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Pac-12 Media Makes Right Call Voting Oregon to Win Conference in 2014

The voting was close, but for the fourth time in five years, Pac-12 media members predicted Oregon to win the conference.

The Ducks got 37 of 39 votes to win the North Division and 24 votes to win the league title outright. UCLA, which also got 37 votes to win its division, the South, was picked by 13 voters to win the conference, with Stanford and USC getting one vote apiece.

Here's a look at how the full voting broke down:

In assessing the preseason polls, it's important to divorce what you think will happen from what you think should be predicted to happen.

Myself? I prefer UCLA. I've gone on the record stating as much. I think the Bruins are one of the most complete teams in the country. I think they have a decent schedule. I think this can be their year.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they should be the preseason favorites. Oregon is far too proven. I fancy UCLA this upcoming season, but I know, statistically, it is more likely for Oregon to win the conference. The Ducks have earned this prediction:

With Stanford losing so many pieces from last year's team, and USC still struggling with depth issues (largely the result of NCAA sanctions), UCLA is the best candidate to finish over Oregon this season. The Pac-12 media votes reflect that—and reflect that it should be close.

But Oregon has finished in the top 14 of the Football Outsiders F/+ rankings in each of the past five seasons, the top 10 in each of the past four and the top five in each of the past three. UCLA has never been in the top 14 during that stretch, cracked the top 36 for the first time last season and has twice finished outside the top 78.

Yes, the media predictions have to do with the upcoming season more than the last five seasons. But the last five seasons have more to do with this upcoming season than many people realize.

Here is how Football Outsiders explains that methodology:

The strongest indicator of how a college football team will perform in the upcoming season is their performance in recent seasons.

It may seem strange because graduation enforces constant player turnover, but college football teams are actually much more consistent from year to year than NFL teams. Thanks in large part to consistency in recruiting, teams can be expected to play within a reasonable range of their baseline program expectations each season. Our Program F/+ ratings, which represent a rolling five-year period of play-by-play and drive efficiency data, have an extremely strong (.76) correlation with the next year’s F/+ rating.

There's also the elephant in the room: Oregon and UCLA's most recent head-to-head matchup. Even last season, when the F/+ difference between them was far smaller than any other year since 2009, Oregon beat UCLA convincingly, 42-14.

The final score of that game was deceptive—Oregon led 21-14 after three quarters before blowing things open late—but it still speaks importantly to the state of each program. UCLA is almost where it needs to be to win the conference, but Oregon is already there.

And it's been there for a while now.

Might 2014 be the year the Bruins finally get there? Certainly. Again: I am on the record saying I think that will be the case. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be as the underdogs. It should be.

In his first mock draft for 2015, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller listed three first-round draft picks from Oregon: quarterback Marcus Mariota (No. 1), cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (No. 13) and defensive tackle Arik Armstead (No. 31). That doesn't even touch on its offensive line, which might be its strongest overall position group.

It doesn't touch on the potentially awesome backfield, either. Byron Marshall has proven his worth, and sophomore Thomas Tyner, whom offensive coordinator Scott Frost said has "decided to take it to the next level" this spring, per Andrew Greif of The Oregonian, is a former 5-star recruit who looks like a future Heisman candidate.

Oregon has been consistently great for five seasons and didn't have its roster drained the way Stanford did. By virtue of success and continuity, it deserves to be the preseason favorite—no matter how enticing UCLA might seem. But the voting also deserved to be close.

The Pac-12 media got this exactly right.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Media Makes Right Call Voting Oregon to Win Conference in 2014

The voting was close, but for the fourth time in five years, Pac -12 media members predicted Oregon to win the conference . The Ducks got 37 of 39 votes to win the North Division and 24 votes to win the league title outright...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Kliff Kingsbury Tells No. 1 QB Jarrett Stidham That He Can Change the Program

Jarrett Stidham is the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. This Texas native chose to keep his talents in state by committing to Kliff Kingsbury and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Stidham took some time to talk to Bleacher Report about Texas Tech and the recruiting process. How well do you think he will do in Lubbock?

Check out this video to see what he has to offer.

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Michigan Football: Brady Hoke Will Need Road Wins to Save Home Attendance Streak

The most exciting games on Michigan’s schedule this season won’t be played in Ann Arbor, raising the possibility that the team’s streak of 100,000-plus attendees might be broken.

