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Texas Football: What Longhorns Must Do to Prepare for Arkansas

Year one of Charlie Strong's career in Austin has not been an easy road traveled.

The head coach removed nine players from the program for violating his rules, faced a tough non-conference schedule—which ultimately led to Texas starting off the season with a losing record—and lost his starting quarterback, center and defensive tackle before the beginning of conference play.

But Texas fought through it all to become bowl-eligible and have the chance to end the season with a winning record.

However, the Longhorns received another blow when the AdvoCare Texas Bowl announced their opponent for the Dec. 29 game.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have a lot of talent throughout the two-deep, and their 6-6 record does not do the team justice.

Yes, the Razorbacks only won half of their games, and yes, the team only beat two conference opponents this season. But the Razorbacks significantly improved since their season-opening loss to Auburn, and it will take a tremendous effort from the Longhorns to leave Houston with a win.


Texas Defense: Prepare to Stop the Run, Weather the Storm

Arkansas' run game is the envy of most college football teams. The Razorbacks have two 1,000-yard rushers in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The duo helped carry much of the offensive load this season and put up 23 combined touchdowns in 12 games.

But the success of the ground game is not only due to the talent of the running backs. In fact, a big reason for the run game's success is because of the offensive line.

The Razorbacks O-line is one of the largest in college football, and the unit's 6'6", 321-pound average size is largely to credit for Collins and Williams' success.

Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will be brutally tasked with coming up with a game plan to stop the Razorbacks ground game. Texas needs to be prepared to shut down the run and force quarterback Brandon Allen to throw the ball.

What Texas has working to its advantage is the fact that the Razorbacks have struggled to put up points late in the game. Arkansas has averaged 7.5 points in the second half against conference opponents. 

The Razorbacks have not been able to continue their first-half offensive performances throughout the season. The Texas defense needs to weather the storm and be prepared to stuff Arkansas' offense after halftime.

If the Longhorns are successful in these areas, the team has a chance to finish the season with seven wins.


Texas Offense: Prepare to Score Quickly and Target Arkansas' Pass Defense

The Razorbacks rank No. 22 in the nation against the run and have only allowed 10 rushing touchdowns all season. It wouldn't be fair to say Arkansas struggles against throwing quarterbacks, but its pass defense is likely to give up more scores than the run defense.

Where Arkansas tends to struggle is in games where its offense is forced to score quickly.

Texas needs to use this to its advantage.

The Longhorns have to get off to a fast start and force the Razorbacks to come from behind.

Some Longhorns fans may cringe at the thought of placing the offense's success in the hands of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes following his performance against TCU, but the quarterback needs to be on point on Dec. 29.

Swoopes has received a lot of criticism and blame this season. Some of it was probably warranted, and some may not have been, but that's what happens when you are the starting quarterback in Division I college football.

Swoopes has to protect the football and prove his worth in the Longhorns' bowl game. He doesn't have to put the whole team on his back and carry the load for Texas, but he does have to play well, which is something he did not do in the final game of the regular season.

Strong said Swoopes gets way too down on himself when he plays poorly. That cannot happen against this Arkansas team.

The Razorbacks defense will likely be salivating over Swoopes' performance against TCU, so the quarterback has to maintain his composure and not make mental errors.

Swoopes has shown talent and the ability to sling it this season. He needs to take what he did in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma and bring that mentality throughout his preparation for the AdvoCare Texas Bowl.


The Longhorns opened as five-point underdogs to the Razorbacks, according to Odds Shark. Texas will have the national spotlight on it when it faces Arkansas on Monday night and a chance to make up for its embarrassing regular-season finale with a win over a SEC team.

The Longhorns have been through a lot of turmoil in Strong's first season, but the head coach senses the program is beginning to make a turnaround, and a win against Arkansas could be just what the team needs to get the program back on track.

"You would like to go win more games and make sure that the program is headed in the right direction. A lot of times we judge that by the number of wins. I see that happening with this program. I see it turning," Strong said.

