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Virginia Tech Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Fall camp finally began last Friday for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the countdown to the season opener against the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes is officially on.

The start of fall camp is intoxicating for fans across the country. Whether you're a fan of the Washington State Cougars, the Florida State Seminoles or Virginia Tech, everyone begins the season with a clean slate and big expectations.

On the first day of practice for the Hokies, they received a surprise in the presence of Michael Vick. Vick watched practice and spoke to the team about embracing the opportunities that are in front of it, per Brian Woodson of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

Just to embrace the opportunity they have in front of them, don’t take it lightly. I told them everything they wanted in their life is right there ahead of them, whether it is in the NFL or graduating and moving on to other things.

They have a great opportunity to do so many things with their lives. This is the platform, they deserve it, they worked hard to get here obviously. This entire program and school will give them everything they need and provide them with everything they need as long as they put in the hard work.

Vick expects to be back on campus for the showdown with the Buckeyes on Labor Day.

As far as the current Hokies go, it was a busy first few days of camp. With 16 starters returning, there aren't many starting positions up for grabs. The biggest battle in camp could be at "Rover," where three-year starter Kyshoen Jarrett is gone. Tech expected C.J. Reavis to be its starter at the position this year, but the school dismissed him in July after an unspecified violation of the university's rules.

Currently, junior Desmond Frye, senior Donovan Riley—a cornerback—and junior Der'Woun Greene are competing to win the starting job.


Brandon Facyson Is Back

Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller formed an outstanding freshman duo at cornerback two years ago. Both received All-ACC and Freshman All-American honors, combining for 11 interceptions.

However, Facyson suffered a leg injury that slowed him early last season and eventually forced him to miss the last nine games of the year. In December, Facyson broke his leg in practice and later received a medical hardship waiver.

For the first time in a while, Facyson is a full go in practice, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster has seen the Facyson of 2013, according to Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“I saw the Brandon Facyson I saw two years ago, playing with a lot of confidence,” Foster said. “He’s not even thinking about that leg. It’s good to see.”

It is good to see. The Hokies are tinkering with Chuck Clark—who replaced Facyson in the starting lineup last season—at free safety this fall and need Facyson at full strength across from Fuller.

Facyson believes breaking his leg in December was beneficial to a full recovery.

“It gave my leg the chance to heal correctly and a chance to be 100 percent at the end of the day,” Facyson said. “So I’m thankful for it. I just kind of went with it, rolled with the punches.”

If Tech has a healthy Facyson across from Fuller in the season opener, it will allow Foster to get even more creative with his blitz packages than he did in last season's win over the Buckeyes.


Shai McKenzie Suspended for One Game

Virginia Tech has reinstated sophomore running back Shai McKenzie to the football program. However, he will miss Week 1 because of an off-field incident in the offseason, per Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com.

McKenzie's return will be a boost to the running game behind J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds.

McKenzie played in five games last fall before tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season. He was off to a strong start to his career as he ran for 106 yards on just nine carries in the season opener before rushing for a touchdown in the win over Ohio State. McKenzie finished his shortened freshman campaign with 269 rushing yards, three touchdowns and an average of just over five yards per carry.

Coleman may be entrenched as the starter, but McKenzie offers a different style than both Coleman and Edmunds. He's a patient runner with great vision.

McKenzie's return from ACL surgery is going well, and he should be ready for Week 2.


News, Notes and Attrition

Every fall, a player or two who were on the spring roster don't make it to Week 1 of the regular season. That's not just in Blacksburg; that's everywhere. Whether it's an issue over playing time, a transfer or an injury, players leave schools all the time.

Unfortunately for the Hokies, they lost Reavis in a situation that didn't pertain to football.

Another former top recruit, Holland Fisher, could also be done in Blacksburg. He hasn't been in practice yet, and his situation appears to be tenuous, at best, per Barber:

Former kicker Carson Wise is transferring, per the Roanoke Times. Wise wasn't going to beat out Joey Slye, so his departure makes sense.

Also on the roster front, Tech did get some good news with Dahman McKinnon's return to the program. The backup linebacker played in six games last fall before suffering a knee injury against Western Michigan. McKinnon briefly left the team in the spring but is back in the mix now.


Beamer Way

Longtime head coach Frank Beamer played for the Hokies and is entering his 29th season in charge of his alma mater. He put Virginia Tech on the national map and has kept it there with 22 consecutive bowl appearances.

Now the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has rewarded Beamer and his wife Cheryl for their contributions to the school by renaming Spring Road—a road that runs by Lane Stadium—Beamer Way.

Vick thought it was an honor befitting his legendary former coach:

Beamer deserves it, he deserves everything that he has embodied up to this point. This program wouldn’t be where it is at without him so it feels good to be part of something that, I won’t say was built from ground up, but being around a guy who pretty much paved the way for a lot of people. 

Coach Beamer did that for me, he did that for a lot of my brothers that I played here with, and these guys that are set to make a mark in their careers as well.

Beamer is a beloved figure not only in the eyes of his former players but also in the Blacksburg community.

Athletic director Whit Babcock was effusive in his praise of Beamer, per the team's official website:

“Coach Beamer personifies our department’s core values of integrity, service, honor and excellence, and Hokies being ‘one team, strong together’. This is our way of saying thank you."

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Ohio State Football: Inside Braxton Miller's 1st Day as a Wide Receiver

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As he stood on the practice field outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it'd be hard to argue that Braxton Miller didn't look the part.

Preparing to participate in his first official practice as a wide receiver, Miller donned a new jersey —trading in his No. 5 for a No. 1—a visored helmet and perhaps most importantly, gloves.

At 6'2" and 215 pounds, the former Buckeyes quarterback stretched with his old position group before the start of Ohio State's first practice of preseason camp on Monday but soon found himself running routes once individual drills began.

And although Miller may have looked crisper than expected while doing so, it was clear that the two-time Big Ten MVP still has some adjusting to do when it comes to playing his new part.

"He looked like it was his first time playing receiver," quarterback Cardale Jones said of his former stablemate's wideout debut.

That's probably because it was.

Learning to do anything new is going to take some time, even for an athlete as supremely gifted as Miller. Still, the assumption by some seemed to be that his transition to wide receiver would be a seamless one, based primarily on a career that's seen Miller rush for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns in his three seasons as a quarterback.

But scoring on a QB counter or read-option play doesn't require the same skill set that turning a short pass into a long one does, as Miller found out on Monday.

Only the first four of the 25 periods that made up the Buckeyes' practice were open to the media on Monday, but Miller dropped multiple passes thrown his way while running undefended routes. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer admitted afterward that Miller seemed "unsure" at times as he lined up for plays at his new position.

"The whole thing is, get the plan and then execute the plan," Meyer said. "That involves your split, your release and that's what's different for Braxton. Before, it was quarterback and the comment he made to me, 'Quarterback you gotta worry about everyone's world. At receiver you gotta worry about your world.'

"I see him a little bit unsure, but you turn around and get the play, which we gotta fight through that quickly."

That's not to say the day was a bad one for Miller—perhaps just a necessary one.

When he did haul in passes, he managed to show off the joystick-like ability that made him one of college football's most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks before a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder suffered a year ago brought an end to his days as a signal-caller.

"Fast," Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett said when asked to describe Miller's performance on Monday. "When he’s out there making moves, he broke a couple people off today.”

But as Jones mentioned, Miller still needs to work on doing the things that will put him in that position at his new spot. After all, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native's ability to make people miss has never been in question.

"Of course he's going to show speed, of course he's going to show quickness and catch the ball, but there's more than that in playing receiver," Jones said. "Understanding the depth of routes, getting in and out of breaks, and things like that."

The latest Ohio State roster lists Miller as a "QB/H-back," but Meyer insists he's now a full-time wide receiver.

In order to truly learn the position, the Buckeyes' head coach believes his former star signal-caller will need to fully entrench himself in the process with just four weeks to go until Ohio State's season opener against Virginia Tech.

And with H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson as well as wide receiver Corey Smith suspended for the Buckeyes' battle with the Hokies, the reality is that Ohio State may need Miller to do more than just look the part sooner than originally thought.

