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Big Ten Football: Predicting the Biggest Upsets in the Conference in 2016

With spring games in full gear, the college football season is officially fewer than five months away and, of course, it's never too early to start looking ahead to the upcoming campaign.

And after a 2015 season unlike any other in Big Ten history, it's only gotten tougher to predict what will happen in the conference in the coming year.

That means that upsets could run rampant—perhaps even on a weekly basis—as teams deal with overhauled rosters, programs enter new eras and perennial powerhouses find themselves fighting to stay at the front of the league's food chain. Add in the shocking results for some teams—both good and bad—that played out a year ago, and handicapping the conference for the coming year becomes even more difficult than it already was.

Of course, a lot can change between now and the start of the 2016 season. But while we're waiting, let's go ahead and try to forecast the Big Ten upsets that will be occurring in a season that could ultimately prove to be even crazier than its unpredictable predecessor was.

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Projecting 2016 Win-Loss Records for Every ACC Football Team

It’s hard to believe, but spring football is already entering its final stages around the ACC. Syracuse has already wrapped up its first spring under Dino Babers. On Saturday, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Wake Forest will put their best faces on for spring football games, with games stretching through April 23 when Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech host games of their own.

In other words, we’ll soon pass another milepost on the road to the 2016 college football season opener. Real, meaningful games are less than five months away, and the ACC is plenty excited. Over the last three seasons, the league has gained plenty of national respect. Florida State won the final BCS National Championship and made the College Football Playoff in the following season, and Clemson followed suit by beginning the 2015 season 14-0 before falling to Alabama in the national title game.

With new coaches Mark Richt (Miami), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia) and Babers in the league, ACC officials have reason to believe their conference will take another step forward in the near future, with the hopes of another power emerging to join the Seminoles and Tigers. Will it happen this fall?

Let’s take a look. We’re predicting the win-loss records of every ACC team, considering factors such as returning talent, schedule and recent track record.

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4-Star QB Jake Bentley Enrolling Early at South Carolina a Big Win for Muschamp

The South Carolina quarterback battle just added another competitor—and it's somebody out of the class of 2017.

That's not a typo. A class of 2017 quarterback could be starting for South Carolina in 2016.

Jake Bentley, a 4-star prospect from Opelika, Alabama, announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that he will graduate from high school a year early and begin his South Carolina career this summer.

Bentley, who is the son of South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley (who was an analyst at Auburn last season and a legendary former high school coach in South Carolina), will join a loaded quarterback battle at South Carolina this summer that includes redshirt senior Perry Orth, true freshman early enrollee Brandon McIlwain, sophomore Lorenzo Nunez and junior Connor Mitch.

As Dayne Young of WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, notes, Bentley will head east to Columbia with hype attached to his name.

Does Bentley have the chance to start right away?

A chance, sure.

But asking a kid who should be a senior in high school to learn an offense, figure out the speed of the game and beat out a crowded pack of talented quarterbacks in essentially a month of practice is too much to ask, no matter how much time he has spent around the game with his father.

McIlwain has already jumped to the front of the pack in his first spring practice, and Muschamp said that he and Orth looked great prior to the collarbone injury that knocked the latter out of action this spring, according to David Caraviello of the Post and Courier.

Bentley's quest to start is only one part of the story, though.

The bigger news that stems from Bentley's decision is that the quarterback talent Muschamp has amassed in Columbia is incredibly impressive.

Bentley has a 0.9511 ranking, according to 247Sports, and now joins McIlwain, who boasted a 0.9254. Muschamp has successfully recruited two of the top three quarterbacks South Carolina has had over the last decade.

Think about that for a second.

Muschamp, who's hardly known for developing quarterbacks into stars, now has a better reputation of recruiting top-tier quarterbacks to South Carolina than Steve Spurrier—a man who literally changed the game of college football because of quarterback play.

That's strong.

What he will do with those quarterbacks is still a mystery, but he's giving himself and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper plenty of chances for success with players who not only are highly rated, but also touted for different reasons.

Bentley has a strong arm, can stretch the ball sideline-to-sideline and make all of the throws required to keep defenses honest. What's more, he's a good runner who can at least pose a threat on read-options, which is a staple in Roper offenses.

McIlwain is the opposite. His ability to create on the ground is as good as it gets, and is no slouch in the passing game either. 

Muschamp has things cooking on the recruiting trail in Columbia.

The next step is having that potential translate to success on the field.


Quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Wolverines' Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

Though there aren't many football-related worries in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines wrapped up spring practice with a handful of mild concerns.

Perhaps to the irritation of some, the primary topic remains Michigan's quarterback battle. But with a competition this important, it's simply unavoidable.

While the Wolverines avoided serious injuries this spring, a series of ailments revealed a minor yet notable depth issue.

Michigan has five months to address each concern—none of which are debilitating individually. However, they could pose a significant problem if combined.

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Auburn Football: Players to Watch in Tigers' Spring Game

AUBURN, Ala. — There should be a different feeling in the air this Saturday when football returns to the Plains.

Unlike the last couple of years under head coach Gus Malzahn, the Auburn Tigers won't be entering their annual A-Day spring game as one of the SEC's preseason darlings. After a 7-6 campaign in 2015, there's more talk of hot seats than titles in Auburn.

