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What Travonte Valentine's Clearance to Play for LSU Means for Les Miles, Tigers

At a time of year more prone to bad news (injuries, transfers, suspensions, etc.) than good news, LSU received a major boost when freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine confirmed that he was ruled eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

 

Update: Monday, August 18 – 1:38 p.m. ET

Apparently, this may have been a bit premature.

According to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Valentine jumped the gun with his announcement, which has not yet been made official. His paperwork is still going through the "final phases of (the) admission process," so he is not quite ready to join the team:

It still sounds like Valentine will be ruled eligible, it's just not a sure-thing. And he might have even less time to practice with the team.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.

--END OF UPDATE––

 

Original Text

Valentine tweeted the news Monday afternoon, demonstrating exactly how much he has to learn about LSU by calling it the wrong name:

Note: To Valentine's credit, he corrected himself 90 minutes later.

Valentine was the No. 65 overall recruit and No. 3 defensive tackle in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings. At 6'3", 338 pounds, he ostensibly has the size to contribute as a true freshman.

That is particularly important for LSU at defensive tackle, where last year's starters, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, both declared early for the NFL, and backup Quentin Thomas is dealing with a torn biceps injury that could slow him down at the start of the year.

Thomas was projected to start alongside Christian LaCouture, and even though his recovery from the injury has been impressive, it wasn't so long ago (less than a week) that Ross Dellenger of The Advocate was reporting he might be done for the season.

Even if he comes back to play against Wisconsin, his health, at best, should be considered a major question mark going forward.

Those questions make Valentine a valuable addition behind LaCouture, Thomas, Mickey Johnson and a trio of redshirt freshmen, Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain. But because of all those bodies, it didn't necessarily make him an imperative one, as Bleacher Report Lead LSU Writer Carter Bryant pointed out:

Valentine will likely take some time getting up to speed during fall camp, which could, in theory, limit his early workload. Twelve days with the team is not enough to master John Chavis' defense.

However, considering LSU's Week 1 opponent—a Wisconsin team with a massive, experienced, road-grating offensive line, arguably the best running back in the country (Melvin Gordon) and a history of jamming the ball down opponents' throats—it might not be afforded the opportunity to ease Valentine into action.

Even Bryant, who didn't want to overstate the importance of Valentine's eligibility, was quick to note that Valentine is the biggest tackle on LSU's roster (which is a priority against the Badgers):

His size might be needed from the get-go.

Herron, after all, is "only" 6'4", 278 pounds, which makes him more of an oversized defensive end than a true defensive tackle.

Gilmore and Bain are 300-pounders whose size should be a benefit on the ground, but neither was as highly regarded as Valentine coming out of high school, and especially if Thomas cannot play or is not at full strength against Wisconsin, all hands will be needed on deck.

Still, it is best not to hail Valentine has a savior for this year's run defense. According to ESPN Scouts Inc. (subscription required), his raw potential against the run was curtailed by his inconsistency. In terms of crowding the ball, using his hands and maintaining a low enough pad level, he needs to be coached up a little bit.

In this regard, missing the lion's share of fall camp was particularly detrimental.

Valentine, more than most LSU players, could have used the extra time to learn under Chavis and position coach Brick Haley. More likely than not, he will have to develop technical consistencies on the fly, which should expedite his learning curve but also lead to occasional poor results.

Wisconsin has the type of veteran offensive line that can expose such raw deficiencies, so Valentine might be counted on in more of the short-yardage role Bryant alluded to than as a true rotation tackle. If he improves as the year goes on, that should change.

Any way you swing it, though, it's better to have Valentine eligible than to not. He is at the very least another giant body to trot out. The more of those you have, the fresher you can keep the starters at a position where fatigue is often an issue. It's also a safeguard against injury.

Unlike Herron, Gilmore and Bain last season, Valentine will not have a redshirt year to learn from the sidelines.

This front seven needs him to play—and play soon.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT.

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Predictions for Florida State in 2014 After AP Preseason Poll Release

For the sixth time in its prestigious history, Florida State football rests as the No. 1 team in the land after the AP preseason poll reveal.

Rightfully so, too. After a national title and with a returning Heisman winner under center, the Seminoles are far and away the best team in the nation on paper, especially when the loss of recognizable names can be countered with the next-man-up philosophy.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, history smiles upon the Seminoles:

It is a great sign, but the Seminoles must leave it all on the field now that the proverbial target is on their back. Below, let's take a look at the full poll to get a better idea of how the collegiate landscape shapes up and nail down some predictions for the Seminoles after the jump.

