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Top Uncommitted QB Recruit Jack Sears Opens Up on Visits, Decision Timeline

BEAVERTON, Oregon — The lone uncommitted recruit in a talented 2016 Elite 11 class, Jack Sears understands college coaching staffs may be growing a bit antsy in anticipation of his pledge.

"Schools made it clear to me they're kind of waiting to see where I go before they pursue other quarterbacks," he told Bleacher Report. "They definitely want to figure things out, but I'm not feeling pressure." 

Rated No. 10 nationally among pro-style passers, Sears is in the final stages of sorting through options. He told B/R the plan is to announce his intentions sometime this month, in advance of one final summer training camp at San Clemente High School in Southern California.

"I want to get it done so I can focus on this senior season with my team," Sears said.

The 6'3", 200-pound prospect is currently competing for Elite 11 MVP honors at The Opening, an invite-only player showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton. It's the latest travel endeavor for Sears during a busy start to summer break. 

Since claiming a spot at The Opening at Elite 11 finals during the first weekend of June, his itinerary includes stops at Texas A&M, Tennessee, Duke and North Carolina. Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin added 4-star quarterback Kellen Mond to his class soon after that visit, giving Texas A&M two pledges at the position this cycle.

It was Sears' second time at Duke and Tennessee, allowing him to develop an expanded impression of each institution.

"The purpose of that second trip was about getting more situated and comfortable with the staff," Sears said. "I wanted to see what it's like to be a student and an athlete there on a day-to-day basis."

Utah is another out-of-state program that has caught his attention. Former San Clemente quarterback Travis Wilson started for the Utes in recent years.

Though Sears enjoys life on the West Coast, he would welcome a change of scenery if an ideal opportunity presents itself.

"Those schools are all different environments than Southern California, which is nice because college should be a separate experience from what you're used to," Sears said. "It was nice to meet the coaching staffs, get on campus and see how I would fit in there."

Closer to home, UCLA and USC remain in the mix. Both programs have yet to claim a quarterback commitment this cycle, hosting Sears multiple times along the way.

"They're both phenomenal schools with great coaching staffs and traditions," he said. "The question is, when I step on both campuses, where do I feel most comfortable? That's probably what it's going to come down to."

The Bruins claim all three commitment projections in Sears' 247Sports "crystal ball," though he presently has stronger personal ties to the Trojans. Sam Darnold, a 2014 Elite 11 finalist who was his predecessor behind center at San Clemente, is nearing his second season with USC.

"It's great having Sam there because I know I can trust him to give me his thoughts straight up," Sears said. "He always talks about how much he loves it there."

Aside from possible last-minute trips to USC or UCLA, he doesn't anticipate visiting any more schools before reaching a decision. He aims to use these remaining days of his recruitment to evaluate pros and cons for each situation.

"You have to make sure you're going to a school for the right reasons because a lot can change while you're there," Sears said. "The coaching staff can change, players can transfer out. It's kind of a cliche, but where can you see yourself going if you weren't playing football? That's what I try to follow."

Sears, who threw for 2,697 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2015, will refocus on recruiting after The Opening. While every other Elite 11 finalist identified his collegiate destination earlier in the process, he is completely content with his approach to this point.

"I like to go down my own path, and that's exactly how I'm handling the recruitment process," Sears said. "I know some quarterbacks have been committed for more than a year now, but I'm OK with taking my time while finding the right fit. I want to make my decision once, stick with it and have that be my home for the next four or five years."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Brandon Bowen to TCU: Horned Frogs Land 4-Star DE Prospect

After initially committing to play at Baylor, 4-star defensive end Brandon Bowen decided to stay in Texas during his collegiate career, as he committed to TCU on Wednesday.

Greg Powers of Scout.com was the first to report Bowen's decision.  

Baylor granted Bowen his release on Friday after the sexual assault scandal that led to the dismissal of head coach Art Briles, per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Bowen is the No. 12 weak-side defensive end, the No. 23 player from the state of Texas and the No. 147 overall recruit in the class of 2016.

Bowen will be eligible to play immediately for the Horned Frogs, and he could provide an instant boost to their pass rush.

The Trophy Club, Texas, native is on the small side for a defensive end at 6'5" and 227 pounds, but with a 40-yard-dash time of 4.63 seconds, per 247Sports, he has the speed, the quickness and the agility needed to beat offensive tackles off the edge.

TCU ranked 33rd in the nation in sacks last season, and while Bowen may need some seasoning and to work on bulking up before becoming a big-time contributor, he has a legitimate chance to work his way into the rotation early on.

Not only does adding Bowen brighten the future of TCU's defense significantly, but it also damages one of its chief Big 12 rivals in Baylor. And that is integral as the two schools perennially jockey for College Football Playoff positioning.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

 

Star ranking courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Art Briles Requests Judge Remove Him from Baylor Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Former Baylor head football coach Art Briles filed a motion on Wednesday to remove his name as a defendant from a lawsuit that alleges the school didn't respond to a woman who said she was sexual assaulted by a football player.

The Associated Press' Jim Vertuno reported the news, indicating Briles' motion to a federal judge says the claims against him are based on hearsay.

According to Vertuno, Briles' motion says, in compliance with state and federal law, he can't be sued as an individual in a lawsuit against the university

Briles was fired in May in the aftermath of Baylor's sexual assault scandal, which featured multiple instances in which the school failed to adequately investigate alleged instances of sexual violence. Some Baylor players were also implicated in domestic violence allegations.

In the particular lawsuit Briles has been involved in, the family of a woman who said she was sexually assaulted told Briles one of his players was a sexual predator, but Briles ignored the information, per Vertuno.  

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Notre Dame Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Notre Dame football has championship aspirations and expectations in 2016, but the Fighting Irish must overcome some notable weaknesses to reach their ultimate goals.

Fortunately for Brian Kelly's squad, there isn't a program better prepared to overcome a string of misfortune under center. However, injuries continue to plague the Irish, whose roster already needs to replace several key starters.

But the program will encounter a relatively favorable and home-heavy schedule. If the Irish consistently play to their strengths, the College Football Playoff might come calling.

  

Strengths

Best Quarterback Depth Chart in the Nation

The saying goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none." However, that applies more to two-quarterback systems on game day than a competition with multiple answers.

DeShone Kizer has the most experience. After assuming the starting role in 2015, he helped lead Notre Dame to a 10-3 final record. Kizer completed 62.9 percent of his 334 passes for 2,880 yards and 21 touchdowns, adding 520 rushing yards and 10 scores.

Kizer's primary competition is Malik Zaire, who overtook Everett Golson late in 2014 and initially won the starting job last year. Zaire managed 428 yards and four touchdowns through the air while scampering for 103 yards in seven quarters of action. His season ended due to a broken right ankle at Virginia.

The Irish will find a resolution to the competition during fall camp. Either way, Brandon Wimbush—the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback of the 2015 class—will be available if necessary.

  

Well-Rounded Special Teams

Winning a football game is immensely difficult without earning an advantage in two of the three phases. Notre Dame's special teams will provide a regular boost in 2016.

Tyler Newsome notched 44.5 yards per punt—which ranked 15th in the Football Bowl Subdivision—and also handled kickoff duties. After blasting seven punts for an average of 52.7 yards during the spring game, Newsome earned MVP honors.

