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Former 4-Star RB Ty Isaac Will Transfer from USC Trojans

Sophomore running back Ty Isaac, the No. 54 overall player on the 247Sports Composite in 2013, announced Tuesday that he is transferring after one season at USC.

Isaac is from Illinois and confirmed with Lindsey Thiry of Scout.com that his decision was not football related but rather because he is having family issues and wants to move closer to home.

"I have family stuff with my mom and want to be closer to home," said Isaac, according to Thiry. "I had a good time at USC. Last year's team was something really special ... When you pick a school, you don't foresee a decision like this happening."

Isaac was listed as an all-purpose back coming out of high school. At 6'2", he is tall for a running back, but he has good one-cut-and-go speed, solid power and is adept at catching the football.

Despite these gifts, however, Isaac found himself buried in a deep backfield rotation at USC. He finished fifth on the team with 40 carries and 236 rushing yards last season, but three of the players above him—Javorious "Buck" Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis—were also underclassmen.

USC will lean on that trio next season and be able to stomach Isaac's loss. Even though it hurts to lose such a promising young talent, the Trojans keep the cupboard stacked at tailback, and always have.

Of the notable schools close to Isaac's home state of Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan pursued him the hardest coming out of high school, per 247Sports. Though nothing can be confirmed at the time, any of those would seem like reasonable destinations.

If he does go to one of those schools—or any other FBS program—Isaac would likely have to sit out next season, per NCAA transfer rules. If he goes to an FCS program, he will be eligible immediately.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former 4-Star RB Ty Isaac Will Transfer from USC Trojans

Sophomore running back Ty Isaac, the No. 54 overall player on the 247Sports Composite in 2013, announced Tuesday that he is transferring after one season at USC. Isaac is from Illinois and confirmed with Lindsey Thiry of Scout...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Oklahoma State Football's APR Penalty Is Significant but Shouldn't Doom Cowboys

Just when the offseason news cycle was slipping into a peaceful slumber, the NCAA hit Oklahoma State with a wake-up bucket of ice-cold water.

According to John Helsley of The Oklahoman, Oklahoma State's football program will lose one practice day per week this season. The news was first reported by GoPokes.com (subscription required). 

The punishment reportedly comes as a result of the program's Academic Progress Rate (APR) falling below the NCAA minimum requirement, which is either 930 over a four-year period, or 940 over a two-year period.

From The Oklahoman

OSU fell a fraction of a point shy of avoiding penalty, with its number at 929.41 for the last four years. Had the Cowboys been at 929.50, the number would have been rounded up, meaning they missed by nine-one-hundreds of a point. The Cowboys avoided a more damaging postseason ban.

The program’s numbers were actually improved from a year ago, when OSU scored 926 over four years, but the NCAA raised its minimums for this season, from 900 for four years and 930 for two years, to 930 and 940.

This is obviously sobering news for the Cowboys. As B/R's Michael Felder, a former college player himself, tweets, there are only so many practices a week a team uses for game preparation. 

Losing a day is a disadvantage no matter how you slice it. However, it would be interesting to know if Oklahoma State can choose which day of practice it will forfeit. That could change the perception of the punishment's severity. 

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated notes, a good day to miss is Friday, when teams do little more than walk through everything from plays and packages to substitutions before Saturday's game. 

It is by far the easiest day of "practice" and could be moved to either Thursday or Saturday. Another possibility is eliminating Oklahoma State's Sunday practice. 

The thing to consider is head coach Mike Gundy has lightened up his in-season, on-field practice schedule (h/t Footballscoop.com). That makes the NCAA's punishment seem less dreadful than at first glance. 

"We started [compiling] all that about three years ago, and we started putting it in effect really this year," Gundy told ESPN's Ivan Maisel in 2011. "Last spring, spring ball, we did not scrimmage one time and tackle to the ground. This August, we did not scrimmage one time and tackle to the ground. Nothing."

None of this is ideal or to suggest losing a day of practice isn't significant. It is, especially if the NCAA is the one dictating the terms. 

But all things considered, it's not as devastating as it could be. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Meet Koa Farmer, Penn State's First Californian Recruit in Nearly a Decade

By now, new Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin has caught the attention of just about everyone that follows college football recruiting.

Penn State's current class ranks second in the country behind only Alabama, according to 247Sports, and Franklin has landed commitments from 16 prospects, including 13 recruits rated as 247Sports Composite 4-star players.

The first indication that Franklin could enjoy massive success recruiting at Penn State came in January, when 2014 safety Koa Farmer committed to the Nittany Lions on an official visit...from California.

In just over a month, Farmer will become the first player to leave a California high school for Happy Valley since Lydell Sargeant made the move in 2005.

Technically, Sargeant moved back to Pennsylvania, his home for 10 years, to graduate high school, but before that, he played his final three seasons of high school ball in California, thus making him a "California prospect."

Unlike Sargeant's situation, Koa Farmer didn't even have Penn State on his radar until a few weeks before signing day. 

"I thought I wasn't big-time enough to go to Penn State. Penn State to me is like an Alabama, USC, all those big time programs that have that legacy of football."

In the final winter of his recruitment, Farmer began drawing attention from all over, including Wisconsin, who wanted the 4-star safety to visit after his trip to Pennsylvania.

"I was getting these offers so late and I still had visits to take...it was hectic," Farmer says of the weeks leading up to his commitment, adding "The Wisconsin coaches were in my house, coach Franklin was in my house, it was just getting crazy."

Farmer claims that Franklin and his staff were recruiting him the hardest while they were at Vanderbilt and he was actually scheduled to visit Nashville the weekend that he ended up in State College, where he ultimately committed. 

"I give coach Franklin and that staff so much respect that I knew I had to visit those guys. They showed me the most love by far."

The admitted beach body who enjoys surfing knows what's in store for him in central Pennsylvania after his official visit in mid-winter, saying "I had never seen snow come from the side before." Still, he's looking forward to seeing four seasons and says "It will be something different but you just have to be mature about it."

Farmer played all over the field in high school but will arrive at Penn State as a safety and could play the "hero" position before potentially growing into an outside linebacker. 

I just won MT.SAC INVITATIONAL 200 seeded !!!! #21.73 🙌

— KOA (@KOAFARMER) April 20, 2014

A forensic science major who held offers from Yale and Harvard, expect Koa to pick up whatever the staff throws at him. 