"We had a stretch there where we won games and then the last game, we didn’t play so well. We should have played a lot better than what we did. It’s coming, and we just know this. We just have to continue to work hard, and good things are going to happen."


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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Wisconsin Football Head Coach Search: Latest News and Speculation on Position

For the second time in three seasons, the University of Wisconsin has been left reeling as their head football coach departs for a less successful program. Gary Andersen officially tendered his resignation Wednesday and was immediately announced as the next head coach at Oregon State.

Andersen, 50, will take over for Mike Riley, who departed for Nebraska earlier this month after more than a decade in Corvallis.

The move was a shock to many given the disparity in success between the two programs. Oregon State has reached double-digit wins only twice in its football program history, which dates back to 1893. Wisconsin has hit the double-digit mark three times since 2009 and is a perennial contender in the Big Ten. Andersen's departure comes two seasons after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas under a similarly eye-opening situation.

"I began working to find a new coach as soon as I spoke with Gary this morning," Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. "My first concern is taking care of the players on the current team, especially the senior class, and ensuring that their bowl experience is a memorable one. I will find a head coach to uphold the great tradition at Wisconsin, someone who is committed to excellence both on and off the field."

Brent Yarina of the Big Ten Network added more from Alvarez:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder discussed his take on who should take over for Andersen:

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated threw out a multitude of names as potential replacements, highlighted by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano:

Schiano, 48, was out of football in 2014 after being fired by the Buccaneers following a frustrating two-season run. He's had much more success at the collegiate level, where he went 68-67 in 11 seasons at Rutgers. A complete nonentity when Schiano took over the job, he left having built Rutgers into a program respectable enough to earn a Big Ten Conference invite.

Paul Chryst is a the current head coach at Pittsburgh and served as a longtime assistant at Wisconsin, most notably as an offensive coordinator from 2005-11. Dave Clawson has no ties to the university and struggled in his first season at Wake Forest, but as Thamel notes, finished second behind Andersen in the school's most recent coaching search.

Pro Football Talk's threw out Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who is expected to draw NFL head coaching interest, as a potential candidate:

Bevell is, of course, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Wisconsin history. His arrival in Madison was one of the defining moments in Alvarez turning around the Badgers program, as Bevell led them to their first Rose Bowl victory in 1994. Not only is Bevell's name hot in coaching circles, but his close relationship with Alvarez undoubtedly makes him an interesting target.

That said, there is a reason this seemingly great job has been vacated twice in the past 24 months. Adam Rittenberg of ESPN noted that Wisconsin's academic policies left Andersen "frustrated":

It's unlikely we'll see an entire university bend its academic standards more to appease the football program. But it'll nonetheless be interesting to see whether those factors play into Alvarez's coaching search.

After being dumped twice in such succession, Wisconsin needs to find someone who will stick around.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Gary Andersen Out, Who Should Be the Next Head Coach for the Wisconsin Badgers?

According to the Wisconsin athletic department, Gary Andersen is leaving the program and accepting the Oregon State head coaching position.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses where Wisconsin should go from here.

Who do you think the Badgers should snag as their new head coach?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report Expert Picks for 2014 Heisman Trophy

The 2014 Heisman Trophy will be presented to one deserving college football player on Saturday night in New York. 

But just who will that player be? 

The three best players at their respective positions are all vying for a chance at history. 

Marcus Mariota, quarterback of the Oregon Ducks, is the favorite to win the prestigious award, according to Odds Shark. However, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper each have a compelling case. 

Gordon leads the nation in rushing with 2,336 yards. He averaged just under 180 yards a game and 7.6 yards per carry. The junior back scored 26 touchdowns on the year, including five in one game. Oh, and who could forget his record-breaking performance of 408 rushing yards in just three quarters? 

Cooper leads the nation in receiving yards and receptions, totaling 1,656 yards and 115 catches this season. The junior wideout scored 14 touchdowns on the year, including three in not one but two separate games. One of those games was the 2014 Iron Bowl against Auburn, which really set Cooper's campaign on fire, as he hauled in 13 receptions for 224 yards. 