Justin Yoon drilled 15 of 17 field-goal attempts, including his final 12. He connected on 50 of 52 extra-point attempts.

C.J. Sanders scored twice as a returner, taking one punt and one kickoff to the house. He tallied 7.3 and 22.9 yards on punts and kickoffs, respectively.

The coverage units must improve, but the Irish can dramatically affect a game's outcome in this phase. Specialists are people, too.

  

Weaknesses

New Set of Receiving Options

Will Fuller was a first-round pick. Nobody should be expected to perfectly replace someone of his caliber, especially a speedster who averaged 20.3 yards on 62 receptions with 14 scores.

But it also doesn't help that Chris Brown (48 catches, 597 yards and four touchdowns), Amir Carlisle (31/351/1), C.J. Prosise (26/308/1) and Corey Robinson (16/200/1) are each gone.

Consequently, Torii Hunter Jr. (28/363/1) is the only top-six receiver who returns in 2016.

Now, by no means is Notre Dame unprepared to address the departures. Equanimeous St. Brown, Corey Holmes, Miles Boykin, Alize Jones (13/190/0) and Sanders were all 4-star recruits.

They'll fill the spaces around Hunter while Durham Smythe starts at tight end and the backfield attempts to replace Prosise's pass-catching production.

However, the question that lingers is how quickly a collection of young and inexperienced reserves will consistently contribute.

  

An Average Front Seven

The Irish won't have an elite defense in 2016. Kelly essentially admitted as much without directly saying it.

Since the unit mustered a No. 45 finish nationally with Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara and Jaylon Smith on the field, the Irish shouldn't be expected to excel without the trio.

Replacing Day and Okwara—who accumulated 29 tackles for loss and 13 sacks combined—will be particularly difficult. That process began during spring practice.

"The young guys are learning how to step up and play," defensive line coach Keith Gilmore said, per Tim Prister of Scout. "(But when) you've lost Sheldon and you've lost Romeo, I've got to find some guys to be physical at the point."

While Nyles Morgan, who is stepping in for Joe Schmidt, carries larger responsibilities as the defense's vocal leader, Smith had 114 tackles. Te'von Coney and Greer Martini will attempt to replace Smith.

Although the defense doesn't need to be shockingly great, "pleasantly respectable" would suit Notre Dame. But there's no guarantee that it'll be anything better than average.

  

Secret Weapon

Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach

Coaches bear the majority of the blame when things go wrong, while players often receive the praise when a team has success.

Mike Sanford helped the Irish avoid a lot more problems in 2015.

When a quarterback gets injured and a redshirt freshman takes over under center, losses are supposed to follow. That didn't happen, largely thanks to Sanford's impact.

He'll need to replicate the success this season, working with associate head coach Mike Denbrock to shift the burden of producing from a veteran receiving corps onto the quarterback—but doing so without overloading Kizer or Zaire.

The simple version? Notre Dame will lean on its offense in 2016. What does this mean? The Irish are relying on Sanford.

  

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione Comments on Big 12 Expansion

The Big 12 expansion, seen as necessary by some members for the long-term viability of the conference, is not happening anytime soon. 

"There aren't any signs that we'll talk anymore about expansion for a little while," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. "We don't have a timeline on it."

The Big 12 has been stuck at 10 full-time members since Colorado and Nebraska left in 2011. The conference brought in West Virginia and TCU in 2012 as replacements for the departing Missouri and Texas A&M, which went to the SEC.

For the past half-decade, the Big 12 has struggled to keep up with other Power Five conferences—particularly in football. It was the only one without a conference championship game, and the advent of the Longhorn Network—the very thing that saved the Big 12 from dissolution a half-decade ago—has prevented a league-owned television station.

The Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 all have their own networks, which have varying levels of success.

In recent years, expansion has been seen as necessary to increase the competition level and the revenue of the Big 12. Adding two teams would allow the conference to have a more traditional alignment of a split into two divisions and the reinstitution of a championship game.

The Big 12 took the first step earlier this year. It will bring back the conference title game in 2017 thanks to an NCAA rule change that allows conferences with fewer than 12 teams to hold a championship. 

The topic of expansion has been much more muddied. A source told Dodd an expansion regarding "those teams"—alluding to Brigham Young, UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston and Memphis as potential candidates—didn't have a chance of happening. There was no resolution to expansion talks when Big 12 officials met in June, and Castiglione was not optimistic about a change in heart.

"I stop short of speaking in absolutes about anything regarding conference realignment outside the contracts that exist," Castiglione said. "We've seen things happen that one could never imagine...[but] I don't see any conversation in the near future."

The Big 12 will not launch a league-owned network at this time. Texas, which gets a massive financial windfall from the Longhorn Network, is seen as the biggest holdout against both expansion and a change to the television structure. The school was in a position of historic power when negotiating to stay in the Big 12 over joining the Pac-12, and there is not much financial incentive for it to split the pie more.

"I don't know where we're at," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd. "I know we haven't brought it to a conclusion. That conclusion may very well be status quo. Until we get together and the chancellors and presidents make it a decision, I consider it a pending issue."

Big 12 officials are expected to meet again July 19. Oklahoma president David Boren said the conference "may need a unanimous vote" to realistically expand, per Sports Illustrated.  

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Win-Loss Records for Vegas' Top College Football Favorites in 2016

Savvy sports fans know never to question Las Vegas, whose oddsmakers tend to be spot on when it comes to setting lines and championship probabilities. If Vegas considers a college football team a national title contender, there's a good chance that's going to be the case.

But what those Vegas odds don't tell us is how well each team is going to do during the season in terms of wins and losses. That's where we come in.

Using the 13 schools that Odds Shark gives the best championship odds to, we've gone through the 2016 regular season and projected what each team's record will be. Who knows if any of these predictions will be right—we got Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oregon spot on a year ago but were way off on some others—but anything is possible at this point.

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Urban Meyer Comments on Potential Combine for Underclassmen

In the interest of allowing early NFL draft entrants to accurately gauge their stock, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is actively pushing for a scouting combine meant exclusively for underclassmen.

According to Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk, Meyer wants to help spearhead an effort that will allow scouts to look at juniors ahead of the draft process without forcing the underclassmen to declare and lose their college eligibility:

It's not a process that's well done right now. There's a rule that says the NFL can't look at juniors. Well of course the NFL [scouts] are going to look at a junior. And they should look at a junior.

We're going to try to get something where there's a time those [scouts] can actually come in and they can work out the juniors. Because information is good. [The players] are getting their information somewhere, so why not get it from the experts—the scouts, the general managers, people who have the right information? They're getting it from agents and they're getting it from wannabes, and that's not good information.

Taking part in the actual NFL Scouting Combine requires players to officially declare for the draft, and a poor performance can often damage their viability and cost them millions without the option of returning to school.

The NBA has made strides in that area, as players are allowed to declare for the draft without an agent and then withdraw and go back to college after the combine if they are dissatisfied with their performance or stock.

The NFL and college football don't currently have that type of arrangement in place, but an alternative combine could go a long way toward accomplishing that and ensuring that underclassmen are maximizing their value moving forward.  

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Expectations around Michigan football varied last year, but the college football world has a clear idea of what Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines are capable of accomplishing in 2016.

