediately, Narduzzi explained, but there has to be a solid enough foundation that players can conduct summer workouts without developing bad habits.

"That's the fun part, the challenging part," he said. "I'm kind of a builder in that way." 

In their own way, every coach starts over each spring. Whether it's installing a new scheme or managing expectations, a blank whiteboard is a metaphor that carries a lot of different meanings. 

Losing records? They don't matter. "It's in the past," said Kingsbury and McCarney. 

Even surging programs have to wipe the slate clean. There's a danger in getting too caught up in media hype. Bielema knows his kids read social media, watch ESPN and the SEC Network. It's his job to bring them back down. 

"The respect you have in college football? That rent is due everyday," Bielema said. "It’s not once a month; it’s something you pay daily."

And it is paid in the form of sweat and blood on the practice field. It's a tough time for the players. If winter conditioning did its job, they're better prepared—but not fully prepared. Coaches can't have that type of complacency. 

They don't want it either. There's a joy in the challenge of player growth because there has to be an infancy to it. That infancy is now. 

And, maybe, these coaches see themselves in their players. In a way, they're kids all over again. 

"The players, they hate spring. They say 'I want the game, I want the game, I want the game.' But coaches? We love it," McCarney said. "The best time of day is when you're on the field with your players.

"If some coach says they'd rather be in a meeting room, well, they're B.S.ing you." 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: 5 Things to Watch in the Spring Game

Nebraska football fans will get their one dose of football on Saturday at the Red-White Spring Game to tide them over through the long summer months until football season begins again. They will be scrutinizing every little piece of information they can find to get some idea of what Nebraska will look like under new head coach Mike Riley when the 2015 season begins.

To help, here are five things you can keep your eyes on during the spring game to help give you an insight of things to come for the scarlet and cream.

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The 7 Greatest 2-Way College Football Players of All Time

College football is undergoing a metamorphosis when it comes to players and the positions they line up at. More and more schools are maximizing the athleticism of some stars by having them contribute in as many ways possible, often doing so on both offense and defense as well as special teams.

Last year saw a boon in this trend, with the likes of Washington's Shaq Thompson, USC's Adoree' Jackson, UCLA's Myles Jack and Utah State's Nick Vigil all having big years as both offensive and defensive stars. Jack, Jackson and Vigil figure to continue being involved on both sides of the ball this season, as will others like Washington's John Ross and some of the top recruits from the 2015 class.

When their careers are over, could any of them go down in college football history as among the best two-way players ever? If so, they'll have to be able to perform to the level of past multi-position standouts that have littered the game over the years, including several from past eras when playing both ways was the rule rather than an exception.

Here's a look at the greatest two-way players the game has ever seen, chosen based on their overall contributions on offense and defense and how impactful they were in both areas. These players didn't just take occasional snaps but were rather key contributors whose absence from either unit would have been a huge loss for their teams.

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Top 10 College Football Running Back Duos for 2015

The backfield-by-committee is a popular concept that grows more popular each year.

True, with a workhorse, the best player always gets the carries. But in backfields with more than one capable option, the allure of keeping multiple players fresh outranks that.

The following teams have the best two-man backfields in the country, as judged by a committee of one. In most cases I opted for production over upside, but there were some exceptions.

Especially after last season, when multiple true freshmen (i.e., unproven) running backs became national superstars, it would have been foolish to ignore their potential.

Sound off below and let me know where you disagree.

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Braxton Miller's Eligibility Won't Be Affected After NCAA Violation

Braxton Miller's since-deleted Instagram post promoting AdvoCare health supplements won't cost the quarterback any eligibility despite violating NCAA rules, according to reports.   

Joe Schad of ESPN.com tweeted the news Thursday, citing the school:

Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report added more details:

According to Austin Ward of ESPN.com, Miller is within his rights to sell the products, since the NCAA allows for outside employment. Advertising or promoting the products, however, is not permitted by the NCAA. 

Of course, Miller's reinstated eligibility hardly guarantees him playing time at Ohio State next season.

Despite accumulating 3,162 yards from scrimmage and 36 touchdowns in 2013 and coming into 2014 as a Heisman Trophy front-runner, Miller missed the 2014 season due to injury. He watched as J.T. Barrett accumulated 3,772 yards from scrimmage and 45 total touchdowns before getting hurt, and Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big Ten title game and both playoff contests. 

In other words, Miller may be able to play next season, but whether he actually will see the field remains in doubt.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Could Jameis Winston Have Continued Alabama's Dynasty If He Chose Tide over FSU?

