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Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Predictions for 4-Star OL Sterling Jenkins

Sterling Jenkins is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. The big man hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can be, which is why the future looks bright for him.

Jenkins, who is from Pennsylvania, has a chance to develop into one of the best blockers to come out of the 2015 class. Penn State has already gotten a commitment from him, which has put the Big Ten on notice.

Jenkins' potential as a prospect warrants a closer look.

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Texas Football: Why Charlie Strong Is Perfect Guy to Fix Horns' NFL Draft Issue

Seventy-five years had passed since a Texas Longhorns name was not called during the NFL draft. That streak ended last weekend.

Texas had 10 players eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, two of those players were projected to be anywhere from third- to sixth-round picks. But the 32 NFL teams found 256 players more worthy of using up draft picks than what the Longhorns had to offer.

Breaking a 75-year-old streak is a milestone, but in the case of Texas football, this milestone is one to forget. The 2014 draft was a shocking reminder to all Texas fans—and the college football world for that matter—of how far the Longhorns have fallen from grace. 

Some people may be wondering how Texas football could be in this place. The University of Texas has tradition, money and support, and can access pretty much any number of tools needed to bring in the nation's top talent each year.

But the recent issues Texas football has faced does not have to do with state-of-the-art facilities or even signing the best recruiting classes. It has to do with the lack of player development that occurred throughout the final years of former head coach Mack Brown's career. 

Getting shut out of the 2014 draft could be described as rock bottom for the Longhorns and speaks volumes on the current state of Texas football. However, all hope is not lost for the future, especially with head coach Charlie Strong at the helm. 

Strong has a solid record of developing players into NFL talent, which is something Texas clearly needs. While Texas fans watched their Longhorns get passed over round after round, Louisville fans celebrated one of their team's best drafts in history with three former Cardinals names called during the first round and another in the third round.

All four draft picks were players Strong recruited while he was the head coach of Louisville.

Strong's draft success began well before 2014. During his seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong developed seven future first-round draft picks and 18 players who were picked in the third round or higher, according to his bio on TexasSports.com.

The key to Strong's success as an assistant and head coach lies in his ability to develop players, and a perfect example of his player development is former Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith.

The 6'3", 251-pound Georgia native was a 3-star quarterback prospect with only two scholarship offers coming out of high school: Florida and Louisville, according to Rivals.com.

Smith never played a down at quarterback for the Cardinals. Instead, he moved to the defensive side of the ball, led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2013 and finished his career as the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith was drafted No. 26 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.

Using Smith as an example of Strong's player development is more relevant to Texas fans than what meets the eye.

He was a part of the 2010 recruiting class, which is the same class as former Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Unlike underrated Smith, Jeffcoat was a consensus 5-star prospect and had offers from 16 NCAA Division I football programs, per 247Sports

The two defensive ends have very similar game-time experience, similar physiques and both finished their careers as their conference's defensive player of the year. But the biggest difference between Jeffcoat and Smith was the way they developed in college.

Strong took an underrated athlete and molded him into a first-round draft pick. Jeffcoat did not get the same direction at Texas. He missed multiple games due to various injuries and was a part of a rebuilding program that saw three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive line coaches during his four years in Austin.

Even after a stellar senior season, which helped him nab the Ted Hendricks Award and projected him anywhere between a third- and sixth-round draft pick by CBSSports.com and NFL.com, Jeffcoat was left as the headliner of the group of Longhorns whose names were never called during the 2014 NFL draft.

Jeffcoat not getting drafted was not something many—if not any—NFL draft "experts" predicted, but it happened. And it's fair to say part of the reason is due to a lack of player development.

Strong has a lot of work ahead of him, and a lot of players who need to be developed. And any Texas fans who are expecting a quick-fix solution in his debut season need to recalibrate those expectations.

When Strong replaced Brown, he inherited a roster packed full of former 4-star and 5-star athletes who may not have been properly developed since their arrival in Austin. One could argue there is not a single first-round-caliber NFL prospect on the current roster, which could mean that the 2015 NFL draft may not be much better than this year's.

But with time and the right assistant coaches around him, Strong will put an end to the complacent, lackadaisical mentality the Longhorns have shown in recent years and help return Texas to a football program stacked with athletes who play smashmouth football.

 

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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Arkansas Football: Razorbacks Fare Well in 2014 NFL Draft

The Arkansas Razorbacks are a very respectable team when it comes to churning out NFL talent. Since 2000, the Hogs have had 45 players selected in the NFL draft.

There weren't a ton of expectations for Hogs being drafted this year. Arkansas figured to have two players who would be drafted in defensive end Chris Smith and center Travis Swanson. However, by the end of it all on Saturday, four Razorbacks heard their names called.

Smith and Swanson were taken as expected, but the big surprises came in the seventh round when kicker Zach Hocker and fullback Kiero Small were selected. For the Hogs to have four players drafted this year is a huge win for the program.

Not only will it help recruiting, but it also shows that despite a rough couple of years, there is talent on this team. 

The Razorbacks had as many players drafted as Auburn, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Missouri, to name a few. The only SEC teams to have more players drafted than Arkansas were LSU (nine) and Alabama (eight). If you want to dive into the numbers even more, only 11 teams in the entire country had more players drafted than the Hogs.

Not bad for a team that went 3-9 and failed to win a conference game.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at the four Hogs who were drafted, how they fit into their new teams and what their roles will be, whether that's starting or just trying to make the team.

 

C Travis Swanson, 3rd Round, 76th Overall by Detroit Lions

Ever since Bret Bielema took over the reins of the program, he's raved about Swanson. The Detroit Lions have Dominic Raiola starting at center right now, but he's 35. The Lions were looking for a future starter to take Raiola's place when he's gone, and Swanson was their guy with the 76th pick in the third round.