Monday offered some hope that the talented ball-carrier will be able to do just that, but it also provided a reminder—for both Miller and fans alike—of how far he still has to go.

"That position, to play it right—not just to play it, but play it right—is like any other position," Meyer said. "In fact, it might be more complicated."

The three-time national champion head coach remains hopeful Miller will get the hang of it and meet his expectation of being an "impact player." But with fall camp officially underway, the clock is now ticking.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Will the Oregon Ducks Wear These Glow-in-the-Dark Jerseys for the 2015 Season?

The Oregon Ducks might be lighting up the Pac-12 in a new, and literal, way.

The university's athletics account tweeted a preview of a poster featuring the silhouette of a player suited up in a glow-in-the-dark uniform Monday.

But could it be a tease for actual game-day uniforms?

One can only hope.

There hasn't been any official comment on the speculation—yet.

But it seems within reason, considering how fellow Nike school Ohio State announced on the same day it'd be offering these glow-in-the-dark kicks to Buckeyes fans:

[Oregon Ducks, Ohio State Buckeyes, h/t College Spun]

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Will the Oregon Ducks Wear These Glow-in-the-Dark Jerseys for the 2015 Season?

The Oregon Ducks might be lighting up the Pac-12 in a new, and literal, way. The university's athletics account tweeted a preview of a poster featuring the silhouette of a player suited up in a glow-in-the-dark uniform Monday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Sam Bruce Sets Official Visits: Who Is Most Likely to Flip 4-Star Miami Commit?

Sam Bruce committed to Miami more than a year ago, but the 4-star wide receiver is keeping the door open for other college football programs to change his mind.

He shared intentions to utilize upcoming official visits at Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State this season during a conversation with Luke Stampini of 247Sports.

Bruce, a 5'8", 180-pound senior at Sunshine State powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School, is also set to return to Coral Gables for an official visit with the Hurricanes. He pledged to Miami last July, nearly two months shy of his junior season.

Rated fifth nationally among wide receivers in 2016 composite recruiting rankings, Bruce commanded national attention early in his high school career. His list of scholarship offers also includes Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and South Carolina.

He caught 65 passes during the past two campaigns, totaling 1,099 yards and 16 touchdowns. The nephew of former NFL star Isaac Bruce is one of the most scintillating offensive weapons in Florida.

We documented his dynamic skill set during Bleacher Report's CFB Recruiting 200 Series.

His diminutive stature may scare off scouts who put major stock in measurables, but we challenge the doubters to watch this beast go to work. Bruce is a relentless competitor who plucks passes in traffic and manages to gain separation from defenders who typically hold a height advantage. He also excels at an often overlooked quality scouts should always keep a close eye on with receivers—a willingness to aggressively block defenders downfield.

Bruce is the Hurricanes' top-rated recruit in a 2016 class considered top 10 in national composite rankings. Miami remains the front-runner for now, but there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the future of a program that finished 6-7 last season.

“I’m pretty locked into Miami," he told Stampini. "Just weighing my options."

The inclusion of Ohio State is intriguing, as the Buckeyes are an outlier on his itinerary. He expects to spend time at a trio of in-state schools this fall and Auburn isn't too far of a hike within the region.

Clearly, Columbus presents quite a change of scenery.

Head coach Urban Meyer maintains significant credibility in the Southeast after leading Florida to a pair of national championships. His 2016 and 2017 recruiting hauls already include four Sunshine State products, headlined by 5-star defensive end and St. Thomas Aquinas teammate Nick Bosa.

Bruce plans to attend the Buckeyes' Oct. 17 game against Penn State, per Stampini.

While the defending champs figure to play a prominent role during the remainder of this pursuit, it's Meyer's former squad that catches our attention most. 

The new Gators regime is rebuilding an offensive attack that routinely sputtered during recent seasons. Those efforts have already focused on St. Thomas Aquinas twice. 

Florida signed 4-star running back Jordan Scarlett last February after he flipped from Miami. St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen, a junior, committed to Florida last month after visiting Florida State, Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan.

The prized passer instantly made his teammate a paramount priority and accompanied him to Gainesville in late July. He hopes high school classmates Bruce and 5-star 2017 receiver Trevon Grimes join him in a Gators uniform.

"Sam and 'Tre' are both my boys. I'm definitely going to talk to them about becoming Gators," Allen told Bleacher Report. "That's where I need to start getting guys, at my own school. They know I'll be honest with them about the process and they'll be honest with me. It would be huge to play with them both in college."

Florida is the most recent university to host Bruce and will welcome him to campus at least one more time before signing day. The date of his official visit with the Gators remains unknown.

“[Head coach Jim McElwain’s] message to me was he was hoping that when this thing is all said and done, I’ll be a Florida Gator," Bruce told Stampini. "It’s a lot of love coming from Florida."

That trend has been noted by national analysts, who've given the Gators a recent surge in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. The past five expert predictions project Bruce to sign with Florida.

The fact Bruce plans to take all five official visits proves he's open to exploring options beyond Miami. Recent developments indicate Florida is the team most likely to alter his allegiances.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Ohio State Buckeyes Motivate Players with Michigan Blocking Sled

There is no better way for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff to get their players to practice hard than to incorporate the Michigan Wolverines into drills.

Apparently, the OSU coaching staff agrees.

ESPN sent some college football analysts to Columbus on Monday. During the visit, ESPN discovered something fun at Ohio State's facilities.

A Michigan-themed blocking sled.

By the time Nov. 28 arrives, the Buckeyes are going to be eager to hit some real Wolverines players.

[College GameDay]

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Notre Dame Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Fifty minutes from Notre Dame Stadium, Touchdown Jesus and the golden dome, Notre Dame football began spring practice Friday at Culver Academies, with the beautiful lakefront beckoning in the distance and horses neighing beyond the practice fields.

The Irish have completed four days of practices in Culver, Indiana, and the squad is beginning to take shape for the fast-approaching 2015 season.

Let’s take stock of the Irish through the first few days.


Malik Zaire

Notre Dame’s ever-confident redshirt sophomore quarterback, Malik Zaire, stepped into the starring role when the Irish opened camp Friday morning. But while Zaire’s new, defined role is a hot topic for the Irish, Zaire and head coach Brian Kelly stayed even-keeled when discussing the signal-caller.

“He’s got real good management skills. He communicates effectively,” Kelly said after Friday’s opening practice. “You could see for a first day there’s not a lot of sloppiness from an offensive standpoint in terms of false starts and things of that nature. He’s got a good command, good presence. I think it’s probably what I thought it would be on the first day with him.”

Zaire, for his part, turned most questions about his individual performance and goals into team-wide answers.

“I think in parts we had a lot of good flow and we saw the potential of the team today,” Zaire said Friday.

“We know our expectations heading into the season,” he added. “The expectations we give ourselves is more important than the expectations that are given through outside sources.”

“Being a Notre Dame quarterback, there’s never a clear-cut anything,” said Zaire, when asked about his newfound position as the stated starter. “Coach Kelly does a great job of keeping it competitive and keeping us on our toes, knowing that anything can change at any moment.”

Company lines from an exuberant personality.

While it’s tough to glean much substance, physically, from a pad-less first practice, Zaire’s leadership ability is coming into focus. On Thursday, Kelly praised Zaire’s “natural innate ability” to step in front of a group and lead, adding the first-year starter needs clarity in his messages.

“I wake up with a lot of energy. I just love being out here,” Zaire said. “I love being at practice. I love being around these guys and doing the things necessary. Coach Kelly will tell me if I’m doing a little too much energy and I need to calm it down a little bit. … If I keep my intensity level up, I think we’re going to have better practices day in and day out.”


KeiVarae Russell

Nearly one year after his 2014 season spiraled away before it began, Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell donned the Notre Dame uniform once again.

In Russell, Notre Dame returns a starting cornerback, one with the potential to quickly ascend to the nation’s best.

“He’s obviously a talented player,” Kelly said after Friday’s practice. “You could see that one-on-one. His transition in and out of the transition, you could see why he’s one of the better players at his position in the country.”

Russell, who’s actually three pounds lighter than he was last season, said he’s now stronger and faster, jumps higher and boasts less body fat, fully aware and fully confident in his offseason work.

