College football’s highly anticipated 2014 season is just over 10 weeks away from kicking off.
When toe meets leather for the important matchup between Texas A&M and South Carolina on Aug. 28, the long, dreaded offseason will finally be over.
On the field, college football thrills us with high-powered matchups, amazing athletes and the emergence of stars.
Off it, college football’s world can be consumed by scandals, controversy and minutiae that tend to grab the attention of fans, message boards and reporters alike.
College football’s Bowl Championship Series era had no shortage of controversy, and as the game transitions to the College Football Playoff, there is little doubt new controversies will arise to take their place.
Here’s a look at the 10 biggest off-field controversies of college football’s BCS era.
The nature of analyzing recruiting in the college football world is that it demands the instant quantifying of winners and losers, but the best way to evaluate a recruiting class is to examine how it performs years down the line—the Virginia Tech Hokies’ 2011 class represents a perfect example of this.
At the time, people were starting to wonder if Frank Beamer and company had lost their touch.
Most merely considered the class a mediocre one, but others went so far as to even call the class the “worst recruiting class in modern history.”
Mike London had just taken over for the Cavs, and there were major concerns that the new coach would help UVa wrest control of the state away from the Hokies, no matter how ridiculous the notion seems in hindsight.
Yet, given the narrow focus of recruiting analysis on the number of 5-stars and 4-stars each program signs, it’s understandable that fans were concerned when presented with the numbers. Tech only managed to sign three 4-star recruits and missed out on big in-state prospects like Richmond’s Curtis Grant.
However, three years later, it’s clear that the staff knew what they were doing when they brought this class in. The athletes they recruited might not have been the most prominent coming out of high school, but many have since turned into key contributors for the Hokies.
Even though Tech managed to land some future stars in this class, there’s no doubt that there were still some duds in this group.
For starters, the team’s highest-rated recruit, defensive tackle Kris Harley, isn’t with the team anymore after transferring. He never fit in at a crowded position group and just never harnessed the talent he displayed when he was rated the second-best player in the state.
Additionally, running back Michael Holmes initially got on the field early in his career, but off-the-field troubles led to him getting dismissed from the school in July 2013.
Despite some players who never found their place with the Hokies, there were plenty of others in 2011 who did.
The name that truly pops off the list of Tech’s 2011 recruits is defensive tackle Luther Maddy.
Although he was just a lowly 3-star recruit back then, the coaching of Beamer, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles has helped him transform into one of the premier defensive tackles in the country.
Maddy has already put together a fantastic career with the Hokies, and after briefly flirting with declaring for the NFL draft at the end of last season, he’s back to improve on his already impressive numbers. Both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele have named him to their preseason All-ACC first teams, and it’s no mistake why—Maddy is simply dominant on the field.
Safety Kyshoen Jarrett has similarly defied expectations. He was at least rated a 4-star recruit, but he’s become an outstanding safety since then.
He was third on the team in tackles last year and second the year before. Pittsburgh’s Devin Street is probably still smarting from this hit, and he too has NFL aspirations.
Phil Steele named him to his All-ACC second team heading into the year, while Athlon put him on its third team.
These two players alone have been so meaningful to the greatness of Tech’s defense these last two years, but there are other key contributors to the program in this group.
One pair likely hasn’t demonstrated their full value just yet.
Dadi Nicolas only really made his talent known last year, but the numbers he piled up in limited snaps last season have to make it clear that he’s ready to break out in 2014.
Meanwhile, Corey Marshall also looks like he’s ready to finally come into his own at defensive tackle. He made some contributions early in his career, but now that he’s moved past some off-the-field issues, coaches seem excited about what he can bring opposite Maddy at DT this year.
Linebacker Ronny Vandyke and tight end Ryan Malleck also seem to be poised to tap into their tremendous potential after fighting through injuries in 2013.
Both of them suffered shoulder injuries that put them out last year, but each started a number of games for the team in 2012 and looked good doing it.
Vandyke started to get a handle on playing coverage in the latter half of the season, while Malleck started seven games at the position.
Now they can rejoin the lineup and offer more flexibility for the staff on both sides of the ball.
This class didn’t offer a lot in terms of offensive talent, but the coaches did manage to find one future starter in Demitri Knowles.
Knowles looked tentative in his redshirt freshman year, catching just 19 passes for 240 yards. However, last year he turned into a major threat for the offense, notching 45 receptions for 641 yards and three scores. He’s never developed into the kind of downfield option the coaches were likely hoping for when they signed him, but he’s since managed to find ways to be effective all the same.
