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Winners and Losers of 2014 Big 12 Media Days

DALLAS, Texas — The Big 12's media days are in the books. Besides preseason practice, the only thing left is to strap on the pads and play football. 

It's all happening faster than you think. 

With media days over, it's time to look back at who won the press conferences and what was left to be desired. 

Who were some of the winners and losers of this year's Big 12 media days? 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited otherwise. 

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Ahmmon Richards Commits to Miami: What 4-Star WR Brings to Canes

Miami secured a verbal commitment from 4-star receiver Ahmmon Richards Tuesday afternoon, locking up its seventh player and incredible fourth WR for the 2016 class.

Richards is the No. 268 overall player and No. 48 receiver in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He announced his commitment with a Tweet of himself flashing "The U":

Richards is 6'2" and a multi-sport star who also runs track at Wellington Community High School in West Palm Beach. Despite this, though, he does not project as one of the speedier receivers in the class.

According to his junior evaluation from ESPN Scouts Inc., his best attributes include football I.Q. and a willingness to make plays in traffic, whereas speed is an area of concern:

STRENGTHS: Richards is a tough receiver who uses his understanding of defensive schemes to get open. Very willing to go across the middle to make plays and is willing to make catches in traffic. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Has good route running ability but just needs to become more consistent. Can add weight to his long frame. Lacks great speed and a second gear. ... BOTTOM LINE: Richards is an athlete who makes plays all over the field. If he can learn to become a more consistent route runner then he should see a jump in his production. Improved speed will enhance stock.

However, this might make Richards a nice complement with his classmates at the position. Sam Bruce, the nephew of former St. Louis Rams superstar Isaac Bruce, is the No. 5 receiver in the class and projects as a Tavon Austin-type slot weapon.

He could use teammates such as Richards and No. 13 receiver Dionte Mullins to work as possession targets outside the numbers. No. 51 receiver Dredrick Snelson projects as more of an outside-the-numbers vertical threat.

All four receivers committed since the start of July.

On the field, Richards' commitment means an excess of depth at the receiver position—even more than already existed. If the other three receivers (especially Mullins) pan out, he can also be moved to safety, which would stagger the positions in the class. According to Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com, Miami recruited him as an "athlete":

Off the field, Richards' commitment speaks to a larger resurgence in Miami's recruiting. The Hurricanes have dominated the early portion of the 2016 cycle (high school juniors), enough so that this news didn't launch them to the No. 1 spot on the 247Sports team rankings—it kept them there and extended their lead over Baylor.

With Florida State on the brink of becoming an Alabama-sized superpower but Florida a little bit down, now is an important time for Al Golden and his staff to recruit the area. His team could go in any number of directions these next couple of cycles.

Fortunately, they have fostered a strong pro-Miami sentiment among high school juniors and seniors. Even when they play for rival teams, top high school prospects talk to one another about which colleges are "hip" and "cool" and "in" and worth playing for. Miami hasn't been Miami the past few seasons, which might have put these younger kids at risk at forgetting its former greatness.

But it hasn't.

"We want to change the program," Richards said of he and his future classmates, per Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post. "We want to be remembered like the other great players that played there. We want to put Miami back on the national radar."

This is one more step in the right direction.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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TCU Parts with Devonte Fields During Domestic Disturbance Investigation

TCU defensive lineman Devonte Fields will be separated from the school following allegations by an ex-girlfriend, including assault and threatening the use of a gun.    

Scott Gleeson of USA Today reports the incident in question happened early Sunday when Fields allegedly broke a window, punched former girlfriend Haley Brown in the head and pointed a gun in her direction, according to the police report filed with the Fort Worth Police.

The report notes Sgt. Raymond Bush stated that Brown ultimately decided against pressing charges and Fields had left before police arrived:

Sgt. Raymond Bush told USA TODAY Sports that Fields was not arrested but was a suspect of a domestic disturbance. Brown decided not to press charges and noted that she and Fields dated for two years before breaking up on June 1.

Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News provided a statement from the university about the situation:

At this point, it's unclear the exact punishment associated with being separated from the school during the ongoing investigation.