If Penn State offering the specific major that Koa was looking for was the final straw, James Franklin built the rest of the bridge. Farmer says that while he was on his visit, Franklin gave a speech explaining to the the recruits that "PSU is unrivaled," saying that "once we get this thing going, ain't nobody messing with us. We're gonna be unrivaled."

DB Koa Farmer of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame said he has signed with Penn State. He said he "loves the energy" of Coach James Franklin & Co.

— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) February 5, 2014

The coaches then led the players down to the field to show off one of Penn State football's best assets. As Farmer puts it, "That stadium speaks for itself. That's what football is about."

 

All quotes obtained first hand, unless otherwise noted. Star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.com.


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The Best 2015 NFL Draft Prospect for Every Major College Football Team

Going through draft withdrawal?

Or maybe it's draft apathy. After having endured months of hype and speculation leading up to last week's three-day extravaganza of professional football potential, the last thing you want to think about is who's on the "big board" for the 2015 NFL draft.

Like it or not, such projections are already out there. But while most of those try to predict who's going to go in next year's first round—without knowing who will draft when and what their needs will be—or just listing the 10 or 20 best overall draft-eligible prospects, we've taken this concept and widened it a bit more.

Not every team is going to have someone taken in the 2015 draft (cough, Texas, cough), but every program from a major college has at least one player on its roster that's considered a viable prospect for next year. It could be that senior who's toiled for many seasons and will peak at the right time, or the hot junior who's ready to leave early to get the clock started on a pro career.

It might even be a redshirt sophomore, someone who, for whatever reason, wasn't used in their first year of college but then exploded onto the scene once given a chance to perform. We can think of at least one of those games, someone who's become quite...famous because of it.

Enough with the buildup: here's our list of every major college team's best 2015 NFL draft prospect.

 

(NOTE: All draft rankings are courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com)

Begin Slideshow

Sterling Johnson Commits to Clemson: What 4-Star DE Brings to Tigers

Sterling Johnson made up his mind to wear orange in college Tuesday but ultimately changed his desired shade by the end of the day.

The 4-star defensive lineman attempted to commit to Tennessee, according to Phil Kornblut of GoUpstate.com, but he was rebuffed by the Volunteers. He quickly turned his attention elsewhere, pledging to Clemson later in the evening:

All signs seemed to point to Knoxville for Johnson, a 6'5", 281-pound prospect from Clayton, North Carolina. He visited the Volunteers in April and immediately elevated Tennessee to the top of an expansive offer list.

"Tennessee, they’re a strong leader right now for me," Johnson told 247Sports reporter Ryan Callahan (subscription required).

Just as he was ready to accept an opportunity to play for the Volunteers, head coach Butch Jones and his staff pushed pause on the recruitment process. Per Kornblut's report, Tennessee is growingly content with its current crop of defensive tackles and preferred to wait and see Johnson at camp before moving forward with the process.

Less than an hour later, he had dropped Tennessee from consideration and committed to Clemson.

"I felt like it was God's plan," Johnson told Kornblut. "I really enjoyed our conversation (with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney) and I like the coaching staff because they are real people and work like everyone else."

He is the 14th member of the 2015 Tigers class and its top-rated defensive prospect. Johnson is listed at No. 10 nationally among strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings.

His junior season featured consistent displays of disruptiveness in the offensive backfield. Johnson tallied 80 tackles, including an incredible 51 for loss, and eight sacks in 2013.

Prior to his pledge to Clemson—and attempted pledge to Tennessee—Johnson considered several collegiate options. He weighed offers from Notre Dame, Florida State, North Carolina, UCLA and Alabama, among others.

He brings tremendous versatility to the Tigers defense. Clemson can utilize Johnson along the interior against the run, as he wreaks havoc destroying double-team efforts and uses rapid lower-body movement to force his way through space.

Johnson is rangy enough to set up shop along the outside edge when the Tigers install schemes built on a foundation of more formidable size on the defensive front. He can improve his set of pass-rushing skills but already displays superb closing speed once the pocket collapses and a quarterback is within striking distance.

He joins South Carolina defensive lineman Gage Cervenka as another member of Clemson's haul at the position. The class rates fourth nationally in 247Sports' composite teams rankings, sitting atop the list of all ACC squads.

 

Recruit rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Poor 2014 NFL Draft Showing Hurts Dawgs in Recruiting

As if recruiting against football factories like Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn wasn’t difficult enough, the challenge for the Georgia Bulldogs was made all the more stringent by last week’s NFL draft.

As the SEC once again led all conferences with 49 players selected, former Dawgs did a lot of listening without hearing their names called.

By the time the Miami Dolphins made tight end Arthur Lynch the first Bulldog to be drafted with the 155th overall pick, a player from every other team in the conference had already been selected.

When Aaron Murray was drafted by the Chiefs eight picks later, he was the 32nd player from the conference—and the last Bulldog—to be snagged.

Georgia’s lack of representation in the draft could really put a damper on recruiting efforts.  After all, only three schools in the conference—Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Kentucky—had fewer players chosen than Mark Richt’s Bulldogs.

 

The Non-Strategy

Last year, Alabama famously employed what could be called the "$51.8 million strategy." The campaign, gaudy as it may have been, was actually quite simple in drawing attention to the then-recent draft-day success of nine former Crimson Tide football players.

“All nine member of the University of Alabama’s 2013 NFL Draft Class signed a 4-Year contract to play in the NFL,” wide receiver coach Billy Napier tweeted. “The combined worth of those contracts was in excess of fifty-one million dollars.”

Fake checks made out to former Alabama players made the backdrop for the image, and in the center of the page was an inescapable number: $51,810,000.

To be fair: one can debate the legitimacy of that number all day long.  Some of that money is not guaranteed, some is derived from performance-based bonuses.  Debate all you want, but good luck finding a high school athlete who’s ready to listen to your argument.

Ultimately, the message this pitch sent was loud and clear: At Alabama, recruits have a tremendous opportunity to earn a spot in the NFL and cash in on the wealth that accompanies such a distinction.

Georgia can’t send that message—at least not after this year's draft.

