Feed aggregator

Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Predictions for Alabama's Bo Scarbrough

 Bo Scarbrough is among the nation's best high school football players. The 4-star athlete spent his senior season playing in Florida, but he's actually not from the Sunshine State.

Scarbrough is one of the headliners in Alabama's recruiting class; however, there's still some uncertainty on where he will play in Tuscaloosa. His size, speed and versatility make him an interesting recruit to project.

It's time to take a closer look at Scarbrough.

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

Begin Slideshow

Miami Football: 5 Recruits Hurricanes Must Land on NSD 2014

The Miami Hurricanes' coaching staff has assembled a very talented class during the 2014 recruiting cycle, and landing those players on national signing day is essential.

Currently, the 'Canes class has 27 verbal commitments and one signee, but some of these prospects will officially become student-athletes very soon. Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes big-name Miami commits are enrolling early and will arrive on campus during the first week of January.

But for those players who must wait until signing day on Feb. 5, opposing coaching staffs—like Miami's will do as well—utilize the "open season," even on committed recruits.

Remember, a prospect's commitment is only official when the national letter of intent slowly comes through the fax machine.

 

The '100 Percent Committed' Crew

Recent buzz in the recruiting realm does not have many top-tier prospects trending the Hurricanes' way.

However, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Miami already has pledges from a collection of 4-stars who will enroll this summer, including defensive end Chad Thomas, safety Kiy Hester and quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Thomas, who is expected to be an immediate contributor, was expected to take visits to Alabama, Florida State and LSU, but he may no longer take the trips.

Might as well end the process, I'm good with the 🙌.

— TouchMoney99 (@F5_Chad) January 2, 2014

Hester also took to Twitter, attempting to calm down an oft-raucous Miami crowd on the popular social media site.

100% committed to the U stop asking me lol

— #⃣2⃣ (@Hester_2k) January 5, 2014

Kaaya, a 6'4" pro-style gunslinger from California, is expected to compete with redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen as the 'Canes quarterback of the future.

Though just one of the 11 predictors on the 247Sports' Crystal Ball expect Kaaya to make the trek to Coral Gables, Fla., he recently affirmed his commitment via Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.

Again, verbal commitments are great, and it's not accusing the kids of being dishonest, but nothing is official until the LOI is signed and submitted. Beyond the early enrollments, the three players are among the most important Golden must land on signing day. 

 

David Njoku

 

The Hurricanes do hold commitments from Braxton Berrios, Darrell Langham, Tyre Brady and Trayone Gray, but Miami needs to add more depth at receiver.

Following the 2014 season, Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott will graduate, and the top pass-catchers remaining will be Stacy Coley, Malcolm Lewis and Herb Waters. But after the trio, the 'Canes will be reliant on this class for production.

David Njoku, a 3-star wideout from new Jersey, caught 70 passes for 1,692 yards and 18 touchdowns during his final two high school seasons.

Njoku has already taken his official visit to Miami, and according to Nate Adelson of 247Sports (subscription required), current linebacker commit Juwon Young was trying to persuade Njoku.

He may not be the highest-profile recruit, but Njoku would already be the second-tallest receiver, providing the 'Canes with a red-zone threat.

 

Travonte Valentine

 

Amid the Golden to Penn State discussions, 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine decommitted from Miami.

Considering the lack of production of the D-line in important games, losing the 6'3", 338-pound behemoth was a significant loss to the 'Canes.

With that being said, the door is not closed on Valentine shunning LSU, his new leader, and re-committing to Miami.

Per Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald, Valentine and his coach would like to sit down with Golden to "make sure everyone is on the same page."

Barring a completely unforeseen commitment, getting Valentine back into the fold will be the 'Canes biggest win of the recruiting season.

 

Recruiting information via 247Sports.com.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: What Are Realistic Expectations in 2014?

The college football season has come to an end, and that means it’s now time to take an early look at the 2014 season.

When it comes to the Georgia Bulldogs in 2014, college football expert Mark Schlabach has them ranked No. 11 in his 2014 preseason poll. He said that despite the disappointment of the 2013 season, a lot of the injured players will return, as well as 10 starters on defense.

So if the Bulldogs do stay healthy and the defense does improve, how good can they really be in 2014?

Here are some realistic expectations for the Bulldogs for this upcoming season.

Begin Slideshow

10 Surefire Guarantees for 2014 National Signing Day

Wednesday, Feb. 5 will be another normal day for some people, but to college football recruiting fans it's nearly a holiday. National signing day is the biggest day of the year for recruiting, as it's when everything comes to a head.

The 2014 edition figures to be full of surprises—but also full of guarantees. Anyone who has followed recruiting through the years can see from a mile away some of the quirky events that are bound to happen again.

Several surprises will take place among commitments, while at least one coach will blast the way recruits are rated. Plus, there will be more arguing going into the 2015 cycle. 

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Why Greg Bryant Has a Brighter Future Than Cam McDaniel

He disappeared like a thief in the dead of night.

After a glamorous high school career at the American Heritage School in Delray Beach, Fla., that included a 4-star ranking from 247sports.com, Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant's freshman season arrived at a screeching yet deceivingly quiet halt following the Irish's 31-24 victory at Purdue on Sept. 14.

It was later revealed that the 5'10", 204-pound running back had suffered a season-ending knee injury, an occurrence that had fans fanning the flames of a rumored transfer. However, Bryant's father was quick to shoot down those rumors during an interview with IrishIllustrated.com's Pete Sampson.

Rumors, people assuming. Yes, he's frustrated, but what five-star freshman wouldn't be? Those are just growing pains. He'll be just fine. He needs a year to mature in the program.

