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Dak Prescott Returns to Mississippi State: Latest Details and Reaction

Far from a prototypical or finished pro product, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott could have still entered the 2015 NFL draft with rather high hopes due to a dearth of elite prospects at the position.

Instead, the dynamic Bulldogs signal-caller will remain with the Bulldogs for his senior season. 

MSU Football announced the decision:

They also posted video of Prescott speaking about the decision at the podium:







Bob Carskadon of Hailstate.com passes along more comments from Prescott:

Prescott rose from relative obscurity to stardom in 2014, leading the Bulldogs to the top of the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings. As a junior, he had 41 total touchdowns (27 passing, 14 rushing) and threw for 3,449 yards while running for 986 more.

Only a road loss to Alabama and an Egg Bowl defeat at Ole Miss in the regular-season finale kept Mississippi State out of the playoff picture.

When he was still in the process of deciding whether to stay in college or not, Prescott could see a silver lining no matter what he opted to do.

"It's a blessing," said Prescott, per The Clarion-Ledger's Michael Bonner. "To have success, to have that chance that I have, I still have another year to come back and improve get better if I need to."

The hard-nosed running style Prescott has, along with his thick frame and rawness as a passer, has drawn comparisons to former Heisman winner Tim Tebow, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Although Prescott has better natural accuracy as a passer than the former Florida star, he is still a project at the NFL level.

Thanks to his running ability, Prescott has the luxury of bailing if his first or second read isn't available. His tendency to seek out contact and violent collisions doesn't bode well for a long-lasting pro career.

Exercising better caution as a runner and working on mechanics and showing a better ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes will help Prescott boost his NFL stock as a senior.

Mississippi State also runs a spread offense, a system that simplifies the game for quarterbacks. Prescott has the arm talent to fit throws into NFL windows. The question is whether he'll have the know-how to digest a far denser playbook in the future.

If Prescott is able to hone in on the fundamentals in his final NCAA season and lead the Bulldogs to success in the SEC, though, he stands a chance to be among the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2016 NFL draft.




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Jalin Barnett to Nebraska: Cornhuskers Land 4-Star OG Prospect

Nebraska has landed one of the best offensive linemen in the class of 2015 after securing the commitment of Jalin Barnett. Josh McCuistion of Rivals reported the news: 

Barnett, a 4-star prospect who measures in at 6'4" and 315 pounds, ranks 61st among all 2015 recruits on 247Sports' composite rankings and sits No. 6 overall among offensive guards. The product of Lawton High School is also the best recruit in the state of Oklahoma.

Below, you can see a Vine of Barnett facing off with blue-chip defensive tackle Daylon Mack at the Rivals Camp Series. Although it's an extremely small sample, you can see some of his power and footwork.

Speaking of those feet, ESPN.com's Derek Tyson snapped a photo of how large Barnett's feet truly are:

Barnett possesses a wealth of strength, and once he gets into a conditioning regimen at the next level, he'll become a major road-grader.

He excels in run blocking. One of the things that stands out most about him is his ability to continue driving a defender into the ground. Barnett isn't happy until his opposite number is one with the turf.

It's becoming increasingly important for offensive linemen as a whole to be much more athletic. It's not enough to simply be big and strong anymore. Players have to be light on their feet and move well laterally.

Barnett isn't a statue on the offensive line, but his lateral quickness leaves a little to be desired, and that in turns limits his skill when protecting the quarterback.

That's the only real knock in his game, though, so all things considered, it's not a massive flaw.

His footwork is still good enough that he can be a tremendous blocker when confined to a smaller space.

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports made it clear on how good he thinks Barnett can become:

Because of his occasional problems in pass protection, Barnett will likely play on the inside once he hits college, despite having experience playing offensive tackle in high school. Playing him on the inside means covering up his biggest deficiencies and taking advantage of his biggest strengths.

If he is lined up at tackle, he'll have a hard time getting outside and keeping pace with speedy pass-rushers. Over time, Barnett's game could develop to a point where he can handle that duty, but putting him at guard makes the most sense at the moment.

No matter where he plays in college, Barnett will become an anchor on Nebraska's offensive line in a few years.

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UCLA Football: Deon Hollins Primed to Be Bruins' Next Breakout Linebacker Star

UCLA football has been home to plenty of standout linebackers over the years, including the recent trio of Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack and Anthony Barr. In 2015, get ready to add Deon Hollins to the list of standout Bruins linebackers. 

Who could be the next Barr? That was one of the burning questions facing UCLA football a year ago at this time. 

Hollins heads into UCLA's 2015 offseason poised to be the sack machine that Barr was for the Bruins in 2012 and 2013, coming off a three-sack night in the Alamo Bowl win over Kansas State. 

His huge outing in the final game was the perfect culmination to the trajectory Hollins rode throughout his sophomore campaign.

Each week was another positive step in the season-long upswing that has Hollins looking like one of the Pac-12's best defensive playmakers for 2015. 

Put simply: "He was our most improved defensive player this year," head coach Jim Mora said in his Alamo Bowl press conference, via ASAP Sports

The void Barr left and Hollins helped fill was glaring early in the season. Though the Bruins' front seven did an adequate job generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks, UCLA managed just four sacks through the season's first month. 

It was a considerable drop-off for a defense that produced 31 sacks in 2013 and 46 in 2012. 

But as the year went on, Hollins made his own adjustments. His play at linebacker sometimes resembled more a defensive lineman's role, as he put his hand down on the turf when the situation called for it. 

"I really have the freedom to stand up or get down," Hollins said in late October. "I just feel like I have a little more exposure when I get down."

Hollins went to the four-point stance on many straight blitzes but did not abandon the upright technique.

"I can stand up," he said, and his ability to do so served him well in containment of zone-read offenses. "From a technical [standpoint]…when you’re standing up, playing in space more; [it's] not freelance, but that’s kind of your mindset. You have a freelance technique."

Whether keeping a hand on the ground or freelancing, Hollins broke out in the second half of the season. Seven of his 10 tackles for loss came in the final month as well as six of his team-high nine sacks. 

And as he improved, so too did the overall pressure for the Bruins. They finished 2014 with a healthy 29 combined sacks, just two off the 2013 pace with Barr in the lineup. 

It took some adjustment for UCLA to find its groove, both without its star and with a first-year defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich.

There was an initial feeling-out period that paid off down the stretch. 

"Coach Brick did an excellent job mixing up the calls…[Opposing offenses] don’t know where the pressure’s coming from," Hollins said late in the season.