With eyes on a turnaround 2016 campaign, Auburn will wrap up a spring camp featuring plenty of new potential starters and assistant coaches. The all-important quarterback battle, the race for the lead running back position, a new-look offensive line and the fifth defensive coordinator in six years will all be major storylines for the Saturday afternoon scrimmage.

Which players should Auburn fans keep their eyes on the most on A-Day? Here are 10 players—representing all the major offensive and defensive position groups—to watch when the Tigers unofficially open their 2016 season inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Which Auburn players are you most looking forward to seeing this weekend? Shout them out in the comments below.

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Watch HS QB Chris Robison Nail Trick Shot from Top of AT&T Stadium

Oklahoma 4-star commit Chris Robison, the eighth-ranked pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2017, clearly has a great arm. Just how impressive is it, though? We here at Bleacher Report put his accuracy to the test.

We made Robison hit a target on the field from the upper deck of a stadium. It wasn't just any stadium, though. He did it at AT&T Stadium, one of the largest in the country, with a seating capacity of 80,000.

Check out the soon-to-be Sooner's ridiculous trick shot in the video above.

Star ratings via 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Freshmen Who Will Play Significant Snaps in 2016

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones harps all the time on the idea that the Volunteers haven't yet built a program that is as stocked with depth and talent as any of their peers around the country.

Whether that's poor-mouthing with a purpose or not—the Vols should be really good in 2016, and nobody on Rocky Top is shying away from those expectations—several freshmen will still play this year.

Part of that is out of necessity, but the bottom line is that UT is recruiting at such a high level that the talent is simply too good to keep off the field.

However, a few star upperclassmen will block some uber-talented first-year players.

Defensive back Tyler Byrd, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and running back Carlin Fils-aime would play on a lot of teams around the country, but they didn't make the list because UT is in an enviable place at those positions.

That's a product of consistent classes, and Jones is working on building a program that should be able to compete on a yearly basis.

The Vols have a good chance to have a good year in '16. Perhaps, it can even be special. But as many promising junior and senior players as there are in orange and white, the Vols will still rely on freshmen of the redshirt and even true variety.

Let's take a look at 10 freshmen who'll be on the field a whole lot this year for Tennessee.

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Urban Meyer Responds to Recruit's Criticism over His OSU Visit

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is widely seen as one of the best recruiters in all of college football, but Kentucky signee Landon Young did not like the way the three-time national champion and his school pursued him as a prospect.  

Young, who is a 4-star offensive tackle and part of Kentucky’s 2016 recruiting class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, criticized Meyer’s treatment of him as a recruit to David Collier of SECCountry.com. Meyer took note and responded Tuesday to the criticism, per Austin Ward of ESPN.com.

Meyer said he read the comments and discussed them with his staff: “We have a lot of respect for him as a player, a lot. I was very disappointed in our staff that we didn't offer him earlier. Then about the treatment thing, we don't do that on purpose, if that's his feelings. I went back and talked to our staff about it.”

Meyer did make sure to point out “that was one [recruit] out of 650 saying ‘Someone has treated me bad,’” per Ward.

Young made visits to Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina as a prospect before ultimately choosing the hometown Wildcats. However, the Lexington native made news as he recalled his negative interactions with Meyer when he asked the Ohio State coach why he wasn’t on the Buckeyes’ radar earlier in the process, per Collier:

I had gone up to camp there, and they had treated me like a piece of meat, just treated me like crap… I said, ‘Well coach, back when I was just committing to Kentucky and keeping my options open, I came up to a camp and sent you my film and everything, and you didn’t even reply. It seemed like y’all just deleted it.’

He said, ‘Well, if you look back at that time, you were how big?’ I said, ‘6-7, 270, just like I am now.’ He said, ‘Well, you were an insubstantial tackle, an insubstantial player,’ so he was saying I (didn’t) even amount to being able to be recruited by Ohio State as a four-star tackle. He said, ‘Now what offers did you have?’ I said, ‘I had my one from Kentucky,’ and he said, ‘Well, you were an insubstantial player with insubstantial offers from an insubstantial school.’

If anything, Kentucky fans probably won’t enjoy hearing one of the most prominent names in all of college football calling their program insubstantial, but Young was clearly affected by Meyer’s approach and spurned the Buckeyes for the Wildcats. 

Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors thought of another way Young could have interpreted the entire thing:

Alas, Ward noted Meyer did disagree with the idea Young was not a good enough player for Ohio State in his response to the offensive tackle’s comments.

Meyer instead realized it probably took his staff too long to recognize how valuable of a recruit Young could be up front for the Buckeyes offense and said as much, per Ward: “When we did want to offer him afterwards and felt like he was a great player, I think we missed on him early on and I was very upset with our coaching staff and the recruiter in that area and the position coach.”

Kentucky hopes Young proves himself on the field enough during his college career that Meyer and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff regret missing out on him. He is 6’7” and 270 pounds, but 247Sports lists his 40-yard-dash time as 4.80, which is a testament to his athletic ability at that size. He can move laterally to protect the passer or maul defensive linemen up front to create holes for the rushing attack.