It has been an eventful stretch for Fields after being named the Associated Press' Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after an outstanding freshman campaign in 2012. He tallied 53 tackles (18.5 for loss) and 10 sacks to headline the Horned Frogs' defense.

Since that point, he was suspended for two games of last season for a violation of team and university policy, suffered a foot injury in his first game back that cost him the rest of the year and was involved in an off-campus incident where he was reportedly robbed and shot at.

Now he's dealing with the alleged domestic disturbance. Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports TCU head coach Gary Patterson had no further information to give:

The news comes shortly after he was named the conference's preseason defensive MVP based on his expected return to the field. It's hard to argue with the selection based on the potential he showed in his first season at the college level.

His future is a now mystery. It's unknown if further information will be provided or when TCU will clarify his status with the team.

 

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Cat Conti Named First Female Big 12 Official: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

On Saturday, Sept. 6, history will be made as Catherine "Cat" Conti will become the first female to officiate a Big 12 football game.   

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke highly of Conti during the official announcement. George Schroeder of USA Today provides Bowlsby's comments on the matter:

She is not there because she is a female. She is there because she's paid her dues and because she is a really outstanding football official. … This is a good opportunity for her and a good opportunity for us, and I don't think you'll really notice much about how the officiating is done on the game. But it's significant that she's doing it.

The matchup Conti is scheduled to officiate is a home game for Kansas against Southeast Missouri.

Conti has officiated football games for years, but has done so at the high school and smaller conference level. While she is scheduled to officiate the one contest for the Big 12, she will be full-time for the Mountain West this year, per Schroeder.

She has slowly moved her way up the ladder in the lower conferences to now officiating in the Big 12, but Conti still has other dreams of making it to the NFL. She spoke about those aspirations, via Schroeder's report:

"That's the ultimate dream," Conti said. "But if this Big 12 game is the highest I ever get, it's certainly been a great career. … I've never walked on a football field and felt I was over my head."

Schroeder also provided Kansas coach Charlie Weis' thoughts on Conti, via Twitter:

Weis later expanded on those thoughts (via Darren Hartwell of NESN.com):

“I believe in the old-fashioned way, so I’ll try not to use as many bad words,” Weis said. “But it means nothing to me. It’s great that a woman is put in a position where she can be put on equal footing with the men.”

Referee Magazine on Twitter shared its congratulations to Conti:

Regardless of what she does following the Big 12 game, Conti will make history by simply stepping on the field. With the signature black and white stripes, Conti will no doubt look to simply blend in with her fellow officials and do her job as usual despite the added attention that this historic situation will generate.

This is a huge move that follows another significant moment in sports and officiating after Sarah Thomas officiated the first Division I game back in 2007. As the Associated Press reported last month, Thomas might become the first NFL official this fall.

Whether or not Conti will join her is another story. But for now, she'll blaze her own trail on Sept. 6 in a Big 12 game.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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UCLA Football: Why Special Teams Are Key to a Bruins Pac-12 Title

UCLA was amid a torrid rally midway through the fourth quarter of its Pac-12 South showdown with Arizona State last November. Down 35-13 at halftime of the de facto divisional championship, the Bruins outscored the Sun Devils 20-3 in the second half and were driving for more.

But with under five minutes remaining in the final period, a drive stalled out at the Arizona State 21-yard line. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn came on to attempt a 38-yarder that would've drawn UCLA within two, but the kick was no good.

There's no downplaying the importance of special teams at UCLA. Another one of the program's more heartbreaking losses in the Jim Mora era also included a notable special teams misfire—a 51-yard attempt in the 2012 Pac-12 Championship Game that ended the Bruins' Rose Bowl dreams.

However, special teams have also played a key role in the program's resurgence since Mora's arrival before the 2012 campaign.

In 2012, UCLA's eight blocked kicks tied Rutgers for best in the nation. Last year, the Bruins blocked another four to finish tied for No. 10.

But while the Bruins' number of blocks declined, the team vastly improved in its return coverage.

UCLA has flourished on special teams by utilizing some of the roster's greatest talents. Take Myles Jack; before he was shining at running back, the Freshman All-America linebacker was already a two-way standout, blocking one of those four kicks.

