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At Position of Demand, UCLA LB Eric Kendricks on Track to Be a Top-20 Draft Pick

The majority of teams picking in the middle of the 2015 NFL draft order have a need at the inside linebacker position...

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SEC Football: Who Will Replace the Biggest Departed Star from Each SEC Team

As always, the Southeastern Conference must replace an abundance of superstars from 2014 who'll either be high-round NFL draft picks or components of contenders who simply exhausted eligibility.

From quarterbacks who were leaders of successful offenses to defensive stalwarts decorated with collegiate awards, every SEC team has huge holes to fill.

This year isn't anything like a season ago when a mass exodus of signal-callers, skill-position players and first-rounders gutted the league. But it's still going to be tough to think of a conference devoid of such stars as Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. 

They'll both be taken high in the draft and starring on Sundays when the latest football season rolls around.

Every other team is searching for playmakers this spring as well. Let's take a look at some possibilities to replace the SEC's brightest departed stars in 2015.

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Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly Can Finally Build the Trenches

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Arguably the two biggest offseason personnel additions for Notre Dame football came on the respective lines.

But it’s more than the return of left tackle Ronnie Stanley and defensive lineman Sheldon Day that has Irish head coach Brian Kelly thrilled about the team’s status in the trenches.

“That’s really been the emphasis for us, that toughness on both sides of the ball—offensive line, defensive line,” Kelly said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to feel this way and develop that toughness.”

Kelly has said he felt Notre Dame needed to tiptoe around its injury and depth concerns in previous spring seasons. Now entering his sixth season at the helm of the Irish, Kelly finally has what he’s looking for. Notre Dame has stocked up on linemen, especially on the defensive side, in recent recruiting cycles.

“We can get in there and really get some good live action with our big guys,” Kelly said. “That’s so important in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage.”

The Irish have developed a horde of bodies on the defensive line, with Day, senior defensive end Romeo Okwara, junior defensive end Isaac Rochell and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jacob Matuska comprising the first unit while senior tackle Jarron Jones recovers from a Lisfranc injury. Sophomores Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship, Daniel Cage and Jay Hayes add depth, and early enrollee Jerry Tillery and redshirt freshmen Jonathan Bonner and Jhonny Williams could challenge for spots in the two-deep.

Without being specifically prompted, Kelly lauded Tillery, the 6’6½”, 300-pound, mid-year enrollee from Shreveport, Louisiana.

“Far and away the story is Jerry Tillery,” Kelly said when asked generally about toughness. “He’s just a unique player, one that I can’t remember that I’ve ever coached.”

Tillery has earned first-team reps, Kelly said, and uses his hands well, a point of emphasis from first-year defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.

“I don’t want to put him in the Hall of Fame…but he’s a unique talent,” Kelly said.

The Irish return three starters on the offensive line, with Stanley and Elmer (right guard) settling back in at their respective spots and Nick Martin shifting back to center. Redshirt sophomore Mike McGlinchey, who started in Notre Dame’s win over LSU in the Music City Bowl, is penciled in at right tackle. Redshirt freshmen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars are jockeying for the starting job at left guard.

Kelly described Nelson as an extremely explosive, physically overwhelming presence. Bars, meanwhile, is efficient and technically sound, Kelly said.

“You have two guys here, one that is really physical at times can dominate and one who you think is a junior—been in the program three or four years,” Kelly said. “You turn on the film and, to me, it’s gonna be hard to make the call because you like what they both do at the position.”

With Notre Dame at full health along the offensive line and only missing Jones on the defensive line, expect competition to intensify throughout the spring.

Stability in the trenches will be key for an Irish squad that was both decimated by injuries defensively in 2014 and at one of its peak offensive levels all season when it played a smash-mouth style against LSU.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Future College Football Home-and-Home Series We Wish Started in 2015

Every time an announcement is made that big-name college football teams have agreed to play each other in their home stadiums, it gets us excited about the prospect of seeing some of the game's top players square off on the field.

And then we see when those games are set to be played...and that anticipation gets quickly tempered knowing that, in most cases, nobody currently affiliated with those programs might even be around to be a part of those future home-and-home series.

While the willingness of top-tier schools to schedule each other (and not just for one-off games at neutral sites) is a promising development, one that no doubt has been influenced by college football's new playoff system, we can't help but wonder why these games are lined up for so far out rather than make a stronger push to line them up in the more immediate future.

Zach Barnett of Football Scoop said the trend of far-out scheduling makes athletic directors look proactive but without having to deal with the ramifications of those games when they're actually played.

"If I was an AD I'd schedule as far into the future as possible," Barnett tweeted Thursday. "Earn pub as a mover-and-shaker, let your successor(s) deal with consequences."

There are parts of some great home-and-home series that will be played during the 2015 season, but what if some of the more notable games set up for some time in the next 10-12 years were also on this year's schedule? Check out the contests we would have loved to see be part of the upcoming slate rather than far off in the future.

