Feed aggregator

Georgia Football Recruiting: 5 Commits and Top Targets to Watch at 'The Opening'

The Opening, an annual proving ground for some of the nation's best football recruits, is less than a month away.  The Nike-sponsored event, which begins July 5, features a little bit of everything—lineman drills, 7-on-7 passing competitions and even elements of standard performance combines.

More importantly for Georgia fans, however, The Opening will feature several of Georgia's top committed recruits and targets.

Here is a look at five recruits worth watching at The Opening as ranked by the 247Sports Composite.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Projecting the Irish's Starting Lineup

Don't look now, but we're 79 days away from the start of Notre Dame's season. With summer school in session and freshmen reporting to campus within the next week, football season will be here before we know it.

(Or so we hope.)

With Brian Kelly and the Irish coaching staff able to continue work with their teams this summer thanks to some NCAA rule changes, the battle for starting jobs won't wait until August to get started.

So let's take a temporary break from recruiting madness to project the starting 11 on both sides of the ball when Notre Dame takes on Rice on August 30. 

Begin Slideshow

Florida Football Recruiting: 7 Commits and Top Targets to Watch at The Opening

We are less than a month away from The Opening, and the Florida Gators will be well-represented during the event. Whether they are players who have already committed or recruits who are seriously considering taking their talents to Gainesville, Florida fans will have many reasons to pay close attention to the upcoming camp that kicks off in early July.

The Opening is a four-day football camp that features some of the top college football recruits in the country. Players will run different drills and have a chance to showcase some of the skills that they’ll soon put to use at the college level. It’s also a chance for college football fans to see future players in action for the first time.

Here are the key guys that Florida fans should be watching closely.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: 12 Backups Who Could Start in Another Conference

In SEC football, like many power conferences, a number of talented players are relegated to reserve roles because of logjams at their respective positions.

One late spring departure perfectly illustrates that point for the SEC.

Former Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel left the program, apparently convinced he wouldn’t win the starting spot.

He ultimately chose TCU as his new destination, where he seems like a front-runner for the starting position.

Today we try to find more players who, like Joeckel, could leave their current programs and find substantially more playing time elsewhere.

SEC coaches aren’t especially keen on releasing post-spring practice depth charts, so much of this list consists of best guesses.

Here’s our list.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 6 Commits, Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

It’s a busy time for Notre Dame football, with players arriving to campus for summer workouts.

It’s an equally busy time in the recruiting world, as well, with Blake Barnett’s recent decommitment and the forthcoming Irish Invasion camp.

Notre Dame’s recruiting activity will continue to pick up at The Opening in early July, when 162 of the nation’s top prospects will work out for four days at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

4 weeks until the nation's best arrive at @usnikefootball HQ to test, train, and compete at #TheOpening. pic.twitter.com/oKvcqNxp45

— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) June 10, 2014

As it stands right now, the Irish will only be represented by one current commitment at The Opening. So who will Notre Dame fans be watching at the camp? In determining the following six players, we considered the prospect’s national rankings and recent reported interest.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football Recruiting: 3 Top Targets to Watch at Nike's 'The Opening'

Nike's "The Opening" camp from July 5 to July 10 in Beaverton, Oregon could be the summer's ultimate gathering of high school football talent. In an attempt to wow, 162 of the who's who of the 2015 class will assemble in Phil Knight's backyard to take part in 7-on-7 competition and Nike Sparq rating routines. 

And then they'll sit back and watch more offers cascade their way. 

Naturally, Michigan has it eyes on the some of the participants—and there is a trio of potential Wolverines who are scheduled to attend: Chris Clark, a tight end; George Campbell, a wide receiver; and Matt Burrell, an offensive lineman. 

Using 247Sports and The Opening's roster as guides, this slideshow will take a closer look at the three prospects and gauge their chances of committing to Team 136.

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Football: Why Monte Harrison Spurning Cornhuskers Hurts

Nebraska football fans were watching the Major League Baseball first-year player draft with some interest, waiting to see where wide receiver prospect Monte Harrison would be selected. With most mock drafts having Harrison taken in the first round, Nebraska fans had some hope when he wasn’t selected until pick No. 50 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Would that mean Nebraska would have a chance for Harrison to put professional baseball on the back burner and come to Lincoln?

If so, that hope didn’t last long:

#Brewers have signed 2nd round pick Monte Harrison for $1.8MM, per @jimcallisMLB. He was committed to play football at Nebraska. Big get!

— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) June 7, 2014

The transfer of wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow from Washington has been occupying the imagination of Nebraska fans recently, however, so the loss of Harrison from NU’s 2014 class may have been a bit undersold. But it’s still a big loss for a number of reasons.

 

Stringfellow won’t arrive until 2015

As a transfer, Stringfellow will have to sit out the 2014 season. He’ll still have three years of eligibility left, but he won’t be able to help Nebraska next season. Harrison, on the other hand, would have been eligible to play right away as a freshman.

So the most immediate impact of Harrison’s decision to sign with the Brewers is that there will be no big-time help coming at receiver for the 2014 season.

 

Harrison fit what Nebraska needs at receiver

Here’s what I would project as Nebraska’s starting two-deep at receiver next year:

  • WR X: Kenny Bell (6’1”, 185 lbs), Brandon Reilly (6’1”, 190 lbs)
  • WR Z: Alonzo Moore (6’2”, 185 lbs), Taariq Allen (6’3”, 185 lbs)
  • WR A: Jordan Westerkamp (6’0”, 200 lbs), Jamal Turner (6’1”, 185 lbs)

(All measurables from Nebraska’s depth chart of Dec. 19, 2013.)

According to 247Sports, Harrison is 6’3” and 200 pounds but with top-end speed. It’s hard to see how a player with Harrison’s size, speed and athleticism wouldn’t have cracked Nebraska’s two-deep in 2014.

 

Harrison is just that good

According to Andrew Holleran of College Spun, many thought that Harrison was the best overall athlete in the MLB first-year player draft this year. Think about that for a second. The best overall athlete of 2014 draft—that’s pretty high praise. Sure, he went in the second round, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a phenomenal talent.

Had Harrison not signed with the Brewers, he would have been one of the most talented players, if not the most talented, in Nebraska’s 2014 class (with competition only from offensive guard Tanner Farmer). He had 1.8 million reasons to sign his contract with the Brewers, and Nebraska fans should be wishing Harrison nothing but the best in his budding baseball career.

But, boy, from a selfish standpoint, he could have made quite a difference for Bo Pelini’s squad, both this year and in years to come.

 

If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football Recruiting: 7 Commits and Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

The 2014 edition of Nike's The Opening will take place July 7-10 in Beaverton, Oregon at the mega-brand's top-notch facility, and more than a handful of potential Miami Hurricanes will be present.

Highlighted by a pair of commits, the 'Canes are recruiting at least 10 prospects who were invited to The Opening, and eight players are top targets.

Last year at the camp, Chad Thomas began his ascent to claiming the prestigious fifth star, and many athletes will be looking to match the defensive end's successes.

Each slide focuses on a player's commitment status, analysis of his preceding camp and how he received an invite to The Opening.

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking College Football Conferences by Coaching Stability

The debate over which conference is better than another in college football is one that has existed for years and no doubt will rage on forever. And there are many ways to compare the apples of one to the oranges of the other in an effort to arbitrarily determine superiority.

Overall team performance? Check. National champions? Way ahead of you. Player quality? Sure. Size of stadiums and lavishness of football facilities? Yup, that too.

Comparing leagues by their coaches is also a common approach to the "my conference is better than yours" battle, but it's usually done by looking at what each coach has accomplished. We've decided to take a different angle and tackle this dispute through a different statistic: stability.

Coaching turnover at the FBS level remains at a critically high level, with hirings, firings and bolting from one program to another more prevalent than ever before. That coach was great at one place, but how will he be at the next? And how long can he be expected to stick around?

Of the 128 schools set to play in FBS this fall, 48 of them have coaches in either their first or second year on the job. Two more (Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Mark Whipple of Massachusetts) are making their return to those programs after previously coaching there.

With almost constant newness, determining which conference is tops in terms of its coaches is a tough task to tackle. But we're nothing if not up for the challenge, so check out our power ranking of all 10 FBS conferences based on coaching stability.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Projecting Who Will Win the Bulldogs' Open Starting Positions

Preseason practice for the Georgia Bulldogs is less than two months away, and there will be some interesting storylines that will develop as soon as they hit the field.

However, the top storyline will have to be the starting positions that will be open when players report to campus.

On offense, there are only a couple of starting spots that have yet to be determined because the majority of starters from last season make their return for the 2014 year.