Kenny Orjioke, one of the linebackers vying to replace All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Anthony Barr, made an impact on special teams a year ago.

This season, another cornerstone of the defense will play a key role on special teams. Cornerback Ishmael Adams will team with Fabian Moreau to give the Bruins one of the most formidable secondaries in the Pac-12, but Adams will also double as UCLA's returner.

Adams took over return duties late last season out of necessity, with Devin Fuller and Steven Manfro both shelved against Arizona State.

"Ish raised his hand,” Mora said of Adams' move to returner, per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. “We knew he played some running back in high school.”

Adams capitalized on the opportunity with 58- and 69-yard kickoff returns as well as a 49-yard punt return.

Indeed, the Bruins special teams will feature some familiar faces in 2014. But there's one key, new face who will be setting the tone.

Assistant coach Jeff Ulbrich has been integral to the performance of the special teams the last two seasons. FootballScoop.com named him Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2013, but Ulbrich transitioned to his new role as defensive coordinator in the spring.

That leaves Mike Tuiasosopo overseeing the unit, and the UCLA assistant will face an adjustment period. Mora told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that Tuiasosopo is "feeling his way" through the new responsibility and, to that end, leaning some on new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu.

Polamalu, Mora's headline-grabbing offseason hire, had a hand laying the foundation for UCLA rival USC's dominance in the 2000s. His duties with the Trojans in the early part of last decade included special teams coordination.

In 2003, Polamalu's final season as the Trojans' special teams coordinator, Reggie Bush ran back a return for a touchdown for the first time in his collegiate career. That was 11 years ago, which may seem like ancient history, but it's only four years longer ago than UCLA had its last kick taken to the house.

Adams told the Los Angeles Daily Newsin December that he wants to give the Bruins' otherwise standout special teams that one highlight reel moment it's lacked since 2007.

"All the players are excited to see one," he said. "I’m definitely looking for it, obviously. I want to return one for a touchdown more than anybody else."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.

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UCLA Football: Why Special Teams Are Key to a Bruins Pac-12 Title

UCLA was amid a torrid rally midway through the fourth quarter of its Pac -12 South showdown with Arizona State last November...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Texas A&M Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

The Texas A&M football team will have more depth in 2014 than it has had during its first two seasons in the SEC. The 2014 campaign will mark the first time the Aggies will be two-deep at almost every position. 

In order to be an elite team in the SEC you need to be three-deep at every position. The physical nature of the league means that no one will go the entire season without losing starters to injury. 

This issue is especially apparent on the offensive and defensive lines. You need to be strong up front in order to win games in the SEC. That means that you need to be able to rotate defensive linemen throughout the game and not experience any drop-off on the offensive side when there are injuries. 

The Aggies are not three-deep yet, but they are getting closer. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done an excellent job of bringing in talent to Aggieland. The fans will begin to see the results on the field in 2014. 

This is a look at what the Aggies depth chart will look like when they head into fall camp. 

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Is This the Most Skill Position Talent Gus Malzahn Has Ever Had?

The annual ESPN "car wash" that features 14 head coaches over a two-day span took place this week, and the hot takes were everywhere.

Among some of the nuggets uncovered in Bristol was Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn's impression of his wide receivers.

The second-year head coach of the Tigers told Joe Tessitore that this group of Auburn wide receivers—which includes last year's star, Sammie Coates—is the best group of wide receivers he's had at Auburn, which also includes the 2009-11 seasons, when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator.

"At least since I've been at Auburn," Malzahn told Tessitore, "this is the best receiving group that we've had (1:25 mark)."

High praise for sure. It's also accurate.

Coates is a known commodity who is strong, fast and can take the top off a defense.

In addition to Coates, Auburn returns a deep threat in Ricardo Louis, veteran slot receiver Quan Bray, Jaylon Denson—who was a starter last year before tearing his ACL vs. LSU—two underclassmen with potential and junior college transfer D'haquille "Duke" Williams, who could be the best of the entire group.

