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Best and Worst Case 2014 Scenarios for Every ACC Football Team

Everyone is undefeated in July.  Then again, everyone is winless as well.  

Every team in the ACC has the potential to go 14-0 or 0-12 this year, so before the Florida State Seminoles can object, here's a look at the realistic best and worst-case scenarios for each squad.

The conference should deeper than it has been in years, especially with the addition of Louisville.  That means every win will have to be earned if the likes of Wake Forest or Virginia hope to sneak into bowl games or Florida State or Clemson wish to contend for a national title. 

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Pac-12 Media Days 2014: Day 2 Schedule, Live Stream, TV Info and Participants

After an eventful opening round of Pac-12 media days, the action will continue on Day 2 in Los Angeles.

Wednesday's interviews included commissioner Larry Scott as well as coaches and players from Arizona, California, USC, Oregon, Washington State and Utah. Scott started the day off by explaining why everyone should be excited for the upcoming year of football:

The rest of the head coaches each made their case for being title contenders, although there is a long time before that is decided.

Meanwhile, the other half of the conference will get its chance in the spotlight on Thursday as Colorado, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Stanford take part in the media sessions.

Here is a breakdown of the schedule with what fans should be most looking forward to on Day 2.

 

When: Thursday, July 24

Where: Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California

TV: Pac-12 Network

Live Stream:Pac-12 Networks Live

Mobile:Pac-12 Now

 

Top Participants to Watch

Chris Petersen, Head Coach, Washington

Over the last few years, it seemed like Chris Petersen could have taken any major job in the country. However, he remained loyal to Boise State after building the program into a national power.

This is why it was so interesting that the coach decided to leave this offseason to go to Washington. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports explained part of the reason he chose the Huskies compared to some bigger schools:

While the Washington job might not come with the pressure of Texas or Alabama, he will certainly receive more attention in the Pac-12 than he did at Boise State. This will begin at the media day, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the spotlight.

The good news is that few are questioning his ability to coach. Bryan Fischer of NFL.com lists him as the second best in the nation behind only Nick Saban. Even former coach Steve Sarkisian thought this was a great hire for the school:

Petersen might need a few years to truly get the most out of his team, but he appears to be the right man for the job.

 

Kevin Hogan, Quarterback, Stanford

Although Kevin Hogan's name does not always come up when thinking about the best quarterbacks in the country, he has been one of the most successful.

ESPN Stats and Info breaks down how he has been able to beat good teams throughout his career:

He has shown his ability to be a leader, even when he is not asked to produce on the field. In the upset win over Oregon last season, he only threw 13 passes but still came through when needed.

Things will not be as easy this time around. With Tyler Gaffney gone, Stanford will be forced to throw the ball more, and that means Hogan will have to be more productive through the air.

The good news is ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. considers the quarterback to be one of the most talented in the country at the position:

If Hogan can use his natural dual-threat ability, he can become a true star for the Cardinal.

 

Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA

As one of the most talented quarterbacks in the nation, Brett Hundley is on many lists as a potential Heisman favorite, as pointed out by Max Meyer of USA Today:

The UCLA passer had fewer yards and touchdowns in 2013 than the year before, but he greatly improved his efficiency. Hundley doubled his rushing yards on the same number of attempts and ranked fourth in the nation in adjusted QBR.

He had a chance to go to the NFL after last year but decided to wait on the draft and return to school. This was apparently the right decision for Hundley, as he explained to ESPN's Ivan Maisel:

I'm so happy I made the decision to come back. I really am. Just to get another year to grow with this team, and to grow as a quarterback, it's a special thing. And college is a special thing. It's not something you should rush past.

However, he now has to make sure he takes the necessary steps to improve. His squad is already expected to win the Pac-12 South, according to the recent media poll. Hundley can help the team get to this level if he avoids mistakes and continues to play at his ability.

Of course, he can also take a step toward Heisman contention by promoting himself at media day.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Media Days 2014: Day 2 Schedule, Live Stream, TV Info and Participants

After an eventful opening round of Pac -12 media days, the action will continue on Day 2 in Los Angeles...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Best and Worst Case 2014 Scenarios for Every Pac-12 Football Team

The time has come to enter the world of Pac-12 projections, where the optimist is thinking playoff and the pessimist is just hoping for a first possession that doesn't result in a turnover.

