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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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Florida Football: Where Dante Fowler Landed on First 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

With a handul of Florida Gators selected in the 2014 NFL draft, it's time to start looking ahead to those prospects eligible for the 2015 draft.

While that might feel like a decade from now, defensive end Dante Fowler has a chance to become the fourth Gator selected in the first round in the last three seasons.

Fowler is easily the top NFL prospect on the Gators roster right now and could be a high selection if he fulfills expectations this season.

It’s never too early to put together 2015 NFL draft big boards, and Fowler is receiving major props despite just two quick seasons at the college level.

Let’s break down Fowler’s draft stock and see how things are looking heading into his junior year. 

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Auburn Football: Breaking Down Reese Dismukes' Place on 2015 NFL Draft Boards

Heading into the 2013 season, it seemed unlikely Auburn would produce any first-round picks.

But after its surprise run to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers had not one, but two first-round picks called out last Thursday night in New York City.

No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson and Senior Bowl MVP Dee Ford were joined by Tre Mason and Jay Prosch in the later rounds of the draft to complete the foursome of former Tigers chosen by NFL squads in the seven-round extravaganza.

In this day and age of 24/7/365 scouting for future NFL talent, there are already mocks and big boards out for next year's NFL draft—months before a single snap of the 2014 college season.

The rapidly rising draft stocks of Robinson and Ford show how players outside of the early projections can make big moves in the eyes of scouts and general managers.

Auburn has a wealth of playmakers who could make similar moves from off the boards to first-round recognition, from quarterback Nick Marshall to running back Corey Grant to wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

The top Tiger on many early draft boards right now is center Reese Dismukes, who will start for Auburn for his fourth consecutive season this fall.

Dismukes arrived on the Plains as one of the top offensive line recruits in the 2011 recruiting class. The Spanish Fort, Alabama, native was the nation's No. 1 center, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and the No. 1 player in the state in the Top247 rankings.

The early enrollee immediately made an impact on the Auburn depth chart, winning the starting job for the defending national champions and later becoming a Freshman All-American.

Dismukes was suspended for Auburn's 2012 season opener because of a public intoxication arrest, but he has stayed out of trouble since the incident to become a leader on Auburn's squad.

In the Tigers' championship-winning 2013 season, Dismukes was referred to as a "second quarterback" for Auburn's offense by his coaches and teammates.

"He's the glue," Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes told AL.com's Joel Erickson after Auburn's SEC Championship win last season. "He holds it all together. [He is] the finest leader I've ever had, tough, smart, fast, quick, strong, balanced, just one of the best football players I've ever been around."

Dismukes applied for feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board toward the end of the 2013 season, but the third-team All-American decided to return for a heavily hyped senior season after Auburn's close loss to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.

"We've just got to get back to work and just keep getting better just like this season," Dismukes said in the Auburn locker room shortly after the loss. "We have the same motto, everybody will be together and the goal will be to get better each and every day. Come back even better next year."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn gave the highest praise to his returning starter during a visit with fans last week:

Like Auburn's entire team, Dismukes will open the 2014 season near the top of the rankings.

The fourth-year senior is currently projected as the No. 2 center in the 2015 draft class by both B/R's Matt Miller and NFLDraftScout.com. Miller lists Dismukes as the best run-blocking interior lineman in the class.

No center was drafted before the second day of last weekend's draft, so Dismukes is not projected in any of the first-round mocks currently making the rounds on draft websites:

So when could Dismukes come off the board next May?

One could look toward another successful SEC center, Arkansas' Travis Swanson, who was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions. Like Dismukes, Swanson was a starter in the nation's toughest conference all four years of his college career and was a Rimington Award finalist in 2013.

However, a couple of disappointing performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine caused Swanson to fall to the third round, behind second-round center Weston Richburg and early third-round center Marcus Martin.

Dismukes will start the season on many All-SEC teams and award watch lists, and a fourth year of strong play as the bedrock of Auburn's veteran offensive line could see him shoot up mock drafts in a fashion similar to former teammate Robinson.

If Dismukes can continue to lead Auburn's high-powered offense to another successful season and then keep up his hard work in the offseason, he could continue an Auburn tradition of top NFL offensive linemen by breaking into the top two rounds of next year's draft festivities in New York.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia Football: Realistic Expectations for the Bulldogs' 2014 Season

Believe it or not, we are a little more than three months away from the 2014 college football season kicking off.