 

2014 AP Preseason Poll

Poll courtesy of The Associated Press.

 

 

Predictions

Seminoles Run the Table...But Not Without Struggles

Yes, the road to a national title is more difficult than last year's schedule, but there is little to suggest the Seminoles will not post a goose egg in the loss column once again.

Many will point to a matchup against Oklahoma State to start the season as an issue, but we're talking about a team that lost 29 seniors and an offense that is a shell of its former self going against what was an elite defense a season ago led by end Mario Edwards.

The real struggle will come against Clemson. As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated notes, the team's playoff aspirations hinge on that one game thanks to the ACC:

The Seminoles can probably lose a game and still make the playoff. They’ve beefed up their nonconference schedule with home dates against Oklahoma State (Aug. 30) and Notre Dame (Oct. 18), and annual rival Florida (Nov. 29) should be better than last year. The ACC’s overall improvement will help too. Their must-win game is a Sept. 20 visit by Clemson. An FSU loss likely means no ACC Atlantic Division title and no ACC title. An SEC or Pac-12 team might make the playoff without winning its division, but that probably won’t be the case in the other leagues.

It is difficult to hype up the match too much, though. Clemson lost names such as quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideouts Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant to the NFL. Last year's contest in Memorial Stadium was a 51-14 train wreck.

No, the real problem for the Seminoles is themselves. We have yet to really find out what the team looks like if Winston posts a poor performance, and the chance of a sloppy contest littered with penalties could make road encounters with NC State and Miami (Fla.) tricky.

Home contests against Notre Dame—a team that touts dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson—and Florida should prove tricky, but an elite defense once again will do much to counter any potential issues under center.

 

ACC Championship Rout

The ACC Coastal Division is a complete wild card.

North Carolina seems to be a favorite, but Duke and Virginia Tech have enough talent to make a run at the top, too. Do not sleep on the Hurricanes, either, not with elite running back Duke Johnson leading the way (920 yards and six scores with a 6.3 average last season).

No matter which team emerges, though, it all ends at one roadblock—a loss to the Seminoles.

Let's pretend for a moment that Duke falls off a cliff with Kurt Roper gone to Florida and quarterback Brandon Connette now under center for Fresno State. So let's give the nod to Miami, an athletic team that does not get enough credit for its depth.

Under the spotlight of a championship game, even Johnson will not be able to run wild on a defense that surrendered just 12.1 points per game last season, the best mark in the land.

While Florida State resides heads and shoulders above the rest of the conference talent-wise, critical questions for every other team only make things worse. For the Hurricanes, it is who lines up under center.

If the Hurricanes cannot put a wealth of points on the board against an elite unit, this year's ACC title game will look similar to last year's—when Winston and Co. handed Duke a 45-7 loss.

 

Back-to-Back Champs

Going undefeated two seasons in a row is ridiculously difficult, but Jimbo Fisher has a roster in place to do just that, especially in a weak ACC. 

It hardly matters which teams make the playoff when one ponders just how much talent is on its way back to Tallahassee. Led by top NFL prospect Cameron Ervin, Winston will play behind the nation's best offensive line.

NFL.com's Chase Goodbread explains the senior's talent best:

A fifth-year offensive tackle, Erving could be the first ACC player drafted next year. He has the requisite size and length at 6-foot-6, 302 pounds and provides Winston with outstanding pass protection. Erving was a first-team All-ACC pick last season.

Protected by that line, Winston will only improve. The bright lights of a playoff are no big deal, either. Not just because of last year's triumph, but because of the razor-sharp approach the signal-caller employs, as best captured by Brandon Mellor of Seminoles.com:

Given the way the preseason poll aligns with schedules and the like, the likely three to join the Seminoles seem to be Alabama, Oregon and the defensive-minded Michigan State Spartans.

Of the three, the team that poses the biggest threat is Oregon, which would make for one heck of a final matchup.

Really, as great as it sounds on paper, the Oregon defense is a major question mark when tasked with the physical Florida State offense, and the Seminoles' veteran defense can at least slow an offense led by Marcus Mariota.

So the AP got this one right. Until Winston departs and Fisher stops being the nation's best recruiter, polls will continue to open with the Seminoles on top. Really, it is only fitting that the team to win the final title of the BCS era also kicks off the playoff era by lifting the hardware.

 

Note: Statistics courtesy of ESPN.