We're going big this time and taking a look at the various possibilities for each team's season, but realism has little weight here. What is the absolute best outcome for every Pac-12 school? The worst outcome?

While we want to at least paint a picture of possible scenarios (13-0 is not always best case and 0-12 is not always the worst case, either) this is meant to be a fun look at both the dream seasons and doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world campaigns. 

Take a look now at the best- and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Pac-12.

 

All stats via ESPN.com. Unless otherwise noted all quotes obtained first hand. Serious injuries to key players are obviously a possibility, but entertaining the idea of certain guys getting injured is not something we'll include in our hypothetical scenarios.

 

 

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Best and Worst Case 2014 Scenarios for Every Pac-12 Football Team

The time has come to enter the world of Pac-12 projections, where the optimist is thinking playoff and the pessimist is just hoping for a first possession that doesn't result in a turnover...

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Clemson Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

With fall camp approaching, the long wait of the summer is almost over. Be patient Clemson Tigers fans—it’s almost here!

There are position battles at major positions, and fall practices will play a huge role in determining the starters. Which players involved in those competitions will enter fall camp as starters?

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Texas Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

David Ash has been named Texas' starting quarterback heading into fall, which solidifies at least one part of the depth chart for the time being.

Without the game's most important position dominating the position battles, Charlie Strong can focus on the ones at receiver, along the offensive line and at linebacker.

All three of those groups have talent that needs to be evaluated in camp, and here's how it all should look once it's all been sorted out.

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5 Reasons 5-Star DE Josh Sweat Will Sign with Florida State

Josh Sweat is a 5-star defensive end from Virginia who is the No. 1 recruit in the 247Sports Composite Rankings.

At 6'4.5" and 240 pounds, Sweat had 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior, according to 247Sports. Sweat has exceptional first-step quickness, speed, length and deceptive strength on the edges. Many schools are drooling over him, including Florida State. 

Here's a few reasons why Sweat will end up in Tallahassee.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Ranking 10 Most Exciting SEC Football Players Heading into 2014 Season

They can completely change the momentum of a game the moment the ball touches their hands, or as soon as they arrive at a ball-carrier.

They're dynamic athletes, game-breakers and superstars who coaches have to include in the game plan every single time they enter the film room to devise a plan of attack.

And the Southeastern Conference is full of them.

From quarterbacks to running backs to receivers to defenders, the league has more than its share of freak athletes who invoke excitement—or fear—the second they step on the field.

Since predictions like this need some historical evidence on college football's biggest stage, true freshmen were not considered while making this list, as they've not proved themselves.

Do guys like Leonard Fournette, Speedy Noil and Jalen Hurd have a chance to make this list by season's end? Absolutely. But for now, we'll stick with the talented players who've already showcased what they can do in this league.

Narrowing down a top-10 list of exciting players in a power conference like the SEC is akin to choosing the best-looking swimsuit model. No matter who you pick, somebody out there thinks you're a blind, bumbling idiot.

The criteria for this ranking was how much of an impact these players have on their team's success, their ability to make clutch plays and propensity to make the major out of the minuscule.

It was an arduous task whittling down a list like this, but here's the final verdict. 

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25 College Football Recruits in Dire Need of a Strong High School Senior Season

Football season is around the corner, and many 2015 recruits will be fully devoted to their high school teams. Within the national recruiting class, several prospects have a strong need to conclude their high school career with a strong season.

While reasons differ for many players on this list, all of them need to answer the call this fall. Three 5-star quarterbacks need strong senior seasons, while a few players have something to prove after suffering injuries as juniors.

Plus, a recruit in Canada is also featured.

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Pac-12 Media Days 2014: Top Quotes, Reaction to Day 1

Optimism, if nothing else, defines media days.

Commissioner Larry Scott opened Pac-12 Media Days from Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California, with the positivity expected at the start of every conference’s football season.

However, in the case of the Pac-12, Scott’s highlights were not empty rhetoric.

“Last season highlighted just how far we’ve come,” Scott said. “We had the most nonconference wins in our history with 31. We posted a 6-3 record against Big Ten, ACC and SEC.”