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LSU Pro Day 2015: Recap, Reaction for Jalen Collins, La'El Collins and More

More than 20 former LSU Tigers participated in Friday's pro day, which lacked the depth of previous LSU pro days but still included quality players.

One of the highest-rated prospects on the team, cornerback Jalen Collins, did not work out after recently undergoing foot surgery; however, the 6'1", 199-pound cornerback met with NFL decision-makers and logged important one-on-one time off the field.

In fact, he and defensive end Danielle Hunter, who unlike Collins did participate on Friday, ate dinner with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin Thursday evening, per Lyons Yellin of of WWL-TV:

With Jalen Collins sidelined, his namesake, offensive tackle La'el Collins, was the main on-field attraction at the workout.

Collins first made waves at the weigh-in, checking in at 6'4 ½", 320 pounds. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he checked in at 6'4", 305 pounds. A 15-pound weight gain should help Collins' stock moving forward, although he still had to prove he could wear the weight without losing mobility.

Here he is performing OL drills at pro day:

Mobility looks just fine.

Also of note: Despite the weight gain, which tacitly implies he might consider a move to guard, Collins told reporters that every team he's talked to wants him at left tackle, per Jacques Doucet of WAFB.

We'll see if that remains the case.

Prior to the workout, Cody Bellaire of And The Valley Shook highlighted running back Kenny Hilliard, who underperformed with a 4.83 40 at the combine. "If he does not put up good numbers at the workout tomorrow," Bellaire wrote, "he is looking at [being an] undrafted free agent at best."

Fortunately, Hilliard stepped up and ran a 4.6. He also put up 16 reps on the bench press and improved from 27 inches to 29 inches in the vertical jump. Here's a video of his 40-yard dash, along with that of fellow running back Terrance Magee, who clocked a 4.56:

LSU head coach Les Miles, one of many impressed with Magee's workout, said he thinks his former scatback has "third-down back written all over him" at the next level, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:

On defense, Hunter and linebacker Kwon Alexander stood on most of their scores from the combine. Both players performed well in Indianapolis and made the smart choice to abstain from working out.

Hunter, however, did perform the vertical jump, which was enough to get scouts salivating. He posted a beastly score of 36.5 inches that no LSU player surpassed. For context, Jalen Collins posted a 36-inch jump at the combine, before undergoing surgery.

Hunter is 6'5", 252 pounds.

Defensive end Jermauria Rasco did not earn an invite to the combine and was thus not afforded the same luxury. Because he missed the combine, scouts watched his workout with a close eye.

Unfortunately, Rasco failed to impress. He weighed in at 6'3", 247 pounds, ran a 4.73 in the 40-yard dash, posted 12 reps on the bench press and logged a 28.5-inch vertical jump—decent enough numbers but far from the spectacular workout he was hoping for.

And lastly, to the feel-good story of the workout.

Former LSU linebacker Tahj Jones, who was shot and nearly killed only two days after last year's pro day, returned to the field on Friday. He didn't light the world on fire and is unlikely to make an NFL roster, but his perseverance highlighted the afternoon.

Hopefully someone gives him a shot.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Are Steve Sarkisian and USC in Trouble After Missing on 4-Star QB KJ Costello?

The USC Trojans brought in arguably one of the best recruiting classes in 2015. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and company now have their sights set on the next batch of recruits for the 2016 cycle...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

The Most Important College Football Storylines So Far This Spring

Spring football kicked off in February, and in the seven weeks since—thankfully—not much has happened.

Thankfully? Yes, thankfully.

More bad things than good things can happen during spring camp. Typically, the biggest storylines from spring ball concern injuries, arrests and suspensions.

The less news we have, the better.

Still, that doesn't mean the past seven weeks have been barren. A few major incidents have happened—some concerning off-the-field issues, others concerning players going down or leaving schools.

Here's a quick recap of what we've seen through March 27.

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Best Fits for Top 2016 Uncommitted Wide Receivers

It's difficult to identify a deeper position than wide receiver in the 2016 recruiting class. Pass-catchers account for 15 of the top 100 spots in 247Sports' composite rankings, providing plenty of premier options for college football programs across the country.

Several notable receivers—including top talents Sam Bruce (Miami), DeKaylin Metcalf (Ole Miss) and Nate Craig-Myers (Auburn)—have already announced commitments. Still, many marquee members of this group remain undecided well in advance of national signing day.

Here's a look at some of the key uncommitted playmakers to monitor moving forward, and where they may find their ideal collegiate fit.

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B/R 5th Down: Bo Pelini's Strong Selfie Game, Hugh Freeze's Talladega Nights

Editor's Note: The Fifth Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh.