 

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Michigan Football: Running Back by Committee Is Best Shot at Success

Brady Hoke still believes that a running back will separate himself from the pack and seize the top position on the depth chart.

"Things will shake out a bit, and then we'll have a No. 1 and some other guys we're still excited about,” said Hoke earlier this week.

But with less than two weeks before the season opener, sophomores Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson are in a logjam, poised to be running back by committee in Michigan’s new offense. 

Last week, Hoke announced that Smith was the top back by a narrow margin, but during Saturday’s night scrimmage Green was on top.

For some teams, the tight competition might indicate a lack of talent, but for Michigan it’s the exact opposite—Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith were both 4-star recruits, and last season Johnson had beaten both out to backup senior Fitzgerald Toussaint before being sidelined by an ACL injury during the first game of the season.

While Hoke may prefer that one back assert himself, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is more pragmatic on the subject.

“We’re gonna play a number of guys—and what you look at who is going to shoulder the load,“ said Nussmeier last week during the team’s media day. “There are a lot of variables…we’re not gonna be a one-back team.”

Also in the mix is transfer Ty Isaac and veteran Justice Hayes. Isaac, a 4-star transfer, is awaiting a decision on his eligibility, and Hayes made an impression during spring practice with his blocking ability.

“We’d love to get to one guy for sure, but right now we’re just not there yet,” said Hoke. “All four, five if you want to count Ty [Isaac], have done some really good things and they’ve all made some bonehead mistakes.”

After watching Michigan’s offensive line struggle to open up running lanes during the team’s public night practice on Saturday, the running backs look to be in for a beating this season.

Michigan’s eventual top back may very well be determined by whoever can avoid injury while finding the microscopic openings created by an offensive line still looking for its groove.

The backs will also be judged on their ability to pass protect and navigate the inside and outside zone running plays that Nussmeier’s offense depends on. With a number of backs getting reps, Hoke may just find the right combination to make Nussmeier’s offense go.

That Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith are battling is not surprising considering how they performed at the end of last season, but Drake Johnson’s strong return is a bonus. Johnson, a lightly regarded 3-star recruit who played his high school football across the street from the Big House at Ann Arbor Pioneer, has forced himself into the conversation at running back.

Hoke may be frustrated by the tight competition to run the ball, but after seeing the current state of the team’s offensive line, he might need his entire running back committee by the end of the season.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Follow @PSCallihan

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Bleacher Report's Preseason All-America College Football Team

There is an abundance of football talent scattered throughout the nation. Only a small portion of these players—a percent of a percent—can be preseason Bleacher Report All-Americans.

Of course, such labels are only labels. There are no prizes or trophies for the select few picked—that’s still a violation, probably—although it’s still a label you’d rather have than not. And with the college football season inching oh so close, it’s time to crown the truly exceptional (and enrage excluded fanbases accordingly). 

Crafting this team took the following into consideration: statistical performance from last year, team impact, award presence, 2014 projection and the vital eye-test addition. This is how a pool of thousands was narrowed to just 25. 

The All-America team consists of 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and three specialists (a kicker, a punter and a return man). A second team was also handpicked, and these players are highlighted on each positional slide.

Here they are. Your outrage undoubtedly to follow.

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10 Most Underrated Offensive Recruits in Class of 2015

The 2015 class is stacked with plenty of offensive weapons destined to help keep scoreboard operators busy for the foreseeable future.

However, recruiting has never been proven to be an exact science.

For example, none of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft—Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater—were ranked as Top 100 recruits in the 2011 class.

In particular, Bortles rose from a player tabbed as the No. 169 recruit in the state of Florida into the No. 3 overall pick of the Jaguars. 

The 2015 class has its share of offensive standouts who carry a rating of 3-star or below.

Which offensive players in the 2015 class are underrated and being overlooked by recruiting experts?

*All players listed in alphabetical order. All recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports and all rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings unless otherwise noted.

 

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Notre Dame Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — As Irish head coach Brian Kelly stressed when he discussed the academic investigation Saturday, the season goes on for Notre Dame football.

For now, the Irish are without wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore, who are being held out of practice and competition during the ongoing investigation.

“I care deeply about the four young men,” Kelly said following Saturday’s practice. “But I’ve got a job to do. And I’ve got another 100 players that I have to be concerned with.”

Kelly must also concern himself with a rigorous schedule, one that features Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State, Louisville and USC.

Five ND opponents also in the poll: FSU(1), Stanford(11), USC(15), Arizona State(19) and UNC(23).