Mariota leads the nation with a passer rating of 186.33.  The junior signal-caller threw for 3,783 yards and rushed for just under 700. However, what's most impressive—aside from leading his team to the Pac-12 title—is the 53 total touchdowns he compiled this season (38 through the air, 14 on the ground). 

Bleacher Report college football experts Adam Kramer, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Ben Kercheval have made their picks on how the order of the voting for the 2014 Heisman Trophy will play out. What say you, college football fans? 

Let us know your picks in the comments below! 

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Gary Andersen to Oregon State: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Gary Andersen is headed back west. 

After a successful two-year stint with Wisconsin, the 50-year-old Utah native has accepted the vacant position at Oregon State.      

The school's official athletics Twitter feed confirmed the news Wednesday:

Wisconsin released a statement shortly after the news broke, including comments from athletic director Barry Alvarez and chancellor Rebecca Blank:

Alvarez, via Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, talked about the search for a new head coach, noting that the players have asked him to coach against No. 19 Auburn in the Outback Bowl Jan. 1 in Tampa, Florida:

Andersen attended the University of Utah and spent time as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator with the Utes. Following a stretch as head coach of Utah State, he took over the Badgers job shortly after the 2012 campaign. 

In two seasons in Madison, he compiled a 19-7 record with a loss to South Carolina in last year's Capital One Bowl. Under his watch, the Badgers finished sixth in the nation in scoring defense in 2013 and 13th in 2014.

As such, his decision to leave comes as a bit of a shock. Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon and defensive end Chikwe Obasih (among many other Badgers players) took to Twitter to express their disbelief and disappointment:

While it's unfortunate for Wisconsin, which met a similar fate just two years ago when Bret Bielema unexpectedly darted for Arkansas, it's a huge hire for the Beavers. 

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah put it simply:

Oregon State finished 5-7 this season under Mike Riley, and while there have been some solid seasons in Corvallis in recent years, the Beavers have had a difficult time breaking through into the Pac-12's upper tier. 

This hire, however, is a terrific step in the right direction.     

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Gary Andersen to Oregon State: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Gary Andersen is headed back west. After a successful two-year stint with Wisconsin, the 50-year-old Utah native has accepted the vacant position at Oregon State...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michael Weber to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star RB Prospect

In this era of college football, the running back is still a vital component to offensive success. Michael Weber, a 4-star recruit from Michigan, is going to make fans of Ohio State very happy starting next season. 

According to ESPN's Tom VanHaaren, Weber will be a Buckeye:

As is often the case for high-profile recruits, Weber had a whirlwind journey before getting to this moment. In August, he committed to Michigan.

However, in the midst of all the unrest around the coaching staff and athletic department during the season, Weber took to Twitter again to announce that he was reopening his recruiting:

According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, Weber made the decision as the Wolverines were losing to Maryland, and it put a significant dent in the school's 2015 recruiting class, which was already starting to thin out:

Weber is the fourth player to decommit from Brady Hoke's 2015 recruiting class this season, joining four-star defensive end Darian Roseboro, four-star corner Garrett Taylor and four-star linebacker Darrin Kirkland.

Michigan's 2015 recruiting class is down to seven players.

Weber, the 13th-ranked running back in the country, had offers from Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State. He had his best season in 2014 with 2,268 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, via 247Sports.com

While boasting a strong running back frame at 5'10", Weber will need to add more bulk as he's currently listed at 205 pounds. One thing that you notice from the highlight video embedded above is how he doesn't really avoid contact.

Because Weber lacks elite speed, defenders have a chance to hit him. However, because he's so physical with a strong lower half, you have to wrap him up and fight to get him down. That's why the 17-year-old could have instant success in college, though a redshirt season isn't out of the question. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Players to Watch in Music City Bowl

With the Irish set to take on LSU in three weeks, Notre Dame's coaches are preparing the football team for a final game in the 2014 season as well as for the future ahead. With a roster that remains largely intact, the opportunity to win once more in 2014 while also starting to prep the foundation of next year's team is one of the main benefits that come with a postseason bowl game. 

