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College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game

The last weekend of October will serve as a chance to catch our breath before the final stretch of 2015's college football season. The November slate looks to be as good as ever, and the first playoff rankings set to be released on Tuesday will get the ball rolling.

But before we jump ahead too far, we shouldn't forget about a lineup of games that could provide plenty of intrigue even with five of the top seven teams taking the week off.

The only matchup of ranked teams is one few could have predicted before the season, with one-loss Notre Dame visiting unbeaten Temple in the game of the week. Another six ranked schools are on the road, some facing pretty difficult tests that could throw a wrench into their future plans.

There are 55 games on the docket for Week 9, including the first batch of our beloved annual #MACtion weeknight tilts on Tuesday and Wednesday. We've made a prediction for every matchup on the schedule, so check them out and then give us your picks in the comments section.

Note: Team rankings are based on their spot in the Associated Press Top 25.

 

Last week: 45-10 (.818)

Season: 400-118 (.772)

 

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Ranking the Best ACC Matchups of Week 9

Week 9 of the ACC football schedule features multiple narratives from the previous week. 

How will Miami play after the firing of its (former) head coach, Al Golden? Can Florida State bounce back from its bizarre loss to Georgia Tech?

Will the Yellow Jackets avoid coming out flat after the significant victory over the Seminoles? Can North Carolina prove itself a legitimate contender in the conference against Pitt? 

All of these storylines make for an intriguing and interesting upcoming weekend. 

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 9: DraftKings Optimum Lineup, Matchup Advice

Past the halfway point of the season or not, daily fantasy college football Week 9 presents the same challenge as the weeks prior.

Building a DraftKings Optimum Lineup isn't an easy task no matter how many weeks sit in the books because despite the overwhelming amount of data, owners have to do one thing to find success: the legwork.

Easier said than done, right? Most teams rest in the thick of conference schedules, making the task all the more difficult. Below, let's make the work a tad easier on owners by looking at an optimum lineup based on projections, point spreads and much, much more.

 

DraftKings Optimum Week 9 Lineup

Only Saturday games (noon ET to 4 p.m. ET) listed.

 

QBs

Dane Evans ($8,300)

It's hard to ever go wrong with Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans.

One of the nation's top gunslingers has a trio of 400-yard games under his belt already thanks to a high-octane offense and a leaky defense that necessitates his spamming the ball at all times.

To make Evans even more attractive than the pricier options is the fact he sits in one of the week's highest over/under totals at 75. It's going to be a shootout against SMU, owners of one of the nation's worst defenses against quarterbacks.

 

Chad Kelly ($7,400)

The same praise heaped on Evans above applies to Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, too.

Kelly has 22 or more points in five games this season as one of the nation's premier dual-threat players, not to mention one of its better deep passers. It certainly helps that he plays with one of the best wideouts in the game (more on him in a second).

While he threw three picks last time out, things figure to get easier for Kelly against Auburn, a team that just allowed three scoring tosses to Arkansas quarterbacks.

This one has an over/under of 58.5 and could wind up as a shootout, making Kelly an ideal value.

 

RBs

Samaje Perine ($6,700)

He's back.

Oklahoma's high-flying attack has somewhat buried Samaje Perine this year, but it felt like a matter of time before the star back broke free for a major game.

It happened in Week 8, as Perine rushed 23 times for 201 yards and four scores, good for 49.0 points.

Such production will be hard for the coaching staff to ignore going into a contest against Kansas in a game featuring an over/under of 63.5.

Get Perine while he's under-priced.

 

Chris Carson ($4,100)

As a punt play, owners could do much worse than Oklahoma State running back Chris Carson.

Carson hasn't posted major numbers as he eases his way back into things after a Week 5 injury. But it's important to remember he went for 13.2, 10.6 and 26.8 points over his first three games.

It's all about the matchup. Carson sits in a contest with an over/under of a ridiculous 78 against a Texas Tech team that struggles to stop much of anything. Look for him to have a breakout game once again.

 

WRs

Laquon Treadwell ($6,700)

About one of the best wideouts in the game.

Laquon Treadwell has a, well, interesting price considering he's the top target in the Ole Miss attack and has posted 36.6, 44.12 and 24.2 points over the course of his last three games.

Jon Moore of RotoViz summed up the strong run best:

As mentioned, this matchup features an over/under of 58.5 and an Auburn defense that has simply looked like a shell of past strong iterations.

Kelly won't throw much anywhere else, because why would he? Treadwell is in for a monster performance. Again.

 

Justin Hobbs ($4,400)

Quarterback-wideout stacks are always a smart way to go. 

Here, owners can get Tulsa No. 2 wideout Justin Hobbs at a great value, and that No. 2 posts numbers like a No. 1 wideout in a lot of offenses this year.

Hobbs has at least three grabs in each of his last three outings as he continues to emerge. In Week 6, Hobbs caught five passes for 82 yards and a score, a strong example of what he can do in the right situation. 

Which he has in Week 8 with that over/under of 75 against a woeful SMU defense. A touchdown wouldn't be a surprise.

 

Reginald Davis ($4,600)

On the other end of that Texas Tech-Oklahoma State matchup sporting an over/under of 78 is a great value play in the former's Reginald Davis.

Davis has downright exploded in recent weeks, scoring a touchdown in three consecutive games. The Cowboys defense is exploitable through the air, something Davis should be able to take advantage of in a heavyweight matchup sure to feature an epic amount of passing.

Expect nothing short of Davis' touchdown streak extending to four.

 

Flex

James Washington ($4,400)

Once again, flip back to the other side of the Red Raiders and Cowboys encounter for James Washington.

Washington has two touchdowns in his last three games and at least six catches in two of those. It's hard to ignore a guy who can do something like this:

Also hard to ignore? Washington's budding role within the offense, which may reach its peak in a shootout in which Oklahoma State could very much be considered on upset alert. Going for more than three times his asking price isn't out of the question.

 

Marchie Murdock ($3,400)

When it comes time to punt, owners have to look for guys with dipping salaries for various reasons who feature a ceiling well above and away from the price.

Which sounds like Illinois wideout Marchie Murdock.

