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Why Recent Transfers Are Actually Good News for Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

If South Carolina's offense is going to take on more of an old-school Steve Spurrier feel in 2014, it's going to need plenty of wide receivers to do so.

There's a problem, though—some of those wide receivers are leaving.

Kwinton Smith left the program earlier in the offseason, and according to Josh Kendall of The State, the Gamecocks lost sophomore Jody Fuller to a transfer this week.

Fuller, who is seeking more playing time, according to Kendall, caught only one pass last year for five yards but was a hot prospect coming out of Monroe, North Carolina, earning four stars from 247Sports.com.

It's a problem from a quantity standpoint, but it could be good news from a quality standpoint for the Gamecocks. The pieces of the puzzle at wide receiver could be coming together with talented and versatile players, as David Cloninger of The State noted on Twitter.

Still, Gamecocks have Shaq Roland, Nick Jones, Damiere Byrd, K.J. Brent and Pharoh Cooper. Signed three this spring.

— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) June 4, 2014

Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd are known commodities.

Roland came on strong late last season, catching 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns over the last three games of the season and proving that he can live up to the 4-star hype that followed him to Columbia. The 6'1", 185-pounder has great hands, runs crisp routes and can get behind the defense in a hurry.

Alongside Roland will be Byrd, who caught 33 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. At 5'9", 166 pounds, he has the size of a prototypical slot receiver but will likely line up outside for the Head Ball Coach. The one-two punch of Roland and Byrd will be difficult for defensive coordinators to scheme against, particularly due to flexibility.

Pharoh Cooper, a 5'11", 200-pound sophomore who had three catches last season, will likely line up in that slot position for the Gamecocks. But it's his versatility that has the coaching staff excited.

"Pharoh Cooper is a really good football player that can play numerous spots and will continue to improve," said quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus.

South Carolina's receiving corps is, for the most part, undersized. The one exception is 6'4", 190-pound junior K.J. Brent. He only had two catches for 13 yards last year, but he has the size to present matchup problems for undersized defensive backs and has the speed and quickness to be a weapon underneath.

Nick Jones is interesting as well. At 5'7", 174 pounds, he's best suited to play the slot and can be a big-time factor on screens. 

With Cooper starting in the slot and both Byrd and Jones able to slide in there, too, it will allow Spurrier to mix and match his wide receivers within formations, exploiting matchups and helping out first-year starting quarterback Dylan Thompson.

There isn't a ton of experience in the South Carolina wide receiving corps, but what it lacks in game snaps, it makes up for in versatility.

That versatility has created a logjam atop the depth chart, which makes a few transfers nothing to be concerned about.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Ty Isaac Transfer Is Nice for Michigan, but Success Is Still in O-Line's Hands

Michigan's backfield has officially been upgraded. Whether that upgrade goes into effect this year or next remains to be seen. 

On Thursday, USC transfer Ty Isaac tweeted that he had, in fact, enrolled at Michigan. The news comes about a month after it was announced he would be leaving USC to be closer to his family (h/t John Taylor of College Football Talk). 

News of Isaac's transfer began Wednesday night, courtesy of Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports

Isaac is seeking a hardship waiver from the NCAA because of his family situation, though that waiver has yet to be approved. If he is deemed eligible to play this year, the Wolverines will have three quality running backs: Isaac, Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith. 

That list is as good as any in the Big Ten, if not the best. With first-year coordinator Doug Nussmeier running the offense, Michigan's ground game suddenly looks legit. 

But there's one question mark the Wolverines must overcome: the offensive line. 

The unit was inconsistent at best last year. In losses to Michigan State and Nebraska, Michigan's offense averaged minus-35 yards rushing. Granted, sacks are grouped into that number, but the point remains: The O-line was getting abused off the ball. 

Michigan's best linemen—Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield—are gone, too. Erik Magnuson, one of the returning linemen, has been held out with a shoulder injury. He will rejoin the team in time for preseason camp. 

Michigan's O-line was painfully inexperienced beyond Lewan and Schofield. This year's unit is still young, but players like Magnuson, Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch have game reps under their belt now. 

"I can't all of a sudden make them older, so we have to make sure we do what we can do," offensive line coach Darrell Funk told Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "We’re so young that if every day we can get better at something, we’ll have what we want." 

Playing together as a cohesive unit is a bigger deal for the offensive line than changing playbooks. There are, after all, only so many ways to block an opponent. 

According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, however, the O-line showed during the spring game that it still has a long ways to go: 

Michigan struggled to run the ball at all times Saturday. Maybe that's a hat-tip to the team's defensive line, but it's also a knock on the offensive front five. You can hide a lot of things in a spring game situation. But you can't hide a failure to control the line of scrimmage.

There wasn't one offensive line grouping that looked anywhere near ready to push a Big Ten defensive front around. Not even close. Were there as many negative plays? No, probably not.

But there were still several. Far more than there should be.