On offense, Darius Redman has also offered some value as a blocking tight end, while wide receiver Kevin Asante started a game in 2012 before leaving the program in 2013. However, he recently rejoined the squad and has two remaining years of eligibility.
Looking forward, defensive end Dewayne Alford finally seems ready to enter the rotation this season after an uneven redshirt freshman year, and he too could end up demonstrating his value.
Safety Michael Cole also deserves a final mention. He started four games for the Hokies in 2012 and could’ve been a valuable reserve contributor in the defensive backfield had he not been forced to retire with a neck injury.
All in all, this class wasn’t perfect—in fact, it probably was one of the more underwhelming ones Tech has brought in recently in terms of immediate impact.
However, the staff and these players deserve tremendous credit for transcending what the recruiting services said about this class. Maddy and Jarrett are a pair of players Hokie fans will remember for a very long time, and several other athletes in this class could cement their legacy this fall.
It’s all proof that, while 2011 might’ve seemed gloomy for Tech at the time, it was actually a seminal year for the rebuilding of the defense.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
USC's 2011 signing class was the last one before their scholarship ban went into effect. It was the last opportunity for the Trojans to bring in a fully loaded class with the hopes that those talented athletes would help carry USC through the years of reduced classes to come.
So how did they do?
On paper, the Trojans' 2011 signees were considered third-best in the nation and No. 1 in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.
But for all the usual reasons that cause athletes to transfer—playing time, academic eligibility, "family reasons"—several of those 19 signees came and went from Troy without leaving a dent in the program. Of those that stayed, some shined brightly while others are still trying to find the limelight. Others were just flat-out busts.
This is a look back at USC's 2011 signing class.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
In the midst of a disappointing 6-7 campaign in 2010, Georgia head coach Mark Richt saw recruiting as a reason for optimism even as the Bulldog football program floundered. On a weekly call-in radio show, he offered the following encouragement to fans (per Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
When you talk about in-state kids, that’s why I’ve been talking about this Georgia ‘Dream Team,’ this team of guys that I think are the best players in the state of Georgia. And I believe if they will stay in the state and come together, we can prove to the United States of America that we have the best football in the country [in] the state of Georgia. We need those Georgia kids to stay at home and do that thing for the Bulldogs, and I think everybody is going to get excited about that.
When all was said and done a few months later, his goal was largely accomplished.
According to 247Sports, Georgia signed the nation's sixth-best recruiting class in 2011 and in the process reeled in five of the state's seven best prospects.
Here's a position-by-position re-evaluating of that Dream Team recruiting class.
Unless other wise noted, all recruiting stats, rankings and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
Rasheem Green remains uncommitted, and judging by his newly released list of favorites, he still has a long way to go toward making a decision.
The 5-star defensive tackle included 15 programs among his top options less than eight months away from national signing day.
He shared the list on Twitter:
It comes as no surprise that the Southern California standout is still considering several West Coast options. UCLA and USC are both contenders for the Los Angeles County prospect.
Green, who attends Junipero Serra High School, saw a pair of premier teammates pick USC during the 2014 recruiting cycle. Quarterback Jalen Greene and cornerback Adoree' Jackson signed as part of head coach Steve Sarkisian's first Trojans class.
Linebacker Dwight Williams, another senior member of the 2013 Junipero Serra squad, signed with UCLA.
Stanford and Cal also survived the cut, presenting additional in-state opportunities. His list is heavy with Pac-12 teams, as Oregon and Arizona State are also in the picture.
Green showed he's open to the idea of playing college football far beyond his hometown, with Miami, Boston College, Notre Dame and Oklahoma all landing on the list. He is also eyeing a collection of SEC squads.
Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama are still in pursuit of the disruptive interior defender.
Green, who stands 6'5" and 275 pounds, is tremendously athletic for a player of his stature. He was clocked at 4.80 seconds in the 40-yard dash and utilizes an array of speed moves in the trenches to outmaneuver offensive linemen.
Rated No. 3 nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Green was named Most Valuable Lineman in the star-studded Mission League last season.
He tallied 57 tackles, including a team-high 26 tackles for loss. Green led Junipero Serra with 14 sacks.
USC is viewed as a strong favorite for his commitment, and the Trojans are projected to sign him by every expert prediction in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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LSU's 2011 recruiting class will go down as one of Les Miles' best. Of the 23 players that formed the group, four of them were selected in the 2014 NFL draft. And there could be more selected in next year's NFL draft.