— Dan Murphy (@BGI_DanMurphy) August 17, 2014

Only six teams play more AP Top 25 teams than Notre Dame this year. And five of those are from the SEC. Stanford is the other.

— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) August 17, 2014

Let’s go game by game through Notre Dame’s schedule and predict the outcome.

For now, it’s only appropriate to approach this exercise as if Notre Dame will be without Daniels, Russell, Williams and Moore for the entire season. Obviously, should any of the four be cleared, these predictions are subject to change.

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Texas A&M's Kenny Hill Is the Ultimate Long Shot for the 2014 Heisman Trophy

Don't call him a favorite and don't even call him a dark horse, but if you're looking for the ultimate long shot for the 2014 Heisman Trophy, look no further than Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.

Hill, the 6'1", 215-pound sophomore from Southlake, Texas, was tabbed as Johnny Manziel's replacement as the starting quarterback for the Aggies over the weekend by head coach Kevin Sumlin.

“The competition was close and that competition will continue to help us improve,” Sumlin said in a release from Texas A&M. “I have talked to both quarterbacks as well as the team and we will prepare with Kenny getting the first-team reps.”

Hill completed 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions as the third-string quarterback last year, adding seven carries for 37 yards on the ground. He was rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2013 by 247Sports.

Surprised? I was.

I had been back and forth between Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen all offseason but settled on Allen, an early enrollee, as the winner as fall camp began.

Sumlin commented on the race to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle Saturday afternoon.

Sumlin said Kyle Allen took news "maturely" and knows he's one play away from starting -- whether from "subpar play or injury."

— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) August 17, 2014

Either way, though, the quarterback at Texas A&M is going to be successful. He has to be, and if you're looking for a long shot to win the Heisman Trophy, Hill is it.

It wasn't too long ago when a redshirt freshman was tabbed as the starter in Aggieland midway through fall camp. Eleven wins, 5,116 total yards and 47 touchdowns later, Manziel made history as the first redshirt freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.

Hill is perfectly set up to come out of nowhere to repeat the feat.

"Kenny throws a beautiful deep ball," TexAgs.com senior writer Billy Liucci told me at SEC media days in July. "In this offense, as we've seen the last two years, they're not afraid to take deep shots. They'll do that without [former wide receiver] Mike Evans out there."

As I wrote last week, Sumlin's offenses have finished in the top 11 nationally in total offense in each of the last six seasons and tops in the country twice, during his time as the head coach of Houston (2008-2011) and Texas A&M (2012-present). The offense has the weapons around Hill both up front and at the skill positions for him to step in and shine from the moment toe meets leather.

The biggest criticism of this Aggie team is its defense, which finished last in the SEC and 111th in the nation in total defense last year (475.8 YPG). On top of that, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder lost several key contributors unexpectedly, including defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne.

While that's a criticism of the team, it's a benefit for Hill's  Heisman chances.

He has the dual-threat capabilities and the coaching staff to put up the video game numbers Heisman voters like, and, more importantly, he probably has to put up those stats if the Aggies are going to win football games.

That's what will hold Hill up regarding the Heisman. The award has evolved into a quarterback-centric award that is reserved for signal-callers who are on teams that, at the very least, are competitive within their division or conference. 

Texas A&M plays in the toughest neighborhood in college football in the SEC West—a division that has sent six teams to the national title game over the last five years. Hill will elevate from a "long shot" to "dark horse" if his defense fixes the glitch, which may be easier said than done but is certainly not impossible given the way Texas A&M has recruited over the last few years.

If you're looking for that long shot—that player out of nowhere who is beyond a dark horse but could put the pieces of the puzzle together to produce a Heisman-level season—it's Hill.

Several of those pieces are already in place. He has the coach, the system, the exposure and the defense that will bolster his Heisman case. Now he just needs the wins. 

It seemed crazy two seasons ago, too, and look how that turned out.

 

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


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Auburn Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

On Sunday night, the Auburn Tigers officially ended fall camp.

Following an off day Monday, the defending SEC champions will be in full preparation mode for their upcoming schedule—and what a tough schedule it will be.

Auburn will play seven teams that are ranked in both the preseason coaches and The Associated Press polls, more than any other team in the country. For the first time in program history, the Tigers will have to travel to both rivals Georgia and Alabama.

Even with the brutal 2014 schedule, preseason expectations are extremely high for Auburn, which returns most of its starters from its impressive offense and its steadily improving defense.