 

1) BREAKING: Bo Pelini Selfies Are Back and They Are Still Perfect

Let's start with the important stuff, shall we? Former Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini is the king of selfies in that 1) as of a year ago, he didn't know what they were and 2) look at that face. He's so happy! 

Pelini's been off the radar since being let go as the head coach of the Huskers last November. Now, he's the head coach at Youngstown State, and we hope that, in time, more selfies of Pelini emerge. His history with them is pretty amazing. 

Sorry, Dan Mullen. Your selfie game is solid, but not quite at Pelini's level. It's a nice Bob Ross, but no Picasso. 

 

2) An Important Message About Fame

Heading into January's Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina, Florida running back Adam Lane had just eight carries for 72 yards—and those came against Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky. But with leading rusher Matt Jones sidelined with a shoulder injury, Lane took over with 16 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 28-20 win over East Carolina. 

He also...well...there's no other way to put it without just saying it.

He pooped his pants. 

Look, there's no judgement here.

Seriously.

When you have to go, you have to go. Sometimes, the pace of the game doesn't allow for bathroom breaks. Former Mississippi State defensive back Nickoe Whitley understands this better than anyone

But instead of shying away from what happened, Lane has owned up to it. His response to a question about the, uh, accident is absolutely perfect (via Richard Johnson, the Florida Times-Union): 

It was the best thing that could have happened. It got a lot of attention and just put me in a place where I was out there publicly and people knew who I was. I really didn't get a lot of grief from it. A lot of people were really more focused on how well I did in the game than anything. I feel like it was that way because I embraced it. 

Give Lane credit. He knows how to take a crappy moment and turn it into a positive. 

 

3) Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze Is Having the Most Southern Offseason Ever

According to Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald, Freeze will be the "honorary pace car driver for the GEICO 500, a NASCAR Sprint Series race, at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., on May 3."

"I am so jacked about that," Freeze told Magee. "You have no idea, man. I love golf, fishing and NASCAR outside of my job and my family. That's the three things I spend time doing."

That might be the most Southern—and maybe 'Merican—thing Freeze has ever said.

No word yet if Ricky Bobby will be racing this year, however.  

 

4) WARNING: This Is a College Kid

Good heavens. Yes, let's talk about this.

Despite erroneous "media reports" to the contrary, this is a photo of Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson and not a secret government military weapon in testing mode. 

Lawson, a breakout freshman in 2013, missed the entire '14 season because of a torn ACL. He's been cleared by doctors to participate in spring practice, according to Joel Erickson of al.com, and is probably rampaging somewhere on the practice field or in the weight room at this very moment. 

As B/R colleague Adam Kramer notes in his tweet, Lawson has been on a strict diet to aid in his recovery process. Source, which may or may not be but definitely are fake, say the redshirt sophomore has been consuming nails and screws, old car parts and Publix chicken tender subs, among other things.  

All of this is terrible news if you're an SEC quarterback. Godspeed to you all. 

 

5) Braxton Miller Is Selling AdvoCare Products (For Now, Anyway)

Earlier this week, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller posted an Instagram photo of him with AdvoCare products. (The photo has since been deleted.)

For anyone wondering what AdvoCare is, it's a business that sells workout supplements through individual salespeople in what some might consider a pyramid scheme. 

Though college athletes can have jobs on the side, they can't make money by promoting themselves. Since that's sort of the point of AdvoCare, it would make selling said products difficult. 

Miller told Tim May of TheColumbus Dispatch that the photo was "all good" with compliance, but May provides more context: 

Miller said “it's all good” with the compliance office. But an OSU athletic department spokesman said the compliance office has yet to issue a statement on whether Miller's brief photo and name association with the company might constitute an NCAA rules violation.

...

NCAA rules allow scholarship student-athletes to hold jobs outside of school, but there are guidelines that must be followed, one of which is they cannot trade on the celebrity generated by their accomplishments.

This isn't the worst thing Miller could be doing, but will he be punished for essentially advertising himself next to a product? Hopefully, we'll find out by the time the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl is played. 

 

6) Meanwhile, the Buckeyes Have National Championship Bling and It's Huuuuuge

Crafting dozens upon dozens (upon dozens) of shiny national championship rings takes time, apparently. Ohio State players, coaches and staff received their title rings Friday a little more than three months after beating Oregon.

And, goodness, they are bright, gigantic and now, I want one terribly. 

The Buckeyes are the early favorites to repeat as national champs in 2015 because clearly, having one ring the size of a small country isn't enough. Nor should it be.    

 

7) Jay Harbaugh Knows the Way to a Recruit's Heart

Everyone knows Michigan loves a "Michigan Man." But what about a "Michigan Woman"?

Wolverines tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh knows if you want to get the recruit, you have to get the recruit's girlfriend with personalized letters. 