The fact Young chose Kentucky over Ohio State and Alabama, among others, is newsworthy in itself. The Buckeyes won the national title during the 2014 season and are coming off a 12-1 campaign and a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2015. They have also won at least 10 contests in 12 of the last 14 years and have Meyer as a three-time national champion leading the way.

Ohio State is one of the pillar programs of the sport, and its reputation on the recruiting trail will probably only grow when a number of Buckeyes are selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

Historically, Ohio State is usually not battling with the likes of Kentucky for some of the top players in the Midwest and some of the northern states in SEC country like the Wildcats. Rather, it frequently competes with the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State, as well as national powerhouses such as Alabama.

However, Young's choosing Kentucky is no fluke. The Wildcats have some momentum under head coach Mark Stoops and check in with the No. 10 class for 2017, per 247Sports' composite team rankings. While 247Sports lists the Buckeyes as the No. 1 group for 2017, the Wildcats are among some of the sport’s top classes and will look to continue that upward trajectory on the recruiting trail.

Ohio State was the No. 4 class in 2016, while Kentucky was No. 34, per 247Sports

If Kentucky is able to consistently land players like Young, Meyer will have to worry about another program near his home state of Ohio.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Commitment of 4-Star QB Tristan Gebbia Impacts Future of Nebraska Recruiting

Two weeks ago, Nebraska fans were happy with their two 3-star commitments in wide receiver Jaevon McQuitty and linebacker Willie Hampton. But there were those who silently wondered when the class would have its breakout opportunity.

On March 23, the Cornhuskers were excited to have 4-star wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. commit. The buzz followed.

Monday was another huge day for Nebraska fans, as the program landed a 4-star quarterback in Tristan Gebbia. Ranked the nation's No. 8 pro-style quarterback, Gebbia chose the Cornhuskers over West Virginia, Washington, Washington State and Ole Miss—the school where his father, Rich Gebbia, played tight end.

"I've spent a lot of time with Coach Lang [offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf] and [head] Coach [Mike] Riley," said Gebbia, a 6'3", 180-pound quarterback. "I've gotten to see them practice up close and personal. Plus, Keyshawn loves it there. He'd been telling me he wants me to come with him. We've had a pretty good connection the last three years, and he said, 'Why not take it to the next level?'"

Nebraska picked up a quarterback who had great numbers as a junior, according to MaxPreps. He threw for 4,435 yards and 45 touchdowns and completed 63 percent (278 of 442) of his passes. Additionally, Gebbia rushed for five touchdowns.

Quarterbacks like Gebbia tend to be keystone commitments for programs. Offensive athletes want to make plays with him. Defensive athletes want to get better practicing against him. In Nebraska's case, Gebbia's commitment is a huge win for a variety of reasons.

First, Gebbia gives Nebraska a quality option at one of recruiting's most competitive positions. There are only 14 pro-style and 10 dual-threat quarterbacks nationwide listed as at least a 4-star prospect. Of those 24 total quarterbacks, prior to Gebbia's commitment, only four were uncommitted targets.

Second, Gebbia's pledge helps establish what appears to be a budding pipeline between Nebraska and Calabasas High School. Safety Marquel Dismuke signed with Nebraska in February, and the Cornhuskers are expecting to add Johnson and Gebbia next February.

And you can bet that Nebraska is doing all it can to add more Calabasas players in the near future. Among that short list are 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes and 2018 cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing discussions of Gebbia's commitment involves depth at the position. Nebraska, upon Gebbia signing his national letter of intent, will enter the 2017 season with three players competing for the starting QB job. Gebbia, early enrollee Patrick O'Brien and A.J. Bush, who just finished his redshirt freshman year and was listed as the team's third-stringer last season, will compete for playing time. If Gebbia doesn't start as a freshman, he'll definitely push his competition to be better, which will help Nebraska in a tough Big Ten Conference.

Having Gebbia as a part of the Nebraska roster is huge for Riley and his program. Now it's all about keeping Gebbia committed. Look for Ole Miss to continue recruiting him, as he is a Rebel legacy. Before committing, Gebbia took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss over the weekend.

"The trip's been great," Gebbia said Saturday. "I've spent a lot of time with the coaches and watched their scrimmage. I just wanted to see the SEC up close and personal. As an athlete who wants to get better, you look forward to seeing all you can and getting as much out of it as possible."

Gebbia's recruitment will be one to watch, but for now, all arrows point to him becoming a Cornhusker when it's time to sign his letter of intent.

"It's pretty great," he said of Nebraska. "You get great football, and the life outside of football is great. That's what I wanted."


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Incoming 2016 College Football Freshmen with Famous Parents

Not all incoming college freshmen football players are looking to put their family name on the map. While the vast majority of newcomers aren't necessarily accustomed to an expanded spotlight, others grew up in environments that commanded one. 

Whether their parents were entertainers or celebrated athletes in football or some other sport, several 2016 signees have plenty to live up to when it comes to family success. We examined a collection of prospects who inherit some level of fame from parents who previously gained public affection.

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Ranking the Top 25 Sophomores Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

Freshmen are the future, juniors are the next batch of pro stars and seniors are the veterans who know how to get it done. Where do sophomores fit into the equation?