After all the off-the-field drama and on-the-field action of the summer on the Plains, I've revisited my May predictions. Has anything changed in my opinion of head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers and their upcoming season? Let's take a game-by-game look.

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College Football Head Coaches Who'll Make the Most Improvement in 2014

College football is a win-now business. This is not exactly breaking news: The ever-increasing influx of television and bowl money into the game has ratcheted up the pressure on head coaches to show on-field success, and immediately.

According to Syracuse.com's Patrick Stevens, only 57 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches have spent more than three seasons in their current positions.  College football’s coaching carousel is constant.

Per Stevens, the median hire date for an FBS head coach is Dec. 8, 2011. If coaches don’t win immediately, athletic directors and boosters have shown they aren’t afraid to pay a buyout clause and find someone who can.

When the 2014 season begins in less than two weeks, fans across the nation will be looking for signs of improvement from their favorite programs. Here is a look at some college football head coaches who should make the most improvement in 2014, running the gamut from newbie to established.

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Florida Gators Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

We are less than two weeks away from the college football season, and now those predictions everybody has been throwing up against the wall finally mean something. While it’s great to look at the schedule and talk about matchups, it’s tough to predict games months in advance.

Back in May, I had the Florida Gators finishing with a respectable 9-3 record considering the season they had a year ago. Not much has changed with the results considering Florida is pretty much the same team it was a few months ago, and the opponents are still as tough as ever.

Although with updates throughout camp and the attitude players have toward the upcoming season, it’s worth looking at these games again and throwing out a few updated predictions.

Here is how the Gators will fare in 2014.

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2014 Big 12 Football Conference Predictions

It was a bit of a mystery who would come away with the Big 12 title in 2013, but this year it won't be.

Oklahoma and Baylor are the favorites coming off solid seasons. The Sooners' big win over Alabama set the tone heading into the 2014 season, while the Bears proved they could play with the best by winning their first Big 12 title and playing in the Fiesta Bowl. 

While most focus on Oklahoma and Baylor, Kansas State could be in the running if coach Bill Snyder can use his magic to surprise as he did in 2012, with a senior quarterback and talent on the defensive end. 

Other teams in the mix might be Texas, who will now be led by head coach Charlie Strong, as well as Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. It’s expected that the Pokes and the Red Raiders will finish in the middle of the pack, but you never know in the wild Big 12. 

A dark-horse candidate will be TCU, who will be trying to forget what occurred in 2013. Going 4-8 is almost unheard of for a Gary Patterson team, but the Horned Frogs could be a threat to be reckoned with if the offense can click right away with new offensive coordinators. 

The Big 12 will be highly competitive this season for the most part and should see at least two teams advance to major bowl games at the end of the season. 

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UCLA Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2014

With the start of the season a mere two weeks away, it seems prudent to make a few prognostications as to how Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will fare in 2014. 

The Bruins' schedule is one of the more difficult ones in the entire country. Per the first AP Top 25 Preseason Poll, UCLA will face five ranked teams (Oregon, Stanford, Southern Cal, Arizona State, Washington). 

Additionally, the No. 7 Bruins face a tough non-conference tilt against the Texas Longhorns in the Lone Star state. The season opener on the opposite side of the country, against an upstart Virginia squad, isn't an easy task, either. 

This piece predicts how the Bruins will ultimately perform in 2014, on a game-by-game basis. Obviously, every single team on this list will suffer injuries throughout the season (to varying degrees), but predictions have been made under the assumption both teams are fully healthy.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2014

With the start of the season a mere two weeks away, it seems prudent to make a few prognostications as to how Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will fare in 2014. The Bruins' schedule is one of the more difficult ones in the entire country...

Begin Slideshow

Meet Notre Dame's New Starters for 2014

With Notre Dame's 2014 season thrown into chaos with the announced suspension of four players, the Irish will be forced to depend on a few more new faces this season.

With the fate of starters DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams awaiting an academic investigation, the Irish could be even more green (pun intended) heading into their season opener against Rice. 

After building a roster with successful recruiting campaigns since he arrived in South Bend, head coach Brian Kelly is better suited to play a young team than ever before. Even after losing Zack Martin, Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas, Louis Nix and Chris Watt in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, the Irish have a roster that Kelly has repeatedly called one of his deepest. 

With less than two weeks until the Irish welcome Rice to Notre Dame Stadium, let's meet the new starters for 2014. 

