Feed aggregator

Richie Petitbon Commits to Alabama: 4-Star Vaults Tide to No. 1 Ranking

Alabama added another outstanding offensive lineman to its stockpile with a commitment from 4-star prospect Richie Petitbon. The Washington D.C. recruit pulled the trigger on a pledge Friday, reports Scout.com writer Derek Young.

Petitbon, a 6'4", 301-pound Gonzaga High School junior, joins a Crimson Tide class that now includes nine players. His addition pushed Alabama's class from No. 3 to No. 1 in 247Sports' composite team rankings, leapfrogging Penn State and Texas A&M.

Nick Saban lands a lineman capable of contributing in a variety of capacities. He has significant experience at left tackle but could move inside depending on Alabama's needs along the offensive front.

The Tide have tremendous depth at tackle, so a future within the interior may await him in Tuscaloosa:

Petitbon has an excellent football pedigree. He's the latest member of his family to make a leap to the college level.

His father played at Maryland. Petitbon's name may sound familiar because his grandfather, Richie, was an All-Pro defensive back in the NFL.

He finished his career with the Washington Redskins and served as defensive coordinator under Joe Gibbs. The football lineage makes Petitbon an even more intriguing prospect, given the game knowledge at his disposal while growing up. 

Petitbon is the seventh 4-star prospect to commit to the Tide during this cycle. He is rated No. 4 nationally at offensive guard in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Gonzaga produced 2,400 yards rushing yards last fall with Petitbon paving the way, according to AL.com.

Saban has swiftly taken care of future depth in the trenches. Alabama already holds commitments from fellow 4-star guards Lester Cotton and Dallas Warmack.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Complete Scouting Report for 4-Star Alabama RB Commit Desherrius Flowers

Alabama running back Desherrius Flowers elected to stay in his home state with a commitment to the Crimson Tide last April. The 4-star prospect aims to be the latest addition to a proud lineage of rushers in Tuscaloosa, exhibiting outstanding skills and physicality.

Flowers, a 6'1", 212-pound junior at Vigor High School (Prichard, Ala.), is rated the nation's No. 4 running back prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's listed at No. 54 among all members of the 2015 class.

His recruitment gained steam after a sophomore season that featured 922 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. A pledge to the Tide quickly shut things down and he remains on track to join the team next year.

Flowers has already drawn comparisons to current Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, a possible 2014 Heisman Trophy contender who also hails from the Mobile area (Daphne). Expectations will be high from the moment Flowers arrives on campus, especially if Yeldon decides to depart early for the NFL draft after this season.

We examined the game film to discover what puts Flowers in the upper echelon of offensive playmakers.

Positives

Flowers' game is defined by his violent approach as a rusher. He doesn't leave any questions about his tenacity or physicality, attacking opposing defenses without a shred of hesitancy.

Few athletes in this class are a more appropriate fit for the north-south ground game than Flowers. Equipped with a formidable frame, he carries the ball with authority and refuses to sacrifice yards by yielding or stepping out of bounds.

Flowers is quick to get out of the backfield, firing upfield with a burst off his front foot. Once he reaches the line of scrimmage, his aggressiveness shines.

Even while operating within a crowd of defenders and offensive linemen in the trenches, Flowers doesn't delay or waste steps. He charges though and keeps his feet churning through contact.

Opponents might grab a piece of his jersey in the process, but it doesn't matter. Flowers is deliberate and steadfast while moving forward toward daylight.

His efforts require just one cut and then it's a straight-line sprint. He isn't a burner, but this approach allows him to gain chunks of yardage in a hurry while putting pressure on the defensive secondary.

Once he identifies a rushing lane, impressive acceleration allows him to beat defenders to space and he exploits the gap with a low center of gravity. Flowers is a balanced runner who maintains proper pad level, so tackling him is a tough task.

Given his style and size, it's impressive how quickly Flowers is able to gain velocity. He's an absolute load for defensive backs to handle when he reaches the secondary and most of his takedowns in high school require gang-tackling.

Flowers is an ideal candidate to carry the football in short-yardage situations. He's adept at moving the chains and plunging into the end zone, even when dealing with clogged rushing gaps.

 

Negatives

Flowers isn't going to dance his way out of tight spots. Some running backs can wiggle through containment with an array of lateral moves, but that's not a strong suit for him.

His strength is apparent, but so is a slight lack of hip fluidity. Flowers doesn't always look smooth when forced to cut at the second level and usually loses acceleration on those attempts.

He doesn't have the speed to blow by defenders in space, so sure, tacklers will be able to at least slow him down until help arrives. Flowers will find his way into the end zone often in college if he stays healthy, but it would be unfair to anticipate routine touchdown sprints from midfield at the next level.

Like most high school running backs, Flowers is a relatively unknown commodity in the passing game. If his physical demeanor transitions into blocking efforts and he becomes a capable receiving threat out of the backfield, it will encourage Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to steadily increase Flowers' role.