It's like the crossroads class in college football, the purgatory between being a newcomer and an upperclassman. Quite often, sophomores are the most forgotten of any group unless they managed to stand out as freshmen.

That's what we have with our list of the 25 best sophomores heading into the 2016 season. It's a group that began to draw attention last year, but in most cases, that was just the start of their run. We've ranked them based on what they've achieved to this point and what they're in line to do this fall, when their role expands from being a first-time contributor to a go-to asset.

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4-Star WR Isaiah Robertson Tweets Top 6: Who Holds an Edge in His Recruitment?

Several universities remain in the mix to sign heavily pursued Illinois wide receiver Isaiah Robertson, with six standing out for the 4-star recruit.

Robertson, a 6'3", 190-pound prospect from Neuqua Valley High School in suburban Chicago, revealed a list of favorites on Tuesday afternoon:

His top options, in alphabetical order, are Illinois, Iowa, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. The collection is heavy on Big Ten contenders, which is to be expected considering his proximity to conference programs.

Robertson, rated No. 27 among wide receivers and No. 214 overall in the 2017 class, picked these schools to highlight from a large group of scholarship offers. His alternatives include Maryland, Indiana, Iowa State and Syracuse.

He began collecting offers as an underclassman, with in-state Illinois extending an offer shortly after his breakout sophomore campaign. Robertson racked up 721 receiving yards (24 per catch) and five scores in 2014.

His offer total surpassed double digits last fall, when he commanded attention on both sides of the ball.

He tallied 81 tackles and four interceptions at safety, according to Allen Trieu of Scout.com, adding 50 receptions for 803 yards and nine touchdowns on offense.

While Robertson is ranked among receivers, the jury may still be out when it comes to determining his ideal collegiate fit.

He seemed receptive to a variety of roles during a September discussion with Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

“I really think that I’m more of an athlete recruit,” Robertson told Wiltfong. “Defense and offense and returning the ball, I really feel like I can get the job done anywhere it needs to be done with the right preparation."

Notre Dame was the latest school to open its doors. The Fighting Irish presented an offer on Saturday, setting the stage for an appearance in his top six.

Robertson's rapport with the program continues to accelerate, courtesy of recent visits to South Bend, Indiana. These campus trips proved vital as both sides advanced from mutual flirtation to a full-fledged scholarship offer:

His decision to drop a list of favorites just days later hints that he's ready to move forward to the next phase of a widespread recruitment. The Note Dame offer may have served as motivation to do so, as Wiltfong wrote it's one Robertson "wanted as the process picked up."

The Irish have netted each commitment projection in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, but there will be substantial competition from Big Ten schools.

Penn State has seen its passing attack sputter for stretches under head coach James Franklin, and the program failed to make a major splash at receiver last signing day. Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton, the only Nittany Lions to surpass 20 catches in 2015, will be seniors when Robertson enrolls.

Illinois is attempting to redefine itself following the hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The 2007 NFC champion will attempt to capitalize on new Illini buzz by capitalizing with local talent, and he may not discover a more impressive player than Robertson while assessing the Chicago area's recruiting landscape.

Wisconsin gains an edge due to family ties with the school. His father, Pollis Robertson, was a Badgers basketball player in the 1980s, though there's been little to indicate a legacy commitment is imminent.

As an in-depth search for Robertson's ideal fit continues, look for further diligence through visits and communication with coaches to determine what comes next in his career.

“We have certain criteria that we look for,” Pollis Robertson told Matt Freeman of Irish Sports Daily. “First and foremost would be academics. Second to that, it’s definitely the football program and in his case, we look at the tradition, coaching staff, players that are there and the position needs."


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Many schools around the country visit the state of Florida in hopes of finding talent to supplement their rosters with. 

One program that has frequented the Sunshine State with a decent amount of success is the USC Trojans.

Head coach Clay Helton and his staff are hoping to find more talent from Florida in the 2017 cycle.

Last week, the Trojans offered a pair of defensive standouts in 4-star linebacker VanDarius Cowan and 4-star safety Daniel Wright

Cowan, who is committed to Florida State, is the nation’s No. 5 outside linebacker and the No. 78 player overall in the 2017 class.

The 6’0”, 170-pound Wright—who holds more than 30 offers—rates as the country’s No. 8 safety and No. 102 player overall in the current cycle.

Last month at the Miami Opening Regional, Cowan spoke on the strength of his commitment to the Seminoles.

“I’m 80 percent committed. I just keep the other 20 percent open to other schools,” Cowan said.

Meanwhile, Wright has FSU among his group of early leaders, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until after his senior season at the earliest.

If the Trojans can find a way to get either Sunshine State defender on campus, they could once again become a factor in the state of Florida in the 2017 cycle.


Georgia Offers Ohio DB

While it’s commonplace for Big Ten schools to recruit in the SEC’s backyard, it’s more of a rare occurrence for the reverse scenario to unfold.

Last week, SEC power Georgia looked to the state of Ohio to offer 4-star corner Amir Riep.

The 6’0”, 180-pounder—who rates as the nation’s No. 14 corner and the No. 131 player overall in 2017—from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, has collected 40 offers.

The offer comes on the heels of Riep visiting Athens. If he schedules a return visit, the Bulldogs could become a major contender in the race for his services.