The Illinois-Penn State showdown doesn't feature the sexiest over/under at 43, but it's important to understand that Murdock will be one of the top weapons on the field. He's missed two games with an injury but still touts the third-highest receptions total on the team and has 10.8 or more points in four of the five games he's played.

Tripling value and beyond seems a sure thing with Murdock.

 

 

Enter the DraftKings $1.25 M Play-Action contest this weekend. Use promo code BLEACHER REPORT when you sign up.

Pricing information and scoring data obtained from DraftKings.com. Odds via Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Ranking the Longhorns' 5 Most Impactful Injuries in 2015

Texas has been fortunate enough to avoid any crushing injuries thus far this season.

Right now, things are looking up for the Longhorns. Thanks to wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State, they're back on the path to a bowl game with one of the country's youngest teams. They're also getting healthy.

With a little more than half the season in the books, injuries have only forced five starters to miss a combined eight games. Compared to losing a quarterback, like Baylor has experienced with Seth Russell, that's not half-bad.

But injuries certainly played a part in Texas' 1-4 start. Hassan Ridgeway and Holton Hill each got off to slow starts because of preseason injuries, Kent Perkins' missed two games with a knee injury and Daje Johnson lost time to a concussion.

These guys make an impact every time they're on the field and could have been difference-makers in a couple of Texas' losses.

 

1. DT Hassan Ridgeway (back)

Without a doubt, Ridgeway's preseason back injury has had the biggest impact on Texas' season. Fortunately, Texas' star defensive tackle has rebounded in a big way.

Ridgeway has yet to miss a game, but health was clearly an issue for him earlier in the year. A preseason back injury kept him out for most of fall practice, which also forced the coaches to manage his snaps for Texas' first three games. He didn't start those games, and Texas gave up an average of 37 points per game while he was getting up to speed.

Ridgeway's been healthy since, and he's been absolutely tearing it up. With two sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, the splash plays are back for one of the conference's best linemen. InsideTexas.com's Justin Wells vividly described Ridegeway's skill set: 

But what's setting Ridgeway apart isn't showing up in the stats sheet. The 314-pounder is commanding double-teams on almost every play, freeing up guys like Poona Ford and Bryce Cottrell to get into the backfield. This is why 247Sports' Jeff Howe is saying, "There might not be a better tackle in the Big 12."

Based on what we've seen, a healthy Ridgeway would have been the difference in the 45-44 loss to Cal.

 

2. OT Kent Perkins (knee)

3. CB Holton Hill (leg)

It doesn't get much closer than these two, so we're pooling tackle Kent Perkins and cornerback Holton Hill together here.

Perkins went down with a knee injury in the third quarter of Texas' loss to Oklahoma State. In the first five quarters he missed, the Longhorns averaged 3.4 yards per play and scored only seven points, which came in garbage time. They were completely lost without his steadying presence on the right side, and it was painfully obvious.

Of course, the Horns got it together with a 313-yard rushing performance against Oklahoma. But they were just as good with Perkins against a Kansas State team that knew what was coming, running for 274 yards on 53 carries en route to the win. As Howe noted, Perkins threw the key block on the game's longest play.

All the evidence points to Perkins being one of this team's most important players, yet the impact of his injury barely edges out that of Hill. And that's because the freshman is already Texas' best defensive back.

Like Ridgeway, Hill was slowed this preseason by a leg injury. It kept the freshman out until the middle of fall camp and left him with a ton of ground to make up. The lack of reps kept Hill out against Notre Dame and limited him through the Horns' next two games.

Hill finally got his chance against Oklahoma State and has yet to look back. The freshman returned an interception for a touchdown in that game, fought hard in a tough matchup against TCU and has been generally avoided by both Oklahoma and Kansas State. Ryan Autullo of Austin American-Statesman and William Wilkerson of HornsDigest.com noted Hill's impressive performance:

Yes, at this point in the season, teams would rather try Duke Thomas and two returning starters at safety than go near Hill. Now imagine how good he would be, and would have been all season, had he practiced throughout the fall.

Perkins is a rock, but Hill is becoming one. If forced to choose one over the other at this point in the season, you can make a strong case for either of them.

 

4. WR Daje Johnson (concussion)

When healthy, Daje Johnson is the only Longhorns receiver guaranteed to get the ball. That, and his special teams value, made the senior's concussion a tough blow to this team.

Johnson got popped hard on Texas' first play against TCU and sat out through the Oklahoma game. 

The Texas offense bounced back without Johnson against the Sooners, but the Horns made it clear that they missed him. Johnson got the ball six times in his return against Kansas State, mostly on the jet-sweep action that Jay Norvell has made into a staple of the offense.

Just as important is Johnson's impact on special teams. He's by far the most explosive playmaker the Horns have in that phase of the game, making him one of the hardest guys to replace on the entire team.

 

5. LB Edwin Freeman (shoulder)

Despite being listed as day-to-day over a month ago, emerging linebacker Edwin Freeman has missed the last four games with a shoulder injury.

Freeman went down as if he was taking a dive against Cal, but he was actually severely injured on the previous play. He could miss as many as four more games with that shoulder, which has forced true freshman Anthony Wheeler into more action.

Fortunately Wheeler and, even more so, senior Peter Jinkens have been solid in Freeman's absence. But before then, Freeman was playing quality football, showing good speed and showing the ability to make plays in the backfield. He and Malik Jefferson should be fun to watch for the next couple of years. Back in September, Andrew King of the Football Brainiacs described Freeman and Jefferson as "freak athletes": 

The redshirt freshman proved in his three games that he has real talent. Let's hope he's able to come back and contribute before the season ends.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida vs. Georgia: Run Game Crucial to Victory for Both Teams

Quarterback matchups receive a ton of spotlight ahead of big-time games, but a look at the last few years of the fierce Florida-vs.-Georgia rivalry directs the eyes to the ground instead of the skies.

Just look at last season's matchup, when Florida upset a Top 10 Georgia team by a score of 38-20. Florida uncapped a 418-yard rushing performance at the "Cocktail Party," while Georgia only ran for 141 yards—its worst performance in that area for the entire 2014 season.

As for the quarterbacks, Georgia starter Hutson Mason had a good afternoon, completing 26 of his 41 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown. Treon Harris, who started in place of the now-transferred Jeff Driskel, only attempted six passes the entire game.

