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Power Ranking Pac-12 Football Starting Quarterbacks

The Pac -12 has long been considered the gold standard when it comes to quarterback play, and this year should be no different...

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WKU Long Snapper Snaps Football into Trash Can on Field from Stadium Suite

Wanting to show just how skilled he is at his position, Western Kentucky long snapper Nolan Dowling pulled off quite the trick shot.

Dowling went to the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. From just inside the door, the redshirt junior snapped the football and sent it into a trash can down on the field.

Here's a slow-motion look at the trick shot:

That's going to be hard for any other long snapper to top.

[WKU Sports, Max Winebrenner; h/t SB Nation]

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Tennessee's OL Won't Prevent the Vols from Contending in the SEC East

This is the time of year when, ideally, players and teams don't want to be in the news.

Unfortunately for Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones, that didn't happen this week. The Vols lost starting offensive guard and redshirt senior Marcus Jackson to an injured biceps.

"Yeah with Marcus, there's no time table set," Jones said in quotes released by Tennessee. "It could be the season, it could be eight months, it could be nine months. It's really based on how his surgery comes, and how his body performs."

Is this a big blow for the 2015 Vols?

Of course. While the offensive line was more of a laughing stock last year as it gave up a conference-worst 43 sacks and 101 tackles for loss, it returned four starters under center, and an entire offseason of work would do wonders toward developing the continuity and familiarity needed to develop into a power. 

What's more, Jackson was one of the reasons that the Vols thrived down the stretch, as Jack Farrell of Pro Football Focus noted in June.

Now, the Vols have to hit the reset button a little bit. Although, for the first time since Jones has been head coach on Rocky Top, the Vols have options.

"For the first time since we've been at Tennessee, we've been able to walk out of spring practice and have two full lines of scholarship players," Jones said at SEC media days. "The overall development and maturation of that group has come a long way. We have the competitive depth that's needed."

Who will that be?

As Ryan Callahan of 247Sports notes, 6'4", 307-pound freshman Jack Jones had been running with the "ones" at right guard due to some minor fall camp injuries up front. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native has been impressing the staff.

"Jack is still going through his first training camp, but I see progress every day," Jones said.

The loss of Jackson hurts, but it's only a minor shakeup. The offensive line as a whole progressed last year once quarterback Joshua Dobbs was inserted into the lineup.

The Vols gave up two or fewer sacks in four of the final six games of the year, all of which were games in which Dobbs—a dual-threat and returning starter—served as the primary quarterback. The only team to truly light up Dobbs during that stretch—which included a game against the fearsome Alabama front seven—was Missouri on Nov. 22, a loss in which Dobbs was sacked six times.

Dobbs' presence, and more of a focus on a multi-dimensional running game with Dobbs and newcomer Alvin Kamara as running threats in the same backfield as sophomore star running back Jalen Hurd, will help hide any minor deficiencies that exist along the offensive line.

As Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press notes, the trio in the same backfield could cause nightmares to opposing defenses.

It's never ideal to lose a starter in fall camp, especially one up front who was being counted on to be the centerpiece of a developing unit. 

But three returning starters up front remain of an offensive line that not only has depth, but also has the luxury of evolving with a dual-threat quarterback who's getting first-team snaps for a full offseason for the first time in his career.

The Vols have evolved all offseason and have time to do it again between now and the time toe meets leather vs. Bowling Green in Nashville on Sept. 5.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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Most Important Commit of Each Top 25 College Football Recruiting Class

Star ratings and analyst rankings aside, some commitments simply seem more pivotal than others on the college football recruiting trail. Talented high school players can address positions of need, help turn momentum en route to national signing day or ultimately set the stage for future title runs.

We examined the country's current top 25 classes in an effort to identify those prospects who represent far more than a filled slot within their program's recruiting haul.


List order based on 247Sports' composite 2016 class rankings.

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Ed Davis Injury: Updates on Michigan State Star's Knee and Recovery

Michigan State linebacker Ed Davis was primed to function as the fulcrum of the Spartans defense during the 2015 season, but a knee injury has derailed those plans. 

Continue for updates. 

Davis Suffers Season-Ending Knee Injury Wednesday, August 12

Michigan State's official Twitter account confirmed the news Wednesday night and noted that Davis suffered the setback in the team's first preseason practice in full pads.

The rising senior was one of a select few linebackers named to the Bednarik Award watch list, and he finished the 2014 campaign as an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team. 

“We’re so disappointed for Ed Davis, and his presence in the lineup will be missed," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said, according to the Detroit News' Matt Charboneau

During the 2014 season, Davis racked up 58 tackles and seven sacks, which ranked fourth and third on the Spartans, respectively. 

"Our program has faced adversity before, so now it’s time to adopt the ‘next man up’ mentality," Dantonio added, per Charboneau. 