Last season’s 7-6 record along with a home schedule consisting of submarquee opponents such as Appalachian State and Maryland has put a serious dent in student season-ticket sales.

Michigan’s last home crowd below 100,000 came in 1975 when 95,857 people watched a 55-7 thumping of Indiana. Since then, there have 251 consecutive games in front of 100,000 fans or more.

Unpopular season-ticket policies gutted the student section last season, making the upper reaches of Michigan Stadium as empty as the Shapiro Undergraduate Library (aka the UGLI) on a Friday night.

Athletic director David Brandon, a polarizing figure on campus, discussed the student tickets slump with Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, saying:

I think there's a bit of a trend going on there, as I talk to my colleagues. But it is always a concern. We want a robust, filled student section. Our student section tends to go up and down from year to year. Clearly it's down this year versus last year, ... Our home schedule, we don't have any of our big rivalry games (this year), that could have an impact. Coming off a 7-6 season, that could have an impact.

Another factor impacting season-ticket sales is a recent trend to trade home games for high-profile neutral-site contests. Several years ago, fans were excited to hear that Michigan and Alabama would meet but were disappointed that the game took place in Texas, not Ann Arbor.

Michigan heads back to Texas in 2017 to play Florida. Fans and their descendants can look forward to Oklahoma visiting—in 2026.

The addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, while a boon to the conference's television footprint, further diminishes the home conference slate.

Michigan’s final home game this season versus Maryland just doesn’t have the appeal of a matchup with Ohio State.

Instead of bringing in top opponents, the athletic department has resorted to pregame spectacles and other gimmicks to entice fans.

A recent plan to add some sizzle to games this season by featuring fireworks was shot down by the university regents last week. Fans will now just have to rely on coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s new offense to provide sparks as the team looks to bounce back from last season’s disappointing record.

But even worse than hurting attendance, facing rivals Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road puts Brady Hoke’s team at a distinct disadvantage.

Michigan is 19-2 under Hoke at home but only 6-8 (7-11 if you include neutral site contests) in games played away from Ann Arbor.

With a such a lackluster slate of home opponents, Hoke’s 19-2 record at home is looking pretty soft. If he can’t turn things around on the road, Michigan might be keep winning at home, but there might not be many people in stands as there used to be.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Follow @PSCallihan

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June Jones' Small Conference Secession Idea Is Brilliant, but It Just Won't Work

Football, all year round.

No offseason, no breaks; just food, screaming, irrational responses to your television and meaningful games spread throughout the calendar. If it were up to SMU head coach June Jones—and roughly every football individual on this football-obsessed planet—we’d already be there.

The NFL season would end, and then the non-Power Five programs would immediately report to camp. Games would begin in March or so, and another season—with its own unique platform, network deals and audiences—would run through the start of summer.

These games would end, those schools would break and then the Power Five programs would grab the baton for fall practice. The season would play out, the College Football Playoff would be decided and then the entire process would start again after the Super Bowl.

Networks would gladly pick up these games, knowing we simply could not resist the urge to watch more football. We slave over glorious MAC football on weekday nights during the season. Imagine giving #MACtion—and its endless touchdown magnificence—a string of Saturday nights all to itself.

Our football appetites would be satisfied each month throughout the year. And conferences and programs outside the Power Five would get the recognition they so rightly deserve, growing their brands and fanbases in our current offseason. It would be perfect.

Can you see it? Taste it? Smell it? Soak in the possibilities of tailgating in June for real-life football.

Now, snap out of it.

Even you, June Jones, although we thank you for highlighting a concept that has garnered some cult-like momentum while discussing Division II and III in the past. As enticing and inviting as this scenario might be—and goodness, its potential cannot be stressed enough—it remains a complete and utter impossibility.

That doesn’t mean it’s not being discussed, though.

Jones went on WDAE-AM late last week and campaigned—albeit casually and informally—for this movement [via ESPN.com].

I think the have-nots [non-Power Five leagues] should go ahead and move to the spring just like the USFL did. I think that there's an opportunity to do a complete other side of that division and I think that if we don't think that way as a group of have-nots, we're going to get left behind.

You make your own rules at that point. Football is the No. 1 sport on television right now and the advertisers want live programming. They don't want Hollywood shows because you can TiVo out the commercials. Live programming is a hot topic right now and I think there's a market for bigger numbers for the non-BCS teams.