"We knew we were going to pound them and pound them and were going to keep pounding them," Florida running back Kelvin Taylor said after the 2014 win, per ESPN.com. "We weren't going to be denied."

While several aspects of these two teams have changed since last year's meeting—Florida (6-1) has a new head coach in Jim McElwain and is the favorite over Mark Richt's two-loss Georgia team, according to Odds Shark—the importance on the rushing attacks for this Saturday's matchup has not.

Georgia ended a two-game losing skid two weeks ago against Missouri, but the offense put up fewer than 300 total yards in a 9-6 win. The Bulldogs only averaged 2.67 yards per carry in their first full game since star Nick Chubb's devastating knee injury against Tennessee.

Part of the reason for the low numbers on the ground was the health of sophomore Sony Michel, who suffered a hip injury early in the game.

But after an off week, Richt says Michel is ready to go against Florida, per Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph.

Now's the time for Michel to step up for this Georgia offense and take charge. He is averaging almost six yards per carry this season but could use a true breakout game as the new No. 1 running back.

If Bulldogs fans are looking for a magic number, try 150.

As Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald noted, Georgia is 4-0 since 2006 when rushing for 150 yards or more against Florida. The Bulldogs are 0-5 when they don't hit that mark.

The 2015 Gators may have the nation's No. 21-ranked rush defense, but a quick glance at their game-by-game statistics from this season shows that most of the teams that have played it close with Florida effectively ran the football.

Florida has one of the nation's most talented secondaries with the likes of Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor and Marcus Maye. Gator defensive backs average an interception per game and have already scored two pick-sixes this season—a troubling matchup for a struggling Greyson Lambert and his receiving corps.

Feeding the ball to an effective Michel will give Georgia the best chance to succeed against the Florida defense, and it'll also open things up more for Lambert when the Bulldogs decide to go to the air.

On the other side of this matchup, Florida is placing a high priority on generating explosive plays on the ground.

As Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports put it, Florida's early-season success has been extra impressive because "the Gators have done it without any semblance of a strong running game."

And McElwain wants that fixed immediately.

"It’s not good enough, and it’s obvious," McElwain said, per Goldkamp. "We’ve got to get better. We haven’t created explosive runs. And look, the guys are trying. But obviously it’s not where we expect it to be or where it’s going to be. We’ve got to get better there."

Taylor has managed to run for 463 yards and eight touchdowns without a strong push from Florida's inexperienced offensive line. But Taylor, one of the stars from last season's win over Georgia, only had 25 yards on 15 carries against LSU.

It's hard to imagine Florida suddenly becoming dominant on the ground with that front five, but keep in mind this team exploded for more than 400 rushing yards against Georgia following its off week last year.

The 2014 Gators, too, entered Jacksonville needing a spark on the ground. In their four SEC games prior to the Georgia matchup, they had only averaged 130.25 rushing yards.

While this year's Florida offense isn't a strong candidate to drop 400 rushing yards on Georgia, it could very well find a way to get things on the ground against this Bulldog defense.

Alabama and Tennessee each rushed for two touchdowns and averaged more than four yards per carry in their respective wins over Georgia. Physical running back Derrick Henry led the way for the Crimson Tide against Georgia's run defense, but Tennessee got the majority of its rushing yards through quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

Like Dobbs, Harris has the ability to make plays with his feet, and Richt knows the challenges his defense will face with the Gator quarterback.

"They’ll move him through bootlegs and nakeds and sprint-outs, and things of that nature," Richt said, per Butt. "Treon is obviously a very athletic guy and has made a lot of athletic plays on the move, throwing and running."

Harris also has the experience of quarterbacking a successful rushing offense against this Georgia defense. 

As the series' most recent matchups show, Georgia gets victories over Florida when it runs the ball well but loses when it doesn't. The Gators won the matchup last season by slowing down the Bulldogs on defense and then running all over them.

Whichever side of that recent history repeats itself on Saturday will determine the side that leaves Jacksonville with an SEC title-contending future this season.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Top 2015 Breakout Freshmen

Heading into Week 9 of the college football season, the Big Ten finds itself in good shape with three undefeated teams remaining and the resurgence of one of its traditional pillar programs.

The league has also witnessed no shortage of breakout players, many of whom have come in the form of freshmen who are still getting their feet wet at the college level.

From ready running backs to dominant defenders and even an already polished passer, the Big Ten has seen several freshmen play key roles on their respective teams this season. Some have been true freshmen while others have been second-year players who redshirted a season ago as plenty of conference newcomers have made an impact in 2015.

With that in mind, let's take a look at each Big Ten team's breakout freshman so far this season.

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Michael Wyche Arrested, Suspended: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle Michael Wyche was arrested early Wednesday and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery, according to police records obtained by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post.

Details on what caused Wyche's arrest are still uncertain. He was booked at 4:50 a.m. local time and remains jailed on $1,500 bond. Miami has suspended him indefinitely pending the outcome of the case, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.     

A redshirt senior, Wyche joined the Hurricanes in 2014 as a junior college transfer. He's yet to record a defensive statistic in 2015 and has nine total tackles for his career. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native has led a life of off-the-field travails, as noted in a 2013 profile Mike Piellucci wrote for Sports on Earth:

"All of that's over now," he told them, meaning his old life on the streets. His tone recalibrates into something darker, angrier as he recounts it, the only time I have heard him raise his voice. "I'm a positive leader now," he continued, the words now tumbling out in almost rhythmic cadence. "I look at life from another perspective now. I'm in church now. I want to do what's right for this family -- I found the secret to success now. I'm fine. Tell me what's going on!"

Wyche is scheduled to have a Nov. 18 hearing regarding the domestic battery case. A misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of one year in jail if he's convicted.   

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama's Real Offensive MVP Won't Score a Touchdown This Season

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When it comes to MVP awards in sports, there’s an age-old debate about what’s more important: statistical production or value to one’s team, i.e. the athlete his team can least afford to be without.

The University of Alabama’s offense this season provides a perfect example of how the two categories are often not represented by the same player. Running back Derrick Henry is clearly the best player on paper, having already achieved his first 1,000-yard rushing season, but the guy the Crimson Tide really can’t replace is center Ryan Kelly.