Here's the back story, courtesy of Doug Samuels at Footballscoop.com:  

Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh has his sights set on Naseir Upshur, an All American tight end out of Philadelphia, and for good reason—the tight end is ranked as the fifth best player at his position. Well, what better way to grab the attention of a top recruit than through his girlfriend?

Will it work? Who knows, but here's another amazing tweet from Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.  

 

8) Here's Pitt Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd Making You Nauseous 

It's not just that Boyd has sick moves because he does. The junior-to-be was basically Pitt's only weapon in the passing game in 2014. Heading into next season, he should be considered one of the best pass-catchers in college football. 

So here he is with a GoPro helmet cam doing his best to give you motion sickness. Enjoy! 

 

9) Finally...a Puppy! 

Don't even act like you don't want to see this or that Clemson isn't your new favorite team now. It's science, and I can't even deal with the cuteness right now. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bobby Johnson to Replace Archie Manning on CFP Selection Committee

The College Football Playoff selection committee will have a different look in 2015, as it was announced that former Vanderbilt and Furman head coach Bobby Johnson will replace Archie Manning.  

According to a press release from the selection committee, Manning said other commitments would make devoting the appropriate time to the College Football Playoff impossible:

It’s a great group of people and they did a wonderful job last year. But as I look ahead to the various commitments I have—to my family, numerous time obligations around the country and to other conflicting demands—I have concluded that I won’t be able to return to the committee. I particularly want to watch Peyton and Eli play, in person when I can, and it’s hard to do that when weekends are devoted to watching college games. This is not an easy choice, but it’s the right choice for Olivia and me.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced that Johnson would become the 13th member of the selection committee, which decides the four teams that will play for the biggest prize in college football. 

Per the release, Johnson has an extensive history in college football. In addition to his coaching days at Vanderbilt and Furman, the 64-year-old was a two-way player at Clemson from 1969-72 and was an ACC All-Academic honoree twice. 

Johnson's most recent claim to fame was being named SEC Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading Vanderbilt to a 7-6 record with a win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl. 

The inaugural College Football Playoff featured Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the championship game to win the school's first national championship since 2002. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Tightest Position Battles of Tide's Spring Practice

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Spring practice is officially full speed ahead at Alabama. A-Day will be here soon enough with a long summer to follow.

For now, though, the Crimson Tide are getting a good look at where they stand across the board at several positions where starting roles are up in the air.

Some are pretty much settled. Others are not.

Where are the tightest position battles taking place this spring? Let’s take a look.

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Bo Pelini Looks Super Psyched to Take This Selfie with a Fan

Sometimes amusing but mostly terrifying, Bo Pelini is the type of human you approach with your shoulders squared and your neck protected.

After going out in a blaze of defiance at Nebraska (warning: NSFW language), the cat-clutching football coach has taken over the program at Youngstown State in Ohio. Having climbed back into the saddle, Pelini now appears to be doing everything possible to endear himself to the people of the Rust Belt.

Exhibit A of Pelini's renaissance is a recent photo of the coach posing for a selfie at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The coach was apparently taking in a round of Sweet 16 games Thursday night when a fan asked him to stop for a picture.

FoxSportsOhio.com's Zac Jackson tweeted the resulting image, which is less of a selfie and more of a portrait of human apathy's murkiest depths.

Now, it is nice of Pelini to oblige fans, but let it be known—there is no clause in the selfie contract saying he has to like it.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He respects Pelini as one would a larger snapping turtle.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Jay Harbaugh's Role Key for Wolverines' Future Success

Michigan Wolverines' tight ends coach and special teams assistant Jay Harbaugh is his father's son, there's no doubting that. And just like his father and head coach, Jim Harbaugh, he has now become one of the Wolverines' vital organs. 

He's not trying to be his father, but Harbaugh approaches his job at a familiar, serious angle. After all, he's a Harbaugh and Wolverines football—or just football, for that matter—is embedded in his DNA.

Since forever ago, Harbaugh has been taught the ways of Michigan; that’s what happens when your father is a legendary Wolverines quarterback and your grandfather is Jack Harbaugh, a former defensive backs coach at Michigan.

The young Harbaugh is new to the job, but he's not new to the culture, nor is he unaware of expectations.

“All the time. Non-stop,” Harbaugh said of the Michigan “indoctrination” process. “I was just told that it was the best at everything. [I was told about] all the great players and just over the years, the great games and stuff and watching them with my dad.

“Just kind of a constant, not really over the top, but being told what a special place this was—and really, I see it now, so I get it. I get why [my dad] always told me all that stuff. I'm feeling it now, being around the people in Ann Arbor, you really get a sense of why my dad felt that way.”

There is a major cultural shift going on at Michigan. Harbaugh isn't only in the midst of the changing of the guard, he wants to have his finger on its pulse. 

 

The Install

Harbaugh, who is just 25 years old, speaks more like a seasoned vet than a "kid." He's technical. But he can also say a lot without saying much and vice versa. He's got coachspeak nailed. And sure, he was nervous during his time in front of the media Thursday—he said so—but he was pretty clear about his message.