The new recruits are ending their high school careers and they will soon arrive on college campus to join the veterans for preseason practice.

Until then, we can only speculate what will happen this upcoming season, and for the Georgia Bulldogs many things can and will happen. But whether it’s good or bad depends on how the players work on and off the field before the season begins.

With the players the Bulldogs have coming back on offense and defense, they have a shot of winning the SEC and a chance to play in the SEC Championship. Whether they do it or not will depend on Hutson Mason.

The Georgia Bulldogs lead the way in our Spring SEC East predictions. http://t.co/VfHT0E6zmA

— Southern Pigskin (@SouthernPigskin) April 15, 2014

The rising senior quarterback did a lot of good things last year and looked even better during the spring game. If he is healthy, and the offensive line can keep him upright, Mason will throw for 3,000-plus yards and 25 touchdowns.

But the key for him to be successful as well as the entire offense is the play of the line. They will miss three starters from last season, but the reserves have a ton of experience. John Theus, David Andrews and Kolton Houston will be the anchors for the group. However, they will need production from Mark Beard, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke.

If there is one player that can make the offensive line better than they are, it’s one of the best running backs in the country, Todd Gurley.

After an injury-riddled 2010 season, Gurley is healthy and ready to run over and past SEC defenders. And if he can remain healthy, there is no reason he can’t rush for 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The offense will be expected to score a lot of points this upcoming season. But that won’t matter if the defense can’t stop opponents.

One of the reasons the Bulldogs struggled on defense is the secondary gave up a lot of big plays. But with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt at the helm the secondary is expected to be better.

But will they actually improve or will it be the same old song?

The spring game did not do the fans any favors as each secondary gave up over 250 passing yards. However, it was only spring and the players were still learning the system. With preseason practice right around the corner, the secondary should make strides, but players like Damian Swann and Tray Matthews will have to be leaders and show they have made strides from last year.

When it comes down to it, the defense does not have to be elite or even good for that matter. They just need to be better than what they showed last year, which should happen when the season is all said and done.

As far as a final record, the Bulldogs have the talent to win 10 games, possibly 11. And the schedule plays into their favor with home games against Clemson, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech. However, there are away dates with Missouri and South Carolina, which will be swing games for the Bulldogs.

The realistic goal for the Bulldogs is a nine-win season with a top-ranked offense and an average defense. Sounds like a typical Mark Richt season. But with that said, it’s also not out of the question to think they can win 10-11 games and win the SEC East.

The only thing that’s a guarantee is the Bulldogs will make things interesting, just like they do every year.

 

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Boise State: Who Is Replacing Every Former Bronco Taken in the 2014 NFL Draft

Three former Boise State Broncos heard their names called during the 2014 NFL Draft.

The highest picked Bronco was defensive end Demarcus Lawrence who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys as the second pick in the second-round.

Other drafted Boise State players were center Matt Paradis who went to the Denver Broncos in the sixth-round, and offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. who was picked by the Chicago Bears in the seventh-round.

These three big, talented players now leave an equally large hole on the roster back in Boise. Replacing each one of them will be a challenge, and it will take a special player or players to do the job.

Let's look at the most likely candidates who will attempt to fill the void these three future NFL players left behind at Boise State. 

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South Carolina Football: Who Is Replacing Gamecocks Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The Gamecocks didn't have as many players go in the draft as anticipated, though South Carolina was home to the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney

Original expectations had as many as five or six former Gamecocks being drafted. Yet only Clowney and wide receiver Bruce Ellington heard their names called at the draft. 

South Carolina did have a handful of players sign as undrafted free agents, and they will all try to make rosters in the NFL this fall. 

The Gamecocks do not have too many players to replace, which is a positive. Though replacing Clowney and Ellington as well as former standout quarterback Connor Shaw will not be easy. 

Here are the Gamecocks who will be replacing former South Carolina players taken in the 2014 NFL draft. 

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Breaking Down Where Denzel Perryman Landed on First 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

The Miami Hurricanes recently had a lackluster weekend at Radio City Music Hall, seeing only three players get drafted and many others forced to sign free-agent contracts.

But during the 2015 NFL draft, Miami will have an excellent opportunity to see its six-year drought without a first-round pick end. At the forefront, of course, is senior middle linebacker Denzel Perryman.