The defense has 10 returning starters coming back, but defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has made every position on the unit wide open.

So the defense that was on the field last year will look a lot different this year. Here’s a projected look at who will win the Bulldogs’ open starting positions.

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Football Recruiting: 8 Commits and Top Targets to Watch at The Opening

A large portion of Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class will be on display at The Opening next month.

Nine current Tide commitments are scheduled to compete at the camp, which pits some of the nation’s top prospects against one another at the Nike headquarters in Oregon.

With a healthy mix of committed prospects and top targets in attendance, the action between the various seven-on-seven teams and the offensive and defensive line drills will be must-see TV for Tide fans.

Which players should Tide fans zero in on during The Opening?

 

All rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings. Players listed in alphabetical order.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Teams with Easiest, Hardest Road Game Schedules in 2014

Home-field advantage is a tremendous factor in college football. It is something we always talk about—and with good reason. Stadiums are loud and refs are stupid, and players are too young to cope with that. They get rattled and choke away games that they ought to win. It happens all the time.

This is why we spend so much time parsing through schedules during the offseason. A great team with an adverse road slate might fare worse than a good team with an auspicious one—not because the latter is actually better necessarily, but because it is better-equipped.

This list includes the seven hardest and seven easiest road schedules in college football. For reasons that I hope are obvious, only power-conference teams (and Notre Dame) were included. You don't need me to tell you that the Sun Belt plays easier opponents than the SEC.

The method used for this ranking was relative to each conference.Obviously, if you believe the SEC is light-years ahead of the other power conferences, you would want to place all its teams in the "hardest" section. This list abstained from doing that.

Also of note: Discretion was used for games that will be played at neutral sites. One team on this list, for example, will travel across the country to play Washington State at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. That has been counted as a road game, as one team is a) close to home and b) has a distinct advantage over the other.

Most neutral-field games, however, have been ignored.

Make sense? Cool.

Sound off below and let me know what you think.

Begin Slideshow

Latest on Torrance Gibson: Tennessee Still Pursuing, Auburn 'Has the Edge'

Quinten Dormady, a 3-star quarterback, committed to the Tennessee Volunteers recently. What does this mean for their recruitment of the hottest prospect in the class, Torrance Gibson? Tennessee was tied with Auburn when Gibson announced his top school recently. Where do Tennessee and Auburn now stand with the stud quarterback?

Watch JC Shurburtt break down the latest news on Gibson.

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. All recruit rankings from 247 Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Shelby Osborne Follows Female Trailblazers Toward College Football History

The home crowd had plenty to cheer about at Jeffersonville High School (Indiana) on Aug. 30, 2013, as the Red Devils put the finishing touches on a 61-7 victory over Seymour High School in the team's conference opener.

An elated group of fans at Blair Field celebrated nine Jeffersonville touchdowns but saved their best for last.

A reserve Red Devils defensive back sprinted onto the field and the crowd began to chant in unison:

Shelby! Shelby! Shelby!

Just like that, Shelby Osborne became a varsity football player.

"I hated it [the chanting]," she said. "I just wanted to be on the field to play... It wasn't fair to the other guys."

And so it goes with Osborne, who is set to make college football history. As the nation focuses on her gender, she's only concerned with her footwork and upcoming college debut at Kentucky's Campbellsville University.

"I’m just one of the guys," she said. "I want the same treatment, to hit just as hard."

The 5'6", 140-pound cornerback is about to become the first female defensive back in college football history after signing a letter of intent on June 4.

Some have called Osborne a trailblazer. She'd prefer to be referred to as a football player.

"I am fully and wholeheartedly in love with this game," Osborne said.

 

Planting the Seed

Osborne has always been an athlete. She played tennis and soccer as an underclassman, and also joined the track team.

Her ambitions changed in November 2012.

Osborne was in attendance for the Red Devils' postseason matchup against Castle High School. With a trip to the Class 5A (currently in 6A) state quarterfinals on the line, Jeffersonville suffered a lopsided loss and provided one member of the fanbase with a fascinating thought.

"We weren’t playing so hot or even to the best of our ability," Osborne recalled. "I said to myself, 'I could play better than that,' and that’s what planted the seed."

Rather than deliberate the idea internally and open the door for self-doubt to creep in, she decided to approach the one person who had the power to stand in her way.