“Go to IG—Instagram,” the loquacious Russell quipped. “Y’all see what my trainer had me doing. It was second to none. I had some great trainers back home. I was really focused. Everything we did, every single day, was just attention to detail.”

The two-year starter admitted he hesitated at times during Friday’s practice.

“I don’t like saying it’s rust,” Russell said. “It’s more about trust with my abilities. … I gotta get to that point where I just go play fast.”


Joe Schmidt

Toward the beginning of Friday’s practice, after the Irish completed their scheduled calisthenics, Notre Dame lined up on one half of the practice field and prepared for push ups and jumping jacks. Center Zack Martin and linebacker Joe Schmidt led the rest of the team.

For Schmidt, Notre Dame’s defensive leader in 2014 as the middle linebacker and the entire team’s MVP, the role seems natural. Of course, Schmidt is completing his return, too, from a November ankle injury that wiped away the end of his breakout season.

Now Schmidt is back, and Notre Dame claims a loaded linebacking corps. But the fifth-year senior stands out.

“He’s our best leader,” Kelly said. “His recall, I’ve never seen anybody that has the immediate recall that he has for what we do. He’s extremely important.”

Schmidt lined up at middle linebacker between juniors Jaylon Smith and James Onwualu during Friday’s drills, all of which were open to the media.



In addition to Russell and Schmidt, Kelly has lauded a deep stable of capable leaders in the early days of camp.

“I love the emergence of the leadership on this team,” Kelly said simply on the eve of camp.

He’s also praised fifth-year defensive back Matthias Farley, senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day, fifth-year linebacker Jarrett Grace and junior safety Max Redfield as strong forces on the defensive side of the ball.

“Now you’ve got something totally different than what we had last year,” Kelly said, referring to the depleted defense headlined by underclassmen down the stretch in 2014.

Such leadership could be vital to Notre Dame in 2015, as the Irish try to wrap all their talented pieces into a playoff contender.

“We think we’ve got the parts,” Kelly said. “But the parts have to be running together. So the emphasis is really about, we know we’ve got the individuals. It’s about coming together. And emphasizing that has really been the focal point since January workouts. This is just an extension of that.”


Quick Hits

In Friday’s practice, redshirt freshman Quenton Nelson took the vast bulk of the snaps as the first-team left guard, while fellow redshirt freshman Alex Bars worked with the second unit.

Kelly said Friday he was impressed with his wide receivers, mentioning true freshmen Miles Boykin, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton. Third-year wideout Torii Hunter Jr. provided the top highlight on the first day of camp, soaring over Redfield for a graceful grab.

Kelly said it’s difficult to gauge Justin Brent’s early work at running back without pads and tackling. The second-year player is auditioning after spending his rookie campaign at wide receiver.

True freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush logged reps behind Zaire and redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer.

“He’s got a strong arm,” Kelly said of the highly-touted Wimbush. “He tries to overpower a lot of the stuff. I think some of the things that jump out. He’s using some footwork that doesn’t sync up to some of the things that we’re doing. So we’ll work on some of those things. But he’s so bright, wide eyed, extremely coachable. And that’s the great thing about it.”

Senior defensive tackle Jarron Jones (coming back from a foot injury) looked good and moved well, per Kelly, during Friday’s practice.


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Rashard Lawrence Tweets Top 5: Odds on Where the 5-Star DT Commits

Is the battle for Monroe, Louisiana, 5-star defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence as cut-and-dry as some may assume?

That was one of the questions that arose on Saturday evening when Lawrence, the nation's No. 15 overall player and No. 5 defensive tackle, tweeted his top five schools to the masses. LSU, a school many consider a heavy lean, made the cut.

All 24 of the predictions for Lawrence's 247Sports Crystal Ball point to LSU, but Lawrence tweeted that Ohio State, Alabama, Washington and UCLA also made his top five. Look for these other four programs to make a legitimate run for Louisiana's top-ranked player.

Here are some early odds for Lawrence's top five.


LSU (2-1)

The Tigers make it a priority to keep all of the top Louisiana prospects in state. Lawrence is a high priority for coach Les Miles and his staff.

LSU has five defensive linemen committed in the 2016 class, but only two—5-star Edwin Alexander and 4-star Glen Logan—are expected to play tackle. The idea of Lawrence teaming up with Alexander and Logan in the trenches is a scary combination with outstanding potential.

At 6'3" and 305 pounds, Lawrence is being recruited to LSU by defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto. It's no secret that Lawrence is a big fan of the home-state program, one that has a good reputation of producing defensive talent.


Alabama (3-1)

If LSU doesn't sign Lawrence, look for Alabama to be a leader in the race. Lawrence has said on several occasions that Alabama is a place where he can see himself playing.

Lawrence teaming with 4-star defensive tackles Kendell Jones Jr. and Raekwon Davis would give the Crimson Tide a menacing front line. Defensive line coach Bo Davis and wide receivers coach Billy Napier are hoping to score the coveted Neville High School prospect.

Alabama started slow out of the gates with its 2016 recruiting class. If they can get Lawrence, look for the Crimson Tide to compete for the top spot in the team rankings.


Ohio State (4-1)

Championships garner attention, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Buckeyes ultimately landed Lawrence. Ohio State is fresh off a national title, and recruiting for the 2016 class is going very well for Urban Meyer and his staff.

Ohio State hopes to beef up the class' interior line, as it only has 4-star defensive tackle Malik Barrow currently committed. Lawrence would be a great complement to 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa and 4-star end Jonathan Cooper.

You can bet that Lawrence will keep a close eye on Ohio State and what the team does this season. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is his recruiting contact.


UCLA (5-1)

UCLA's class is shaping up well. Four of the Bruins' 15 commitments will play on the defensive line, and three of those four are defensive ends—which means plenty of opportunity for playing time early at the tackle position.

Lawrence is considered one of the best defensive players with a mean streak. Having him partner with no-nonsense, 5-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku could mean scary times for Pac-12 opponents.

Lawrence would also be a nice complement to 3-star tackle Osa Odighizuwa.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Angus McClure and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm are working hard to get Lawrence to call UCLA home. It would be considered a big upset for the Bruins, but it is possible.


Washington (5-1)

There's something about the Pac-12 that Lawrence likes, as two of the five schools in his top five are in the conference. Washington may be the dark horse of Lawrence's recruiting, but that doesn't mean the Huskies aren't a legitimate contender.

Washington has 11 commitments, and it is still looking for its first defensive tackle pledge for the 2016 class. If he were to commit, Lawrence would be the first 5-star pledge for the Huskies in more than a decade.

Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, defensive line coach Jeff Choate and recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonapha are looking to make history with the 5-star talent.


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

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3 Schools to Watch After Shyheim Carter Decommitted from Alabama

Alabama’s 2016 recruiting class suffered a major blow when 4-star corner Shyheim Carter announced his decommitment from the Tide, according to Hank South of BamaOnline

The 6’0”, 190-pound Louisiana native had been committed to Nick Saban and his staff for nearly 13 months.

The nation’s No. 5 corner is sure to have plenty of suitors coming after him now that he’s back on the open market.

However, it appears that a few of the Tide’s SEC rivals are trending with one of the Pelican State’s top skill players.

Which schools are ones to watch in Carter’s recruitment moving forward?

Let’s take a look at some of his primary suitors.



Carter was one of several high-profile recruits on hand for Georgia’s ‘Dawg Night’ camp last month. 

The visit left an impression on the nation’s No. 51 overall prospect in the 2016 class, as noted by Kipp Adams of Dawgs247.

"I plan on being an early enrollee, so I will make my decision really soon," Carter told Adams. "Sooner than what people think. Georgia has a high chance to get me."

Additionally, as noted by Demetric Warren of Varsity Preps, the Bulldogs added a recent pledge from 2017 4-star athlete Devonta Smith—who is good friends with Carter and hails from nearby Amite, Louisiana.

Smith told Adams that the presence of Georgia Director of Player Personnel Sam Petitto—who spent time as a prep coach in Carter’s hometown of Kentwood before leaving for Athens—is something that helps the Bulldogs’ chances with Carter.