“I’m not going to say he’s the MVP of the offense, but I will say that center position is so important in college, especially when you’re in an uptempo offense and doing so much at the line of scrimmage,” said former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, the most decorated player in Crimson Tide history when it comes to national honors. “It’s so vital. His leadership, it’s hard to characterize how important it is.

“I think he’s invaluable, and I think he’s had a great year so far.”

On an offense that had to replace nine starters, essentially everyone but Kelly and sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson, he was already the unit’s leader through the offseason and consequently one of Alabama’s representatives at SEC media days in July.

No one else on the offense comes close to his 39 career games and 29 starts, and despite the extra responsibilities of calling out the adjustments and snapping the ball, it’s been a long time since he yielded a sack or a quarterback hurry.

“Ryan is like the key to the offensive line,” Robinson said. “He’s the reason everything goes the way it goes. He’s extremely important to what we do as a unit, and he’s kind of like the heart and soul.

“My appreciation for Ryan Kelly is through the roof.”

The center position has a strong pedigree at Alabama during the Nick Saban years, as Kelly has followed Antoine Caldwell, William Vlachos and Jones, who were named, in order, All-American, second-team All-American and winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center (the other two were both finalists).

Kelly is definitely in that same mix. He was named preseason All-SEC by the media and second-team by coaches, while four of the last eight Rimington winners played in the Southeastern Conference.

He’s also one of the few remaining ties to Alabama’s last national championships in 2011 and 2012.

“It’s cliche here, but it is the process,” Kelly said. “Everyone wants to talk about it, but it’s the real thing. No matter who you bring in, we aren’t going to change our standards for who you are. This is the ’Bama Way. This is a special place. It’s not for everybody to come to.

“I think that is one of the biggest things Coach Saban has drilled in us, that if you come here, you are a part of something bigger than you. Every guy who has had success here has partaken in that. All the success, the way he recruits—you can’t get around [the process], the hard work, the dedication, and he’s taught me to be a good person as well.”

In addition to being responsible for the line calls, he’s the one guy other than the quarterback who has to know absolutely everything, from the entire playbook to what personnel the opposition prefers to have on the field when it blitzes. That’s why coaches consider experience at the position to be a cherished commodity.

It was also the key to having Jones replace Vlachos after winning the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman at left tackle and gives a good idea of just how important Alabama views the position.

“Almost all of the best offensive lines that I’ve seen have an anchor, an experienced center who knows what he’s doing, who’s on the same page as the quarterback, same wavelength, who knows what’s going to happen before it happens,” Jones said. “It’s important that he’s a confident guy who doesn’t just kind of guess. When he makes a call, guys know that’s the right call, and guys get on the same page.”

However, the last time Alabama had a center not suffer a significant injury was Vlachos in 2011.

In 2013, Kelly missed three games with an MCL strain that occurred against Ole Miss. On the play in which tight end Brian Vogler fumbled, Anthony Steen knocked linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche to the ground, and Kelly fell back over him.

Kellen Williams, a fifth-year senior whom Saban dubbed the offensive line’s sixth man, replaced him in the game, and then fourth-year junior Chad Lindsay started against Georgia State, Kentucky and Arkansas.

“Last season when Barrett went down against Georgia, they told me to get ready,” Kelly said at the time. “Coming from a guy that hadn't started or played with the ones all year, Game 13 of the season, to do that is definitely hard. You don't know; you just have to prepare like you're a starter. I give all the props to Kellen. He came in and did a great job. He showed versatility, how versatile he is.”

In 2014, Kelly again went down against Ole Miss, this time with a sprained knee, and the results were more noticeable because Alabama didn’t have a veteran replacement. Coaches had to use two timeouts to avoid delay-of-game penalties, and Alabama didn’t score again as the Rebels pulled out a 23-17 victory.

A week later, though, redshirt freshman Bradley Bozeman looked much more comfortable when making his first career start.

It’s not a coincidence that when Kelly sustained his concussion during the second quarter at Texas A&M on Oct. 17, the Crimson Tide had a big lead, only to see the offense stall with three straight three-and-outs while amassing just 16 yards.

Alabama’s lead went from 28-6 to 28-20, as the Aggies were jumping the snaps by sophomore J.C. Hassenauer on the silent count, but after the offense put together a 13-play drive for a field goal, it went on to win, 41-23.

He returned for last week’s game against Tennessee but barely practiced, and it showed. At times the whole offensive line looked out of sync.

“When you don’t practice all week, it’s kind of crazy how fast you can get out of [playing] shape and the game speed,” Kelly said. “I kept just fighting through it. There are some things I’d like to change, and I wish I could have that week back of practice, but we got the W.”

Having Kelly back during the bye will give the line a chance to regroup, although Dominick Jackson’s status is unknown for LSU on Nov. 7. The senior right tackle suffered a high ankle sprain similar to the one Robinson had last year against Tennessee.

Robinson was able to return after the bye to face LSU, but if Jackson can’t, Alabama’s options are junior Brandon Greene, who has been splitting time at tight end, or to move redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher from left guard and insert Bozeman.

Either way, everyone will be leaning on Kelly to help get ready.

“Hopefully, I can be as good as Ryan Kelly someday,” Pierschbacher said. 

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Can Clay Helton Win His Way to USC's Head Coaching Job?

USC can, should and will look everywhere for its next head coach. When arguably the best job in college football becomes available, it behooves the administration to consider every possible option. But if for no other reason, athletic director Pat Haden also needs to get this hire right.

The Trojans program is too good and the roster is too talented for there to be this much turmoil.

When searching for who will succeed Steve Sarkisian, though, should Haden consider interim coach Clay Helton? It obviously depends on how Helton leads the Trojans through the rest of the season. If the results are there, though, then Helton absolutely needs to be on the short list.

That's not a matter of Helton being entitled to an interview. That's a matter of him earning one.

Helton has already navigated USC through a difficult two-game stretch against Notre Dame and Utah. Given where the Irish and Utes were ranked heading into each respective game, that's difficult for any team. Yet USC went 1-1, losing to Notre Dame by just 10 points and demolishing Utah 42-24.

More than that, something's different about this Trojans team. The players are confident and playing loose. They're having fun. As a result, they're playing up to their ability.