La'el Collins, Jermauria Rasco and Ronald Martin are all members of the 2011 coup that will be asked to carry this year's youthful team. The trio of players are all slated to be starters.
But, as there is in every recruiting class, there were some busts as well. Five players never played a snap for the Tigers.
Here is a look back at how the 2011 class shaped up.
While Florida fans wait for the 2015 recruiting class to improve, it’s time to hand out grades to a class that took place a couple of years ago. It’s always fun to see which players lived up to the hype, who proved the recruiting analysts wrong and who was just a downright bust.
After looking at the Gators’ 2012 recruiting class, it’s clear it didn’t fulfill expectations. The class was considered the fourth-best class by 247Sports and included 14 players rated as at least 4-stars. However, many of the players aren’t even on the roster anymore, and others are still trying to reach their full potential. There are a couple of guys who panned out, but they were few and far between.
Of course, these grades could change as early as this season.
Let’s recap Florida’s 2012 recruiting class knowing what we know now.
Note: All rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.
If the DVR could be programmed all the way out to mid-December, we'd be all set for the 2014 college football season. Instead, we have to settle for marking the calendar with when and where to watch the 50 must-see games of the 2014 season.
From the first pairing of FBS programs on Aug. 28 all the way to the storied tradition of Army-Navy, not a week goes by this season without at least one great game to take in. Some are early-season clashes between power conference foes, most are annual tussles that no doubt will add another chapter to their long series' histories.
All of them are great. But which ones are the greatest?
Since ranking is one of the things we do best, we've listed the top 50 games to look forward to this fall. Check them out, and make sure to have a pen handy to jot them down on the calendar.
In order for the Georgia Bulldogs to have a successful 2014 season, a few things will have to go right for them.
The first is the players all have to come together and play as one. Guys like Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson will have to be leaders and get everyone on the same page.
Another thing is health. Head coach Mark Richt is hoping his players can stay relatively healthy, unlike last season where he would lose starter after starter on a regular basis.
But the most important thing that has to go right for them is the play of the schedule. The Bulldogs need to start strong and finish stronger if they want to play in the SEC title game. And while the Bulldogs’ 2014 schedule is not the hardest in all of college football, it’s certainly not the easiest, especially when they start the season against two teams from South Carolina.
Here’s a power ranking of the Bulldogs’ 2014 schedule.
The Texas Longhorns return 13 starters to an 8-5 team that underachieved for the fourth-straight season. Improving on that mark against their 2014 schedule will require Charlie Strong to engineer a great turnaround.
Texas faces eight teams that return as many or more starters than it does this season. Of those eight, three finished with a better record in 2013. Those teams are Baylor, UCLA and Oklahoma, who happen to sport the three best quarterbacks the 'Horns face all season.
These teams are tops among Texas' 12-game slate, with quarterback play, experience and past success shaping where the other nine teams rank on the schedule from easiest to toughest.
Quarterback play is the theme, and how David Ash's health situation unfolds will determine how well Strong's team does in his first season at the helm. Without him, winning games in the top half of the spectrum will be a tall order.
Returning starter stats and information courtesy of PhilSteele.com.
Recruiting under former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was never particularly rewarding, but there have been few clunker classes bigger than his final full haul in 2012.
Even though a few of the players still have eligibility remaining, it's already safe to label the class a failure.
The group of 22 players that was ranked 20th by 247Sports and eighth in the SEC was never met with much fanfare.
But the little impact of their careers—for those who actually had careers—is staggering.
The players from that group were supposed to be upperclassmen leaders during 2014, but just 11 remain. Only six of those have legitimate chances to be in the rotation, which means Butch Jones already has overrecruited many of them.
Defections and poor evaluations are key reasons why UT currently is devoid of dependable juniors and seniors.
Dooley signed zero offensive linemen in the '12 class. Of the defensive linemen, only a couple remain who could contribute. As a result, UT will be forced to play newcomers all through the trenches.
"All in all, if you look at all that's happened, all that's transpired, it's hard to feel better than I do today," Dooley told GoVolsXtra's Austin Ward on national signing day 2012.
The Dooley era in Knoxville was characterized by Vols fans trying to convince themselves and the rest of the SEC that things weren't as bad as they seemed.
They were, and the 2012 class is proof.