As you might imagine, the responses poured in.

Mike Aresco, the American Athletic Conference commissioner, told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy they had “no interest” in changing seasons. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher of the MAC echoed this sentiment only shortly after the sound bites began to make their rounds.

Jones also followed up with a statement to his statement, although he didn’t necessarily back down from his stance. He simply reiterated—likely after a few phone conversations—that this was his opinion and not that of the school he coaches for [via FootballScoop.com].

My recent comments about the non-’Group of Five’ conferences possibly moving their football seasons to the spring were my own, and not those of SMU or the American Athletic Conference. Not being in one of these leagues creates unique challenges, and requires us to think out of the box. My comments were an example of this, and, I hope, triggered others to do so as well.

Our conference experienced a great deal of national success in its first season. Two teams were ranked in the top 15 of the final AP poll and five were selected for bowl games. At SMU, we strive for that same level of success and will compete for American Athletic Conference Championships. We want to compete with and beat teams from the “Group of Five.”

The reality for Jones—the future he sees, even if he won’t directly paint this doomsday picture—is that we’re about to embark on a new resource-driven era of college football. His program, along with the others he competes directly against, will soon be at a greater disadvantage than they already were.

Power Five conferences will soon be granted autonomy, meaning they will be able to operate under their own set of guidelines and rules. The NCAA’s board of directors will vote on this in early August, and the hovering sentiment is that it will pass without much issue.

With this newfound power will come a playoff system that has hammered away at the importance of strength of schedule since its inception. While the bowl season will remain intact, the postseason—despite an increase in yearly vacancies—will favor teams playing in conferences with perceived tougher competition.

The loss of computers is a loss for the future Boise States. At least, that’s how it’s being packaged and sold right now. As a result, smaller conferences and schools will have to be creative in how they market, something the MAC has been successful at in recent years.

This creativity will have to take place with branding, however, and not with a spring season. There simply is too much working against such a radical (but clever) approach.

For starters, there would be a huge dose of perceived inferiority. A move of this magnitude would directly imply that the white flag is being waved and that these conferences simply could not compete in the current model.

It’s why conference commissioners outside the Power Five have voiced their immediate disgust in the idea of moving shop. You can’t blame them one bit for doing so, either. It’s the business they run, and they must defend it.

More so than perception and conference power aligning, however, is the sheer logistical disarray that this would spark. The list is long, starting with the academic calendar that has a clear start and end date that would fall smack-dab in the middle of a movement such as this.

And then there are things like the bowl season, which is contract-oriented and features an abundance of teams beyond the main conferences. And what about the NFL draft, which, despite it’s now floating date that will eventually push the event deeper into the year, would certainly conflict in various ways? And what about the recruiting calendar, which would feel the effects as well?

That sound you hear in the distance is the NCAA breaking its jaw from excessive clenching while weighing “amateur” status with active players.

There are also scheduling woes to consider and the prospects of operating with all Power Five teams out of the picture. This is something the bigger conferences could push for going forward—choosing to play themselves and only themselves—although it won’t happen overnight.

The list of complications could easily continue, from the painfully obvious to tedious matters of stadium availability. The obstacles are everywhere, and our dream to enjoy football year-round would require measures that will not be taken.

For that reason—and all of the negatives you could possibly think of—June Jones will continue to coach his players in the fall, which is a fine alternative. While the brilliant possibilities of his suggestion are clear, too many 10,000-pound dominoes won't fall.

That also doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea—wild, extreme and out-of the-box, certainly, but not bad. The intentions are intact.

At the very least, Jones broached a handful of topics that will require addressing, including a market that can be nurtured and grown. And with the Power Five poised to sweeten its own university-controlled pot, the challenges of competing against these schools will become more daunting.

The answer to these questions isn’t a spring season—not in our wildest, football-driven dreams. But that doesn’t make the prospects of an offseason-less world any less inviting.

Oh, what a wonderful world it would be.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bob Stoops Comments on SEC, Nick Saban and More at Big 12 Media Days

The start of the college football season is still a month away, but University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops seems primed and ready for his Sooners to take the field.   

Stoops had plenty to say on a wide array of topics during a visit to ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, on Wednesday. ESPN's Brett McMurphy documented some of Stoops' comments, many of which could be viewed as shots at the SEC.