Essentially, it's the same group as last year with the addition of Williams, a 6'2", 216-pound monster who can run and present matchup problems alongside Coates and the rest of the tall and athletic receiving corps.

But how do they compare to Malzahn's Auburn receivers from his days as the offensive coordinator?

The 2010 group is close to a mirror image of this group. Darvin Adams led a veteran corps during Auburn's national championship year, catching 52 passes for 963 yards and seven touchdowns. Behind him, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake each caught more than 30 passes, with Kodi Burns and Philip Lutzenkirchen each providing solid options for then-quarterback Cam Newton.

They were solid and effective as a group, but the 2013 Tigers have much more upside and versatility.

Coates and Williams can both be deep threats or possession receivers, and the veteran and deep group of receivers outside coupled with the potential of 6'5", 264-pound tight end C.J. Uzomah will allow Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to mix and match their receivers to create matchup nightmares downfield.

Williams, who was a 5-star prospect according to 247Sports and a 4-star in the 247Sports composite, impressed receiver-turned-defensive back Trovon Reed this spring, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com:

Trovon Reed on D'haquille Williams: "He deserves every star he got" (in recruiting process)

— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAEricksonAU) April 15, 2014

What about at running back?

Tre Mason's absence doesn't help, but Malzahn has options at running back and a proven track record of success on the ground. Since he started coaching college football in 2006, he has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers in those eight seasons. 

This year's backfield still features speedster Corey Grant and senior Cameron Artis-Payne, as well as 5-star freshman "Roc" Thomas, bruiser Kamryn Pettway and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber—who hurt his ankle in the spring game. 

"Peyton Barber, he's back working out 100 percent," Malzahn said at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama. "He's got a lot of talent, like we've talked about before. Roc Thomas, Kamryn Pettway are two of the young guys coming in. We'll give them a chance, see what they can do."

Are any of those guys Mason? No. But Artis-Payne was "1B" to Mason being "1A" last year, and the Tigers have more depth than they did last season. 

Does it compare to the 2010 group that featured Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin? Maybe not in terms of top-end talent. After all, Dyer was fantastic when he got rolling late in the 2010 season. But this year's group is certainly comparable from the depth perspective.

This is the most talent Auburn has had at the skill position under Malzahn either as the head coach or the offensive coordinator, and also marks the first time in Malzahn's college coaching career that he's had a quarterback—Nick Marshall—return for a second year in the system.

Look out.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Big 12 Brass, Coaches Come out Firing at Media Days, Why It's a Good Thing

Big 12 media days lacked the size of its SEC counterpart—no surprise there, right?—but it certainly wasn't without major storylines. 

When it comes to coaches in front of a microphone, the more vocal, the better, especially when it comes to big-picture issues like player stipends and postseason selections. 

Which items stood out at Big 12 media days?

 

The Art Briles-Jimbo Fisher Kerfuffle

Call this manufactured drama with quotes likely taken out of context, but it's July, which means media is looking for something fun. It also involves a timely subject. 

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was recently asked about expanding the College Football Playoff to eight teams, to which he replied that every conference should have its own championship game. Via Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com

Question: Are you in favor of expanding the playoff to 8 teams?

Fisher: I'm not. Do I think inevitably it will? Yeah I do. But really, are you not in eight now? Because you got a conference championship, you're in more than that right now. You got a playoff game there.

And by the way, I think every conference should have to have one. We got a championship where not everyone plays the same number of games and does the same things. I think it's ridiculous.

Harmless enough, at least until Baylor head coach Art Briles was asked about it at Big 12 media days. 

The Big 12, of course, is the only power conference without its own title game, and the league embraces it with the motto "One True Champion." Will the Big 12's round-robin schedule help or hurt it in the eyes of the playoff selection committee? It's impossible to tell. 

"I'm not concerned about lack of a championship game," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during Big 12 media days. "I like our path to the championship. Some years it's a good thing, some years it's a bad thing." 

The interesting subplot about the Briles-Fisher exchange is that the Big 12 recently joined the ACC in supporting legislation to deregulate conference championship games, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News

"We would like the prerogative about whether we want to make that decision," Bowlsby said. 