Head coach Mark Richt can’t compare his program’s ability to produce NFL talent to any of the aforementioned football powerhouses, because Georgia had fewer players drafted this year than Vanderbilt.

Tennessee, a program wrought with turmoil for much of the past few seasons, had more players drafted last week than Georgia.

 

Negative Recruiting Not Necessary

According to Will Brinson of CBSSports.com, this year's event was the most viewed draft (on television) in NFL history. As he pointed out, “It didn’t hurt, of course, that we had an exciting first round.  Or that Johnny Manziel fell far in the first round, causing people to tune in.”

People did tune in.

And as John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal observed on Twitter, more people watched the NFL draft’s first round than any other sports event that evening. Competition wasn’t even close.

While the NFL hijacked television sets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, professional teams weren’t the only organizations getting good press in front of large viewers.

Major college football programs also enjoyed the publicity.

Three Texas A&M Aggies were selected in the first round. Though Manziel may have slipped further than some would have anticipated, highlights of him playing for A&M were shown countless times for recruits to see.

Opposing coaches won’t have to point to Georgia’s lack of presence in the 2014 draft. The Dawgs’ absence was noticeable to the millions of people—including potential recruits—who watched last weekend.

 

Prolonged Impact

Fortunately for Richt, this year’s draft futility is an anomaly within the context of recent history. Over the past five years, only two teams in the conference (Alabama and LSU) have had more players drafted than Georgia.

In fact, prior to this year’s draft, the Dawgs had seen draft numbers increase incrementally from five in 2010 to six in 2011, seven in 2012 and eight in 2013.

And with a host of stars eligible to go pro after next season, Georgia should once again be one of the leaders in the conference—both on the field and in the draft.

For Richt and his staff, two points of emphasis can be gleaned from the poor showing in this year’s draft. 

First and foremost, current and future Bulldogs alike need to recognize the importance of handling business on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom and in the community.

Several former Bulldogs, including running back Isaiah Crowell and cornerback Jordan Love, hurt their NFL chances by failing to maintain good standing within the Georgia program. 

This year's draft should serve as a point of accountability for Richt’s players moving forward. Actions have consequences—both in the short and long term.

Secondly, Richt needs to stress the oddity of this draft to recruits. Over the past five seasons, the average SEC team has had 3.64 players drafted per year. Georgia only failed to surpass that total once (this year) over that time period.

Furthermore, over the course of those five years—including this year’s poor showing—the Dawgs have had an average of 5.6 players selected annually.

That's the number to sell to recruits.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nick Saban Calls for Changing Bowl Selection, Wants It Similar to Basketball

Conference scheduling and the College Football Playoff selection committee have been two of the hottest topics this offseason, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban touched on both of them with one statement Tuesday afternoon.

Per Michael Casagrande of AL.com, Saban proposed that the entire system of bowl assignments be changed to something that resembles the selection process of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, where a selection committee chooses who gets in, who's left out and all the first-round matchups.

In Saban's own words:

I think we have to change the whole system. I understand everybody's point of view on this. Everybody wants to be bowl eligible, they look at it like if we have another conference game, that's seven more losses of everyone which would minimize the number of teams that could get in bowl games.

Well I think on the other end of it, the committee that's going to pick the top four teams for the playoff are really picking the top 12 teams for all six sort of championship bowl games, whatever they call it now. Well, why don't we do it like basketball and let them pick all the teams for all the bowl games. Then it doesn't matter what your record is.

I mean, who's to say having six wins and having a 6-6 season is what qualifies to go to a bowl game. If you play in the tough league and you play a tough schedule and you win a couple big games — RPI or whatever you want to call it — and even though you may lose to some very good teams, you should still have an opportunity to go to a bowl game because your team may be better than another team who played a lesser schedule.

In short, Saban is suggesting we rethink the definition of bowl eligibility. Instead of requiring a team to go .500 to make the postseason, why not allow the selection committee to select bowl teams on a case-by-base basis, rewarding, say, a 5-7 team that played a difficult schedule and proved it could beat quality teams.

Tennessee in 2013 jumps out as an example.

In Saban's mind, this would quiet the outcry against the SEC and ACC, two conferences that opted to keep an eight-game conference schedule over the nine-game model preferred by the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. If playing more non-conference cupcakes did nothing to improve a team's bowl chances, less teams would be inclined to do it.

At that point, more teams might be willing to schedule harder foes in non-conference play. Because wins would no longer be viewed without context, they would start searching for a quality victory.

"If we do that, then more people would not be so concerned about the type of schedule they played and the number of wins that they got," said Saban, per Casagrande. "Which, my whole thing is, improve the number of good games for the fans."

It sounds charming in the abstract, but a move such as this is unlikely to happen. The selection committee already has a discomforting amount of power, and this would only add to it.

Not all 6-6 teams are created equal, and a 5-7 team from the SEC is almost always better than a .500 team from the Sun Belt. But once you give the committee a chance to select each bowl team subjectively, it opens the flood gates to a slippery slope. It's not like the basketball model has been without controversy.

When Saban talks, the NCAA typically listens. It did for a while during the 10-second run-off debacle earlier this summer (allegedly), and it will continue to consider his proposals—as it should.

But this one seems a little too radical.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU: Breaking Down Where La'el Collins Landed on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

LSU led all schools with nine draft picks in the 2014 NFL draft. But in all likelihood, the Tigers will not repeat their same success next season.

Les Miles will rely heavily on freshmen and true sophomores next season who will not be draft eligible for 2015, which is good news for the future of the program. With that said, LSU will have some talented players who will be playing their final season in Baton Rouge this year.

Left tackle La'el Collins made a surprising decision to come back for his senior season. Collins is taking a major risk by returning to the Tigers. Past offensive tackles such as Ciron Black and Chris Faulk made similar decisions, and neither were drafted.

Nevertheless, Collins is a different player than the offensive tackles before him. Here is a quick look at his 2015 draft stock.

Begin Slideshow

Jimbo Fisher's 5-Year Eligibility Proposal Could Have Several Positive Effects

If Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had his way, football players would have five years of standard eligibility instead of four with the option to redshirt. 

Speaking with Dan Wolken of USA Today, Fisher says giving players an extra year of eligibility serves two purposes. For one, it allows younger players who may not be ready to play at the beginning of the year more time to develop. It could also take some of the pressure off of veteran players who are banged up by season's end. 