What the Lions get with Swanson is durability, a hard worker and a student of the game. He tied the record for most consecutive starts with 50. That was against SEC competition, where he was good enough to be a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2013.

That was something Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com he loved about Swanson:

He's got a lot of starts against really good competition. That usually bodes well for guys early, gives those guys confidence when they get here, so that's definitely a factor.

As Twentyman also pointed out, in his last two years of starting, Swanson had a 90 percent blocking consistency grade, the highest of any active player in the country. 

He wasn't the strongest, fastest or most athletic O-lineman in the draft, but he has a high football IQ and gets the job done. Don't expect Swanson to start right away or maybe even for the first few years. The Lions will allow him to develop behind Raiola before Swanson takes over the job full time when Raiola's time in Detroit is over.

 

DE Chris Smith, 5th Round, 159th Overall by Jacksonville Jaguars

Let me be clear, I absolutely love this pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only was it a great value pick getting Smith in the fifth round, but he could end up becoming a key contributor on a D-line that needs difference-makers.

There's a good chance that the Jags could use him as both a defensive end and an outside linebacker who rushes the passer from a standing position, as indicated by Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union:

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said Smith stood out in the 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl and will get looks at the Leo spot and outside linebacker.

Smith doesn't have ideal size for an NFL rush end, measuring in at 6'1", 266 pounds. However, he does have excellent speed and quickness for a guy his size, clocking a 4.66 40-yard dash time at the combine, per NFLDraftScout.com. He also has long arms, which allow him to get leverage on blockers in running situations or get by them with his arsenal of moves.

His strength is an underrated aspect of his game. Smith bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, which is a very solid number. If he's going to make a real impact, though, Smith must get more consistent with his burst off the snap and learn to drop into coverage, something he rarely did in college.

Smith showed that he can be an impact pass-rusher, racking up 22 sacks in his last three years as a Hog. It's a safe bet that he'll make the team, but it could be awhile before he contributes on the field. 

Then again, if Smith makes the necessary improvements and stands out in camp and practices, he could make an impact this season.

 

FB Kiero Small, 7th Round, 227th Overall by Seattle Seahawks

Small's stature might be small at 5'8", but his game is anything but that. He's firmly built at 244 pounds and hits defenders with the force of a truck.

His blocking ability is at an NFL level for a fullback, which could be a big reason why the Seahawks selected him. The O-line was a big reason why Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had such great years, but so was Small. 

Once the ball was snapped, he would immediately go and hit a defender to carve a path for the backs. Just take a look at this video. On almost every single play, Small makes a great block or a big hit:

He also has good hands and is surprisingly nimble in the open field with the ball. However, it is his blocking ability that I think will be the reason he makes the team. 

Seattle currently has two fullbacks on its roster with Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware. Small is stronger and can block better than both of them. If he goes into training camp and shows off his bone-crushing blocks and good hands, don't be surprised if Small not only makes the team, but also ends up starting.

 

K Zach Hocker, 7th Round, 228th Overall by Washington Redskins 

The most surprising Hog to be selected was Hocker. Despite there being a number of kickers rated ahead of him, the Redskins took the four-year starter who showed he can make the long kicks from 50-plus yards. 

Kickers who are consistent from over 40 and 50 yards out are a valuable asset in the NFL, and Hocker definitely fits that mold.

During his career at Arkansas, he hit five of seven (71.4 percent) attempts from 50-plus yards and went 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from 40 and over. He had longs of 50 his freshman year, 51 as a sophomore and 54 as a senior in 2013.

While he'll need to be more consistent at the next level, Hocker has the leg strength to be a starting kicker in the NFL.

Washington was intrigued enough to use a pick on him, which tells you he has a legitimate shot at winning the job if he can show more consistency. His main competition will be veteran Kai Forbath, who made 18 of 22 attempts last season with a long of 50. 

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden offered some strong words in favor of Hocker to CSN Washington's Tarik El-Bashir:

His leg strength is very good. He was a very productive kicker at Arkansas. I think he was ranked ninth or tenth in the nation as far as touchbacks, which is excellent.

Gruden also didn't rule out Hocker being the kickoff specialist while Forbath remained the kicker on field goals:

That's not out of the question. We'll see in training camp. Kai needs to kickoff better; that's a fact. He's obviously a very good field goal kicker, which is important. And we have a lot of respect for his talent as a kicker, but we also felt like we like we needed to bring another kicker in here and compete and look at for the kickoff specialist [role] and compete with Kai.

For a team that struggled so mightily, the Hogs can call the 2014 NFL draft a big success for the program. All four guys drafted have a great shot at making their respective teams and even making early contributions. 

 

Bryan Heater is the Featured Columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

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Why the Big 12 Could Soon Be Replaced as College Football's Offensive Juggernaut

The Big 12 wasn't recognizable last year. 

Forget for a moment that there were no elite teams—Baylor and Oklahoma came closest to that label—or that, with only six bowl-eligible teams, overall depth was lacking.

Rather, the Big 12 wasn't the offensive juggernaut that fans had come to know in recent years. Beyond Baylor, which had the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, no other Big 12 teams finished in the top 25 in that category. 

Not coincidentally, nine of the conference's 10 teams—Baylor being the exclusion—played multiple quarterbacks extensively during the season. Getting into a rhythm on offense was a chore for most Big 12 teams. 