Bryant's father's admission of his son needing to mature in the program, while not what fans like to hear, may in fact be a blessing in disguise for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish offense.

While Bryant spent the remainder of the 2013 season viewing his team from the sidelines, junior Cam McDaniel became the Irish's bell cow of sorts. The Coppell, Texas, native was Notre Dame's leading rusher in 2013, amassing 705 yards on 152 carries to go along with three touchdowns.

At a position with a rather muddied perception and few certainties, McDaniel was a consistent presence along with Tarean Folston, who was originally slotted as the lightning to Bryant's thunder prior to Notre Dame's 9-4 campaign that ended with a forgettable 29-16 win against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Yes, McDaniel has been the epitome of consistency for the program during his three years in South Bend, Ind., but, eventually, pure talent will be the trump card signifying his slide back down the depth chart upon Bryant's return from injury next season.

Some may receive this as a baseless claim and/or a slight to McDaniel, but it's anything but that.

Consider what McDaniel does well: He quickly identifies available running lanes, hits it effectively running north and south and consistently protects the football.

But that's all Kelly and his soon-to-be-offensive coordinator will get from McDaniel on the field.

The 5'10", 207-pound running back lacks the explosiveness and athleticism to break runs to the outside when the designated running lanes are clogged by defenders. He also lacks the pure power to break past defenders in the second level. Essentially, McDaniel is guaranteed to pick up the two to three tough yards between the tackles when necessary.

And that's where Bryant fits into the picture.

What the redshirt freshman-to-be may lack in vision of the play, he makes up for in raw talent and athleticism.

If the hole isn't there, Bryant possesses the footwork and shiftiness to bounce a run outside the tackle to pick up positive yardage, rather than be chased down in the backfield for a loss. But should he follow the progression of the play into an open running lane, Bryant's combination of size, speed, power and athleticism will allow him to consistently pick up significant chunks of yardage each time he touches the ball.

Bryant will become a terrifying presence for opposing defenses already gassed from chasing down the speedy, elusive Folston. It's a two-headed monster that may become one of the best running tandems in the country during the 2014 season. 

This isn't to say McDaniel will somehow be forgotten, though.

When the Irish find themselves in short yardage situations and need a guaranteed first down, McDaniel will be the answer. As was previously mentioned, his ability to pick up a few yards through his tremendous north and south running instinct will prove invaluable for the Irish going forward, particularly with the return of quarterback Everett Golson and his ability to open up the running game.

Either way you frame it, no worries will exist at the running back position in 2014.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Football: 4 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

The college football season came to a thrilling conclusion courtesy of the final BCS National Championship Game, but for Wisconsin football, a bitter taste lingers.

Not only did the Badgers trip up in their final home game, eliminating any chance of reaching a BCS bowl, but they also failed to cap off the season with a victory, falling to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. While it was head coach Gary Andersen's first year at the helm, a season that held so much promise ended acrimoniously.

But the great thing about sports is you get to come back and do it again with a chance to wipe the slate clean. For Wisconsin, there are plenty of reasons for optimism heading into 2014, including the return of Melvin Gordon, an opening test against LSU and a relatively manageable schedule.

Before we get to that Aug. 30 showdown at Reliant Stadium, the Badgers need to address areas of need and find solutions. Here are the four biggest concerns for Andersen and his staff heading into the offseason.

Begin Slideshow

Exactly How Much Better Will Everett Golson Make Notre Dame in 2014?

Here’s the million-dollar question for Notre Dame:  Can a change at quarterback take a nine-win season and morph it into a 12-win run?

Or in other words, can the exit of Tommy Rees and the reemergence of Everett Golson take a Pinstripe Bowl appearance and transform it into a trip to the College Football Playoff?

The answer to this question is complicated because of a difference in DNA.  First, it’s the identity of the 2012 Irish versus that of the 2013 team, and next it’s Rees versus Golson—two very different quarterbacks.

 

Defense

Before placing the blame for three fewer wins from one season to the next on the shoulders of Rees, it’s key to consider the drop in Notre Dame’s defensive production.

Here’s a look at some key stats.

The numbers make a clear case: Despite any wrongs committed by Rees, the Irish defense lost enough ground to be culpable for some of the setback.

Notre Dame gave up an additional 9.6 points and 62 rushing yards per game in 2013 versus 2012.

This becomes more significant when you consider that the average margin of defeat over the four losses this season was 9.75 points.

If the Irish defense can manage to improve in 2014, it will effectively make Golson’s impact look greater than it is in reality.

 

Run versus Pass

Because Golson was a dual-threat quarterback in 2012, the Irish were a more balanced team offensively.

And, since Rees was a single-threat quarterback in 2013, Notre Dame’s offense relied more heavily on the pass.

Take a look at the numbers.

Despite gaining 33 spots in the FBS passing rankings, Notre Dame gained only 1.4 points per game in 2013 versus 2012.

So, while Rees passed for 852 more yards and 15 more touchdowns than Golson did the year before, the effect on scoring was marginal and the team picked up three additional losses.

To give an alternate perspective, here’s a look at the two players as rushers.

The knock-on effect of a pass-dominated attack versus a more-balanced approach was big for the Irish across the two seasons. 

The following stats pack a big punch in comparing the two.

The 2012 Irish were four percent more successful on third down and 11 percent more successful on fourth down than their 2013 counterparts.  This can only be accredited to a more effective running attack.

Additionally, Notre Dame picked up 10 rushing plays of 10 yards or more and gained two minutes on offense per game. The time of possession difference may seem marginal, but over a season it adds up to the Irish defense being off the field a total of 34 additional minutes, or two full quarters.

The stats don’t lie:  Golson’s dual-threat capabilities produced superior results.