Here's Fisher's rationale: 

(A freshman) isn't ready at the beginning of the year, but you have to make that decision (to redshirt) by Game 5 or 6. Maybe by games eight, nine or 10 he's developed himself to go in there and give you 10, 12, 14 plays a game.

At the end of that season when those freshmen are ready to play and can help you on special teams or get 10 reps a game, it takes the pressure off a guy who's banged up and bruised up. The longer you go in these seasons, the more you have to look at those things as a health issue.

The problem with redshirting a freshman is that once it is burned—almost always out of necessity—there's no way to get it back. Thus, he essentially loses that extra year of eligibility, barring, say, a medical redshirt for an injury.

Giving an extra year of eligibility would give coaches greater flexibility to ease players into the college game. As John Infante of athleticscholarships.net tweets, Fisher's idea likely means the elimination of the redshirt altogether. 

In other words, it's as simple as players getting five years to complete five seasons of eligibility: 

The NCAA recently decided to do away with hardship waivers anyway. 

Infante goes on to ponder that, if five years of eligibility are on the table, why aren't six? Traditionally, Infante writes, "the rationale was that students generally take about five years to graduate and academic eligibility rules are based on a five-year graduation path, so athletes should be able to compete for five years."

But since the five-year clock rule for graduation is liberally enforced, six years of competition could be an intriguing possibility. Infante explains: 

There are two ways to do a sixth season of competition. Both would give all athletes five seasons of competition. One option might be to make a sixth season of eligibility a reward for graduating within five years. Then athletes can stay (or transfer) and start a graduate degree (or possibly a second undergraduate program). The other option would be to simply give all athletes six seasons of competition. Academic eligibility requirements would not change, aside from maybe giving the athlete more flexibility in the sixth year if he or she has not graduated yet.

The most immediate benefit for either five or six years of competition would presumably be better depth. First-year players who are ready to compete right away will still be able to, while others who need more time will naturally fall into reserve roles on the depth chart. Coaches can rotate players as they see fit throughout the season without worrying about burning a redshirt.

By season's end, two-deep players have taken fewer reps and developmental players have some experience under their belt. With so much concern over player safety, the fewer reps a player can take per year, the better. 

It brings to mind what the NFL may be facing if it ever goes to an 18-game schedule. The NFL Players Association would, in all likelihood, demand an expansion to the 53-man roster while receiving a larger portion of the league's revenue pot. That's another discussion for another day about another topic, but it all comes down to the number of snaps a player can realistically take in a year. 

However, because the 85-scholarship cap would remain in place, fewer athletes would pass through Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. There are also Title IX questions if this were to be proposed as a football-only idea. 

Additionally, don't expect there to be changes to transfer policies as a direct result of adding a year of eligibility. Schools would probably still have say over permission-to-contact and/or receiving a grant-in-aid, even if a football player is on his fifth or sixth year looking to pursue a graduate program elsewhere. 

However, an athlete with six years of eligibility may be able to pursue degree plans they might not otherwise have been able to fit in four or five years because of concerns over time consumption. 

There are pros and cons to every idea, but granting athletes another year or two of eligibility has a lot of upside to it.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Power Ranking the Most Clutch Quarterbacks in College Football

With 75 seconds left in the BCS National Championship, Florida State needed a big drive. And quickly.

Auburn had just landed the latest punch of a wild fourth quarter: Tre Mason’s 37-yard touchdown run gave the Tigers a 31-27 lead, drawing them ever closer to their second national championship in four seasons.

In Florida State’s huddle, redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston gathered his offense around him. “We didn’t come here for no reason,” he later told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “We got this.”

He was right.

Winston led a remarkable 80-yard drive that concluded with the game-winning touchdown pass to a leaping Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left, sealing the Seminoles’ 34-31 national title victory.

The concept of a “clutch” quarterback has been tossed about repeatedly over the past few seasons, a talking point beaten to death on talk radio shout-fests and TV debate shows.

The shouting can be tiresome, but applying numbers to the tumult adds substance.

Fortunately, we can do just that. The advent of specialized and advanced stats makes it easy to categorize which quarterbacks are truly “clutch".

Using CFBStats.com, we were able to break down quarterbacks’ performance by quarter, with a number of statistics (most notably quarterback rating) measured.

Who had the highest fourth-quarter quarterback rating? None other than Winston, who boasted a rating of 210.7. It was nearly 36 points higher than his full-season rating of 184.8.

Winston finished 10th overall in quarterback rating and was also third in third-quarter quarterback rating, rolling up a 193.5.

It is an interesting stat, given Florida State’s astounding dominance last fall. The Seminoles won 12 of 14 games by at least 30 points, six games by 40 points or more and five games by 50-plus points.

For Winston, the fourth quarter didn’t matter much. Before the BCS title game, Florida State won only one game by less than 20 points, a 48-34 comeback win over Boston College. That day, FSU outscored BC 10-7 in the fourth quarter. For the day, Winston completed 17 of 27 passes for 330 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Even then, FSU entered the fourth quarter with a 38-27 lead.

But when Florida State needed him most against Auburn, Winston delivered, leading a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives and finishing a comeback from a 21-3 first-half deficit.

Who was No. 2 in fourth-quarter quarterback rating behind Winston? Another leader of a BCS contender: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Last fall, Mariota boasted a 207.7 fourth-quarter rating, with eight touchdowns, one interception and 455 yards while completing 74.5 percent of his passes.

Like Florida State, Oregon was largely dominant last fall. The Ducks won 10 of their 11 games by more than 20 points and won four games by 40-plus points. But when Oregon was challenged, Mariota was at the top of his game.

Oregon couldn’t have played more poorly in the first three quarters of its top-10 showdown against Stanford, entering the fourth quarter down 23-0. But Mariota led a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives bookending a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, making a 26-20 loss look respectable.

In the regular season finale against arch-rival Oregon State, Oregon got the ball down 35-30 with 1:38 left. Mariota directed a touchdown drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown toss to Josh Huff with 29 seconds left, sealing a wild 36-35 win.

That came a week after a disappointing 42-16 loss at Arizona which ended the Ducks’ BCS hopes, thus enabling Oregon to end the regular season with some pride.