Still, when looking at offenses over the last four seasons, the Big 12 remains the most prolific of any of the major conferences. According to the website College Football Statistics, no other major conference has had more teams finish with a top-25 scoring offense in a single year than the Big 12 (seven in 2012). 

Similarly, no other power conference has had more teams finish in the top 25 of total offense in a single year (seven in 2012). The Big 12 has had more top-25 passers over the past four years and is tied for second with the Pac-12 for most top-25 rushing teams in that same time span. 

That is a lot of numbers, and certainly, they only tell part of the story. For example, in 2013, Oregon State finished just outside the top 25 in scoring with 34.8 points per game. Fractions of a point are being split. No one could reasonably say that the Beavers suddenly didn't have a potent offense. However, they just missed the cutoff point. 

Statistically speaking—and this is a somewhat limited window—the Big 12 stands above all other power conferences in offense. However, whether or not the conference can keep up that production is questionable. Since 2010, the number of top-25 passers in the Big 12 has gone down each year. The number of top-25 rushing teams in the Big 12 also dropped to two in 2013. 

Remember the seven top-25 scoring offenses the Big 12 had in 2012? There were only three last year. No other conference suffered such a steep drop-off from one year to the next at any point over the last four seasons. 

It could just be a one-year phenomenon, caused in part by several big-name offensive players graduating or being drafted into the NFL. However, the 2014 recruiting rankings show the Big 12 is struggling to bring in premier offensive talent. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon were the biggest names to sign with Big 12 teams in February. 

Compare that to Texas A&M, who has two signees—wide receiver Speedy Noil and quarterback Kyle Allen—who ranked among the top 10 players in the country. In all, the SEC signed roughly a dozen offensive players ranked in the top 50 of 247Sports' composite rankings

For what it's worth, the SEC has been leaning slightly away from the "defense wins championships" mentality. Last year, six SEC teams finished with top-25 scoring offenses, and five finished in the top 25 in total offense. Both numbers were the most of any conference. Meanwhile, only four SEC teams finished with a top-25 scoring defense. 

Could the Big 12 soon relinquish its offensive crown to the SEC, or even the Pac-12? If recruiting doesn't pick up, it wouldn't be surprising to see a changing of the guard when it comes to great offensive conferences. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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Alabama Football: Breaking Down Amari Cooper's Place on 2015 NFL Draft Big Board

Heading into his junior season, the stars seem to be aligning for Alabama star wide receiver Amari Cooper to enjoy a banner year.

"So far this spring, he's been phenomenal in the offseason program as well as in the first three practices that we've had," Alabama head coach Nick Saban told AL.com's Michael Casagrande during the middle of spring practice. "Obviously he's a guy that we want to get the ball to as many times as we can."

The timing couldn't be better for the Miami native, considering that he's already among a handful of players being discussed as potential first-round selections in the 2015 NFL draft.

According to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, Cooper ramped up the hype machine after running blistering times in the 40-yard dash at Alabama's pro day last month, with 4.31 seconds being the fastest time recorded.

While Cooper has some unfinished business at the Capstone, it's hard to deny his potential as a candidate to forgo his final season of college eligibility.

Where would the Tide standout land if he chooses to test the NFL draft waters next spring?

 

The Resume

Cooper wasted little time in establishing himself as a superstar on the college level. His 11 receiving touchdowns as a true freshman broke the school record, and his 59 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards bested former Tide All-American Julio Jones' freshman totals.

After a standout freshman campaign, Cooper got off to a slow start last season due to a nagging toe injury. However, his best two games came in the Tide's last two contests against Auburn and Oklahoma, where he combined to haul in 15 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown.

As Andrew Gribble of AL.com points out, the dip in his production as a sophomore shouldn't alarm teams, considering that notable top wideouts such as Jones, A.J. Green and Sammy Watkins experienced similar circumstances during their second years in college.

Cooper led the Tide in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, racking up combined totals of 103 catches for 1,736 yards and 15 touchdowns in the process. He has also accumulated seven games with 100 or more receiving yards, including each of the two bowl games he's played in.

More importantly, Cooper has been at his best when the Tide have lined up against top competition, as the chart below illustrates.

 

Early Projections

While it's still way too early to throw the word "lock" around when mentioning projections for the 2015 NFL draft, Cooper is among the group of elite talents who will find his name at the top of the early lists of projected first-round picks.

B/R draft expert Matt Miller has the Tide product ranked as the best wide receiver in his first 2015 big board. Fellow B/R draft analyst Michael Schottey has Cooper going third overall in his first 2015 mock draft.

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead agrees with Miller and Schottey about Cooper being the first wideout off the board and has him going seventh overall in his mock. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has Cooper going ninth overall.

While Cooper enters the season as the top-rated wideout in the 2015 class by numerous outlets, the fact that he had a down year in 2013 will only fuel him to return to his freshman form and secure a spot in the first round of next year's draft—should he choose to forgo his senior season.

 

Why Cooper Will Be a First-Round Pick

Saban's spring proclamation of wanting to get Cooper as many touches as possible bodes well for his chances to have a monster junior season.

Considering that he has produced at an elite level in his first two years of college, assuming he puts up big numbers this fall, Cooper has a chance to cement his status as the top receiver prospect available in the 2015 class.

With his size (6'1", 202 lbs), speed and route-running ability, Cooper has all the characteristics of an elite pass-catcher who teams will covet in the first round of next year's draft.

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5-Star Georgia Recruit Nick Chubb Looks Ridiculously Athletic

The Georgia Bulldogs are going to have one of the most feared freshman running backs in the country next season.

Nick Chubb, a 5-star recruit, has committed to Georgia for the fall. After seeing some photos of him running track, the SEC is going to have to find some way to stop him.