In that spirit, linebacker Chris Frey would appear to be in line to take on Davis' spot on defense, according to the Detroit Free Press' Joe Rexrode. During his freshman season with the Spartans, Frey compiled 19 tackles and zero sacks over the course of 13 appearances. 

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10 Players Who Can Be Surprising Heisman Candidates in 2015

For every Reggie Bush and Marcus Mariota—presumed favorites to win the Heisman Trophy entering a season, there is a Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston—a player who comes out of nowhere to win college football’s most prestigious award. 

Everyone knows TCU’s Trevone Boykin, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott are the front-runners for the Heisman in 2015. What about guys such as Chuckie Keeton of Utah State and Paxton Lynch of Memphis? Could they challenge for the award as well? 

Here is a look at 10 players who could surprise and become Heisman candidates this season. These players are surprise candidates because they are receiving little-to-no attention. This ranges from guys who play in smaller, more obscure conferences to players from major programs who could break out for huge seasons.

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Alabama Football: Next 10 Days of Fall Camp Should Determine Tide's Starting QB

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban says the time has come for the University of Alabama football coaching staff to make some decisions about the quarterback position. 

But that doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide are close to naming a starter. Rather they’re laying the groundwork for how the next stage of the competition will proceed.

“We have given all the quarterbacks some chance,” Saban said during his post-practice press conference on Wednesday evening. “We’re going to have to make some evaluations before the scrimmage so that they get a number of reps that we can evaluate how they do out there when the live bullets fly.”

While that doesn’t necessarily mean the coaches are going to start dismissing the contenders one at a time like a bad weekly reality TV show, it indicated that they’re about to start honing in on the primary contenders.

Specifically, Alabama has five quarterbacks on the roster, and all of them got reps during the spring and first week of training camp.

After appearing in seven games last season in relief of Blake Sims, Jake Coker is the closest thing to an incumbent as no other quarterback has attempted a pass at the collegiate level.

Coker completed 38 of 59 attempts for 403 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in 2014. His completion percentage of 64.4 was nearly the exact same as Sims’ (64.5), but Sims was more of a dual threat who ended up with 350 rushing yards.

Coker is also the lone senior in the competition. After transferring from Florida State, he has now had more than a year to absorb the offense.

So have the players who are right behind him: redshirt freshman David Cornwell, junior Alec Morris and sophomore Cooper Bateman. The only player who has not is true freshman Blake Barnett, who might have the most potential.

“It does make things difficult,” said offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin about the five-man competition, “but another way to look at [it] is if you eliminate one or two, you might be eliminating the wrong guy. We sat up here one year ago, and we didn’t know who our quarterback was going to be at that time. So you have to let it play out and let them decide.”

While fans have been clamoring for any news about who might have the upper hand, Saban has predictably kept things close to the vest and been almost cryptic about things.

However, the most important evaluations haven’t taken place yet. They will likely occur during the Crimson Tide’s two closed scrimmages, which will be held during the next two Saturdays at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

If last year’s competition between Sims and Coker can serve as an accurate blueprint, here’s what to expect over the next 10 days:

  • Alabama will hold a two-a-day on Thursday and a practice on Friday to prepare for the first scrimmage. That’s when the quarterbacks will likely find out how much they’ll be playing on Saturday.
  • Beginning with Coker, all five quarterbacks will play in the scrimmage and also take some reps with the second-team offense. Chances are the school will not release any passing statistics or indicate who might have made turnovers.
  • While the Crimson Tide won’t practice Sunday, the coaching staff will go through the game film and make any necessary changes to the position hierarchy. The quarterbacks will have one final week to help their causes.
  • Alabama will have a final two-a-day on Monday, Aug. 17, two days before classes begin for the fall semester.

Even after the second scrimmage, don’t expect Saban to necessarily name a starter. Although that’s when Sims separated himself and essentially won the job last year, the coaches’ post-scrimmage comment was: “Until somebody clearly wins the job, we’re not going to make a decision. Both guys had their moments of doing good things, but I also saw inconsistencies with those guys.”

The day after the second scrimmage, the coaches will meet and decide which players will contribute this season at every position and which ones won’t. It’s also when the preliminary decisions are made about who will likely redshirt.

“I think what we’re really trying to do is evaluate a lot of the younger players so that we can determine whether we think they can make the progress to make a contribution to this team,” Saban said.

“Now, we’re obviously going to evaluate where we are on offense, defense, what we think we need to do to change, what we can and can’t do so that we’re doing things that our players are capable of doing. And it’s going to be really important that we find a core group of guys that will go out there on special teams so that that can be a real asset for us.”

So how will Crimson Tide fans know who will start at quarterback against Wisconsin on Sept. 5 (8 p.m. ET, ABC)? It’ll be the player leading the quarterbacks through drills during the first practice held after the scrimmages and atop the official depth chart released the Monday before the season opener.