Are fourth-quarter stats a be-all, end-all way to determine clutchness? No.

New Clemson starter Cole Stoudt finished No. 28 last season in fourth-quarter rating with a mark of 152.89, tied with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. But he threw only 31 passes in relief of senior Tajh Boyd, exclusively in games that Clemson had well in hand.

Winston threw only 36 fourth-quarter passes all season, spread over eight games.

Georgia State’s Ben McLane was 13th in fourth-quarter passer rating despite playing in only four games. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brooks Haack was 15th, playing in only four games, and UConn’s Chandler Whitmer was 17th, playing in only three fourth quarters.

But the top 11 fourth-quarter passers all led postseason qualifiers, and they included some of the biggest names in college football and the recent NFL draft.

Behind Mariota, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron was third, with Boise State’s Grant Hedrick fourth, Baylor’s Bryce Petty fifth, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel sixth, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger seventh, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles eighth, Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf ninth, Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels tenth and East Carolina’s Shane Carden eleventh.

Add in Winston and Mariota, and you have the last three BCS national championships, the last two Heisman Trophy winners, four of 2013’s BCS quarterbacks and two 2014 NFL first-round draft picks.

No wonder being “clutch” is so important.

And if the stats bear themselves out this season, you can count on Florida State, Oregon, Boise State, Baylor and East Carolina when the chips are down and the outcome really matters.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nick Chubb Is Georgia's Future at RB, but He Could Get a Shot to Shine in 2014

Nick Chubb will enter a crowded backfield when he steps foot on Georgia's campus this summer, but don't be surprised if the 5'11", 216-pound, 5-star prospect from Cedartown, Ga. makes an impact for the Bulldogs during his true freshman season.

Photos of Chubb from the state track championships hit the Internet on Tuesday courtesy of Radi Nabulsi. They created quite the buzz.

I was asked if #UGA RB Nick Chubb might be a bit stiff. No, he's not. Here he is showing that 40-inch vertical. pic.twitter.com/kgnlgbbncd

— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) May 13, 2014

Here is a another shot of incoming #UGA RB Nick Chubb. Opposing linebackers be warned.... pic.twitter.com/tp05lHgIP0

— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) May 13, 2014

Before you ask, yes, he's still in high school.

Chubb clearly is an athletic freak, but what should Georgia fans expect from him?

After rushing for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns in his first two seasons on campus, Todd Gurley clearly has the top spot on the depth chart on lock down. He's a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate, and if the Bulldogs are going to win their third SEC East title in the last four years, he's going to be a big part of the process.

With that being said, he's returning from a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of three games in October last season and limited him during the final six. 

Keith Marshall has served as Gurley's primary backup over most of the last two seasons, until the rising junior tore his ACL versus Tennessee in October last season. The 5'11", 219-pounder has totaled 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons, and despite being similar in stature to Chubb, is more of a weapon in space than he is between the tackles.

Gurley is No. 1 right now, with Marshall serving as more of a "1B" than a true backup. 

If Chubb picks up on the offense when he arrives on campus, he could serve as the primary backup to Gurley and become a big part of the rotation with Marshall if Gurley goes down again.

After all, he's essentially a Gurley clone.

Once he gets into a college strength and conditioning program, like Gurley, Chubb will likely push 230 pounds. Gurley was also was a track star in the hurdles coming out of high school and competed as a member of Team USA in Europe in 2011, according to his Georgia bio.

Richt said in his national signing day press conference that the two incoming star running backs, Chubb and fellow 5-star Sony Michel, will have a chance to play right away.

"We will absolutely give those guys a chance to show what they can do, and if they can be productive, we'll get them in the game," he said, according to quotes released by Georgia.

Don't be surprised if Chubb earns some snaps in 2014 in a reserve role and establishes himself as the next feature back between the hedges. He has the athleticism to be a superstar, a scheme that has proven to be effective to running backs of similar stature and a running mate in Michel who will take some pressure off.

Sounds like a recipe for success.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Michigan Football: Analyzing Where Devin Funchess Falls on 2015 NFL Draft Boards

The early birds with the early words have spoken: Devin Funchess is a potential (almost surefire) first-rounder in 2015.

Entering his junior year at Michigan, Funchess has carved a reputation as one of the best tight ends in all of college football, although he’s been moved to wide receiver to accommodate the Wolverines’ needs on the edge.

As a freshman, he earned All-Big Ten status and was among the best first-yearers in the country. This past season, he was named as the league’s best tight end.

At 6’5”, 235 pounds, the former Farmington Hills Harrison standout gives Team 135 a sure set of hands, great athleticism and an example-setting type of work ethic.

During the past two years, he’s earned the respect and trust of coaches and teammates, all the while evolving into the team’s premier big-pass option—over the middle, along the sidelines and everywhere in between, that’s his territory.

The 2014 NFL draft is a memory, and those who enjoy politicking about future picks are most certainly focusing their attention to Brady Hoke’s versatile junior, who could soon land on an NFL corner near you.

 

Mock the Mocks

In all likelihood, you’re waiting for this fall to unfold, not next May. Funchess hasn’t even taken the field, yet, as far as draft pundits are concerned, he’s as good as gone. Better not blink—you could miss him.

And how much fun would that be?

Michigan fans have grown accustomed to Funchess’ tip-toeing along the sidelines; they’ve grown fond of watching him flash his vertical leap and flex his muscle on defensive backs. They’ll probably enjoy watching him go late in the first round of the next draft, too.

As of May 14, Funchess was cast to Green Bay, No. 27 overall by Rotoworld's Josh Norris, and to Carolina, No. 28 by CBS Sports' Dane Brugler. However, Richard Langford of Bleacher Report predicted St. Louis taking Funchess at No. 20

"Cam Newton to Funchess" has a nice ring to it. But then again, so does, "Aaron Rodgers to Funchess."

CBS offered the following explanation: "With Greg Olsen not getting any younger, a young replacement could be targeted and Funchess has the athletic skills to develop into something special."

Rotoworld came up with this: "Funchess has been fun to watch, when given an opportunity. That is the question, will he receive enough targets to warrant this kind of a pick. He has plenty of talent.