The 5'11", 216-pound back doesn't look like he will be easy to tackle.

Chubb is freakishly athletic:

 

Here's how he did in the event:

Chubb is already being compared to one of the greatest college running backs ever, who just happened to play for Georgia:

Bulldogs fans should be excited to watch Chubb put on the Georgia uniform for the next few seasons.

[Twitter, 247Sports.com; h/t The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Jacob Daniel Commits to USC: What 4-Star DT Brings to Trojans

Jacob Daniel helped fortify the future of USC's defensive front Tuesday when he announced his commitment to the Trojans.

The 4-star in-state defensive tackle became the sixth member of Steve Sarkisian's 2015 class and unveiled his intentions on Twitter:

He is the third lineman pledge for USC in a three-week span, joining offensive tackles Roy Hemsley (Los Angles, California) and Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Georgia). Daniel adds to a defensive haul that includes 3-star cornerback Taeon Mason (Pasadena, California).

Rated No. 8 nationally among defensive tackle prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, Daniel emerged as a key USC target earlier this year. The Trojans extended him a scholarship offer in February during a campus visit.

USC faced stiff competition from several Pac-12 foes, including Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. Suitors from beyond the conference include Texas A&M, Ohio State, Miami, Notre Dame and Alabama.

This is the second time Daniel has pledged to Sarkisian. He committed to the coach at Washington in November before eventually backing off that decision in late December.

The 6'4", 310-pound menace helped lead Clovis North High School to the Central California Championship as a junior. He displays excellent lateral range and short-area quickness that complements his massive frame.

His versatility presents plenty of options for the Trojans, who could be tempted to use him in a 3-technique setting during obvious passing situations. Depending on how the team decides to approach his training and physical conditioning, there's also a possibility of Daniel putting on additional bulk and anchoring the front interior.

If impressive physicality combines with quick comprehension on the practice field, Daniel stands a strong chance of contributing as a true freshman.

He spent time on campus with the USC staff in February, creating a lasting impression.

"They just told me that they really want me to be a Trojan and showed me what they had to offer," Daniel told Fresno Bee reporter Austin Kemp.

The sales pitch apparently stuck with him for the past three months, ultimately leading Daniel to pull the trigger on a commitment as his junior year comes to a close.

The 2015 USC class now includes two 5-star prospects and a 4-star recruit. It's rated 21st nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Jacob Daniel Commits to USC: What 4-Star DT Brings to Trojans

Jacob Daniel helped fortify the future of USC's defensive front Tuesday when he announced his commitment to the Trojans...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Marqise Lee Injuries Drop Him in NFL Draft but Lead to Insurance Payout

The NCAA often talks about its catastrophic insurance plan as one of the reasons that players should stay in school. For players like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, forced by NCAA and NFL rules to stay at the amateur level, Loss of Value insurance is a must.Marqise Lee is certainly glad he had the Lloyd's of London policy now that a knee injury forced him down to the second round in last week's NFL draft.

Players like Jadeveon Clowney, Manziel and Lee are all at risk of injuries while in college and all three had coverage, though Clowney and Manziel are likely glad they didn't get to collect. Any injury could take them from a sure thing to a question mark, which could shift their place in the draft. Their financial prospects would take a major hit. By paying for this insurance, which does not come cheaply, a player is protected against that loss. 

What most don't know, including the players, is how difficult it is to get this kind of insurance to pay off. In fact, Marqise Lee, the former USC wide receiver, is in line to become the one of the first players to have the policy pay. After falling out of the first round, Lee could collect as much as five million dollars on the policy he bought in the summer before the 2013 season. Lee was selected in the second round, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

It's not just Lee. Another USC player, linebacker Morgan Breslin, is in line to collect on his loss of value. His drop was more severe, going from a possible first rounder to an undrafted free agent. Breslin did sign after the draft with the San Francisco 49ers, but the odds of making the NFL are long for him, making his benefit perhaps his only payoff for his years of football. 

USC has long encouraged its players to get this type of coverage. Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer both had this type of policy, though neither got a payoff as Lee and Breslin are likely to. Lee's policy was in excess of the NCAA's policy, which is capped at $5 million. The $10 million total payoff will not be in place here. For the NCAA, the amount would only be in place for a "total disability," which is clearly not the case for Lee and is restricted to disability, not loss of value.

That has been an issue in the past. Ball State WR Dante Love was ticketed by many to be a first round pick before a devastating spinal injury ended his football career. However, Love was not covered under the NCAA's policy. While the school did pick up his significant medical bills, Love's dream of playing in the NFL ended before he could do the things many dream of. 

Another recent case that brought this type of insurance to the forefront was that of Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky and Philadephia 76ers player had a dramatic knee injury, but was selected high in the first round of the NBA draft despite it. The policy did not pay off because he had no major loss of value. 

Lee's drop from a top wide receiver pick to the second round was costly. Comparing what he'll get as a second round pick to what he might have gotten is easy due to the NFL's slotting system. Lee could have been projected to go somewhere in the same range as Odell Beckham, who will receive a bit more than $10 million under the current rookie wage scale

At 39th overall, Lee is likely to receive something near $5 million dollars, though the exact value is not known. Last year, Robert Woods, another USC WR, was picked at slot 41 and received a contract from the Buffalo Bills for $4.9 million. That five million dollar gap is where the Loss of Value insurance will come in, though it will not be matched dollar for dollar due to provisions in the insurance contract.

Marqise Lee suffered from a moderate (Grade II) MCL sprain during the 2013 season. While he was able to get back on the field, it was clear that he never really got back to 100 percent. That was confirmed at the NFL Combine in February, where several teams "red flagged" Lee due to laxity in the knee. While the MCL is usually not repaired surgically, many believe that that laxity can lead to more injuries down the line.