"With Petitto being at Georgia, that brings Shyheim Carter and I closer knowing he is there," Smith told Adams. "I am pretty sure that has us both seriously considering Georgia."

Now that Carter has decommitted, the Bulldogs are among the handful of schools that have to be considered a legitimate landing spot for him.



Before Carter originally pledged to Alabama, in-state power LSU was a school that figured to make a strong push to keep one of its top homegrown products from escaping the state’s borders. 

Add in the fact that LSU has a lengthy history of producing elite corners, and it makes sense for Carter to consider staying close to home to play his college football.

LSU already has an outstanding class of defensive backs committed—with 5-star corner Saivion Smith and 4-star corner Andraez Williams leading the way.

In addition to Carter, the Tigers are also heavily involved with a pair of 4-star standout corners in Kristian Fulton and Trayvon Mullen.

Despite his early verbal to the Tide, the Tigers never stopped recruiting Carter. In fact, as Sonny Shipp of Geaux247 notes, Les Miles and his staff turned up the heat in their pursuit of Carter.

“They were really just telling me that LSU was the place for me and I didn’t need to go out-of-state,” Carter told Shipp. “It’s something they have been stressing since they started recruiting me harder than what they were." 

With the Tigers running out of room in their 2016 class, the picture at corner could become a matter of first come, first serve with respect to Carter, Fulton and Mullen.


Ole Miss

The most recent school to get Carter in for a visit is Ole Miss—who hosted him this weekend for a multi-day visit.

Carter also made his way to Oxford in June for a Rebels summer-camp session and back in April for the club’s spring game.

He was accompanied on that visit by current Rebels 5-star quarterback pledge Shea Patterson, who hinted at Carter’s pledge being on shaky ground, according to David Johnson of Rebels247.

“Shyheim’s committed to Alabama right now, but I think that’s going to change soon,” Patterson told Johnson following that trip.

The Rebels would love to replenish their corner unit, especially considering that four of the team’s top five corners will be juniors this fall, as noted by Ourlads.

Hugh Freeze would love to pair Carter with current 4-star corner pledge Jaylon Jones.

While new schools may try to enter the picture, considering that the trio of schools listed above were the only schools other than Alabama to host him on campus in recent months, Carter figures to land on the campus of one these SEC powers in the end.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Power Ranking College Football Conferences by 2015 QB Depth

As Ohio State showed us last year, there are few things more valuable than having depth at the quarterback position in college football. By the time they were hoisting up the national championship trophy, the Buckeyes were on what was essentially their third-string passer, yet the quality of Cardale Jones' play was at (or above) the level of most teams' starters.

Few schools in the country are so fortunate as to have three QBs who could start, let alone two. In many cases, if the starter goes down, there's a whole lot of uncertainty waiting in the wings.

The range of quarterback depth varies from school to school, as it does from conference to conference. Some leagues not only bring back a lot of starters from 2014 but also have some talented backups available in a pinch, while others are heading into this season pretty thin across the board.

Here's our ranking of all 10 FBS conferences based on overall QB depth, factoring in their overall experience, performance and quality of potential backups.

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Mecole Hardman Jr. Reveals Top 10: Odds on Where No. 1 ATH Lands

The country's top-ranked high school football athlete provided a glimpse into his recruitment process Monday morning.

Mecole Hardman Jr., a 5-star prospect from Georgia, announced his top 10 collegiate options via Bleacher Report:

The 5'10", 175-pound speedster could play either wide receiver or defensive back at the next level. Where he'll eventually suit up remains a mystery, with programs from every Power Five conference remaining in the mix. 

Hardman has narrowed his choices from a scholarship offer list that features more than 30 universities. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Stanford and Tennessee made the cut.

Rated 27th overall among 2016 recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is among the most coveted uncommitted commodities in the cycle.

Hardman dazzled this summer at The Opening, an elite invite-only showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. He finished the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds, securing one of the event's fastest times.

His junior season included 1,353 total offensive yards and 13 touchdowns, headlined by five games with at least 100 rushing yards.

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani discussed Hardman's skills during the B/R CFB Recruiting 200 series.

Whether it's at corner or receiver, one word describes the game of 4-star Georgia athlete Mecole Hardman—explosive. ...

His speed jumps out immediately, but what makes him special is his competitiveness. He fought for reps and made them count when he got them. As good as he is on defense, he's simply too electric to not have the ball in his hands at the next level.

Now that Hardman has whittled down a lengthy list of potential landing spots, let's take a look at which programs are most likely to land his commitment.


Georgia: 2-1

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is the leading man in this pursuit for Hardman, an in-state standout. The relationship between these two has been so steady that rumors of a "silent" commitment surfaced this summer.

The Bulldogs welcomed him to Athens several times in recent months, and there isn't much more Hardman should need to see at the university. In fact, he already expressed plans to leave Georgia off his official visit schedule due to established familiarity.

The program leads in Hardman's Crystal Ball outlook on 247Sports, as 76 percent of expert predictions have the school signing the playmaker. It seems the Bulldogs already won over his mother.

"I'm a Mark Richt fan because of his values," Danyell Hardman told Chris Kirschner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think Mark Richt would make him into more than just another football player. With him, I think it's more than just football. He will make him into a man."

That's a strong sentiment from arguably the most influential figure in this decision-making process.


Tennessee: 3-1

Like Georgia, the Volunteers won't receive an official visit due to his frequency of past trips to Knoxville. If any team lures him beyond state borders, smart money is on Tennessee.

Head coach Butch Jones identified Hardman as a primary target very early in the cycle and put his program in position to remain a top contender throughout. Earlier this summer, Hardman wore both Bulldogs and Volunteers gear to a showcase event in Florida.

Tennessee signed top Peach State wide receiver prospect Preston Williams last February and may return to claim another game-changer. 

"I always have a good time at Tennessee, and going up there is like going home," Hardman told Fox Sports.

The Volunteers are viewed as a team on the rise in SEC action, and talented players like him are the kind of roster additions who could push the program back to national prominence.


Auburn: 4-1

At this stage, Hardman appears destined to end up in the SEC. Auburn rounds out our list of those programs we perceive as his strongest suitors.

The Tigers tempted two-way Georgia 5-star Terry Godwin down to the wire last cycle until he signed with the Bulldogs. History could repeat itself with Hardman, complete with a last-second decision on signing day.

Auburn views him as a compelling offensive threat who would add yet another intriguing wrinkle to an impressive attack. He also shouldn't be ruled out to contribute at cornerback for new secondary coach Travaris Robinson.

"Coach (Gus) Malzahn wanted me down there bad, and he wanted me to visit, and he was just telling me all the things we could do in the offense," Hardman told Fox Sports. "He was telling me a little more about them so I could feel comfortable with them. I had to get down there, and I did, and I really liked it." 

His campus visit early this summer set the tone for a competitive race in this recruitment.

"They made up a lot of ground. ... It's a nice little battle between all three of them [Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee], so we're just going to see going forward who stands out the most," he told Wesley Sinor of AL.com.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Oregon Football: How Loss of Thomas Tyner Impacts Ducks' Playoff Chances

There are injuries, which are a natural part of football, and then there are injuries. The season-ending shoulder surgery to Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, as reported by Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com, is an injury—emphasis definitely added. 

As Fentress noted, Tyner originally sustained the shoulder injury last season against Washington. "Lingering pain and discomfort" led to the procedure, and per Tyner's father, the junior is expected to recover fully in time for the 2016 season. 

In the meantime, the Ducks lose a productive player who was the team's third-leading rusher in 2014—and second among running backs—with 573 yards and five touchdowns. While Tyner has rarely been the feature back in his two seasons with the Ducks, his loss is nevertheless a tough blow to the offense. 

However, Tyner's absence is both a big deal and capable of being overcome. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. As such, Oregon's hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff may not be in jeopardy solely because of Tyner's injury. 

For one, Royce Freeman, the Pac-12's Freshman Offensive Player of the Year as determined by the coaches, returns. Freeman became one of the most explosive backs anywhere in college football last season by rushing for five touchdowns in the first three games. He would go on to tally 1,365 yards on the ground with 18 touchdowns. 