The Maize and Blue will rely on an elite defense to guide a championship chase—one that has College Football Playoff potential.

However, Michigan needs to overcome a few weaknesses along the way. Although the starting lineup remains mostly intact, a couple of vacancies are at critical spots. But as long as the Wolverines address those needs, they'll compete for a title.

 

Strengths

Experienced Players Under NFL and Veteran Coaches

An imperfect yet significant statistic is the number of returning starters.

On offense, Michigan brings back four linemen, two wide receivers, a tight end and its leading rusher, as well as other notable reserves. Defensively, the Wolverines return most of the contributors up front and in the secondary.

Tight end Jake Butt and cornerback Jourdan Lewis earned second-team AP All-America honors. They, along with wide receiver Jehu Chesson and then-defensive back Jabrill Peppers, received first-team All-Big Ten nods.

*That number includes Peppers, who has since moved to outside linebacker but will contribute as a nickelback in 2016.

But utilizing the right players is only half the battle. Led by Harbaugh, Michigan's staff is loaded with NFL experience and longtime college coaches.

Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch create the game plans. In 12 of 13 games last season, it was good enough to win. Defensive coordinator Don Brown led Boston College to a No. 1 defensive ranking in 2015.

Six of the seven remaining assistants—Greg Mattison, Brian Smith, Tyrone Wheatley, Michael Zordich, Kevin Tolbert and Jay Harbaugh—were in the NFL either immediately or shortly before going to Ann Arbor.

When you combine veterans with veterans at a power-conference program, the result could be a championship.

 

An Elite Defense

Michigan boasted the nation's No. 4 defense in 2015. The unit could be even better this season.

Potential first-round NFL draft pick Chris Wormley registered 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last year. Along with him, Taco Charlton starts at defensive end. Bryan Mone and either Ryan Glasgow or Maurice Hurst Jr. will man the middle.

Rashan Gary, the No. 1 prospect in the 2016 class, headlines the reserve unit. Chase Winovich and Matt Godin round out the rotation.

The defensive line can help atone for some struggles at linebacker, which needs to replace three starters. Plus, Peppers' move to "Sam" linebacker lessened the burden on career reserves. Ben Gedeon is the undisputed "Mike," and Mike McCray is the favorite to start at "Will."

Plus, they can be confident in the last line of defense. Lewis headlines a strong secondary that returns four rotational players in Channing Stribling, Jeremy Clark, Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill.

 

Weaknesses

Uncertainty at Quarterback

What we know: Jake Rudock graduated, opening a five-man quarterback battle. Brandon Peters and Alex Malzone trailed off during spring practice, essentially as expected.

That leaves Wilton Speight, John O'Korn and Shane Morris vying for the job. However, the prevailing thought is Morris—despite his physical tools—just isn't quite on the same level as his competition.

"He has a tendency to let one mistake turn into two or three, which really makes it tough to completely trust him," MLive's Nick Baumgardner said of Morris. "He wanted to redshirt last season, which pushed him down the depth chart. But he also slid down the chart because Speight passed him after Jake Rudock won the starting battle."

So, will it be Speight or O'Korn?

The former initially spent 2015 as the garbage-time quarterback to preserve a redshirt season for Morris. But midway through the year, Speight ascended to No. 2 on the depth chart and led a game-winning drive on the road against Minnesota.

Since he doesn't have a strong arm and isn't particularly mobile, the "game manager" label will follow Speight. Granted, that might be all the Wolverines need to succeed in 2016.

When considering raw talent, O'Korn—who sat out last year after transferring from Houston—is the more appealing option. He has a stronger arm and is a legitimate scrambling threat, but O'Korn needs to protect the ball.

Though a soft nonconference schedule to begin the campaign will aid Michigan's new starter, a late-season gauntlet awaits Speight or O'Korn. Fall camp will determine the winner of this battle.

 

Run Blocking

Without question, the Wolverines offensive line made enormous strides last year compared to 2014, especially in pass protection. However, the unit seldom controlled the trenches in the running game.

Experience and continuity under Drevno should result in further improvement. The only new projected starter is Grant Newsome.

"They're a year older, so once they're comfortable with me, they understand what I'm teaching and what I expect from them," Drevno said, per Orion Sang of the Michigan Daily.

Simple rushing averages often don't tell the whole story. Advanced stats from Football Outsiders are better metrics.

Standard downs are defined as first down, 2nd-and-7 or fewer, 3rd-and-4 or fewer, and 4th-and-4 or fewer. Michigan trudged to a 2.75-yard average, which ranked 88th nationally. Only 34.8 percent of the Wolverines' rushing attempts gained at least five yards when five yards were available. Of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, that ranked 107th.

The reason for optimism? Only 17.3 percent (No. 33) of the carries were stopped at or before the line of scrimmage. With four returning starters, that percentage should drop—a good thing.

But saying it on paper is easier than consistently winning in the trenches.

 

Secret Weapon

Bryan Mone, Defensive Tackle

Peppers is the ultimate weapon. He'll start at outside linebacker, can play any spot in the secondary, will contribute on offense and could return kicks. But everybody knows about Peppers.

Mone, however, might sneak onto the national radar. The defensive tackle is already squarely on the coaches' minds.

As a freshman in 2014, Mone appeared in all 12 games and managed nine total tackles. Last season, though, a broken ankle ended his campaign before it began.

Mone probably won't be the featured player. Wormley and Charlton should put up shiny numbers and grab most of the attention. In all likelihood, though, those stats will be a direct result of the 6'4", 320-pound Mone clogging the middle.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Opening 2016: Power Ranking Every 7-on-7 Team

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Perhaps no event at The Opening, an annual invite-only showcase held at Nike's world headquarters, demands as much attention as its star-studded seven-on-seven tournament.

Action gets underway Saturday morning and continues through Sunday afternoon, with six teams competing for a title. This tournament challenges athletes to rise up against premier peers or risk embarrassment at the expense of opponents.

Each team is equipped with two Elite 11 quarterbacks, who will split reps in an effort to chase down MVP honors. They'll operate alongside running backs, receivers and a tight end, lined up across from linebackers and defensive backs.

Every roster is loaded with talent from across the country, but considering our assessment of regional camps and past high school performances, here's how we rank these six squads. 

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Freshmen Who Will Explode in 2016

The college football world knows about established stars like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Florida defensive back Jalen Tabor.

There are more stars on the horizon.

There are several true freshmen and redshirt freshmen in the SEC who are stepping into situations that can help vault them into stardom in 2016.

Which freshmen will explode in 2016? Our picks based on talent, scheme and opportunity are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

How Brett Favre's Influence Helped Myles Brennan to Elite 11

Still more than a year away from his first collegiate football season, Myles Brennan is already receiving a Hall of Fame education at quarterback.

A monstrous junior campaign left little doubt Brennan is the most impressive high school quarterback prospect in Mississippi, propelling him toward heightened interest on the recruiting trail. Along the way, his journey led to the front door of a football legend.

Revered NFL quarterback Brett Favre, a native of nearby Kiln, Mississippi, felt it necessary to place eyeballs on the up-and-coming local standout. His brother, Scott, whose sons have also played for perennial contender St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, set the stage for a quarterback connection.