Jameis Winston attended Florida State and went on to be one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history, winning a Heisman Trophy as well as a national championship.

Sanjay Kirpalani joined Stephen Nelson to discuss what he thinks could have happened if Winston had gone to Alabama. 

What do you think Alabama would have been like with Winston? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Insider Buzz: Which Under-the-Radar Studs Should the Texas Longhorns Target?

Since being hired at Texas, head coach Charlie Strong has done a great job on the recruiting trail, locking down a top-10 recruiting class in 2015. 

Bleacher Report's National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles joined Stephen Nelson as they detailed which talented recruits Texas should target in the 2016 class. 

Who should the Longhorns go after? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

With Bo Scarbrough Out, Alabama Will Need a Freshman RB to Step Up

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s traditional embarrassment of riches at running back has been well-documented, but even Nick Saban had to pause and take a step back, delivering a harsh reality after an offseason of attrition at that position.

“What seemed like a pretty strong position for us, depth-wise, has gotten a little thin,” he said.

He's right. The last few months haven’t been kind to Alabama at running back.

T.J. Yeldon turned pro, though that was expected. Altee Tenpenny transferred. Tyren Jones was suspended, arrested on marijuana charges and dismissed. And now Bo Scarbrough is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

If you’re keeping score at home, only one of Alabama’s four stud backs signed in the 2013 class is left in Tuscaloosa (Alvin Kamara transferred to Tennessee last offseason).

While its top two options—Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake—are set to be 100 percent by the start of the season, their diverse skill sets and Alabama’s willingness to go deep into a running back rotation mean that a freshman will need to step up in the fall.

It could be true freshman DeSherrius Flowers or redshirt freshman Ronnie Clark—both of whom are the only other healthy, scholarship running backs on campus—or 5-star Damien Harris, who will enroll at Alabama over the summer. But someone needs to take the reigns.

Before Alabama fans go running away in panic, keep in mind that the Crimson Tide are far from weak in the backfield.

Henry is poised for a big year as Alabama’s No. 1 back. Saban has praised Henry’s work ethic and improvement this offseason. According to AL.com’s Matt Zenitz, Henry—who is built like a linebacker at 6’3”, 242 pounds—ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and put 440 pounds on the bench press in spring testing.

And Drake appears to be nearing 100 percent after a brutal leg break against Ole Miss. He was a versatile weapon last year for Lane Kiffin and figures to be used in an even bigger variety of roles this year. He’s taken some practice reps at wide receiver, and Saban even hinted at a package putting him and Henry on the field at the same time.

“Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake have done a really, really good job all spring long,” Saban said. “Those two guys have been fantastic in terms of the way they've competed, how fast they've played, the confidence they've played with, and certainly both have the ability to make plays.”

But because of Henry and Drake’s distinct abilities—Henry is a powerful bruiser and Drake an explosive lightning bolt—Alabama needs a third running back to at least somewhat complement them.

Every year since 2008, Alabama’s third-leading rusher (who wasn’t a quarterback) has had at least 200 yards on the ground. Last year, Drake already had 112, plus a long receiving touchdown, before he went down with an injury. He, Henry and Yeldon were turning into an extremely effective three-headed monster.

So now Alabama needs a third head for 2015, but running backs seem to keep dropping like flies, leaving the Crimson Tide looking toward a freshman.

Clark did just about everything in high school and was expected to play defense at Alabama. But he switched to running back during the middle of last year and tore his Achilles during a practice, ending his season and solidifying his redshirt status. Now he’s back playing running back and fully healthy, according to Saban.

Also on campus is Flowers, a 4-star from Mobile who got a head start on football enrolling in January.

Those two would seem to be, right now, the prime candidates for that third running back spot. But Harris could challenge them once he gets to Tuscaloosa.

Scarbrough could also be healthy by the time the season starts. Saban didn’t rule that possibility out.

“We're hopeful that we'll be able to get him back for the season,” Saban said. “He was doing really, really well this spring practice and it happened in two-minute late in the scrimmage.”

Scarbrough already tweeted out a video of him doing some leg stretches post-surgery:

Eddie Jackson suffered a similar knee injury last spring, and while he was back by the second game of the year, he never seemed to be his old self, and then-freshman Tony Brown had to be thrown into the fire sooner rather than later.