Drawing LSU makes for a difficult challenge, but it's that's a better matchup for a battered Irish defense than Georgia or Auburn would have been. And while beating Les Miles' Tigers is the primary objective, Brian Kelly spent some time last Sunday discussing some of the big-picture goals that need to be reached this December.

"It gives us a chance to obviously get an opportunity to finish the season off with a win," Kelly said Sunday. "Any time you get bowl preparation, that's important for a football team, especially one where we're trying to find ourselves. The additional practices allow us to continue to work with our younger players and continue to develop our players who are currently on our football team."

That development will be crucial not just for beating LSU but for prepping a team that has grand plans for next season. Let's take a look at five players to watch in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30. 

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Chad Kelly to Ole Miss: Rebels Land Former Clemson, JUCO QB

It has been a long ride for Chad Kelly, but the latest path has carried the quarterback to Ole Miss. The former Clemson and East Mississippi signal-caller announced he will join the Rebels after this season.

Kelly made his intentions clear on Twitter:

Kelly, who is the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, was in competition to take the starting position in Clemson following Tajh Boyd's departure, but didn't see those plans come to fruition. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dismissed the quarterback and issued a statement at the time, via Ken Bradley of Sporting News:

I have dismissed Chad Kelly for conduct detrimental to our program. He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program. I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically.

Though he had issues while with the Tigers, Kelly helped lead East Mississippi to a NJCAA national title this season. During 12 games with the Lions, Kelly passed for 3,905 yards, 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions.    

Dan Wolken of USA Today offered his take on the potential for Kelly in Oxford:

In 2014, the Rebels rolled to a strong start in the SEC West and looked like College Football Playoff contenders. Though that fell apart late, adding a quarterback like Kelly might wind up keeping Ole Miss in contention. 

It should be interesting to see how Kelly's career takes shape with the Rebels after the issues he experienced at Clemson. After finding success at the junior college level, this looks like a shot at redemption for the talented young quarterback.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Will QB Cody Kessler Lead USC to the College Football Playoff in 2015?

USC is never short of talent, but it should be most excited about its Heisman-contending quarterback, Cody Kessler, returning to hopefully lead the Trojans to a Pac-12 title and beyond.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate how USC will fare next season. 

How far can Kessler take the Trojans?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will QB Cody Kessler Lead USC to the College Football Playoff in 2015?

USC is never short of talent, but it should be most excited about its Heisman-contending quarterback, Cody Kessler , returning to hopefully lead the Trojans to a Pac -12 title and beyond...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Why Tennessee Has a Shot at Making the College Football Playoff in 2015

With their returning impact players and stud recruiting class, the Tennessee Volunteers have all the ingredients to make a run at the SEC East crown and beyond in 2015. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss the idea of Tennessee's competing for a shot at the College Football Playoff in 2015. 

How do you see Tennessee faring in 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lane Kiffin Jokes About What Nick Saban Says to Him on Sideline During Games

Every fan wants to know what Alabama coach Nick Saban says to his players and coaching staff during games, especially when things aren't going well for his team.

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin recently took some time to reveal what the Crimson Tide boss says to him on the sideline. In this instance, "reveal" means he had some fun joking around.

Kiffin is in his first season as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator and was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation's top assistant coach. His time at the podium, behind a microphone, was his chance to tease Saban.

Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman went home with the 2014 Broyles Award, but Kiffin was at least able to have some fun at the event.

[Broyles Award]

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Clemson Football: 5 Bold Predictions for the Tigers' Bowl Game

Since Sunday, the Clemson Tigers have known they will be taking on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 29. That much we know. The part that is still up in the air is exactly how things will go in the bowl game for the Tigers, especially with the recent news, via ESPN, that quarterback Deshaun Watson will be undergoing season-ending knee surgery on Friday.