Prior to Scott’s hire in 2009, the conference had a reputation for being USC and the other guys. While the Trojans were competing for and sometimes winning national championships, other members of the league failed to make much of a mark nationally.

Since the 2010 season, Stanford and Oregon have combined to win four BCS bowl games. Last year, the Pac-12 had five 10-win teams and a 6-3 bowl record. 

The conference no longer has to worry about lack of depth, as Scott mentioned.

“As for depth, this is something where we’ve seen dramatic improvement,” he said, referencing the Pac-12’s nine bowl bids in 2013. “Put simply, our conference has never been stronger [nor] deeper than it is today.”

At the heart of Scott’s message was the Pac-12 furthering its growth, and to that end, he touted the conference championship game moving to a neutral site: the San Francisco 49ers’ new home, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. “Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world,” as Scott described it.

“Innovation, entertainment,” he added. “This is part of the DNA of the Pac-12.”

The coming months will dictate the two teams with the privilege of playing in the revamped conference championship. In the interim, all 12 teams unofficially open the season with similar goals.

Here are some of the top takeaways from the first session of Pac-12 Media Days 2014.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.

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Pac-12 Media Days 2014: Top Quotes, Reaction to Day 1

Optimism, if nothing else, defines media days. Commissioner Larry Scott opened Pac-12 Media Days from Paramount Studios in Hollywood , California, with the positivity expected at the start of every conference’s football season...

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College Football Recruiting DB Rankings 2015: Top 10 After The Opening

The Opening paired together America's premier quarterbacks and receivers to create passing attacks college football coaches dream about. However, those revered offensive prospects had to contend with an elite array of defensive backs who aimed to prove themselves on the big stage at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

Several safeties and cornerbacks shined against top-tier competition, validating their invitations to the showcase event and lengthy scholarship lists. Based on performances in Beaverton and annual summer evaluations, recruit rankings recently changed.

We analyzed the new top-10 list of defensive backs (according to 247Sports' composite rankings), and our analysis included what we saw at The Opening and on game film. Here's a detailed look at players who will spend the coming years driving college quarterbacks crazy.

 

This article is a part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on 247Sports Composite, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.

 

 

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Wisconsin Football: Previewing 4 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

Coming into fall camp, the Wisconsin football team has the unfortunate circumstance of turning over quite a few players, with numerous departures at key spots on both sides of the ball.  Adding to the team's woes is that some of their biggest position battles occur in places that feature a returning starter.

Special teams, offense, defense—you name it, the Badgers have holes to fill.  Whereas in some places, such as tight end, the Badgers have a natural replacement for Jacob Pedersen in Sam Arneson, other spots are a bit more nebulous.

To figure out the most important position battles, I looked at how important the position is to the success of the team and how close the competition is between the two (or more) players.

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USF Defensive Tackle Todd Chandler Impresses Teammates by Squatting 700 Pounds

Don't mess with USF defensive tackle Todd Chandler because he is one strong man.

During a workout session on Wednesday morning, the senior got his teammates fired up by squatting 700 pounds. That's right—the 6'0", 320-pound defensive lineman was able to squat more than twice his weight.

What's more impressive: Chandler squatting 700 pounds once or Iowa's Brandon Scherff doing three 343-pound cleans?

[USF Football, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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How Jonathan Taylor's Dismissal Impacts Georgia's Defensive Line in 2014

There’s no such thing as a “good” dismissal, and for a program with three such departures this offseason, Jonathan Taylor’s release certainly leaves the Georgia Bulldogs with a black eye as the preseason approaches.

Seth Emerson of The Telegraph reports the sophomore defensive tackle was dismissed on Wednesday "after his release from jail on a felony charge of assault and domestic battery."

Fortunately, he leaves a void that can be readily filled.

Taylor, who redshirted in 2012 before appearing in 10 games last season, is replaceable from both a personnel and schematic standpoint.

As far as depth is concerned, Taylor was likely to be stuck behind two players with more experience this season. Chris Mayes registered eight starts in 2013 and Mike Thornton is entering his fifth season with the Bulldogs program.

Additionally, John Atkins (redshirt freshman) is poised to contribute both as an end and on the interior of the defensive line.

Add incoming freshman Lamont Gaillard—the nation’s 10th-best defensive tackle prospect, per the 247Sports Composite—to the mix, and Taylor was already at risk of being lost in the shuffle.