Hollins described a defense that sounded quite a bit like a shark. 

"We smell blood," he said following UCLA's win over Arizona. 

Fitting phrasing indeed, especially for Hollins' own individual style, which is oftentimes frenzied. Plenty of blockers learned firsthand of Hollins' tenacity. 

And that same spirit is what made Hollins such an integral part of the UCLA defense. 

As Barr pursued an eventual first-round selection in last year's draft, Hollins was something of an afterthought in the competition for Barr's starting outside linebacker job. 

He played sparingly in 2013. And, at 6'0", 225 pounds, he lacked the size of teammate Kenny Orjioke, who at 6'4", 238 pounds, is closer in stature to Barr (6'5", 255 pounds). 

But Hollins has excelled through a quality without measurement, which Jack described after the Alamo Bowl via ASAP Sports.

"His level of determination," Jack said. "This year, he really put it all together."

Next year, Hollins will take it to another level on his road to becoming the next in UCLA's lineage of star linebackers.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com

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UCLA Football: Deon Hollins Primed to Be Bruins' Next Breakout Linebacker Star

UCLA football has been home to plenty of standout linebackers over the years, including the recent trio of Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack and Anthony Barr. In 2015, get ready to add Deon Hollins to the list of standout Bruins linebackers...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Parade 2015: Date, Location, Venue for Celebration Victory

First comes the championship, then comes the celebration. Ohio State is fresh off winning the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship with a dominating 42-20 victory over Oregon. The Buckeyes returned to Columbus on Tuesday, but they will get to celebrate with their fans on Jan. 24.    

According to Harrison Hove of NBC 4 in Columbus, the official Ohio State celebration will take place at The Horseshoe with anyone and everyone welcome to attend:

As Hove's tweet notes, Columbus is going to be the hub of the sports world on Jan. 24. In addition to the Buckeyes' celebration, the NHL All-Star Skills Competition is also taking place on that date at the Blue Jackets' home in Nationwide Arena. 

The official time hasn't been announced for Ohio State's celebration. However, if it's an early afternoon event, fans will be able to attend the Buckeyes' parade and go straight from there to Nationwide Arena, where the NHL event starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Now, the big question for this celebration is if it will be able to top what Ohio State put on following the 2002 National Championship win over Miami. The most memorable part of that event was linebacker Cie Grant singing Carmen Ohio. 

This year's team did get an early start on practicing the song, performing a rendition as a team following the victory over Oregon, via Cleveland.com.

While Columbus has to wait another 10 days before officially celebrating these Buckeyes, star running back Ezekiel Elliott offered his thoughts on how the school could help everyone properly take part in this joyous moment:

The NCAA might not like seeing one of its student-athletes demand classes be put on hold for a sporting event, but some Ohio State professors may have been in agreement with Elliott, as ESPN's Kaylee Hartung suggests:

Even though players like Elliott and Cardale Jones will be focal points of the celebration, head coach Urban Meyer will be the star of the show. He's brought all those recruiting juices that made him so successful at Utah and Florida to Ohio State, finding instant success, losing just three games in three years and producing one of the most unpredictable champions in recent memory. 

There was some talk that Meyer could become an object of desire for NFL teams with this championship, but he said, "I love what I'm doing. Not right now," via ESPN.com. While that's not a 100 percent denial, the list of professional jobs is closing fast, so the Buckeyes don't have to worry for at least one more year. 

Meyer has turned into a magician. Ohio State seemed like a mess when he took over, coming off the Jim Tressel debacle with players being suspended, but he came in and fixed everything instantaneously. That's not the kind of thing you see in sports at any level. 

It's not crazy to think Meyer could run for Mayor of Ohio right now and win in a landslide. That may not be a good career move for him, but it speaks to how passionately the fans in that state feel about Ohio State football. They will get to show it in front of this team at the end of the month. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

 

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Why Michael Bennett Will Be the Best Pro Taken in the 2015 NFL Draft

Unless you have a prospect of the level of Andrew Luck or John Elway, the NFL draft isn’t won at the top. It’s won it the later rounds, when those diamonds in the rough are discovered for not as huge a price.

Tom Brady was famously drafted in the sixth round of the draft, and he has gone on to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. The Seattle Seahawks won last season’s Super Bowl on the shoulders of a number of players they selected later in the draft.

So while this Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are the clear top draft prospects, it is those that are going to go behind them that represent the real value of the draft.

One player who has gone about his game quietly all season but will provide a huge boost to whatever NFL team decides to draft him is Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett.

The senior capped off his final season in Columbus with a national championship and finished the season on a number of All-American and All-Big Ten teams.

The biggest issue for Bennett, though, who is considered a second-round prospect this year, has been the focus on another Buckeyes lineman.

Joey Bosa, who isn’t eligible for the draft until next year, has many scouts drooling over his skill set and body size, and that has left Bennett seemingly out to dry.

The Centerville, Ohio native has tallied 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season and has been a force inside for the Buckeyes in their title run.

As Dane Brugler of CBS Sports says, Bennett “displays outstanding balance and coordination through contact to work off blocks and keep his feet to be a factor in plays. He ‘wins’ with quickness out of his stance and uses his leverage, leg drive and strong grip to latch-and-rip past blockers and penetrate the backfield.”

Although Bennett is coming off of a successful senior season, he didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding him heading out of last year.

If Bennett had elected to leave school at the end of last season instead of staying for his senior year, many outlets had him projected as a top 10-15 prospect. But inconsistent play at the beginning of the season saw him drop too far down draft boards for a late rally to truly make a difference.

Following Ohio State’s game against Michigan State this year, during which Bennett recorded two tackles for loss and a sack, Bleacher Report’s lead draft analyst Matt Miller raised Bennett back up a little from where he had fallen.

“Ohio State’s Michael Bennett started the season ranked as my No. 1 defensive end but saw his ranking dip due to inconsistent play,” Miller wrote. “That changed against Michigan State. Bennett showed the promise and production that made him a high-ranking preseason player.”

It was a switch around that time, not a metaphorical one, but a literal switch from nose guard to 3-technique that saw Bennett recapture his form from the previous season.

“For whatever reason, that was where we fit best,” Bennett said of the position switch, per Bill Landis of Cleveland.com. “It worked out really well.”

The new role allowed him to use speed to beat guys, instead of having to go through them like he had to do earlier in the season.