The Big 12 scored a major coup last season when Stoops led Oklahoma past heavily favored Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has tried to downplay the surprising 45-31 loss by claiming that his team didn't view the game as an important one, according to McMurphy:

That understandably caught Stoops' attention since it essentially detracted from what his team accomplished. Stoops fired back Wednesday by claiming that Saban's comments were disingenuous:

He also bashed Saban's seemingly care-free attitude toward bowl games other than the National Championship Game:

Despite the fact that Oklahoma had a great offensive game plan and executed it to perfection against Alabama last season, many were left wondering if extenuating circumstances such as Bama's supposed lack of enthusiasm for the contest played a role in the result.

Stoops made it quite clear, however, that Oklahoma's win was as legitimate and meaningful as can be:

Stoops' criticism began with Alabama, but it didn't end there. The SEC as a whole felt the wrath of Stoops as well. The SEC is widely considered to be the premier conference in college football, but Stoops suggested that it was a facade in some cases.

More specifically, he poked fun at some of the cupcake opponents on Texas A&M's non-conference schedule:

That led ESPN's Joe Schad to praise Stoops' entertainment value as his assessment of Texas A&M's schedule was rife with sarcasm:

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that Stoops ripped the Aggies since they were once one of the Sooners' chief rivals in the Big 12. With that said, Stoops may not have much of a leg to stand on as it pertains to his schedule.

Oklahoma's only SEC opponent this season is cellar-dweller Tennessee, while other non-conference opponents include Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. Those two teams won a combined seven games last year, so the expectation is that the Sooners should roll them.

Oklahoma is always one of the most heavily covered and scrutinized programs in college football, but Stoops' comments put an even bigger target on the Sooners ahead of the upcoming season. Oklahoma is favored to win the Big 12 this season and anything short of that will be considered a big disappointment.

That also happens to put the Sooners in prime position to potentially qualify for the inaugural College Football Playoff. In a perfect world, that could lead to a rematch between Oklahoma and Alabama in either the semifinals or the National Championship Game.

It would certainly be poetic considering the budding rivalry between Stoops and Saban. Stoops claims that his win over Bama wasn't a fluke, while Saban believes things would have been different if there was more on the line.

Something has to give and perhaps it will come during bowl season.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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College Football Week 1 Picks: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Auburn Tigers

The Arkansas Razorbacks are 3-1 against the spread in their last four road games versus the Auburn Tigers, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as the two teams prepare to meet at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 30.

Sports bettors will find that the Razorbacks are 20.5-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the market.

Let's take a closer look at this Southeastern Conference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling stats via Sports Book Review 

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Oklahoma Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big 12 Media Day

With the college football season rapidly approaching, Big 12 media days gave the fans and media alike an opportunity to get a better feel for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Head coach Bob Stoops, quarterback Trevor Knight, defensive end Geneo Grissom and safety Julian Wilson were among the attendees that spoke during Tuesday’s session. Each player provided some interesting notes and commentary regarding the upcoming 2014 season.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at all the key quotes and storylines from the day.

 

All quotes, unless otherwise stated, are courtesy of Soonersports.com

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Florida Has a Better Chance to Win the SEC East Than You Think

It's a critical year for Florida head coach Will Muschamp, and the fourth-year head man of the Gators certainly doesn't lack confidence.

During the annual ESPN "car wash" where all 14 SEC head coaches make the rounds at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, Muschamp told SportsCenter that his Gators would play in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009.

“I feel very good about our football team going to Atlanta, I really do,” Muschamp said, according to the Orlando Sentinel

Bold? Maybe on the surface. But Florida has the talent to be successful, and who can criticize a coach with confidence in his team in July. After all, don't they all?

Coming off of a 4-8 season, though, Muschamp's claim may seem outlandish—especially considering the SEC media picked the Gators to finish third in the SEC East and Arkansas, fresh off a 3-9 (0-8 SEC) season got more votes to win the entire conference (1) than the Gators did (0).

It shouldn't seem outlandish. After all, the SEC media has only predicted the correct champion four times in 22 years of voting (full disclosure: I picked Georgia).

Things change in a hurry in college football, as we learned last season when Auburn and Missouri played in the SEC Championship Game and, as we learned after the game, what turned out to be a de facto national semifinal. That same season, Michigan State—also out of nowhere—was a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame away from running the table and playing Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.