"The first person to find out was Coach Lonnie Oldham," Osborne said. "I went up to him and explained who I was and why this tiny little girl was talking to him."

Oldham, hired as the Red Devils head coach in 2011, is a gridiron veteran who previously led a pair of high school programs in Kentucky. He gave the tiny little girl a green light to join his team, but it came with a succinct condition.

"I told her, 'You can play but you have to do everything that everyone else on the team does,'" Oldham said. "If she put the time in the weight room then she could be on the team."

It's a different response than the one Jen Welter received when she revealed her intentions to play high school football.

The former Boston College rugby star became the first woman to suit up at a position aside from kicker in a professional men's football league earlier this year. She signed with the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League and earned her first carries at running back in February.

Welter's football journey began later than she would've preferred.

Like Osborne, her youth was filled with athletic involvement. Welter served as a team captain on the soccer team while attending Sebastian River High School near Vero Beach, Florida.

Though she commanded plenty of respect for her soccer prowess, Welter would look longingly at the football practice field. She wanted to give the sport a shot, but it was radical and largely unheard of almost two decades ago when Welter attempted to talk head coach Randy Bethel into it.

Bethel was blunt about her football prospects.

"He told me, 'You’re a heck of an athlete and I think you could help this team but I don’t want you to do it because someday you’ll make a guy look really bad on the field. He’ll be embarrassed and retaliate. If you get hurt, it would be tough for me not to go after him,'" Welter said.

Instead of feeling disgruntled, she took time to digest his words.

"It was such an honest breakdown of what it might be like on the football field for me," Welter said. "It wasn’t about questioning my athleticism, it was about who I’d be going up against. There is a sheer size difference."

She would return to train with Bethel during her transition from Boston College rugby to professional women's football.

Welter, who stands at about 5'2", 130 pounds, understood the risks involved. So did Osborne.

She launched a personal campaign to physically prepare for the demands of life as a positional player.

"I gave everything," Osborne said. "From waking up before everyone in my house was awake to run before school, joining track, weightlifting and sports performance classes during school, to staying after with the coaches every day... I don’t return home from training till 8 or 9 on most nights."

Osborne also knew she would have to be mentally tough in order to turn her dream into reality. There was pressure not to play, even at home.

"The task of convincing my parents came along after (talking to Oldham), and this was no easy task," she said. "They were completely and utterly against me playing."

Many parents can probably identify with Robert and Kim Osborne, who weren't available to speak with Bleacher Report. We've entered an era of football that focuses on head trauma and player safety, so sending your teenage daughter onto a field featuring 280-pound linemen isn't exactly ideal.

Osborne felt alone on her journey at times during its earliest stages. Eventually, the process would take her to heights she never imagined.

"I was the only person in the world that believed in myself," Osborne said. "But day by day I slowly began to change people’s minds."

 

Strap 'Em Up

Even though he gave her an opportunity, Coach Oldham never envisioned Osborne would reach the Red Devils sideline in 2013.

"To be honest, I didn’t think she’d make it through the offseason," he said.

High school football comes into focus for about three months but it takes a year's worth of work to build a winning team. A spot on the Jeffersonville roster requires dedication in the weight room.

Just as she promised, Osborne never allowed other teammates to outpace her. They might have been six inches taller or 100 pounds heavier, but she was equally invested in the team's quest for success.

"Shelby showed up to the weight room day after day from November to May," Oldham said. "She had perfect attendance and was always on time. As a coach, that's all you can ask for."

Osborne soon became embedded as a member of the team. Fellow players and coaches respected the work she was willing to put in and her reluctance to be treated differently than anyone else fighting for time on the field.

Instead of complicating locker room dynamics, she became a team catalyst. Osborne was voted a junior varsity captain.

"It was never any kind of distraction," Oldham said. "I go by last name. When I said 'Osborne,' she was always there. We hardly noticed there was a girl on the team because she went through the same drills as every high school football player in America and was just another part of the team."

Welter also went through the process of earning respect from teammates as a new member of the pro team in Texas. She knew there was only one way to solidify her spot on the squad while competing against former college standouts.

"I earned respect by getting hit, getting my butt whooped and getting back up again," Welter said. "If you’re a football player, that’s how you earn respect. After that, they realized I’m a football player."

When the 2013 Jeffersonville season arrived, Osborne did her best to make sure she was strictly viewed as a football player—particularly in the eyes of opponents.