Langford sees a lot of upside with Michigan's wideout/tight end: "Devin Funchess is a good, all-around tight end. He is emerging as a force in the passing game after catching 748 yards worth of passes last year. With more targets, he will be a star. The Rams will look for offensive talent with an already exciting group of players on defense."

 

Dream Setup

If USA Today writer Brent Sobleski's mock comes true, Funchess will join Jeremy Gallon and Tom Brady in Beantown. Imagine that offense after New England takes the star-in-the-making with the No. 30 pick.

For fans, Sobleski's prediction works best. What Wolverines supporter doesn't want to see their favorites play together on Sunday?

But, of course, these are extremely early guesses and they're not likely to happen. But it doesn't hurt to entertain the idea.  

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Predicting Where Braxton Miller Will Land on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

At the end of the 2013 season, Braxton Miller toyed with the idea of forgoing his senior year and entering the 2014 NFL draft.

He only needed a week following Ohio State's Orange Bowl loss to Clemson to make up his mind, or rather, come to the realization that returning was his only realistic option.

Back with the Buckeyes, Miller's plan should be simple: work on his mechanics, stay healthy and emerge as a leader.

Doing so would dramatically improve his resume ahead of the 2015 NFL draft. In fact, those deficiencies were a big factor in his decision to stay.

But before Miller has a chance to show his growth, where does he stand compared to the other draft-eligible quarterbacks?

Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network reviewed the initial 2015 mock drafts, and unsurprisingly, no one is projecting Miller as a first-round selection. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller supported that assessment in his first look at the top prospects.

So where does that put the 21-year-old?

In a ranking of senior quarterbacks from CBS Sports, Miller came in at No. 7. That list, of course, doesn't factor in younger signal-callers such as Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Brett Hundley, all of whom are expected to make themselves available for the draft as likely first-round selections.

In that scenario, Miller would be the 10th-best quarterback.

A total of 14 quarterbacks were taken in this year's draft. The 10th passer off the board was LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who was taken with the second pick in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans.

In the two years prior, 11 quarterbacks were drafted. B.J. Daniels was the 10th quarterback taken in 2013—selected late in the seventh round—and B.J. Coleman was the 10th in 2012, also selected at the tail end of the final round.

Those numbers line up with what Miller heard when he pondered an early jump to the NFL. According to Bill Raninowitz of The Columbus Dispatch, the NFL Draft Advisory Board told Miller he would be a "mid- to late-round selection."

Of course, he could play his way up the draft board this fall. Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer created a five-part checklist for Miller to become a first-round prospect, with the primary goals of staying healthy and, in general terms, learning more about football. 

As of now, though, Miller is projecting as a late-round pick for an NFL team willing to take on a project. The only way for him to change that is with a stellar senior season. 

 

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

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Jevonte Domond Commits to LSU: Tigers Land No. 1 JUCO OT

LSU landed one of the nation's most coveted junior college recruits Tuesday when mammoth offensive tackle Jevonte Domond committed to the Tigers:

The 6'6", 305-pound Glendale Community College (Arizona) product picked up an offer from LSU earlier this month. Les Miles was among a collection of coaches in pursuit of the promising prospect.

Domond also holds offers from Florida, Wisconsin, Miami and Oklahoma State, among others.

He is rated No. 1 nationally among JUCO offensive tackles and No. 10 overall at that level in 247Sports' composite rankings. Domond, a 4-star talent, played just one year of high school football, per NOLA.com reporter James Smith.

He'll make a major jump from the JUCO level to SEC action and could face early expectations to contribute early.

“Now I’m going to get to go against the best every Saturday," Domond told Brian McLaughlin of SaturdayDownSouth.com. "It’s like living a dream still. I’m just excited for the opportunity to come in and compete for a spot.”

The raw blocker combines a massive frame with impressive athleticism. He still has serious strides to make when it comes to footwork and consistent fundamentals, but Domond displays brute strength and enough agility to take out defenders downfield at the second level.

Domond, a first-team All-Conference selection at GCC, further strengthens a quality 2015 offensive line haul in Baton Rouge. LSU already holds commitments from 3-star in-state prospect Adrian Magee and 5-star Texas tackle Maea Teuhema, who flipped from the Longhorns in February.

It's been a crucial position of focus for first-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who could possibly lose both his starting bookends after this season. Senior left tackle La'el Collins might have been a potential high draft pick this year, while right tackle Jerald Hawkins has the makings of a possible early entry candidate in 2015.

The class features 11 players, including five from beyond state borders. LSU sits at No. 3 among SEC squads in 247Sports' composite team rankings, behind only Auburn and Alabama.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Tennessee: Breaking Down A.J. Johnson's Place on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

The Tennessee Volunteers' participation in the 2015 NFL draft should look a lot like the one just completed—with very few of coach Butch Jones' players hearing their names called.

However, rising senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson should be an anomaly.

He has the potential to experience a similar surge to that of former UT offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, who saw his stock rise all the way to the 19th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins last week.

Nobody is predicting the 6'2", 245-pound Johnson to go quite that high next year, but he returned for his senior season on Rocky Top to marinate in the college game for another year.

It didn't hurt that WNML's Jimmy Hyams reported he was projected as a third-day draft pick.

Even though the Vols have had some lean times in the draft and on the football field, Johnson has enjoyed a standout career.

He could help usher in an era reminiscent of a time when UT was churning out NFL talents. Historically, Saturday Down South's Jon Cooper notes that UT still has more draft picks than any other SEC team.

With a strong senior season, Johnson has the opportunity to add to that list and help keep the positive vibes swirling around Jones' program.

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Examining Likely Candidates for No. 1 Overall Pick in the 2015 NFL Draft

This is not a mock draft or an attempt to predict a future that will get here in due time. Instead, consider this a friendly heads-up—a watch list for the spectacular—and a small group of immensely talented players who have the makeup to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Heading into this past offseason, it was all about former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He was an overwhelming favorite to be the top selection the following May—riding the waves of a hit that was replayed roughly four trillion times in the months leading up to the season.

He eventually delivered on these early expectations, although the path followed was anything but expected. 

This year’s batch of likely candidates doesn’t feature a Clowney. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a transcendent player in this group, but the discussion is different. It includes more names, less assumptions.