Why not Florida?

The easy criticism would be to simply say "Jeff Driskel," and immediately write off the Gators. That'd be a bit premature.

As I wrote earlier this offseason, the former top dual-threat signal-caller in the nation is finally in an offense that suits him, and he has adapted well to the tempo that new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper brought in.

"In the new offense, we really want to create space and that's going to be the best thing for our guys," Driskel said. "We have a lot of guys who can make plays in space, but when you don't have that space, it's kind of difficult. Spreading it out and getting more one-on-one matchups for our playmakers is going to be great for us."

That last sentence is key, because there are playmakers for the Gators. Most of them, like receivers Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose, are talented but unproven—but they exist. There are also young players with loads of potential, like wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Kelvin Taylor.

It wasn't a personnel problem in Gainesville, it was a scheme problem. That's been addressed, as my B/R colleague Michael Felder pointed out in the video below on what to expect from the Gators offense.

The beauty of Florida this year is that the offense doesn't have to take a gigantic leap forward, it only has to take a few steps thanks to a defense that's consistent and loaded with talent.

Dante Fowler Jr., Jon Bullard and the rest of the Gators front seven will get pressure. They always do. Even when the offense wasn't helping them out last year, they still found a way to finish second in the SEC in total defense (314.3 YPG). That front seven, combined with one of the best secondaries in the country, will allow the offense some wiggle room and let it adjust on the fly.

The defense will keep the Gators in games, and it will be up to the offense to take advantage.

The schedule is tough, no doubt. But it's not as daunting as it looks on paper.

An inexperienced LSU offense in mid-October on the road against Florida's defense is a tough matchup for the Tigers. The same can be said the following week, when the Gators host defending East champ Missouri. South Carolina is also at home in mid-November to close out the Gators' SEC slate. 

The biggest game for the Gators isn't even the trip to Alabama on September 20, it's the trip to Tennessee after a bye week two weeks later. If the Gators top the Vols and get some momentum, don't be surprised to see them make a run for the SEC East title. 

Muschamp's statement isn't as outlandish as it may seem. Florida has talent on both sides of the ball, fixed the main problem from last year and is in a division that is still littered with questions.

Don't be surprised if the Georgia/Florida game in Jacksonville on November 1 is the one that decides the division title.

 

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

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Auburn Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

With a little more than a month left to go before the start of college football season, it is time to take a look at how the Auburn Tigers are expected to line up for what they hope will be another SEC championship season.

As I wrote on Monday, predicting a depth chart for this year's fall camp has been a tough task as head coach Gus Malzahn did not release an official post-spring depth chart like he did in 2013.

No new starters have been made official by the coaching staff, although a few players stood out from the pack toward the end of spring camp and at the annual A-Day Game.

A few key positions remain a mystery thanks to a recent major injury on the defensive line, a few players who did not participate in spring practices and a host of talented newcomers now on campus.

Here is a look at what the depth chart might look like it when the Tigers return to the practice field. Most positions have three-deep projections, and returning starters on the chart are in italics.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Iowa Tackle Brandon Scherff Shows off His Strength by Doing 443-Pound Cleans

University of Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff is one mighty man.

Scherff was named to the first-team All-Big Ten last season, and after you see this video, you will get a glimpse as to why.

The 6'5", 320-pound lineman showed just how strong he is by doing three clean reps of 443 pounds:

He put on quite the show for his fellow Hawkeyes.

[Iowa Football]

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College Football Recruiting OL Rankings 2015: Top 10 After The Opening

They may not give the postgame interviews or get the glory on touchdown highlights, but offensive attacks can't function without strong performances from the big boys. Offensive linemen must counter an increasingly athletic crop of pass-rushers and defensive tackles while handling intricate blitz schemes and everything else the opposition throws their way.

Players with superior size who can create rushing lanes and protect the passer on a consistent basis quickly become coveted college prospects. Many of the nation's best blockers journeyed to Beaverton, Oregon, earlier this month to test their skills against elite completion at Nike's The Opening.

The event plays a paramount role in summer re-evaluations of the current recruiting cycle and resulted in newly released 247Sports composite rankings for the 2015 class. Bleacher Report watched the trench battles in Beaverton and continued to analyze 2013 game film to provide analysis on the nation's 10 top-rated offensive linemen, according to composite rankings.