It clearly paid off, with Bennett recording six sacks after the switch, compared to only one in the first eight games of the year.

But despite all the physical tools that Bennett brings to the NFL team that will draft him, it is another aspect of Bennett that makes him stand above the rest.

“I’m talking about his development as a leader and a guy that I can count on,” Urban Meyer said per Patrick Maks of Elevenwarriors.com. “A guy that doesn’t whine and moan and complain about stuff because that’s kind of how he got through it in the old days and that’s not the case at all right now.”

From his demeanor to his ability to his physicality, Bennett seems like a can’t-miss prospect in a draft full of question marks. When he does get drafted, the team that takes him will not regret it.

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Despite Poor Record, Michigan Needed Brady Hoke Era to Happen

If we lived in a perfect, sun-shiny world, Brady Hoke would be remembered for being a tremendous mentor and father figure to hundreds of Michigan football players.

If it were all about doing the right thing, he’d be remembered for graduating 69 of 69 seniors prior to 2014. If life were just grand, he’d be celebrated for emphasizing the core, dyed-in-the-wool values that built 135 years of Wolverines tradition.

But we don’t live in that world.

We live in a world in which coaches at high-profile programs either win or find a new employer. That’s the nature of business—and it’s a big, multi-million-dollar business.

After going 5-7 this past season, Hoke was asked to vacate the premises, prompting the historic hire of Jim Harbaugh—he may not be the “savior” but Harbaugh is certainly qualified to incite rapid change for a team that hasn’t tasted a Big Ten championship in more than a decade.

In hindsight, Hoke, who was 31-20 overall and 18-14 in the league, wasn’t the right man for the job. But he was far from the wrong one.

Following Rodriguez’s ouster in 2010, Hoke went 11-2 and won the 2011 Sugar Bowl. It turned out to be a tease, but it was more appealing than the previous three years under Rodriguez, who went 15-22 (6-18 B1G) and was constantly bashed for straying from the status quo.

The hand-holding, Josh Groban stuff just didn’t make the grade. Wolverines supporters had enough, and Hoke, who wasn’t the first option, seemed like a logical and improved fit.

If even for a moment in January of 2012, Hoke had Michigan back in action. There would be no more embarrassing and heartbreaking losses to Michigan State. Ohio State would learn to again respect That Team Up North.

Things were going to change.

Of course, the next three years all but disproved that theory, but Hoke—along with former star quarterback Denard Robinson, who is another story for another day—found ways to thrust the Wolverines back into the spotlight in one way or another.

He recruited as well as anyone in the country. According to 247Sports, his classes ranked among the best for three consecutive years: The 2014 class was ranked No. 20, 2013 was No. 4 and 2012 was No. 6. He went to great lengths to sell the Michigan brand, leading to droves of pledges from elite recruits and a happy fanbase on national signing day.

He said coaching at Michigan was his “dream job” and that he’d walk from San Diego State, his former post, just to accept the position in Ann Arbor. His work ethic and pride in the program made that clear.

Hoke needed Michigan. Taking the job was a smart, financially sound career move. But Michigan also needed Hoke, who was a defensive assistant with the team from 1995 to 2002. He knew the lay of the land better than any outsider ever could.

He understood the idea of restoring glory and genuinely wanted to make it happen; he just couldn’t execute. But that’s not because he didn’t try. Given the circumstances following the dreadful stretch from 2008 to 2010, he was probably the only coach in all of football who saw the Wolverines as more than a gigantic paycheck.

Again, his heart was always in Ann Arbor—asking him to walk was quite difficult for interim athletic director Jim Hackett, who formerly cut ties Dec. 2.

“I met with coach Hoke today [Dec. 2] and informed him of my decision to make a change in the leadership of our football program,” Hackett said, via Sports Illustrated’s Zac Ellis. “This was not an easy decision given the level of respect that I have for Brady. He has done a great job of molding these young men, making them accountable to their teammates, focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community.

I wanted to make sure that Brady received adequate time to exhibit the results that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady and our coaching staff had enough time to produce those results and unfortunately they are not there. In the end, I feel that moving in a different direction is the right decision. I wish Brady and his family all the best in the future.”

During his introductory press conference on Dec. 30, Harbaugh showered his predecessor with praise, saying the transition would be easier because of the foundation set in place by Hoke. That wasn’t merely fodder or a way to play nice on the part of the new guy. 

Harbaugh meant it.

That same day, sophomore quarterback Shane Morris said that he and other players “loved” Hoke and were sad to see him leave. But they understood why he was replaced. Jack Miller, a junior center, and Drake Johnson, a redshirt sophomore running back, echoed similar thoughts, thanking their former coach for his time and honesty. 

By hiring coordinator Greg Mattison in 2011, Hoke helped restore a powerful Wolverines defense that's ranked among the top 15 during the past two seasons. Evidently a home-run hire by Hoke, Mattison was retained as a defensive line coach by Harbaugh. 

It must have been an odd feeling for Hoke—knowing that his days were numbered. His final two seasons were especially rough, giving more reason for Michigan to part ways according to the masses.

This past September, he left Morris—who was clearly concussed—in the line of fire versus Minnesota, which ended up winning at The Big House for the first time in three decades.

Afterward, Hoke claimed that he wasn’t aware that Morris was concussed. While later addressing the topic with the media, he said that he’d never intentionally jeopardize a player’s health. But his misstep helped promote positive change, as more eyes have been placed in the sky and along the sidelines all in the attempt to prevent another Morris-like disaster. 

The year prior, he was less than transparent while Brendan Gibbons, his star kicker, was investigated for an alleged sexual assault, a case stemming back to December 2011. Due to "family" issues, Gibbons left the program prior to the 2014 Buffalo Wilds Wings Bowl. 

However, Hoke wasted little time with Frank Clark, the team's top pass-rusher who allegedly beat his girlfriend at an Ohio resort this past November. Shortly after learning of the incident, Hoke released Clark, just days before playing the Buckeyes.

If anything, his tenure encouraged a stronger focus on player conduct away from the field, an issue that impacts every school, not just Michigan. 

Hoke was far from perfect when it came to handling delicate matters, and his negligence can't be defended. But he didn't publicly collapse under pressure. He didn't unravel at press conferences or play the blame game. 

He quietly sat there, absorbing the criticism all in the name of protecting his players and his program's brand, for better or worse. 

It’s difficult to look past Hoke’s inability to deliver on the field—he was the coach, and his job was to coach winning teams. 