Though his draft status will obviously be much clearer after the upcoming season, the 'Canes' defensive leader is already one of the top players in all of college football.

And after the program's disappointing 2014 edition of the draft, Perryman is on track to provide a much-needed addition for the pipeline from Miami to the NFL.

 

What Has He Accomplished at Miami?

A homegrown product, the Coral Gables High graduate arrived at "The U" as a 3-star recruit, according to 247Sports.

Perryman made an immediate impression on the Miami defense, appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman and making five starts. He tallied 69 tackles (6.5 for loss) and forced two fumbles en route to being named a freshman All-American.

One season later, the Hurricanes expected great things, as he would help replace NFL-bound Sean Spence. Instead, Perryman was subjected to the renowned sophomore struggle, missing three games before managing 64 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception.

As a junior, however, Perryman made significant strides toward reaching that elite production. He finished the 2013 campaign with 108 tackles (5.0 for loss, 1.5 sacks), three pass breakups and one forced fumbles.

In January, Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald reported the first-team All-ACC linebacker received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Ultimately, Perryman decided to stay at Miami to exhaust his eligibility, and he already made a lasting impression this spring by de-cleating teammate Gus Edwards.

After such a successful junior season and noteworthy start to his senior year, the 'Canes are already appreciative of their 2013 Defensive MVP electing to stick around for 2014.

 

What the Experts Are Saying

Darren Page of DetroitLionsDraft.com studied Perryman's performance against Florida and came away impressed, noting he saw "a wide array of skills that translate to the NFL."

He was impossible to block at the second level, using his hands to play off offensive linemen and free himself to make plays. His footwork was strong in coverage and he was quick to pick up on routes. ... If his showing against Florida is what we can come to expect from Denzel Perryman, he'll be the next Miami linebacker to earn himself a starting spot in the NFL.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports told me Perryman is among his top five senior linebackers for 2015. Brugler continued:

He has a shorter stature but is thickly put together with a stout build. He's a heavy, violent striker with excellent take-on strength to quickly engage and shed. Displays accurate reads and uses his disciplined eyes to mirror the ball at the line of scrimmage. Love his motor, never takes plays off and shows leadership traits. Smart, with a passion for the game and the coaches rave about his football knowledge and effort on and off the field.

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated made the linebacker his No. 10 pick in Mock Draft 1.0: "Even though he does not have ideal height (listed at 6-feet even)," Burke said, "Perryman is a three-down LB who aggressively pursues sideline-to-sideline."

 

Where Perryman Stands in the Draft

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller touts Perryman as the No. 1 draft-eligible inside linebacker and gives him the edge in three aspects of the position, including most NFL-ready.

"He's my top inside linebacker, but not a top-32 player," Miller said. "Really agile, lateral movement. Instincts are a plus versus the run. A bit light in his legs and rear, but as far as athletic middle linebackers go, he's up there. Size will get questioned."

Perryman tops the rankings at his position on CBS Sports, where Frank Cooney marks him as the 44th-best prospect and No. 2 ILB behind Georgia's Ramik Wilson.

The writers of early mock drafts will more than likely tell you the same thing: Don't read too much into them. They serve as a starting point that is certain to change over the next 12 months.

However, the mocks give a first look at some of the top names heading into 2014, and Perryman is included in most outlets.

Brugler lists Perryman as getting selected at the end of the first round, while he just misses the opening day, according to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco. On the other hand, Kipp Adams of 247Sports has the linebacker dropping further, being taken 58th overall.

Regardless, Perryman rests among the top prospects at his position, which is a comforting sign as of now. Of course, Seantrel Henderson and Stephen Morris were once in the same spot, but Perryman has a better body of work than both players.

Whereas Henderson was highly regarded—albeit solely on unreached All-American potential—and Morris unleashed a scorching finish to the 2012 season, Perryman has had respectable stretches of production each year.

If he continues to showcase his excellent sideline-to-sideline speed, ability to shed blocks and dependability in pass coverage, Perryman will solidify his value as an early-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, perhaps even as a first-day selection.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes obtained firsthand. Stats and awards courtesy of hurricanesports.com.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Predictions for 4-Star OL Sterling Jenkins

Sterling Jenkins is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. The big man hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can be, which is why the future looks bright for him.

Jenkins, who is from Pennsylvania, has a chance to develop into one of the best blockers to come out of the 2015 class. Penn State has already gotten a commitment from him, which has put the Big Ten on notice.