Schematically, the 336-pound Taylor was also already somewhat disadvantaged in new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.

This spring, Pruitt told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wanted a faster, lighter defensive unit. “A lot of our guys have to get their weight under control. We’re too big, in my opinion. We’ve got to get a little smaller,” he said.

Taylor was the heaviest of all players in contention at Georgia’s tackle position.

Pruitt’s preference for multiple defensive looks also makes the absence of Taylor a surmountable obstacle.

With Georgia’s greatest—and arguably only—returning strengths coming from a strong linebacker unit and plethora of pass-rushers, game plans and defensive looks will be altered to get the best players possible on the field whenever possible.

That may mean moving a player like Ray Drew, who’s at risk of being lost in a talented depth chart, to an inside spot on the line in obvious passing situations.

Any such move would have limited potential reps for Taylor.

According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Taylor allegedly hit and choked his girlfriend while at a university dorm in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

While that transgression—and the felony charge tied thereto—alone may have yielded a dismissal, the student-athlete was already on thin ice for his involvement (along with three other players) in a theft by deception scheme in March.

With sufficient surrounding talent and the afforded luxury of scheming around his absence, Taylor's dismissal was not a decision that required too much deliberation from head coach Mark Richt and the coaching staff.

In fact, Taylor’s name has already been removed from the Bulldogs’ official roster.

Ironically, this dark moment may eventually bring a recruiting highlight.

Georgia is considered a leader for the services of Trent Thompson, a defensive tackle and the nation’s second-best prospect in the class of 2015, according to the 247Sports Composite.

One less player on the depth chart could make the promise of early playing time all the more tangible as Thompson weighs his collegiate decisions. That could seal the deal for the home-state Bulldogs.

 

Unless otherwise noted all quotes obtained firsthand.

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USC Trojans Pull a Fast One on Fans by Showing Off 'New' Helmet

The USC Trojans have one of the most iconic uniforms in all of college football, so if they made any drastic changes to it, the fans would probably freak out. The Trojans know that, and they used that fact to their advantage.

The Trojans' official Twitter account tweeted out a picture of the team's "new" helmet. Fans were probably relieved to see "#KIDDING" on the photo.

As it turns out, every Pac-12 team had a white helmet for the conference's media day.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

David Ash Named Starting QB for Fall Camp, but Is He Texas' Best Option in 2014?

Texas head coach Charlie Strong answered a lot of questions at Big 12 media days, but one of the most significant answers was his decision to name redshirt junior quarterback David Ash as the starting quarterback heading into fall camp.

"When David Ash is healthy, he is as good as any quarterback that we have on our roster right now," Strong said. "When you get into camp, you like knowing that you have someone to put in with the first unit. Before he was injured, he was competing for that position and won the position, so Ash will be the starter."

Strong said backups Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard will have the option to compete for the No. 2 spot, but he feels strongly in naming Ash as the go-to guy to lead the Longhorns at the beginning of 2014.

But a question that will follow Ash throughout the fall is if he can stay healthy to play for an entire season. 

After throwing for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012, Ash missed the majority of the 2013 season with recurring concussion symptoms. He was cleared to participate in spring practice but suffered a Jones fracture in his left ankle and missed the second portion of spring. 

If his health issues are in the past, one could wonder if he is the best option for the Longhorns in 2014. 

Some will disagree, but Ash holds one significant tool that trumps his competition: experience.

"He has game experience, and that's what you look for," Strong said. "You're in a tough league, so you want a guy to take snaps who has been in the battle before."

At this point, Ash's experience gives him a big edge over Swoopes and Heard, especially considering the lack of experience between the backup duo.

Swoopes' experience includes some garbage-time play in 2013 and a mediocre showing in the Longhorns' spring game. And his spring game efforts were against the second- and third-team defenses.

Heard is coming into the college game as a two-time state champion for Guyer High School in Denton, Texas. But anyone with knowledge of college football understands that success in high school does not always equate to success in college.

And the fact that Heard did not arrive in Austin until the summer could likely lengthen the amount of time he spends on the sideline in 2014.

But is that necessarily a bad thing? 

One could argue that quarterbacks and offensive linemen benefit significantly from having a redshirt season. And the last two Heisman trophy winners are the picture-perfect argument to defend that statement.