 

Bob Bowlsby Takes Strong Stance

The start of Big 12 media days sounded like a funeral. The subject in the casket was college football. 

That's the tone Bowlsby set during his opening remarks on Day 1 of Big 12 media days. 

"If you like the way college athletics works now, you're going to be disappointed when the changes come soon," Bowlsby said. 

From the Ed O'Bannon trial over paying athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness to the recent unionization push by Northwestern athletes, it's no secret that college football is on the verge of major change. 

No matter which side of the fence you sit on regarding that change, the important thing to know is that it's coming.

According to Bowlsby, that may mean many athletic programs cutting sports while trying to stay compliant with Title IX. As Kristi Dosh of the Sports Business Daily reports, the pressure to fully fund scholarships creates a complex situation. 

Bowlsby supports the collegiate model, which is no surprise, but he also hasn't been shy about recognizing the problems within it. "There's more right than there is wrong" with the model, Bowlsby said.

Still, "cheating pays" according to the commissioner, and the enforcement arm of the NCAA hasn't exactly been living up to strict standards lately. 

While Bowlsby doesn't think cheating is rampant, it won't end if college football players are compensated more in some form in the not-too-distant future. In what capacity—pay for play, stipends or the like—they'll be compensated remains to be seen. 

Bowlsby's tone was bleak, but give him credit, he knows what's coming. The important thing college athletics administrators can do is start finding solutions instead of fighting the problem. 

 

Bob Stoops, Kliff Kingsbury Talk Cost of Attendance, Scholarships

Speaking of compensation, player stipends were on the table as a discussion point. You probably won't find a coach at Big 12 media days vocally opposed to paying their players the full cost of attendance. If nothing else, coaches have to keep up appearances that they're pro-player. 

And as a power five conference, the pool to fund such a payout is there: Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reported that eight Big 12 members will earn $23 million in revenue. (TCU and West Virginia are still earning a partial payout.) 

"I've always been in favor of [full] cost of attendance," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm in favor of supporting athletes in different ways, transportation home, transportation back to school."

Bowlsby added in his opening remarks that "if left to our own devices, [power conferences] could have passed stipends" already. 

As far multi-year scholarships go—another hot-button item for athlete well-being—Bowlsby said the league as a whole is not ready to get behind legislation yet. However, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he gives out multi-year scholarships at his discretion.

"My college experience was great, so if there's anything we can do to help players, I'm all for it," Kingsbury said.

If college football players will still be defined as student-athletes, and if they won't be paid for the use of their image, athletic departments have to come up with a way to better support them. This applies for stipends, safety practices during the week in practice and better medical care. 

The sport simply demands too much of its athletes for the status quo to remain. Without a doubt, coaches and administrators are catching on to it and are more than vocal about it.

That's where change starts. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

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Jimbo Fisher Using Saban's Philosophy to Motivate Florida State's Title Defense

Jimbo Fisher wants to make a very important distinction. The Florida State football team is not the "defending champion." FSU is looking to repeat.

In Fisher's eyes, there is nothing to defend. National championships are independent of each other.

"You're not competing against the past," Fisher told 247Sports' Tim Linafelt (subscription required) at ACC Kickoff. "You're playing against the opponent that's on the field at that time. Stay in the moment, practice in the moment, and live in the moment."

Fisher doesn't want players to presume that wins will come because of what happened last fall or because FSU has a talent advantage. He wants players to use the experience from the 2013 season as an advantage. That FSU team dominated 12 of 14 opponents, winning games by 30 or more points. 

"Keep an attitude of domination," Fisher said, via 247Sports. "Complacency is set if you're basing (what you do) off the past. Don't base anything off the past."

If any of that sounds familiar, it probably does. Fisher is part of the Nick Saban tree. He was LSU's offensive coordinator from 2000-06, winning a national title with the Tigers in 2003.

After winning the 2011 national title, Saban said this to his Alabama team before the 2012 season, according to Eric Prisbell of USA Today: "This team is not the national championship team. Some of you guys played on that team. ... Nobody can take away what you did, but are you going to focus on what you did or about what you are going to do?"