"Most of them didn’t know I was a girl because I would hide my hair and do anything possible to not show I was a girl," Osborne said. "I never wanted anyone to take it easy on me."

The payoff came during postgame handshakes.

"They only realized I wasn’t a guy when I unsnapped my helmet and my hair began to fall out of it," she said. "Shaking the hands of my competitors was my favorite part of the game because I showed I could play with them and they couldn’t discount what I did because they never knew I was a girl."

Osborne made five varsity appearances at defensive back, serving as a Red Devils team captain in one contest. The Jeffersonville bleachers erupted with chants of "Shelby" each time she sprinted onto the field.

There were no postseason accolades or grand celebrations waiting for her when the journey ended in the second round of state playoffs. Still, an undeniable sense of accomplishment overwhelmed Osborne.

It was a feeling she simply wasn't prepared to walk away from.

 

Breaking Barriers

"I didn’t decide I was going to pursue (college football) until after the (season) was over," Osborne said. "I knew I couldn’t face a time where I didn’t hit the field each day and strap up my cleats."

Plenty of former players can identify with that sentiment. The vast majority of athletes reach the end of their competitive football careers as high school seniors.

Against all odds, Osborne searched for a way to avoid that fate.

"I didn’t send a single letter to colleges about Shelby, but she was relentless," Oldham said.

He estimates Osborne sent letters to at least 200 schools regarding the possibility of earning a roster spot. However, college coaches weren't clamoring for a 5'6" prospect with one year of experience.

Things changed when she attended an open recruiting event at Campbellsville University, located in central Kentucky. It was the atmosphere Osborne always wanted.

"After I left from a visit, half the team and recruits hit me up on Twitter or Instagram, messaging me and expressing how cool it is of me to be trying," she said. "They were actually more accepting than my high school team was at the beginning."

Conversations with the coaching staff led to Osborne's historic signing:

Campbellsville competes in the Mid-South Conference. It featured a student population of 3,318 last spring.

Just like in high school, nothing is guaranteed for Osborne at the next level.

"She wanted to play college football, and now she has the chance," Campbellsville head coach Perry Thomas told Jonathan Lintner of The Courier-Journal. "I think she understands the grind and so forth it takes to come in here and do that."

Support swiftly arrived from her future teammates on Twitter.

"It'll be an honor to play the defensive back position with you next year," wrote Alex Franklin, an incoming freshman from Somerset, Kentucky.

Senior defensive lineman Shane Williamson made it clear Campbellsville is ready to welcome Osborne with open arms.

"She's a girl. She's our teammate. Who cares," he wrote. "Worry about your game. She gives her all. She's cool in my book."

Osborne is the first female athlete to pursue a collegiate career at her position, but others helped pave a path for women in the past.

Placekicker Katie Hnida is one of them. She remains the only woman to score a point in Division I-A (now known as FBS) competition, breaking the barrier with New Mexico in 2003.

Her historic career started at Colorado, where she became the first woman to suit up for a bowl game in 1999. However, she dealt with dark times in Boulder before deciding to transfer.

"When I was at CU, I kind of shut down," Hnida said. "I wasn’t reaching out for help from the people I was close to. I thought I could just handle it all myself. College football is very challenging and demanding, and that’s true for both men and women. But when you’re always under that microscope, it’s very difficult."

Hnida helped set the stage for young women to view college football as a possibility. She's communicated with Osborne in the past and reached out to her immediately after hearing about the signing.

"Every girl who goes out and does this is still breaking some kind of barrier," she said. "As long as you’ve got the size, speed and ability, who cares if you’re a girl, boy or Martian."

Osborne expressed deep appreciation for the guidance Hnida has offered.

"Every time I needed help with the process of recruiting she was there willing to help," Osborne said. "She really is a remarkable person."

 

For Love of the Game

The next challenge that lies ahead for Osborne is to prove she can handle the rigors of playing a position that can require you to cover 6'3" receivers with speed and tackle 230-pound fullbacks.

It certainly sounds like a tall task, but it's something she's willing to try. Her heart won't let her leave the game she loves just yet.

It's a love that millions of players can comprehend, whether their career ended in high school or the NFL Hall of Fame.

"The No. 1 thing is about someone being able to do what they love regardless of their gender," Hnida said. "It’s a beautiful thing."