That seems to be the case at running back this year, where Alabama needs a third option to step up and solidify its backfield depth.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Ratings and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Note: Players are referenced by fall 2015 eligibility.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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2016 Sleeper Recruits Ready to Shoot Up Rankings

Recruits have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves. There are countless numbers of recruits that aren't well known that can make big contributions for a program. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his picks for recruits that can make a big impact on their future teams. 

What recruits are under the radar for you? Check out the video and let us know!

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Under-the-Radar SEC Games That Will Be Huge in 2015

By now, you know which games in the SEC will define the season.

The Iron Bowl never seems to disappoint, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party always seems to carry importance in the SEC East, and anytime LSU and Alabama get together, you can expect a nail-biter.

But which under-the-radar games in the SEC will be huge in 2015? Our picks based on the intensity of the rivalries and importance to the division title races are in this slideshow.

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for Where Top Uncommitted 2016 O-Linemen Will Land

Offensive linemen are an integral part in making an offense flow. Stockpiling the top linemen to protect your quarterback and establish a strong running game are paramount.  

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles joins Stephen Nelson as they go through the list of top uncommitted offensive linemen and predict where they could land.

Check out the video above!

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Rice Football Signs 7-Year-Old Leukemia Patient Ziggy Stovall-Redd

The Rice University football program experienced an unexpected windfall Wednesday morning with the signing of 5-star recruit Fre’derick “Ziggy” Stovall-Redd. 

A seven-year-old playmaker battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Ziggy made his decision alongside Rice head coach David Bailiff at a packed press conference on the school's Houston campus. 

CollegeSpun.com’s Matt Hladik spotted video from the presser. Bailiff couldn’t say enough about the young man and what he brings to the team.

“This young man’s been wrestling with this decision, and he has finally made the choice. He’s chose Rice University,” Bailiff said. “We’re so excited and we want to welcome Ziggy to Rice University and the Rice football family. Thank you, Ziggy.”

Ever the one to let his play on the field do the talking, Ziggy kept his comments short and sweet. 

“Thank you for letting me be part of the team,” Ziggy said.

Ziggy comes as a rare import to Rice’s program. Bailiff told the Houston Chronicle that he doesn’t usually recruit outside of the state, but after seeing tape of Ziggy, a Mississippi native, he couldn’t help but reach out to the 5-star quarterback recruit:

We don’t normally [recruit] out of state but after looking at his academic transcripts and how he performs on the football field we thought it was just for us to go into the state and try and get him here. ...

... Ziggy will always be part of the Rice University football family. He has 100 brothers and 10 granddads that are always going to be here for him. We will be with him every step of the way.

Ziggy’s leukemia is currently in remission, and he appears ready to throw ropes at Rice’s Blue-Gray spring game on Friday. Just when the Owls quarterbacks were getting comfortable, Coach Bailiff brings in the grade school equivalent of Sunshine and no one’s job is safe.

 

Dan is on Twitter. Rice is bowl-bound, baby.

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Brian Kelly's Approach to QB Competition Should Force Everett Golson to Stay

Brian Kelly has made the unofficial official: The winner of Notre Dame's quarterback derby won't be named until the fall. 

With all eyes this spring on Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, Kelly acknowledged Wednesday that he won't name a starting quarterback until the Irish return for camp in August. 

"They'll continue to compete into August. There's no question," Kelly said. 

Kelly's move is both logical and strategic. It's logical in that he and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford won't have seen enough from both quarterbacks to make a clear-cut decision, as they've rededicated spring football to skill development and the fundamentals as Sanford sees them. 

It's strategic in that Kelly will force Golson to commit to the team without knowing his fate. When he receives his diploma in May, Golson will turn into a free agent capable of transferring anywhere to play out his final season of eligibility. But would he leave South Bend? It's hard to think that's possible if he's still the odds-on favorite to win the starting job. 

After Zaire led the Irish to a victory in the Music City Bowl over LSU, some thought Golson was on his way out of South Bend. But this spring, the veteran quarterback has committed himself to the position, and his approach has been noticed. 

"The thing about Everett that I’ve been so appreciative of is his buy-in," Sanford said via JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago earlier this spring. "Everett’s been outstanding in the meeting room environment. He’s just been taking unbelievably good notes, very attentive, very engaged in the process."

His work on the field has been sharp as well. In the very limited open-practice sessions, Golson has flashed the arm strength and accuracy that had people mentioning him in the early-season Heisman conversation. Kelly also praised his ability to make plays from within the pocket, a challenge in 2014. 

"Today Everett had a great day in the pocket. His feet were settled. He was calm, he was protecting the football," Kelly said after Wednesday's practice. "The things that were flaws for him and problems last year, if you watched him today...you would not think that that was an issue at all last year."