 

This article is a part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on 247Sports Composite, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.

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LSU Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

LSU head coach Les Miles has gaping holes to fill on his roster. Fortunately enough for Miles, he has talent at his disposal other coaches could only dream of having.

Miles spoke highly of his incoming freshman class of 2014 at SEC media days last week. He expects a few to contribute right away, including 5-star skill position players Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre. But expect none of them to begin fall practice as starters. 

LSU has plenty of talent returning next season as well. Tiger returnees probably feel the pressure from the incoming class, so they will attempt to prove their worth once the pads are strapped back on in early August. 

Here is a preview of what the depth chart will look like heading into fall camp. 

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Ohio State Football: 3 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

Coming off back-to-back losses to end the 2013 season, the Ohio State football team is looking for a fresh start, a renewed focus and another run at a national title. That starts in less than two weeks when the team officially reports for fall camp.

Urban Meyer has one of the most loaded rosters in college football, and he has one of the most lethal playmakers in Braxton Miller to trigger his explosive offense. With all that talent, there are bound to be a few players who break out and surprise the coaching staff.

Last year, players such as Dontre Wilson, Joey Bosa and Taylor Decker exceeded expectations and solidified their roles during fall camp. Who will be the surprise standouts in 2014?

 

Jalin Marshall

Wide receiver Jalin Marshall came to Ohio State with high expectations, but a string of injuries prevented him from making an impact on the field.

The coaching staff took a cautious approach with Marshall after he suffered a concussion in fall camp last year. That delayed his development, so the Buckeyes gave him a redshirt to preserve a year. Midway through an impressive spring camp this year, he suffered another setback when he tore his meniscus—an injury that required surgery. 

The recovery process was quick, however, and he spent the summer building chemistry with Miller to recover some of the ground he lost in the spring.

Marshall, a 4-star prospect and the No. 35 overall player in 2013, is expected to back Dontre Wilson up at H-back. If he can stay healthy, he has the size (5'11", 205 pounds) to be more effective motioning into Ohio State's interior rushing attack.

 

Erick Smith

After allowing 268 passing yards per game in 2013, the Buckeyes are retooling for a big turnaround this season.

That started with a change in leadership. Meyer brought in Chris Ash, a pass-defense specialist, to be co-defensive coordinator alongside Luke Fickell.

Infusing the secondary with top-level talent was step two in that process, and Meyer did just that with his 2014 class. The Buckeyes signed Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore—the No. 5- and No. 6-ranked cornerbacks, respectively—alongside 4-star safety Erick Smith this February.

The Buckeyes are deep at cornerback, with redshirt freshmen Eli Apple and Gareon Conley backing up the starters, but Meyer doesn't have that same luxury at safety. He knows that Smith is talented enough to come in and contribute right away.

“Erick Smith, he’s a guy I'm really excited to get here,” Meyer said, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. "He played corner in the [U.S. Army All-American Bowl], but we plan on putting him at safety. And, once again, immediately [on the depth chart].”

 

Bri'onte Dunn 

Ohio State has to replace Carlos Hyde, who piled up 1,668 total yards and 18 touchdowns in just 11 games last year.

Ezekiel Elliott is in line for the starting role, according to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com, but Bri'onte Dunn has the opportunity to solidify himself as the No. 2 option. He can do that by offering a different running style than Elliott—the tough, hard-nosed style that Hyde used to gash defenses over the last two years.

Dunn is working hard to provide that same toughness, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer.

Carlos, last year, he taught me a lot. He was like a brother to me. All that backs know we have a big gap to fill. Carlos was really good last year, and everybody is working hard to get to that point.

But (my size) helps me a lot. This offseason I have been getting really strong and working hard on my speed and my footwork. That all should carry into next season.

Ohio State has a deep stable of running backs, so Dunn will have to be at his best this fall to avoid being passed on the depth chart.

 

All recruiting information via 247 Sports. Stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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5-Star Torrance Gibson: "I'm Not an Athlete, I'm a QB"

Torrance Gibson is considered the top uncommitted athlete in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports Composite. His combination of size and speed allows him to make big plays when he sees some open space. Gibson took some time to talk to Bleacher Report about the latest recruiting news as well as what position he would like to play at the next level. Where do you think this monster recruit will end up?