There's no question Freeman remains a huge part of the Ducks offense in 2015; rather, Tyner's injury is more about who complements and spells Freeman. After all, Tyner stepped in when needed during last season's Rose Bowl against Florida State, leading the team with 124 yards on just 13 carries with a pair of touchdowns. 

The early belief is that senior Byron Marshall will return to his original spot in the backfield. Marshall, a running back in 2012 and '13, moved to receiver last season to offset the season-ending loss of Devon Allen. All Marshall did was lead the team in catches (74) and yards (1,003) and finish second with six touchdowns. 

Once again, Marshall could very well be asked to move positions because of injury. The silver lining? Oregon would have its leading rusher from each of the past two seasons in the backfield. Marshall is a veteran and Freeman is quickly becoming a team leader. 

"We've tried to create situations and opportunities for him to be a leader," Ducks coach Mark Helfrich told Andrew Greif of the Oregonian. "He has a ton of credibility."

Talk about a safety net.  

And assuming Allen is 100 percent healthy again, Oregon's receiving corps is deep enough to absorb Marshall's move back over to running back (at least part time).

Additionally, running back Taj Griffin, who sustained a knee injury in high school, is ready to go for preseason camp.

The wild card for Oregon's playoff chances still remains at quarterback with the upcoming competition between longtime backup Jeff Lockie and Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr. As it relates to the running back depth chart, there are pros and cons to both options. 

Certainly, the running backs won't be asked to take over a game because Oregon doesn't have a legitimate option at quarterback. Lockie knows the offense backwards and forwards. If the Ducks win, it won't be in spite of him. 

On the other hand, even though he's new, Adams gives Oregon another player who can make plays with his feet. Adams' ability to extend and create plays can't be practiced against. That type of ability actually takes some pressure off of the running backs. 

However things shake out for Oregon, the important thing is the Ducks have options. Not everyone else who loses a key player does. There's no minimizing Tyner's loss; he was as dynamic as any player on that offense. And the schedule, which features Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford and USC, is still daunting. That doesn't change, with or without Tyner. 

But Oregon can overcome this. Its playoff hopes heading into the '15 season are very much alive. 


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

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Oregon Football: How Loss of Thomas Tyner Impacts Ducks' Playoff Chances

There are injuries, which are a natural part of football, and then there are injuries . The season-ending shoulder surgery to Oregon running back Thomas Tyner , as reported by Aaron Fentress of CSNNW ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Devonta Smith Commits to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 2017 4-Star ATH

As Georgia builds what already looks like an impressive 2016 recruiting class, the Bulldogs staff is already preparing for even further in the future by landing a commitment from a talented 4-star athlete from Louisiana.

According to Kipp Adams of 247Sports, Devonta Smith has committed to Georgia, becoming the program's third pledge in the 2017 class. Smith is a 6'1", 155-pound athlete from Amite, Louisiana, and is the No. 17-ranked athlete in his class.

Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon were Smith's primary recruiters.

"I love Georgia, they have family environment," Smith told Adams. "I have a bond with the coaching staff, and I really like the academics."

Demetric Warren of Varsity Preps in Mississippi first reported the news:

Even though he hails from LSU country, Smith has strong ties to Georgia. According to Adams, Georgia director of player personnel Sam Petitto was a successful head coach at Amite High School, where Smith plays.

"It had been a awhile since I had seen Sam Petitto," Smith told Adams in July. "So we were able to talk about how things were when he was down here, and he really made me feel like nothing has changed—I can still go and talk to him about anything. I have some family in Georgia, but having Sam there really helps Georgia."

Smith picked up a scholarship offer during his visit to Athens for the Dawg Night camp in July. Less than three weeks later, he is the newest member of Georgia's 2017 class.

The athlete also has offers from Alabama, Baylor, LSU and Ole Miss.

Smith is projected to play wide receiver—a position he starred at during Dawg Night—for Georgia. His time in the 40-yard dash is listed on his 247Sports profile as a blazing 4.39 seconds.

The commitment from Smith could put Georgia in great position for a talented prospect in the 2016 class. Smith is close to 4-star Louisiana cornerback Shyheim Carter, who announced his decommitment from Alabama earlier on Monday. 

Georgia is now the leader for Carter's commitment on his 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions page; 10 different recruiting experts picked the Bulldogs on Monday.

"With Petitto being at Georgia, that brings Shyheim Carter and I closer knowing he is there," Smith told Adams. "I am pretty sure that has us both seriously considering Georgia."


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Auburn Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

AUBURN, Ala. — The Auburn Tigers are now seven days, five practices, one scrimmage and one Fan Day through an extremely important fall camp ahead of the 2015 season.

Head coach Gus Malzahn's team made its long-awaited return to the blazing heat of the practice field on the Plains last Tuesday and wrapped up its first week Monday morning with a scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers welcomed several newcomers to the practice fold this past week, while returning playmakers looked to provide leadership as the season opener with Louisville approaches.

Auburn also had to deal with some early absences and injuries—including a huge one that has commanded national attention in the early days of fall camps.

Let's recap the highlights of Auburn's first week of fall camp:

Where's Duke, and what's next?

Wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams, the top returning offensive star at Auburn this season, hasn't been on the practice field since last Thursday.

The story dominated the Plains over the weekend, and there's no telling when it will end. Malzahn said Saturday that Williams was out with a "discipline issue" and didn't field any questions on the situation.

"When he takes care of that, he'll be back on the field," Malzahn said. "I'll make that decision, and I will let you know when he'll be back. The bottom line is that nobody is bigger than the team around here. That's between me and him, and that's all of the questions that I'll take on that."

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee didn't tackle questions on the Tigers' top receiver, either, when he took the podium after Friday's practice. 

"I’m going to talk about the guys who were out there working hard today," Lashlee said, according to Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News

Williams' absence from practice is a small concern that could grow throughout the month of August.

Without him, Auburn will be missing 79 percent of its receiving yards and all but five of its 23 touchdowns in that category from last season.

The Tigers do have options, though, if Williams continues to stay away from practice.

Ricardo Louis has several years of experience for the Tigers and looks to be the best bet to replace the blazing vertical threat of Sammie Coates. The veteran Melvin Ray has also received high praise from his coaches so far in camp.

"Melvin Ray has done a solid job," Malzahn said Saturday. "[Ray and Louis] are two players—along with Jonathan Wallace—we're relying on those guys for leadership."

Following his move from the quarterback battle to the wide receiver room in the spring, athletic JUCO transfer Jason Smith is also impressing through the first few days of camp.

Smith, who starred with quarterback Jeremy Johnson in an Alabama-Mississippi high school All-Star Game back in 2012, has caught the eye of Lashlee.

"You can just tell he's in a good place, and he's been one of those guys in the first four days that's been really impressive," Lashlee said Friday, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "I mean, if you were to ask me some guys that stand out, he's really stood out. And again, him and Jeremy, they seem to have a pretty good connection so we're optimistic and excited about what he can do this year."


Running backs are still racing

For the second straight year, Auburn will head into the season needing to replace the production of a running back who led the SEC in rushing last season.

According to Malzahn, 2015's rotation of rushers still hasn't been sorted out yet, and playing time is still up in the air for the quartet of candidates.

"The good thing is we've got options and we've got guys we feel good about," Malzahn said last Thursday, per Matthew Stevens of the Montgomery Advertiser. "You can never have enough running back depth. We've been fortunate the last two years with very little injuries as far as the running backs are concerned. You can't have enough."

Junior Jovon Robinson, who broke the single-season rushing record for JUCO football during his first season at Georgia Military College, fits the Cameron Artis-Payne mold of bruising running back. Lashlee said he could fit the third-and-short role that Artis-Payne and Tre Mason excelled at during their times under Malzahn.

"[Robinson] didn't have a real showy spring game but those two third-and-shorts were big because that can keep you from winning games and staying on the field," Lashlee said, per James Crepea of AL.com.

For more of a big-play burst out of the backfield, Thomas could become the top back after working on his ball security and north-south running in the offseason.