Green, Smith and Isaac are talented backs. They're also only as good as the holes they have to run through. A first cut shouldn't be three yards behind the line of scrimmage. 

For that matter, quarterback Devin Gardner is an exciting player. So is tight end Devin Funchess. There's talent in Ann Arbor, no doubt about it. That's part of why the potential for this team to get back to double-digit wins is there. 

It's also what could make Michigan so frustrating. An offense starts and stops at the line of scrimmage. It's an important piece of the puzzle, just as Isaac is a piece. 

When those pieces fit together, you get a well-oiled machine. When they don't, you get, well, Michigan's 87th-ranked offense. 

Getting Isaac is an improvement, sure. He's just not the only improvement that has to be made. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.  

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Texas A&M Football: New Faces in 2014 You Need to Know

The Texas A&M football team is busy preparing for the upcoming 2014 season. There are a number of new players who are going to contribute to the Aggies' success in 2014 whom Aggies fans need to know about.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done a very good job of building the talent on the A&M roster. The Aggies have brought in consecutivetop-10 recruiting classes, and the effect of that infusion of talent should be apparent on the field this season. 

The Aggies will be a young team in 2014 but should be a very talented one. They will have the talent in place to compete for the SEC title, but the question is whether they will be mature enough to be able to put away games. 

This is a look at some of the new players who should make an impact in 2014. 

 

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UCLA Football: Bruins' Path to Beat the Vegas Odds and Make the Playoffs

Oddsmakers seem to like UCLA's potential for the upcoming 2014 college football season. But even so, the experts have the Bruins just outside the top four—the magic number necessary to gain entry into the field of the College Football Playoff.

Via Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com, UCLA is one of nine teams on which Bovada posted odds to reach the first Playoff. The Bruins face the worst odds of the nine at 12/5. 

Behind the tone set by head coach Jim Mora and the play of Heisman Trophy contender Brett Hundley at quarterback, UCLA is both trendy and smart as a pick to beat the odds and make the field. 

Championship talk is not something the Bruins are shying away from, because as Hundley explained, they buy into the work they're putting in to reach that goal.  

"Nobody sees what we do at 6 o'clock in the morning or 6 o'clock at night," Hundley said. "It's a process."

For Hundley, a key part of the process is improving his pocket presence, reading through his progressions before resorting to the rush. He took 16 sacks in the Bruins' three losses in 2013—44 percent of the No. 109-nationally ranked 36 total sacks UCLA gave up all season. 

Defending divisional champions Arizona State and Stanford were responsible for nine and four of those sacks respectively. The Cardinal are again on the Bruins' cross-division docket, and UCLA travels to Arizona State in a rematch of last year's de facto Pac-12 South title tilt. 

The third team responsible for a UCLA loss in 2013 was Oregon. The Ducks are tabbed at even odds to qualify for the College Football Playoff, per Bovada.

Oregon used a key fumble on a Tony Washington strip of Hundley to gain momentum in the Ducks' 42-14 defeat of the Bruins last October. This year, Oregon visits the Rose Bowl in an early-season showdown that could be a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. 

The Oregon game was UCLA's first with a trio of true freshmen starting together on the offensive line. Joining Alex Redmond, a season-long starter, to face the Ducks were Scott Quessenberry and Caleb Benenoch. 

Their combined maturation, along with the return of Simon Goines from injury and the addition of Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche, should greatly improve the line's consistency—and thus Hundley's productivity. 

Gaining more confidence and consistency in the backfield is more than about eliminating sacks for Hundley. As Bleacher Report's Darren Page demonstrates below from game film against Arizona, Hundley's tendency to scramble before going through all of his progressions sometimes prevented UCLA from breaking open the big play.  

Hundley should put up some monster passing numbers in his third year leading the Bruins offense, so long as he takes that next step forward in his development. And as he goes, so goes UCLA in its pursuit of a Playoff berth.  

An experienced defensive line and one of the more talented secondaries in the Pac-12 key the Bruins defense, but central to their Playoff pursuit is the development of the linebacking corps. 

Breakout star Myles Jack returns, but UCLA lost Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Barr—fixtures of the defense in the last two seasons—to the NFL.

But Mora said on the May 1 Pac-12 coaches' teleconference call that he sees high potential and depth in this unit. 

Per Pac-12.com

We're expected about the guys that are here. Eric Kendricks is a two-year returning starter and a great football player. We've got some younger guys step up: Kenny Orjioke...Aaron Wallace...Deon Hollins...Isaako Savaiinaea on the inside. Cameron Judge. Brought in a number of talented, talented recruits: A kid called Kenny Young from Louisiana, and a young man named Zach Whitley from Houston...We're real excited about our linebacking corps. We've got depth and we've got talent. 

That group will certainly play a big role in UCLA beating the College Football Playoff odds, as stopping the run will have to be a point of emphasis throughout 2014. 

Though the Bruins' rush defense was far from inadequate in 2013, there is significant room for improvement. Three of their worst performances against the run last season came against—you guessed it—Arizona State (223 yards) and Oregon (325 yards).