Fans weren’t out of their minds for expecting league championships and future contention for more. Their very much likable coach set that bar, boldly proclaiming that anything short would be a disappointment in his eyes. 

But that didn’t happen.

He couldn’t assert Michigan as a conference power and he couldn’t get the best of Ohio State and Michigan State, the clear owners of the Big Ten.

If even just barely, Hoke inched Michigan one step closer to actually scoring victories over rivals, which was never possible under Rodriguez—his teams just didn’t show up for those Saturdays.

Hoke was a Band-Aid thrown over a deep and painful gouge. Harbaugh will be the one to stitch the tear, but credit Hoke for at least prepping it for surgery.

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, post-game access or press release.

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Safety Ronnie Harrison Brings Much-Needed Athleticism to Alabama Secondary

Ronnie Harrison is a 4-star safety committed to the University of Alabama. Harrison will bring much-needed size and athleticism to the Crimson Tide secondary. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Harrison's impact at Alabama and how he will fit in with the Tide's defense. 

How will Harrison fare in Tuscaloosa? Check out the video and let us know! 

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What Impact Will DC Kevin Steele and D-Line Coach Ed Orgeron Have at LSU?

LSU is looking to rebuild on the defensive side of the ball, and according to the official LSU Football Twitter account the Tigers have hired Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator. The official LSU Football Twitter account also mentioned that Ed Orgeron was hired as the team's defensive line coach.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee explain what this means for the Tigers defense in 2015. 

How good will LSU's defense be in 2015?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Oklahoma Will Have the Best Offense in College Football in 2015

Who would have ever thought in a million years that Oklahoma would need to follow in TCU's footsteps? However, if the Horned Frogs can transform their offense from one of the worst in the Big 12 to one of the best in the country in one year, why can't the Sooners? 

Immediate results are what Oklahoma is banking on with the addition of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Riley, who comes to Oklahoma after spending five seasons as East Carolina's offensive coordinator, could determine head coach Bob Stoops' own future as a make-or-break hire. That's a fairly large responsibility for a 31-year-old. 

Riley may not have been the "splash hire" that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost would have been, but it should be a good one all the same. 

"Lincoln brings a fresh perspective to our program that I believe will help us maximize our potential offensively," Stoops said in an email release from the university. "He owns a consistent track record of implementing innovative offensive concepts during his career and has a history of developing productive offensive players. He has been mentored by a number of successful offensive coaches during his career, while developing his own unique offensive approach."

Riley brings Oklahoma back to an Air Raid attack that Stoops employed when Mike Leach, now the head coach at Washington State, was Oklahoma's offensive coordinator in 1999. Riley was a former player and assistant under Leach at Texas Tech. 

Shifting offensive philosophies shouldn't be like learning a dead language for Oklahoma, though. These are concepts that some players on the roster were familiar with before. The personnel generally fits. 

The most important position is naturally going to be the quarterback. Trevor Knight simply didn't take the leap he needed to in 2014. Furthermore, health issues remain a problem. He enters 2015 in an intriguing quarterback battle with Baker Mayfield, the Texas Tech transfer who has experience in a similar offense. 

One would think that gives Mayfield an edge to start next season. In any case, Oklahoma must get more out of its quarterbacks.

That's not a stretch, though. Riley did an excellent job at East Carolina in developing Shane Carden, a former 2-star prospect, according to 247Sports.com, who finished with more than 4,700 yards passing this year. Mayfield was a former walk-on for the Red Raiders who started in Week 1 of the 2013 season. 

Oklahoma also has a No. 1 receiver, Sterling Shepard, that's one of the best in the Big 12. Shepard announced earlier this month that he's returning for his senior season. 

Also returning is running back Samaje Perine, who led all freshmen with 1,713 rushing yards. Alex Ross and Keith Ford round out what should be the deepest running back pool in the Big 12. 

While Air Raid concepts are based on the pass—and, indeed, East Carolina finished third in passing offense—Riley is good enough to know how to get the ball in the hands of his best players. Don't expect the Sooners to abandon the run; conversely, Riley should find creative ways to get Perine the ball. 

In short, the pieces and philosophy are there for Oklahoma to rebound from a disappointing season. As for the concerns—the offensive line turnover and receiver development—they're capable of being fixed. 

The Sooners lose four seniors off of last year's line, but return center Ty Darlington. Backups who could emerge into starting roles next year have played in a combined 33 games. On the receiving front, young guys like Michiah Quick started to emerge late in the season. 

Will it take some time to transition? Sure, every new offense does. Remember that TCU didn't score more than 40 points against a team that mattered until they played Baylor in October. Will this be a season-long project for Riley? It shouldn't be. Talent hasn't been the issue, development has.  

Stoops deserves blame for going in a direction that didn't work. For the past two years, Oklahoma shifted away from a pass-heavy attack to a more running-oriented offense. One problem among many was there was never a true identity for what the Sooners wanted to do. Hiring Riley should rectify that. 

It's not like Oklahoma was abysmal on offense, either. The Sooners still finished third in the Big 12 in points per game (36.4) and fifth in total offense (464.7 yards per game). They were just frustrating to watch. 

Riley has that "missing piece" factor going for him, similar to how Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie were the missing pieces for TCU. 

If the Sooners can follow that path, the 2015 offense should be far more fun to watch. It even has the makings to be great.

 

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

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Why Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs Is a Dark-Horse Heisman Contender

Ah, the offseason. Where every team will go undefeated, every player will be the greatest player in college football history and if you don't agree, well, you're just a hater of either that team, that player or both.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones will undoubtedly be in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race, as will Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, Georgia running back Nick Chubb and several other stars.

Let's dig a little deeper, though.

After all, you didn't expect Tyrann Mathieu, Manti Te'o, Ndamukong Suh and unknown junior college transfer Cam Newton to make it to New York in the offseason prior to their breakout seasons, did you? 

If you're looking for that long shot—that dark-horse contender to become one of the stars of college football in 2015, look no further than Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

He checks off nearly all the boxes needed to become a Heisman Trophy winner.

Quarterback? Check.

Video game stats? Check.

High-profile program in a high-profile conference? Check.

Weapons all around him to help him be successful? Check.

Dobbs inherited the starting job on Rocky Top when Justin Worley's career ended with a shoulder injury, and he set the SEC East on fire. He threw nine touchdowns over the final six games of the season, rushed for 469 yards and eight touchdowns and looked like a star in the TaxSlayer Bowl, completing 76.2 percent of his passes (16-of-21), tossed a touchdown and rushed for 76 yards and two scores.