Breslin had a much more serious injury. He had to have hip surgery in November and was not able to return. While details of Breslin's injury has never been publicly disclosed, an internal hip issue that requires surgery is rare but not unheard of in the NFL. Colts TE Dwayne Allen missed much of the 2013 season after injuring his hip. Ed Reed and Percy Harvin had to have their hip labrums repaired, which cost significant time and value.

Chris Larcheveque, the EVP of Sports for International Speciality Insurance, the company that underwrites these types of policies for Lloyd's, explained to me that the players are valued at the time of underwriting. "We take a look at where he is expected to go. We talk to scouts we have relationships with and look at two or three trusted NFL voices, like Matt Miller." 

The value of the contract takes care of the gap between the evaluated value and the actual value. "There's a formula, since the benefit is tax free. Five million is really like nine million due to taxes, but it's relatively cut and dry. We'll know in a matter of weeks with Lee. It will will take longer for Breslin since he'll have to make the roster before he gets a contract," Larcheveque told me by phone.

The insurance is expensive, normally around $10,000 per $1 million in coverage. Since an NCAA player shouldn't have $100,000 lying around the dorm room, the premium is usually delayed and will be paid by the player's first professional contract. If a player is unable to be signed, the premium is deducted from the benefit at the time of payment. 

While the availability of these policies has been around for years, it is very difficult to meet all the conditions in order to receive the benefit. A player not only has to be injured while playing football, they also have to have a demonstrable loss of value, specifically due to the injury. A player like Lee could have slid to the second round on production or his team having a poor season, which has always been the previous argument. 

If NCAA stars are going to stay in school and risk their future earnings potential at the same time the NCAA is fighting to not pay them or even increase their in-school benefits, insurance policies become even more necessary. While a check can't replace a player's ability to chase his dreams, it can compensate his work in order to help him figure out what comes after football.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marqise Lee Injuries Drop Him in NFL Draft but Will Lead to Insurance Payout

The NCAA often talks about its catastrophic insurance plan as one of the reasons that players should stay in school...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Why the SEC Is the Real Toughest Conference in the Nation

College football fans used to love their team, hate their rivals and not give a care about what happened to anyone else. However, in the past decade or so, there has been a large movement toward conference affiliation trumping team fandom.

Who can forget the moment we all heard the first "S-E-C" chant?  

LSU winning that 2007 title was the second in a row for the Southeastern Conference against Ohio State, and little did we know that the college football world would be hearing that chant for the next seven seasons in a row. 

For conferences and the fans of schools in conferences like the Big 12 and Big Ten, the obsession over beating the SEC became almost all consuming. So much so that the other four conferences banded together in rooting for anyone to break the SEC's winning streak. 

It happened thanks to Florida State this past season, and for some around the nation, it was cause to point out that the SEC isn't the toughest conference in the country anymore. 

But what measure were they using? The SEC will always throw seven national titles in a row in everyone else's faces, but that's more about individual team success than anything the entire conference is about. 

It's not as if anyone is claiming the ACC is now the king of the hill because it houses Florida State. There has to be more than one category to consider when looking at the toughest conference to play in. 

So, here are the five criteria we used to determine which conference sits atop the standings heading in to 2014: 

  • SRS (Simple Rating System: a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The rating is denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average—courtesy Sports-Reference.com)
  • Strength of Schedule (rolling four-year average for the conference) 
  • Returning Starters per team in 2014
  • Number of first-team all-conference players returning
  • Bowl teams

With each of these categories, we attempt to look at the past to predict the future, as well as give deference to the here and now. Each of the criteria are broken down with five points given to the best in each category on down to one point for the worst number in each category. 

So, let's get in to who reigns at the top of the conference ladder. 

When you look at the combination of offense, defense and strength of schedule, the SEC comes out on top—and it's not even close. The difference is by nearly two points, and the SEC's four individual year averages rank in the top six overall from all five conferences in the past four years. Only the Pac-12's 2013 season of 10.49 and the 2011 Big 12 season of 9.89 broke up the SEC party. 

Speaking of the Pac-12, it made things a little less of a run-away contest in our next category—strength of schedule: 

While the biggest criticism of the SEC from folks in the Big Ten and Big 12 is that SEC teams aren't willing to play anyone, the actual truth is that the Big Ten has a lot of work to do in the future to up its own strength of schedule. It also appears that the SEC has done a really good job over the last four years of highlighting matchups amongst its best schools, helping to negate any drawbacks from the nonconference schedule.

There's little doubt that the SEC and Pac-12 are giving the college football world some of the best competition we've seen over the last four years, but what about looking at what is about to come?

Let's take a look at the average returning starters per team:

In 2014, the Big Ten could put itself in a good position to be more competitive because it is more experienced on the whole. Not only does the conference lead the average, but it also has the top three teams—Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern—amongst all five conferences in returning players, with 18, 17 and 17, respectively.

What is most interesting is that Florida State's conference is ripe for the picking of a team with a really good recruiting class, as the team with the most returning talent is North Carolina (15). It is the lowest of the high total of any conference in the "Big Five."

With lower numbers returning overall, what about the talent of those returning players—a true indication of just how deep a conference may be. That story is one of the more interesting in our criteria, so let's take a look at it: 

Not only does the ACC lead the overall total, it happens to have perhaps the most explosive of the returning bunch thanks to six returning members of the first-team offense. That's the most of any side of the ball.