While UCLA contained Stanford to 192 total rushing yards, running back Tyler Gaffney brutalized the Bruins front seven with 171 yards. 

UCLA has a clear road map to the College Football Playoff, and the Bruins know their potential detours—but navigating that path successfully should lead them on the way to beating the odds. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

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UCLA Football: Bruins' Path to Beat the Vegas Odds and Make the Playoffs

Oddsmakers seem to like UCLA's potential for the upcoming 2014 college football season. But even so, the experts have the Bruins just outside the top four—the magic number necessary to gain entry into the field of the College Football Playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: Could the Crimson Tide's Defense Be in Decline?

Any history buff can tell you that "all good things must come to an end," a line that stems from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem titled Troilus and Criseyde.

As far as we know, it holds true for everything, from a riveting book to a bowl of ice cream. Even six of the Seven Ancient Wonders eventually crumbled, leaving just the Great Pyramid in Giza to stand alone in Egypt, although time has worn away the majority of its façade.

The point is even the most stanch structures and strongest elements eventually weaken, and while such metaphors have been overused in sports, they’re also true.

So when the University of Alabama defense gave up 296 rushing yards to Auburn and 348 passing yards to Oklahoma, resulting in both of its defeats last season, many started to wonder if the Crimson Tide’s defense was starting to show signs of decline.

It’s a worthwhile question, especially considering how the game is becoming so offense-friendly thanks to the popularity of the no-huddle, spread and run-as-many-plays-as-you-can philosophies.

Even in the Southeastern Conference, which has long been thought of as the league with the best defensive play, last year’s numbers were nothing short of alarming. Whereas small increases and one-year aberrations had been the norm, 2013 was like a jump on a seismograph when an earthquake hits.

The 14 teams averaged 31.7 points, 432.5 yards of total offense and 197 rushing yards per game, all SEC records since it expanded from 10 to 12 teams in 1992.

Passing yards were up to 235.5 per game, exceeded only by the 245.1 in 2001.

On the flip side, the defensive statistical counterparts were all the highest the league had seen, and many of Alabama’s numbers were up as well. In the four big categories—total defense, passing efficiency defense, rushing defense and scoring defense—the Crimson Tide had their worst national rankings since Nick Saban’s first year at the Capstone in 2007.

The same was true in third-down defense, and Alabama had its worst showing yet under the coach in turnovers gained.

However, Saban hasn’t stood still since the Crimson Tide’s shot at a three-peat fell short.

First off, he made major changes to the coaching staff, moving defensive coordinator Kirby Smart back to being the position coach of the safeties. He got Kevin Steele to turn down an offer to become the defensive coordinator at Louisville and oversee Alabama's interior linebackers, and he rehired Bo Davis as the defensive line coach.

Alabama’s recruiting strategy has also been changing, targeting interior linebackers who can drop back into coverage like C.J. Mosley, and safety/linebacker hybrids to play in the middle as part of the nickel and dime packages. Defensive line depth became a higher priority, and the Crimson Tide coaches went all out to land the two cornerbacks topping their wish list at the position this year: Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.

Consequently, Alabama will head into the fall with a staggering nine defensive players who were considered 5-star recruits according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, and it's pretty obvious what Saban is looking for out of them. 

“Just consistency with those guys, understanding their run fits, understanding their pass coverage all the time, how to do it, being consistent with it,” Saban said about the interior linebackers at one point this spring.

“Eddie was having a great spring and probably our best corner, most consistent,” he said when sophomore Eddie Jackson sustained a knee injury.

“I think we have a lot of experienced players. (D.J.) Pettway and (Jarran) Reed add a lot of depth and athleticism to that group,” Saban said about the defensive line. “A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen were both freshmen last year, and I always say that you make the most improvement between your freshman and sophomore year.”

While it appears to be too early to say that Alabama’s D is in decline, Saban and Smart’s best unit may be behind them as some consider the 2011 defense to be one of the best in college football history—and the numbers back that up. Nevertheless, avoiding setbacks like the defensive backs had in last year’s 49-42 shootout win at Texas A&M would be an important step this season.

That’s tricky, especially considering how many standout players have left early for the NFL during the past few years, but the 2014 defense should only get better as the season progresses and the younger talent develops. 

“We’ve just got to keep working and developing depth,” Saban said at the end of spring. “[I] feel like I have a few more guys that have a good understanding of what we’re doing. We just seem to not be making as many mental errors as we have in the past at this time.”

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Texas Athletic Department Ranks No. 1 in Revenue for 2012-13

Mack Brown's final season at Texas saw a few historic lows, chief among them being the beating the Longhorns took at BYU in September. But Brown still went out on top in one way, helping the Texas athletic department continue its reign as the most profitable in the country.

According to the annual report at USA TodayUT once again checked in with the nation's highest athletic revenue in 2012-13, reporting an earning of $165.7 million—almost $2.4 million more than last year.