Watch Bleacher Report's Michael Felder speak with Gibson out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Gators Will Challenge for SEC East Title with Kurt Roper's New Offense

The Florida Gators are looking to come back strong after a disappointing 2013 season. With the addition of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the Florida offense has the potential to get back on track in Gainesville.

How well do you think the Gators will do in 2014?

Watch Bleacher Report's Michael Felder break down exactly what the Gators will have to do with their new additions and current weapons in order to rebound from the 2013 season. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Commit QB Alex Malzone: 'I've Been a Michigan Man My Whole Life'

Alex Malzone is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class. This Michigan native has decided to stay in state and head to Ann Arbor to play for Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines.

Malzone took some time to talk with Bleacher Report about everything from the Michigan coaches to Jabrill Peppers.

How well do you think this stud will do at Michigan?

Watch the video to get to know this future Wolverine.

 

Rankings from the 247Sports composite.

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8 Reasons College Football Coaches Can't Wait for Camp to Begin

Next week, college football preseason practices will spring to life across the nation.

Players will report for “fall camp” and two-a-day practices, one of the prime bonding times for any collegiate team. Players live together, eat together, sweat together and grow closer under the blistering August sun, preparing for the season ahead.

Coaches can’t wait for practice to get here. It is a chance for them to mold their rosters and see who they think will stand up in the crucible that is big-time college football. Who they can trust. Who they can’t.

Just as importantly, it’s a chance for them to keep a closer eye on their players. While NCAA rules now allow coaches to observe “voluntary” summer workouts, the beginning of preseason practice means the end of summer and the end of the period where coaches are worried about what their players are doing.

Summer can be a season for arrests as much as it is for player development, and this summer has been no different. Multiple players have found themselves ensnared by the long arm of the law, with various degrees of seriousness. Here are eight reasons that college football coaches are glad preseason practice is right around the corner.

 

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

Just as there are always some spring heroes who burst onto the scene in camp, fall practice can also bring in another wave of surprises.

With Notre Dame football nearing its fall training camp, let’s consider five Fighting Irish players with the ability to turn heads and open eyes. In most cases, these are young players we think are lurking in the wings, ready to rise to a bigger role. But an upperclassman could also be primed to surprise with a breakout fall camp.

Away we go.

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Florida Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

The Florida Gators will begin fall camp in a little over a week, and while there are a good amount of position battles still up in the air, we have a good idea where the team stands as far as a depth chart is concerned.

Whether certain players have established themselves over their careers or have made a move in spring ball, the overall depth chart isn’t going to change a ton since you last saw it. Of course, things could change in no time due to injuries or players not showing up, but barring those circumstances, this is likely the depth chart you’re going to get heading into fall camp and the regular season.

Let’s take a look.

 

Quarterback

Starter: Jeff Driskel 

Backup: Skyler Mornhinweg

While fans don’t have 100 percent confidence in Driskel, nobody is arguing that he’s the starting quarterback for Florida. Driskel fits Kurt Roper’s offense perfectly and is in the best position to succeed since he’s stepped on campus. He still has a lot of work to do if he’s going to be the main reason this offense turns around, but there’s no denying that he has the skill set to get the job done.

An official backup hasn’t been named yet, but Mornhinweg still has the edge until further notice given his experience. One of the true freshmen would really have to play out of his mind to steal the backup spot.

 

Running Back

Starter: Kelvin Taylor 

Backup: Mack Brown

Taylor is the starting running back and should have his workload doubled as a sophomore. It took a while for Taylor to get comfortable last season, but he started to come on late in the year and finished with 508 yards and four touchdowns on only 111 carries. Taylor has the potential to be one of the top backs in the SEC this season if used properly and given enough touches.

The backup spot is still up for grabs between Brown and Matt Jones, but the edge goes to Brown until Jones can prove he’s healthy. Even then, Florida is likely to use up to four running backs this season, so everybody is going to get playing time.  

 

Wide Receiver

Starters: Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Valdez Showers

Backups: Demarcus Robinson, Latroy Pittman, Andre Debose

Dunbar, Fulwood and Showers are the most consistent returning receivers from last season. Dunbar’s senior leadership and 90 career receptions earns him a starting job as the X-receiver, while Fulwood’s production late last season makes Florida’s coaching staff confident that he can handle lining up at Z-receiver.