One of the biggest critiques of Thomas is that he spins and jukes too much. Thomas also had two costly fumbles during his true freshman season, and he didn't see the field much after his mistake in the Iron Bowl.

"I feel a lot different. I also feel a lot more confident out there [this fall]," Thomas said, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "Last year I felt pretty uptight. Now, it's pretty much fun every practice, and I think it will be pretty much fun in the games also."

Third-year sophomore Peyton Barber is once again a true wild card in the running back race. Barber has only recorded 10 carries in his Auburn career and is in another uphill battle against the blue-chip talents of Robinson, Thomas and true freshman Kerryon Johnson.

Barber brings a balanced skill set to the table for the Tigers and something that none of the other players on the depth chart has—multiple years of experience in Malzahn's offense. He could use that to turn heads this fall.

"I feel like I can do it all," Barber said, per Crepea. "I feel like I'm an every-down back. I can catch, run. Anything you need me to do, I can do."


"10 times more physical"

The players who have taken the podium after Auburn's first week of practices are all repeating one specific word—and it isn't "Duke" or "Muschamp" or "Jeremy."

It's "physical."

"[Practice] is 10 times more physical, and I like it," sophomore linebacker Tre' Williams said Saturday. "You have to be physical in this league. Last year, we kind of lacked at that. This year, we are going to be much stronger."

Malzahn started preaching the need for more physicality from the Tigers immediately after last year's 8-5 campaign. "Getting our edge back" has been one of the head coach's most common phrases of 2015.

Bringing in defensive coordinator Will Muschamp seemed to set those wheels in motion during spring camp, and that work has continued into fall practices.

"I feel like as a defense we're getting a lot more physical in everything we do, whether it be taking on blocks, tackling physical, getting the ball out every chance we get," senior linebacker Kris Frost said. "Everything we do is a mindset. We're trying to build a culture here."

Auburn practiced in full pads for the first time Saturday, with most of the players on the team "thudding"—hitting without bringing opponents to the ground.

But according to Williams, the newcomers on Auburn's squad got the full brunt this weekend as they went full contact in their scrimmage.

The physical nature of the defense carried over into Monday morning's scrimmage as the unit completely shut down Malzahn's prolific offense:

"It’s about toughness," Frost said. "It’s about pushing through the nicks and bruises and doing everything we can to have that tough mindset that is expected of us at Auburn."


Quick hits

- Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was available for the start of fall practice just six days after undergoing cancer surgery. According to Marcello, Malzahn called him "the toughest coach in college football."

- Sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson is back to 100 percent after missing all of last season—and he's ready to start hitting people again.

- Projected starting center Austin Golson missed Saturday's practice and Monday's scrimmage with an injury, but Malzahn expects him to return soon.

- The return specialist battles look to be wide-open at Auburn. In Saturday's practice, Smith, Marcus Davis and Blake Countess highlighted the punt return portion, while Johnson, Louis, Johnathan "Rudy" Ford, Myron Burton and Stanton Truitt all fielded kickoffs.


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

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Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett? Complete Guide to Ohio State's Historic QB Battle

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio State's freshmen took the field for the first official practice of their college careers on Monday, a familiar face stood off to the side for the newcomers-only gathering.

Maybe he was finishing up some extra work, or perhaps he just wanted to get a glance at his newest teammates, but regardless of his reasoning, it would have been hard to imagine Cardale Jones attending a non-mandatory practice—especially one with an 8:35 a.m. start time—a year ago.

Yet there Jones was, wearing a white LeBron James Nike "Witness" T-shirt with Beats by Dre headphones draped around his neck. He certainly looked much more like a leader than the career backup that he was until the Buckeyes' historic postseason run seven months ago.

Some may want to read into Jones' Monday morning practice appearance, and others will shrug it off as a mere coincidence, a moment that wouldn't have been noticed if the reigning national champions weren't currently being viewed under a microscope. But searching for meaning will become a regular habit in Columbus in the coming weeks when it comes to both Jones and J.T. Barrett, as the two signal-callers vie to regain their status as Ohio State's starting quarterback.

That will certainly be the case as the Buckeyes take the field for their veterans-only practice on Monday afternoon, as an unprecedented quarterback competition more than a year in the making officially begins.

But before we take a look at where the Ohio State quarterback battle stands, let's first examine how we got here.


The Difference a Year Makes

When Braxton Miller announced his intention to return to Ohio State for his senior season in early 2014, a quarterback competition always appeared to be on the books for the following year. In fact, looking at the Buckeyes' depth chart at the time, Jones and Barrett made for the most likely candidates given the experience each would have obtained by the time the 2015 season rolled around.

But when Miller tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, ending his senior season before it ever started, all of the Buckeyes' plans for the future—both short-term and long-term—appeared to be thrown up in the air.

Originally it appeared either Barrett or Jones would serve as a season-long Band-Aid before Miller would return for a fifth year of eligibility in 2015. And even after Barrett lit up Cincinnati for 409 yards of total offense and four passing touchdowns on Sept. 27, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer indicated Miller was still in line to reclaim his starting spot.

"Braxton is our quarterback," Meyer said on Sept. 29. "To be fair to Braxton, [the reigning two-time] Big Ten Player of the Year. But it's good to know we've got both of them."

Meyer's tune, however, would soon change.


The Rise of J.T. Barrett

After overcoming a loss to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season, Ohio State had managed to reinsert itself in the discussion for the first-ever College Football Playoff by the time November rolled around.

And Barrett was arguably the biggest reason why.

As the Buckeyes headed into East Lansing for a de facto Big Ten East Championship Game against Michigan State, the redshirt freshman quarterback was already on pace for a statistically historic season. Continuing at the clip he had set for himself, Barrett would go on to break Ohio State's single-season total offense record and the Big Ten's total touchdown record and had even become an unlikely Heisman Trophy candidate.

But while many of Barrett's impressive performances had come against unimpressive competition, his showing against the Spartans only legitimized his breakout campaign.

Totaling 386 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, Barrett led the Buckeyes to a 49-37 road victory that would catapult Ohio State to sixth-place in the CFP rankings. He also made Meyer rethink his stance on handing the Buckeyes' starting QB job back to Miller the following season.

"Competition brings out the best and I'm really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year," Meyer said two days after Ohio State's win over Michigan State. "That's the plan. I think they're both excellent quarterbacks. Excellent quarterbacks. And we'll worry about that day when it comes."

Over the course of the next three weeks, Barrett would only strengthen his case to be the Buckeyes' quarterback of the future as he led Ohio State to an 11-1 record heading into the Big Ten title game. But a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan would bring Barrett's debut season to a premature end, leaving both his team's and his own future in doubt.


An Unlikely Hero

Had Miller gone down just a few days earlier, Ohio State's outlook for the 2014 season may have been very different. After all, it was just 48 hours before he suffered his torn labrum that Meyer announced Barrett had jumped Jones as Miller's primary backup on the quarterback depth chart.

Had it been Jones, and not Barrett, who had been thrust into Miller's place, who knows how the Buckeyes' national championship season would have played out? Nevertheless, Jones would still get his chance, as Meyer was, quite frankly, out of options.

Known more for his ill-advised tweets than he was for anything else at the time, Jones headed to Indianapolis as somewhat of an enigma with a potential trip to the College Football Playoff riding on the Buckeyes' battle with a defensively stout Wisconsin team. At 6'5", 250 pounds, the stories of Jones' cannon for an arm had become the stuff of legends but had never been displayed in an actual game.

It didn't take long for that to change.

Throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass on his first drive as a starting quarterback, Jones would earn Big Ten title game MVP honors as he threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 59-0 beatdown of the Badgers. The game was enough to convince the College Football Playoff committee that Ohio State was deserving of its fourth and final spot, launching the now-Jones-led Buckeyes into a Sugar Bowl semifinal matchup with No. 1 Alabama.

Had the Buckeyes lost to the Crimson Tide, Jones' story would have still been remarkable.

It turned out that it was just getting started.

After Ohio State fell behind 21-6 in the first half, the Buckeyes would battle back with Jones totaling 286 yards of total offense and one touchdown pass in what would ultimately be a 42-35 OSU victory. The Buckeyes would go onto beat Oregon in the national title game a week later, with their former third-string signal-caller posting 280 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.

In the matter of just three games, Jones had turned himself from a likely offseason transfer candidate to a potential first-round pick in the upcoming draft. But when Jones announced his intentions of returning to Ohio State for his redshirt junior season three days after winning the national championship, it set the wheels in motion for an unprecedented quarterback competition.


Three's a Crowd

With Jones returning to Columbus and Miller shrugging off rumors he would use his ability as a graduate transfer to spend the 2015 season elsewhere, to say that Meyer entered spring practice with an embarrassment of riches would be an understatement. Ohio State possessed the reigning national champion quarterback, the reigning National Freshman of the Year and two-time Big Ten MVP, all at a position where only one player could play.

"It is fairly unique," Meyer said. "I've never been in this situation."

Spring practice wouldn't provide much clarity, as Miller continued to rehab his shoulder and Barrett only participated in a limited role. Perhaps if there was anything telling about the Buckeyes' 15 spring practice sessions, it was that Jones was unable to grab hold of the starting job with his competition still hobbled.

But as Ohio State entered the summer with a logjam at quarterback, the Buckeyes' battle soon became a two-man race. His prognosis as a quarterback looking bleak, Miller opted to make the move to wide receiver, announcing his position switch to SI.com's Pete Thamel with just weeks remaining until the start of fall camp.

"I had been practicing at quarterback for the six months after my surgery," Miller told ESPN's Joey Galloway during an appearance on Monday's SportsCenter. "And the thing that was going through my head was, 'I don't know if I'll be able to play quarterback for the full season.'"

But even with seemingly Miller out of the picture—as far as playing quarterback is concerned—Meyer's decision doesn't appear to be much easier.


Where to Now?

When the first-team Buckeyes offense takes the field for practice Monday afternoon, Meyer already knows how he'll decide who will be at quarterback. According to an interview on SportsCenter, the three-time national champion head coach will a flip a coin in order to pick whether it will be Barrett or Jones who takes the first official snaps of fall camp.

From there, the players will rotate, with Meyer relying on a "gut-feeling" when it comes to making his final decision. How the Buckeyes head coach will define that "gut-feeling" remains unclear, but it would seem to differ from the statistically based approach he originally said he would take.

"I made an error when I spoke last spring about, 'It can't be a gut instinct.' It's got to be both," Meyer said. "How they performed last year, how they performed in the summer, then we're going to chart everything throughout training camp.

"It's going to be the accumulation of that all information, then we'll make a decision."

A statistical approach would seem to favor Barrett, as he posted a higher completion percentage with a larger sample size than Jones did a year ago. Advanced analytical site PredictionMachine.com also projects that Ohio State would have a more successful season with Barrett at the helm than Jones would.

But that "gut-feeling" could ultimately bode better for Jones, especially after an offseason where he became the unlikely face of not only the Buckeyes program, but college football. From flirting with UFC star Ronda Rousey to feuding with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, Jones has seen himself go viral on a consistent basis, often serving as an unofficial spokesman and ambassador for the OSU players.

It also might not hurt that Jones bypassed on the NFL draft and Meyer may feel that he owes it to Jones to reinsert the redshirt junior into the starting lineup. And while Barrett has often been lauded for his exceptional leadership, Jones has a way of leading in his own unique way, with Monday morning's appearance at practice showing a commitment to football that he wasn't necessarily always known for.

That certainly won't be enough to sway Meyer's gut-feeling in Jones' favor, but it certainly can't hurt either. It's too early to get a true feel for how this quarterback battle will play out, but as the Buckeyes' first practice of fall camp approaches, both Barrett and Jones appear to be on equal footing with the OSU staff.

How long that will be the case for remains to be seen. But with the Buckeyes offering limited media availability throughout the remainder of the month, don't expect to know who Ohio State's starting quarterback for the 2015 season will be anytime soon.

When will we know?

If it's up to Meyer, not until the Buckeyes' first series of the season.

"The first guy that jogs out at Blacksburg [for Ohio State's opener against Virginia Tech]," Meyer said, via SI.com's Brian Hamilton, "will be the starting quarterback."

Until then, prepare to find yourself reading into anything and everything.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Report

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama football program opened up training camp this past week, and like usual, there was nary a dull moment.

Despite daily 100-degree heat, the Crimson Tide held two practices in shorts and helmets and two in shells, in addition to its annual fan day/media day that features the only open practice of the year.

But the most talked-about item with the team was something that occurred off the field. At the end of Nick Saban’s first press conference of training camp, the coach gave an unprompted statement about the unauthorized biography by Monte Burke, Saban: The Making of a Coach, that was released last week:

I just want everybody to know that I’m opposed to an unauthorized biography on anybody. If some person that you don’t even know (is) trying to profit by your story or someone else’s story. One of these days when I’m finished coaching at Alabama, I’ll write an authorized book because there’s only one expert on my life and guess who that is … me. And there won’t be any misinformation. There won’t be any false statements. There won’t be any hearsay. There won’t be any expert analysis from anybody else. It will be the real deal. And I’m not really ready for that to happen and it’s a little amazing to me that the timing of all this happening right when we’re starting camp. I just want everybody out there and all of our fans to know, it’s not going to be a distraction to us and it’s never going to get discussed again.

But since I’m not finished yet at Alabama, we’re not writing any books yet. But when we decide to write an authorized book it will have the truth—the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Saban didn’t give any specifics about what he didn’t like about it and indicated that this would be the only time he commented about the book.

The coach also made the statement shortly after responding to a question about a player’s eligibility by saying he “shouldn’t comment because it seems like every time I make a comment about something it kind of gets taken out of context and gets blown up and all that, so I’m going to make less comments about things."


Stock up 

One player making an early favorable impression is true freshman Calvin Ridley, who was rated Alabama’s top recruit in the class of 2015 by 247Sports.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin went so far as to call him an “elite talent.”

“Now there’s a long way to go to get to that level, but his speed and the way that he catches the ball and his transition, if he does the other things all the way through, which is a lot, I think he can be really special,” Kiffin said.

Additionally, in part due to the injuries at his position, true freshman cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick took a lot of snaps during Sunday’s open practice and showed little or no signs of being overwhelmed.


Injury update

Alabama got a scare when left tackle Cam Robinson was carted off the field due to an injury Saturday. Although rumors were rampant of a serious setback and possible foot fracture, the sophomore only had a mild knee sprain and return to practice the next day.

“I’m fine,” he said.

Meanwhile, sophomore cornerback Tony Brown, who is expected to challenge for a starting job, left Sunday’s practice with a shoulder injury. His status won’t be updated until Tuesday.

In other injury news:

• Junior wide receiver Chris Black is day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Alabama is already thin at the position after sophomore Cam Sims suffered a torn ACL during the spring and junior Raheem Falkins is coming off surgery to repair a leg fracture.

• Senior tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith was limited by a sprained ankle but back practicing Sunday.

• Redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Humphrey will miss a few days with what Saban described as a “pulled muscle.”

• Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Josh Casher injured a pectoral muscle while lifting weights over the summer and is expected to be out for a few more weeks.

• Junior Eddie Jackson, who made the switch from cornerback to safety during the spring, appeared to be limited Sunday with an undisclosed injury. Taking extra snaps at strong safety was true freshman Ronnie Harrison, who has impressed teammates.

• Coaches have taken the no-contact jersey off running back Kenyan Drake (leg fracture/dislocated ankle).


Quarterback competition

Coaches remain adamant that there’s no timetable for picking a starting quarterback between senior Jake Coker, redshirt freshman David Cornwell, junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman and true freshman Blake Barnett. All indications are that Coker and Cornwell remain the guys to beat, although everyone remains very high on Barnett's potential.

Saban squashed recent speculation that Alabama might be best off starting a younger quarterback so it can build more for the future.

“If someone shows great potential for the future then our theory on how we manage that is to keep that guy in a position where he can develop so that if he's called on at some point in time in the future, he's going to be more ready to do that,” he said. “But that does not give him sort of an advantage in being able to play right now.”


Crimson Tide bits

• Freshman running back Bo Scarbrough is back practicing with the team in a black no-contact jersey after suffering a knee injury during the spring, but Saban announced that he’ll miss the first four games anyway due to a suspension regarding NCAA eligibility.

• Usually Alabama opens training camp with two split-squad sessions on the first day, with the younger players essentially having their own practice so the coaches can help them get acclimated, but Saban combined them this year. “The issue with that in the past has been it really wears out the players because you only have 50 players out there at a time and you don't have enough guys to actually share the reps. Guys get too many reps, and then I always felt that really degraded us getting really some overuse problems the very first day. We decided that we had made good progress with a lot of the freshman (over the summer).”

• A notable absence on the preseason watch lists was cornerback Cyrus Jones by the Thorpe Award for best defensive back. “I’m not going to say disrespected, but, I mean, it is kind of disappointing,” said Jones, who was named All-SEC at media days. “Me just being a competitor and knowing what I can do as a player I do feel like don’t get the respect sometimes. But it just adds extra motivation to me. I don’t take it personal.”

• Saban’s message to his team: “It comes down to there's two ways you can look at camp. You can say I'm going to try to survive this camp or I'm going to go out there and thrive every day in this camp in terms of working hard, pushing myself, trying to get in better condition, trying to be a player that can better go out and dominate the competition and do my job better.”

• Alabama will hold its first scrimmage of training camp at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. It will be closed to media and the public.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Biggest Games That Will Determine Outcome of SEC in 2015

The SEC has been held without a major bowl win over each of the last two seasons, but that doesn't mean the SEC is down. 

In fact, the balance that exists this season within the nation's toughest football conference should make 2015 one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in recent memory.

Which games will determine the outcome of the SEC in 2015? Our picks based on team strength, importance to the division title race and what the outcome could do to the winner and loser later in the season are in this slideshow.


Begin Slideshow

B/R 5th Down: Cardale Jones Wears Ronda Rousey Shirt, Drone Follows Braxton

Editor's Note: The 5th Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh.


1) Cardale Jones Is Full-on #TeamRousey

The crush—real, exaggerated or otherwise—Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones has on UFC fighter Ronda Rousey is well documented. Give 12-Gauge this: He had Rousey, who is as intimidating as any athlete out there, flustered (in a good way) by his comments. 

Jones kept on showing his, um, "appreciation" for the UFC fighter on his way to Buckeyes preseason camp with a Rousey shirt: 

Say this for Jones: The guy wears his heart on his sleeve. Or his chest. Either or. 


2) You Know Ohio State Is Starting Preseason Camp When...

A camera drone is following Buckeyes H-back—it still feels odd typing that—Braxton Miller as he enters the team's football facility. 

Yes, the quarterback competition may be down to Jones and J.T. Barrett, but let's not forget that Miller is still one of the key faces of the program over the past several years. A year lost can make a lot of people forget about you, but it should be reiterated that Miller was one of the most entertaining players in college football before sustaining his shoulder injury last year.  

If the transition to wide receiver goes well, Miller will undoubtedly remind everyone of that fact. 


3) Plus, This Ohio State Combine Spoof Was Amazing

Hype videos are the best. They also take themselves way, way too seriously. Ohio State tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton is out to put an end to that with this amazing NFL combine spoof video: 

There's so much #riseandgrind and #blessed and #leggggoooooo and #eatinggreedy in this video. The production quality is amazing, and Hinton really sells it. 

Easily, this is one of the best videos of the offseason. And Ohio State has put out some great videos


4) Jimi Hendrix: College Football Artist

Jimi Hendrix may not be blessing us with incredible music anymore, but writer Joe Posnanski did find some amazing rare artifacts from Hendrix at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Below are some drawings that a teenage Hendrix made in 1958 featuring some then-Pac-8 teams. It's a great find by Posnanski and a cool thing to take in if you're a fan of both Hendrix's music and college football: 


5) So, Everett... Was It Pass Interference or Nah?

Everett Golson is now officially a Florida State Seminole. That means it's fair game to ask him if Notre Dame, Golson's old team, really committed offensive pass interference in a prime-time game against Florida State last October. 

The question was perfect, and Golson's reaction, which you can watch below, was priceless. 

But, no, Golson, you can't just cop out with "I'm here now, everything's fine, it's in the past" type of answer. The people must know. And, psst, you're on the other team now. You can say it was. Because it was. 


6) Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Just Beat Y'all at the Whip/Nae Nae 

About 10 million people have filmed themselves doing the Whip/Nae Nae over the past month or so. Many of them are college football players and coaches. None of them, however, have anything on Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats staff, who made this video with the school's gymnastics team: 

RichRod has always been great for Arizona's video production team, but let's also take a second to recognize Wildcats Director of On Campus Recruiting Matt Dudek. He's the fine gentlemen on the left (Rodriguez's right) just tearing it up. 

He's the real hero. 



College GameDay analyst/headgear wearer/hilarious entertainer Lee Corso turned 80 last week. To help celebrate Corso's big day was Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who wore the famous elephant head gear in honor of the longtime GameDay staple. 

Look, it's Saban in head gear. Is there another reason this needs to be shared? I could watch this GIF on loop for hours. 


8) And Now College Football...in 3-D!

The 1990s were a weird time, y'all. Not so much for things like music, which was great. Rather, the 1990s were a time of experimentation, namely for 3-D midfield logos that, looking back, were not a good idea. 

Like, at all. 

Look, if you're going to do 3-D, go all the way. There should have been 80,000 fans in Kyle Field with 3-D glasses. 

*Actually, that probably would have been most unwise given how steep the stands are in that stadium. You don't want anyone getting vertigo. I wonder if A&M was ready to go full 3-D and then realized this at the last minute. Or, maybe they just thought the 3-D logo would look cool. "Aggies Football: Catch the Excitement! Also: WORDS...WILL....FLY....AT....YOU....VERY....FAST." 


9) Frank Beamer Way

You know you're a program legend when people start naming things after you. Clearly, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer is a legend in Blacksburg. Beamer has been with the Hokies for the better part of three decades; that's unheard of nowadays. 

So, it's only appropriate that Beamer gets a street named after him next to Lane Stadium: 

The release from Virginia Tech's website states:

Recognizing contributions made both on and off the field by Tech's head football coach and wife Cheryl, Spring Road, which runs alongside the west stands and press box of Lane Stadium, will be re-named Beamer Way. The official athletics department street address will be 25 Beamer Way in recognition of Frank Beamer’s jersey number when he played football for Tech from 1966-68.

Congratulations, Beamer. Well deserved. 


10) An Ode to Baylor's Weirdness

Baylor may be the preseason No. 2 team in the Big 12, but the Bears are No. 1 in our hearts with off-the-wall antics. For instance, defensive end Shawn Oakman has a python. Which he wears around his neck (Britney Spears style?). Around Waco: 

Also, as noted "ALL-NAME TEAM" supporter Holly Anderson of Grantland pointed out, Lynx Hawthorne, a wide receiver, is criminally underrated. Playoff worthy, even: 

Finally, let's just take a moment to be awed by 400-pound tight end Laquan McGowan holding Oakman on his shoulders like it's not any big deal at all.  

In fact, if Baylor doesn't use this as a red-zone play, this whole season is a waste. The whole dang thing: 


11) REMINDER: This Is an 18-Year-Old

The above photos feature freshman Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who is an 18-year-old freshman being a freshman at the Vols' preseason camp. 

Mercy. This shouldn't be allowed. I mean, it should, but it shouldn't, if that makes sense. This was a kid who was listed at 339 pounds on his 247Sports profile...as a recruit. 

We can't italicize how incredible this is any more than we already have. McKenzie is, as B/R colleague Adam Kramer described, a yacht. This is a good thing, since yachts are legit. 

We're blown away by this. 


12) Your College Football Quote of the Week (Part I)


13) Your College Football Quote of the Week (Part II)


14) Your College Football Quote of the Week (Part III)


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. He's trying to decipher Les Miles' quote on Twitter @BenKercheval

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football 2015: Complete Preview of Fighting Irish Offense

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished off the 2014 season with an 8-5 record. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the Fighting Irish's biggest storylines on offense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think Notre Dame will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com