Here is the entire Top 10:

Texas is a predictable name at the top of the list.

Wisconsin right below it is not.

The Badgers had a huge fiscal year in 2012-13, raking in $149.1 million in total revenue. In 2011-12, they reported a revenue of $103.8 million.

So why the massive increase this past year? Fundraising. Wisconsin did a remarkable job getting donations from their fans this past season, upping their "contributions"—as USA Today defines it—from $19.7 million in 2011-12 to $58.9 million in 2012-13.

Writes Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal:

That speaks highly of the job UW folks are doing raising money, as well as the generosity of the Badgers' fan base. It would also seem to cushion UW from any possible short-term decline in ticket sales.

...While most athletic departments grapple with ways to keep fans coming through the turnstiles — rather than staying home and watching high-definition televisions from the couch — the Badgers should be comforted in their ability to raise money from a variety of sources.

Texas, Michigan, Florida and Tennessee all made the Top 10 in revenue despite going 22-26 on the football field in 2013.  The No. 11 team, Iowa, is just one year removed from a 4-8 season of its own.

What do you think? Does money still equal success?

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4-Star WR Recruit Auden Tate Tweets Top 10 Schools

Wide receiver Auden Tate has collected scholarship offers from more than two dozen teams in every corner of the country. The 4-star Florida playmaker is starting to narrow down his options, with eyes on a trio of Sunshine State programs.

Tate, a rising senior at Wharton High School in Tampa, tweeted a list of his top 10 teams Thursday morning:

The 6'4", 195-pound playmaker kept Florida, Florida State and Miami in the mix. The Hurricanes extended a scholarship in February, while the Seminoles and Gators each followed with offers in May after April campus visits.

The in-state rivals have plenty of company in their pursuit of the dynamic pass-catcher.

Georgia just offered last week but managed to beat out several longstanding suitors to crack Tate's top 10. The Bulldogs are joined on the list by SEC foes South Carolina and Missouri.

The Gamecocks could gain an advantage due to the fact that Tate played football in South Carolina as a high school freshman.

Clemson gives Miami some ACC competition. The team collected a commitment from fellow 4-star Tampa talent Deon Cain last week.

Cain currently plays quarterback in high school but is projected to line up at receiver once he reaches the next level. Dabo Swinney is still in position to pair up the West Florida standouts.

Michigan and Ohio State find themselves locked in yet another recruiting battle. Both teams landed among Tate's favorites and are charged with task of competing against programs that offer better proximity to his hometown.

Maryland rounds out Tate's Big Ten Conference options. The Terrapins extended an offer in mid-May.

Tate caught 49 passes for 815 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. He is rated No. 38 nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Michigan is projected to sign him in 54 percent of the expert predictions that comprise 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. Florida sits in second place at 23 percent.

Tate left several notable teams off his list, including Penn State, Central Florida, Louisville and Michigan State.

 

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

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Bo Pelini's Anti-Signing Day Comments Are Interesting, but Are They Feasible?

The possibility of an early signing date for college football has gained momentum. Just last week at SEC spring meetings, coaches voiced their support for an early signing day on the Monday following Thanksgiving. 

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has an entirely different viewpoint. 

Forget national signing day. Forget an early signing period. Pelini wants a kid to be able to sign with a school the moment he receives a scholarship offer.

"If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it's over," Pelini told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg. "That will stop some of the things that are happening—people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid."

Pelini brings up a sound point. Offering a scholarship and verbally committing in today's recruiting process holds as much weight as asking someone to hold your place in line. Intentions may be good, but words ultimately mean nothing until the letter of intent is signed. 

When a coach offers a scholarship to, say, a 15-year-old, and that kid verbally commits, it's hard not to scoff. Who knows if that coach will even be at the same school in three years. Furthermore, if a prospect gets a scholarship offer at 15, chances are it won't be his last. 

And no teenager has ever changed his mind, right?

So, back to Pelini. By allowing a kid to sign the moment he receives a scholarship offer, coaches would be held accountable for their decisions—even if those decisions affect things years in advance. It sounds great in theory. 

Being tied down so early in the process requires the NLI to be loosened, though. Otherwise, as Stanford coach David Shaw previously explained (via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com), the appeals process is going to be backloaded with cases. 

"What's going to happen is, if a kid wants to change his mind late after the early signing period, he's going to appeal and that appeal is going to go through because the committees that decide those appeals," Shaw said, "they always give in towards the student-athlete."  

Pelini suggests that prospects should be allowed to be released from their letter if there's a coaching change. But, to take it a step further, why stop there?

Kids commit to schools for a variety of reasons, from coaches to the state of the program and, yes, even academics from time to time. 

If anything changes on those fronts, should a recruit not be allowed to do what he feels is best for him?

Which brings up the question: Why tie anyone down with a meaningful commitment years before the deadline? What if, for example, academics become a problem? Shaw thought of that, too. 