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

Can Ole Miss Beat LSU and Alabama for 4-Star ATH Recruit Devin White?

The race to land 4-star athlete Devin White appears to be winding down to a handful of SEC West powers.

According to Scout’s Chad Simmons, White admitted that schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss would be among the schools in his top six, “if I had one.”

Of that group, a trio of schools appear to be in line to host White for official visits in the fall.

"LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss will definitely get official visits,” White told Simmons. “I do not know dates, and I do not have any official visits set up yet, but I know those three are schools I will visit."

The Tide and Tigers have gone head-to-head numerous times in recent years over touted prospects who hail from the Pelican State. However, Ole Miss is hoping to beat out both powerhouses for White.

Can head coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels land the nation’s No. 5 athlete and 77th-overall player in the 2016 class?

There are a few factors that should help the Rebels remain in the hunt for the stud two-way standout.

For starters, as Simmons noted, White is close friends with 5-star quarterback and current Rebels pledge Shea Patterson—who played his last two seasons of high school football in Louisiana before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida over the summer.

The 6’1”, 258-pound White could play either running back or linebacker at the next level.

According to Ourlads, Ole Miss is projected to have senior starters at running back and both linebacker positions this fall—which could present a talent such as White with an opportunity to get on the field early, should he head to Oxford.

Additionally, the Rebels are riding a wave of momentum on the recruiting trail. Currently, Freeze and his staff have built an impressive class that currently ranks No. 5 in 247Sports' team rankings.

Coincidentally, the only two SEC schools above them are LSU and Alabama.

While the Rebels have had success in their recent recruiting classes, Freeze knows that wins on the recruiting trail for players such as White can help the Rebels climb the ladder to the top of the brutal SEC West.

The fact that White has the Rebels on his short list with the Tide and the Tigers is a signal that they will be a factor in his decision.


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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Hackers Take Over Michigan Sports Facebook Pages, Spam Fans with NSFW Trash

Facebook fans of various University of Michigan athletic programs awoke Wednesday morning to late-breaking news on Kim Kardashian's "bloated frame" and its fragile armistice with a youth-sized bikini.

This unfortunate bulletin was just one of a deluge of spam stories posted by the Facebook pages of various Michigan sports teams in the wee hours of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in what appears to be a fairly open-and-close case of online hacking.

Posts sent out to fans included celebrity clickbait posts, gross-out sliders and sex-tip listicles founded on the notion that all females are moments away from physical intimacy if you put in the right GameShark code.

Warning: The following are some truly trashy posts with truly trashy graphics.

Pages victimized included the Michigan football program, which acknowledged the breach of security Wednesday morning and apologized to fans.

While a fine apology for peppering fans with booty, it doesn't answer an important question: What really happens when you're flying?

You can't really be sure, can you?

Have you ever been outside an airplane when it's flying? Your windows could just be televisions looping clouds. Makes you think.

Fortunately, it appears Michigan is once again back in control of its Facebook properties.

I assume that somewhere in Silicon Valley today, Mark Zuckerberg received a concerned phone call from Jim Harbaugh about these "tattoo ladies, or whatever" on his website. A Michigan man can't have that nonsense around his boys.


Dan is on Twitter. He's just glad Harbaugh wasn't Photoshopped onto one of these images.

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Ole Miss Football: It's Now or Never for Rebels' Star Players

OXFORD, Miss. — One way or another, Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche knows that the end is near for his recruiting class.

It was only in 2013 that he headlined the top collection of incoming prospects in program history. Yes, he may only be going into his junior season, but Nkemdiche can already see and feel the window of opportunity closing.

For many, the National Football League looms ahead, with the lure of big-time money that will be too much to turn down.

So that makes this a now-or-never season.

“It does,” he said. “I don’t know who’s staying and who’s going, but I’m sure some people will be leaving.”

“I don’t know what the roster will be like next year, they might be better than us. But as of now, speaking in the moment, I feel like this is our chance to do something special.”

Going back to 2013’s national signing day, Alabama might have finished with the consensus top class, but Ole Miss stole the spotlight. With each major announcement that went the Rebels’ way, their coaches were shown celebrating on ESPN like they had won a crystal football.

SI.com used the word “historic” to describe the draft class and Ole Miss was even trending on Twitter, with LeBron James posting, “Ole Miss ain’t messing around today! Big-time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy.”

Afterward, 247Sports ranked the class No. 8 in the nation.

Individually, it had Nkemdiche as the best player in the nation, with four others in the top 100 high school prospects: tackle Laremy Tunsil (4), wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (14), safety Tony Conner (32) and offensive lineman Austin Golson (94).

Prize tight end Evan Engram was in that signing class as well, though he was rated as a 3-star wide receiver.