On the flip side of the coin, Zaire has done everything he can to make this battle two-sided. After running his way to victory against LSU, the rising junior (Zaire has three seasons of eligibility remaining) has continued to improve his aerial game, pushing a quarterback battle to a place where both candidates are getting better. 

"Malik was throwing the ball accurate and on-time today," Kelly said. "So the areas where we've asked them to improve on, both of them were on their games today.

"I think that's healthy competition. They're both trying to get better and working to get better in the areas we've asked them to focus on. I can't see where that's not healthy, and it will continue to work to get us better as a football team because they're getting better every day."

If a healthy competition means both Golson and Zaire are around come fall, then Kelly will have deftly navigated a fairly tricky situation. Put simply, both quarterbacks will help Notre Dame win. And while Zaire showed that he was a better runner, Golson—as long as he holds on to the football—can be the complete quarterback this offense needs to run the show. 

So by keeping both quarterbacks engaged and competing in an objectively graded competition, Kelly's made it clear that he wants Golson to finish his career in South Bend. Now it's up to the veteran to prove he's bought in. 

So far, he's said and done the right things. But come graduation, we'll know for sure. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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College Football Rivalry Games That Won't Even Be Close in 2015

When it comes to rivalries, it's time to throw out the record books, right?

Not necessarily. 

Rivalry games don't always have to be close. Yes, they're filled with emotion and history. That can lend to some great games. But at the end of the day, football is football. Teams with better coaches and more talented players are going to win out more often than not.

Rivalries can be especially one-sided when one program is in a far better place from top to bottom. 

Which rivalry games will stay one-sided in 2015? We project a handful of them based on returning and/or incoming players, roster turnover, who's coaching and the overall state of the program. 

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Tristen Wallace Odds: Can Ohio State Steal 4-Star QB from State of Texas?

Tristen Wallace is a 4-star dual-threat quarterback, per 247Sports' Composite rankings, who is uncommitted. Wallace is a dynamic player that has a lot of teams competing for his services.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his odds on where Wallace will play in college. 

Where will this dual-threat QB end up? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Insider Buzz: Who Should the Florida Gators Target at QB in 2016 Class?

The Florida Gators, with new head coach Jim McElwain in tow, are beginning to turn things around in Gainesville. After landing some of the top recruits in the 2015 recruiting class, the attention has now turned to 2016, and more importantly, the quarterback crop.

Bleacher Report's National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed which quarterback in the 2016 class the Gators should target. 

Who should Florida target? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Florida Football: What to Watch for in Gators' 2015 Spring Scrimmage

Fans inside "The Swamp" for Florida's Orange and Blue Debut won't get to see a traditional spring game this year. Depth issues—particularly along the offensive line—have prevented first-year head coach Jim McElwain from conducting true scrimmages this spring in Gainesville.

But there's still plenty to learn about the 2015 Gators on Saturday, when McElwain and his crew wrap up the spring practice session.

Can the offense show signs of life? Who will step up in the front seven? What kind of scheme will new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier employ when dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris is in the game? 

Let's get you ready for the Florida spring scrimmage with some things to keep an eye on:

 

Offensive Identity

It's no secret that McElwain and Nussmeier have been successful running more of a pro-style system at their various stops, but Florida ran more of a wide-open spread system first with quarterback Jeff Driskel and then with Harris last year under former offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

How many of those elements will remain in this new system?

Some will have to when Harris is taking the snaps because, while he is a talented quarterback, he's much better suited to thrive in a multidimensional spread running attack than a traditional pro-style passing attack.

Not just for Harris, though.

Redshirt freshman Will Grier, while being a pro-style passer with an accurate arm, is athletic enough to thrive with some read-option elements as well. Since Demarcus Robinson is the only established wide receiver in Gainesville and there are plenty of running options including Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane, getting a little creative in the running game might help ease the transition this spring as McElwain continues to install his system this offseason.

 

Who is Will Grier, Really?

Of the quarterback contenders in the SEC who haven't taken a snap in college football, it's hard to find one more polarizing than Grier.

The Davidson, North Carolina, native came to Florida last year as the second-ranked pro-style passer in the nation, but as I pointed out earlier in the week, there are some concerns about just how good Grier really is based on the rather weak competition he routinely faced in high school.