In the past two weeks, and despite all the off-field drama, Helton brought the team together. USC needs a stabilizing force, and Helton has provided that in the short term. But stability is something USC needs long-term as well.

Any turnaround in performance through the next five regular-season games should be noted by Haden.

This isn't the first time Helton has taken a tumultuous situation and smoothed it out. After Ed Orgeron's departure at the end of the 2013 season—Orgeron was the interim coach following Lane Kiffin's termination—Helton led USC to a 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

What Helton has done and what he's meant for the program were summed up two weeks ago by former Trojans wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (h/t the Los Angeles Times' Lindsey Thiry), who spoke to the team shortly after Sarkisian's firing. His point, in so many words, was that it was time for the players to play for one another and Helton—not worry about whom the next coach was going to be.

Only then could it achieve the level of success it wanted.

(Warning: Video contains NSFW language.)

Granted, USC will go through a thorough process in finding its next coach. That doesn't change regardless of the team's record from here on out. That is its responsibility.

In the meantime, playing for Helton is the team's responsibility. Johnson is right about that part, and Bleacher Report's Michael Felder—a former college player himself—knows that as well as anyone:

Now the question is whether USC can maintain that attitude and level of play. Up next is Cal, which, despite losing its last two games, features one of the best quarterbacks in college football, Jared Goff. A trip to Oregon and a home game against UCLA remain on the schedule as well.

Is this finally when the real USC emerges? The same USC that littered the preseason College Football Playoff conversation?

If so, Helton may know a little something about what it takes to get the most out of the Trojans.

As Greg Katz wrote on ESPN.com, Helton "will probably have to run the table on the remaining schedule to even have a chance at the job, but he has a chance and now the freedom to run the team as he wishes the rest of the way."

Part of that change includes reintroducing a more physical style of offense that USC was known for during the Pete Carroll era.

Against Utah, fullback Soma Vainuku got a touchdown on 4th-and-goal—his first since Week 1 of the 2014 season—and freshman running back Ronald Jones II was more frequently utilized with a season-high 15 carries:

“We had some big third downs and some critical fourth-down makes at the goal line,” Helton said, per Thiry. “Cody’s quarterback sneak and Soma going in there—if that’s not physical, what is?”

To Katz's point, if USC does win out, it would put the Trojans at 9-3 with a shot at the Pac-12 title game. If Utah loses one more game, USC would hold the tiebreaker. Playoff hopes have been lost for good, but that doesn't mean there's nothing left to accomplish. Helton has to get this team to believe that.

So far, it looks like he's done just that.

USC has made poor decisions before by searching for its next Carroll with a Carroll protege in mind. It's been a never-ending quest for a pot of gold that likely doesn't exist. Requiring a new coach to have ties to the program, a la Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher, limits the search unnecessarily, too.

USC can at least inquire about whomever it wants. That doesn't mean it has to ignore the current guy.

Of course, hiring interim coaches full-time is just as risky as hiring from the outside. For every Dabo Swinney that works out at Clemson, there's another example of a team getting caught up in the moment and making an ill-advised decision to promote the interim coach.

If USC really plans on hiring Helton over someone else, it needs to be sure he can win the X's-and-O's battle week after week, competently manage an entire coaching staff and 85 scholarship players in the middle of chaos, and develop blue-chip players into NFL stars.

Winning out alone doesn't prove Helton can do that consistently for three, four, five or six years. But it would give USC a reason to pause and wonder if he can.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can Clay Helton Win His Way to USC's Head Coaching Job?

USC can, should and will look everywhere for its next head coach. When arguably the best job in college football becomes available, it behooves the administration to consider every possible option...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Notre Dame vs. Temple Complete Game Preview

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Just like everyone predicted back in August, Notre Dame football’s Top 25 prime-time clash with Temple will be college football’s main event Saturday.

The No. 9 Irish and No. 21 Owls will meet under the lights at Lincoln Financial Field hours after ESPN’s College GameDay descends on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.

“We don’t pretend it’s not here,” Temple head coach Matt Rhule said to reporters Tuesday about the weekend’s hype. “We don’t pretend GameDay’s not coming. We don’t pretend that we’re not playing Notre Dame. All those things are great, but they don’t help us play better. All we can do is control how we play. That’s the message.”

The Owls are off to their best start in program history, 7-0 and fresh off a 24-14 road victory against East Carolina on Thursday. Notre Dame is even more well-rested, having enjoyed its bye week after the 41-31 win over rival USC on Oct. 17.

“[The Owls] just have a really solid football team,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “Again, one deserving of where they are, a Top 25 football team. It will be a great challenge for our football team, going on the road, and one that we’ll have to play very well.”

 

Date: Saturday, October 31

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia

TV: ABC

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 10.5, according to Odds Shark

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College Football Coaches Who've Won More on Signing Day Than Saturday

College football might only be played in the fall and early winter, but fans can celebrate wins all year long thanks to the 24/7 recruiting cycle. Victories over rivals and conference foes can come in the offseason, especially during the frenzy known as national signing day.

However, the most important victories are still the ones that take place on the field—not on the recruiting trail. While recruiting is such a huge part of a head coach's success, he'll ultimately be judged by winning games with the players his staff brings to campus.

Unfortunately, some head coaches have had more success on signing days than Saturdays. They may sign star-studded recruiting classes year in and year out, but fans expect those high recruiting rankings to turn into teams that can compete for championships. 

Here are seven current head coaches—sorry, Al Golden isn't eligible anymore—who have landed more wins in 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings than they've had on the field during their current tenures. Some have had inconsistent success. Others are still waiting for their first big breakthrough seasons with the high-profile talent they've assembled.

Which head coach do you believe has the biggest gap between his victories on signing days and Saturdays? Sound off on these seven and even nominate your own candidates in the comments below.

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Top 5-Star College Football Recruit Performances of October

The identity of high school football title contenders is often forged in October, as teams enter that pivotal final postseason push. It's the ideal time for elite playmakers to rise up and validate praise, leading teammates toward a common goal.

Several 5-star prospects stepped into the spotlight and embraced the pressure this month, managing to match and even exceed immense expectations created by expansive college recruiting attention.

Here's a close look at top-tier athletes who showcased their skills across the country in October.