Overall, Ole Miss claimed it had added 11 high school All-Americans, with Hugh Freeze declaring, “I think today has the possibility of being a program-changer” during his press conference.

Three years later, though, Ole Miss has yet to challenge for the West Division title and corresponding spot in the SEC Championship Game. Granted, it got off to a 7-0 start last season, highlighted by the emotional home victory over the No. 1 Crimson Tide, but the Rebels finished 9-4 and were pounded 42-3 by TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

That only adds to the urgency.

“We finally got a taste of success and we came back to reality,” senior safety Mike Hilton said. “We know how good we are.”

That might be very, very good. At media days, however, Ole Miss was picked fifth in the media poll. Not in the SEC but the brutal West.

The thinking behind such a prediction was pretty obvious:

  • No one’s sure who will be the quarterback and if that person will fare well during his first year as a starter.
  • Ole Miss faded in 2014 in part due to the physical toll of the conference and injuries.
  • The schedule.

Ole Miss has to play at Alabama, which will have revenge on its mind on Sept. 19 (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), and at Auburn. It has to split those games—if not sweep them—to have shot at the division crown.

“Definitely,” Engram said. “We have no choice but to go in there and win. There are no if or ands about it.”

The team also has an extremely difficult final five games starting with Texas A&M on Oct. 24, followed by a road contest at Auburn and a home game against Arkansas on Nov. 7. LSU comes calling after the late bye week and, finally, it’s at Mississippi State for the Egg Bowl.

“It’s going to be a tough season overall," Hilton said.

But this is what the players signed up for and why the coaches were so excited on signing day. Additionally, with Nkemdiche, Tunsil, Treadwell and Conner considered essentially the top recruits at their prospective positions, they have a good chance of becoming premier pro prospects as well.

That’s something the program had been struggling with recently.

Since 2012, Ole Miss has had only three players selected in the NFL draft, and none in the first round. During that time span, the top selection was Senquez Golson in the second round (56th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It might have that many players in the 2016 first round alone.

"Our brand certainly has changed since I've been here, and nationally Ole Miss, we're a factor now, and we're not going away,” Freeze said. “We're going to continue to identify people that fit with our program, and we're going to continue to work our tail off every day to sell this brand in a positive light of what we can do for your son and the people that are involved in our program long after football, not just in between the lines.

“I do think that's kind of where we hopefully can separate ourselves somewhat. You've got to find your niche. You've got to be true to who you are.”

Quarterback issues aside, Ole Miss believes it has done this. It sees a team with unparalleled potential that could even challenge for the national title—something that Freeze has never brought up to his players before, but he did during the offseason.

“I think that he feels like we have the depth and we have the talent,” senior linebacker C.J. Johnson said. “If we all stay together and we stay healthy, we continue to protect the team and make the right decisions, we’ll have a chance to win a national championship.”

Regardless, the Class of 2013 will have a strong legacy. What this season will determine is if it’ll be better remembered for what it accomplished or its potential.

“The team has evolved, you know what I mean?” Nkemdiche said. “We’re at a different level right now.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Florida Football: 5 Best QBs Gators Will Face in 2015

As Florida enters its new era under head coach Jim McElwain this season, the Gators will be able to rely on what should be a strong pass defense honed under Will Muschamp.

Florida returns star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and the rest of its starters in the secondary as well as a few strong contributors in 2015.

Although the Gators fell to No. 42 nationally in pass defense last season, they have the tools to make a jump in the rankings this fall.

The opposing quarterbacks on Florida's schedule are clouded with intrigue at this point in the preseason. Outside of a few returning starters, a lot of the 2015 opponents are still in the midst of quarterback battles in what will be a year filled with new signal-callers in college football.

Here's a look at the top five opposing quarterbacks Florida will face during the regular season, based on experience and the amount of returning talent around them on their respective offenses.

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Texas Football: Should Longhorns Worry About the Recent String of Departures?

And, like that, two more Texas Longhorns are gone. Now the question becomes if the recent trend of player attrition is a bad sign for second-year coach Charlie Strong. 

The short answer is yes and no. 

On Tuesday, it was reported by various outlets that true freshman linebacker Cecil Cherry and redshirt freshman running back Duke Catalon intended to transfer from the program. For what it's worth, Texas has not confirmed the transfers yet; rather, per Max Olson of ESPN.com, Strong has only said that he has "spoken with" both players. However, Cherry confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that he had received his release:

The reasons for the reported transfers vary. Cherry's father confirmed to Olson that his son's decision was based on fit. Catalon's decision appears to be rooted in playing time, or lack thereof, per Jeff Howe of 247Sports

The pair of departures is the latest in a string of problems/attrition for the Longhorns. Of the so-called "Florida Five" in Texas' '15 recruiting class, which included Cherry, only cornerback Davante Davis remains. Tight end Devonaire Clarington has yet to be cleared to enroll. Receiver Gilbert Johnson did not qualify and defensive back Tim Irvin flipped to Auburn. 