 

Mistakes

When comparing Rees to anyone, you’ve got to bring interceptions into the conversation.

Where Rees threw 13 picks in 2013, Golson threw only six.  To quantify this further, Rees threw 13 in 414 attempts, or one every 32 throws. Golson, on the other hand, threw six in 318 or one every 53 tries.

There is no doubt that this difference had a significant impact on both sides of the ball.

One of the key threads that tie Notre Dame’s four losses together this season was a slew of Rees’ interceptions.

He threw two against Michigan, three versus Oklahoma, two at Pitt and two at Stanford.  This means that 70 percent of his interceptions occurred in games that the Irish lost.

Rees also made mistakes in close games, narrowing margins of victory and putting Notre Dame at risk of dropping below the nine-win mark.

There was one pick in the three-point win over Arizona State, two in the four-point win over Navy and one in the 10-point win versus BYU.

In the category of mistakes, Golson is the clear choice over Rees.

 

Will The Irish Win More Games With Golson?

The bottom line is, the Irish should be better with a multi-faceted, less mistake-prone Golson than they were with Rees under center.

In a perfect world, this means a minimum of double-digit wins and a better bowl bid.

First, Golson is the guy more suited to run Brian Kelly’s offense.  Here’s what former Notre Dame All-American offensive tackle and analyst for CBS Aaron Taylor had to say after the news broke that Golson was out for 2013, according to Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune:

I think what allowed Notre Dame to be so successful last year [2012] and exceed expectations is that they had their guy. They had a guy that didn’t necessarily have to look over his shoulder, a guy that the offense is suited for…Whatever combination they come up with, I don’t think it’s as good as Golson would have been after a year of starting.  I think you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re going to be in the BCS.

It’s important to remember that Kelly is an offensive-minded guy, despite the swarming defense he and his staff fielded in their national championship run a year ago.

Here’s what Kelly had to say about having a defensive-dominant team after Notre Dame’s 41-30 loss to Michigan this season, according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:

Last year we had to rely on our defense to win football games, I don’t want to have to do that week in and week out…(I’m) in no way saying this defense can’t play championship defense. I think it can. It just wasn’t (Saturday) night.

This is a guy who wants to score a bunch of points rather than smother opponents like a cheap Salisbury steak at the K-mart cafeteria. 

Remember the 2009 Cincinnati team he coached to a 12-0 regular-season finish and a Sugar Bowl berth? That squad was ranked No. 4 in scoring offense versus No. 44 in scoring defense.

The other reason to be optimistic about Golson’s return in 2014 is that he’s a guy who’s had a year to consider what’s at stake in being the starting quarterback at Notre Dame.

Here’s what Kelly had to say after a recent meeting with Golson, according to Andrew Owens of Blue and Gold Illustrated:

He’s physically more mature, over 200 pounds.  He looked great, quite frankly.  Great physical condition…I think I saw a young man that understands what he’s coming back to.  He [Golson] even said ‘There’s going to be a lot of people out there that are looking at me and not all of them are going to want to see me succeed.’  He knows what he’s coming into.

 

Statistics courtesy of College Football Stats, Sports Reference/College Football and Notre Dame.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Every BCS National Championship Winner

The Florida State Seminoles mounted a gutsy, last-minute drive to clip the Auburn Tigers 34-31 at the Rose Bowl, grabbing the final national title of the BCS era.

With the College Football Playoff coming next year, it's time to take a look back in time at the 16 years of the BCS.

From the first champion, Tennessee in 1998, to now, the BCS has brought some fond memories.

Here and now, we'll rank them all.

Teams are judged on the dominance displayed in their championship season, the toughness of their respective roads and their lasting legacy—including the impact of their players at the next level.

Begin Slideshow

South Carolina Football: Top 5 Moments of 2013 Season

A third consecutive 11-2 season in 2013 produced a long list of "firsts" and "bests" at South Carolina.

Among the milestones:

  • The highest final ranking in school history (No. 4) in the Associated Press and ESPN polls.
  • The best three-year record in school history.
  • A third consecutive bowl victory for the first time in school history.
  • An extension of the school's record winning streak against rival Clemson to five consecutive games.

Here's a look at five big moments, listed in chronological order. After all, over the course of a season, one big moment seems to lead to the next.

This is how it played out for the Gamecocks.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Charlie Strong Perfect Man to Bring Toughness Back to Austin

Charlie Strong set the bar high for the future of Texas football in his introductory press conference Monday. His goal is simple: bring championships back to Austin.

There was no talk about being in the mix or 10-win seasons, only about winning championships. And that is exactly what Texas needs.

"We need to continue to build on the tradition and continue to lay that rock," Strong said Monday. "But it's all about championships in the end."

Mack Brown did a tremendous job in his 16 years leading the Longhorns. But he only brought three championships back to Austin—2005 Big 12 Championship, 2005 BCS National Championship and the 2009 Big 12 Championship. Meanwhile, rival Bob Stoops has brought eight conference titles and a national championship to Oklahoma in his 15 years as head coach of the Sooners.

"I told Coach Brown, 'I have always respected you over the years. I could remember coming here a few years ago and speaking at your clinic. I know you're a man of great integrity and a man of great character. What you have built here, I just want to build on it.

"'I always want you to feel like you're a part of this program. Any time you want to come to practice, you're always welcomed. Don't feel like you have to call me. Just show up, walk around and do whatever. You ran your program. And I have to run mine. And this has to be my program.' He said, 'Don't try to be like me. You are who you are because of what you have done. And just continue to be who you are.'"

The Longhorns' recent fall from grace ultimately led to Brown's resignation and a fresh, new start for Texas football. And the fresh start is going to come from a program rebuild structured around toughness.