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How Ohio State's Adolphus Washington Has Transformed into Potential 1st-Rounder

How do you stand out on defensive lines that feature NFL draft picks such as John Simon and Michael Bennett, a future NFL selection in Noah Spence and a consensus first-team All-American in Joey Bosa?

That question has hung over the head of Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington his entire career. It took him four years to find the answer. 

Washington came to Columbus as one of the crown jewels of Urban Meyer's first recruiting class in 2012. Rated a 5-star defensive end and Ohio's No. 1 high school prospect, per 247Sports, he joined an Ohio State team with a big skill set, but the expectations he carried were even bigger.

Spence and Bennett hogged the spotlight early in Washington's career before Bosa showed up as a true freshman and took his spot in the starting rotation.

Over the last two seasons, Washington played a complementary role as superstars emerged around him. He didn't bring the intensity in practice, he'd take plays off during games and he doubted whether the fans or coaches wanted him in Columbus, according to Bill Landis of the Plain Dealer

But the former defensive end turned tackle is bringing a new focus and energy to the field during his senior season.

"Everybody wants to have the type of year that I'm having right now," Washington said, via Landis. "I would've much rather had done this early on in my career, my sophomore year. I just didn't have all my stuff together. I feel like everything is finally starting to come together."

Washington is in the midst of his most impressive and dominant season for the Buckeyes, tallying 37 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks through eight games. He's been an absolute force in the middle of Ohio State's defensive line, anchoring a unit that's performing at a high level.

And after three years of mediocre play, he's blowing his teammates away. 

“[Washington] has all the talent in the world; no three-technique can pass rush like he can in college football,” Bosa said, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. “I don’t believe there is anybody that is as quick and good with his hands. I think he’s finally starting to show what he can do.”

So what triggered the huge turnaround? For starters, he's finally playing the right position.

Washington came to Ohio State in 2012 as a 245-pound weak-side defensive end. He's always been a special athlete—he was an all-state basketball player in high school—and that athleticism made him a dangerous pass-rusher.

But with Spence winning the weak-side defensive end spot in 2013, Washington was bumped to the strong-side position. Five games into the season, Bosa knocked him out of that position, prompting his move to the interior of the line. 

Washington put on weight and joined Bennett as a starting defensive tackle in 2014, but he was slotted at the nose tackle position, a role primarily utilized to stuff the run and occupy blockers. That took away his greatest strength as a pass-rusher, but Bennett was the better option at the 3-technique spot.

When Bennett graduated and moved on to the NFL, that allowed Washington to slide over and play in his natural role. 

But that alone didn't prompt his rise. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson worked with Washington on his consistency, and Meyer clearly defined his expectations before the season started, according to Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.

The picture Meyer painted for Washington must have been crystal clear, because he's playing like a future first-rounder. In Bleacher Report's latest mock draft from Ryan McCrystal, Washington is projected as the No. 22 overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks. 

But to Washington's credit, he's not focusing on where he'll wind up next May. Ohio State's breakout defensive tackle is just working to get better.

“I definitely feel like I’ve made a lot of improvement," Washignton said, via Shoemaker. "My biggest thing is I’ve just gotta be consistent and keep it going.”

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Most Important Stat for Every College Football Playoff Contender

Football is a game of many things: inches, X's and O's and Jimmys and Joes. It's also a game of numbers. 

As college football has grown in popularity, stats (and advanced stats) have grown as fans tried to get a better, tangible understanding of why teams were good (or bad). For playoff-contending teams, stats can disclose a lot about why things work as well as they do. 

For this year's playoff contenders—teams ranked in and around the Top 15 of major polls who are either undefeated or have a loss to an above-.500 team—which single stat is the most important? Keep in mind this could be for better or worse. It could show a huge mismatch a team has to exploit, or a weakness a team has to keep under control. 

We dive into each playoff contender's most important stat based on these areas in the following slides. 

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College Football Picks for Week 9: B/R Experts' Predictions for the Top 5 Games

We’re quickly approaching that time in college football when every week there are matchups we’ve waited all year for, games that we will not soon forget and upsets that shake up the landscape of the sport.  It’s close, but we’re not there yet.

For the second week in a row, we have only one matchup that features two ranked teams. Not to worry, though. If Week 8 taught us anything, it’s that unbelievable games and storylines can happen anytime. Will this week hold true to that notion? Let’s take a look at the best games for Week 9.

The marquee matchup of the weekend features a team not often associated with a marquee matchup in college football: the Temple Owls. One of only 12 remaining unbeaten FBS teams, Temple faces Notre Dame in arguably the biggest regular-season game in the school’s history.

Led by a tough defense and electric running back Jahad Thomas, can the Owls shock the world and beat the visiting Irish, who look to keep their playoff hopes alive? ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Philly for the showdown, so it should be a must-watch for you, too.

The week’s biggest traditional rivalry takes us to Jacksonville for the annual edition of “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party”—oh, and a football game, too.

Georgia and Florida square off in a game that’s certainly lost a bit of luster since the season-ending injury to Dawgs star running back Nick Chubb and the season-ending suspension of Gators QB Will Grier. Whether it’s because of the loss of Chubb or other factors, Georgia certainly has not looked like the same team with their running back out. Facing a tough Florida D, it will certainly take a massive effort from Grayson Lambert to propel the Bulldogs to victory.

USC heads to Berkeley to face Cal in a matchup of two teams that were ranked just a few weeks ago. USC pulled off its biggest win of the year in toppling previously undefeated Utah last week, looking every bit like the fast, explosive, talented team that everyone thought they were in the preseason. Cal has lost two straight since a 5-0 start.

Pro scouts will certainly be tuned in to this one, as the game will feature a pair of future NFL gunslingers in Cody Kessler and Jared Goff. Watch out, scoreboard operator, you could be in for a busy night.

In the Big 12, while Baylor and TCU (and, to a certain degree, Oklahoma) get all of the headlines, Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State team keeps plugging right along and sits at 7-0 on the year. And while they’ve yet to play a conference opponent with better than a .500 record, winning every game is still what matters. Can they summon the inner strength to win again, especially in the wake of the homecoming tragedy that struck the team and the community last week?