With those kinds of numbers for the ACC, one could see why it also happens to lead in our final category—bowl teams from 2013.

The 2013 season was a banner one for the ACC, as not only did it have the BCS national champions, but it also sent the most schools to bowl games in conference history. Even if you take away bowl-eligible Maryland and insert new conference member Louisville into the equation, the total remains at 11 bowl teams for the conference heading into the season.

Only the Big 12 failed to get more than half of its conference into bowl games last season, despite the tight race for the conference crown all season long.

So, when you add it all up, we see one conference that is at the top of nearly every measure available—the SEC. It means the winner is the obvious choice, the one that everyone outside of SEC territory loves to hate the most. 

As much as everyone across the rest of the college football world wants it not to be true: The SEC is the best conference in the country heading in to 2014.

However, its grasp on the top rung of the ladder isn't as firm as it once was. Another non-SEC national champion could go a long way toward knocking the conference off its top spot after this year. 

No matter your affiliation, one thing is for sure—college football has never been as competitive from top to bottom as it is right now. 

 

Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can find him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB. 

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Jacob Daniel to USC: Trojans Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Jacob Daniel, one of the premier talents in the Class of 2015, has finally decided where he will play his college ball. The 4-star defensive tackle recruit will reportedly suit up for the USC Trojans.

Justin Hopkins of 247Sports reported the news:

Head coach Steve Sarkisiandid a solid job recruiting the Clovis, Calif. native and beat out a number of suitors from across the nation. As per 247Sports, the defensive tackle received offers from prestigious programs such as Oregon, Texas A&M, Washington, Alabama, Notre Dame, Miami, Ohio State and more.

It’s not surprising that so many recruiters threw their hat in the ring and attempted to persuade Daniel to join their programs. The 6’4”, 310-pound tackle is widely regarded as one of the best talents at his position in this class, as he was ranked the No. 8 DT and No. 53 overall prospect on 247Sports’ composite rankings.

On top of his height and massive frame, Daniel possesses a number of key attributes that will make him a great run-stuffer and even part-time pass-rusher at the collegiate level. He’s explosive, especially when he times the snap count right, and comes out firing at a low pad level.

Daniel excels at the bull rush to collapse the pocket, but also has lateral movement speed that allows him to maneuver between the tackles. That sort of versatility should help him get on the field quickly, especially if the defensive-line depth starts to dwindle.

While he tends to get tangled up in blocks and must improve his ability to separate from his man, the raw potential for Daniel to be a consistent contributor is readily present. His ceiling is high and once he is on a regular weight-training program and getting coached up at USC, Daniel should start showing rapid improvement.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this young man isn’t the most polished prospect in coach Sarkisian's crop of talent, as Daniel did not start playing football until high school and is a late bloomer.

According to an interview with Erik McKinney of ESPN (subscription required), Daniel revealed he enjoyed basketball more and wasn’t a big fan of football until one game changed his opinion:

We were playing Clovis High and we were undefeated. There were about 5,000 people in the stands and there was all that noise. I thought, 'Wow, this is fun.' That sealed the deal for me with football.

Trojans fans will be cheering him on soon enough and this young man should be a fixture on USC's defensive line for the foreseeable future.

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SEC Undrafted Free Agents Who Will Have Successful NFL Careers

One of the more remarkable streaks in college football was kept alive over the weekend, as the SEC led all conferences in players drafted for the eighth straight season.

A grand total of 49 former players heard their names called in New York City at the world's biggest televised job fair.

But while those 49 players realized their dreams, the former SEC stars who didn't get a phone call from an NFL franchise during the draft is perhaps the most shocking development of the draft from a college football perspective.

Former stars like Tennessee offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy had to go the undrafted free-agent route to make it to the league.

Which SEC undrafted free agents have the best chances of having successful NFL careers? The top five are in this slideshow.

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Alabama's Derrick Henry Shows off New Car Causing Fans to Allege NCAA Violations

Whenever a college athlete—especially an SEC football player—gets something nice, accusations of NCAA violations are sure to follow.

Alabama's Derrick Henry found that out recently.

On Monday, the Crimson Tide running back posted a picture of him standing with his new car. Now, he is the center of fans' criticism.

A car like that has some fans wondering how he was able to afford it:

Henry wasn't a fan of the allegations:

This is why we can't have nice things.

[Derrick Henry, Twitter;  h/t Dr. Saturday, SB Nation]

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Clemson Football: Realistic Expectations for the Tigers' 2014 Season

When one begins to break down Clemson’s potential 2014 season, there are a few factors that come into play. In some cases I think fans have very high expectations for next season, and in other cases, fans aren’t ready to dance in the streets just yet. Clemson’s season will be similar to the past two seasons in that it will all ride on the two big games: Florida State and South Carolina. This year you throw Georgia into the mix again, but those two big games will be the deciding factors again.

 

Breaking Down the Schedule

When you take a look at the Tigers’ schedule, there are three different categories you can place each game.

The two games that should definitely be won are South Carolina State and Georgia State. Then you have the games that should be won but will still present challenges.

Those games are North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Georgia Tech and North Carolina really jump out of that category.

The Tigers always seem to struggle a bit with Georgia Tech, and North Carolina is a sleeper in the ACC this year. The Tar Heels have the potential to have a really good season, so that will likely be a close game.

Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina make up the third category, for obvious reasons. These are the three games that will be very difficult for the Tigers to win, and it will all depend on how they come to play on that particular day.

Playing in Athens will be tough because of Georgia’s power running game and its much-improved defense. Going to Doak Campbell is never an easy task, especially this year with Heisman winner Jameis Winston leading the offense again. There isn’t much to say about that last game. I can sit here and break down every little detail about the Clemson-Carolina game, but all that really matters is which Tiger team comes to play on November 29.