“To get here, as we're kind of—I won't say rebuilding, we're starting something fresh and new—there's something about being there from the beginning of it rather than coming in when the team's attitude is already set,” he said.

It takes a little sifting, but the truth settles at the bottom. Like his father, Harbaugh wants to construct greatness. That was his “I want to build a permanent home” statement, almost something like the one his dad made Dec. 30.

Harbaugh wants to be at Michigan and has had the influence of his father, his grandfather and even his uncle, John, who coaches the Baltimore Ravens. That's a lot of Harbaugh in football.

The success of the hard-nosed Michigan teams, the ones that had power at every position, often boiled down to the tight end. Whether by blocking or catching passes, that position has always had a place. Lately, though, it's been lacking. 

That's where Harbaugh enters the picture.

Intent on developing tight ends, his mission is to fully utilize the talents of Jake Butt, Ian Bunting, A.J. Williams and the others within the group. He wants to build an "army" of dominance. 

Again, that sounds like something his father would say. 

With Harbaugh learning from an all-star cast, projecting immediate results wouldn't be out of the question. It might be a little heavy on the expectations side of things but not out of the realm of possibility.

As a quality control analyst with the Ravens, Harbaugh developed a keen sense of his surroundings. He also has extensive training in the world of film analysis, making him an ideal X's and O's guy.

He worked out for his uncle's Ravens, a team that won Super Bowl XLVII. He also worked well under coach Mike Riley at Oregon State. The Beavers went to a pair of bowl games during Harbaugh's time as an assistant. He'll do fine under his dad in Ann Arbor. 

 

Creative Recruiting

When it comes to recruiting, Harbaugh is obviously a creative catalyst.

Citing eight specific reasons, he sent an informative “go to Michigan” letter to 4-star tight end Chris Clark, who ended up choosing UCLA, and he recently sent one to the girlfriend of Nasier Upshur, a 4-star tight end out of Philadelphia.

Reaching out, harnessing Photoshop skills—which one day may involve D-line coach Greg Mattison, he joked—and finding out exactly how to relate to guys is what makes a great recruiter. 

Harbaugh has that touch. He does his homework.

But don't ask him to reveal his secrets. He won't tell. He “isn't allowed” to talk about recruiting tactics. Those are trade secrets.

As a child, he wanted to be either an agent with the FBI or CIA. Again, expressing a bit of nervousness, he laughed it off as a wisecrack, saying that he'd be “just terrible at it, just awful.”

On the contrary, he'd probably be good. He's already shown the ability to effectively and creatively target recruits in a manner they won't forget. Try to name another school that's sending letters to Upshur's sweetheart.

Taking the road less traveled, or blazing a new trail in Harbaugh's case, is the way of the recruiting world. By now, every player has seen every pitch. They've read all the "we like you a lot" letters and have the suits in the living rooms. 

Harbaugh brings something different. He mentioned that he sees through a younger lens when it comes to many things, including recruiting. His unorthodox ways could soon become common practice. At the very least, he's ahead of a possible trend. 

He's not shy to go for it all. He's been taught to do that. 

Coach Jay Harbaugh

The learning process never stops, and you tend to listen, absorb and ask questions when you're side by side guys like offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, a noted running guru, and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, who needs no intro.

Harbaugh is taking notes. Like his dad, he's all about attention to detail.

“It's a really good group to be a part of—guys came from all over and they're all tremendous teachers and tremendous leaders,” he said of Michigan's coaching ensemble. “So being able to see different ways of answering the same questions is really what I've enjoyed.

"Because you get very set in your ways, in terms of ‘this is how to answer that problem,’ or ‘this is the adjustment that you make,’ and you realize there's a lot more than one way to go about doing things.”

Adapting, exploring options, troubleshooting—regardless of what it's called—comes down to “finding new ways to do things,” he said. That sounds a lot like his father's mantra.

For now, Harbaugh wants to fulfill his job duties. That's it.

“No, I don't know,” he said when asked if he felt like a “big brother” type to players. “I just feel like their coach.

"Last year [with the Ravens], I was with guys who were much older than me, and I didn't feel like I was their little brother. So … I don’t know. They're fun to be around, though. I think we have a good professional relationship in terms of coach and player, and there's a good respect there. … I hope. I really like being around them. “

He said the right thing. He's 25, and they're 19, 20 and 21. Everyone knows that. Eventually, Harbaugh will probably cave in and become a big brother, uncle or mentor figure to them. It's natural in coaching. Even his dad and his uncle have evolved into such coaches.

But to take a firm stance and publicly set the line—similar to what Mattison did in regards to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin—was a smart move.

He's a kid, but he's not a kid. Yet, he's living the dream life; that much is clear. He's coaching with his dad, a program legend, at the place Bo built. Someone pinch Harbaugh!