"This is the start of a foundation for something big going on in Tennessee, momentum we can carry into the off season," Dobbs said after the bowl, according to quotes released by Tennessee. "Start of something big, a lot of momentum going into next year."

I know what you're thinking. You can't build hype off of a bowl game.

Yes, you can, and you should.

For the first time in his college career, Dobbs got unquestioned first-team snaps during bowl practice, and it showed versus the Iowa Hawkeyes. He had command of the offense despite numerous injuries to star wide receivers, proved that he's a force on the ground and played behind an offensive line that looked much more competitive than the one that looked like a revolving door earlier in the season.

With four starting offensive linemen returning, and wide receivers Marquez North, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Jason Croom and Pig Howard part of a medium-sized village of wideout talent coming back, Dobbs will have experience, time and options to blossom into a star in 2015.

The question—as was the case last year with Prescott—is whether or not Tennessee can win enough to move Dobbs from "dark-horse" status into a player who can legitimately win it.

The Vols have already popped up in several "way-too-early" top-25 rankings for 2015. They're 25th according to CBSSports.com, 24th according to FoxSports.com and 23rd according to ESPN.com.

Can they jump into the top 10 early in the season?

A big out-of-conference game with Oklahoma in Week 2 will give Dobbs a chance to showcase his talents in a high-profile early-season game, and games vs. Florida in late September and Arkansas and Georgia in early October will make or break Dobbs' Heisman campaign and Tennessee's season.

Don't write off Dobbs and the Vols.

Head coach Butch Jones, the players and the staff have already laid he foundation for success and put Tennessee back into the national discussion for the first time since Lane Kiffin roamed the sidelines.

One more step forward, and Tennessee will be contending for the SEC East title. If they do that, it will be because of Dobbs.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Ohio State Building Running Back Recruiting Dynasty Comparable to Alabama

Fresh off the heels of an overpowering national championship victory, the Ohio State Buckeyes are continuing to stockpile talent at the running back position with the commitments of Michael Weber and Kareem Walker.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson is joined by 247Sports' National Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt to discuss the incoming freshmen and where they fit with the Buckeyes.

Will these two backs see significant time after they arrive in Columbus? Check out the video and let us know!  

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Austrian Robinson Tweets Top 4: Which Team Has Best Shot to Land Big DE Recruit?

Massive New York defensive end Austrian Robinson enjoyed a late rise on the 2015 recruiting trail and is working toward a decision as national signing day approaches. The 6'6", 255-pound prospect shared his top four choices Tuesday evening:

Robinson, a senior at Trinity-Pawling School, picked up several offers during recent months. Penn State extended a scholarship in late November, while Ohio State followed with an offer after the regular season. 

Despite an unofficial visit to Happy Valley and follow-up visits from the Nittany Lions coaching staff, Robinson left Penn State off his list of favorite options. 

Maryland was among the first programs to show significant interest in Robinson, who is rated 34th nationally among strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Terrapins stepped up with an offer in February, eventually securing an official visit in December.

He's identified the team as his leader on multiple occasions, including late-season comments to Jeff Ermann of 247Sports. Maryland has done a nice job addressing its defensive front, highlighted by a flip from former Penn State tackle commit Adam McLean

Underrated Texas pass-rusher Mbi Tanyi provides a presence off the perimeter, but he's more of a developmental player at this point. Robinson would give Maryland a more stalwart physical presence who possesses a level of physicality this class currently lacks. 

Ohio State provided a compelling opportunity during the final stretch of his recruitment. The Buckeyes instantly became a big contender for Robinson's commitment.

"I was really excited," he told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "I had been talking to (defensive line coach Larry) Johnson for a while, but just to hear him say that I had a scholarship was great."

The freshly crowned national champions are in the market for another defensive lineman. 

Jashon Cornell, a 4-star talent from Minnesota, starred at end in high school but is expected to slide inside during his Buckeyes career. Committed Detroit defensive end Joshua Alabi is a prospect much in the mold of Robinson, standing 6'5" and 295 pounds.

The Buckeyes missed on top defensive line targets Josh Sweat (Florida State) and Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) in recent weeks and have begun to explore other options with position slots still available in this cycle.

Ohio State is expected to host Robinson on campus Jan. 30, the final weekend of official visits. 

Miami remains in the hunt for 5-star California defensive tackle Rasheem Green, though he's expected to remain on the West Coast in college. The Hurricanes must gain a size upgrade along the defensive line and landed on Robinson's radar in August by extending a scholarship.

Al Golden and his staff are set to host him on campus for an official visit this upcoming weekend. The team enjoyed a strong start to recruiting in January, landing All-American wide receiver Lawrence Cager and local defensive back Robert Knowles.

Miami already has in-state defensive end Scott Patchan on campus as an early enrollee and holds another pair of incoming pledges at the position. Given Robinson's size, he's a candidate to transition into an interior role, where instant added depth is necessary.

Ole Miss will welcome Robinson to campus Jan. 2 between his trips to Miami and Columbus. His lone SEC favorite signed top-ranked junior college defensive tackle D.J. Jones in December but lacks commitments from top-tier high school defensive linemen. 

CeCe Jefferson, rated among the nation's top overall defensive ends, is strongly considering a career in Oxford. The Rebels could apply pressure on Robinson in an effort to land his commitment during the visit by citing a Jan. 30 visit from Kevin Scott, a late-rising California prospect with similar physical traits.

Robinson is expected to keep things open until perhaps signing day, so there's still significant time for coaches to make their final sales pitches. With three of his top four contenders preparing to spend time with him on campus, it's fair to say this race is wide open.

The allure of accepting a late offer from the national champs will weigh heavily on his mind, but Maryland is ultimately the clubhouse leader entering these final weeks.

The Terps have been in the mix since earliest phases of his recruitment, already provided a positive official visit and are an overwhelming favorite to sign Robinson in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, holding 62 percent of expert projections. The challenge for Maryland is to sustain that momentum for three more weeks.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Breaking Down Tennessee's QB Recruiting Situation for Class of 2015

The immediate fate of Tennessee's football program rests in the able hands of rising junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, but it's likely the Volunteers' future at the position arrives with the 2015 recruiting class.

UT head coach Butch Jones recruited three highly regarded signal-callers with different skill sets this year.

Jauan Jennings and Sheriron Jones, two 4-star prospects, are intriguing athletes with huge upsides. Quinten Dormady may be the most college-ready passer of the bunch.