Although terms like “need” and “fit” loom large when it comes to the No. 1 pick, greatness typically trump all. In the scouting world, however, greatness is typically appreciated at a handful of positions above all others. 

Quarterback, offensive line and defensive line are where the scouts turn to first. It’s why you won’t see Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or Alabama safety Landon Collins on this list, although all are mandatory viewing come fall.

As for the positions that scouts salivate over and the talents that look the part physically, here are a handful of players to consider for the top spot with vacancy to be had.

 

Marcus Mariota (Oregon, QB)

Over the past two seasons, Marcus Mariota has accounted for 78 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

It’s also worth pointing out that his first interception last year came in Week 13 on a play (and a drop) that would have no business in a video game.

He is certainly aided by Oregon’s uptempo system, a system that he fits brilliantly in, but simplifying his success to an offense doesn’t take into account his plethora of tools.

At 6’4”, he has the size, and he is already listed at 215 pounds on his Oregon bio. If he can conquer his Stanford demons in 2014—and he’ll get an appetizer against Michigan State on September 6—you’ll have to dig long and hard to find holes in his game.

"He’s my top-rated quarterback and player for 2015 at this point in time,” Bleacher Report's NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller said. “If he continues to make big plays after adding some much-needed bulk in the offseason, he could be a surefire No. 1 overall pick if a quarterback-needy team lands the selection."

Those who tune in selectively will talk about the legs first—and he is gazelle-like in the open field when he wants to be—but it’s his arm that is most intriguing. It is spectacular, and he will continue harness it in ways that push Pac-12 defenses to the brink.

Oh, and he’s entering his junior year.

 

Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas A&M)

The run on Texas A&M offense linemen will continue, at least for one more season. After Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews were taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft, Cedric Ogbuehi has the opportunity to take it one step further.

With Joeckel and Matthews stealing headlines, Ogbuehi has quietly excelled the last few seasons. Had he left after his junior season, he might have even cracked the first round. Instead, however, he’s back at A&M for his senior year, where he’ll inherit the left tackle spot and a new quarterback to protect.

"Texas A&M has become an offensive tackle factory, but Ogbuehi is the most athletic of all their recent studs,” Miller said. “He's played right guard, right tackle and now left tackle, which will help his NFL transition greatly. If I had to bet on a tackle being a top-five pick, it would be him."

He has the build (6’5”, 300 pounds) and a recent draft pedigree to stand behind. He’ll also be blocking for one of the nation’s best stable of running backs, headlined by Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams.

Look for him to move large human beings backward—at a new position—soon.

 

Jameis Winston (Florida State, QB)

The scouting process on him will be complex—whenever he decides to leave—although there’s clearly an abundance of talent. You don’t stumble into a Heisman; it doesn’t matter how much talent there is around you.

Mechanically, Jameis Winston can still tighten up his game, and he will. What Winston showed off in his one and only season as starter—which is easy to forget—is his powerful arm and massive 6’4”, 240-pound frame that can be taxing to bring down. 

He also has the improv gene, the kind of thing that can be difficult to describe on a scouting report and taxing on your DVR. He is, despite still having ample room for growth, required watching.

“Winston is not the flawless prospect many will tell you he is, and he still needs work,” Miller said. “But he has as much raw talent as anyone in college football.” 

What does Winston have in store for an encore? Despite the loss of wideouts Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, the team is still ripe with playmakers. And with a full lineup of less-than-stellar ACC defenses on the docket, the numbers will still be there.

Where the scouts take it from there is another conversation entirely.

 

Andrus Peat (Stanford, OT) 

He’s not quite a household name yet, but that will change.

Andrus Peat is the latest and greatest in a recent run of magnificent linemen at Stanford, and he might be the most athletically gifted yet. At 6’7” and more than 310 pounds, he’s still growing into his body. And, as he enters his junior year, he’s still learning the nuances of the position.

Still, Peat started at left tackle for one of the nation’s most dominant offensive lines in 2013, and the buzz surrounding his play is only just beginning to churn.

“He's not getting enough love, and he’s tough as nails,” Miller said on Peat. "He's so good at locking on and driving defenders downfield in the run game, and I've seen him take guys to the third level. He could be in play for the top tackle spot."

The bigger question for Peat: Who will be running behind him?

Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney—the team’s lead rushers the past two seasons—are gone. They combined to rush for 3,230 and 34 touchdowns the past few seasons, which says plenty about the people creating holes.

Just pencil in the starter—whoever it ends up being—for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns. With guys like Peat moving bodies, you could average 3.5 yards per carry in this offense.

 

Randy Gregory (Nebraska, DE)

In 2012, Randy Gregory was viewed as one of the top JUCO players in the nation. When he arrived at Nebraska, the 6’6”, 245-pound defensive end instantly became one of the most explosive defensive players in the nation. 

Gregory closed out the season with 10 sacks in his final eight games for the Cornhuskers. With another offseason under his belt, he’s expected to add more weight to his Clowney-like frame and continue to develop at the position.

His interception and touchdown return against South Dakota State gives you an idea of just what kind of athlete he is. This all looked far too easy.

"He could have been the second defensive end drafted in 2014, and he is my top-ranked defensive player for next year,” Miller said. “His quickness, flexibility and violent style of play are all exactly what you want from a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.” 

He is, quite simply, a terror. And he will continue to be a terror, putting Big Ten quarterbacks in difficult positions while giving curious scouts plenty to think about. 

 

Others To Keep an Eye On (and Enjoy)

Leonard Williams (Southern Cal, DT): A 2013 All-American and a defensive lineman who can play every position (and play them all incredibly well). His versatility is rare, and at 6’5”, 290 pounds he can fly. He’s coming off a torn labrum, but it shouldn’t slow him down once the season starts.

Brett Hundley (UCLA, QB): He’s not on the same development path as the quarterbacks mentioned above, but he has incredible physical tools and more room for growth than anyone mentioned. He’ll have to take significant strides to enter the conversation, but these are strides he can make.

Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida State, DE): The defensive ends listed here will certainly post better sack numbers, but none present the physical presence that Edwards brings. He’ll tip the scales at nearly 300 pounds this year, and there aren’t many 300-pounders built like this. A freak in every sense of the word, his development could be dazzling.

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.