But here's the thing: He's not overzealous. Minus the nervousness Thursday, he appears to be settling into his role. The novelty part is cool and all, but hey, he's part of the staff and should be viewed as such.

He's not just not "Jim's kid."

He's part of a fresh approach that can help restore familiar tradition at Michigan. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Reshuffled Coaching Staff Not Missing a Beat in Recruiting

When Tony Alford decided to leave Notre Dame and join Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Irish fans expected the worst. Notre Dame's best recruiter—the man who landed Louis Nix without a head coach even hired and had made in-roads throughout South Florida—was now going to compete against the Irish staff at another Midwestern power program. 

Just hours after landing 4-star recruit Dexter Williams, Alford was in Columbus, working for a head coach who had already won his share of battles against Notre Dame, the two most significant being assistant coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton, who both left South Bend to go work for Meyer. 

But even as it looked like the sky could have been falling, the past few weeks on the recruiting trail have been fruitful. An impressive junior day netted commitments from Tony Jones Jr., Julian Love and John Shannon. 

With another big recruiting weekend coming up, Notre Dame's reshuffled coaching staff and recruiting office haven't missed a beat. 

Credit Mike Elston for some of that. One of Brian Kelly's original assistants in South Bend, Elston took on the role of recruiting coordinator when Alford left, a head-scratching move to some on the outside but one that has already paid dividends. 

Elston is no slouch on the recruiting trail, but he's also not seen as an equal to Alford. Earlier this week, Elston talked about the new dynamics of Notre Dame's recruiting office and explained that being a great recruiter and being a great recruiting coordinator are two very different things.  

"Typically your best recruiters, if you take and tie them down with all of the constraints that you have as a recruiting coordinator...you take your best recruiters and put them in that role, then you're limiting what they can do," Elston explained to BlueandGold.com.

"You don't have to be the best recruiter on the staff to make sure that everybody is doing what they are supposed to. It's about holding people accountable and having leadership for the people that are working under you for the recruiting department. I'm excited because I think those are my strengths. I think that I'm able to do those things. I'm excited about where the recruiting department is headed."

The new blood on the Irish coaching staff has also helped. New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford is hard at work, giving Notre Dame a much-needed coach who has recruited the West Coast. Former Irish All-American and Pro Bowl cornerback Todd Lyght is off to a fast start as well. 

Alford's replacement, former Irish star Autry Denson, has already landed his first big recruit. In getting Jones out of IMG Academy, Denson went a long way toward alleviating any concerns about recruiting the state of Florida. 

Talking to Irish247's Tom Loy, Jones Jr. laid out Denson's recruiting pitch, one based on the familiarity Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher had with the decision facing top prospects. 

"Your teacher knows math, right? So you’re going to listen to her when she teaches you math,” Jones told Irish247. “You know she will show you the right way to do it. Well, Coach Denson is from Florida. He went to Notre Dame. He dealt with the cold weather, played ball and he got his degree and he was successful in life. I’m going to listen to him. He did everything that I want to do. I want to go to Notre Dame. I want to play in the league. I want to get a degree. I’m going to listen to him because he’s done what I want."

As the Irish move forward recruiting a limited 2016 class that will likely stay in the high teens, they'll do so with a more focused back-end operation. Led by player personnel director Dave Peloquin, changes to the staff have welcomed former Irish great Ron Powlus back to South Bend. Former UCLA star Johnathan Franklin is also inside the athletic department. 

While this year's junior day was later than most, the Irish managed to pull players from 10 different states for their first recruiting weekend. They'll stay busy throughout the spring and into summer, where camps and the second edition of the Irish Invasion will remain staples. 

So, as we saw this past weekend, a change in staff hasn't slowed down Notre Dame's recruiting. It might actually help. 

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Vanderbilt QB Patton Robinette Retires Due to Concussions: Comments and Reaction

Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette has become the latest football player to walk away from the sport due to fears about concussions and long-term health.  

According to Adam Sparks of The Tennessean, Robinette was the presumed starter for Vanderbilt heading into 2015 before informing coaches of his decision on Friday: 

Robinette entered last season as the Commodores' starting quarterback, and he finished spring practice as the presumed starter last week.

Robinette told Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason of his decision on Thursday and told teammates during a brief gathering Friday morning, according to a Vanderbilt news release.

Robinette's statement was also included in Sparks' report, saying it has "been tough coming to a decision that is right for my family and I, and protects my health and future."

"I've been very deliberate in coming to this decision," Robinette added. "It's difficult but I'm really excited to move forward to the next chapter of my life and really to see what the field of medicine has in store for me."

Robinette joins a list of players to walk away from football due to health concerns at a young age that includes Chris Borland, who retired after one NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, and Michigan offensive lineman Jack Miller, who announced his decision on March 25. 