"On top of that—and I'll be honest here, which is rare for a football coach in a setting like this—but we have a lot of kids that don't know if they're going to get into school until after that early signing day," Shaw said. "So we're going to punish the academic schools just because coaches don't want a kid to switch their commitment?"

To be clear, Shaw is explaining why he thought an early signing period was a bad idea. Pelini wants to eliminate that period, but by allowing recruits to sign whenever, he's really making it 24/7/365.  

Bleacher Report colleague Adam Kramer previously made a case in favor of an early signing period. It's well thought out and worth a read. His point, in a nutshell, is that if a recruit knows what he wants, he should be allowed to make his decision and end the process on his terms. 

It's tough to argue against that. And, to Pelini's credit, his idea may actually slow down the process. Coaches may be more deliberate with their offers and recruits may be more careful before they sign. 

But how many more think they know what they want, only to find out later they don't know or that it's changed? Haven't all of us been there at some point? 

We're talking about a relatively small percentage of kids, of course, but the practice of early recruiting has become common enough that its consequences warrant further consideration. 

That logic could be applied to coaches, too. The idea of accountability with scholarship offers is noble, but keeping the process open as long as possible provides a level of protection for them as well. 

What if a recruit has character issues that would otherwise prevent a coach from offering? What if the prospect has peaked physically at a young age? It's unlikely a coach has seen extensive tape of every 16-year-old recruit, let alone seen them enough in person to properly evaluate on a physical and personal level. 

So while offers and verbal commitments don't mean much, they also give both sides an easy out. Sometimes, that's used insidiously. But, other times, it gives recruits options. 

Unless a player makes it all the way to their second contract in the NFL, options like these won't come along for another 10 years or so. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Ex-USC RB Ty Isaac Tweets He Will Transfer to Michigan

Former USC running back Ty Isaac announced Thursday that he will transfer to the University of Michigan.

Lindsey Thiry of Scout.com reported the news of Isaac's departure in mid-May, and Isaac confirmed that Michigan would be his destination on Twitter:

According to Thiry's report, Isaac, who grew up in Joilet, Illinois, said he was transferring because "I have family stuff with my mom and want to be closer to home." Michigan and Notre Dame both pursued him hard out of high school, but per Mike Helfgot of the Chicago Tribunehe was restricted from considering the Irish as a destination.

Isaac is a big get for the Wolverines, who finished No. 115 in the country with 3.28 yards per rushing attempt last season. Playing time was hard to come by in USC's loaded backfield, but Isaac had 293 yards on 44 touches (6.66 yards per touch) as a true freshman last year.

He saved his best for last, too, finishing with 89 total yards in the Las Vegas Bowl win over Fresno State.

Isaac is tall for a running back (6'3", 225 lbs) but runs with a Darren McFadden-type stride and was listed the No. 3 all-purpose back and No. 54 overall player on the 247Sports Composite in the 2013 class.

The No. 27 overall player and No. 5 running back in that class was Derrick Green, who rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 80 carries as a true freshman at Michigan last year. Fellow true freshman De'Veon Smith, the No. 207 overall player in the 2013 class, also played a little bit and had 117 yards on 26 carries.

On paper, this gives Michigan a stacked backfield for the future. Isaac, Green and Smith were three of the best running backs from a class that was known for its running back depth, and they all saw the field (albeit sparingly) as true freshmen. That's the good news.

The bad news, as our friends over at The Solid Verbal remind us, is that Isaac does not address the Wolverines' biggest problem:

According to Football Study Hall, Michigan's offensive line finished No. 118 in the country and second-worst among power conference teams in adjusted line yards (run blocking) last season. The Wolverines lost their two best linemen, Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, to the NFL from that team.

Who is going to block for this talented group of tailbacks?

That is a good question, but, at least in Isaac's case, it is likely a question for another day. Although he applied for an NCAA hardship waiver to be granted immediate eligibility, he is likely to have to sit out next season, per normal transfer policy.

As Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com reported Wednesday, Michigan's campus is 259 miles away from Isaac's home in Joilet, and the waiver stipulates that he would need to move within 100 miles of his home to play in 2014. He can still appeal further, but it is a long shot.

Still, for the future, this is a great get for UM.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Can Rutgers or Maryland Challenge for Big Ten Title in Next Decade?

Whenever Julie Hermann speaks, the Big Ten office listens, intently.

Just in case the conference needs to get into damage-control spin mode.

The Rutgers athletic director has been nothing short of a lightning rod whenever she's in the news. Hermann has been on the job barely a year, and she's already been involved in a career's worth of controversies. This isn't exactly what the Big Ten needs as Rutgers is set to join the conference, along with Maryland, on July 1.

Hermann's latest public statement is at least only amusing in its absurdity. 

"What I can promise you, one of the things we're working on most, is when you come see us at ball games, starting with High Point Solutions Stadium, you have a world-class, Disney World experience," Hermann told the fans during a facilities tour last week. "That's important to us."