 

Comparing 2013 and 2014

While ESPN analysts will continue to focus on what Clemson lost this season with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, I am going to instead focus on what the Tigers have returning.

When you look at the quarterback position, there isn’t going to be a drastic change. While Cole Stoudt can’t make all the throws that Boyd did, the Tigers still have a veteran leader who has a great feel for the system. Stoudt has had plenty of experience under Chad Morris’s offense, and I think that level of comfort will show on the field this season.

At running back, veterans D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks return, while Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye will also look to get into the mix. C.J. Davidson is a speed guy who will likely be used on certain plays and formations.

While there are many backs in the mix, I think the fact that one hasn’t broke away from the pack yet is a slight concern. We are only through spring ball at this point though, and the summer will present an opportunity for a running back to outright win the starting job.

The Tigers have plenty of options at wide receiver with veterans Charone Peake and Adam Humphries leading the way. There are also many young guys that will contribute including Mike Williams, Germone Hopper, Artavis Scott, Kyrin Priester, Demarre Kitt and Trevion Thompson.

Offensive line and the secondary are areas of concern. The offensive line situation can be better measured at the end of the summer, but anytime a team loses two solid starters like Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley, there is going to be a little concern.

The secondary can be very good, but it’s hard to judge at this point because of the youth. The Tigers have many young players in the secondary who can be playmakers, such as Mackensie Alexander, Adrian Baker, Korrin Wiggins, Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green. Hopefully for the Tigers, guys like Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters will step up and be leaders in that secondary.

The other areas such as linebacker and defensive line should be just as good, if not better, than last season. These positions should not be any worry at all to Tiger fans.

 

The Realistic Expectations

When you take into account what Clemson has returning with the defensive line and the weapons on the offensive side of the ball, I think it can have a very good year. Last year there were preseason mumbles about a national championship, but that would just be wishful thinking for 2014.

With the question marks on the offensive line and the youth in the secondary, it will be tough for the Tigers to run the table against physical teams like South Carolina and Florida State.

 

Realistic Expectation: 9-3 or 10-2

Bottom Line: It will be another year like the previous ones in which the Tigers have a very good team but still just aren't quite ready to get over the hump. The offense should be very good again, and the defense will be improved, but will it be enough to take down Florida State and South Carolina?

 

 

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Texas A&M: Breaking Down Where Cedric Ogbuehi Landed on 2015 NFL Draft Boards

The 2014 NFL draft is complete and three Aggies were selected in the first round. In 2015, Aggie left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is projected to extend the Aggies' streak to five years of having a player selected in the top 10 picks of the draft. 

Von Miller started it all in 2011 when he was selected No. 2 overall by the Denver Broncos. Ryan Tannehill was selected No. 8 overall in 2012 by Miami, with Luke Joeckel going No. 2 overall to Jacksonville in 2013. 

Two added to the Aggies' newest tradition in the 2014 draft, with offensive tackle Jake Matthews selected No. 6 by Atlanta and wide receiver Mike Evans selected No. 7 by Tampa Bay. 

If Ogbuehi is selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, he will be the third offensive linemen from the Aggies' 2010 recruiting class to accomplish the feat. Ogbuehi may be the most physically gifted of the trio.

The lean 6'5", 305-pound athlete resembles a linebacker or tight end more than a typical offensive lineman. He has rare speed for his size and has reportedly ran a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash during testing at A&M.  

Ogbuehi was recruited to A&M by former head coach Mike Sherman with the hopes that he would develop into a left tackle. He started at right guard in 2012 and right tackle in 2013 as he waited for his turn behind Joeckel and Matthews. 

Ogbuehi has quick feet and tremendous balance. He is the prototype of what the NFL is looking for at the left tackle position. He is a big body with catlike quickness and agility. Those are the kind of offensive linemen who end up starting in the Pro Bowl at the left tackle position. 

 

NFL Farm System

The Southeastern Conference is playing the best brand of football outside the NFL. The SEC produces the most NFL draft picks on a yearly basis. It is a physical brand of football highlighted by the battle in the trenches. 

For the second consecutive year, the No. 2 pick in the draft was a left tackle from the SEC. In 2013 it was Joeckel and in 2014 it was Greg Robinson from Auburn. Offensive linemen in the SEC go up against the best defensive linemen in college on a weekly basis. 

Left tackles for colleges in the Eastern Division of the SEC had to face Jadeveon Clowney on a weekly basis for the past three years. Some people think he was the best college prospect available in the 2014 draft, and he was the No. 1 overall pick.

Competing against the top defensive linemen in college football on a weekly basis helps develop the offensive line talent in the SEC. It has allowed players like Joeckel, Matthews and Ogbuehi to prove their worth to NFL scouts.   

When you compete with Dee Ford, Ed Stinson and Michael Sam on a weekly basis you are going to improve as a player. 

 

Draft Projections

Ogbuehi is expected to be one of the first offensive tackles off the board in the 2015 NFL draft. You simply do not find too many tackles with his skill set. 

He is predicted to be the No. 12 overall pick of the first round by CBSSports.com. The pundits at WalterFootball.com have him going No. 6 overall. 

Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com has Ogbuehi going No. 7 overall. He is predicted to be selected No. 8 overall by draftsite.com. A lot can change between now and the 2015 draft. 

Ogbuehi is almost a consensus top-10 pick right now. Before the 2013 season, there were people who thought A.J. McCarron would be selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. 

Nothing is guaranteed in college football. Ogbuehi could blow out his knee in the Aggies' opening game against South Carolina and ruin his draft status. 