No true freshman has ever started the season and led his team to a national championship. Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway is the only true freshman to ever led his team to winning a national title, but he did not start the first four games of the 1985 season. 

Some may disagree or be thinking, "There's a first time for everything," but it probably would not be a wise decision to bet your house on Heard leading the Longhorns to a national title. 

From everything the public has seen from a healthy Ash, Swoopes and Heard, Ash is the best choice to lead Texas in 2014.

That is, if he can stay healthy.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's Featured Columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer Aware of Importance of Offseason Discipline

For football-crazed Urban Meyer, each week of the offseason is a long one. But as the Ohio State head coach learned a year ago, no week feels longer in the college football calendar year than the last before the start of fall camp.

If you want to look at where the Buckeyes' 2013 season went wrong, this time a year ago would be a start.

Before Ohio State had its 24-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes endured their worst weekend of the offseason, with three players—including two stars—finding themselves in legal trouble on the eve of fall camp.

It was the week of Big Ten media days, and Meyer, Braxton Miller, Jack Mewhort and Bradley Roby were preparing to head to Chicago to meet with the press.

On the afternoon of July 22, an OSU press release cast an ominous cloud over the Buckeyes contingent when the team announced it had handed out discipline to four Ohio State players—including Roby.

Incoming freshman offensive lineman Tim Gardner was dismissed from his scholarship following an arrest for obstruction of official business.

Roby, a preseason Thorpe Award watch list member, had been involved in an altercation at a bar in Bloomington, Indiana, and ultimately served a one-game suspension after having his misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct dropped.

However, bigger questions loomed when it came to running back Carlos Hyde, who found himself being investigated by Columbus police after allegedly striking a woman at a local nightclub.

Despite an initial report that he had been dismissed from the Ohio State roster, Hyde was never charged for the incident after video evidence proved to be inconclusive.

According to Allison Manning and Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, Meyer still opted to suspend the senior running back for three games for what he deemed "conduct not representative of this football program or university."

While Hyde would go on to be named the Big Ten's Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year after a stellar season, Roby never regained his old form.

The fourth-year cornerback endured an up-and-down final season in Columbus, which concluded with him sitting out the Orange Bowl due to a knee injury. According to Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post, some fans questioned the legitimacy of that excuse.

Whether Roby's off-field issues were ultimately to blame for his inconsistent 2013 season is somewhat beside the point.

One bad weekend stalled the momentum of a program with arguably the most in college football at the time and left the Buckeyes walking on eggshells heading into their 2013 campaign.

Despite Roby's struggles headlining a shaky pass defense that ranked 110th (out of 123 teams) nationally in passing yardage allowed, Ohio State managed to maintain its balance all the way up until the conference championship game.

Alas, the pressure on the Buckeyes proved to be too much to handle and that ominous cloud never seemed to leave, raising questions of what could have been had two of their supposed leaders just stayed out of the headlines for one last weekend in the offseason.

“Oh man," Meyer said when asked about the offseason earlier this month. "We all know that this time of year is a nightmare for teams."

A few days later, Meyer's prophecy proved to be correct when redshirt freshman Tracy Sprinkle was arrested and charged with possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and rioting/failure to disperse after an incident in Lorain, Ohio.

Doug Lesmerises of Northeast Ohio Media Group reported Sprinkle was subsequently dismissed from the Buckeyes roster pending the outcome of his legal matter.

Luckily for the Buckeyes, that's the only legal issue that they've had to deal with this offseason, and its impact on the upcoming year should be minimal.

As Meyer explained at last year's aforementioned media day in Chicago, off-field issues are something that every program has to deal with—although that doesn't make it any easier to do so.

"I think you always can do more. I mean, that's something you wake up every day with," Meyer said. "In the last 12 months we've had three legal issues, and it all happened in three days...to have a couple of knuckleheads make some decisions that reflect the entire program, that's not—I guess it's part of the deal."

As Meyer learned the hard way a year ago, one bad weekend can be all it takes to ruin an otherwise well-behaved offseason.

This is why he'll be holding his breath this weekend, hoping to have little else but football to talk about during next week's annual trip to the Windy City.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless indicated otherwise.