What did Alabama do? The Crimson Tide went 13-1, suffering only a Nov. 10 loss to Texas A&M, and then bounced back to rout Auburn, edge Georgia in the SEC championship game and then demolish Notre Dame in the BCS championship game.

What will FSU do? Fisher thinks he has his players focused on the future.

The past efforts have been difficult. The Seminoles have won three titles (1993, 1999 and 2013) but came up short in repeat efforts.

In 1994, FSU lost at Miami and had to rally from 28 points down in the fourth quarter to tie Florida, 31-31. Although they did beat the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, the Seminoles didn't get a chance to play for a title.

In 2000, the Seminoles again lost at Miami but played for a title against Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl. FSU struggled to put points on the board without receiver Marvin Minnis (academics), and with Mark Richt working two jobs—FSU offensive coordinator and Georgia coach. The Seminoles fell, 13-2, to the Sooners.

Even legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden now admits how hard repeating was for those 1994 and 2000 teams.

"It's so dad-gum difficult because you are talking about perfection," Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat's Jim Henry. "You can play great football and not be perfect. Let me just say this - it's a great position to be in."

The Seminoles are in that position in 2014. And positioned well for a repeat run. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is back at quarterback, and he will be protected by an offensive line that will likely feature five seniors. There are playmakers at receiver (led by Rashad Greene) and a deep group of running backs (led by Karlos Williams). FSU loses defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, as well as linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, but there is experienced depth to fill those spots without a significant drop-off. The secondary is loaded with talent and could again be the nation's best against the pass (FSU allowed just 156.6 passing yards per game in 2013, tops in the nation). The nonconference schedule includes Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida. Among the ACC games, Clemson is at home while Louisville and Miami are on the road. But it's not insurmountable. If FSU navigates one of the nation's toughest schedules unbeaten, the Seminoles will make the four-team playoff. And they'll be looking to repeat—not defend—as champions.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats from seminoles.com and NCAA.com.

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Christian Ponder's Newborn Daughter Was Named After FSU Legend Bobby Bowden

Christian Ponder made a name for himself while playing under Bobby Bowden at Florida State, so the Minnesota Vikings quarterback and his wife felt it would be a good idea to honor the coach by naming their child after him.

Check out what Christian and Sam Ponder named their newborn daughter:

Naming a kid Bowden Sainte-Claire is one way to pay tribute to the former Seminoles coach. 

Larry Fitzgerald Sr. reported that the Ponders brought the baby girl into the world recently:

Given that Florida State is the reigning national champion, most FSU fans would probably be naming their kids after Jameis Winston or Jimbo Fisher right now. However, Ponder played under Bowden for three seasons, and he learned a lot from the legend.

[Twitter]

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10 Under-the-Radar Players Whose NFL Draft Stock Will Skyrocket in 2014

Preseason draft rankings aren't just flawed; they're impossible. A final year of game film is the most important thing a prospect can post—more important than his size and his speed and his other scouting combine scores combined.

The preseason draft boards put together by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and other way-smarter people than myself are as accurate as they can possibly be, but even the authors of those lists would admit how much red ink they will contain at the end of the season.

Some players will fall and other players will rise to replace them. Names currently under the radar will soon be firmly on it.

There's no way to predict these things for sure, but, based on their physical tools and the situations they find themselves in, there are a few players who stick out as viable late-rising candidates.

Chime in below, and let me know whom else I overlooked.

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Ohio State Football: Why Urban Meyer Must Land a Star Quarterback for 2015

Nobody could successfully argue with Urban Meyer's track record on the recruiting trail.

Through three recruiting cycles in Columbus, the Ohio State head coach has brought the Buckeyes a trio of top-5 classes, including the nation's second-ranked class in 2013 and No. 3 class in 2014, per 247Sports. Even in 2012, when Meyer arrived on campus with two months to go until national signing day, he managed to turn what was at the time an unimpressive class into the country's fifth best.

But in his first two-and-a-half years at the helm at Ohio State, one position in particular has seemed to elude the two-time national champion head coach. And it happens to be the most important on the football field.