Clemson After New Jersey ATH

After its race to the national championship game, Clemson is building momentum nationally with top recruits in the 2017 class.

Last week, the Tigers hit the state of New Jersey to offer 3-star athlete Markquese Bell.

According to Cory Fravel of 247Sports, the Tigers offered Bell—who also landed an offer from fellow ACC program Pittsburgh last week—as a safety.

Bell has 16 offers to date, with Michigan—who hosted him on an unofficial visit last week—being one of the main contenders in his recruitment at this stage.


Penn State After Stud 2018 CB

The 2018 class is loaded with recruits who are the sons of former NFL players. One such talent is corner Houston Griffith—whose father Howard was a fullback who won a pair of Super Bowls during his stint with the Broncos.

The younger Griffith is a 6’0”, 180-pound corner who has landed offers from programs such as Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee before his junior year.

Penn State is the latest powerhouse to jump in the mix for Griffith, who netted an offer from the Nittany Lions last week.

Given his size, athleticism and bloodlines, Griffith figures to become a national recruit sooner than later.


Best of the Rest









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

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Alabama Fans Need Patience Despite Hype Building Around Bo Scarbrough

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was media day for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Arizona and a radio show had asked University of Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand if he would participate in a live interview.

The players were all wearing their jerseys, but the person introducing him obviously never saw the name on his back. It led to an awkward moment when the first question was about the other guy who wore No. 9 for the Crimson Tide.

“Yeah, Bo Scarbrough, how does it feel to be behind Derrick Henry?” Hand said while telling the “crazy” story. Needless to say he was taken aback while the co-host quickly jumped in with, “Well, I don’t know about that, but he might be hitting Derrick Henry in practice. He’s one of the 14 guys on the D-line.”

Hand can joke about it now, but he still shakes his head at the memory. At least the radio personalities didn’t say he looks like a young Mike Tyson.

“Awww, man. C’mon. Don’t do me like that,” Hand said about the slight resemblance.

“I like to think I just look like Da’Shawn Hand.”

Players tying to make a name for themselves can be tough enough at Alabama, but some come in with an expectation level that borders on the ridiculous even though they can go unrecognized when walking down the street.

Crimson Tide fans in particular are guilty of the over-optimism regarding big-time prospects, especially at high-profile positions. For example, this time a year ago every Alabama beat reporter was asked nearly non-stop about new quarterback Blake Barnett like he should have been starting already.

This spring there have been comparable comments like, “Hey, I hear Jalen Hurts is pretty good,” but it hasn’t been as relentless.

They always seem to ignore the fact that every quarterback Nick Saban has brought in has redshirted his first year to give him a chance to develop, get accustomed to the college game (and lifestyle) and learn the offense.

AJ McCarron was nearly the exception to that when Greg McElroy suffered cracked ribs against Florida in the 2009 SEC championship game. Instead, he helped lead Alabama to back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, and with the extra year nearly pulled off the three-peat.

For Hurts to play this season it would likely be because either 1) Alabama had numerous injuries at quarterback, 2) he beat out every else on the depth chart, and/or 3) the dual-threat player brings such a unique element to the offense that the coaches felt it’s worth giving up a year of eligibility to play him.

But Scarbrough falls into a different category when it comes to fan buzz: big playmakers who they can’t get enough of. We’re talking about Julio Jones- and Henry-kind of hype.

Even his own teammates have regularly drawn physical comparisons between Scarbrough and last year’s starting running back.

“There’s not really a difference,” said linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, who practiced for two years against Henry. “They have the same body style.”

During his testing at the NFL combine, Henry measured 6’3” and 247 pounds, and still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.

Scarbrough is listed as being 6’2” and 240 pounds, although he came into the spring having lost 10 pounds because Alabama believes 230 to be his ideal playing weight.

“We give everybody a muscle mass, body fat, hydration, functional movement test,” Saban explained. “We try to work hard with [team nutritionist Amy Bragg] to come up with what’s the most efficient, effective weight for a guy. We see how this guy’s moving, how he’s running relative to how he used to run.

“Sometimes these guys keep lifting weights and they just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I think at certain positions, especially skill positions, that’s not always advantageous.”

It also signaled one important thing everyone needs to remember: Scarborough isn’t Henry and it’s unfair to expect him to be.

Maybe eventually he’ll post comparable or even better numbers, but for now here’s what Scarbrough’s done: Seven games, 18 attempts, 104 rushing yards (5.8 average per carry), and one touchdown. His longest carry was just 24 yards.

He’s still learning the offense, the blocking schemes, his teammates, the opposition and so forth. It took Henry two years to put all together to the point he could make his Heisman Trophy run, but if Alabama had to open the 2016 season tomorrow, Damien Harris would probably start at running back.

He was a consensus 5-star recruit as well in 2015, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and has a little more experience at this level.

“I certainly see a more confident and knowledgeable guy in Damien this spring so far," Saban said.

Together the two could potentially form quite a combination this season, especially if Alabama’s offensive line takes a step forward as many believe could happen. But for now the key word is "potential" because no one knows things like how they’ll hold on to the ball on third-and-short and pick up blitzes until they do it.