Jenkins' potential as a prospect warrants a closer look.

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Texas Football: Why Charlie Strong Is Perfect Guy to Fix Horns' NFL Draft Issue

Seventy-five years had passed since a Texas Longhorns name was not called during the NFL draft. That streak ended last weekend.

Texas had 10 players eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, two of those players were projected to be anywhere from third- to sixth-round picks. But the 32 NFL teams found 256 players more worthy of using up draft picks than what the Longhorns had to offer.

Breaking a 75-year-old streak is a milestone, but in the case of Texas football, this milestone is one to forget. The 2014 draft was a shocking reminder to all Texas fans—and the college football world for that matter—of how far the Longhorns have fallen from grace. 

Some people may be wondering how Texas football could be in this place. The University of Texas has tradition, money and support, and can access pretty much any number of tools needed to bring in the nation's top talent each year.

But the recent issues Texas football has faced does not have to do with state-of-the-art facilities or even signing the best recruiting classes. It has to do with the lack of player development that occurred throughout the final years of former head coach Mack Brown's career. 

Getting shut out of the 2014 draft could be described as rock bottom for the Longhorns and speaks volumes on the current state of Texas football. However, all hope is not lost for the future, especially with head coach Charlie Strong at the helm. 

Strong has a solid record of developing players into NFL talent, which is something Texas clearly needs. While Texas fans watched their Longhorns get passed over round after round, Louisville fans celebrated one of their team's best drafts in history with three former Cardinals names called during the first round and another in the third round.

All four draft picks were players Strong recruited while he was the head coach of Louisville.

Strong's draft success began well before 2014. During his seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong developed seven future first-round draft picks and 18 players who were picked in the third round or higher, according to his bio on TexasSports.com.

The key to Strong's success as an assistant and head coach lies in his ability to develop players, and a perfect example of his player development is former Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith.

The 6'3", 251-pound Georgia native was a 3-star quarterback prospect with only two scholarship offers coming out of high school: Florida and Louisville, according to Rivals.com.

Smith never played a down at quarterback for the Cardinals. Instead, he moved to the defensive side of the ball, led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2013 and finished his career as the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith was drafted No. 26 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.

Using Smith as an example of Strong's player development is more relevant to Texas fans than what meets the eye.

He was a part of the 2010 recruiting class, which is the same class as former Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Unlike underrated Smith, Jeffcoat was a consensus 5-star prospect and had offers from 16 NCAA Division I football programs, per 247Sports

The two defensive ends have very similar game-time experience, similar physiques and both finished their careers as their conference's defensive player of the year. But the biggest difference between Jeffcoat and Smith was the way they developed in college.

Strong took an underrated athlete and molded him into a first-round draft pick. Jeffcoat did not get the same direction at Texas. He missed multiple games due to various injuries and was a part of a rebuilding program that saw three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive line coaches during his four years in Austin.

Even after a stellar senior season, which helped him nab the Ted Hendricks Award and projected him anywhere between a third- and sixth-round draft pick by CBSSports.com and NFL.com, Jeffcoat was left as the headliner of the group of Longhorns whose names were never called during the 2014 NFL draft.

Jeffcoat not getting drafted was not something many—if not any—NFL draft "experts" predicted, but it happened. And it's fair to say part of the reason is due to a lack of player development.

Strong has a lot of work ahead of him, and a lot of players who need to be developed. And any Texas fans who are expecting a quick-fix solution in his debut season need to recalibrate those expectations.

When Strong replaced Brown, he inherited a roster packed full of former 4-star and 5-star athletes who may not have been properly developed since their arrival in Austin. One could argue there is not a single first-round-caliber NFL prospect on the current roster, which could mean that the 2015 NFL draft may not be much better than this year's.

But with time and the right assistant coaches around him, Strong will put an end to the complacent, lackadaisical mentality the Longhorns have shown in recent years and help return Texas to a football program stacked with athletes who play smashmouth football.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Arkansas Football: Razorbacks Fare Well in 2014 NFL Draft

The Arkansas Razorbacks are a very respectable team when it comes to churning out NFL talent. Since 2000, the Hogs have had 45 players selected in the NFL draft.

There weren't a ton of expectations for Hogs being drafted this year. Arkansas figured to have two players who would be drafted in defensive end Chris Smith and center Travis Swanson. However, by the end of it all on Saturday, four Razorbacks heard their names called.