Additionally, Catalon is one of a few Texas-based Longhorns to either leave the program or fail to arrive at all. Offensive lineman Darius James transferred to Auburn earlier this summer and defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin has been looking to get out of his national letter of intent

All of these loses certainly aren't ideal. One of the great things about preseason camp is that it's usually ripe with depth. Spring time, after all, is when depth is at its highest premium because the number of outgoing players isn't fully replenished by incoming freshmen and transfers. 

Of the '15 class departures, Cherry had the highest rating from 247Sports and was working with the No. 2 defense in practice in part because of the injury to Dalton Santos. There's a chance Cherry was going to see the field this season, but his odds of starting were probably slim. In that vein, few of the recently departed players were expected to contend for starting time in 2015. 

The recent string of departures is disappointing for Texas, but they don't necessarily fall under the "major" category. It's not like Malik Jefferson, the touted in-state linebacker who will undoubtedly be a key contributor as a freshman, is leaving. As Strong noted in speaking with reporters, the only thing his team can do is move forward with the players it has: 

Departures aren't anything out of the norm and different players do it for different reasons. Certainly, Strong has played a season short-handed before. Myriad suspensions and dismissals stemming from disciplinary issues were the theme of Strong's first season in Austin. On top of that, injuries were an issue. 

Discipline hasn't been a problem like it was in 2014. However, it is worth noting that many of the players who recently left the program were Strong's recruits, not Mack Brown's. And while many of them may not have started this year, they were nevertheless players Strong recruited to be the foundation of his program moving forward. 

Strong's 2015 recruiting class, after all, was far more of an extension of him than the '14 class. The more players who depart (or never make it to campus) in one class, the less room for error it puts on any and all future classes moving forward. 

Recruiting is a numbers game at the end of the day. Some players will become stars. Some will be decent contributors. Some will never pan out. Some will never make it on to campus or transfer. From a coach's perspective, it's about maximizing the positive numbers and minimizing the negative ones. 

What time will tell is whether the recent attrition is a matter of cutting out the fat or an indictment on a bigger problem. For now, the recent transfers and no-shows are disappointing to Texas and probably nothing more. 

It'll be in 2016, '17 and '18 in which we find out if it's more than that. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless noted otherwise. 

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Darron Lee Is College Football's Most Overlooked Star

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a mother who's a local newscaster, and having taken part in his fair share of interview sessions over the past year, Darron Lee has a knack for saying the right thing.

So when the Ohio State linebacker was asked about his snub from this year's preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, it wasn't necessarily surprising that he was able to shed the question like an oncoming blocker.

"I don't care about watch lists," Lee said. "I feel that it would motivate anybody if they were really paying attention to that. I just focus on helping my team win ballgames."

But as polished as the redshirt sophomore linebacker is in front of a camera, he can only hold his true feelings in for so long. Which is why it also wasn't a surprise that when pressed on the subject of being overlooked, the former 3-star prospect inside the now-Sugar Bowl MVP emerged.

"That chip (on my shoulder) will never leave," he said. "As long as I wear this jersey, or any other jersey playing football, I'm always going to give my best."

And yet for Lee, who is projected by several NFL draft analysts to be a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft, the role of underdog somehow still suits him.

Maybe because he's played it for so long.

Having grown up a mere 20 minutes from Ohio State's campus in New Albany, Ohio, Lee had dreams of being the next Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes star receiver/returner in the mid-2000s. In high school, the quarterback and sometime safety got to live out a part of his fantasy, dazzling on runs and punt returns at New Albany High School.

But in order to spend his college career playing for his hometown team, Lee would have to be the one doing the pursuing. Rather than being chased like the 5-star prospects Urban Meyer typically sets his sights on, Lee—the 36th-ranked prospect in Ohio and No. 630 player in the nation in the 2013 class—would have to prove himself on the summer camp circuit, and more than just once.

"He came to camp, like five or six times, (and) I rejected him probably four times," Meyer said. "Shows you how good an evaluator I am."

Lee, however, had an ally on his side in Buckeyes linebackers coach Luke Fickell, who urged his boss to take a shot on the then-6'2", 205-pounder. Meyer ultimately relented, with Lee accepting his scholarship offer from Ohio State on the same day he received it.

It didn't take long for the Buckeyes staff's gamble to pay off.

After briefly seeing time on special teams as a true freshman in 2013, Lee would take a medical redshirt before emerging as one of Ohio State's breakout performers in the spring leading into the 2014 campaign. Starting in place of first-round pick Ryan Shazier at outside linebacker, Lee—now weighing 228 pounds—would record seven tackles, including three for a loss, and would return a fumble 61 yards for a score in the Buckeyes' season-opening win against Navy.

But as impressive as his true Ohio State debut was, it was how he closed the year that really turned heads.

While Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones stole the show on the other side of the ball, it was Lee who emerged as the name to know for the Buckeyes on defense last winter. Totaling a combined 22 tackles, three of which came for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in Ohio State's three postseason games, Lee earned Sugar Bowl MVP honors against Alabama before playing a key role in shutting down Oregon's potent offense in the national title game.

Lee's breakout performance in the playoffs turned the heads of scouts at the next level, with ESPN.com's Todd McShay projecting him to be the No. 30 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. It also made him a star in college football and a fan favorite in football-crazed Columbus. 

"When you go out in public, some people know your face and whatnot," Lee said, downplaying his newfound fame.

But while Lee may be a name to know in college football for 2015, that chip on his shoulder remains ever-present.

Because as much as he claims it's not the case, it eats at Lee knowing that he wasn't selected to the 51-member preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is presented annually to college football's top linebacker. At least, that was the case in the moments following the watch list's release in July, when Lee let it be known in a since-deleted tweet that he was taking note of his absence.

"Keep adding fuel to my fire," Lee wrote. "You know who you are."

It's that type of attitude that has allowed Lee to rise from under-recruited prospect to potential first-round pick. It's also helped set the tone for the rest of the Buckeyes defense, including fellow linebackers Joshua Perry and Raekwon McMillan, even if unlike Lee, they each were selected to the Butkus watch list.

"He's a competitor, on and off the field," McMillan said of Lee. "When you see him make a play, it just makes you want to make a play. ... When something's going wrong, he gets fired up and wants to compete even more. That's the type of guy he is."

With so much going in both his and Ohio State's favor now, it would be easy to wonder whether such moments will even exist in a season where the Buckeyes are favored to repeat as national champions. Lee, however, insists that his mindset will remain the same, as no matter how hard he tries to hide it, his inner underdog shines through.

"We always keep that hunger," Lee said. "We feel we're the best defense, so we're always going to try to go out and prove that.

"The chip always remains the same."


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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LSU 5-Star Commit Saivion Smith Is Les Miles' Secret Recruiting Weapon

One of the main catalysts of LSU’s 2016 current recruiting class is 5-star corner Saivion Smith.

The Tigers currently have the nation’s No. 2 group, and since he committed to the Tigers back in February, Smith has taken an active role in recruiting other elite prospects to join him in Baton Rouge and play for Tigers head coach Les Miles.

Included on his list of targets are a few of his current prep teammates at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, such as 5-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel, 4-star linebacker Rahshaun Smith and 4-star receiver Drake Davis.

Smith accompanied Manuel on a visit to Baton Rouge in June, which has helped the Tigers establish a firm position in Manuel’s top three. 

“I’m trying to get Shavar [Manuel] to come with me,” Saivion Smith told Bleacher Report. “I feel pretty confident with him.”

With Rahshaun Smith recently backing off of an early pledge to Clemson, LSU is one of the schools that is fighting to get in the race. 

“I know [Rahshaun] is going to take an official the week they play Florida,” Saivion said. “I’m talking with him about it, and he said he will look into it since he just decommitted.”

Davis is one of several high-profile transfers who IMG Academy has added in the offseason, and he currently has LSU in his top three, along with Ole Miss and Texas A&M. 

“[Drake is] my roommate right now,” Saivion said. “I’m talking with him right now about coming to Baton Rouge. That would be pretty sweet. He has family that goes to school and plays football there also. So that would be a good fit.”

Another top LSU target who recently visited Baton Rouge is 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 cycle. However, Smith said one thing is preventing him from putting the full-court press on Gary.

“I have not communicated with Rashan recently because we actually have to play [Paramus Catholic] this year,” Smith said with a laugh.

It’s been a busy offseason for the 6’2”, 175-pounder, who rates as the nation’s No. 2 corner and the No. 13 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

In fact, his travels during the summer camp season led to him fall behind in the classroom. Smith addressed the reason he was withheld from the practice field at the beginning of fall camp.

“In the summer, I talked with my family, and we decided it would be best for me to try and graduate early. I took a couple of online classes [in summer], but being on the summer camp circuit and the seven-on-seven circuits kind of put me behind,” Smith explained. “So my dad was talking to the coaches, and they all decided they wanted me to finish those courses before I came back [to practice]. The coaches were OK with that. I got it done and now I’m back.”

Now that he’s returned to the field, Smith is turning his attention toward his senior season.

As noted by Jim Halley of USA Today Sports, IMG will start the season ranked No. 2 in the country—which puts a bullseye squarely on the Ascenders this fall.

While the roster has been reloaded with plenty of talent, Smith is one of the few returning starters from last year's squad. With his college destination already known, Smith’s goals are fairly simple for the upcoming season. 