Consequently, take last Saturday’s scrimmage when Scarbrough had a 95-yard touchdown and was credited with 132 yards on nine carries, as verification that he’s fully arrived.

Consider it an important first step in following his own path, albeit one of which few will want to get in the way.

“Man, he brings it, so you better bring it,” Hand said. “He’s a man.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest College Football Stories You Likely Missed During March Madness

If March Madness has been completely consuming your sports brain over the last several weeks, we don't blame you. 

One of the most exciting NCAA men's basketball tournaments of all time ended Monday night with one of the greatest plays in championship game history for any sport—a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Villanova's Kris Jenkins to take home its first title since 1985. It was the perfect end to a tourney that included other last-second winners, crazy end-game sequences and more than a few Crying Jordans

But now that March Madness is in the books, it's time for many college sports fans to switch back to football.

From the time the NCAA tournament's first round tipped on March 17 until last night's grand finale, college football has been making some headlines of its own. They might not have gotten much attention nationally as brackets or Buddy Hield, but there wasn't a total shortage of news from the spring practice cycles.

In case you completely checked out on offseason college football news during the NCAA tournament, here's a refresher on the top stories from the past few weeks.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star OT to Narrow List, 4-Star ATH Lands 50th Offer

Last weekend was one of the biggest of the spring recruiting-wise, as several athletes announced their verbal commitments. Among those were 4-star quarterback Bailey Hockman to Florida State, 4-star wide receiver Taariq Johnson to Cal, 4-star running back O'Maury Samuels to Michigan and 4-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia to Nebraska.

Couple the commitments with a stop in Houston for The Opening and Elite 11, and recruiting news has been flowing the past few days. Here are some recruiting updates from the week:


5-star OT Davis set to narrow list

Washington fans have to be thrilled about where the program stands after 5-star offensive tackle Wyatt Davis made an unofficial visit last week. He gave the visit a very high mark as he prepares for the next step in his recruiting process.

"The process is going great," said Davis, the star lineman from California's St. John Bosco High School who is the nation's No. 24 overall player in the 2017 class. "I visited Washington, and these next weeks are going to be key. I will be making a top seven."

Washington is hoping to be one of the schools in Davis' top seven, but Davis has a handful of schools that he's high on. He's taken visits to USC and Alabama this year, and schools like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Cal, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Nebraska are ones to watch as he narrows his choices. Davis has 26 reported offers.

The common denominator with the 6'5", 310-pound lineman's top seven? He said it'll come down to the advantages he can get off the field.

"The education," said Davis, the nation's No. 7 offensive tackle who is looking to pursue a degree in broadcasting or communications.


4-star ATH Askew talks 50th offer, immediate future

When Tennessee offered McCalla, Alabama, 4-star athlete Malcolm Askew last Tuesday, it was more than just another offer for him.

Askew reported Tennessee as his 50th overall offer, and that offer meant he owned one from each school in the SEC. Consider it a small, personal goal of his.

"There are some who don't get one offer. I'm just blessed to have all of them," said Askew, whose first SEC offer was Georgia.

Of all his offers, Askew said an SEC school is currently in front. He said Auburn is his current leader, and he will be on campus Saturday for the A-Day Spring Game.

Askew—who at 5'11" and 183 pounds can play cornerback, safety and wide receiver—added that although Auburn's in front, several schools are still very much in the race, including Clemson, Ole Miss, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, Oregon, Cal and Miami. Tennessee offered Askew as a defensive back.

"Ultimately, I'm looking for a place just for me to come in and get playing time early and be a big factor," Askew said. "I don't really want to be the guy who redshirts. I want to go somewhere where I'm needed and not just wanted. I also want a great academic program that's set up for me to be successful, somewhere that will help me graduate in three years."


4-star OT Deculus announcing next month

May 20 will be a big day for Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus, as he will end his recruiting process on the day of his team's spring game. Deculus will publicly announce his college plans to play at one of five schools—LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Tennessee.

Here's the catch: That decision may have already been etched.

"I've pretty much made my decision," said Deculus, who has 30 reported offers from coast to coast.

"May 20 is my spring game. I think it's going to mean a lot to my teammates but more importantly to my family because my parents are going to be there."

Deculus' 247Sports Crystal Ball points heavily to him choosing LSU next month. Before The Opening, he spoke highly about the five finalists.

"They fit what I look for in an offense. It's smack-you-in-the-mouth football," he said. "I love aggression. I love run blocking. That's my thing. Pass blocking is good and necessary, but overall, run blocking is my favorite."

Deculus is the nation's No. 12 offensive tackle and the No. 62 overall player in the 2017 class.


Ohio State pledge has eyes on 5-star recruits

The minute La Grange, Texas, 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins committed to Ohio State on March 6, he had plans of being an early enrollee.

Before he heads to Columbus, Ohio, Dobbins said he's got some player recruiting to do. When asked about potential targets, Dobbins, the nation's No. 4 all-purpose back and No. 54 overall player in the 2017 class, said he's going all in on two 5-star athletes in particular.

"Marvin and Jeff. I want them at Ohio State," Dobbins said, referring to the Texas duo of defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and defensive back Jeffrey Okudah. "If we get those guys, we're going to win national championships. They are great players and great guys. They're not cocky or anything. They're just some cool dudes."