Osborne leaves behind a legacy at Jeffersonville High School, regardless of how many varsity games she played. Coach Oldham hopes she inspires his Red Devils in the future.

"I’ve already used her as an example as we start a new season," he said. "You’ve got to advocate for yourself in order to achieve goals. A lot of people talk about doing stuff, but that’s just talk. Shelby wanted to play football and she went out and did it."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R college football recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson's Monster Recruiting in June Could Lead to National Championship

The Clemson Tigers are poised to have a monster June in terms of recruiting. Can any other program challenge the Tigers and win the month? Ohio State has only landed two recruits for its 2015 class. What will the Buckeyes' class look like when the month is over. 

Check out JC Shurburtt give his top five schools that could win the month. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247 Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: End of Sanctions Can Awaken a Sleeping Giant

Were USC's sanctions fair?

That debate will rage for years. Along with the unprecedented action taken against Penn State in 2012, those sanctions will be the measuring stick by which future NCAA sanctions are compared. 

Like driving, discussing whether X team was shafted can cause level-headed folks to unleash a fit of uncontrollable expletives. 

USC athletic director Pat Haden is a bit more restrained. He has to be. 

"I will go to my grave thinking they were unfair," Haden told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times about the sanctions. "I'd be surprised if that kind of penalty will ever be imposed again."

Tuesday marks the end of those sanctions levied against the program four years ago, brought about (in part) by impermissible benefits received by former running back Reggie Bush. USC received a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years as a result.  

All because, in the eyes of the Committee on Infractions, coaches and administrators "should" have known what was going on. 

But USC has served its time. Now, the Trojans are ready to return to normal—which, for them, means competing for Pac-12 and national championships. 

The question is how soon USC can make it happen. 

The postseason ban was inconvenient, but nothing compared to the loss of scholarships. As Klein notes, the reductions were only part of the formula that left USC with little more than half of a normal roster: 

Scholarship reductions combined with injuries, transfers and attrition left USC's football team with 44 available scholarship players for last season's Las Vegas Bowl. That's 41 fewer than the NCAA maximum, so it will take at least two years of signing maximum-size recruiting classes of 25 before the Trojans are back to full roster strength.

The Times' timeline for a return to an 85-scholarship roster makes some sense mathematically. USC signed 19 players—five were early enrollees—as part of the 2014 class. Starting next February, first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian will be able to sign a full class. 

Factor in another class or two and the Trojans should finally be back to or near the 85-man limit. But there are always early departures, transfers and natural attrition to take into consideration. 

Whether the rebuilding project takes two, three or four years, the consensus should be that it won't take seven, eight or nine. 

USC has shown it can win without depth too; it just couldn't do it consistently. The Trojans won 10 games last year, most of them with interim coach Ed Orgeron, with 40-something scholarship players in the second-toughest conference in college football. Two seasons before that, USC went 10-2 and would have had a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game had it not been for the postseason ban. 

Overall, a 35-17 record during the four-year probation is a sign that USC can survive, and sometimes thrive, in difficult circumstances. 

"That’s a testament to what SC’s about," tight end Randall Telfer, who is entering his final season at USC, told B/R's Trenise Ferreira. "But at the same time, we hold our team to the highest standard. We got guys who are capable of going the distance and for a year or two we fell short.

"But in light of the sanctions, we accomplished a lot and I am very proud of this team."

As odd as it sounds, former coach Lane Kiffin deserves some kudos for that. For all the criticism Kiffin received, he recruited well amid the sanctions. Three times, Kiffin hauled in a top-10 signing class, according to 247Sports. Sarkisian's first class in February ranked 11th nationally. 

USC will never have trouble recruiting, but even the most vocal Kiffin critics have to admit having top-10 classes with sanctions is impressive. 

Ultimately, it was Kiffin's inability to do anything consistently with that talent that cost him his job. And, yes, injuries played a role—especially in 2012 when USC went 7-6. That's when the roster attrition hurts the most: when second- and third-string players aren't the same caliber as usual. 

What USC needs is a full roster of blue-chip players and a top-tier coach to maintain long-term success. That's true for any program with championship aspirations. 

The talent part shouldn't be an issue. Soon enough, depth won't be an issue. If USC can't get back to competing for conference championships, let alone national championships, within the next five years, that's on Sarkisian. 