Travis Waller is among the hottest recruits in the country right now. The 4-star quarterback hails from California, where he uses his athleticism to make plays as a passer and a runner.
Waller, who is 6'3" and 190 pounds, has solid arm strength to all levels of the field. His accuracy is above-average, plus he can elude rushers in the pocket and make plays with his legs.
Waller has seen his stock soar this spring, but he has narrowed his list down to four schools, per 247Sports. Before he announces his decision July 1, Waller will have to go through the pros and the cons of each of his finalists.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' composite rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.com, Rivals and 247Sports.
The BCS has been consigned to the history books, and many Big Ten fans may be happy to see it go. After all, the Bowl Championship Series was marred with repeated disappointments for the conference. But despite winning just a lone BCS title way back in 2002, the conference had more than its fair share of spectacular individual performances.
To expand on the great player performances, the Big Ten racked up an impressive list of individual awards that rival any conference in the nation. The list of awards includes more than 50 national individual awards, including two Heisman Trophy winners.
Any list identifying the top-10 players from a conference when there are so many award winners to pick from is going to be somewhat subjective, so we've laid out a few simple ground rules. First, we're excluding some pretty great players from Big Ten programs that never actually played in the Big Ten during the BCS era (1998-2013). Sorry, Nebraska fans, but you won't see Ndamukong Suh's name here. Secondly, with so many players receiving national awards, it's not crazy to limit our selections to players who received a national award, a Big Ten Player of the Year Award or was a consensus All-American.
With those provisos laid out, we now present Bleacher Report's selection of the top-10 Big Ten football players from the Bowl Championship Series era.
Preston Williams is a 5-star receiver who committed to Tennessee in September of 2013. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, the Georgia native has a splendid combination of size and speed.
Williams possesses impressive agility to make plays after the catch, plus he has the strength to become a good blocker on the perimeter. The Volunteers earning a commitment from Williams has surely helped them on the recruiting trail, and it will continue to aid head coach Butch Jones' efforts to attract more talent to Rocky Top through next February.
Williams could help the Vols land a 5-star defensive end, plus he could push Tennessee over the top for a 5-star quarterback.
With summer just about here, several 2015 offensive recruits have a lot to prove over the next few months. Although these prospects are great players, questions still surround their skill sets.
A 5-star receiver needs to prove that he has the hands and ball skills to play the position on the collegiate level. A 5-star quarterback has consistency issues that need to be straightened out, plus a 4-star tight end must prove he has the speed and quickness to be effective in the passing game.
When the players in Texas A&M's 2011 recruiting class signed their national letters of intent, no one had a clue how impactful the class would become. A recruiting class that failed to raise an eyebrow on the national scene would eventually change the way people perceived Texas A&M.
The 2011 Texas A&M recruiting class was ranked No. 31 overall by 247Sports.com. It was the last complete class signed by head coach Mike Sherman, as he was let go in December 2012.
The class was recruited to help the Aggies win games in the Big 12.
Multiple members of the class would discover that the SEC style of play did not fit their skill set, and they decided to transfer. A couple of members would achieve success beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic of Aggie fans. The 2011 class will leave a positive mark on Texas A&M for years to come.
This is a look back at the 2011 Texas A&M recruiting class.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is not afraid to troll fans of rival teams that ask him to sign things.
While attending Charlie Ward's football camp as a special guest, someone in a Florida Gators shirt asked Winston to sign it. Winston was nice enough to do so, but also added a special message, saying "Go Noles".
Winston also added "37-7", which was the score of the Seminoles' game against the Gators this year.
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Forget Sports Illustrated covers. The Florida Gators football program thinks it knows what recruits are really after.
Pretty cool! 💯 pic.twitter.com/DnQfHfEm0m— Ivan Drago (@cecejeferson7) June 13, 2014June 13, 2014
As you can see, the Photoshopped covers include a picture of the recruit the "magazine" was sent to as well as phrase "Success in life after football has landed him at the top - thanks to his Florida education."
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Summer prospect camps are always good places to get an early glimpse at top recruits, and the 2015 Virginia Tech football recruiting class will have its fair share of both commits and targets at The Opening in early July.
The camp, which will be held at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, features 162 prospects from across the country, and a few could very well end up in Hokie uniforms in just a year’s time.
Tech is still in the early stages of assembling its 2015 class, so the event will be an excellent chance for the coaching staff to get a glimpse at several of its targets all in the same place.
Read on to find out more about the commits and targets the Hokies will have their eye on at The Opening.