Ohio State currently has 13 commits in its 2017 class, including the 5-star duo of offensive tackle Josh Myers and cornerback Shaun Wade. Dobbins and 4-star running back commit Todd Sibley could emerge into a nice one-two punch in the backfield for the Buckeyes.


Words of wisdom from Ole Miss signee Anderson

About this time last year, Ole Miss signee Deontay Anderson was working on earning his second trip to The Opening finals. On Sunday, he was a spectator watching the next group of talented athletes compete for their opportunity to go to Beaverton, Oregon.

Anderson's work ethic was to be admired. The way he approached the recruiting process was something else that caught the attention of targets. Anderson made his decision on national signing day—in dramatic fashion, nonetheless—and refused to make any early commitment announcements.

He offered sound advice to the recruits at The Opening Houston. Anderson wants all recruits to remember that their national signing day is still roughly 10 months away.

"Be patient. A lot of things change," Anderson said. "One coach might be here now, and then he might be gone later. Players leave for the draft. There's a lot of things that go into it.

"Just take your time, and don't rush into it. It's one of the hardest but best decisions of your life. Make it count."


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings and recruitment information courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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SEC Football Q&A: Which Team Will Be the Biggest Overachiever in 2016?

The first big wave of SEC spring games come this weekend when Florida, Auburn, South Carolina and Texas A&M hold their glorified scrimmages.

With those games come pressure. That pressure can go a long way toward coaches determining which players will see the field this fall in the nation's most rigorous college football conference.

Will we get a glimpse of some potential overachievers this weekend? That question and more are in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.


I'm going to go with Ole Miss because the Rebels aren't going to be picked to be a top-tier program nationally after the losses of Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, C.J. Johnson and other impact players from the 2015 team.

That's OK, though, because while several of those players were blue-chip recruits who helped set the tone for head coach Hugh Freeze's career in Oxford, he has been able to follow them up with several solid recruiting classes that are more complete than the top-heavy 2013 group.

Yes, there are issues to overcome, specifically along the offensive line where Freeze not only has to replace Tunsil, but also the rest of the unit that protects quarterback Chad Kelly. 

What do we know about Freeze, though? He has had plenty of practice dealing with roster holes—often on the fly—and figuring out how to make things work.

He lost Tunsil for seven games last season due to suspension, and he still found a way to top Alabama—which boasted the best front seven in college football—on the road at night in his absence. When linebacker Johnson was out, and fellow linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche struggled to stay on the field, DeMarquis Gates stepped up and finished with the team lead in tackles (76). 

Because of the roster attrition, Ole Miss isn't going to be picked in the preseason top five. ESPN's Joe Schad has them 11th, and Athlon Sports did as well; the Rebels seem to be buried by the Alabama and LSU hype in the SEC West.

If Freeze can find a way to split his two big September games (vs. Florida State in Orlando on Sept. 5 and vs. Alabama in Oxford on Sept. 17), then don't be surprised if his Rebels make a run to the College Football Playoff.

Of course, a win over the Crimson Tide is more imperative considering the weight the division matchup holds.


He takes a backseat to LSU's Leonard Fournette and Georgia's Nick Chubb for a couple of reasons. 

First, he hasn't proved that he's as much of a work horse as the other two stars. That's not a knock against Jalen Hurd. He's an awesome running back and certainly could be a work horse if needed. But the presence of mobile quarterback Joshua Dobbs over the last year-and-a-half and backfield mate Alvin Kamara took pressure off of him in 2015.

Nobody has taken pressure off of Fournette or Chubb.

Fournette gets no help from his quarterback, passing game, offensive philosophy or anybody else on the offense. Chubb came in for Todd Gurley in a pinch midway through the 2014 season, tallied 30 or more carries in three games and rushed for 1,547 yards in essentially a half-season as the starter.

Second, Tennessee has a reputation of building but not being there yet. No, LSU and Georgia haven't played in the SEC Championship Game either during the careers of their star running backs, but eyeballs have been on both programs from the start of each of the last two seasons.

Tennessee is the opposite. From a national perspective, it seems that fans and media take more of a "wait and see" approach for the Vols, which means Hurd has to earn his share of the spotlight more than Fournette and Chubb.


Without a doubt, it's Texas A&M.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin is loose, fun and has enough confidence to fill the Lone Star State. He even has the "Swag-copter" at his disposal to check in on prospects around the country.

Whether it was running back Ben Malena and the "cashing out" craze of 2012, the youthful exuberance former quarterback Johnny Manziel played the game with or the way Sumlin chest bumps his players after a touchdown or a big turnover on defense, the Aggies look like they're having more fun out there when things are going well—as is the case with their head coach.

When things don't go well, of course the enjoyment of football goes down the tubes. But the highs for the Aggies are high for the players and the coaches, and they don't shy away from showing it.

That's refreshing.


Top three might be a bit aggressive, considering Fournette and Chubb (as long as they are healthy) should be top-notch. Hurd is a monster, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has produced 13, 1,000-yard rushers in 10 seasons as a college head or assistant coach, and Alabama and Arkansas are running back factories.