Smith and Swanson were taken as expected, but the big surprises came in the seventh round when kicker Zach Hocker and fullback Kiero Small were selected. For the Hogs to have four players drafted this year is a huge win for the program.

Not only will it help recruiting, but it also shows that despite a rough couple of years, there is talent on this team. 

The Razorbacks had as many players drafted as Auburn, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Missouri, to name a few. The only SEC teams to have more players drafted than Arkansas were LSU (nine) and Alabama (eight). If you want to dive into the numbers even more, only 11 teams in the entire country had more players drafted than the Hogs.

Not bad for a team that went 3-9 and failed to win a conference game.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at the four Hogs who were drafted, how they fit into their new teams and what their roles will be, whether that's starting or just trying to make the team.

 

C Travis Swanson, 3rd Round, 76th Overall by Detroit Lions

Ever since Bret Bielema took over the reins of the program, he's raved about Swanson. The Detroit Lions have Dominic Raiola starting at center right now, but he's 35. The Lions were looking for a future starter to take Raiola's place when he's gone, and Swanson was their guy with the 76th pick in the third round.

What the Lions get with Swanson is durability, a hard worker and a student of the game. He tied the record for most consecutive starts with 50. That was against SEC competition, where he was good enough to be a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2013.

That was something Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com he loved about Swanson:

He's got a lot of starts against really good competition. That usually bodes well for guys early, gives those guys confidence when they get here, so that's definitely a factor.

As Twentyman also pointed out, in his last two years of starting, Swanson had a 90 percent blocking consistency grade, the highest of any active player in the country. 

He wasn't the strongest, fastest or most athletic O-lineman in the draft, but he has a high football IQ and gets the job done. Don't expect Swanson to start right away or maybe even for the first few years. The Lions will allow him to develop behind Raiola before Swanson takes over the job full time when Raiola's time in Detroit is over.

 

DE Chris Smith, 5th Round, 159th Overall by Jacksonville Jaguars

Let me be clear, I absolutely love this pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only was it a great value pick getting Smith in the fifth round, but he could end up becoming a key contributor on a D-line that needs difference-makers.

There's a good chance that the Jags could use him as both a defensive end and an outside linebacker who rushes the passer from a standing position, as indicated by Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union:

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said Smith stood out in the 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl and will get looks at the Leo spot and outside linebacker.

Smith doesn't have ideal size for an NFL rush end, measuring in at 6'1", 266 pounds. However, he does have excellent speed and quickness for a guy his size, clocking a 4.66 40-yard dash time at the combine, per NFLDraftScout.com. He also has long arms, which allow him to get leverage on blockers in running situations or get by them with his arsenal of moves.

His strength is an underrated aspect of his game. Smith bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, which is a very solid number. If he's going to make a real impact, though, Smith must get more consistent with his burst off the snap and learn to drop into coverage, something he rarely did in college.

Smith showed that he can be an impact pass-rusher, racking up 22 sacks in his last three years as a Hog. It's a safe bet that he'll make the team, but it could be awhile before he contributes on the field. 

Then again, if Smith makes the necessary improvements and stands out in camp and practices, he could make an impact this season.

 

FB Kiero Small, 7th Round, 227th Overall by Seattle Seahawks

Small's stature might be small at 5'8", but his game is anything but that. He's firmly built at 244 pounds and hits defenders with the force of a truck.

His blocking ability is at an NFL level for a fullback, which could be a big reason why the Seahawks selected him. The O-line was a big reason why Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had such great years, but so was Small. 

Once the ball was snapped, he would immediately go and hit a defender to carve a path for the backs. Just take a look at this video. On almost every single play, Small makes a great block or a big hit:

He also has good hands and is surprisingly nimble in the open field with the ball. However, it is his blocking ability that I think will be the reason he makes the team. 

Seattle currently has two fullbacks on its roster with Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware. Small is stronger and can block better than both of them. If he goes into training camp and shows off his bone-crushing blocks and good hands, don't be surprised if Small not only makes the team, but also ends up starting.

 

K Zach Hocker, 7th Round, 228th Overall by Washington Redskins 

The most surprising Hog to be selected was Hocker. Despite there being a number of kickers rated ahead of him, the Redskins took the four-year starter who showed he can make the long kicks from 50-plus yards. 