 

Offense

With Chuck Martin off to coach at Miami University (Ohio) and trusted assistant Mike Denbrock named the new coordinator, Kelly decided to reclaim the play-calling duties this offseason. He's also reopened his playbook, turning back to the spread-heavy concepts that helped build his offensive guru reputation. 

Of course, Everett Golson had a big reason to do with that. Returning to the starting lineup after a dismissal from school that cost him the 2013 season, Golson's abilities fit perfectly in the spread. Let's look at the newcomers joining him on offense. 

 

Ben Koyack

The most experienced of the new starters, Koyack is a three-year contributor at tight end who came on near the end of the 2013 season.

A candidate to be one of the team's captains, Koyack looks like another prototype NFL tight end, continuing a run of early draft picks that date back to the beginning of the Ty Willingham era with Anthony Fasano and continued on with John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert and Niklas. 

At 6'5", 254 pounds, Koyack has the ability to attach to the line of scrimmage as well as flex out to create a mismatch. He averaged 17.1 yards a catch last season playing as the Irish's No. 2 tight end behind Niklas, whose early exit to the NFL opens the door for Koyack to join him in 2015. 

 

Chris Brown

A fairly disappointing sophomore season seemed to be salvaged during bowl season for Brown, who finished the year with his most productive game against Rutgers, making five catches in the Irish's 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory. 

Brown was forced into a leadership role this spring with the academic suspension of Daniels, suddenly becoming the elder statesman in a young but talented receiving corps. That position of authority carried into the summer and fall camp, where Brown's done a great job holding onto a starting job at a very talented position. 

Brown has the pedigree to be a very good player. A high school track star who scored more points individually at the South Carolina state meet than all but seven teams competing, Brown has sprinter speed and leaping ability that put him on the U.S. Junior National team. 

After making 15 catches in 2013, Brown's poised to have a breakout junior season. 

 

Corey Robinson

With Daniels' future in limbo, sophomore Corey Robinson is the next man in at outside receiver. Son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, Kelly and his staff plucked the lanky receiver—a raw stringbean playing private small-school Texas-prep football at San Antonio Christian—out of obscurity.

Notre Dame was the first offer for Robinson, but after enrolling early he showed quickly what the staff saw in him. At a listed 6'4.5" (and likely a little bit taller), Robinson only made nine catches last season, but he dazzled with a pair of velcro hands and a catch radius that make him a very large target. 

Paired with Everett Golson and given the opportunity to spend a lot of time in single coverage, Robinson was set to thrive this season anyway. But if Daniels is lost for an extended period, then Robinson moves into a key role for the Irish offense. 

 

Tarean Folston

Entering Notre Dame relatively off the radar with most eyes focused on classmate Greg Bryant, Folston took control of the running back job down the stretch and enters fall as the team's starter. A smooth, efficient running back who has also showed a knack for breaking a long run, Folston will have opportunities to make a difference both as a runner and pass-catcher.

A starter leading a committee, Folston will share carries with Bryant and Cam McDaniel, though he's got the ability to take the job over. And with Golson piloting the offense, the threat of a mobile quarterback should open up a ground game that could power the Irish offense.

  

Matt Hegarty

One of the more amazing stories in college football, Hegarty was nearly out of the game when he suffered a stroke in November of 2012, needing heart surgery to repair two holes in his heart. The procedure put his career in jeopardy, but Hegarty recovered in 2013 and played key snaps at center when Nick Martin suffered a knee injury against BYU. 

Hegarty filled in valiantly in the season's three final games and continued to play center during spring practice while Martin recovered. But while most had sophomore Mike McGlinchey starting at right tackle after playing during spring drills, Hegarty is at left guard while Steve Elmer plays tackle.

A senior with a fifth-year available, Hegarty adds a veteran body on the interior of the offensive line.

 

Defense

We already knew Brian VanGorder's defense was going to be young. But suspensions to key starters KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams push two new names into the starting lineup. At this point, it might be easier to tell you who returns, but let's get the introductions started. 

 

Andrew Trumbetti

The early-enrollee freshman has overtaken junior Romeo Okwara at defensive end, pushing his way onto the field, the first freshman defensive lineman to open the season as a starter since Anthony Weaver in 1998. Trumbetti was an Under Armour All-American last year and a 4-star recruit who chose the Irish over Florida and Michigan State, so the pedigree is there.

At 6'3.5" and 251 pounds, Trumbetti has decent enough size and has been lauded for his motor and pass-rushing skills. With multiple personnel packages, it's not as if Trumbetti will be an every-down player for the Irish, but he'll have a ton of responsibilities on his shoulders from the start of the season.