"The big question for me has been, and will be until proven otherwise, can Will Grier play at a high enough level consistently to be a successful SEC quarterback?" Bleacher Report national video analyst Michael Felder said. "Obviously, he was a monster in high school, but the competition level left me wanting to see more."

Fans likely already have an opinion one way or the other on Grier, but the truth of the matter is that nobody truly knows.

Grier is a mystery, and the curtain will be peeled back on Saturday in The Swamp. 

If Grier, who is leading the quarterback race at the moment (due mostly to Harris' absence dealing with a death in the family), looks like he can stretch the field vertically and consistently push the ball from sideline to sideline, it will be a good sign that the hype is real and that he's ready for the challenge.

If Grier struggles, it isn't the end of the world. 

McElwain and Nussmeier haven't been able to install everything based on the depth issues up front. Of course, that won't prevent the hot takes from flying after spring practice, though.

 

Just How Good can the Linebackers Be?

While the offensive line's struggles have dominated the headlines this spring, the absence of Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis at linebacker has also been a challenge for McElwain and new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

That has opened the door for Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin to all establish themselves as more than role players and press the starters who are out for playing time.

According to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel, the linebackers are thriving.

Are Morrison and Davis in danger of losing their jobs? Nope.

But if the reserves can at least make it a reasonable question, that'd be huge for the 2015 Gators. It'd give Collins the depth he needs to produce a competitive SEC defense.

 

Watch the Training Table

It's no secret that Florida is suffering through a numbers problem. After all, McElwain and former Florida head coach Will Muschamp got into a nice little passive-aggressive war of words this spring over the subject.

"You've got to play the hand you're dealt," McElwain said, according to Thomas Goldkamp of GaitorBait.net in March. "And right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas."

That didn't sit well with Muschamp.

"He said he could coach a dog and win," Muschamp said, according to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser. "Heck, (does he) like the dog better than his players?"

Verbal jabs aside, Florida can't afford more injuries. 

The loss of offensive lineman Rod Johnson to a stinger leaves the Gators just six healthy scholarship offensive linemen, according to The Associated Press, via Fox Sports. The linebackers are thin too, and it's not like Florida is incredibly deep at wide receiver or quarterback either.

If the medical staff is busy on Saturday, that's bad news for McElwain.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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B/R Exclusive: 5-Star QB Malik Henry Plans to Enroll Early at Florida State

It's been an eventful offseason for 5-star quarterback and current Florida State pledge Malik Henry.

He's changed his address, moving from California to Florida powerhouse IMG Academy, and he earned MVP honors at the Atlanta Nike Opening Regional camp last month—which also resulted in him garnering an invitation to The Opening.

Now, Henry has more news that will undoubtedly excite Seminoles fans.

"I'm graduating early, so in a few months, I'll officially be a Seminole," Henry told Bleacher Report.

Henry confirmed those plans to Bleacher Report via text on April 8.

Florida State is seeking to replace Jameis Winston this fall, but Henry could eventually be the long-term answer for Jimbo Fisher's club moving forward.

The 6'3", 180-pounder is the nation's No. 9 player overall, the second-best pro-style passer in the country and the crown jewel of FSU's top-rated recruiting class

Getting him on campus early is sure to help him get adjusted to Fisher's offense and make the transition to the college level.

Henry—who is also a standout baseball player—has been busy adjusting to his new home since he arrived at IMG. In fact, he's yet to make it up to Tallahassee since he committed to the Seminoles last November.

However, according to Chris Nee of Noles247, that will change this weekend, as he's set to be part of a loaded visitor list heading to Tallahassee for FSU's spring game.

Accompanying him on that trip will be 4-star tight end and fellow new IMG product and FSU pledge Isaac Nauta.

Henry notes that he and Nauta, who is his roommate at IMG, have grown particularly close. The two have been working to develop a chemistry that Henry hopes will carry over to the next level.

His performance in Atlanta was one that Henry said is a reflection of the work he's put in over the offseason.

"I just want to go out there everyday and work hard to prove that I'm the best quarterback in the nation," Henry said. "That's what I look at myself as. It's not me being cocky, either. That's just the confidence I carry within myself. I'm very confident in my game. When I put my mind to something, I'm going to do it."

Henry said that he also remains in contact with Fisher and tight ends coach Tim Brewster. In particular, Fisher told him to enjoy his last few months on the prep level before he arrives in Tallahassee. 

"He was just telling me to enjoy my senior season and enjoy the time with my friends in high school," Henry said. "He also wants me to build that chemistry with Isaac since he's coming up there with me for sure. Otherwise, just have fun with it."

 

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

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