“Scott Favre called me and said, ‘Brett wants to know who is this kid Myles Brennan? Is he as good as the headlines? Is he really throwing for this many yards?’ Brett wanted to meet him to see what Myles is all about," Brennan's father, Owen, told Bleacher Report.

Owen relayed the message to his son, who initially shrugged it off as a joke.

"I told my dad to stop messing with me," Myles sai

Favre, a 2016 NFL Hall of Fame inductee and three-time league MVP marveled at Brennan's accomplishments just like many in the region. The 6'3", 180-pound prospect passed for 11,045 yards and 117 touchdowns during the past two seasons in head coach Bill Conides' high-powered aerial attack.

Just months removed from a 2015 season that featured four games with at least 400 passing yards—including a 550-yard, seven-touchdown assault in the state semifinal, per MaxPreps—Brennan had a difficult time wrapping his head around the latest development in his football career.

“He didn’t believe it about Brett," Owen said. "No way did he think I was telling him the truth, but then I said tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock we’re driving up to Hattiesburg (where Favre resides) to throw with him. Then Myles got serious.”

Favre has kept an eye on St. Stanislaus for years, following the emergence of his nephew as team leader. Dylan Favre set state records for single-season passing yards and touchdown tosses in 2009 before signing with Mississippi State.

Brennan broke both those marks in 2014 as a sophomore (5,797 yards and 64 scores) and is now in the process of mentoring St. Stanislaus freshman Max Favre, another nephew of the NFL icon.

"I can tell he looks up to me right now but one day it’s going to be his time to shine," Brennan said about the latest Favre to hit high school turf in southern Mississippi. 

With Brett Favre's fingers on the pulse of an impressive program, there's little surprise Brennan landed on his radar.

“Brett has come to our games to watch and he’s very connected with people at the school but I had never met him before," Coach Conides said. "Then it kind of comes through the grapevine that Brett wants to meet Myles and we were fortunate enough to schedule a meeting.”

This interaction occurred in Hattiesburg at Oak Grove High School, where Favre served as offensive coordinator during a 2013 state title run. Accompanied by Conides and his father, Brennan suddenly found himself under the tutelage of an all-time great.

“Brett never said a word about himself or his pro career, he made it all about Myles," Owen said. "I think that just put Myles totally at ease and he realized they were just there to talk football and get better. Myles immersed himself.”

Favre surveyed the scene as this celebrated young quarterback worked through drills. The hype, it seemed, was indeed warranted.

"He was very positive the whole time and didn't really criticize anything I did," Brennan said. "He liked the velocity and the footwork. The most important thing he pointed out was to stay focused mentally. Mental preparation is so important, whether it’s watching film or studying the playbook. Brett was always afraid to underprepare as a player, so he’d overprepare and look for every little tendency. That’s something I hope to take away from him.

"It's definitely a privilege and I felt honored to throw for one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever go through the NFL. That's a lot different than throwing in front of a scout or recruits. It was special that he wanted to see what I can do."

Conides, who constantly works to sharpen Brennan's quarterback attributes throughout the year, was proud of the first impression his pupil made on the soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

“Brett watches Myles throw and he says, ‘Wow, there’s nothing I can point out that he really needs to work on. He’s got it,'" Conides said. "But then he offered to do anything he could to help, whether it was mental stuff or watching film together or talking about his experiences. I think he walked away very impressed with Myles.”

That mid-winter workout remains the only one between Brennan and Favre. However, it was only a launching point.

"Brett said he just wants to be part of this journey," Brennan said. "He doesn’t often see highly recruited athletes come out of the area. He has a lot of local pride and so do I, so it's really something special.”

While many retired superstar professional athletes ultimately end up settling into high-profile media or business gigs in large consumer markets, Favre elected to keep things simple back home. The community continues to embrace him wholeheartedly two decades after he led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

“We’re extremely fortunate that Brett is from this area," Owen said. "We live about five miles from where he grew up in Kiln, where they have a big sign that says, ‘Welcome to the Home of Brett Favre.’ He’s a local legend but he can go wherever he wants around town and no one will bother him because this is his home. He’s one of us.”

Brennan followed up his initial workout at Oak Grove with multiple visits to Favre's home in Hattiesburg, which must have felt like a small slice of heaven for the 17-year-old football junkie.

"He has a whole football field in his backyard and a theater room to break down film," Brennan said. "It's a pretty awesome setup that any quarterback would love."

Sitting together in front of the big screen, Favre and Brennan shared offensive philosophies and pizza slices. Drawing from a 20-season professional career that featured matchups against defensive stalwarts such as Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp, Favre unloaded a wealth of knowledge upon his eager guest.

"It's a completely different perspective because he's seen it all at every level," Brennan said. "He pointed me in the right direction with what to look for and how to handle so many situations. It's just a different level of intensity in preparation and I know not many young quarterbacks get to experience that."

At times, their conversation shifted away from formations and schematics.

“Brett has given him invaluable advice about the quarterback position," Owen said. "Not only on the X’s and O’s on the field, but how to handle the recruiting attention, about the kind of man you’re supposed to be and what a team is looking for in a leader.”

Sessions with Favre and day-to-day diligence with Conides helped put Brennan in position to earn an invitation to national Elite 11 finals June 3-5 in Redondo Beach, California. Competing alongside 23 other top college quarterback recruits, he needed to be extremely sharp in order to join the Elite 11 fraternity as one of 12 invitees to The Opening, an acclaimed national showcase held July 5-10 at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

“You can prepare, prepare and prepare, and do all the right things leading up to that moment, but it’s a matter of how you perform when the lights come on," Conides said.

Brennan proved ready for prime time, drawing parallels to the newest No. 1 NFL draft pick.

"He’s a super impressive kid," Elite 11 head coach and Super Bowl champion quarterback Trent Dilfer told Luke Stampini of 247Sports (h/t 247Sports' Shea Dixon). "We always try to do these comparisons now because we have kind of a large sample size of guys playing college football and in the NFL. He has [Jared] Goff-like qualities. The look is kind of similar and the frame is kind of similar, but he’s got more twitch than Jared."

When the dust settled after three arduous days of action in Southern California, Brennan punched his ticket to Beaverton, where he'll compete for Elite 11 MVP honors. Event alumni include Goff, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck.

"It's an honor and I feel like I went out and earned it," he said. "I prepared for this a long time. ... I'm always trying to attack defenses anytime there's an opportunity. My goal is to make the other team pay for every mistake, so that makes preparation so important."

Brennan, who committed to LSU on April 23, is currently rated No. 18 among pro-style passers in composite rankings but has the makings of a top-10 positional talent in the 2017 recruiting class. That's promising news for Tigers fans who've witnessed the team's downfield efforts sputter in recent years.

"He could be the pocket passer they’ve never had and really lift that offense to a different level in the SEC," Student Sports president Brian Stumpf said during Bleacher Report's Elite 11 reveal broadcast

Brennan will further prepare for his collegiate future this fall, when St. Stanislaus transitions from an uptempo attack—which Conides described as, “When the ref puts the ball on the ground, we’re going"—to a more methodical approach that requires him to operate in a huddle and under center with greater frequency.

“That’ll make [LSU offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron happy," Conides said. "From day one, he’s probably the most coachable kid I’ve ever encountered. ... He’s a quarterback, plain and simple. And when it comes to the position of quarterback, it is the most scrutinized position in the entire world with the exception of probably the President of the United States. It’s incredibly nuanced.”