It's uncommon to have that many quarterbacks in one class, but Jones had little choice. With Justin Worley's graduation, the transfer of Riley Ferguson and the fact that UT failed to sign a signal-caller in last year's class, the Vols had become dangerously thin at the position.

That's especially true considering the Vols have been forced to start multiple quarterbacks in 11 of the past 15 seasons dating back to 2000.

Junior backup Nathan Peterman is expected to return too, UT offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian told The Sports Animal radio station (via the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak). Given that Peterman hasn't proven dependable, all eyes will be on the freshmen.

Let's examine the trio of youngsters whose inheritance could be a roster as talented as any in the country in a couple years.

 

Jauan Jennings (6'4", 188 lbs), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, No. 6 Dual-Threat Quarterback

The biggest wild card of the group may also have the most potential.

A year ago, Jennings wasn't even classified as a quarterback, and many analysts predicted his collegiate position to be anywhere from safety to wide receiver to linebacker. Since then, the Blackman High product remodeled himself as a signal-caller.

With his reclassification as a dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, it's obvious now people are beginning to see him as a quarterback who's a very good athlete rather than an athlete who plays the position out of necessity.

Jennings finished his senior season for the 11-2 Blaze throwing for 2,155 yards and 22 touchdowns and running for 883 yards and 17 more scores, according to 247Sports' Chad Carson.

With his stellar season came enough accolades to fill a trophy case, but doubters still abound. It's that uncertainty, Jennings told Murfreesboro's Daily News Journal's Tom Kreager, that he isn't a fan of: "I absolutely hate it," Jennings said. "I look back and 247(Sports) finally put me as a dual-threat quarterback. But I also see dual threat, then I see athlete, and I see safety. Why not just dual threat?"

Later, he told Kreager: "I wish people would just give me a chance," Jennings said. "Maybe I can play quarterback."

He'll be given every opportunity in Knoxville, and the best thing for Jennings and the Vols is he's a mid-term enrollee who'll get to go through spring drills and get a head start on learning the offense.

If he can, he'll give the Vols an elite athlete who is a top competitor and has proven he has the work ethic to develop his skills as a passer. If not, he'll excel at another position or transfer to another place where he can play quarterback.

One thing's for certain after the past year: He shouldn't be doubted.

 

Sheriron Jones (6'2.5", 192 lbs), Moreno Valley, California, No. 7 Dual-Threat Quarterback

Despite UT having two mid-term freshmen quarterbacks in the fold, the former Florida commitment decided he wanted Knoxville to be his home after decommitting from the Gators following Will Muschamp's ouster.

That throws another hat in the ring to be the man behind center once Dobbs departs.

Also being from the talent-rich recruiting grounds of California where it seems they grow quarterbacks in the fertile soil, Jones has been taught the position by people who've developed plenty of throwers.

Though—like Jennings—Jones needs to get in the weight room and work on adding bulk to his frame as well as adding strength to his throws, he displays nice touch on his passes and can make most passes.

247Sports' director of scouting Barton Simmons told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that Jones gives UT a different blend of the skill sets it already had committed with Jennings and Dormady:

I think he fits well with the other quarterbacks they've got, as well, because I think he's more of the athletic type—maybe not with the upside of Jauan Jennings, but a little bit more polished as a passer. And maybe not the passing chops of Dormady, but more athletic. I think it's just another really nice option within Tennessee's quarterback class that I think allows them to have a really nice setup there.

If you're a Vols fan, you've got to like the fact that Sheriron Jones wasn't scared away by the players already in the fold. With an offer sheet that boasted Florida, Arizona, Arizona State and Ole Miss, among others, he had plenty of interest.

He's also said the right things since committing last week, seeming like a humble but confident kid.

Once Jones develops, he has the same combination of speed and throwing ability that has helped Dobbs thrive in Bajakian's system, so it'll be interesting to see how he progresses—especially considering he is the only one of the trio who hasn't enrolled mid-term.

 

Quinten Dormady (6'4", 200 lbs), Boerne, Texas, No. 13 Pro-Style Quarterback

When Dormady chose Tennessee over Alabama and others back on June 9, he was seen as the answer to UT's struggles recruiting the position in Butch Jones' early tenure.

Since then, Jennings has emerged as a viable quarterbacking option, and Sheriron Jones was added, but the coaching staff is still enamored with Dormady's ability.

"He is an accurate passer with a quick release who possesses a skill set that will help him excel in our offense," Bajakian said, according to UTSports.com. "As the son of a coach, Quinten has been around the game his entire life and exhibits all the intangibles you look for in a leader and a quarterback."

Despite Dormady's strong arm and sneaky athleticism, he missed his entire junior season with a torn labrum. The shoulder injury showed no ill effects last year, and he should be good to go this spring.

He ran a variation of UT's zone-read offense as a senior, and he enjoyed a stellar season. Instead of going to his senior prom and doing all the things most 17-year-olds like to do, Dormady instead drove 17 hours to enroll at UT.

"I just feel like as a quarterback," he told San Antonio Express-News' Ben Baby, "that swing into spring is huge to get into the offense and that kind of thing."

Rival coach Van Fuschak of Antonian High told Baby in another article that Dormady compared to two quarterbacks he faced when he was at MacArthur High School: Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and New Orleans Saints great Drew Brees.

"Fuschak said Dormady’s bigger than those players, can throw the ball like them and is deceptively quick, too," Baby wrote.

With Dobbs entrenched, the Vols should be able to bring the young guys along slowly, integrate them into the offense and see who rises to the top of the depth chart. Even so, there has to be a sense of urgency due to the lack of depth behind the starter.

The battle between Dormady and Jennings will be extremely intriguing this spring, and when Jones gets on campus, he'll add just another talented prospect to the mix. Throw in 2016 commitment Austin Kendall, and UT appears set for the future.

Now that the Vols are dripping with potential at the position, it should give them something down the road they don't currently have: viable options.

 

All recruiting information from 247Sports composite rankings, unless otherwise noted. 

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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8 College Football Teams on the Rise Heading into 2015 Season

It’s finally over. Monday night, college football’s 2014 season finished with a bang as Ohio State wrapped up a triumphant run through the College Football Playoff with an emphatic 42-20 rout of Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

For the Buckeyes, Tuesday was a day of celebration. For Oregon and the rest of the FBS, it was a day to reflect, look back briefly and then look forward. OK, let’s be honest. Many teams have been looking forward since the regular season wrapped up in early December, with 14 teams making head-coaching changes this offseason.