Heading to Lubbock to face a fiesty Texas Tech team is never easy, but it will be harder this week as Pat Mahomes and the Red Raiders look to bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss to Oklahoma.

Finally, you should try to stay awake on Saturday, as one of last games to start could end up being one the best.

I know what you're thinking. Washington State? Really? Yes, after losing its opening game to FCS Portland State, people wrote off the Cougars. Big mistake. Mike Leach’s squad reeled off wins in five of its next six games and is sitting on the edge of bowl-eligibility.

Led by QB Luke Falk (third in nation in passing yards; fourth in TDs) and WR Gabe Marks (seventh in the nation in TD catches), the Cougars face their toughest test yet in the visiting Cardinal. Christina McCaffrey has been a revelation for Stanford, as the nation’s leader in all-purpose yards. Can Wazzu pull of a massive upset? Or will Stanford keep its Pac-12 title and playoff hopes alive?

With a 5-0 week, Adam Kramer has opened up a huge lead in the standings. Can he keep up the hot streak? Be sure to comment and tell us your picks and which games you’re most excited for in Week 9.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Where Does Minnesota Go from Here After Jerry Kill's Decision to Retire?

When Minnesota announced the immediate retirement of Jerry Kill Wednesday morning, it left many fans looking back at all the Golden Gophers head coach had accomplished in the past four-plus seasons.

It also left some looking forward to where Minnesota goes from here.

In the immediate future, the Golden Gophers' road looks rocky, with consecutive games against No. 15 Michigan, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa ahead in the next three weeks. With what's left on its schedule—including games against Illinois and Wisconsin to close the season— Minnesota's final five opponents possess a combined 30-7 record.

Sitting at 4-3 on the year, the Golden Gophers' Big Ten West Division championship aspirations have all but disappeared. Bowl eligibility may even be a stretch at this point, as interim head coach Tracy Claeys inherits a team that may only be favored in one of its five remaining games.

But while what's left of the 2015 campaign paints a bleak picture for what's ahead for Minnesota, the future possesses plenty of promise in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Because while Kill's departure may have been abrupt, the Golden Gophers now find themselves with one of the more attractive head coaching vacancies in all of college football thanks in large part to their now-former head coach. In four-plus seasons under Kill, Minnesota compiled a 25-26 record, including consecutive 8-5 records in each of the past two years.

Last year, the Golden Gophers contended for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game until the end of the regular season before participating in the Citrus Bowl against Missouri on New Year's Day. With a $190 million athletics facility on its way and the nation's No. 30 recruiting class for the 2016 cycle currently intact, Minnesota's next head coach could be walking into a situation already set up for success.

"The ability to advance our program to the national stage, a Jan. 1 bowl game, all of those competitive advantages have put Minnesota football on the map in the way that it wasn't before," university president Eric W. Kaler said during Wednesday's press conference announcing Kill's retirement.

While both Kaler and interim athletic director Beth Goetz declined to speak at length about the process they plan to use in selecting a new head coach, both said they were mindful of the timetable they currently find themselves facing. As the interim head coach, Claeys, who previously served as the Golden Gophers defensive coordinator, will get the first crack at proving he's the man for the job in Minneapolis, but with with the rough road Minnesota has ahead, that could be a tough sell.

Should the Golden Gophers falter in the coming weeks as expected, names will undoubtedly trickle out attached to Minnesota's vacancy.

Those jobs could include but won't be limited to the following candidates.

 

Tony Dungy

The former Golden Gophers quarterback (1973-76) would be one of the bigger names linked the the Minnesota opening, given the current NBC analyst's track record as a head coach in the NFL. In 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, Dungy compiled a 139-69 record, winning Super Bowl XLI as head coach of the Colts at the end of the 2006 season.

Having just turned 60 years old, Dungy's age wouldn't necessarily be a concern, although it's worth noting that he hasn't been a head coach since retiring from the Colts sideline in 2008. Still, should his alma mater come calling, one would imagine Dungy would listen, especially given the resources the Golden Gophers have been pouring into their football program.

Dungy might be considered a long shot, but would certainly be considered a home run hire should a return to the North Star State ever come to fruition. In a league that already possesses Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio, Dungy would give Minnesota some much-needed star power in addition to a coaching resume that speaks for itself.

 

Matt Campbell

A rising star in the college coaching ranks, Campbell currently has his Toledo team undefeated at 7-0 and ranked 20th in both the AP Top 25 and the coaches poll. At 35 years old, Campbell is the second-youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision and has already compiled a 33-13 record in his three-plus years in charge of the Rockets program.

At this point, it's not a matter of if, but rather when Campbell will make the jump from the Mid-American Conference to a Power Five job, and he could certainly do a lot worse than staying in the Midwest with Minnesota. The Massillon, Ohio, native has recruited well despite the competitive disadvantages that come with coaching in his conference, and currently lays claim to the nation's No. 65 overall class for 2016.

The Golden Gophers would be wise to make Campbell one of their primary targets in their upcoming search. But with vacancies across the country—and even the Big Ten—already opening up, Minnesota would likely be in for a fight when it comes to acquiring Campbell's services.

 

P.J. Fleck

Another up-and-comer from the MAC, Fleck isn't quite as accomplished as Campbell, but he has received rave reviews for the way he's turned Western Michigan around after going 1-11 in his debut season in 2013. Last season, the Broncos saw their win total increase by eight before receiving a bid to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and this year Western Michigan is off to a 4-3 start, including losses to Big Ten powers Ohio State and Michigan State.

With five games left this season—including a regular-season finale against Campbell's Toledo—Fleck has an opportunity to bolster his resume and jump onto Minnesota's radar in the coming weeks. A former graduate assistant at Ohio State and wide receivers coach at Rutgers, Fleck has loose Big Ten ties, but at 34 years old, could ultimately find himself as one of the Golden Gophers' top targets should they opt to hire a younger head coach.

 

Brady Hoke

While Hoke may not have fared well in his first Big Ten go-round, compiling a 31-20 record in four seasons at Michigan, the former Wolverines head coach is sitting out the 2015 season in hopes of getting another Power Five conference job in 2016.

"I think the general scope would be hopefully be in a Power Five conference. I think that would be ideal," Hoke told SI.com's Campus Rush about his coaching aspirations for next season. "I haven't forgotten how to coach."