Brennan already boasts mind-boggling stats, coveted physical stature and an Elite 11 skill set. With a legend like Favre now part of his support staff, few quarterbacks in this class claim a comparable career trajectory.

“I don’t see a ceiling to be honest with you," Conides said. "Where he wants to go is completely up to him. Does he want be a great college quarterback? Does he want to be a first-round draft pick? I know for a fact he wants to play in the NFL. All Myles needs to do is to continue with what he’s worked for on a daily basis. Quarterback is his job and that’s what he wants out of life.”

Brennan takes the job seriously and aims to further establish understanding in this department through future sessions with Favre. He anticipates upcoming interactions before autumn and said they've discussed the possibility of playing a round of golf together in the near future.

“Hopefully I’ll always be able to pick up the phone and call him, whether it’s these last months of high school or moving on to college in years to come," Brennan said. "If I hit rock bottom and need some support or guidance, obviously I have my family, but it’s huge to have someone like Brett who has been through it all before and can share what he learned along the way.

"He was the kind of quarterback I dreamed and aspired to be. Now all these years later I’m getting to build a relationship with him, which is so unreal."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Freshmen Who Will Explode in 2016

The start of the college football season is officially fewer than two months away and buzz is already building for another exciting year.

That rings especially true in the Big Ten, which will return several top stars and prominent teams in 2016.

But while we're already aware of the likes of J.T. Barrett, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis and Desmond King, the coming season will bring a new crop of players for fans to get to know. And with the conference adding some of the nation's top recruiting classes this past year, many of the league's new stars will likely come in the form of true freshmen.

With that in mind, here are some new names you need to know in the Big Ten for 2016.

Some you may have already heard of, while others you're less familiar with, but by season's end, don't be surprised when these freshmen who are ready to explode make their impacts felt.

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

With less than a month remaining before the beginning of fall practice and not even two months until the 2016 season starts, Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones has a pretty good idea of what players and positions he'll have to ride to produce a banner season.

While the weaknesses may take a little longer to define on a veteran-laden team, every team has them. Those that have the players who emerge to make up for those deficiencies are the teams that surge to the top.

The Volunteers have the players in place to do that—but will they? For the first time in Jones' four-year tenure, there are no excuses. The program may not be completely rebuilt yet, but there are more than enough pieces in place to win big now.

Tennessee fans expect no different.

For better or worse, the pressure will be turned up in 2016 following a nine-win season a year ago that could have been much, much better. Just how high are the expectations and the desire to win now on Rocky Top?

The SEC Network's Tony Barnhart suggested last week that Tennessee fans are the third-hungriest in all of sports to get back to championship-level competition behind the Chicago Cubs and New York Knicks following a question posed to Twitter by ESPN's Peter Burns:

Those are bold words, but there are lofty expectations, without question. How Jones, his staff and the leadership on the team respond will go a long way in determining just how far the Vols can go.

Let's take a look at the Vols' strengths, weaknesses and some secret weapons that could come from nowhere to help propel UT to the top this year. There may be a lot of questions surrounding the Vols, but for the first time in a while, answers appear to be in place.

 

Strengths

Clouds of dust

Plenty of questions remain about Tennessee's offensive balance—and the Vols undoubtedly must do a better job of being versatile in offensive coordinator Mike DeBord's second season. But one thing that is unquestioned is the dominance of the Vols' running attack.

From 6'4", 240-pound bruiser junior Jalen Hurd, who is an every-down monster, to athletic speedster Alvin Kamara to dual-threat, run-first quarterback Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee has a ground game that is the envy of the majority of college football teams.

Throw in sophomore John Kelly, who got the opportunity to shine this spring while Hurd and Kamara rested, and the Vols are even stouter than they look on paper.

When this offense needs the tough yards, it has the seasoned vets to turn to. Last year, no matter how good the opposing defense was, they produced.

For the season, the Vols averaged 223.7 yards per game on the ground—second-best in the SEC. The 2,908 rushing yards marked the second-highest total in school history.

By now, you know that the triumvirate of Hurd, Kamara and Dobbs are good. But maybe you aren't aware just how good. The stats above should be enough indication, but the headlines won't go the Vols' way the way they have for Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette until the wins come in bigger bunches.

Hurd would get his due if that happens.

"He's not an attention-seeker," UT running backs coach Robert Gillespie told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg. "Anybody would want the respect that's due, but he's not going to beg for it. His work should speak for itself."

It should. All that success Tennessee has on the ground needs to translate in championships. That's what the Vols are counting on this year: Give it to the Big Three, and let them carry the Vols as far as they can go.

 

Shoop scheme fit

Following last year's pucker-factor losses to Oklahoma and Florida, it's hard not to pin the "conservative" tag on Jones, but that tag loosened a bit this offseason when he made the bold move to can defensive coordinator John Jancek.

The assistant had been with Jones dating back to his time at Cincinnati, and he'd not done a bad job at all in Knoxville. But he wasn't an elite coordinator. Jones saw the opportunity to lure away a great coordinator in Penn State's Bob Shoop, and he seized it.

Not only was that a surprising move for the loyal Jones, but it was one that proved he's determined to win big now at high costs. Shoop's statistics prove he's an elite coordinator, but that wasn't the only reason he was a great hire.

He was perfect for the personnel currently on Tennessee's roster. That's why the Vols have the chance to be special this year on that side of the ball.

The first image that comes to mind in recalling Jancek's shortcomings last year is the fourth downs against Florida, but that wasn't the only mind-boggling move. Why didn't he bring the house against Oklahoma redshirt freshman offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.? What about that puzzling game plan against Arkansas?

How does a defense with as much talent as UT last year give up big play after big play to Bowling Green and Georgia?

It just didn't bring the heat enough. That won't happen under Shoop, who loves to pressure quarterbacks. That should be music to the ears of Vols such as Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Derek Barnett, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Quart'e Sapp, Kyle Phillips and others built to blitz.

Shoop told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown just what UT fans can expect from the '16 defense:

I've never met a blitz I didn't like. We like to come after you. We're going to be aggressive. We're going to be in your face in all situations. We like to challenge every route. I'm a big believer in that's what you do nowadays in football. You watch the two teams that played in a Super Bowl. That was a clinic in an aggressive style of defense right there.

All that edge-rushing talent plus Shoop's frenetic pace could be a championship combination, and it could take a pretty good defense to being a great one in a short time. All the elements are in place.

 

Talent/experience mix

So much has been made of all the Vols' talent, and they've got an abundance of it.

A bigger reason for the excitement, however, should be just how many snaps they've got returning. This isn't just an exciting team; it's an experienced one. According to Phil Steele's experience ratings, the Vols are third nationally behind Kent State and Charlotte with 76.9 percent experience points. 

No matter how complex the rating is to calculate, the bottom line is this: UT has a lot of players returning who've played a lot of football.

Guys like Reeves-Maybin, Dobbs, Hurd, Kamara, cornerback Cameron Sutton and defensive end Corey Vereen, among others, have started a lot of games. 

Even players like junior Todd Kelly Jr. told CampusInsiders.com's Mark Nagi how important it is for him to show leadership qualities to the younger players:

Throughout his tenure in Knoxville, Jones hammered home points about forgetting the losing culture that permeated the program and planting seeds of winning. It seems there are a lot of players on this team who understand that, and it should pay huge dividends.