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D-I Football Commit Remains Homeless Due to NCAA Rules, Cannot Receive Fan Aid

"Wake up, survive. Go to sleep, survive. Wake up, survive. Every day."

This is the daily regimen of Antoine Turner, a junior college commit for the Boise State football program who is currently homeless and has lived in transience most of his life.

Boise State alumni, having heard his recently discovered story, want to help Turner—who has spent the majority of his life without a stable home. Unfortunately, the school is discouraging boosters and fans from furnishing aid to the young man, fearing reprisal from the NCAA. 

Jay Tust of KTVB in Boise (h/t Samer Kalaf of Deadspin) reported a feature story on Turner in May, detailing the tragic difficulties he faced as a youth growing up on the streets of New Orleans.

"My mom died when I was four of cancer," Turner told Tust. "I had this big of a hole in my heart." 

The loss ruined what little relationship Turner had with his father, causing him to leave home to stay with various friends in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Thus began the long chain of temporary and transient living conditions for Turner, who grew up to be a talented athlete despite his situation.

Growing into a 6'3", 290-pound frame, Turner found success on his high school football field but struggled to stay clear of gangs and find lodging in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Determined to play collegiate football, Turner spent all the money in his possession to make it to Fullerton Junior College in California. He made the team but was penniless. He says he began sleeping on park benches to pass the night.

"I ain't never really had no blanket or nothing like that," Turner said. "So I could either lay across this or I would sit (with my arms folded) and lay my head down. I constantly wake up, look around, make sure everything was good."

After dropping 70 pounds due to this lifestyle, things began to look up. Turner met a girl named R'Mya (now his girlfriend), whose family took him in and helped him to regain weight. Within a year, he returned to form and became the Division I football player Boise State wants on its team. 

All the "We want you" letters in the world can't put a roof over Turner's head, however. Not at this moment, at least.

Unfortunately, Turner is homeless again. His newly forged living arrangement fell through due to housing regulations which preclude him from staying with his uncle in a government-subsidized house.

Until he's allowed to move in at Boise State in June, Turner will be sleeping in his girlfriend's car and staying at motels when he has the money.

And there's nothing fans can do about it, according to the Boise State compliance office (per Deadspin).

We need to make it clear to your viewers and Bronco fans that it is NOT permissible within NCAA rules for boosters of Boise State athletics to provide benefits to Mr. Turner. That would include money, loans, gifts, discounts, transportation costs, etc.

While Mr. Turner's need is abundantly clear, it is not permissible for Boise State, the athletics department or supporters of the athletics department to assist Mr. Turner at this time. Once Mr. Turner arrives on campus for the start of the summer school program, he will be well taken care of—receiving full tuition, room and board, books, fees etc. In the meantime, the compliance office is exploring a potential waiver with the NCAA that would allow us to provide assistance prior to the start of summer school.

Indeed, needs don't come much clearer cut than Turner's. Despite his situation, the young man still feels lucky to be on the cusp of a home and great opportunities. 

"I feel like I owe Boise because they gave me something that I ain't never had before," Turner said. "Idaho fits perfect for me...my soul felt like it connected with [The Blue]. ... It's time to eat. And I'm hungry, too." 

Do the right thing, Mark Emmert. Put the rubber stamp down, and let this man eat and sleep under a roof. Let's help a student-athlete today.

 

On the Twitters.

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Michigan Football: Power Ranking Landing Spots for Every Undrafted Free Agent

Offensive linemen Taylor Lewan (first round, Tennessee) and Michael Schofield (third round, Denver) join receiver Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, New England) as selections in the 2014 NFL draft.

But six of their teammates are facing a more difficult path—pursuing dreams of playing professional football as free agents. Some have signed contracts while others are relying on tryouts to show their value to teams. 

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Bret Bielema Blaming Bobby Petrino for Arkansas' Lack of Talent Is a Bad Look

What's the quickest way for a head coach to lose his football team?

Divide it.

That's the fine line Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is walking now, thanks to an appearance on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, a statewide syndicated radio program, earlier this month.

The second-year head coach was asked toward the end of the interview (11:17 mark) how long it will take for Arkansas to get back to a competitive level in the SEC West again and placed part of the blame on his predecessors (via CoachingSearch.com).

I really thought, coming in, because of the guy that I was replacing, I thought we would have a plethora of quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive skill and expected the defense to have certain things in place. That really wasn't the case. It's not a knock on our guys. For what we need to do offensively and defensively, there was not as much as I thought was going to be there.

But that's just the thing, it is a knock on the players brought into the program by former head coach Bobby Petrino and one-year replacement John L. Smith; more so a knock on Petrino because it's not a big assumption to connect the dots and tie Petrino—who's known for his offensive prowess—to the offensive skill players Bielema thought would be on campus.

Fans may think he's right, and Bielema may privately think that he inherited a mess. But that's where those thoughts should stay. Private.

How should starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who signed with Petrino in 2011, feel about his coach throwing him under the bus? He should be pretty upset about it, especially since his younger brother, Austin, and true freshman Rafe Peavey, both of whom were signed by Bielema's staff, couldn't beat him out for the job this spring.

How should wide receivers Demetrius Wilson and Keon Hatcher, both of whom were signed in 2012 as part of Petrino's last class, feel about it? Wilson is coming off an ACL injury that cost him all of the 2013 season, but both are expected to either start or be key contributors in the wide receiving corps this year.

What about Jonathan Williams, the 6'0", 223-pound junior running back who rushed for 900 yards and four touchdowns last season, providing a solid "1B" options to Alex Collins, who just so happens to be one of "Bielema's guys?"

If they're mad about their head coach throwing them under the bus, they should be.

This is a classic diversionary tactic by Bielema. It's an insurance policy. It's an attempt to control the narrative if Arkansas struggles this year and divert blame if things go south.

It also won't work. 

A lot of the players expected to make an impact this season for the Hogs on both sides of the ball are "Petrino guys" who kept their jobs despite position battles from younger players brought in by the new regime.

Of course, Bielema feels more loyalty to his guys because if they succeed, his fingerprints are more on the success than his predecessor's. But even if the cupboard was bare, that's not something he should say publicly. The only thing it could accomplish is divide the locker room, which will only lead to problems.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com. For full audio of Bret Bielema's interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, click here.

 


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