Per Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, Robinette had already made his future plans for after college football, and this decision allows him to get a jump on things:

With concussions and head injuries coming to the forefront at all levels of football in recent years, the decision by Robinette and others isn't one that's surprising. These players know the risks better than anyone on the outside because they deal with aches and pains after every game. 

Fortunately for someone like Robinette, he's developed a plan for life after football and is sticking to it. 

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Let's Take a Look at Ohio State's New CFP Championship Rings

After stomping the Oregon Ducks in January and winning the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship Game, the Ohio State Buckeyes are finally getting a hold of those fancy new rings they earned.

Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith (h/t ESPN's Darren Rovell) tweeted out images of his ring Friday morning:

The rings don't appear to feature any drastic departures from past designs. The biggest difference is the new CFP trophy, the top of which is displayed prominently on the ring's face.

I might never get used to seeing players holding up the CFP trophy instead of the Waterford Crystal Football, but a title's a title, and you don't turn down a shiny bauble cataloging your corralling of one of the most prolific offensive forces in college football.

Enjoy your rings, Buckeyes. And keep them for a while. Keeping them is good.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He still has his first Ring Pop in a glass case on the mantel.

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Nebraska Football: Who Has a Starting Role Locked Up?

Nebraska football fans have been watching spring practice closely, searching for clues as to what the team will look like under new head coach Mike Riley. And while there are many more uncertainties this year given new offensive and defensive schemes, we still have a good idea of at least a few starters for next season. Here are five players who are likely to be on the depth chart in August.

 

Jordan Westerkamp

Wide receiver is a tricky position to handicap for Nebraska, as there are a number of talented veterans returning in 2015. De’Mornay Pierson-El is easily Nebraska’s most dangerous offensive weapon, but his size (5'9", 185 lbs) means his use will likely be limited on offense. He will most certainly play but will likely only be seen in particular packages.

Jamal Turner is another talented veteran who will very likely see the field in 2015. But even though all reports are positive, we still don’t know if he has fully recovered from the injury that cost him the bulk of last season. It’s hard to call Turner a certain starter until we know his health status.

As a result, Westerkamp is the only veteran receiver who looks set to step into the role of a starter for Nebraska. He leads all returning receivers in receptions, according to cfbstats.com, and has a history of spectacular and dramatic catches. So while there are a lot of mouths to feed in Nebraska’s receiving corps, it looks like Westerkamp will be first in line.

 

Cethan Carter

The only other pass-catcher who seems certain for the field is Carter, Nebraska’s most experienced pass-catching tight end. Under previous head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska had a maddening habit of ignoring its tight end for long stretches (call it the Mike McNeil effect).

But Riley likes to put the ball in the air, and he likes to utilize an “H-back” by putting a receiver or tight end into the backfield. Carter would be a perfect fit for the H-back role, giving him more opportunities to see the field.

 

Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine

It’s a little strange to think of the rest of Nebraska’s roster as being in flux yet having the defensive tackle position clearly locked down. But given the performance of Collins and Valentine in spring practice, that’s exactly what has happened.

Both Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald and Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star have observed how Collins and Valentine have been dominating the offensive line all throughout spring practice. Nebraska may have questions at some positions, but defensive tackle is not one of them.

 

Nate Gerry

Nebraska is loaded with talent in the secondary, so almost all of the starting back four should have intense competition. At corner, there is a possibility of Nebraska being three deep with players who could start with a less crowded secondary.

But Gerry looks to be the one certainty at safety. His play last year, after moving from linebacker after his freshman year, cemented his place as Nebraska’s most consistent defensive back. Look for him to be the one starter we know at this point in Nebraska’s talented backfield.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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9 Juniors with the Best Shot at the Heisman Trophy in 2015

For elite college football players, their junior season is perhaps the most important. By now, they’ve likely proved their worth to their coaches and programs and achieved a prominent place on their programs' depth charts.

They’re veterans. They’re expected to carry a big load. Oh, yeah, and after this season, they’re officially eligible for the NFL draft and the payday that comes with it. 

It is no surprise that juniors have achieved a prominent place in college football and with regard to the Heisman Trophy. Three of the last five Heisman winners have been juniors, including the 2014 winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

While there are a number of talented contenders for the 2015 Heisman (here is a breakdown of the top 25 candidates by Sports On Earth's Matt Brown), juniors will play a prominent role. Here are nine juniors with the best shot at taking home the stiff-arm trophy this fall.

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Where Will 2016 QB Dominoes Fall After 4-Star KJ Costello Commits to Stanford?

Stanford claimed a crucial commitment from top-ranked California quarterback KJ Costello on Thursday afternoon.

The Santa Margarita Catholic High School junior selected Stanford from a trio of finalists that also featured USC and Michigan:

Costello, a 4-star prospect, is rated fourth nationally among pro-style passers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He was listed No. 1 among uncommitted quarterbacks in the 2016 class.