Once some upperclassmen called a players-only meeting following last year's loss to Arkansas, things changed. Just how much? Everybody will have to find out this year if the Vols can carry over the winning mentality.

 

Weaknesses

Passing inconsistency

There isn't just one thing that's broken about Tennessee's passing game; there's a lot.

That aspect of the Vols offense isn't in disrepair, and DeBord, Dobbs and others have set out to fix it this spring and offseason. But just how much better can Tennessee be in the throw game in 2016? The answer to that question may wind up determining how good the Vols can be.

A season ago, Dobbs' passing statistics weren't horrible. He completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,291 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. But there were few dynamic plays, and there were even fewer big completions downfield.

Defenses could draw a 10-yard circle to defend, and they didn't have to fear being burned by the long play. That must change.

Dobbs' consistency issues and accuracy struggles were prevalent at inopportune times, such as in losses to Oklahoma and Alabama as well as the second half against South Carolina. At times, he couldn't even hit the routine passes, stemming from his inability to repeat his mechanics.

On top of that, Tennessee couldn't rely on a dependable receiver. Injuries, inconsistencies and just downright poor play have plagued the Vols during Jones' (and passing game coordinator Zach Azzanni's) tenure, and those deficiencies are being felt both on the field and in recruiting.

Tennessee lost local 5-star receiver Tee Higgins to Clemson this week (committing in an epic B/R video), and though he didn't mention the passing game in particular, the Vols' struggles in that area couldn't have helped. 

But if Dobbs can turn around the passing game, there's still time for Higgins or other star receivers to see the turnaround. It would also be huge for UT's on-field product. Dobbs told VolQuest.com's Brent Hubbs he believes the offense will progress the second year under DeBord:

This will be a big jump I think just seeing similar things on the field. Obviously, you don't know what you are going to get till the first game and really the first season together. As the season progressed we got a lot better. This off-season watching a lot of film together, spring was huge and fall camp will be huge. All of that will definitely help us for this season.

Again, elements are in place for Tennessee to turn this weakness into a strength. Dobbs is a senior, and there is more diversity in the receiving corps with a mixture of bigger guys (Preston Williams, Jeff George and Josh Malone) along with some new speedsters like Latrell Williams and Marquez Callaway.

Maybe UT can turn around its passing fortunes.

 

Defensive tackle depth

One of the Vols' biggest needs from now and the start of the season is finding some more capable bodies who can flesh out the interior of the defensive line.

Following the suspension of prized JUCO signee Alexis Johnson and the Vols striking out in signing any high school defensive tackles in the '16 cycle, there is a dearth of big bodies at tackle. Some of those aren't totally healthy yet, either.

Shy Tuttle was hurt last year against Georgia and hasn't been back on the field since. He may be ready by the start of the season, but that may be a bit ambitious. Kahlil McKenzie, Danny O'Brien, Kendal Vickers and Quay Picou are all capable players, but they've got to stay healthy and put up big numbers.

Beyond them, Tennessee doesn't have anybody who is a definite tackle.

The nation's top-ranked JUCO player, Jonathan Kongbo, is listed on the latest official roster as being 6'6", 270 pounds, so even though he has the ability to be a dynamic pass-rusher, it's possible Kongbo could shift inside and be a force on the interior much the way former Vols and current NFL star Malik Jackson is. 

Also, could somebody like Andrew Butcher bulk up enough to move inside? At a listed 275 pounds, it's a possibility. Dimarya Mixon at 260 pounds seems a bit light, but he played on the inside some as a true freshman.

So, there are options. But how many of them are legitimate ones? Also, Johnson hasn't been booted from the team, but it's uncertain whether he's missed too much time with the team to be a factor even if he's reinstated.

What isn't in question is the Vols need some more depth at tackle. They've got some impact players there, but they need some others to provide quality snaps so the top rotation players don't get too fatigued late in games. That's why the Vols have to build depth this preseason—and fast.

 

Secret Weapons 

Preston Williams

After this spring, Williams—Tennessee's 6'4", 209-pound sophomore wideout—isn't quite a secret around the SEC.

Everybody recruited him, first of all. Secondly, he got tons of headlines during spring drills with a breakout performance that had his coaches, teammates and anybody who watched a practice raving.

Jones told RockyTopInsider.com's Daniel Lewis that Williams made "tremendous strides" this spring, which is a big reason why he liked the overall unit's progress. Following a spring game where George showed out, B/R's Barrett Sallee tweeted that he liked the thought of that duo's ability:

With Williams' length and ability to stretch the field, he could be a major X-factor in Tennessee's offense, and if he teams with Malone to provide the Vols a duo of real weapons, they could change the fortunes of the passing game.

He may be the biggest piece of the offensive puzzle for Tennessee.

 

Rashaan Gaulden

This is the second consecutive year Vols fans have been ultra-excited about the Nashville-area defensive back who many thought was underrated coming out of Independence High School.

After being a special teams weapon as a freshman, Gaulden won the spring's breakout award prior to last season and was poised to be the team's starting nickelback when he broke a bone in his foot in the preseason that cost him the entire year.

All he did this past spring was switch positions to safety and beat out Micah Abernathy for the starting job alongside Todd Kelly Jr. In the process, he excited his coaches.

Though UT has a ton of talent on the back end, and star prospect Nigel Warrior will join the fray, too, Gaulden has the potential to be a special piece of the defense in his redshirt sophomore season. Not only can he be an exceptional blitzer, but he may be the team's best tackler in the secondary.

He's ready to make up for lost time, too.

"I'm very eager," Gaulden told Brown this spring. "I've always had that itch on my shoulder to where no matter what kind of adversity I went through, I was going to come back twice as strong as (when) I went down before. Right now I'm trying to prove to them that I haven't lost a step since my injury."

When teams point out the Vols' talent on defense, Gaulden isn't a name that normally comes up. That won't take long to change.

 

Quart'e Sapp

Finally, the biggest wild card on the list is a guy who probably won't even start.

Redshirt freshman Sapp is a lightning bolt of an outside linebacker who got the opportunity to earn a lot of reps this spring when Reeves-Maybin went out with a shoulder injury. All he did was turn everybody's head and then lead the team in tackles in the spring-ending Orange and White Game.

Sapp is a player with huge upside who is perfect for Shoop's speed-based scheme. You can put him in positions to get after the quarterback, and even if he doesn't know quite what he's doing yet, he can make a big impact.

He's just the kind of player Shoop will get the most out of. He's definitely a guy to watch for with UT this fall because of his speed, instincts and tackling ability. He may be a bit undersized, but he won't be underused.

 

All information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cal Faculty Petitions to Suspend Coach Damon Harrington's Contract Renewal

Faculty members employed by the University of California at Berkeley have petitioned the school to suspend the renewal of Damon Harrington's contract as the football team's strength and conditioning coach.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Nanette Asimov, the petition cropped up after an investigation by the paper reportedly revealed the school didn't do a thorough or impartial job evaluating potentially harmful practice conditions.

The San Jose Mercury News' Katy Murphy reported the San Francisco Chronicle discovered that "a 2014 inquiry into allegations of reckless conditioning practices that may have contributed to the death of a Cal football player was flawed and led by investigators with ties to athletics department personnel."