"The mentality is always going to be a physical and mental toughness," Strong said. "You have to build your program on toughness. That's what successful programs do."

There are a lot of murmurs surrounding who's staying and who's going from the current Texas football staff, but the first hammer has dropped, and not surprisingly, it dropped on the strength and conditioning program.

"When you lose a football game I always say, 'How did we lose the game? Were we in shape? Were we tough enough?,'" Strong said. "You're program has to be built on toughness and it starts in the weight room. Through winter conditioning, through work during the summer, you have to make sure that's where the toughness is being built."

Texas strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie has been let go and will be replaced by former Louisville strength coach Pat Moorer. 

Moorer is the definition of tough and could even be labeled as a little scary. If you don't know who Moorer is or what he is about, this video will answer all of your questions.

"The only thing I need to do is stand him up here because he never smiles," Strong said of Moorer. "He's very intimidating." 

But the toughness Strong and Moorer expect will ultimately be determined by the Longhorns.

"I want to make sure when they (the players) leave here (Texas), they're a better person than when they came into this university," Strong said. "It's about the quality of life and it's about attitude. The attitude that they develop will be the attitude that changes this program. But they have to develop the right attitude."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football Recruiting: Highlighting Impact Freshmen for 2014 Campaign

True freshmen who can make an immediate impact are rare creatures in college football, but Michigan has a few coming into the 2014 season who could become instant stars.

The Wolverines finished the 2013-14 campaign with a disappointing record of 7-6 after getting beat by Kansas State, 31-14, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

Brady Hoke's young team fell apart down the home stretch, losing five of its last six games. 

These incoming freshmen could be a vital part of the team's attempt to rebound with a stronger record next season. 

 

Jabrill Peppers, Cornerback

Hoke must be elated about having Jabrill Peppers for the 2014 season. 

This kid is one of the nation's most remarkable athletes at any position. Though his career will likely be defined by his defensive prowess as a cornerback, he's a legitimate two-way player who could see time on offense next year. 

ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill recently highlighted a few reasons why he calls Peppers his most impressive recruit:

He just gets it. Easily adjusts and adapts to what is asked of him. Very coachable and humble, but he knows he's good. Michigan does not have a skilled player on its team like him. ...

He is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact, too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform. 

He stood out above all other players at the recent Under Armour practices, too, according to Scouts.com, as noted by Scott Bell of DallasNews.com:

Given Michigan's defensive struggles this past season, Peppers should be an instant starter at cornerback, and you can expect him to get a crack at making some plays on offense, too. He's easily the most explosive player coming in this year. 

 

Drake Harris, Wide Receiver

Hoke stole Drake Harris away from Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, and there's a good chance he's going to utilize the 4-Star wide receiver from the get-go when the 2014-15 season opens up in the summer.

As pointed out by Michigan State blogger Ryan (MSU 13-1) Rose, Harris should get a chance to make an immediate impact with the Wolverines, whereas he was going to be stuck behind some solidified players at MSU:

Harris was one of seven freshmen who recently enrolled early for spring classes, as reported by Nick Baumgardener of MLive.com. This means he and the other six early enrollees will be eligible to participate in spring practices, which will certainly help his early development.

Though he'll have to earn the right to hit the field on Saturdays for the Wolverines, Harris has the size, speed, athleticism and hands to make an immediate, positive impact. 

 

Bryan Mone, Defensive Tackle

Losing senior defensive tackles Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington provides Michigan with a tremendous challenge to match its impressive No. 29-ranked run defense next season. The Wolverines gave up just 3.81 yards per carry last year.

The vacancies left by Black and Washington provide true freshman Bryan Mone, who also enrolled early with Harris, a chance to step in and become a stalwart early in his career.

Baumgardner sees Mone as the true freshman with the best chance of making an instant splash for the Wolverines, noting it'll come down to what kind of shape he's in:

On paper, this is a guy who has everything he needs to make an impact at this level. His weight is where it needs to be, as is his frame.

But is it good weight or bad weight? Will he get into Michigan's conditioning program and immediately drop 15 or so pounds because he's not a great 315? That remains to be seen.

BigBlueRecruiting sees Mone as a potential Haloti Ngata clone in Greg Mattison's system, while noting he likely has some bad weight to lose first, backing up Baumgardner's point:

Should he get fit quick and become a dominant presence inside for Michigan, then Michigan will inevitably get better all around on the defensive side of the ball. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Trent Dilfer Eerily Predicted Jameis Winston's Game-Winning Drive Back in 2011

Back at the 2011 Elite 11 Finals, Trent Dilfer had a conversation with Jameis Winston that foreshadowed things to come for the young signal-caller.

As it turns out, Dilfer provided Winston with a situation that was close to what he encountered on Monday night en route to leading Florida State to the BCS National Championship.

Pep talks often include scenarios of clutch situations for the athlete to envision, but this was about as accurate as possible. 

Good call, Dilfer.

 

Hat tip to BlackSportsOnline.com's Ashley for the find.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2014 NFL Draft: Stock Up, Stock Down Following BCS National Championship

With the conclusion of the BCS National Championship Game ending bowl season, the 2013 college football year is officially over.

Talk will shift completely to the NFL draft at this stage, with the draft order solidifying further every week while teams lose in the playoffs and fall into their respective slots.

Underclassmen have also been making decisions about whether or not to enter the draft, and they have up to Jan. 15 to finalize their plans.

With all of this in mind, it's time to look back and see which draft-eligible players helped themselves at the end of the season and who may have hurt their stock.

 

Stock Up

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Some people may point and stare at Tre Mason's and Rashad Greene's big numbers in this game, but Jernigan did the most to help his draft stock.