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Notre Dame Football: Can KeiVarae Russell Be the Shutdown CB the Irish Need?

Notre Dame's defense is about to change.

After four years of stressing base concepts, solid fundamentals and point prevention under Bob Diaco, the Irish will look decidedly different under Brian VanGorder. Gone is the Cover 2 shell and the base 3-4 alignment. Here is a blitzing, attacking front seven and a back-end built around cover cornerbacks and a free safety playing center field. 

All of which puts the focus onto junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell.

Notre Dame's most experienced defender, Russell has started all 26 games of his career. And he's also the most important defender on the roster as the Irish make a stark change in their defensive philosophy. 

"The new system that we’re under right now is just something that we want to challenge all routes," defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks told The Observer's Mike Monaco in April. "We want to be on attack mode. The whole philosophy is that we don’t want the offense to dictate how we play defense.

"So everything that we do, it doesn’t mean that we’re all pressed 80 snaps a game, but we’re aggressive, we’re competing, we’re physical, and that whole mindset of challenge every route," Cooks added.

That mindset didn't exist the last four seasons under Diaco. While UConn's new head coach inherited a historically mediocre Irish defense and turned it into one of the ten best scoring defenses in the country over his four-year stretch, Notre Dame routinely allowed team's to throw the ball underneath their zone coverage, willing to give up five yards to avoid the big play.

That attitude is gone. And the transformation that began this spring has changed the mindset of Notre Dame's young defense.

But to successfully execute VanGorder's new vision, Notre Dame's secondary needs to be up to the task. For Russell, that means being the elite cornerback many are projecting him to be. 

Russell was named to both the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy's watch lists, putting him in the defensive player of the year conversation. He's also been listed as one of college football's Top 100 players, along with one other teammate: Jaylon Smith. 

Even though he's only played two seasons of cornerback in his football career, Russell might have the highest ceiling of any player draft eligible on the roster. 

Now he's got to play like that.

He showed the talent in a surprising freshman season that had Russell in the starting lineup for all 13 games and ended with him on the FWAA's Freshman All-American team. But Russell's sophomore campaign started slowly and featured a high-profile blowup against one the Irish's biggest rivals. 

Russell became a featured cast member in Jeremy Gallon's personal highlight film, on the wrong side of one too many big plays by Michigan's diminutive receiver. That's the type of game that NFL talent evaluators struggle to ignore. 

But Russell finished the season with a bang, shutting down Rutgers' standout Brandon Coleman in the Pinstripe Bowl, breaking up three passes against the 6'6" receiver while collecting an interception as well.

Entering his junior season, Russell can't afford to have that kind of inconsistencies. He'll spend Saturdays likely locked on opponents No. 1 receiver, perhaps the most challenging gauntlet of any cornerback in the country. 

Rice returns its two leading receivers, Jordan Taylor and Dennis Parks. Michigan's Devin Funchess will play wide receiver, presenting a unique challenge as a 6'5", 230-pounder.

Stanford's Ty Montgomery is among the nation's best receivers. So is Arizona State's Jaelen Strong, North Carolina's Ryan Switzer, Louisville's DeVante Parker and USC's Nelson Agholor. Florida State's Rashad Greene is no slouch, either.   

(After the season, Russell may earn himself a vote for the Biletnikoff Award.) 

That type of schedule and weekly challenge is why athletes come to Notre Dame. It's also a perfect test for a cornerback that's still just discovering what he's capable of doing, entering just his third season on the defensive side of the ball. 

It's been a long time since Notre Dame had a true shutdown cornerback. In the last 20 years, Notre Dame has had only Bobby Taylor and Shane Walton earn consensus All-American awards at the position. 

But that's the ceiling for Russell. After not playing to that level every game in 2013, Russell needs to be among the best in the country at a position that demands excellence in VanGorder's scheme.

Lofty aspirations? His position coach thinks anything's possible. 

"KeiVarae Russell, you can ask him to do anything in the world, because he's physical, he's confident, and he's very talented," Cooks said this spring. "There's not a wide receiver in the country, in my opinion and I've been doing this for 13 years, that he shouldn't be able to compete with... The guys that I know that I've coached that are playing in the NFL, he's by far and beyond the best from a talent level. He's got all the tools."

 

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