The school's investigation reportedly absolved Harrington of wrongdoing after he put players through a hill-climbing drill that resulted in the death of walk-on defensive lineman Ted Agu in February 2014.

However, the school admitted it was liable for Agu's death in January, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Kimberly Veklerov. In April, Veklerov reported the university paid Agu's family $4.75 million per the terms of a wrongful-death lawsuit settlement.

According to Murphy, Harrington is also alleged to have provoked a locker room attack on Fabiano Hale in 2013 that left the running back unconscious.

"If there is any truth to the allegations in the San Francisco Chronicle, condoning such behavior of its employees is out of keeping with any university that is accountable to its students and concerned to protect their safety and welfare," the petition reads. "We, therefore, call for further independent investigation before renewing Harrington's contract."

Asimov reported that Harrington's contract expired Friday, although it's not yet clear if the school has committed to renewing it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cal Faculty Petitions to Suspend Coach Damon Harrington's Contract Renewal

Faculty members employed by the University of California, Berkeley have petitioned the school to suspend the renewal of Damon Harrington's contract as the football team's strength and conditioning coach...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Ohio State entered last season as the runaway favorite to repeat as national champions and the first-ever unanimous No. 1 in preseason AP poll history. But after losing 16 starters to graduation and the NFL, there are a lot more questions than answers heading into the 2016 campaign.

Head coach Urban Meyer has his team ready to reload, however, as the Buckeyes have signed the Big Ten's top recruiting class in each of the last five seasons. 

With fall camp set to kick off next month, what are Ohio State's strengths, weaknesses and secret weapons?

 

Strengths

A Clear-Cut QB to Build Around

Ohio State's roster was absolutely loaded last season, primarily at quarterback with championship-caliber options such as Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett in the fold.

And oddly enough, that cluster of talent was actually the Buckeyes' biggest downfall in 2015.

When Miller transitioned to wide receiver, Jones and Barrett battled for the starting spot and the coaching staff split reps between the two for most of fall camp. With each bringing a different style of play to the field—Jones had the cannon arm to get the ball down the field, and Barrett had the precision to spread the defense out and the speed to burn it on the ground—the Buckeyes were unable to establish an offensive identity and chemistry.

With Jones and Miller off to the NFL, though, that won't be the case this year. Barrett, the fourth-year junior who's seen just about everything during his time in Columbus, got to enjoy his first spring practice as the unquestioned leader of both the offense and the team. 

That fact alone gives Ohio State's 2016 team an edge over last year's squad, as Meyer will be able to build his offensive attack around Barrett throughout the entire offseason. 

 

An Anchor in Each Defensive Unit

The Buckeyes lost first-round draft picks at every defensive level last year with the early departures of defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Eli Apple. The unit also lost five multi-year starters, so co-defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and Luke Fickell have a huge rebuilding project to finish before the season opener.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the defense has an impact starter returning in each unit.

On the defensive line, Ohio State has weak-side defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who emerged as an excellent counterpunch to Bosa and led the team in sacks last year. At linebacker, All-Big Ten standout Raekwon McMillan is back, who led the team in total tackles last year and has already been voted a team captain. And in the secondary, Gareon Conley is primed to step into the lead cornerback role vacated by Apple.

No defensive coordinator in the country wants to replace eight starters, but having a potential superstar back at each level makes that challenge significantly easier. 

  

Weaknesses

Inexperience

Despite how well Ohio State has recruited in recent years, there's no hiding the devastating impact of losing eight starters on each side of the ball. It wasn't just starting production that was lost, though—the Buckeyes also lost a number of key reserves, as college football expert Phil Steele pointed out. 

In his breakdown of teams with the most game-time experience, the Buckeyes ranked dead last nationally heading into the '16 season.

"At the bottom of the list is Ohio [State]," Steele wrote on his website. "They were devastated by the NFL draft, losing 11 key players. "

That lack of experience could cost the Buckeyes early, as they have one of the toughest nonconference matchups of the year with a road trip to playoff-contender Oklahoma in Week 3. 

With one of the country's youngest rosters, Ohio State will have to overcome one of the best teams in college football on its own field.

 

Injuries

With so much roster attrition, Ohio State needed all of its returning firepower to be ready to go heading into a pivotal spring camp. That didn't happen, though, because a number of players who are expected to be key contributors this fall were rehabbing from injuries.

That was especially true at the wide receiver position, where Noah Brown, Corey Smith, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson were all limited in spring practice. They were joined by defensive players such as Lewis, Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith and Cam Burrows.

The mass exodus of talent to the NFL paired with so many injuries this spring had Meyer searching for answers.

"This is uncharted waters for me too," Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "With 11 guys out, that's the thing that kicks you in the teeth."

If those players aren't ready by the start of fall camp, Ohio State will miss pivotal time it needs to build chemistry ahead of the season opener. 

 

Secret Weapon

Torrance Gibson

Ohio State fans got used to seeing a star quarterback at wide receiver when Miller made his move to the perimeter. Torrance Gibson, the highly-recruited 4-star quarterback who was a part of Ohio State's 2015 class, is looking to continue that tradition this fall.

Gibson made a similar transition as a true freshman last year in an effort to see the field, as opposed to sitting behind Jones, Barrett and third-stringer Stephen Collier at quarterback. But he was buried in the wide receiver unit as well and took a redshirt.

With a year under his belt, though, he looks primed to make an impact on the outside.

That was on display during Ohio State's spring game, when he hauled in a team-high six catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of his better days in an up-and-down spring camp.

"He shows some flashes," Barrett said of Gibson, according to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod. "He's got hot and cold days. Some days he's hot and he's catching everything, and some days he can't catch a cold. Being that it's a new position, I think sometimes he lacks that confidence."

If Gibson comes along this summer and in fall camp, the Buckeyes can factor him into the wide receiver rotation. And as a decorated high school quarterback, they can dial up the lethal wide-receiver pass that helped them beat Alabama in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.

 

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Opening 2016: Biggest Takeaways from Day 1

BEAVERTON, Oregon — Tuesday marked the first day of The Opening as the first wave of players shuffled into the Portland area for the weeklong competition at Nike’s World Headquarters.

In a change to the event’s format, all quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends arrived at the beginning of the week, whereas it was just passers in previous years who arrived early.

A late afternoon, light practice session served as the first time the players hit the field, but there was plenty of news surrounding the beginning of the event.

What were the biggest takeaways from the event on the first day of action? 

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting nuggets from Day 1 of The Opening.

 

5-Star WR Locks in 3 Official Visits

Among the headliners of the event is 5-star receiver Joseph Lewis—who rates as the nation’s No. 2 pass-catcher and the No. 11 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

He’s accompanied in Oregon by a pair of teammates from Hawkins High School in Los Angeles in 4-star athlete and Arizona pledge Greg Johnson and 2018 receiver Jalen Hall.

Lewis remarked on the feeling of being here with two of his close friends.

“It’s a really good experience because most people don’t get this opportunity,” Lewis told Bleacher Report. “We just want to come together and work and just enjoy this experience and get better.” 

The 6’1 ½”, 207-pound California native is also preparing for the final moments of his recruiting process.

On that front, he’s identified three programs who will get one of his coveted official visits in the fall.