He is a physical specimen, but many people have been split in their opinion on Jernigan throughout this season. But nobody can deny how he dominated Auburn's offensive line and wreaked havoc all night.

He finished with nine tackles in the game, which is extremely high for a defensive tackle. The junior has yet to declare, but he could take this momentum in stride and head for the draft.

 

Cody Hoffman, WR, Brigham Young

In a stacked wide receiver class, some players are bound to fly under the radar. But Hoffman is 6'4" with impressive athleticism and pretty solid numbers on an average offense.

In the Fight Hunger Bowl, his last collegiate game, Hoffman went off for 12 catches and 167 yards against Washington's solid defense. That game is sure to get the attention of scouts, and don't be surprised if you hear Hoffman's name mentioned as a potential riser.

 

Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Tuitt had been pretty disappointing all season, but he was a menace in the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, registering 1.5 sacks and four tackles.

While he had an uninspiring season, he will still very much be considered in the first round because of his size and versatility. He's probably the best 3-4 defensive end prospect in the nation and could try to ride this late-season momentum into the combine.

 

Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

He has been rising for a while now, but Bortles really took advantage of a major opportunity in the Fiesta Bowl and shredded No. 6 Baylor for 52 points.

In the biggest game of his life, the junior went 20-of-31 passing with 301 yards and three touchdowns, and he added 93 rushing yards and a score on the ground as well.

That versatility will impress scouts and has cemented Bortles as a first-round prospect since declaring for the draft.

 

Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

He's dealt with a lot of off-the-field issues that will be questioned during the draft process, but the draft-eligible true sophomore finished the season in style.

Hill dominated Iowa's staunch defense in the Outback Bowl, rushing for a career-high 216 yards on just 28 carries and adding two touchdowns. His blend of power and speed will be tantalizing despite his legal troubles.

While I think he's likely to declare, he has yet to do so.

 

Dion Bailey, S, Southern California

In a weak safety class. there's a ton of room to move up behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Bailey has stated his case this season and turned in a great performance in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bailey, who has since declared for the draft, flew around the field and had four tackles, two tackles for loss and held Derek Carr to just 217 passing yards.

 

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Some have said that Robinson was the most dominant player on the field during the National Championship, and with all due respect to Jernigan, it's hard to disagree.

While he's still only a redshirt sophomore, Robinson has all the tools you want in a premier left tackle, he and was outstanding in pass protection as well as run-blocking. 

There's a lot to like about Robinson and his upside. He recently tweeted his declaration for the 2014 NFL draft. 

 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

If there was any doubt that Watkins is the top receiver in this class, it was completely eradicated Friday night in the Orange Bowl.

Watkins essentially carried Clemson to victory against Ohio State, setting multiple records with his 16-catch, 227-yard, two-touchdown performance. He was all over the field, and he showcased both his breakaway speed and bulldozing ability while fighting through a minor knee injury. 

Watkins has declared for the draft and is the front-runner to be the first receiver selected.

 

Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson

Watkins carried Clemson, but he was helped a lot on the defensive side of the ball, primarily from Beasley terrorizing Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.

Beasley's quickness off the edge was impressive, and he destroyed another solid prospect in left tackle Jack Mewhort. He finished with a sack and an incredible four tackles for loss, while narrowly missing out on another one or two.

Beasley proved that while he may be on the lighter side, he can still be very effective against NFL-caliber offenses, although he has not declared for the draft yet.

 

 

Stock Down

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor

Dixon, the best player on Baylor's defense, was utterly helpless to stop Blake Bortles and UCF's offense in the Fiesta Bowl. I already mentioned the weak safety class, and Dixon certainly did nothing to help his case here.

Despite UCF not having any highly ranked skill players on offense, Baylor was shredded for 556 total yards and 52 points. UCF was running free in the secondary, and I saw Dixon get out-worked or run over too many times.

 

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

In the biggest game of his career, Carr came up incredibly short. He looked antsy in the pocket, and his mechanics and decision-making collapsed when he was put under any pressure.

The senior finished with just 217 yards through the air, and his interception and 53.7 completion percentage are just as unimpressive as his team's 45-20 loss. 

Carr's stock won't necessarily take a big hit from the game, but he really missed out on a major opportunity to climb further up boards.

 

LSU Wide Receivers

Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. were practically nonexistent in the Outback Bowl. They each caught just two passes and were both unable to find the end zone.

In this deep receiver class, both of them are vying to jump into the first-round discussion and failed to make an impact on a big stage at the end of the year.

They have both declared for the draft and will be counting on their larger body of work to keep their stocks high.

 

Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State

In what would have been his last game as a Spartan, Bullough was suspended for an unknown violation of team rules.

This is not the first time he's been suspended, so there will certainly be a big mark next to his name on most team's boards. There's also the fact that Michigan State's defense was still very strong without him on the field.

All in all, while it may not be an enormous deal in the long run, those circumstances will certainly not help Bullough's stock.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings: Final AP Standings for 2013-14 Season

After a legendary send-off to the BCS series, courtesy of Auburn and Florida State in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, the Associated Press released its final rankings for the 2013-14 season and there were a few surprises at the top. 

In case you missed it (sorry for your loss), Florida State won the championship in thrilling fashion. The Seminoles came back from a 21-3 deficit to win by three points, thanks to a tremendous fourth-quarter rally led by Jameis Winston.

Therefore, it's not surprising that FSU earned the top spot in these final rankings, but the rest of the list offers plenty of reason for debate.

 

It's easy to see why Auburn would retain the No. 2 spot, given how close the Tigers played the Seminoles in the title game. After Tre Mason's 37-yard run put Auburn up by four points with just 1:19 left on the clock, it appeared the Tigers would win the championship.