So we’re going to look forward, too. Tuesday morning, very, very early preseason Top 25 polls populated the Internet. We’re seven-plus months away from the opening of the 2015 regular season, but it’s never too early to highlight teams we think will make a bigger impact next fall. Here’s a look at eight teams that should be significantly improved in 2015.

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B/R CFB 250: The Overall Top 250 Players in College Football

Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football. Brian Leigh and Kynon Codrington have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country based on specific criteria, narrowed that list down to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the top 250 players.  

Other CFB 250 Positions

 

After breaking down it position by position, we've finally reached the full list of the top 250 college football players. 

Keep in mind here that a subjective call was made by the authors in cases where two or more players had the same final grade. This call was based on an abstract “Wins Above Replacement” formula: Which players most exceed a replacement-level starter at their position? 

Lastly, note that these players were graded as college athletes, not on how they project to the NFL. 

Targeted skills such as QB arm strength are important at both levels, but there is a difference between college arm strength and professional arm strength. If a quarterback slings it well enough to hit his marks in the SEC or the Big 12, it doesn't matter that he can't stretch the field against the NFC North. At least not here, it doesn't. 

This is all about his college performance. 

Note: Rankings and scores were made prior to postseason football performances. 

Begin Slideshow

Oregon vs. Ohio State: Overlooked Moments in College Football Championship 2015

These things don’t even happen in sports movies because the plot wouldn’t be believable.

Ohio State’s 42-20 national championship beatdown of the Oregon Ducks came after superstar quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season before the first game even kicked off.

It came after his backup, J.T. Barrett, who was smack in the middle of the Heisman Trophy discussion in November, was lost for the season with an injury in the second half of the Michigan game.

It came after star defensive lineman Noah Spence was suspended for the entire season and playmaker Dontre Wilson broke his foot against Michigan State in the biggest regular-season win of the year.

All it took to get through that incredible amount of adversity was a third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones who was most famous for an ill-advised tweet before this run, a monster of a running back in Ezekiel Elliott who once seemed like a lock to attend Missouri until coach Urban Meyer worked his recruiting magic and a dominant defensive line that kept Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in check. 

Meyer put it best, via SportsCenter:

While plenty of well-deserved attention will be placed upon Meyer for his third title and Elliott for his 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns, there were also some moments that may have been overlooked in the grand scheme of things that helped the Buckeyes win the title. 

Here are a few of them.

 

Missed Safety Chance

While it may be hard to remember considering Ohio State more than doubled Oregon’s point total, there was a time when the Ducks had a 7-0 lead and all the momentum in the first quarter. That momentum would have been astronomical had the Ducks taken Jones down in the end zone for a safety on Ohio State’s second drive of the game.

The Buckeyes were pinned at their own 3-yard line on that second drive, and Jones dropped back into the end zone on second down. An Oregon defender came hurtling toward him and appeared to have him in his grasp.

Instead of a safety, though, the 6’5”, 250-pound Jones shrugged the defender off and threw the ball away. 

Rather than a 9-0 Oregon lead, Ohio State kept possession and ended its 97-yard, game-tying drive with this, via ESPN College Football:

 

Holding Marcus Mariota to a Field Goal

While the Buckeyes controlled most of the game, there was a moment in the third quarter when it looked like everything was falling apart.

The Buckeyes had a 21-10 lead and were once again marching right down the field when Jalin Marshall let a perfect pass ricochet off his stomach and into the waiting hands of Danny Mattingly. Oregon took a whopping 10 seconds on the ensuing drive to find the end zone with a 70-yard touchdown strike from Mariota to Byron Marshall. 

This is what happened on Ohio State’s next drive, via ESPN College Football:

Suddenly, it was 21-17 in favor of the Buckeyes, and Oregon had the ball at Ohio State’s 23-yard line. Instead of wilting under the pressure and momentum, Ohio State’s defense stood tall and held the Ducks to a field goal. The score could have been 24-21 Oregon, but the Buckeyes held the lead at 21-20 and responded on the next drive with a critical touchdown. 

Perhaps the Buckeyes don’t finish the game on a 21-0 run if Oregon took the lead and overwhelming momentum late in the third quarter with a touchdown.

 

Cameron Johnston’s Punting

Punters are accustomed to getting overlooked on the field unless they mess up, but Ohio State’s Cameron Johnston made the most of his limited opportunities.

He only punted three times, but they went for an average of 42 yards per punt with two inside the 20-yard line. Pinning the high-octane Ducks offense back is one way to keep it in check, and that is exactly what Johnston did.

One of those punts that landed inside the 20 happened with just more than four minutes remaining in the game and helped virtually seal the victory for the Buckeyes.

Now it is time for Ohio State to look ahead to the 2015 season, where it will attempt to defend its crown.

While it is impossible to get a complete picture of the 2015 Buckeyes until the quarterback situation between Miller, Barrett and Jones is decided, Meyer’s squad will be loaded once again thanks to the returns of Elliott, Michael Thomas, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan, among others.

Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated discussed what that means for the rest of college football: “The Big Ten—and college football, by and large—needed Ohio State to be an elite program again. That happened. The only problem for the rest of the league? It has to keep playing the increasingly dangerous Buckeyes, year in and year out.” 

Buckle up, Columbus. It’s going to be an incredible ride.

 

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National Signing Day 2015: Rumors and Predictions for Top Available Recruits

With Ohio State taking home the national championship, college football fans can now look toward the future and, specifically, national signing day.

Although predicting what is going on in the mind of a teenager with almost limitless options is extremely difficult, these choices are certain to make a major impact on the sport for the next few years. Considering how many top players are still undecided, expect some seismic shifts in the recruiting rankings when the commitments roll in.

A lot can obviously change between now and Feb. 4, but here are the latest rumors concerning some of the top recruits in the nation.

 

CeCe Jefferson, DE

It has become clear the strength of the 2015 class is in the defensive line. Players like Byron Cowart, Trent Thompson, Terry Beckner and others will help shape the national landscape regardless of where they go.

Right near the top of this list is defensive end CeCe Jefferson. The Florida native is considered the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation, according to 247 Sports, and he has the athleticism necessary to be an impact player right away wherever he lands.