Despite his successful track record with the likes of Josh Harris, Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Braxton Miller, Meyer still hasn't managed to attract a star quarterback to Columbus during his time with the Buckeyes. Sure, 2017 commit and all-everything sophomore Danny Clark waits in the wings, but there remains a two-season gap between Miller's departure and Clark's arrival in Columbus.

It's not that Ohio State has failed to add any signal-callers since Meyer arrived, as the Buckeyes have signed Cardale Jones (2012), J.T. Barrett (2013) and Stephen Collier (2014) in the past three classes. But Meyer is yet to have landed a big-name, blue-chip quarterback at OSU, with the Buckeyes having missed on the likes of Deshaun Watson and Kyle Allen a year ago. And while Barrett may have been Ohio State's top choice in 2013, he lacks the athleticism and star power that have made Miller and Terrelle Pryor such successes in Columbus the past seven years.

But fortunately for Meyer and the Buckeyes, one of their top quarterback targets in the 2015 class remains uncommitted. And all recent indications are that the up-and-down recruitment of Fort Lauderdale American Heritage 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson has hit another peak for Ohio State.

Although it seemed as though the Buckeyes had ended their pursuit of the Sunshine State star just weeks ago, that no longer appears to be the case. With Ohio State's big "Friday Night Lights" camp approaching on Friday, Gibson informed Cleveland.com on Monday that he is currently planning on making his first trip to Columbus for a visit.

"Yeah, it looks like I'm visiting," Gibson said. "I will know for sure if I am going (later Monday afternoon)."

Gibson later confirmed his impeding visit, via his Twitter account:

That bodes well for the Buckeyes, who have remained at the forefront of Gibson's recruitment despite having yet to receive a visit from the highly touted prospect. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Gibson is an athletic freak comparable to Miller and Pryor who could conceivably step right in and make an immediate impact in Meyer's spread offense.

Landing Gibson won't be an easy task, however, as the dual-threat quarterback has already taken multiple trips to Tennessee and Auburn and has also shown a strong interest in LSU. Nearby Miami (Florida) also remains a factor in Gibson's recruitment, but his upcoming trip to Columbus shouldn't be seen as anything but a positive sign for Ohio State's chances.

And with no clear succession plan in place for Miller's departure, that could make this upcoming weekend one of the most important in the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting cycle. Ohio State does already have 3-star prospect Joe Burrow committed to its upcoming class, but the addition of Gibson would make an unparalleled splash across the college football landscape.

But don't expect a commitment from Gibson this weekend—or anytime soon for that matter. With some of the nation's top schools chasing after him, Gibson appears intent on allowing his recruitment drag out all the way until national signing day.

But for a program with one star on his way out the door, the wait to add another would be well worth it in Columbus. Meyer and the Buckeyes may have not added a star signal-caller since Miller arrived in 2011, but Ohio State's upcoming weekend could go a long way toward changing that.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 1 Picks: UNLV Runnin' Rebels vs. Arizona Wildcats

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 games, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as they take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Arizona.

Sports bettors will find that the Runnin' Rebels are 24-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the market.

Let's take a closer look at this nonconference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling stats via Sports Book Review

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5-Star DT Daylon 'Recruit Whisperer' Mack Predicts Top Uncommitted Recruits

Daylon Mack, a 5-star defensive tackle, took some time to speak with Bleacher Report about the latest recruiting buzz. With some of the top recruits still uncommitted in the 2015 class, Mack breaks down exactly where he thinks each big-time athlete will land.

Where do you think these guys will play their college ball?

Watch the video and see where this future Aggie thinks these studs will end up.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the Heisman Favorites Heading into the 2014 Season

The 2014 college football season is just around the corner and we can't help but start making Heisman Trophy predictions. Some of the biggest names in college football have returned for another year on the gridiron with the hopes of winning the prestigious award.

Who do you think will win in 2014?

Watch Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss who they think will end up in New York and ultimately win the Heisman Trophy following the 2014 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

A crowded crop of top-tier quarterbacks spent the second week of July testing their skills at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Premier passers from across the country competed in the Elite 11 finals and The Opening, an annual high school football showcase that featured more than 150 prospects.