Perhaps she's taken up residence in Fantasyland® because, if anything, High Point Solutions Stadium will be the site of countless massacres for some time to come. In 2014, the Big Ten will roll out the red carpet for the Scarlet Knights by sending Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin to Piscataway, New Jersey.

To be sure, Rutgers and Maryland were not invited to the B1G based on their athletic prowess in any sport, least of all football. It was a play for TV eyeballs by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who wants to plant his conference's flag in two major metro areas on the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard.

Returning to reality, away from the Happiest Place on Earth, neither Rutgers nor Maryland should expect to be much of a factor in the Big Ten championship race in the near future. In fact, with both teams assigned to the East Division in the realigned B1G, they figure to be cannon fodder for Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and soon-to-be unshackled Penn State.

Coming off a 6-7 season in the watered-down American Athletic Conference, Rutgers is in no position to challenge for the division title, never mind the Big Ten championship. And it remains to be seen if its inclusion in a major conference will allow Rutgers to keep more in-state recruits or actually make them more susceptible to poaching by the B1G powerhouses.

Maryland arguably is in worse shape than even Rutgers, which at least went to eight bowl games over the last nine seasons. The Terrapins have not had a winning record in the ACC since 2010, after the surprise firing of Ralph Friedgen (who, coincidentally, was just hired by Kyle Flood to be Rutgers' offensive coordinator this offseason).

So neither team should expect much from their Big Ten football experience, other than opening the vaults to take in a boatload of cash. For now, they're just along for the ride.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Marlin Lane vs. Jalen Hurd: Who Breaks out as No. 1 RB for Tennessee in 2014?

Senior running back Marlin Lane is a veteran of the Tennessee Volunteers, but is 2014 the year he makes a name for himself on the national level? The Vols also have the No. 8 athlete of the 2014 class, Jalen Hurd, who is expected to have a huge impact on the offense his freshman year. 

Which stud running back will emerge as the Vols' No. 1? Check out Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee predict the numbers for Tennessee's running backs in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

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4-Star OT Recruit Matthew Burrell Tweets Top 15 Schools

Dominant offensive lineman Matthew Burrell is still considering a large collection of teams as his nationwide recruitment reaches a crucial stretch. The 4-star prospect provided an indication of how expansive the process remains Wednesday night when he tweeted a list of his top 15 options:

The teams are listed in alphabetical order with the exception of Iowa, an outlier that wasn't explained by the Woodbridge, Virginia standout. His favorites feature every national champion since 2004.

Rated No. 7 nationally among offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Burrell spent time at Ohio State last weekend, so it's no surprise to see the Buckeyes land on this list. Big Ten Conference opponents Penn State, Iowa and Michigan also made the cut.

The rising senior at C.D. Hylton High School didn't include any in-state institutions but is open to plenty of options in the region, including South Carolina and Clemson. Aside from the Gamecocks, SEC squads are prevalent among his preferred programs.

Burrell lists Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Florida and Texas A&M as conference contenders.

The Aggies aren't his only potential landing spot out west. Texas and Oklahoma are also in the mix.

Reigning national champion Florida State is also under consideration for the No. 3 recruit in Virginia.

Teams left outside of his top 15 include Notre Dame, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. No Pac-12 programs are mentioned.

Burrell clearly has plenty of opportunities to weigh as he approaches a decision. Expect summer campus visits and further conversations with collegiate coaching staffs to help trim down a lengthy list.

The punishing 6'5", 290-pound blocker is projected to sign with Ohio State by 92 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Alabama and Texas each currently claim 4 percent of prognosticators' picks.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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BCS Title Game, Iron Bowl Crack Nielsen's Top 10 Sporting Events on Twitter

The Nielsen Company, which has long been (and still is) known for its metrics on television viewership, has adapted to the new technological climate and begun tracking how big of an audience certain events have on Twitter.

Brian Anthony Hernandez of Mashable.com (h/t College Football Talk) released an info-graphic from The Nielsen Company Wednesday evening that showed which TV shows, in a variety of categories, did the best job getting online users engaged over the last nine months.

And even though the NFL—predictably—had the three biggest sporting events, college football had a pretty good showing with the BCS National Championship Game at No. 4 and Iron Bowl at No. 9.

Here is the full list:

The AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos reached a (slightly) bigger audience than the BCS National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn, but the latter generated almost twice as many tweets with 4.39 million.

Among non-Super Bowl entities, only the NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers generated more tweets (4.96 million)—and a big part of that likely had to do with the rant Richard Sherman went on after the game:

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn—the only regular-season sporting event on this list—also got users engaged.

The rivalry lived up to its considerable pregame hype, ending when Auburn cornerback Chris Davis ran back a missed Alabama field goal for the game-winning touchdown as time expired:

The reaction to that historic finish—now known as "The Kick Six"—helped the Iron Bowl become one of just seven games on the list with 2 million or more tweets. The NFL Wild Card Game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers and the NBA All-Star Game both had bigger but less engaged Twitter audiences.

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship between Connecticut and Kentucky finished fifth in total audience (9.95 million), one spot behind the BCS National Championship.