Can the defense win another close game for the Tigers? Will Cole Stoudt end his college career on a positive note? Here are five bold predictions for Clemson’s bowl game.

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Jordan Stevenson Decommits from Texas: What's Next for Longhorns, 4-Star RB?

Texas suffered a significant blow to its 2015 recruiting class Wednesday when in-state running back Jordan Stevenson decommitted, per EJ Holland of The Dallas Morning News. The 4-star South Oak Cliff standout elected to reopen his recruitment more than a year after initially pledging to the Longhorns.

It didn't take long for another top suitor to emerge for Stevenson, who rates 18th nationally among rushers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He spent an official visit at Wisconsin, and his decision quickly followed an announcement on The Dan Patrick Show that Badgers Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon plans to enter the 2015 NFL draft.

Stevenson, a 5'8", 185-pound speedster who started his career at Dallas Skyline High School, initially pledged to Texas last fall. He chose the Longhorns in October 2013, but offers soon followed from the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, UCLA and Wisconsin.

After rushing for more than 1,900 yards and 18 scores as a junior, Stevenson established career bests this season. He carried the ball 258 times, churning out 2,511 yards and 31 touchdowns en route to state quarterfinal action.

The focus now shifts to Wisconsin, where sophomore Corey Clement is the heir apparent to Gordon. The New Jersey native accounted for more than 800 yards and nine scores during the regular season after seeing significant reps as a freshman.

Stevenson could follow a path similar to Clement's in Madison, taking on a change-of-pace role in the backfield before earning his turn as a feature back. He is also expected to line up a visit to UCLA before national signing day, per Holland.

Meanwhile, Texas is left with a positional vacancy in its 2015 recruiting class. Stevenson, who pledged to former Longhorns coach Mack Brown, creates a need at running back two months shy of national signing day.

Chris Warren, a 4-star rusher from Rockwall, Texas, is expected to arrive on campus in Austin this weekend. The 6'2", 232-pound playmaker views the Longhorns as one of four finalists, along with Washington, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

"I know the Texas staff very well," he told Bleacher Report earlier this week. "My goal during the visit is to see what coach [Charlie] Strong is doing differently than coach Brown did to set the team up for more success on and off the field."

Warren, one of six finalists for U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year, rushed for 2,329 yards and 34 scores as a senior. He is rated ninth nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings.

"I kept a close eye on Texas this season," Warren said. "It wasn’t the best they could possibly be, but there were some great moments. In another year, with the right players, the team could jump up to a new level."

The Longhorns hope he's part of the solution. Texas already holds a commitment from 3-star in-state running back Tristian Houston, who rushed for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014.

Texas' 2015 class currently includes 18 commits. It rates 17th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports. 

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SEC Football Announces Awards for 2014 Season

Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper highlighted the SEC's individual awards, which the conference announced Wednesday.

The junior wide receiver was named the Offensive Player of the Year, the only award that went to a member of the conference champion Crimson Tide.

Cooper leads FBS in receptions (115) and yards (1,656) along with 14 touchdowns. He had 12 catches for 83 yards in Alabama's SEC title game win over Missouri.

"To do what he does every Saturday is impressive, man," Alabama tight end O.J. Howard told The Associated Press (h/t Yahoo Sports). "We're like, 'Wow.' We knew he could do it, but he's doing more. So that's impressive. Without Coop I don't know where we'd be right now."

East Division champion Missouri picked up three awards, with junior defensive end Shane Ray earning Defensive Player of the Year honors and senior Marcus Murphy getting named Special Teams Player of the Year. Tigers coach Gary Pinkel was chosen as Coach of the Year.

Ray led the conference with 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Murphy is fourth in the country in kickoff return average, at 29.88 yards per return, along with two TDs. And he also had a punt return score.

Pinkel previously was named Mid-American Coach of the Year in 1995, when he was at Toledo, and was co-Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2007.