Tasked with rapid play-calling instructions and facing elite defenders, several 2015 quarterbacks rose to the occasion with impressive performances. Others struggled at times, which suggests they still have significant strides to make before taking their talents to the next level.

Here's a look at the position's top 10 players, based on freshly updated 247Sports composite rankings.

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Gavin Stansbury's Departure Means It's Panic Time for Texas A&M's Defense

Now, it's officially time for Texas A&M to panic.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin announced Monday that defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury has left the team for personal reasons.

“While we will miss Gavin being a part of our program, there is more to life than football,” Sumlin said in an emailed statement. “We wish him the best as he focuses on the personal issues ahead of him.”

The 6'4", 255-pound senior was slated to be a contributor along the Aggie defensive line, but an April arrest for misdemeanor assault put his future in College Station in question this spring. 

In the same statement, Texas A&M also confirmed that cornerback Victor Davis was arrested for shoplifting in his hometown of Rosenberg, Texas, and has been suspended per school policy.

This is bad news for an Aggie defense that was already littered with uncertainty and bitten hard by unexpected attrition this offseason. According to AL.com, Stansbury is the fourth high-profile defensive player to depart Texas A&M this offseason, joining linebacker Darian Claiborne, defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and redshirt freshman and former 4-star safety prospect Kameron Miles.

Stansbury's departure is huge, as Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com notes.

Significant loss for Aggie defense with Gavin Stansbury exit. Along with Darian Claiborne, that's 2 of 3 best on '13 D lost prematurely

— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) July 21, 2014

He and fellow defensive end Julien Obioha were being counted on to provide a veteran presence up front. As a bigger defensive end, Stansbury was being counted on to defend the run and drop down to tackle in pass-rushing situations to make way for hot-shot recruit Myles Garrett. 

His job was already going to be more difficult because of the departure of Golden. He was inconsistent at times, but did a great job in Texas A&M's final game of last year, controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke.

Now Sumlin, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and the rest of the Aggies need Garrett to come in and be more than a pass-rushing specialist right off the bat. Out of the question? Of course not, but that's a lot of pressure for true freshman.

Throw that on top of Claiborne, who was slated to be A&M's second-leading returning tackler and Miles, who had all the makings of a superstar, and you have big problems in College Station.

Sumlin is a fantastic head coach, who has proven at Houston and Texas A&M that he can adapt his offense to fit the skills of his quarterback. But it's unrealistic to expect the Aggies offense to continue at the level it operated at with Johnny Manziel—the most dynamic player in a generation—at quarterback.

The defense needs to take a significant leap forward this season, and without some of its better pieces, is that likely?

Nope.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, "just enough" defense does. The definition of "just enough" varies based on the type of offense a team runs. A&M couldn't get enough even with Manziel taking the snaps, and now it has to try to get to that level with a new offense and stars gone off of an already-questionable defense. 

Good luck, Aggies.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2014 Fall Camp Previews for Each College Football Top 25 Team

It’s almost here. As college football’s media days schedule enters its second week, the feeling that football is just around the corner gets more and more palpable.

By August 1, most of the nation’s college football teams will have begun fall practice in preparation for the 2014 season, which kicks off in the final weekend of August.

It’s a perfect time to look at what’s ahead for the nation’s top teams, what they have returning, what they need to work on and their biggest questions. Here’s a look at the nation’s top 25 (as determined by Bleacher Report’s latest top 25 poll) entering fall camp.

 

*Quotes for ACC, SEC and Big 12 coaches and players were provided by ASAP Sports media days transcripts.

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Top College Football Coaches Who Excel and Struggle Against Top 25 Teams

Did you know that of the 128 FBS head coaches, only 14—or 11 percent—have a career winning record against Top 25 teams?

Not only do 89 percent of the top level of college coaches have a losing record against ranked opponents, but 51—or 40 percent of the field—have never won a single game against a Top 25 team.

So while lots of ink is dedicated to coaches with the highest all-time winning percentage or the most titles, what about those who have been the best—or worst—against the best teams in the nation?

Is this the magical gauge of future success?

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