Winston and the Seminoles then capped off the biggest comeback win in the history of the BCS National Championship Game, as detailed by ESPN Stats & Info:

It's hard to argue Michigan State shouldn't be No. 3 after the Spartans knocked off Stanford, and one could make the argument the Spartans deserve the No. 2 spot. This team was ranked No. 4 in the BCS Rankings heading into the Rose Bowl, and Stanford was No. 5. Meanwhile, No. 3 Alabama lost in the Sugar Bowl, leaving that spot vacant. 

However, it's not as easy to argue South Carolina as a better team than Missouri or Oklahoma. 

Yes, the Gamecocks beat the Tigers in overtime back in late October, but Mizzou has been formidable since that loss.

Oklahoma looked like one of the best teams in the nation against Alabama too, and you can be sure fans of both schools believe wholeheartedly that their team deserves the No. 4 spot. Oklahoma, in particular, was dominant down the home stretch, taking down Oklahoma State and 'Bama in consecutive weeks to cap off a four-game winning streak.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight emerged as an elite national quarterback, making incredible plays like this one, shown by ESPN:

Clemson grabbed the eighth spot in the rankings after an impressive 40-35 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl. Tajh Boyd capped off his stellar career with a signature performance, passing for 378 yards with five touchdowns and rushing for 127 yards and another score. 

Stanford and Ohio State both dropped significantly after losing their respective bowl games, to nobody's surprise. But as both teams were ranked near the top when the season began, it's safe to say both programs will be disappointed with their final results. 

There weren't many surprises after the Top 10, though some may argue Texas A&M is a bit high at No. 18, given that horrid defense. However, Johnny Manziel's offense managed to put up 52 points, 35 of which came in the second half, against Duke to win by just four points.

Next year's season would do well to match the 2013-14 campaign which was full of upsets and thrilling finishes featuring remarkable teams and individual performances. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the First College Football Playoff in the 2014 Season

The 2013 season is over and Florida State has claimed the BCS National Championship. Moving into 2014, the BCS era is over and the College Football Playoff will become the new system going forward.

Which teams will claim the top four spots next year?

B/R experts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee, and Michael Felder break down who will be a part of the first College Football Playoff ever.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Johnny Manziel Reportedly Chooses SSG, Maverick Carter's LRMR as Representation

You could do a lot worse in life than following along the same path as LeBron James.

Johnny Manziel was likely thinking along the same lines when he selected Maverick Carter's LRMR management firm to represent his marketing interests in the future. Manziel also chose Select Sports Group (SSG) for contract representation.    

ESPN's Darren Rovell broke the news on Tuesday, Jan. 7:

On the marketing side of things, Rovell noted how much Johnny Football admired James and felt the two were in the same boat, to a certain extent. Thus Carter, James' childhood friend, would be the perfect marketing representative for Manziel:

Manziel said he befriended James when he was being investigated by the NCAA this summer for signing autographs for memorabilia brokers. Manziel told "The Dan Patrick Show" last month that the two would text each other every day during that time.

"Everyone was coming after me and there was so much criticism," Manziel said. "I feel like LeBron deals with that every single day of his life."

A source close to the negotiations over Manziel's representation told ESPN.com that Manziel had always admired James' off-the-court business empire. Manziel was seen sitting courtside with Carter for the team's game against the Golden State Warriors last week.

Manziel's choice of SSG isn't much of a surprise either, as it leaked back in December that Manziel would sign with the agency, per sports business reporter Darren Heitner.

The Houston-based sports agency has plenty of football expertise, as Forbes listed SSG as the 10th-most valuable NFL agency in 2013.

Perhaps SSG is best known for being Geno Smith's former agency, as the New York Jets rookie terminated his relationship with SSG shortly after the 2013 NFL draft.

As of Jan. 6, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner was still undecided on whether he was going to forgo the final two years of his college football career. According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Manziel said, "I want to make the right decision that's best for me and my family."

If anything, Rovell's news makes it all but certain that Manziel is entering the 2014 NFL draft. He wouldn't need to take this step if he were confident he'd be staying in school.

Now that he has hired agencies to represent both his contractual and marketing interests, college football has likely seen the last of Johnny Manziel.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Bob Stoops Will Miss the BCS More Than Anybody Else

While most in the college football world will wish good riddance to the BCS, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops may not be as quick to dismiss the departing selection system.

In fact, the 53-year-old just might find himself struggling to bid it farewell.

Monday night’s BCS National Championship matchup between Florida State and Auburn marked the 16th and final time the BCS will decide college football’s champion. In its place, the College Football Playoff is set to debut in 2014.

But although it is commonly viewed as flawed, controversial and chaotic, among other unpleasantries, the BCS will always hold a special fondness in Stoops’ heart.

That’s because for the Youngstown, Ohio, native, the BCS is all he knows.

All 15 of Stoops’ seasons as a head coach have been during the BCS era. In that time, he’s racked up more wins (160) than any other Sooners coach in school history, recorded 12 10-win seasons, captured eight Big 12 crowns, won one BCS title and made nine appearances in a BCS bowl.

That last feat puts him at the top of the list among his peers: 

Furthermore, with his victory in last Thursday’s Sugar Bowl, Stoops has put himself in a class of his own:

In fact, Stoops joins Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno as the only two head coaches to win all four major bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose) along with the Cotton Bowl. Both also have at least one national title to their names.

Needless to say, no coach has enjoyed more success than Stoops during the BCS era.

Or in certain cases, more luck.

Back in 2003, Oklahoma rolled through the regular season. The team tossed aside each and every opponent in its path, averaging 48.3 points and winning by a margin of 35.2 points per game.