Georgia players were honored as Freshman of the Year (running back Nick Chubb) and Scholar-Athlete of the Year (senior wide receiver Chris Conley), while LSU senior offensive tackle La'el Collins was named the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner.

Chubb ran for 1,281 yards and 12 TDs, gaining at least 100 yards in each of the last seven games. Conley, set to graduate this month with a degree in journalism, has a 3.32 GPA.

Collins is projected by CBS Sports as a first-round draft pick.

The SEC individual awards were voted on by the league's head coaches, who could not choose their own players.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Why Auburn's Offense Will Be 'Explosive and Dynamic' in 2015

The Auburn Tigers are losing a lot of talent in Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne, but that doesn't mean they won't remain an elite offensive team.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the potential Auburn offense in 2015.

Will Auburn's offense remain at the top in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!     

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Texas Recruiting 2014-15: Latest News, Rumors and Commit Updates

After a debut season filled with ups and downs, Texas head coach Charlie Strong is busy preparing for a big-time run over the final weeks leading up to national signing day.

The Longhorns currently have 19 commitments in their 2015 class, per 247Sports.

Here's a look at the latest news, top targets and commits for the Longhorns.


Latest News

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Texas lost a commitment on Wednesday, as 4-star running back Jordan Stevenson announced plans to reopen his recruitment, per his Twitter account.

The loss leaves Texas with 19 commitments in its 2015 class and only one from a running back—3-star rusher Tristian Houston.

However, the 'Horns are still in the running for 4-star running back Chris Warren, who has Texas among his four finalists. 


Top Targets and Commitments

Wednesday, Dec. 10

One of the Longhorns' top remaining needs in the 2015 cycle is at linebacker. Per Colt Barber of Horns247, Strong visited top target and 4-star linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. on Tuesday evening. 

Kirkland recently announced plans to commit at the U.S. Army All-American Game on Jan. 3, and the Longhorns join Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Tennessee as one of his four finalists.

Landing the 6'2", 235-pounder would be a huge coup for Strong, who also has Texas squarely in the hunt for 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson.


Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted

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Maps Show Where College Football Playoff Teams Recruit From

The college football programs that can recruit all over the country typically have the most success. That's why it should come as no surprise that the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff aren't limited to recruiting regionally.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, the Oregon Ducks, the Florida State Seminoles and the Ohio State Buckeyes are among the teams that tend to get the best recruits in the country, which has translated into a lot of success on the field. 

In order to give fans an idea of where each team has gotten its recruits from, John Nelson of IDV Solutions has put together some maps that show the hometowns of each team's players.


Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State


Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State

As most fans could probably guess, Oregon's Air Mile Index (27.0) is the highest of the four playoff teams. A score of 30 means that the team is able to recruit just about anywhere, and the Ducks are pretty close to that mark. The other three teams are in the 14-17 range.

With the amount of high school talent in the state of Florida, the Seminoles don't have to go very far to recruit. They have been able to get players from many other states, but the Sunshine State is where the majority of their players come from.


Maps for each individual team can be seen on the IDV Solutions website.

[h/t SB Nation]

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Ohio State's Tom Herman Is the Next Future Head Coaching Star

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Tom Herman arrived at Ohio State in late 2011, he did so with little fanfare, better known for his membership to Mensa than his work at Iowa State.

Whenever Herman leaves—and that day may be sooner rather than later—he'll do so as one of the hottest commodities in the college coaching ranks.

Herman's work since coming to Columbus to work for Urban Meyer has spoken for itself, as he's helped transform what was a broken offense and inexperienced quarterback into a juggernaut that has ranked in the top four in national scoring in each of the past two seasons. The Buckeyes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach's performance in 2014 has been his most impressive yet, turning a backup into a Heisman Trophy candidate and a third-stringer into a Big Ten Championship Game MVP.