“I’m not worried about my individual stats this year,” he stated. “I’m just trying to win a national championship and do whatever it takes to help our team win. I want to help get our other guys the exposure they deserve. It’s all about winning that national championship.”


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

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FSU's Motion to Dismiss Title IX Lawsuit from Jameis Winston's Accuser Denied

U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker denied a motion filed by Florida State University to dismiss Erica Kinsman's Title IX lawsuit against the school Wednesday, according to Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times.

Kinsman accused former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston of rape in 2012. While Winston was never charged, Kinsman "has claimed that no one at FSU offered her safety precautions as she was being harassed while still on campus," per John Taylor of Pro Football Talk, and that "the university was responsible for Title IX violations because of a 'clearly unreasonable response' to the sexual assault allegations and allowing a 'hostile educational environment.'"

On Wednesday, Judge Walker at least agreed that Kinsman has grounds to continue her lawsuit.

"Viewed in the light most favorable to Ms. Kinsman, the complaint plausibly alleges deliberate indifference during this period that effectively denied her the ability to attend FSU," Walker noted in Wednesday's decision, per Baker.

The university has claimed it offered Kinsman a victim advocate, denying any indifference to her claims. She has denied that the university aided her during the period in which she alleged she was being harassed.

Kinsman also has a civil lawsuit against Winston pending, with that case set to go to trial in May 2017, per Baker.

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5 College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat Entering 2015 Fall Camp

When highly touted college football players don't live up to the hype, the worst that normally happens to them is that they get benched. The scholarship still remains, as does their place with the team.

College football coaches aren't so fortunate.

A bad year or two, and the man in charge of a program ends up packing his office and looking for employment elsewhere. For coaches, the severance included in their contract is no small consolation to the fact that their career track has taken an unexpected turn due to a termination.

Every season, we see coaches at the FBS level either get fired or forced to resign after a less-than-stellar season, the level of which depends on the school they're leaving. Last year, there were three coaches who were fired or quit during the year, while another three were shown the exit after the regular season.

Who is most likely to face that fate in 2015? Take a look at the five coaches whose seats are hottest heading into the season.

Begin Slideshow

Every College Football Playoff Contender's Secret Weapon in 2015

Chances are, if a team heads into the 2015 college football season as a playoff favorite or contender, it's because that team has at least some star power. 

But one player does not make a team. It takes an entire team effort to go undefeated (or close to undefeated), and everyone has to do their part. That includes the players who fly a bit under the radar. 

In the following slides are the "secret weapons," on offense or defense, for preseason playoff favorites. These are players who either stood out in 2014 and could take on even bigger roles in '15 or made huge strides in the offseason. These aren't household names—yet—but they have the potential to elevate their position and team to great heights. 

As for what constitutes a playoff contender, we focus on teams expected to finish at or near the top of their respective division/conference with some additional consideration given to the preseason USA Today Amway coaches' poll. That's all bound to change, of course, but for the time being, it'll have to do. 

Begin Slideshow

Steve Spurrier Flips Script, Says the Opposite of What Coaches Usually Do

Before the season, it seems like every coach is in love with their team.

Steve Spurrier has been around the block, so he knows the deal.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina veteran flipped the script on the media and said everything coaches usually don’t: “Quarterbacks? They can’t hit the broad side of a barn. ... Receivers? They couldn’t catch a cold if it was the middle of February. ... I don’t know if we can beat anybody this year. Leadership? Nah, we don’t have any leaders out here. Guys are soft.” 

When he was through, Spurrier and the reporters burst out laughing when he said: “Have you ever heard a coach say that?”

On a serious note, the Gamecocks leader closed by saying he still has "a lot of coaching to do."

His team might still need work, but his interview skills are on point.


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Best Head Coach-Quarterback Tandems in College Football for 2015

A good-sized amount of preseason predictions for any given team can boil down to a two-part question—who is your head coach, and what does your quarterback situation look like?

No matter what system a program runs or which conference it calls home, the head coach and the quarterback are usually its two most-important figures. The connection between the two is important, and great tandems can become synonymous with a successful season.

Sure, teams need much more than just head coaching and quarterback play to win games and compete for championships, but the leadership from these roles is essential.

Here's a look at the best head coach-quarterback tandems in college football heading into the 2015 season. These duos were chosen and ranked by their respective wins, experience and potential for the upcoming year—and the more success the two have had together, the better their place in this countdown.

The offseason is winding down, so the time to debate preseason lists is drawing to a close. Give your take on the best duo in college football and name those tandems who deserve some more love in the comments below.

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SEC Football: Teams Most Likely to Not Make a Bowl Game in 2015

It's August, which means your team—yes, even if you're a fan of Vanderbilt—is a surefire division title contender and a stone-cold, lead-pipe lock to make the second annual College Football Playoff.


That's not possible, though, and the roller coaster known as the college football season will send several teams home for the holidays instead of on a trip to a bowl game.