According to John Garcia and Yancy Porter of Scout.com, that destination appears to be Ole Miss:

Barton Simmons of 247 Sports reported Florida had been the leader for a long time, but he quoted the youngster about his change of heart at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl:

Ole Miss, I would say Ole Miss is my top school right now. Ole Miss is great man. Coach (Hugh) Freeze, what he has going is amazing. I took my official when they played Bama and it was like no other. They treated me well. The program's great. The guys are great and I just know if I go there I'll get taken care of and they'll get me prepared for the next level and I'll get a great education. And plus I know Coach Freeze is going to be there for a while, great stability.

The Rebels had the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation this season thanks in large part to former 5-star recruit Robert Nkemdiche. Jefferson can learn from the talented defensive end and play with him to help create an even more imposing defensive front.

Jefferson is still set to visit Auburn and LSU, and has already taken officials to Alabama and Cincinnati. While each of these programs represents a quality option for Jefferson, it seems like he has already seen what he wants to see in a college.

Prediction: Ole Miss

 

Aliz'e Jones, TE

The tight end spot is often an afterthought for college coaches, but Aliz'e Jones is forcing people to pay attention. The UCLA commit has the size at 6'4.5" and athleticism to be a true mismatch for defenders not only in college but possibly in the NFL.

Mike Craven of Rivals was impressed by the player's performance in practices for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl:

While this would ordinarily make Bruins fans extremely excited for the future, it seems like his commitment is not set in stone. In fact, Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports explains that Notre Dame could end up with the talented player:

Sources continue to indicate that Notre Dame is the team to beat for the nation’s top-ranked tight end Aliz'e Jones, although that one is expected to go to the end for the current UCLA commit. Jones spent a lot of time with the five Irish commitments in San Antonio, building on past experiences he’s had with those guys during two different visits to South Bend since September.

For a player considered the best at his position by 247 Sports, a flipped commitment could make a major impact for both recruiting classes. To make things more interesting, each squad has brought in a top quarterback for 2015 (Brandon Wimbush for Notre Dame and Josh Rosen to UCLA).

In the end, though, it seems most likely he stays with his decision and stars for the Bruins.

Prediction: UCLA

 

Martez Ivey, OT

Although offensive linemen don't always get the most publicity, they have a major impact on college football games. This is why everyone is trying to get Martez Ivey, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports.

At 6'5.5", Ivey has the frame to be a massive force at the next level once he puts on more strength in a collegiate weight program. He also already has the technique to be an elite blocker on both pass and run plays.

The question is which team will be able to get the game-changing player. It appeared like Florida was the front-runner, but Justin Hokanson of 247 Sports notes Auburn could be the new favorite:

One source that spent some time with Ivey at the Army Bowl thought it would be Auburn in the end, citing Ivey’s teammate in Chandler Cox, saying he believed the blue-chipper would go play with his 'brother.' At the Top Gun camp this summer in Dublin, Ohio, players that hung out with Ivey thought it would be the Tigers in the end.

Playing with Auburn commit Chandler Cox seems likely to be a big draw for Ivey, who could follow in the path of players like Greg Robinson for the run-first Tigers.

After delaying his decision, Auburn appears to have moved into the top spot for the elite player.

Prediction: Auburn

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

 

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Ohio State Winning National Title Is Worst Possible News for Jim Harbaugh

Ohio State’s playoff run has restored the luster of Big Ten football, but Urban Meyer’s third national championship victory has also amped up the pressure on Jim Harbaugh. The national storyline has shifted from Harbaugh’s glorious return to Meyer’s genius in overcoming the season-ending injuries of two quarterbacks while running the gauntlet of Alabama and Oregon to claim the national crown.

The coaching seat in Ann Arbor comes preheated, but Ohio State’s victory kicks up the temperature a few degrees and shrinks Harbaugh’s time table for turning the program around.

Prior to the game, Harbaugh said all of the right things on The Rich Eisen Show to promote conference unity:

I'm going to be rooting for Ohio State," said Harbaugh. "I'm a midwesterner. I was raised in Ohio, I went to Michigan, raised in Michigan as well. But for Big Ten football, for midwest football there's been a lot of talk about other conferences, etc , but I think it's just fabulous a team in our conference is playing in that game.

The win may be fabulous for the conference, but it could hurt Michigan on the recruiting front. Kareem Walker, a 5-star running back, who had told The Detroit Free Press that hiring “[Harbaugh] was a great move, I think he's going to be a college game-changer,” committed to Ohio State during the game.

Any glimmer of hope that his positive comments about Harbaugh might lead him to Ann Arbor dimmed with his Twitter announcement.

The loss stings after previous Michigan commitment Mike Weber flipped to Ohio State last month.

As Harbaugh and his newly minted staff head out on the recruiting trail looking to salvage this class, Ohio State’s victory will make prying any recruits away from Urban Meyer even harder.

Long term, Harbaugh will also need to contend with comparisons between his rebuilding project and Meyer’s masterful run at Ohio State.

Meyer inherited a team that staggered to a 6-7 finish in the wake of Jim Tressel’s offseason resignation. He took over a program humbled by NCAA violations that caused most of the 2010 season to be vacated and resulted in the 2012 team being ineligible for postseason play. Meyer rallied Ohio State to an undefeated campaign despite the bowl ban and was mobbed on the field as the Buckeyes defeated Michigan 26-21, finishing No. 3 in the final Associated Press season football poll.

Harbaugh takes over a team that finished 5-7 during Hoke's final season and was just the latest disappointment during a seven-season slide that began after the retirement of Lloyd Carr, whose last game, ironically, was a bowl victory over Meyer's Florida team. Michigan had its own minor dust-up with the NCAA prior to Hoke and is also dealing with a spat of recent behavioral problems. Hoke's swan song included the dismissal of defensive end Frank Clark, the alcohol-related arrest of lineman Graham Glasgow and the expulsion of kicker Brandon Graham prior to the season.

Harbaugh returns to a program that has been dominated during the last decade by its key conference rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State. Both teams are surging nationally and don’t appear to be declining any time soon.

Michigan may have pulled off the best move of the offseason by bringing Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor, but Ohio State has dominated on the field.

As the windchill dips well below zero in Ann Arbor, the pressure on Jim Harbaugh will generate plenty of heat.

He has never shied away from pressure or the spotlight, and Ohio State’s victory only increases expectations for Michigan fans who believe that all of the key ingredients are now in place for a quick resurgence.

The Big Ten is back and the clock is ticking for Jim Harbaugh—Urban Meyer has set the bar, and now it's time for Michigan to respond on the field.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PCallihan

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