"It's the hand we were dealt, and we played it," Herman said, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Herman played that hand all the way to this year's Broyles Award, which is presented annually to college football's top assistant. Beating out Alabama's Lane Kiffin, Oregon's Scott Frost, TCU's Doug Meacham and Missouri's Dave Steckel, Herman asserted himself as one of college football's most talked-about coaches—just as the sport's yearly carousel of coaching changes begins to turn.

Herman has maintained that he's only focused on being Ohio State's offensive coordinator, especially as the Buckeyes prepare take part in the first-ever College Football Playoff. But his name had previously been linked to the head coaching vacancy at SMU that was eventually filled by Chad Morris as well as the Nebraska opening, which went to Mike Riley.

Herman has also been mentioned as a possible front-runner for the yet-to-be-filled Houston head coaching job, which would make sense on a lot of levels. But regardless of where—and when—Herman takes his first head coaching job, it's hard to imagine that his next employer will regret hiring the 39-year-old rising star.

While the Buckeyes' spread offense has always been Meyer's baby, Herman has managed to put his own spin on it, implementing a no-huddle element that the rest of the Big Ten is yet to have found an answer for. Meyer has been quick to credit Herman for Ohio State's "jet" tempo, as it's not a pace that the two-time national champion head coach has been used to playing at.

"He's an expert at it," Meyer said of Herman. "This is the first time I feel very comfortable with the tempo because that's not something [we did] at Florida, Utah, Bowling Green. We never ran tempo offenses."

And although the hurry-up has been Herman's calling card, it's been his quarterback development that's brought him to the forefront of college football.

When Herman first arrived in Columbus, Braxton Miller's raw talent was apparent, but his passing skills were still unrefined, as evidenced by his 54.1 completion percentage in his freshman season. In his first season under Meyer and Herman, Miller upped that percentage to 58.3, a year before completing 63.5 percent of his passes in his second of back-to-back Big Ten MVP Award-winning seasons.

And Herman's signal-caller resume doesn't end there.

When Miller went down with a season-ending torn labrum two weeks prior to the start of the Buckeyes' 2014 season, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was thrust into the Ohio State lineup. After a couple of shaky starts—including a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech—Barrett put together the greatest statistical season in Buckeyes quarterback history, breaking the school record for total offense and the Big Ten record for total touchdowns.

Barrett's emergence thrust Ohio State back into the playoff picture, with a spot in the final four seemingly on the line for the Buckeyes in their Big Ten Championship Game matchup with Wisconsin. Only Ohio State would find itself down to its third-string quarterback, as a broken ankle suffered against Michigan brought Barrett's freshman season to a premature end.

Anything less than a convincing performance against the Badgers, and the Buckeyes would likely be left out of the playoff field.

Enter QB No. 3 for OSU, Cardale Jones, who did that and then some, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-0 walloping of Wisconsin. If there was any doubt about Herman's ability to develop quarterbacks, it was put to rest in Indianapolis, as the Buckeyes earned the chance to play for the national championship with their second backup quarterback of the season.

"Tom Herman is an excellent coach. His unit the first year was very average," Meyer said following the Big Ten Championship Game. "Now, it's one of the strongest units on the team. He's done a marvelous job."

His cutting-edge scheme and ability to develop the most important position on the field aside, Herman has a commanding presence with the media. More importantly, he has shown that the area where his talent might stand out most is on the recruiting trail.

In just two years, Herman has single-handedly built a pipeline from Texas to Columbus, reeling in Barrett, Dontre Wilson, Mike Mitchell and Demetrius Knox from the Lone Star State. He has also played a key role in the recruitment of 2015 commit Torrance Gibson of Plantation, Florida, who at one point Ohio State seemed to be a long shot to land.

Recruiting connections in Ohio, Texas and Florida? That's not a bad base for a future head coach to build his program on.

And while Herman's next job will likely be a stepping stone job where he can cut his teeth as a head coach—like Colorado State was for new Florida coach Jim McElwain—get used to hearing his name. Because as the announcement of the Broyles Award showed, there may not be an assistant in college football with a future brighter than Herman's.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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