Which SEC teams are most likely not to make a bowl game following the 2015 regular season?


Outside Looking in

Vanderbilt Commodores

Sorry, Vandy, but it's really hard to find something to love about this team outside of running back Ralph Webb.

It seemed like Patton Robinette was the natural fit to become the starting quarterback following spring practice, but he gave up football following spring due to health concerns and to focus on his own medical career. 

That leaves Johnny McCrary, Wade Freebeck, Kyle Shurmur and Shawn Stankavage vying for the top spot on the depth chart. McCrary has the experience and Shurmur has the most upside, but it's not exactly like this is the ideal spot for first-year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to be in.

We'll see how it works with head coach Derek Mason calling the defensive plays, and having a solid end like Caleb Azubike to rely on will help.

That schedule, though, is a bear. 

Ole Miss and Texas A&M are tough out of the west, the Commodores have to go to Florida and Tennessee—two of the toughest places to play in college football, and out-of-conference games vs. Western Kentucky and at Houston won't be easy.

Sorry, 'Dores fans. For the second straight season, the team won't go bowling.


Kentucky Wildcats

For the first month-and-a-half of the 2014 season, Kentucky looked like it had taken more than a small step forward, but a gigantic leap. Mark Stoops' Wildcats started 5-1 with their only blemish coming in triple overtime at Florida, before they lost six straight to close the season.

They'll be on the cusp again in 2015 thanks to underrated quarterback Patrick Towles and a defensive front that should be solid, but that schedule doesn't do Stoops any favors.

They draw Auburn at home out of the SEC West, but some of the advantage of playing on Thursday night is minimized due to the fact that Auburn, like Kentucky, has a bye beforehand. The following week, they have to travel to cross-division rival Mississippi State and deal with all of those cow bells.

They play South Carolina, Florida and Missouri in September, so if they're not clicking on all cylinders right out of the gate, bowl hopes could be dashed before the leaves change color.

Like last year, Kentucky will be competitive for the majority of the year. But it's going to have to spring multiple upsets to get to a bowl game.


Just Barely Bowling

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State was the darling of the college football world for the final two months of the regular season, but back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Georgia Tech sent the Bulldogs to the offseason wondering what might have been.

I get that quarterback Dak Prescott is awesome, but the presence of a veteran quarterback is a wildly overstated offseason storyline. Five of the last six national titles were won by first-year starting quarterbacks, and eight of the last 12 starting quarterbacks in the national championship game were first-year starters. A veteran is helpful, but the supporting cast is much more important.

Mississippi State's supporting cast is questionable at best. 

The Bulldogs lost three starters on an offensive line that was vital to Prescott's success last year, as well as five of seven starters in the defensive front seven. Head coach Dan Mullen has said all offseason that the backups played as much as reserves last year.

"When you look at guys like a Will Redmond, a Chris Jones, a Richie Brown who was an SEC Defensive Player of the Week one week last year, they're not returning starters because they didn't play the first play of the game," he said at SEC media days. "I don't view that as a real negative."

He's right, but Mississippi State's edge on defense was depth and continuity on defense, and the people that took those rotational snaps have more responsibility.

Mississippi State will get to a bowl, but only if it doesn't get upset along the way.


South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina fell just short of the media's expectations last year, when it finished the regular season 6-6 after being picked to win the division at SEC media days.

This year will follow the same path.

The Gamecocks still are loaded with questions up front on defense—their biggest sore spot last year—and are still relatively young in the secondary. The presence of junior college defensive end Marquavius Lewis and new co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke will certainly help, but will it be enough to overcome other deficiencies that developed? 

I'm not sure.

The Gamecocks' most experienced quarterback—Connor Mitch—has only six career passing attempts, the offensive line has been shuffled around, running back Mike Davis is gone and aside from Pharoh Cooper—who's awesome—there isn't a proven playmaker outside.

They have to go to Texas A&M and get LSU out of the West the week after the Tigers get a tuneup, have Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri on the road and have a tough out-of-conference neutral-site opener vs. North Carolina to start the season.


Florida Gators

It seems like the immediate success of Urban Meyer at Florida and Ohio State, Nick Saban at Alabama, Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn at Auburn and other coaches around the country has created an atmosphere in programs where immediate success is expected. The reality is that all situations are different, and Florida head coach Jim McElwain will struggle to orchestrate an immediate turnaround in year one in Gainesville.

The combination of offensive line concerns, a new offensive scheme and a new (or, perhaps, slightly experienced) quarterback is a recipe for disaster in the SEC, where games are won and lost in the trenches.

With the traditional cross-division rivalry with LSU along with a visit from the fearsome Ole Miss front seven in early October, the schedule doesn't do Florida any favors. 

McElwain will take baby steps, get a bowl game and—most importantly—bowl practices, but every week will be a battle.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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