Thirty percent of the list of most-viewed sporting events since Sept. 1, 2013 were played by college athletes. 

Still think they shouldn't get paid?

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT.

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What Chad Kelly's Visit Says About State of the Quarterback Position at Alabama

Alabama head coach Nick Saban stepped out of his comfort zone a bit this offseason, luring in Florida State backup quarterback Jacob Coker to Tuscaloosa as a graduate transfer.

It appears that may be the start of a trend rather than the exception to the rule.

According to 247Sports, former Clemson quarterback and current East Mississippi Community College quarterback Chad Kelly visited the Crimson Tide over the weekend along with several other teammates.

That is quite the departure for Alabama, which had always groomed all of its other starting quarterbacks beginning in their freshman season during the Saban era.

Kelly was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2012 and was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the 247Sports composite, but he was dismissed from the Clemson program this spring for conduct detrimental to the team. 

He initially had offers from around the country, including Alabama, but chose to head to Clemson where he spent two years as a backup. He'll play for East Mississippi this year and will be a member of the class of 2015.

He completed 10-of-17 passes for 58 yards last season for the Tigers, adding 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

So what does this say about Alabama's current quarterback situation?

It's clear that Coker is going to be the guy this year, especially after senior Blake Sims—his primary competitor for the job—struggled in the spring game, completing just 13 of 30 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, per RollTide.com.

If Coker shines as a junior, it's possible that he jumps to the NFL next year. That would open the door for Kelly to contend for the starting job immediately if he signs with the Tide.

Kelly simply visiting Alabama—and Alabama simply entertaining the idea of signing him—indicates that the Tide isn't as sold on redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman as they were when they signed the former 4-star prospect from Salt Lake City in 2013.

Bateman was rated as the fourth-best pro-style quarterback that year, but he fell behind Sims in the quarterback pecking order this spring. He completed 11 of 24 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown operating with the second team in Alabama's spring game.

Despite the arrival of Coker, that depth chart is still fluid according to Saban, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "Cooper Bateman is still in the competition," Saban said in May. "He did a pretty good job in the A-Day game for a young player. So there's a lot of competition at the position."

The uncertainty with Sims and Bateman is a big reason why Coker is currently on campus. Even though this year's competition is still "ongoing," it doesn't appear Alabama is confident that will change any time soon.

I touched upon Alabama's quarterback battle before spring practice, writing that the window for Bateman to win the job is as open as it every will be—despite the fact that he's only a redshirt freshman. Kelly simply being considered by Saban and first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is even more evidence that Bateman's window is closing.

Why Kelly and not true freshman early enrollee David Cornwell?

Cornwell is still coming off of ACL injury, and the coaching staff will need to see much more of a sample size from the former 4-star pro-style prospect before judging if he's the quarterback of the future.

It will be interesting to see how the courtship between Alabama and Chad Kelly progresses. If the Tide pushes hard, it will speak volumes on the status of the younger quarterbacks on the roster—particularly Bateman.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Why Stud WR Isaiah Langley Wants Offer from Alabama

2015 4-star wide receiver Isaiah Langley is a versatile player who can play both sides of the ball. The 5'11", 170-pound athlete is yet to decide where he will play his college football, but he has offers from many of the top schools in the country.

Bleacher Report caught up with Langley, who discussed his recruitment, talked Richard Sherman and showed off his version of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' signature dance.

What would it mean to him to get an offer from Alabama?

Watch the video and find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Penn State Football: Tight Ends Part of Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lion Legacy

The 2014 Nittany Lions will be forced to lean heavily on their stable of diverse tight ends. Luckily, former head coach Bill O'Brien left the team with what should be the deepest group in the conference, if not the country.

While at Penn State, O'Brien used his former experience with the Patriots to recruit tight ends and succeed with them on the field.

In his last year as New England's offensive coordinator, tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined for 169 catches and over 2,200 yards.

Those kind of numbers get the attention of high school recruits. In an interview with Victory Bell Rings shortly after his commitment, Adam Breneman admitted he'd taken notice:

I just didn’t think that the previous system was a great fit, athletically, offensively. There haven’t been a lot of tight ends utilized in the Penn State offense recently and it was important to me to go somewhere that I can become the best football player I can be. The addition of Bill O’Brien and his accomplishments obviously changed some things in that aspect.

Breneman signed with Penn State as one of the top high school tight ends in the country and will be a sophomore in 2014. Despite his talent, he may currently be third on the depth chart.

Jesse James and Kyle Carter have combined for 94 receptions and 11 touchdowns over the last two seasons, and Carter was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team following his 2012 campaign. Both of them have two more years of eligibility.

Thanks in large part to O'Brien, 4-star tight end Mike Gesicki will join the team this summer. Gesicki, the sixth-ranked tight end recruit in the country, committed to O'Brien in the fall and stuck with Penn State after James Franklin took over.