 

Jarron Jones

He may feel like a veteran at this point, but Jones only worked his way onto the field when Irish defensive linemen started dropping like flies last season. Originally a defensive end, Jones was the next man in after injuries took Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke off the field at nose guard. 

Playing an impressive game against BYU, Jones held his own against Stanford and Rutgers, giving Notre Dame hope that life after Nix wasn't going to be too painful. Shifting into a four-man front takes some of the burden off Jones as a pure nose guard, but he'll still be asked to eat blockers and wreak havoc, something he should do fairly well. 

 

Isaac Rochell

With senior Ishaq Williams off the field on Friday as the academic investigation began, Rochell was in his place at strong-side defensive end. After playing in 11 games and making 10 tackles as a freshman, Rochell hardly looked ready to take over a starting job, but the options behind him aren't great.

That's not to say the Georgia native doesn't have promise. Kelly surprised a lot of people when he called Rochell "a beast" last week during a press conference, a declaration that wasn't made to pump the young lineman's tires but rather because the 6'3.5" 287-pounder looks like a completely different player than the one who played last season.

There's no telling how prepared Rochell is to take significant snaps, but at this point he's going to take as many as he can handle. With offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and other SEC powers coming out of high school, Rochell looked the part of a blue-chipper. We'll have to see if he's ready to play that role in 2014. 

 

Joe Schmidt

After being one of the surprises of spring football, Schmidt has solidified his place in the middle of the Irish defense. The former walk-on (who has been on scholarship for two seasons) was buried on Bob Diaco's inside linebacker depth chart in the 3-4, but he is a much better fit playing behind a four-man front. 

Undersized but instinctive, quick and tough, Schmidt is more than a Rudy-like story; he's a really good football player. With Jarrett Grace still making his slow return back, Kendall Moore suspended and Nyles Morgan swimming in very deep water as a true freshman, this is Schmidt's defense to run.

 

James Onwualu

If Schmidt's spot in the starting lineup is surprising, maybe Onwualu's is even more far-fetched. After starting four games at wide receiver for the Irish as a true freshman, Onwualu converted to the defensive side of the ball in the spring and began his transition as a safety before moving to linebacker. 

Onwualu has packed five pounds onto his 6'1" frame after playing last season at 215. That's not enough bulk to take on offensive linemen, but Onwualu will start against teams that attempt to spread the Irish defense out, capable of covering just about anybody while also showing a toughness that allows him to do plenty of jobs.  

Kelly has a reputation for flipping productive players from one side of the ball and making them better on the other. That looks to be happening quickly for Onwualu, who outbattled John Turner and Ben Councell for the starting job. 

 

Cody Riggs

The decision to transfer to Notre Dame looks like a brilliant one for Riggs right now. (And for Notre Dame, who accepted the temporary fix.) Having already won a starting cornerback job opposite KeiVarae Russell, Riggs will ascend to the top cover corner role as long as Russell is off the field. 

Starting 26 games between corner and safety over three-plus seasons (he received a medical redshirt after an early-season injury), Riggs wants to prove to NFL scouts he can make it as a cover man. He'll do more than just that for the Irish, sliding inside and out as a versatile piece of VanGorder's aggressive coverage schemes.

 

Cole Luke

With or without Russell, Luke was going to play a lot of football. But with Notre Dame's top cover corner held out of practice on Friday, the Irish turn to Luke, hoping the sophomore is ready to take on a much bigger responsibility. 

Luke played in all 13 games last season, seeing a lot of time in the secondary playing nickel and cornerback for Diaco. But there's little Cover 2 in VanGorder's scheme, and Luke will be asked to do much more this season than he did just dropping into his zone as a freshman. 

 

Max Redfield

After Kelly pushed Redfield into the starting lineup against Rutgers, the sophomore has solidified himself as the team's starting free safety. A former 5-star recruit, Redfield had a frustrating freshman season unable to work his way into Diaco's rotation at safety with the mental grind of the position holding him back. 

While Kelly talked about limiting the decision-making Redfield needs to do on the field last week, the sophomore safety is ready to take ownership of the back end of the defense. Probably the most physically gifted safety the Irish have had since Harrison Smith, Redfield has all the talent in the world; he just has to play mistake-free football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The countdown to the 2014 regular season is dwindling, and the Miami Hurricanes are preparing to take the field on Sept. 1 against new conference foe Louisville.