The Cardinal land one of the most coveted offensive playmakers of this cycle after opting not to sign a 2015 quarterback in February. USC and Michigan each signed a pair of players at the position last month.

"I feel like I've released a 500-pound burden off my back. I feel free," Costello told B/R's Damon Sayles. "I made possibly the biggest decision of my life. Now I'm looking forward to moving on and working as hard as I ever have before."

The 6'4", 213-pound talent tossed 23 touchdowns in 2014, completing 60 percent of pass attempts for 3,123 yards. He added 352 yards and four scores as a rusher. 

With Costello off the board, focus shifts to other top talents at the position.

As usual, it's getting late early when it comes to recruiting quarterbacks. 

Among the 25 players who warranted 4- or 5-star status in composite ratings, 10 have already announced commitments. That list includes each 5-star recruit (Jacob EasonMalik Henry and Shea Patterson), along with the top-rated, dual-threat prospect (Feleipe Franks). 

Steve Sarkisian has signed three quarterbacks in the past 13 months, while Jim Harbaugh is expected to have just one quarterback on the 2015 roster who he personally recruited out of high school. This should motivate Michigan to intensify efforts elsewhere.

Eason is the biggest prize, despite a longstanding pledge to Georgia. The Washington quarterback is less likely to land in Ann Arbor than intriguing Indiana native Brandon Peters, who recently named the Wolverines to his top-five list. 

LSU also landed in Peters' collection of favorites, despite holding a pledge from Franks. The Tigers appear adamant about securing two quarterbacks in this class, and 4-star Maryland standout Dwayne Haskins is another top target who has LSU under consideration.

Haskins has expressed interest in announcing a commitment this spring, though we could see his recruiting seep deep into summer with Texas, Maryland, Rutgers and Ohio State among other programs in the mix. 

Ohio State and Rutgers are also going head-to-head for New Jersey product Jarrett Guarantano. The Scarlet Knights legacy listed Tennessee in his top three, creating a compelling final push in a recruitment that should be wrapped up fairly soon.

The Volunteers lost grips on a commitment from 4-star North Carolina quarterback Austin Kendall earlier this month and hosted Guarantano on campus last weekend. Butch Jones appears to be in strong position to pluck him away from Big Ten territory, while many expect Kendall to end up at Kentucky.

Auburn is another SEC squad in play for multiple passers. Jawon Pass and Woody Barrett both view the Tigers as a top choice, while Alabama also seems to be in solid standing with both dual-threats.

Decommitments will surely redefine the recruiting landscape moving forward. Last year, we saw decision reversals from Ricky Town, Blake Barnett and Brandon Wimbush dramatically alter the final stretch toward national signing day.

We've already watched Kendall and former Texas Tech commit Tristen Wallace hit the open market after early pledges on the 2016 recruiting trail. Rest assured, there are more surprises to come.

Costello put on a Stanford cap Thursday afternoon, but other coaching staffs will undoubtedly continue their pursuit of the Southern California star.

Classes can be built or broken by the quarterback who leads them. Here in early spring, the nationwide scramble for passers is already well under way.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Rahshaun Smith to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star DE Prospect

As schools increasingly adopt spread offenses and rely more and more heavily on the passing game, teams are always looking for that pass-rusher who can be a one-man wrecking crew.

Clemson may have found its man in Rahshaun Smith, who committed to the Tigers on Thursday via Spreecast on ESPN.com, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

Smith is the No. 3-ranked weak-side defensive end and sits 48th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. The prep star out of Bradenton, Florida, is also the 11th-best player in his home state.

Since he's one of the best at his position, Smith hasn't been lacking for interest from the top teams in the country. According to 247Sports, well over 20 schools, including reigning national champion Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson, Florida State, Florida and Penn State, have offered him a scholarship.

Clemson appeared to be among the front-runners early on to secure his commitment. He and a few other recruits visited the Tigers near the end of January, per Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated.com:

It's not hard to see what all of the fuss is about. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, Smith has great size for a defensive end/pass-rusher. He could stand to add a little bit of muscle, but his somewhat light frame allows him to be very light on his feet.

Smith is one of those defensive ends who is so quick off of the ball that by the time the offensive tackle has a chance to react, he's already collapsing the pocket. He can be a bit reliant on his speed at times, but that shouldn't prove a major hindrance when he arrives.

Although Smith is utilized best as a pass-rusher, he's intuitive enough to take good angles on the ball-carrier and stop the run.

Vic Beasley might be a good comparison. Although he's roughly an inch shorter than Smith, Beasley is another athletic pass-rusher who fell on the thinner side. It didn't stop him from accumulating over 30 sacks in his four years at Clemson.

As long as Smith can iron out some of his more technique-based issues, he should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in another two or three years.


Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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