However, the Sooners laid an egg in the Big 12 title game and were thrashed by Kansas State, 35-7.

Common sense suggested that because Oklahoma lost its final game, it shouldn’t be included in the title game. Especially at the expense of either 12-1 LSU or 11-1 USC.

Instead, the final BCS Standings had the No. 1 Sooners taking on the No. 2 Tigers in the 2004 BCS National Championship matchup, snubbing the Trojans—the AP Poll’s No. 1 team.

Five seasons later, in 2008, Oklahoma found itself back in the middle of BCS controversy. This time, it was to see who deserved a trip to the Big 12 title game, which served as a de facto play-in game for the BCS National Championship game that year.

Along with the Sooners, Texas and Texas Tech finished the regular season at 11-1. Each team had a victory over one of the other two while losing to the other.

With head-to-head records out the window, the Big 12 tiebreaker rules at the time called for the division winner to be decided by which team ranked higher in the BCS standings.

Although the Longhorns held the edge in both the Harris and Coaches’ Poll—along with a 45-35 victory in the Red River Rivalry that year—Oklahoma somehow managed to rank higher in the BCS standings and weaseled its way into the Big 12 title game and eventually the BCS National Championship matchup.

The Sooners may have lost both title games, but Stoops has the BCS system—flawed or not—to thank for those opportunities.

Had the College Football Playoff selection committee been in existence, chances are high that Oklahoma wouldn’t have even gotten a sniff of the national title game in either of those years.

But the BCS saved its best gift for last.

Following the 2013 season, the final at-large selection for the BCS came down between the 10-2 Sooners and 10-2 Oregon to decided who would face two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Given the higher ranking in the polls and the interest in a Ducks-Crimson Tide clash—long thought to be the destined national championship matchup—Oregon seemed to be the right choice.

However, due to the Sugar Bowl’s impending relationship with the Big 12, Oklahoma got the nod. Suddenly, the dream matchup we all wanted to see was snubbed in favor of what was largely expected to be a slaughter. 

The spreads seemed to share the same mindset with Alabama closing as high as a 17-point favorite.

Except this time, Stoops and his Sooners proved all of their detractors wrong on the national stage, handling the Tide rather convincingly, 45-31—Alabama’s worst loss since 2010.

Now, as the BCS prepares to make its long-awaited exit, it won’t be leaving alone. It will be joined by all the negative connotations suggesting that Oklahoma can’t win the big game.

Thanks to the BCS, the Sooners will be looking ahead to 2014 with tremendous aspirations.

But most of all, thanks to the BCS, Stoops has finally regained his swagger.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: What Should Longhorns Fans Expect from Charlie Strong in 2014?

First-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn led perhaps the most dramatic turnaround in college football in 2013. Coming off a 3-9 season with a winless SEC record last year, Malzahn took the Tigers to the BCS National Championship and came within a minute of beating Florida State.

That type of instant success raises the bar for other programs where the term "championship or bust" is not only a mentality, but a realistic goal. 

Texas, with its infinite resources and money, is one of those programs. Former head coach Mack Brown "resigned" last month after 16 years with the program because, as great as he was handling the political and media obligations, he simply wasn't producing a championship product on the field. 

The pressure will be on new coach Charlie Strong, who comes from Louisville, to get things turned around quickly. Strong is already seeing the pressures of the job before coaching a single down. On Monday and Tuesday, prominent Texas booster Red McCombs shared some less-than-flattering opinions about Strong, calling the hire a "kick in the face.

It's understandable that there are questions about how Strong will handle the off-the-field obligations of his new gig, or how he'll recruit the State of Texas. However, questioning his coaching credentials is ridiculous. 

Strong's background is in defense, so expect the 'Horns to show a significant improvement on that side of the ball in 2014. Greg Robinson did a nice job stepping up as defensive coordinator when Brown fired Manny Diaz two weeks into the 2013 season.

Still, the belief, according to Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman, is that Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will join Strong in Austin—provided Bedford doesn't get the Cardinals' coaching job. 

Don't expect Texas to give up 550 yards rushing under Strong like it did against BYU in September. Louisville was No. 1 in the country in rush defense, allowing 80.7 yards per game on the ground. The Cardinals also finished the year ranked No. 2 in scoring defense at 12.2 points per game allowed. 

While there's no guarantee Texas will post those kind of numbers in Year One, defense should be a strength. How Big 12 offenses develop next season will be an interesting factor to watch as well. Only three Big 12 teams—Baylor (No. 1), Oklahoma State (No. 14) and Texas Tech (No. 23)—finished in the top 25 in scoring

Another area that should improve under Strong is competitiveness. All five of the 'Horns losses in '13 came by an average of 21 points. In his four seasons in Louisville, Strong only lost by double digits twice: a 17-point loss to Pitt in 2010 and a 19-point loss to Syracuse in 2012. Strong's teams always play with an edge, even if the talent wasn't there to begin with. 

Some excellent players are returning to Texas' defense too, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown. If juniors Cedric Reed and Desmond Jackson return, the 'Horns' defensive line could be beastly. The question will be whether draft-eligible juniors like Reed, Jackson and defensive back Quandre Diggs turn pro or not. 

There should be changes coming to strength and conditioning too with Pat Moorer likely coming over from Louisville, according to Strong's comments in his Monday press conference. Injuries were a major issue for Texas, especially on defense. 

Another big question will be what will Texas do on offense? Like defense, there are some nice pieces in place. It just hasn't come together. 

The backfield will once again feature running backs Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. There's no reason why the Longhorns can't have a successful running game. The right side of the offensive line will be a bit inexperienced, but right tackle Kent Perkins has promise. 