Too much is made about "splash hires"—Pete Carroll certainly wasn't one when he took over USC in 2001—but Sarkisian is a wild card. In fact, USC's persistence about staying within the Carroll coaching tree has been questioned (Sarkisian was an assistant under Carroll). 

Hired last December to replace Kiffin, Sarkisian went 34-29 in five seasons with Washington. To post an overall winning record with a program that had gone winless the year before his arrival is nothing to scoff at. 

At the same time, Washington isn't lacking in the resources department, and Sarkisian posted a top-25 recruiting class following each full season in Seattle. Yet, the Huskies never won more than eight regular-season games under Sarkisian. Furthermore, Sarkisian recorded just one victory against Stanford (2012) and no wins against Oregon. 

There may not be much shame in losing to Stanford and Oregon—the two are among college football's best at the moment—but the 1-9 record against them stands out all the same. 

But these are just numbers—past numbers, at that—and in no way indicative of the future. For all anyone knows, Sarkisian may be the guy to take USC to the level of success it once enjoyed under Carroll. 

USC is, if nothing else, confident. 

"No program in the country could have endured the past four years the way USC has," Haden said in an official statement through USCTrojans.com

The program did manage to upgrade its facilities and expand its compliance department, all while running a balanced budget. All in all, the sanctions were nowhere as crippling as they first appeared.

Furthermore, the court of public opinion has turned on the NCAA, and many now wonder why athletes receiving benefits is such a big deal. It's amazing how the roles of bad guy have flipped. 

Adding another thrust into the heartbeat of the NCAA would be for USC to come back as strong as it was before the sanctions. 

The pieces are in place for that to happen. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Quotes courtesy of Trenise Ferreira unless specified otherwise. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: End of Sanctions Can Awaken a Sleeping Giant

Were USC's sanctions fair? That debate will rage for years. Along with the unprecedented action taken against Penn State in 2012, those sanctions will be the measuring stick by which future NCAA sanctions are compared...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Football Recruiting: 4 Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

The nation's top recruits in the class of 2015 converge on Beaverton, Oregon, next month for this year's edition of The Opening.

UCLA Bruins fans should keep an eye on the event's proceedings—UCLA coaches certainly will be. 

Head coach Jim Mora and his staff are in the hunt to sign several of the recruits showcasing their abilities at the event.

Four of the Bruins' top prospects participating could be cornerstone signees for the coming year, and The Opening is a unique glimpse into what each might offer in the Pac-12.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football Recruiting: 4 Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

The nation's top recruits in the class of 2015 converge on Beaverton, Oregon, next month for this year's edition of The Opening. UCLA Bruins fans should keep an eye on the event's proceedings—UCLA coaches certainly will be...

Begin Slideshow

Texas, OU Red River Rivalry Game Will Remain at Cotton Bowl Through 2025

For at least another decade, the Big 12's (and perhaps America's) greatest rivalry will remain in its customary place.

According to Tom Benning of The Dallas Morning NewsTexas and Oklahoma have agreed to a five-year extension that will keep the "Red River Showdown" at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, through 2025. The previous deal ran through 2020.

"The schools appreciate the venue," said Dallas civic leader Pete Schenkel, the former chairman of the State Fair of Texas (during which the game is played). "It’s more of an event, than it is a game."

Schenkel led negotiations for the the city and the State Fair of Texas, settling on a fee of $500,000 in direct payments to each school for playing at the Cotton Bowl. They also get a split of the ticket sales.

This news must be considered a win for the fans—who love the spectacle of playing at the State Fair—and for the Cotton Bowl itself.

Jerry Jones negotiated a deal to move the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic away from its namesake in 2009, when it began being played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Red River Showdown remains unmoved.

"There's no question that’s a nice stadium out at AT&T, but we have a nice stadium, too," Schenkel continued. "This is such a nice tradition."

There might be good news on the Classic's front as well.

According to Monday's big story in the Sports Business Journalthere has still been no word on whether AT&T will renew its terms as the Cotton Bowl's title sponsor during the College Football Playoff era:

To say the game might move back to its namesake is speculative. AT&T is a longtime sponsor of the Classic, and even if it did, for some reason, drop out, there is no guarantee it would move locales.

But it would certainly make things easier.

AT&T does, after all, have its name on the building in Arlington. It is not so fortunate to have the same on the building in Dallas.

But for now, that is looking a little too far down the road. Texas and OU will play in their proper spot every season for the next 11 years.

And that is something to celebrate.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages