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Florida QB Jeff Driskel Is Perfect Fit for New Offense, Expect Huge Numbers

Jeff Driskel is back from injury and ready to return to his role as quarterback for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators. The redshirt junior will be a huge playmaker in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense. 

Driskel has the skills to be a true dual-threat QB in the new offense. He has the speed to break out long runs and the arm strength to take the top off defenses. 

Watch B/R analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss what to expect from Jeff Driskel in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

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Georgia Football: Todd Gurley Won't Win the Heisman, but That's a Good Thing

Last month, Seth Emerson of TheTelegraph (Macon, Georgia) reported that a fan asked Georgia head coach Mark Richt about the possibility of a Heisman campaign for star running back Todd Gurley.  Richt responded by saying:

I don't think you have to have a campaign for the Heisman. I think the numbers will speak for themselves. I think his highlights will speak for themselves. The Heisman usually goes to a team that's winning and somebody that's just doing superb work, and has a little bit of a flare about him.

In many ways, Richt accurately summarized Gurley's career as a Bulldog.  He's been statistically impressive while generating highlight after highlight and contributing at a high level to Georgia's success.  

That being said, even a continuation of such stellar performance won't garner Gurley a Heisman Trophy in 2014, but that's a good thing for Georgia.

 

Crowded Backfield

Georgia's backfield will be crowded in 2014 when Gurley is rejoined by Keith Marshall, who is expected to be back from injury, Brendan Douglas and two of the nation's best incoming freshmen, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.  Add A.J. Turman (who redshirted as a freshman in 2013) to the mix, and there's little surprise as to why J.J. Green, the team's second-leading rusher last season, so eagerly moved to defensive back this spring.

And yet despite boasting what may be the SEC's deepest stable of running back talent, Gurley is unquestionably the group's leader thanks to his immense talent and history of top-tier performances—particularly in Georgia's biggest games.  That wealth of surrounding may push Gurley during practice, allow him to catch his breath on a few more plays and otherwise support him, but there's another consequence to having so many options.

Those players are going to take some carries that could have otherwise belonged to Gurley.

If the past 10 years of Georgia football are any indication, Gurley is unlikely to garner more than 45 percent of the Dawgs' total rushing attempts.  In fact, over the past decade, only one Bulldog back—Knowshon Moreno—has accounted for that much of Georgia's total workload on the ground.

It's worth noting that 2008 was a true anomaly within the confines of recent Georgia history.  That season, Moreno was backed up by Caleb King, a redshirt freshman who carried the ball just 61 times on the season.  Quarterback Matthew Stafford was third on the team with 55 rushing attempts.  Wide receiver A.J. Green was fourth on the team in rushing yards despite carrying the ball just four times.  Moreno did not have a crowd comparable to the depth Georgia will have at running back in 2014.

 

High Demands for Heisman Winners

Ultimately, the depth and variety in skill sets provided by the likes of Marshall, Douglas, Michel, Chubb and Turman make Georgia a better team.  As last year demonstrated, there's no such thing as too much depth—especially when ACL injuries become mysteriously contagious.  Furthermore, having a number of fresh legs ready to come in and share the load during late-season conference games is invaluable.

So while those players may get a few carries of their own, it will be for the greater good of the team.  But that dispersion could realistically cost Gurley the Heisman.

Only five running backs have won the Heisman Trophy over the past 20 years.  All five of those running backs received more carries than one can reasonably expect for Gurley in 2014.  The table below shows the last five Heisman-winning running backs and their rushing attempts per game for all matchups prior to the Heisman Trophy ceremony (this data excludes bowl games).

Over the course of his career, Gurley has registered 387 rushing attempts in 24 games for an average of 16.13 attempts per outing.  Even if his partial games (he missed sizable portions of the Clemson, LSU and Florida games last season due to injury) are removed, that average only moves to 16.67 attempts per game.  The five Heisman-winning running backs of the past 20 years have collectively averaged over 25 rushing attempts per game en route to taking home the most coveted hardware in college football.  Gurley has carried the football 25 or more times in just two games over the course of his career.

For Gurley to even average 20 rushing attempts per game, he'd have to take on an uncharacteristically high percentage of the Dawgs' carries, which seems unlikely given the aforementioned embarrassment of running back riches.  Over the past 10 seasons, Georgia has averaged roughly 36.5 runs per game.  Twenty totes per outing would represent nearly 55 percent of that total figure.  Even when he was completely healthy in 2012, Gurley only accounted for 42 percent of the team's carries.

 

Exceptions and Implications

Obviously, there are exceptions to statistics, and for Gurley's offensive production, that exception is an obvious one: His role as a receiver.  Gurley has been increasingly active in Georgia's passing game and finished 2013 with an astounding 441 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 37 catches.  If he continues to be used by quarterback Hutson Mason, then the usage models above (which rely exclusively on running backs' running) may be somewhat obsolete.

Furthermore, as Mark Ingram showed in 2009, being the most noteworthy player on a dominant team can also generate Heisman votes.  If Georgia were to win the SEC and punch a ticket to the first round of the inaugural College Football Playoff, and Gurley were the most deserving Bulldog, there's a tremendous chance that he would find himself in New York City for the ceremony.  But he'd still probably need an increase in workload and a successful season as a dual-threat offensive producer to win outright.

The award, however, is not Gurley's only priority, and as Richt implied while shooting down the notion of launching a formal campaign in support of his stud running back, it's not at the top of the team's to-do list either.  

In that light, Heisman hype may give Bulldog fans something to talk about—and rightfully so.  But a prolific ground attack led by Gurley and balanced out by a host of his backfield companions gives him the best shot at staying healthy and the Dawgs the best shot at winning the conference.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Case for Bill Belton as Penn State's Starting Running Back

The Nittany Lions will be looking for a vocal senior leader on offense in 2014, and running back Bill Belton is the perfect player to assume the role.

Over the past two seasons, Zach Zwinak has received the bulk of the carries for Penn State, but Belton adds a different dimension for an offense that will be in need of playmakers and pass-catchers—both strengths of the New Jersey native.

Bill O'Brien liked to use a running back-by-committee approach, which limited Belton's ability to get in a groove in all aspects of the offense. He still rushed for over 1,000 yards in that time, caught three touchdowns and averaged nearly half a yard more per carry than Zwinak in 2013.

Huff says Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak have some of the qualities of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) January 24, 2014

Word out of camp is that Belton looks stronger than ever and has picked up the new offense quickly. With his speed and elusiveness, added strength would make him the complete package as a running back.

As a receiver, Belton can quickly contribute in the absence of the top two receivers from last season. Departed receivers Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder accounted for 125 catches in 2013. Only two players on the current roster have more career catches than Belton.

Perhaps the most important thing that Belton can provide for the offense is his leadership and resiliency. As a player who took time to find his role on this team and battled academic issues at one point, Belton is a player who has matured in front of his teammates and is one of the most respected men on the team. 

Penn State RB Bill Belton tells NBC10 he and players spoke to BOB and are happy for him. "He gave PSU a sense of life in a very dark time"

— John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) January 2, 2014

When called upon to shoulder the load last year, Belton stepped up with a fierce performance against Michigan and, later, a 200-yard rushing game in an overtime win over Illinois. In fact, every time he received more than 10 carries, he responded with at least 81 yards.

Belton played a large role in the win over Ohio State his freshman season. He scored the game-winning touchdown against Michigan last year. He has shown the ability to excel under pressure and has bounced back several times in his career.

When he talks in the huddle, his teammates listen and believe in him. He can score from anywhere on the field in a number of ways. 

Zwinak and Akeel Lynch will be a part of this offense, but Bill Belton should be Penn State's starting running back.


All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.


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Oregon Football: Analyzing Ducks' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has been able to check a few priorities off his team's 2015 recruiting list. But with four verbal commitments heading into the summer, there's plenty more room for the Ducks to make a splash. 

The ripples from that splash could cover the entire country. The Oregon coaching staff is working to plant the program's flag in every corner of the nation.  

With prospects in California, Texas, Georgia and Florida, the Ducks' 2015 signing class could have a decidedly national flavor if each of the top targets pledges to Oregon. 

The Ducks find out the fate of one top prospect Wednesday, when 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray announces his decision. But no matter if Oregon lands Murray's commitment or not, the recruiting staff has its sights set on a potentially impressive class for 2015. 

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Oregon Football: Analyzing Ducks' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has been able to check a few priorities off his team's 2015 recruiting list. But with four verbal commitments heading into the summer, there's plenty more room for the Ducks to make a splash...

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Florida Football: Analyzing Gators Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

The Florida Gators 2015 recruiting class doesn’t feature any big names just yet, but there are five key guys who could eventually turn the table on the rest of college football.

It’s the Gators' top recruiting targets for this year’s class, and they’re some of the top players at their positions. Players who could step in right away and help Florida reach its goal of climbing back on top of the SEC.

The list includes three defensive players, an elite offensive lineman and possibly the top wide receiver in this class.

Here’s the breakdown of the Gators’ top five recruiting targets.

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Each College Football Team's Most Intriguing Freshman

The youth are our future. Not just for the world, but for our college football teams, too.

Each year, as the recruiting cycle runs its course and hundreds of high school football players make their collegiate choices, we're told a little bit about each of these potential future stars. Each gets a rating and a ranking. They all have their best skills.

Then national signing day comes, and for coaches, it's on to the next year.

But before we can start getting too interested in what the 2015 recruiting class will bring us, let's take a closer look at the top talent from 2014. Or rather, the top prospect for each and every FBS college football team—a quick glimpse at interesting players who have yet to take a snap in college.

Here's our look at every school's most intriguing freshman, whether it be an early enrollee, a just-graduated senior or a player from the 2013 class who redshirted and will get into the mix this fall.

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Arkansas Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

You have to feel for fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks. They went from enjoying one of the most successful two years in the program's history from 2010-11 to suffering through the abysmal last two seasons from 2012-13.

From 2010-11 under former head coach Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks posted a 21-5 (80.8 winning percentage) record and a 12-4 (75.0) mark in SEC play.

The last two years after Petrino's dismissal as the head coach for his now infamous motorcycle accident have been one big struggle. In these last two years Arkansas owns a 7-17 (29.2) record and a 2-14 (12.5) record in the SEC.

It's hard for fans to endure such a bipolar four-year stretch, as the program went from one of the SEC's best to one of the worst in a matter of a year.

Head coach Bret Bielema and his staff have a pretty good idea after 2013 just how big of a rebuilding project Arkansas is right now.

Rebuilding programs to their former glory starts on the recruiting trail. Bielema is slowly reeling in players to fit his style and make the Hogs one of the conference's best once more.

Bielema and his staff did a nice job in their first full cycle for 2014. They are off to a great start for the '15 haul, and if they can continue the momentum, it could be one of the best classes in a long time for the Razorbacks.

Here, we take a look at the 2015 class as it stands now and assess grades for each position. Keep in mind that most of these grades can become much higher as Arkansas adds more recruits.

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Miami Football: Analyzing Hurricanes' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Al Golden and the Miami coaching staff has reeled in 247Sports' No. 13 recruiting class in the nation, including a pair of 4-star running backs.

But instead of focusing on committed players—whether the program is "The U" or elsewhere—this piece will analyze top undecided targets.

Factors taken into account are potential, the Hurricanes' current depth chart and a recruit's perceived ability to immediately contribute. Conversely, the likelihood a given athlete commits to Miami does not exclude anyone.

The prospects are separated based on offense and defense, not ranked in a particular order.

Note: All recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame Football: The Case for Mike McGlinchey as the Starting Right Tackle

Walking into Notre Dame football’s first spring practice in early March, most eyes were trained on quarterback Everett Golson.

But one of the most noteworthy aspects of that first practice was the man standing at right tackle with the first-team offense: sophomore Mike McGlinchey.

Fast-forward nearly three months later, and many of Notre Dame’s offensive positions and roles are set.

Yes, there’s still a starting quarterback to be named, but otherwise, there’s clarity.

Senior Ben Koyack will be the top tight end, and we know who the contributors will be at running back and wide receiver, though we may not know in what order and how often they’ll all see action.

Four offensive linemen—Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer, Nick Martin and Christian Lombard—figure to be on track for starting jobs. The last spot, however, comes down to left guard or right tackle.

Irish offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and head coach Brian Kelly each explained during the spring that the final choice on the line likely will be either McGlinchey at right tackle and Steve Elmer at left guard, or Elmer at right tackle, McGlinchey as the “swing” lineman and either Matt Hegarty, Conor Hanratty or an incoming freshman at left guard.

But ever since that very first practice on a cold morning in South Bend, Indiana, McGlinchey has clung to his post as the first-team right tackle (at least in practice sessions open to the media). And while he’s raw and inexperienced, McGlinchey’s high upside makes him a compelling choice for the starting spot.

The 6’7.5”, 300-pound sophomore redshirted in 2013, but his natural ability shined through this spring.

“When he grows up, when the light comes on and he gets it, he’s gonna be an incredible football player from the standpoint that I think the physical gifts that he possesses as far as his athletic ability; obviously his size is hard to miss,” Denbrock said in late March.

Yes, his size is striking. McGlinchey is listed as the tallest player on Notre Dame’s roster.

“We worry that [Irish men’s basketball head coach] Mike Brey is going to take him from us,” Kelly joked on national signing day in 2013.

While his size is certainly one of the first things that stood out, McGlinchey impressed Kelly in a variety of ways.

“He's athletic enough that he has played tight end,” Kelly said on signing day. “We were really impressed with the way he played basketball. He was a ferocious competitor, ran well and is somebody that is going to continue to get stronger physically.

“But he comes from a great high school, William Penn Charter School [in Philadelphia], just a perfect fit for us at Notre Dame and, again, on the offensive line gives us that long-reach guy that can play the tackle position for us.”

And following his redshirt season, McGlinchey earned valuable reps at one of those tackle positions this spring. McGlinchey proved himself with his mental ability too, Denbrock said.

“He’s got some football intelligence that can be cultivated and can grow rather quickly, and that puts us in a position, obviously, to get him on the field right away,” Denbrock said in late March. “And we’ve kind of thrown him to the wolves here in the spring and let him kind of fight through it. And he’s done a really nice job so far.”

Still, following the Blue-Gold game on April 12, Kelly reiterated that the line is not set. The head coach said the right tackle and left guard position battles will “sort [themselves] out in preseason camp.”

By no means is McGlinchey able to boast the experience of either Hegarty or Hanratty, who started two and four games, respectively, in 2013 because of injuries. If Elmer started at right tackle and either of those two seniors manned left guard, all five members of Notre Dame’s line would enter the season with prior starting experience.

But in order to begin to tap his vast potential, the Irish could continue throwing McGlinchey to the wolves. Combine on-the-job learning with McGlinchey’s raw physical skills, and Notre Dame could lay the foundation for its young lineman and reap the benefits over the next three or four seasons.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Analyzing the Huskers' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Nebraska football fans know that summer is for following recruiting. While others may be watching baseball or grilling brats, Nebraska fans will be wanting to keep up on how Bo Pelini will be filling out his 2015 class.

Here are five of the top targets Nebraska is chasing for next year’s recruiting class.

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Making the Case for Ray Drew as the Georgia Bulldogs Starting Defensive End

One of the good things to come out of the 2013 season for the Georgia Bulldogs is that the defensive front seven was able to get after quarterbacks. In fact, the Bulldogs were second in the SEC in total sacks with 33. And of those 33 sacks, six of them came from defensive end Ray Drew, which put him second on the team behind Leonard Floyd in sacks.

Drew had a productive 2013 season. He made seven starts and finished with 43 tackles and eight tackles for loss to go along with his six sacks. And it looked as if Drew was going to get to be the starter this season with Garrison Smith gone. But it looks as if Sterling Bailey along with James DeLoach will be the No. 1 defensive ends heading into preseason practice.

Based on the way spring practice went for the defense, there could be a lot of changes when it comes to the starting lineup. But the coaches should consider Drew as a starter.

Drew’s career has not lived up to expectations. He was recruited in 2011 and 247 Sports listed him as the No. 2 player in Georgia as well as the No. 2 strong side defensive end in the country. He was a Parade and USA Today All-American and played in the Army All-America Game. So the expectations for him were high.

Drew did not redshirt when he got to campus and played in seven games his freshman season. His playing time increased his sophomore year, and he played in all 13 games. It was last year when he was able to not only play in all the games during the season, but also to start in half of them and was effective when he was on the field.

Before spring practice started, it looked like Drew was going to be the starter under Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. But he was working more with the second and third stringers, which could mean nothing because preseason practice could be a different story.

Ray Drew has been challenged this spring, dropping down to the third team at one point. But he is working his way... http://t.co/HitMORM0zJ

— The Telegraph (@middlegeorgia) April 8, 2014

As it was mentioned earlier, Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach are on top of the depth chart. Bailey made nine starts in 13 games and tallied 34 tackles and one sack. DeLoach played in only five games last season and finished with four tackles. DeLoach was named as the Most Improved Player this past spring according to Gentry Estes of 247 Sports (subscription required). Bailey also received a lot of praise from defensive line coach Tracy Rocker for his work.

This leads to the ultimate reason why Drew is not a starter right now. He did not perform well during spring practices and even head coach Mark Richt said that he needs to step it up. However, Rocker told 247 Sports that he was just beat up at the start of practice and he will be a factor this season (subscription required).

This upcoming preseason practice is very important for Drew. He has to show the coaches that he’s a better player than what he showed during the spring and he can get the job done. He proved last year and his numbers only got better each year.

Drew should be the starter because he would be a very good leader for the defense. With the Bulldogs going with a new scheme, they will need veterans with a ton of game experience to lead the way. Drew has been in a lot of games his career and his experience will pay dividends for the defensive line.

There’s no telling what Pruitt will do with the defensive line. But having Drew on the field as much as possible will make the defense better.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: How Jamal Marcus' Dismissal Impacts Buckeyes' 2014 Season

Even though it's May and Ohio State is still three months away from kicking off the 2014 season, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes just suffered a huge loss.

According to a report from Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, defensive end Jamal Marcus has been dismissed from Ohio State for an unspecified violation of team rules.

The junior pass-rusher played sparingly in his first two seasons with the Buckeyes, but that was expected to change this season—especially early.

Marcus was primed to fill in for Noah Spence, who will miss the Buckeyes' first two games as part of a three-game suspension he received before last year's Orange Bowl. Spence's suspension was handed down by the Big Ten for using an "unapproved dietary supplement," according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

Marcus played in place of Spence against Clemson and was one of the few defensive bright spots during a game in which the Buckeyes surrendered 576 total yards and 40 points. Marcus piled up six tackles, which led all defensive linemen, and recorded a pass breakup in the loss.

Ohio State was counting on Marcus to provide a similar lift to start the season.

The Buckeyes are slated to open against Navy and its vaunted triple-option attack in Baltimore. A week later, Ohio State will play its home opener against Virgina Tech in a prime-time matchup.

Those are the two toughest nonconference games of the year, and Ohio State will be down its top two edge-setters outside of Joey Bosa.

That could prove particularly costly against Navy, which uses unique blocking schemes to attack and outnumber a defensive front. Players such as Noah Spence and Jamal Marcus are talented enough to neutralize that, but now the Buckeyes will turn to a host of unproven players to start the season.

The impact of Marcus' dismissal reaches far past the first two games, though.

As Rowland of Eleven Warriors pointed out, new defensive line coach Larry Johnson wants to take advantage of Ohio State's depth up front by using a heavy rotation. 

There’s not a first group, there’s not a second group. There’s a group of guys trying to get better. I’ve sold them on the idea that there are going to be eight or nine guys. The game has changed. You’re talking about spread offense, quick snaps, so that number of plays can go from 65 to 90 really quick. You add that times 12 games, that’s a lot of football.

What I want to do is play fresh. I want to play eight or nine guys every time and be relentless. That way every guy can play as hard as they can every play. That's how you play defense.

With Ohio State losing Marcus, Meyer is also losing out on one of the prospects he was most excited about in his first recruiting class with the Buckeyes.

Back in 2012, moments after signing the nation's No. 5 class that featured two 5-star defensive ends, Meyer couldn't stop talking about Marcus.

Then a 4-star prospect, Marcus' film stood out to Meyer, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone.

The guy that when you flip him on tape, and not knowing anything else, without reading rankings or without listening to everybody else's opinions, the guy that is really impressive to me is Jamal Marcus. 

I just heard about him two weeks ago. We put on the film. He just blew us away on the videotape. I never heard of him.

Meyer was thrilled to sign such a talented player so late in the recruiting process. It's safe to assume he's just as upset about losing that player just as he was on the verge of making an impact.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: What Riley Ferguson's Transfer Would Mean for Volunteers

The news of Tennessee quarterback Riley Ferguson's likely transfer sent shock waves through Vol Nation, and it could have accompanying tremors that are felt on the depth chart in the near future.

UT coach Butch Jones all but confirmed to Volquest.com's John Brice (subscription required) at the SEC's annual spring meetings on Tuesday that the promising redshirt freshman would not be back with the Volunteers.

"Based on our recent conversations, I do not anticipate (Ferguson) to be a member of our football family moving forward," Jones said.

If Ferguson doesn't return to UT, the Vols' four-man quarterback derby will be reduced by one.

It's a blow for the present—and future—Vols depth chart. The 6'3", 189-pound Matthews, North Carolina, native had surged to the top of the competition to split first-team reps with senior Justin Worley by the end of spring practice.

He was expected to battle Worley and sophomore Joshua Dobbs for the starting spot throughout summer and into fall after redshirting last season following a stress fracture in his right leg.

Even if Worley won the job, the Vols were anticipating a heated and healthy quarterback race between Ferguson and Dobbs as the young Vols matured over the next couple of years.

Now, it seems Tennessee's future offensive leader has become "Dobbs-or-Bust" unless redshirt sophomore Nathan Peterman takes a major leap forward or a yet-unsigned prospect seizes the future job.

"I'm not sure how much this helps or hurts Tennessee," GoVols247's Wes Rucker said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "I think Ferguson had the most upside of Tennessee's four quarterbacks, but he was arguably the least consistent.

"I thought before this came out that Justin Worley was the starter going into the season, and obviously, this news doesn't change that. I think this potentially creates more long-term questions than short-term questions."

Tennessee currently sits in the top two for 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat signal-caller on 247Sports, according to Ryan Bartow (subscription required). But it will have to battle Auburn and others to get him on the Hill.

Other quarterbacks UT is still recruiting include Deondre Francois, Sheriron Jones, Sam Darnold and Travis Waller, among others. Targets Zach Gentry (Texas) and Brandon Wimbush (Penn State) are off the board.

On the bright side for UT, all those players have taken as many game snaps as Ferguson.

But there's no downplaying Ferguson's promise and potential. He wowed many around the program with some of the plays he made, including Jones.

UT's head coach told B/R's Barrett Sallee recently, "You know, Riley has an innate ability to create plays. I've been very encouraged."

Though Dobbs outshone Ferguson in the Orange and White spring game, Ferguson still had a more consistent spring, evidenced by Jones promoting him to split those reps with the starters.

With Ferguson's likely departure, the Vols must have Dobbs step up and take his game to another level.

Also, UT absolutely cannot strike out in signing an elite quarterback in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Closing the deal on Gibson, Francois or a similar talent just became imperative, and the Vols now should attempt to sign two more quarterbacks to go along with athlete commit Jauan Jennings, who will start his UT career under center.

If UT misses on its quarterback of the future this year, it could be a major obstacle in Jones bringing the Vols from their recent doldrums back into contention for the SEC.

Calling the loss of a player who had never taken a live snap in a college football game catastrophic is a stretch, but Ferguson's pending decision does take yet another talented name off the roster at a position where the Vols desperately need somebody to step up.

Now, their quarterback question mark has one less potential answer.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports.

Brad Shepard is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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New College Football Playoff Format Won't Change for 12 Years, Says Bill Hancock

Your dream of a March Madness-esque 64-team postseason college football tournament? Not happening. At least not any time in the immediate future, according to College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock.

Speaking with reporters at the SEC meetings Tuesday, Hancock again indicated any talks of an expanded field were speculative, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

Hancock's 12-year timeline is no accident. That's the length of the television deal between the NCAA and ESPN, which announced a deal through the 2025 regular season in 2012.

While there have been numerous calls for an eight-team system and even talk of its inevitability, avoiding expansion initially is a logical decision. No one knows whether the system will be a success or a major failure, and high-profile bowl games remain a revenue giant.

Expansion would only further the disenchantment of fans who have bemoaned the decreased importance of games like the Rose Bowl, whose "Granddaddy of Them All" nickname used to mean a lot more than merely being the oldest.

There are also pretty obvious fiscal reasons. The NCAA and ESPN agreement is not for a "four-game" championship playoff—it's for the entire package. Expansion to eight teams gives the network four extra games without guarantee of the NCAA receiving any extra revenue. A renegotiation is possible, but it would behoove the NCAA to hold off on expansion until they can reap the biggest financial reward.

Publicly, the NCAA has shut down expansion talks at nearly every possible avenue. Hancock himself has discussed the matter twice now this month, saying each time that decision makers are committed to the four-team format.

"We wanted there to be stability in the system," Hancock told reporters at ESPN upfronts. "We wanted people to grow to love it and understand it. And we did 12 years on purpose. In our group of commissioners, I don't sense anybody wanting to go to eight—or our board, the presidents. They're delighted with where we are."

It's also worth highlighting the wording on each of those statements. Hancock does not say the College Football Playoff will never expand. Just that it won't in its current contract. 

"Really, it's four for 12 years and then we'll reevaluate," Hancock said.

Given the millions of dollars on the table for television networks and NCAA member schools, expansion only makes sense in the long term. ESPN is paying $470 million a season for three playoff games. Expanding the field to eight adds an entire other round and more than doubles the total amount of games. We don't know what the television market will look like in 2025, but the financial windfall could be huge.  

Eight teams is also in no way overbearing and should deter the inevitable snub talk that will probably come as soon as next season. (Though, as the basketball tournament highlights every year, "snubs" will never die regardless of the expansion number.)

Twelve years is a long time, and no matter how many public statements are released, expansion talk isn't going anywhere soon. The thirst for college football (and football in general) has never been higher, nor has the importance of holding a captive live audience. 

As far as the NCAA is concerned, that talk can wait. And it is doing its best to make the speculation die down while it's at it.

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:


 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest SEC vs. Pac-12 Football Recruiting Battles in Class of 2015

The SEC and Pac-12 both boast programs that can recruit nationally such as USC, Alabama, Stanford, Florida, Oregon and Texas A&M, among others.

That means the two powerful conferences bump heads on the recruiting trail from time to time, and several big recruiting battles are shaping up between schools from the leagues. A 5-star defensive end from Florida is thinking of playing in Eugene, while College Station could be calling the name of a 4-star running back from California.

Plus, a stud defensive tackle may be thinking of playing at the same school as his father and uncle.

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Every Big 12 Team's Strongest, Weakest Position Groups Heading into 2014 Season

With the spring season behind us, each Big 12 team knows its strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, Baylor may very well have the best quarterback in the country, but a gutted offensive line is a huge concern for head coach Art Briles. 

Let's checkout each Big 12 team's strongest and weakest positional unit heading into summer camp. 

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Top Schools for Each Uncommitted 2015 5-Star Defensive Recruit

Among the 34 5-star recruits in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, 16 defensive prospects remain uncommitted. College coaches from all over the nation are doing all they can to land them.

However, reading between the lines, one can get a solid feel for the top schools in each uncommitted 5-star defensive recruit's recruitment. At some point, these prospects will have to narrow their lists, and this piece could be a sneak preview.

A Pac-12 school could pluck a defensive end from the SEC, while a Big 12 program is looking to steal a defensive tackle from Alabama. Plus, several linebackers have multiple elite options.

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Best Fits for Top Uncommitted WR Recruits for 2015

The 2015 recruiting class is packed with premier wide receiver prospects who form an impressive list of playmakers ready to rise up in a growingly pass-centric sport.

Plenty of programs have already taken advantage of a deep group, collecting pledges from several outstanding pass-catchers. However, many of the marquee prospects remain uncommitted as their junior years come to a close.

We explored the current recruitment process for eight of America's most coveted receivers, peeking ahead to see which team might present an ideal fit in terms of offensive scheme and immediate need.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: What QB Joe Burrow's Commitment Means for OSU

Ohio State finally added some offensive firepower to its 2015 recruiting class Tuesday, landing in-state quarterback Joe Burrow.

The 6'4", 205-pound passer became the first Buckeyes pledge in nearly four months when he announced his intentions on Twitter:

Burrow, a rising senior at Athens High School (The Plains, Ohio), is the first commitment to come on the offensive side of the football in Urban Meyer's latest class. He joins 4-star defensive backs Eric Glover-Williams (Canton, Ohio) and Jamel Dean (Cocoa, Florida) in a prospect haul that currently rates ninth among Big Ten Conference teams in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

The consensus 3-star recruit is listed at No. 10 among dual-threat recruits in this class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He was named Ohio's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013, when he torched opponents for 3,732 yards and 47 touchdowns through the air.

Burrow displayed serious wheels throughout a dominant campaign that featured an unbeaten regular season. He rushed for 589 yards and nine scores, averaging nearly six yards per carry.

His prolific statistics pile on those from a sensational sophomore season to create impressive career numbers.

Burrow will begin his senior season ranked seventh all-time in state history when it comes to touchdown tosses, per USA Today. He provides the Buckeyes with a promising passer to build around after Meyer came up empty on top quarterback targets who made up their minds earlier in the cycle, including 4-star Penn State pledge Brandon Wimbush.

Ohio State ends a severe recruiting drought with the addition of Burrow. The team's last commitment occurred in February, when 4-star safety Ben Edwards (Jacksonville, Florida) joined the class.

However, he flipped his allegiances to Auburn in April.

The Buckeyes remain in the mix for 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), who listed Ohio State as his No. 4 option in an ordered top 15 list released last month. He is expected to trim that collection of favorites to seven teams this week, and it will be interesting to see if Burrow's commitment factors into Gibson's decision.

The Buckeyes now aim to surround Burrow with offensive talent in a class that still needs a lot of work. Five-star running back Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky), 4-star offensive tackle Patrick Allen (Reisterstown, Maryland) and 4-star wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Arizona) rank among Meyer's top targets moving forward.

The addition of Burrow is a long-awaited boost for the Buckeyes recruiting efforts and helps solidify quarterback depth in coming years. His offer sheet also included Boston College, West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Maryland, among others.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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