Blood pressure rising, excitement building and game-by-game predictions forthcoming.

As the 'Canes continue to work through a quarterback battle, now narrowed to a transfer and true freshman, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Stacy Coley and Ereck Flowers lead a high-ceiling, low-floor Miami roster.

The following are based on the current health status of all involved teams, which is subject to change at any moment. But that doesn't mean we can't take a shot at the predictions.

Because football is great. Any disagreement? No? OK. Onward!

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Ohio State Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The Ohio State football team is gearing up for another national title run, but with the inaugural College Football Playoff on the horizon, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will be navigating a much tougher schedule in 2014.

The realigned Big Ten divisions have given Ohio State a loaded league slate, and a tougher nonconference lineup will challenge the Buckeyes early.

Can Ohio State put together its third consecutive undefeated regular season? 

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Big Ten Football: Every Team's Biggest Trap Game for the 2014 Season

It was almost exactly seven years ago that Michigan, then the No. 5 team in the nation, fell victim to one of the biggest trap games ever: a Week 1 visit from FCS Appalachian State. Even the best the Big Ten has to offer can succumb to pretty apparent traps from time to time.  

Could it happen again in 2014?

Michigan is no longer a top-five team, and Appalachian State is no longer an FCS program, as the Mountaineers move to the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt this season. Still, there are enough pitfalls on the schedule all throughout the Big Ten to make any coach wary of early predictions for conference titles or College Football Playoff berths.

It's safe to say that there are games, like the Mountaineers' second visit to the Big House in a couple of short weeks, that won't be sneaking up on anyone.

But where are the quagmires for 2014?  

Let's hone our Jedi senses as we sniff out the trap game of 2014 for each Big Ten team.

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The 6 Most Overrated College Football Teams in the 2014 Preseason AP Poll

In the grand scheme of things, preseason rankings in college football are quite meaningless. Even more than in years past, where a team is ranked (or not ranked) to begin the season has almost no bearing on its spot in the polls or standings when the year is over.

The College Football Playoff has rendered such polls almost moot, since the selection committee charged with picking teams for the first-ever four-team tournament will use its own rankings based on data completely unrelated to how FBS coaches or national media members catalog the country's best teams.

But that still doesn't mean such polls don't have a place in today's game. They're a great source of discussion and debate, as anyone who checked in on Twitter in the hours after The Associated Press unveiled its initial poll can testify to. Outside of defending champ Florida State at No. 1, it was hard to find a consensus that agreed any other team was completely worthy of its ranking.

In many cases, a team earned a preseason ranking that seems far higher than it deserves based on how it performed in 2013, the quality of the starters it has returning and how good its newcomers are expected to be. Off-the-field conditions may also impact how the 2014 season will go, and if those factors aren't taken into consideration a team can end up with the dreaded "overrated" label.

Looking at the AP preseason Top 25, here are seven teams who fit that description (listed alphabetically).

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Texas Football: Meet Texas' New Starters for 2014

The Longhorns have to replace seven departed starters from the 2013 roster. Past the midway point of fall camp, the leaders to fill those spots are pretty apparent.

Charlie Strong must replace two starters along the offensive line, leading receiver Mike Davis, safety Adrian Phillips and All-American defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Additionally, he must address the spots he opened up when he dismissed receiver Kendall Sanders and suspended safety Josh Turner.

Strong's work is cut out for him, but he does have some decent experience to pull from. Linemen Kent Perkins and Sedrick Flowers each have a start under their belts along with some steady reserve action. Receiver Marcus Johnson is also a no-brainer after making a few starts as a sophomore.

The rest are entering new territory, playing positions that must produce on a weekly basis. 

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LSU Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

LSU begins its 10th season under Les Miles in 13 days, yet it seems as if it was just yesterday when he took over the Tigers for the departed Nick Saban.

Time flies when you're having fun. In the SEC, where football means everything, winning equates to fun.

In nine years under Miles, the Tigers' 95 wins are eight more than any other SEC program. LSU's nine Top 25 finishes are more than any other SEC program in the same span.

LSU has accumulated at least 10 wins in each of the past four seasons. However, that streak can easily be snapped as the young Bayou Bengals have a brutal schedule ahead of them.

The Tigers were ranked No. 13 in the preseason AP poll released Saturday. But rankings can mean little. If LSU can avoid losing two games this season, it will be in the mix for one of the four playoff spots.

Here is a preview of how the Tigers will fare in the 2014.

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