Wanting, of course, is just half the battle, as the feeling will have to be mutual with another school in order for Hoke to once again land one of the top openings in college football. While it was under a different administration, it's worth noting that the last time Minnesota had a head coaching vacancy, it targeted Hoke, who ultimately opted to leave San Diego State for Ann Arbor following the 2010 season.

Whether the Golden Gophers' current administration would have similar interest in Hoke remains to be seen. But with his Midwest ties and old-school approach, he could once again make for one of Minnesota's more intriguing candidates.

 

Chris Ash

One of college football's hottest coordinators, Ash helped transform Ohio State's defense from what was the Buckeyes' weakness in 2013 to one of the nation's best in the past two years. After ranking 112th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game two years ago, Meyer hired Ash from Arkansas to be his new defensive coordinator and Ohio State's secondary hasn't been the same since.

Last season, Ohio State's pass defense improved to 29th in the nation en route to the Buckeyes winning the national title, and this season OSU ranks fifth in the country in passing yards allowed per game. Ash has been one of the biggest reasons for the Buckeyes' dramatic turnaround, as his quarters system defense has proved to work wonders in Columbus.

"Words can't even describe how far we've come. It's a completely different unit," Ash said of the OSU defense last offseason. "Each player is better, each unit is better. The overall 'Silver Bullets' defense is better."

Having previously served as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator, Ash's Big Ten ties could be appealing to the Minnesota administration. The Buckeyes assistant will likely find himself with his own program to run sooner rather than later, and all factors considered, the Golden Gophers could prove to be the perfect fit.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat

With several teams continuing to perform below expectations as we head into the stretch period of the college football season, some coaches' seats are really beginning to heat up.

Which ACC coach will likely be job hunting this offseason? Will Frank Beamer's tenure as Virginia Tech's head coach come to an end after almost 20 seasons of service? Which pair of SEC coaches might not be on the hot seat now but could be in the event of a poor showing next month?

Watch Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discuss in the video above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Leonard Fournette's 7 Biggest Challengers for 2015 Heisman Trophy

As college football rolls toward November, there’s no questioning its best player and leading Heisman Trophy candidate. In his second season at LSU, sophomore tailback Leonard Fournette has gone from good to exceptional. In seven games, Fournette has piled up 1,352 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry with power and speed. CBS Sports' Heisman Watch has Fournette as the clear leading candidate. 

He averages 193.1 yards per game and has rushed for at least 150 yards in every game, with a pair of 200-yard efforts. Fournette has blown past his freshman stats of 1,034 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns and is on pace to rush for 2,124 yards despite LSU’s season opener against McNeese State being washed out by thunderstorms. That’s how good he’s been.

Barring injury, can anyone prevent him from taking home LSU’s second-ever Heisman Trophy? Sure, it’s entirely possible. Plenty can happen over the final month-plus of the 2015 season. Let’s take a look at the players who are best positioned to grab the trophy away from Fournette.

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4-Star WR Drake Davis Models Game After Dez Bryant, Discusses Decision Timeline

BRADENTON, Fla. — There was a time when 4-star receiver Drake Davis envisioned playing futbol instead of football. 

The 6’4”, 215-pounder, who transferred from his native Louisiana to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in the offseason, grew up playing left back and striker on the soccer field.

“When I was younger, I started playing at a very young age,” Davis explained to Bleacher Report of his affinity for the world’s most popular sport. “When I went to my first game, I kind of fell in love with it. It was a challenging sport, but at the same time, a lot of it came naturally to me. So soccer was something that challenged me, so I wanted to master it. When I became good at it, that love for soccer just grew.”

While he grew up admiring soccer stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s switched gears and is now concentrating on becoming one of the most dominant wideouts in the 2016 class.

Even though he still maintains a love for soccer, he admits that his skills on the pitch have translated to his success on the gridiron in a few ways. 

“It got me a lot better with my footwork, so that was a great thing,” Davis said. “It helped with my footwork and helping me get in and out of my breaks. It gives you stamina, also.” 

His inspiration on the football field is another big, physical wideout who has emerged as one of the top playmakers in the NFL.

“Dez Bryant. He’s an animal. He’s my boy. I hope he reads this. Tag him in this,” Davis joked.

The nation’s No. 29 wide receiver and the No. 155 player overall in the 2016 cycle is in the middle of a strong senior season at IMG. 

With coaches from Ole Miss and LSU—two schools he said are currently standing out to him—on hand, Davis put on a show against Paramus Catholic (New Jersey) last weekend. His biggest highlight was hauling in an 87-yard touchdown strike that helped propel IMG to a 28-20 win. 

His last visit was two weeks ago to LSU for the Tigers' big victory over Florida. On that visit, he was accompanied by prep teammates such as 5-star corner and current LSU pledge Saivion Smith, 5-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel and 4-star linebacker Rahshaun Smith.

“I was with a few of my teammates, so it was a really fun trip,” Davis said of his LSU visit. “I live there, so it’s nothing new really. But the fact that I was able to share that moment with my teammates, it was a great moment.” 

While Saivion Smith is working on trying to get Davis to join him in Baton Rouge, IMG quarterback and current Ole Miss pledge Shea Patterson is hoping to continue to connect with Davis in Oxford for the next four years.

“Shea and I, we’re great friends. Saivion is pitching me also, and he and Shea go back and forth,” Davis noted. “They don’t push it too hard, because we have a goal here and that’s to get a national championship. We all have one focus on our team.”

Davis said schools such as Clemson, Texas A&M and UCLA are among the programs he hopes to take official visits to. However, only one trip appears to be a definite at this point.

“I know for a fact I will visit Ole Miss when they play LSU,” he said. “I should be going to UCLA, but I’m not 100 percent sure about the others yet.”

Davis, who hopes to major in the business field in college and reports a 3.5 GPA, said the Rebels, Tigers and Aggies are the three programs who he feels like he’s established the strongest relationships with.

Still, he cautions that his official visits will be critical in helping him arrive at a conclusion to his recruiting process, which he said should come close to or on signing day.

“I want to visit all of the schools on my list,” Davis said. “So when I get there, I will know if I fit in there. I want it to feel like home because I’ll be there for the next three or four years.”

 

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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