I just want to run out those gates with 107 thousand loyal fans supporting us! #WEARE#PENNSTATEpic.twitter.com/xhPfYa8BtV

— Ⓜ️G (@mikegesicki) April 18, 2014

In Carter, James, Breneman and Gesicki, O'Brien left a gift for Franklin that could affect his career at Penn State.

As a head coach, Franklin's offenses haven't been very tight-end-friendly. During his three years at Vanderbilt, no tight end had more than 16 catches in a season. In 2013, three tight ends combined for just 20 catches.

However, he didn't have the stable of versatile tight ends that he has now. He also had a standout receiver in Jordan Matthews—a luxury he won't have in 2013.

While he'll need to get creative to get all of them involved, Franklin has a chance to create mismatches on the field while spiking interest off it.

At 6'7" and with great speed, James is an impossible cover for both linebackers and safeties. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2011 that his 40-yard dash time was around 4.65.

Carter is the smallest of the four at 6'3", but probably has the best hands of the group. Gesicki may start his career at wide receiver, where his 6'5" frame and leaping ability will make him a nightmare for defensive backs.

Breneman is now fully recovered from an ACL tear suffered two summers ago and could be the best all-around tight end on the roster.

If Franklin can utilize these ultra-talented players, he'll have success on the field and catch the eye of future tight end recruits. Ultimately, he can build long-term success from O'Brien's time in the NFL.

There's no doubt that the staff is aware of the talent it has and is working on getting the players onto the field together.

With no established go-to receiver on the team, look for quarterback Christian Hackenberg to lean heavily on his tight ends in 2014. Thanks to O'Brien, he does have some go-to players at that position.


All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruit information and ranking courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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4-Star Recruit Kendrick Norton Decommits from Florida State

Class of 2015 prospect Kendrick Norton, a 4-star recruit who could play either defensive tackle or offensive guard at the next level, has decommited from the Florida State Seminoles and will pursue other options—most likely in the SEC.

Norton committed to the Seminoles in January and told Chris Nee of 247Sports (subscription required) that he was "pretty solid" with them in the middle of May, but he sent out this tweet Wednesday evening:

Norton is the No. 235 overall player and No. 12 offensive guard on the 247Sports Composite. His future, however, may lie on the defensive side of the ball, where his size (6'3", 305 lbs) and burst would make for a good three-technique tackle in a 4-3 defense.

According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (subscription required), Norton has visited Auburn twice and plans on returning again. The Jacksonville native has also been targeted by Florida, which is where all five votes on the 247Sports "Crystal Ball" currently have him going.

As for Florida State, the loss of Norton hurts because the defensive tackle crop is weak in the Sunshine State this cycle. Even before Norton's decommitment, Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation wrote about where the Seminoles must look for help in the trenches:

It is even more important that 2014 signee Demarcus Christmas makes it in to school academically. He's set to report the third week in June with the rest of the summer enrollees, and while people were worried about him not making it in, I have not heard anything truly negative about his chances, which I'll take as a positive sign.

FSU also continues to chase other top defensive tackles, like five-stars Shy Tuttle (who is very tight with North Carolina four-star defensive end Jalen Dalton, also being recruited by FSU) and Tim Settle, and JUCO defensive tackle D.J. Jones.

Tomahawk Nation has long expected Florida State to take a JUCO player at defensive tackle, and that's a spot where JUCO players often emerge later in the process.

Florida State still has 11 players committed this cycle, but Norton was its third-highest-rated before this announcement. Currently, the Seminoles' top four committed players are all defensive backs.

The class also includes a pair of offensive guards, Cole Minshew and David Robbins, but zero defensive linemen. As a result of this decision, Florida State was leapfrogged by South Carolina in the 247Sports team rankings, moving down one spot from No. 7 to No. 8.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's 5 Most Intense Fanbases

Pac-12 fans may not quite stack up with those from the SEC in terms of intensity, but the conference of champions has supporters that can be found around the world.

While it may be difficult to measure intensity or compare it to other college football conferences, you still wouldn't want to stand in the way of an argument between a UCLA and USC fan. Or a Husky and a Cougar. Heck, even the Buffaloes and Utes have mustered up some animosity.

Then again, intensity isn't measured solely in hatred for rival programs. It's about how a win feels on Saturday versus the long, cold week following a loss. If neither result has an impact on the rest of your week, you don't belong anywhere near this list.

Naturally, our list will have a modern feel, as there's really no way to gauge the amount of support teams like Oregon State or Washington State had 45 years ago. The easiest way to make the cut as a program is by filling the stadium, making it loud and having a presence outside the venue itself.

Though it may seem obvious, keep in mind that this relates to the football portion of each fanbase, so UCLA's strong basketball following or Arizona's terrific softball crowds have no weight here.

So which Pac-12 teams have the most intense fanbases?

 

 

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Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's 5 Most Intense Fanbases

Pac-12 fans may not quite stack up with those from the SEC in terms of intensity, but the conference of champions has supporters that can be found around the world...

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