“Some of my official visits, I’m going to Nebraska, Arizona and Oklahoma. That’s about it that I have in mind right now. The rest, I will plan out [soon],” Lewis said.

Additionally, backyard powers UCLA and USC are in the mix with the local standout.

In particular, he’s struck up a bond with Trojans offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

“It’s a really cool relationship. I was just talking with Tee Martin earlier. It was a really good talk,” Lewis noted.

Lewis said a final decision could come either at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl or on national signing day.

However, there will be a few factors that play a big part in his decision.

“Somewhere I’m comfortable and somewhere my mom thinks is a good place and where my coaches do too.”

 

(Warning: Video contains NSFW lyrics.)

Lindsey Set to Visit SEC Powers This Month

Another explosive playmaker who will command attention this week is 5-star receiver Tyjon Lindsey.

The 5’8 ½”, 180-pounder is nearing the home stretch in his recruitment considering he’s scheduled to announce his commitment on August 22. 

Among the schools on his short list are Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon and USC.

Lindsey’s last trip was to Nebraska last month. He visited a majority of his finalists in the spring.

However, he’s locked in plans to make a long trek to the southeast to visit two more of his finalists.

“I just finalized my dates to visit Alabama and Auburn. I’m visiting Alabama July 15-16 and Auburn on 17-18. It’s a one-way trip, and I’m hitting up both schools while I’m there,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey notes that a return trip to one of his favorites could also be in the works.

“Those are the main schools. I probably want to see Ohio State again. I’m taking all of my visits now. I’ve been planning it out and checking it with my list,” Lindsey said.

The Golden State standout reported a 3.5 cumulative GPA with plans to major in journalism or sports broadcasting. In addition to academics, his decision will hinge on a few important factors.

“It’s about comfort. It’s also about the difference between want and need. Most schools can just want somebody to fill a spot and just to say we have this person,” Lindsey explained. “The deciding factor will be finding the school who needs me and wants to get me on the field and help me become a better man. It’s not just about football. It’s about the lifetime after football.”

 

Georgia QB Pledge Reacts to DE Robert Beal’s Commitment 

The fireworks have already begun with respect to players announcing their college choices at the event.

Georgia is one of the early big winners after they landed a pledge from 5-star defensive end Robert Beal.

Four-star Georgia quarterback commit Jake Fromm was all smiles after he learned of his newest future teammate who will be joining him in Athens.

“That’s awesome. He’s another guy I’m going to have to deal with in practice,” Fromm said. “He’s going to be coming after me, but that’s awesome. He’s a great talent and a high character guy. We’re building this Georgia class to a level it should be at.”

The news came as a surprise to him.

“To be honest, I was shocked when I saw the video. It’s incredible news,” Fromm said.

Upon arriving at the event, Fromm made sure to greet receiver and Bulldogs target Jeremiah Holloman.

The big-bodied receiver is just one of the guys Fromm admits he will be pitching to cast their lot for new Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart.

“Jeremiah and [4-star] Nico Collins are two great receivers. Definitely, Cam Akers too. He’s a great guy and a great player. I’m just trying to get these guys to get on board with us,” Fromm said.

 

Clemson QB Pledge Excited to Work With Fellow Tigers

It’s hard to wipe the smile off the face of 5-star quarterback and current Clemson commit Hunter Johnson these days.

The nation’s top-rated pro-style passer in the 2017 cycle and the No. 17 player overall in the 2017 class couldn’t hide his enthusiasm after the event’s first workout concluded.

“It’s great. It’s the perfect setting with perfect weather. It’s awesome to be around all these top athletes. It’s a good feeling,” Johnson said.

He’s also giddy at the thought of working with a pair of receivers he will be throwing to in college: 5-star Tee Higgins and 4-star Amari Rodgers

“It’s very exciting. Those two guys are going to make my life a lot easier. I was ecstatic to hear the news about Tee committing. I just can’t wait for us to get there,” Johnson said.

As an added bonus, he will get to work with current Tigers All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson—who along with BYU’s Tanner Mangum and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs are three college counselors already in town for the event.

It’s becoming a habit for Johnson and Watson to bump into each other on the summer camp circuit, and Johnson admits he’s relishing the opportunity to learn from the current face of the Tigers program.

“It’s awesome. This is actually like my fourth time being around him this summer, just seeing him at different camps,” Johnson said. “That is helping us build a good relationship, which is pretty cool.”

Watson has also given his potential future successor some words of wisdom about the right mindset to take in preparing for the jump between high school and college.

“[Watson] just told me about when he came in during his freshman year. He just came in with a mindset that he wanted to play and he did that. I just want to come in with an open mind and be ready to go when I get there.”

 

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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Tennessee Settles Sexual Assault Lawsuit: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Tennessee has reportedly settled a lawsuit brought against it by eight female plaintiffs who accused the school of improperly handling sexual assaults involving student-athletes. 

According to a Tuesday report from the Tennesseean's Nate Rau and Anita Wadhwani, the school will pay the eight women a total of $2.48 million, which includes attorney fees, per the terms of the settlement.    

While the school "agreed to the appointment of a special independent commission to review the response to sexual assaults at all universities within the UT system," it "did not admit to 'guilt, negligence or unlawful acts,'" according to Rau and Wadhwani. 

In February, Rau and Wadhwani reported a lawsuit had been brought against Tennessee after a group of plaintiffs alleged that the university displayed "deliberate indifference" regarding complaints of sexual assaults. 

The filing specifically alleged school chancellor Jimmy Cheek, athletic director Dave Hart and head football coach Butch Jones were indifferent to sexual assaults and rapes and strayed from imposing disciplinary action. 

"Like many institutions we are not perfect, but our goal is to continue to be the best we can be at creating awareness, educating, and preventing discrimination and abuse in any form, and to continue to be equally prepared when it does happen and to deal with it promptly, sensitively, fairly and effectively," Cheek said in a statement Tuesday, per Rau and Wadhwani. 

According to the report, the school's administration and the athletic department will each pay 50 percent of the settlement. 

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Single-Season and Career College Football Records That Could Be Broken in 2016

As long as college football players continue to get bigger, faster and stronger, the records established by their predecessors will keep on getting broken.

Every year, there are a handful of single-season and career records that fall by the wayside at the FBS level, the result of the latest batch of standout college football players topping the efforts of those before them. This past season we saw Stanford's Christian McCaffrey lay waste to Barry Sanders' all-purpose yardage mark, while Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds established new career marks for rushing and total touchdowns. Oh, and Wake Forest's Alex Kinal set a new standard for career punts.

Those were just a few of the records set in 2015, and another batch of benchmarks are likely to be established this fall at both the national and conference levels. We've picked out a few of the ones that are most likely to fall in 2016.

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College Football Teams with Most Commits on the Opening 2016 Roster

The Opening is a premier recruit showcase, but the event also indirectly serves as a feature for college football teams that have received verbal commitments from several top prospects.

In 2016, one program will have a stunning 10 representatives, while six others reached five. It shouldn't be a surprise that the eight teams highlighted are each ranked in the top 10 of the 247Sports composite team rankings.

Plus, this list doesn't include uncommitted prospects or targeted players who are currently pledged elsewhere.

When we look back on The Opening 2016, the following teams will likely include even more members of the showcase roster.

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