Ogbuehi and Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss enter the 2014 season as the top offensive tackles in the SEC. They both are legitimate candidates to be all-conference and All-American. If Ogbuehi has the kind of year that is expected, he will hear his name called during the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. 

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WR JaQuay Williams Will Reportedly Transfer from Texas A&M

After failing to make much of an impact during his freshman season, former blue-chip receiver JaQuay Williams will transfer out of the Texas A&M football program.

The news was first reported Monday by Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and confirmed Tuesday by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

"Yes, he is transferring," said Williams' uncle, Kevin Ofchus, per Carvell. "It was the distance, and standard things that college kids go through. Things just didn’t work out, and that happens sometimes."

Williams committed to Auburn out of high school in 2012, when he was a 4-star prospect and the No. 100 overall player in the class on the 247Sports Composite.

After failing to qualify academically, he spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, became the No. 4 overall player on the Prep School Composite and committed to Texas A&M after seeing what Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel did in 2012.

At 6'4", Williams is an imposing physical threat who could, with the proper coaching and situation, become a valuable red-zone target if not more. According to Carvell, however, if he transfers directly to another SEC school, he would likely have to sit out two seasons per the conference's transfer policy.

So where might he end up?

Louisville is a popular speculative candidate.

New head coach Bobby Petrino can sell his SEC-approved vertical passing system, and rumors also have former Georgia cornerback Shaq Wiggins, a high-school teammate of Williams' at Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, connected with the Cardinals.

Several people have told Carvell "not to be surprised if Williams and Wiggins both end up at Louisville."

If that is how things play out, Wiggins would reunite with former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and Williams would team up with an offensive mind capable of unleashing him.

The move would be a coup for the Cardinals as they transition out of the Charlie Strong era and into the ACC.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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USC Football: How Cody Kessler Can Validate Steve Sarkisian's Vote of Confidence

Quarterback Cody Kessler is in the driver's seat of the USC offense for 2014. He can keep firm control of the steering wheel by adhering to a strict road map. 

Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian made an authoritative, if not controversial stance at the conclusion of spring practice last month, naming redshirt junior Kessler the team's No. 1 quarterback. Despite starting last season and leading USC to 10 wins, Kessler was embroiled in a well-publicized competition with redshirt freshman Max Browne. 

Browne will continue to push Kessler when the Trojans reconvene for preseason camp in August. Sarkisian had high praise for Browne on a May 1 Pac-12 teleconference call, via Pac-12.com

Max had a tremendous spring...He showed tremendous development, not only physically but mentally. He's a really good fit for what we're doing offensively, and to Max's credit, he's an unbelievable competitor. He's going to continue to compete with Cody all the way through. And I believe when Max's number is called, he's going to play great football for us.

For Kessler to maintain his spot atop the depth chart, he must build on the momentum he established down the stretch of 2013. 

Kessler progressed nicely over the course of the campaign, overcoming a tumultuous start to lead USC to a 7-2 finish. The Trojans offense operated much more efficiently as the quarterback gained confidence. 

A cornerstone of Sarkisian's offense is a power-run game, of which redshirt junior running back Javorius "Buck" Allen is sure to be central. Allen also proved integral to Kessler's play. 

Kessler and Allen developed a chemistry during the Trojans' second-half run. Allen became a more integral part of the offense, starting with USC's win over Arizona and exploding when the Trojans visited Oregon State. At the same time, Kessler flourished.  

The tandem connected as passer and receiver 22 times for 252 yards last season. 

Kessler also built an evident on-field rapport with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, the team's No. 1 target a season ago. He will again be the focal point of the Trojans' passing attack, but Kessler's ability to find a consistent corps of receivers is necessary to keep defenses from overwhelming Agholor. 

USC cannot afford another rocky start, particularly with Pac-12 rival Stanford looming as the second opponent on the schedule. To that end, Kessler must find a way to operate effectively behind an offensive line still on a steep learning curve. 

Kessler faced a similar proposition a season ago and struggled initially. As the line's collective performance improved, so too did Kessler. 

This year's front five isn't just having to integrate some new faces. Depth is of greater concern, and veterans like Max Tuerk are acclimating to new positions.

"Solidifying our offensive line," was a lingering concern Sarkisian addressed on the teleconference call. "Who's going to be where and the depth...is one key component for us." 

All of this is happening while the team learns a new offense, too. Kessler explained the challenges of the hurry-up, no-huddle scheme to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated

Sometimes it's difficult because you want to talk to guys between plays. You can't do that. If you miss a throw or miss a play, you can't sit there and be upset about it because you have to run three or four plays after that.

To that end, improvisation is crucial to Kessler's early-season success—both in how he calls plays, and how he reacts to any potential breakdowns in blocking. 

Kessler has his new head coach's confidence and the starting quarterback job. Now it's up to the redshirt junior to lead the Trojans offense to success in 2014. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

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USC Football: How Cody Kessler Can Validate Steve Sarkisian's Vote of Confidence

Quarterback Cody Kessler is in the driver's seat of the USC offense for 2014. He can keep firm control of the steering wheel by adhering to a strict road map...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Power Ranking Top 25 2015 College Football Recruits from the West Coast

This could be the deepest class of recruits that the West Coast has produced in 10 years.

The main state on the recruiting trail out West is certainly California, but states such as Arizona, Washington and Nevada put out more talent than many people realize.

While two 5-star quarterbacks receive most of the attention, the region also features four 5-star defensive prospects. The state of Hawaii has two studs on this list, plus Utah is represented since it has a school that competes in the Pac-12.

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