The fascinating development will be in the passing game. Quarterback David Ash is coming back from a concussion that knocked him out for most of the season. With Jaxon Shipley, Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson and Kendall Sanders, there's a ton of potential at the wide receiver spot. 

Strong's most important hire will be his offensive coordinator. It's not clear if he'll bring Cardinals offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, another candidate for the Louisville head job, or someone else. Either way, points will matter if Texas wants to compete against Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the like. 

As will recruiting. Strong said in presser that he planned to "close off the borders" of Texas. 

"We will recruit with fire and we'll recruit with passion," Strong said via the USA Today. "We're devoted to making Austin the capital of college football, as well as the state capital."

How long it takes Strong to fulfill that promise remains to be seen. What Longhorns fans should expect, though, is to see a new, edgier football team in September. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: What AJ Johnson's Return Means for Vols Defense

The Tennessee Volunteers received some monstrous news Tuesday when All-SEC linebacker AJ "The Beast" Johnson announced on Twitter that he was returning for his senior season.

The 6'2", 245-pound middle linebacker's decision to stick around gives UT head coach Butch Jones and defensive coordinator John Jancek a centerpiece around which to rebuild the Vols defense.

Returning a three-year starter is like adding an extra on-field coach and can do nothing but ease the learning curve for some of the newcomers—especially when it's one who can back it up by being a tackling machine.

The news was met by immediate excitement from Jones, who knows the importance of having an upperclassman on the roster to help lead a young but considerably more talented unit than what UT placed on the field in 2013.

Getting another year out of Johnson was possibly Jones' biggest recruiting coup in a year full of them.

Johnson's return gives Jones and Jancek an all-conference stalwart to pencil into the lineup every week, allowing the Vols to bring along a young, talented recruiting class full of linebackers slowly.

Johnson electing to stick around for his senior season will coincide with the return of his classmate and best friend, Curt Maggitt, to the Tennessee linebacking corps. Maggitt was the Vols' most disruptive defender prior to tearing knee ligaments against Missouri in November of 2012.

He missed all of 2013 while recovering and has two years of eligibility. The good news for Vols fans is, if he returns to form, UT will be able to put a healthy, dynamic duo on the field for the first time since they each received freshman All-America honors in 2011.

The Vols have several athletic options to fill the other outside linebacker spot. Rising sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin was a special teams dynamo as a freshman and has shown glimpses of serious potential on the second level.

A duo of highly recruited outside linebackers—freshman Dillon Bates and junior college transfer Chris Weatherd—will compete with Reeves-Maybin for playing time at the other outside linebacker spot.

UT has some other incoming freshmen OLBs as well.

Those bountiful options should also enable Jancek to replace Johnson in passing situations, if that need arises. Though he improved in that facet of his game as the year progressed, the only knock on Johnson in the past has been his struggles in space and with covering receivers.

Strengthening that area of his game could really boost Johnson's NFL draft stock. Wes Rucker of 247Sports.com detailed where Johnson currently stands:

Most analysts seemed to suggest he’d be drafted in the fourth, fifth or six round of the upcoming NFL Draft, so he chose to return to school in hopes of bumping that grade after a second season with Jones and defensive coordinator John Jancek.

The Vols' defensive stalwart was not included in Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's latest mock draft.

Johnson improved as he became more acclimated to his third defensive scheme in three years.

That bodes well for UT moving forward, but the biggest news out of all this is returning Johnson's production and emotional leadership. The Gainesville, Ga., native has amassed 324 tackles over the past three seasons, leading UT in that category every season.

With more speed and talent around him, Johnson will have more opportunities to shine and will not be asked to do as many things that take him out of his comfort zone.

Instead, he can focus on being a bruising, run-stuffing linebacker in the mold of New England Patriot Brandon Spikes.

Without Johnson's return, the Vols were going to be forced to play a newcomer in the middle of their defense or move somebody from their normal position. With him in the fold, they boast a leader who can impose his will on offenses and instruct by example along the way.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

After the Alamo and After the Announcements, It's Time to Recap the 2013 Season

The 2013 season didn't end the way many Oregon fans had been counting on after an 8-0 start. It did end with a third consecutive bowl win, which secured win No. 11 for head coach Mark Helfrich and the Ducks.

There were some questions regarding the leadership and the heart of the team after seeing their national title hopes disappear with an early November loss to Stanford, but the Ducks showed plenty of heart and desire in the regular season finale against in-state rival Oregon State.

Sure, the Ducks allowed over 200 yards on the ground to one of the nation's worst rushing attacks. The Ducks played flat on Senior Day, but in the end, the team rallied behind quarterback Marcus Mariota and senior Josh Huff.

The end result was a breathtaking drive in the final minute of the "Civil War." The last-minute win gave the Ducks their sixth consecutive win over their in-state rivals and secured another season with double-digit wins.

After being skipped over by the BCS in favor of Oklahoma, the Ducks were sent to San Antonio for their first appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl against the Texas Longhorns.

With news and rumors about coaching changes and players leaving for the NFL, the Ducks came together and put on a defensive clinic in longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's final game as a coach.

The way things turned out, the Ducks finished with 11 wins for just the fifth time in school history. The win total allowed Mark Helfrich to surpass Chip Kelly's 10 wins for the most victories for a first-year Oregon head coach.

The Ducks received news that Aliotti would retire and that running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Terrance Mitchell would leave school early for the NFL.

It isn't all bad for the Ducks who also learned that Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will all return to school for another season with the program.

It may not have been the fairytale ending that many had hoped for, but the Ducks are primed for another run toward the top in 2014. Ending the season on a high note was a good start to the offseason. 

Now comes the task of finishing off another stellar recruiting class, which will help build added momentum as the Ducks head into spring practice.

Begin Slideshow

Pages