The slot will remain an ongoing position battle, but Showers made plays all over the field last season and has more upside to give than the other candidates.

Robinson is the most talented receiver on the entire roster, but he’s got to prove he can be a leader on and off the field. Everybody else is just jockeying for playing time and could get it if they have a solid performance in the fall practices.

 

Tight End

Starter: Jake McGee

Backup: Tevin Westbrook

As long as McGee shows up and is anything close to what he was in Virginia, he’ll be given the starting job and will instantly become a top option in this offense. In two seasons with the Cavaliers, McGee racked up 71 receptions for 769 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s an athletic tight end who can stretch out defenses and become that security blanket across the middle of the field.

McGee is a critical piece to Florida’s offensive success, and unless others can do more than what they’ve done in the past, he’ll be on the field nearly every play.

 

Offensive Line

Starters: D.J. Humphries, Tyler Moore, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown, Chaz Green

Backups: Kavaris Harkless, Roderick Johnson, Trip Thurman, Drew Sarvary, David Sharpe

The starting offensive line shouldn’t be that surprising to anyone. Humphries is one of the better tackles in the SEC when healthy, and Moore played well last season when he wasn’t injured. Green is also one of the best offensive linemen Florida has when he’s healthy. I guess the moral of the story is that this is a pretty respectable unit when everybody isn’t nursing injuries on the sidelines.

Garcia also looked solid at center throughout spring drills and the spring game, and he will only improve with the more reps he gets at his new position.

The backup offensive line is where the concerns come in, as there isn’t a lot of experience. The backups should see a lot of playing time early in the season to prepare them when needed down the road.

 

Defensive Line

Starters: Dante Fowler, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings, Jonathan Bullard

Backups: Alex McCalister, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Bryan Cox Jr.

Basically the same defensive line for Florida last season will hold down the fort again this season. Fowler lines up at the Buck position, while Orr, Cummings and Bullard fill up the nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end spots, respectively. On paper, this is one of the better defensive lines in the country, especially if Bullard can have that breakout season Florida fans have been waiting a couple of seasons to see.

Cox and Bostwick should have productive seasons as well if spring ball is any indication of things to come.

Overall, defensive line may be Florida’s most talented and deepest unit on the team.

 

Linebacker 

Starters: Jarrad Davis, Michael Taylor, Neiron Ball

Backups: Daniel McMillian, Antonio Morrison, Matt Rolin

Ball has pretty much guaranteed himself a starting job due to his experience and production over the course of his career and spring. Davis is just way too talented to leave off the field, as everybody saw toward the end of last year. Besides those two guys and maybe Taylor, who has been the quarterback of the defense, everybody else is interchangeable.  

There are going to be position battles at linebacker and certain guys are going to emerge, but there hasn’t been much of a difference between any of the players to make any drastic changes. Everybody is going to see the field this season and will have their chances to make plays.

Linebacker is a position that’s talented, but it has yet to reach its full potential.

 

Secondary 

Starters: Vernon Hargreaves III, Jabari Gorman, Marcus Maye, Jalen Tabor

Backups: J.C. Jackson, Keanu Neal, Marcell Harris, Duke Dawson

Hargreaves is the best player on the team, so there’s no way he’s losing his starting corner spot to anybody. Gorman’s experience and production in a limited role last season earns him the nod at free safety. And while I’ve been a bit of a Maye apologist the last year or so, he has to get the start over Harris heading into fall camp.

The battle everybody is waiting to see will be between Tabor and Dawson for the final cornerback spot. It’s going to be neck-and-neck throughout, but I give the edge to Tabor due to his overall length and the fact he’s better suited to cover some of the bigger receivers in the SEC.

Florida’s starting secondary is looking scary right about now.

 

Special Teams 

Starters: Austin Hardin, Kyle Christy

Backups: Francisco Velez, Johnny Townsend

Hardin is the only Florida kicker on scholarship, and while he made only four of 12 field-goal attempts last season, he was flawless in the spring game. Kicking is all about confidence, and considering Hardin has the leg, if he can just figure out the mental part of his game, he’ll be just fine.

Christy’s production fell off a cliff last season, averaging less than 40 yards per punt. However, Christy has shown in the past that he’s capable of being one of the top punters in the country, as he averaged more than 45 yards per boot as a freshman. Like Hardin, Christy should have things figured out by the time the season begins.

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