That doesn't mean Mark Thompson, a 6'2", 242-pound junior college transfer from Dodge City (Kansas) Community College can't be a star.

He absolutely can.

With a stature like Derrick Henry, who is 6'3", 247 pounds, and speed of a track star, Thompson can be a big-time weapon in a Florida offense that needs a bruiser at running back to become the focal point of head coach Jim McElwain's pro-style offense.

Top three in the SEC shouldn't be Thompson's goal—a solid 25 carries per game and a 1,000-yard season should be. 

If he can do that, the Gators will have a good chance of repeating as SEC East champions.


Quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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5-Star JaCoby Stevens Goes in-Depth on Top 7, Timeline Moving Forward

One of the nation’s premier skill-position talents in the 2017 class has narrowed his list to seven lucky programs.

Late Sunday evening, 5-star athlete JaCoby Stevens dropped his list of finalists on his Twitter account. 

His list, in order, includes Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, USC and Oklahoma.

He was once committed to the Tigers briefly before reopening his recruitment.

The Bulldogs are in the pole position for the nation’s top athlete and the No. 22 player overall in the 2017 class, but they will have to fend off a trio of fellow SEC titans and national powerhouses from the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.

Stevens, who could play either safety or receiver in college, spoke with Bleacher Report recently and broke down his finalists and his recruitment.

Here are his thoughts on each program in his top seven.


Georgia: "I’m very high on Georgia just because I believe in [Head] Coach [Kirby] Smart’s vision and where he has Georgia going. I’m also really comfortable with my position coach in [defensive coordinator] Coach [Mel] Tucker dating back to when he was at Alabama. Those two being there and me being so comfortable with the head coach and the defensive coordinator, that’s two really big positives. Then, the school is just awesome."

LSU: "When I decommitted, I guess it put a bad taste in the mouth of LSU fans. But LSU is a great school with a lot of great things to offer. They have a great DB coach who has put multiple players in the league in Corey Raymond. They have a charismatic coach and a players' coach in Les Miles. The competition there is amazing, so that’s why I’m interested in them." 

Florida State: "I feel like how they use their players is something that attracts me to their program. Like [2016 NFL draft prospect] Jalen Ramsey, for example, he got to showcase his versatility in playing nickel, safety and corner in three years. Little things like that can help you be more valuable to your own team and to NFL teams down the road." 

Florida: "They do great with bigger safeties. Matt Elam was a thicker guy and they had Keanu Neal recently. I think Florida is just a great school. I like [Head] Coach [Jim] McElwain and where he is taking the program. They had a fast start last year and I think they are going to keep going up more."

Tennessee: "That’s the hometown school right there. They made a hire [at defensive coordinator] in Coach [Bob] Shoop recently that I really liked. Him being there, it makes me feel good because I really like Coach Shoop. I knew him since my eighth-grade year when he was at Vanderbilt. That’s a relationship that has been going on for a while and him being at UT is awesome." 

USC: "My guy Austin Thomas [former LSU director of player personnel], he was actually at LSU and he recruited me hard when I was initially committed there. Now he’s out there and he’s been on me since the first day he was at USC [now associate athletic director of personnel at USC]. Not only that, USC has a lot to offer with their program. The history and the connections you can build out there, it’s an amazing opportunity there." 

Oklahoma: "I put them on my list because of their history and tradition they have there. Also, Oklahoma is a school that will allow me to play both sides of the ball. I’ve spoken with the receivers coach, the DBs coach and [Head] Coach [Bob] Stoops frequently, and they have been recruiting me hard."


He’s recently taken visits to Georgia and LSU, and he admits the only trip that is possible in the near future is a return to Athens for the Bulldogs spring game.

“I’m not sure yet, but I think I may go to G-Day,” Stevens said. “That’s it for right now, but in the summer, I know I will take a lot of visits. The other schools on my list, those are the programs I want to go see in the summer.”

Of his finalists, Stevens also notes that commits from a pair of his finalists are already pressing him to join their respective clubs.

“Right now, I’d say the Georgia commits are coming at me from all over the place. [2017 4-star safety] Richard LeCounte and [2018 offensive lineman] Max Wray, they are in my ear 24/7,” Stevens said. “UT, I have a lot of their guys and my friends telling me to stay at home and make Tennessee great. I think Georgia and UT are where the players are recruiting me the hardest right now.”

Stevens, who has plans on majoring in sports marketing in college, has another important decision to make regarding his future.

He is contemplating skipping his final semester of high school to potentially get a jump-start on his college career. 

“That’s something I have to discuss with my parents, but I am on track to graduate early,” Stevens said.

That decision will ultimately have an impact on when he makes a final decision in his recruitment.

“If I don’t graduate early, I think I will do a national signing day commitment,” Stevens said. “If I do graduate early, I may just do it at one of the all-star games or just a big commitment at my school after the football season.”

With his finalists already identified, Stevens detailed a few things he’s looking for that will be critical in helping him find the school that fits him the best. 

“How I feel towards the program, not just athletically, but academically,” Stevens said. “How the school is socially also, because every school has something great to offer. Every school on my list has great facilities. At the end of the day, I have to a lot of soul-searching and just dissect and find little things that separates that one school I will pick in the end.”


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

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