Kickers who are consistent from over 40 and 50 yards out are a valuable asset in the NFL, and Hocker definitely fits that mold.

During his career at Arkansas, he hit five of seven (71.4 percent) attempts from 50-plus yards and went 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from 40 and over. He had longs of 50 his freshman year, 51 as a sophomore and 54 as a senior in 2013.

While he'll need to be more consistent at the next level, Hocker has the leg strength to be a starting kicker in the NFL.

Washington was intrigued enough to use a pick on him, which tells you he has a legitimate shot at winning the job if he can show more consistency. His main competition will be veteran Kai Forbath, who made 18 of 22 attempts last season with a long of 50. 

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden offered some strong words in favor of Hocker to CSN Washington's Tarik El-Bashir:

His leg strength is very good. He was a very productive kicker at Arkansas. I think he was ranked ninth or tenth in the nation as far as touchbacks, which is excellent.

Gruden also didn't rule out Hocker being the kickoff specialist while Forbath remained the kicker on field goals:

That's not out of the question. We'll see in training camp. Kai needs to kickoff better; that's a fact. He's obviously a very good field goal kicker, which is important. And we have a lot of respect for his talent as a kicker, but we also felt like we like we needed to bring another kicker in here and compete and look at for the kickoff specialist [role] and compete with Kai.

For a team that struggled so mightily, the Hogs can call the 2014 NFL draft a big success for the program. All four guys drafted have a great shot at making their respective teams and even making early contributions. 

 

Bryan Heater is the Featured Columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

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Why the Big 12 Could Soon Be Replaced as College Football's Offensive Juggernaut

The Big 12 wasn't recognizable last year. 

Forget for a moment that there were no elite teams—Baylor and Oklahoma came closest to that label—or that, with only six bowl-eligible teams, overall depth was lacking.

Rather, the Big 12 wasn't the offensive juggernaut that fans had come to know in recent years. Beyond Baylor, which had the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, no other Big 12 teams finished in the top 25 in that category. 

Not coincidentally, nine of the conference's 10 teams—Baylor being the exclusion—played multiple quarterbacks extensively during the season. Getting into a rhythm on offense was a chore for most Big 12 teams. 

Still, when looking at offenses over the last four seasons, the Big 12 remains the most prolific of any of the major conferences. According to the website College Football Statistics, no other major conference has had more teams finish with a top-25 scoring offense in a single year than the Big 12 (seven in 2012). 

Similarly, no other power conference has had more teams finish in the top 25 of total offense in a single year (seven in 2012). The Big 12 has had more top-25 passers over the past four years and is tied for second with the Pac-12 for most top-25 rushing teams in that same time span. 

That is a lot of numbers, and certainly, they only tell part of the story. For example, in 2013, Oregon State finished just outside the top 25 in scoring with 34.8 points per game. Fractions of a point are being split. No one could reasonably say that the Beavers suddenly didn't have a potent offense. However, they just missed the cutoff point. 

Statistically speaking—and this is a somewhat limited window—the Big 12 stands above all other power conferences in offense. However, whether or not the conference can keep up that production is questionable. Since 2010, the number of top-25 passers in the Big 12 has gone down each year. The number of top-25 rushing teams in the Big 12 also dropped to two in 2013. 

Remember the seven top-25 scoring offenses the Big 12 had in 2012? There were only three last year. No other conference suffered such a steep drop-off from one year to the next at any point over the last four seasons. 

It could just be a one-year phenomenon, caused in part by several big-name offensive players graduating or being drafted into the NFL. However, the 2014 recruiting rankings show the Big 12 is struggling to bring in premier offensive talent. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon were the biggest names to sign with Big 12 teams in February. 

Compare that to Texas A&M, who has two signees—wide receiver Speedy Noil and quarterback Kyle Allen—who ranked among the top 10 players in the country. In all, the SEC signed roughly a dozen offensive players ranked in the top 50 of 247Sports' composite rankings

For what it's worth, the SEC has been leaning slightly away from the "defense wins championships" mentality. Last year, six SEC teams finished with top-25 scoring offenses, and five finished in the top 25 in total offense. Both numbers were the most of any conference. Meanwhile, only four SEC teams finished with a top-25 scoring defense. 

Could the Big 12 soon relinquish its offensive crown to the SEC, or even the Pac-12? If recruiting doesn't pick up, it wouldn't be surprising to see a changing of the guard when it comes to great offensive conferences. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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