 

Projection

It certainly appears that Nick Saban has his hands on yet another ferocious downhill runner. Flowers fits the mold of what we've recently seen from Tide running backs and Alabama should feel comfortable with him after receiving a commitment almost two years before his signing day.

The offensive backfield is always crowded in Tuscaloosa so Flowers will need to impress early if he hopes to fight his way onto the field as a freshman. He's already quite physically developed, so there isn't necessarily a need to give him time on the sidelines to bulk up.

Expect Flowers to earn carries as an underclassman. If Yeldon is out of the equation in 2015, his chances of immediate playing time increase tremendously with a strong training camp.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Coaches Who Were Great Players Too

When consuming a lot of football, it can be easy—far too easy—to forget just how difficult the sport really is, both as a player and coach. 

Very few end up being good players in major college football. Even fewer end up being good coaches afterward.  

Indeed, being a successful player and coach at the highest level of college football is a unique fraternity to which only a small number belong. 

Which coaches also had distinguished playing careers? The answers, as always, are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Grading Each Early Enrollee's Spring Performance

Newcomers are helping define the new era of USC football.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff welcomed five early enrollees from the Trojans' Pac-12 best 2014 recruiting class, and a few of the additions are making an instant impact. 

The Trojans are getting much needed support on the offensive line from two freshmen parlaying their spring into spots in the rotation. The cast of newcomers should also give Sarkisian depth, once play begins in August. 

 

Recruiting information and rankings via 247Sports.com

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Grading Each Early Enrollee's Spring Performance

Newcomers are helping define the new era of USC football. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff welcomed five early enrollees from the Trojans' Pac -12 best 2014 recruiting class, and a few of the additions are making an instant impact...

Begin Slideshow

Oklahoma vs. Texas Red River Rivalry Showdown Adds AT&T Corporate Sponsorship

The Red River Rivalry is adding some corporate flair.

In a press release from the official website of Texas Athletics, the school announced that, starting in 2014, its annual rivalry game with the University of Oklahoma will be known as the AT&T Red River Rivalry and that it will also be updated with a new game logo and team marks.

Said Texas athletic director Steve Patterson:

As a University of Texas alumnus I have long enjoyed the Texas-Oklahoma series and the great tradition it represents for Texas and Oklahoma fans. We look forward to working with AT&T representatives and the University of Oklahoma to generate excitement for the new name and brand, and continuing our relationships with the State Fair of Texas.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione gave a statement as well:

The Oklahoma-Texas game played annually at the Cotton Bowl is one of the grandest traditions in all of college football. We will continue striving to make this contest a truly memorable experience for the student-athletes and fans of both the University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas amidst the unique and colorful atmosphere of the State Fair of Texas.

This year's meeting will be the 109th between Texas and Oklahoma. Per the release, the game was first played in 1900 and has been played in Dallas since 1912 and in the Cotton Bowl since 1929. 

The Longhorns lead the all-time series 60-43-5, having also won the most recent meeting in 2013 despite entering the game as substantial underdogs. However, OU had won the previous three meetings before that and still has a 9-5 record since the start of the new millennium.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington—home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and the world's largest video board and affectionately known as "Jerry's World" after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones—will host the championship of the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2015, and the company continues reaching its arm into the biggest stages for the biggest games.

As long as it doesn't interfere with the product on the field (and how could it?), no one should too much mind the corporate partnership. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

LSU got to have some fun this week in its final practice of the spring. 

The Tigers hosted their annual "Student Appreciation Day" on Thursday, which allowed current LSU students to observe a practice and participate in drills at its conclusion. 

Now LSU must get ready for the spring game on Saturday. It will be the first glimpse all fans will get of the 2014 Bayou Bengals. 

This week's practice featured a few injured Tigers returning to practice and one leaving the program.  

 

News from This Week

LSU defensive end Jordan Allen will transfer, according to Luke Johnson of Tiger Rag. Allen cited academic reasons, as he was unable to get into LSU's graduate school program.  

The Tigers began Tuesday's practice with the "Big Cat" and goal line drill. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune has the full results of the players who participated.

Thursday's practice was highlighted by "Student Appreciation Day." LSUSports.net has photos from the post-practice festivities.   

LSU receivers Kevin Spears, John Diarse and Avery Peterson and running back Terrence Magee returned to practice on Tuesday, according to Hunt Palmer of Tiger Rag

 

Update on Position Battles

Les Miles said after practice Thursday that the upcoming spring game will have no effect on the depth chart, via Bryan Lazare of TigerBait.com.

Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com said the versatile Kendell Beckwith is pushing D.J. Welter for the starting middle linebacker job.

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings told Ben Love of TigerSportsDigest.com that he and Brandon Harris have many similarities. Jennings also said there has been a focus on the running game this spring.  

 

What to Look Forward to in the Spring Game

Despite Miles somewhat downplaying the spring game, it does give him an opportunity to see how players perform in front of a crowd. Harris will be the player everybody wants to see, and he more than likely knows that. Saturday will be the first time he performs in front of fans.  

The LSU defensive ends should not miss a beat without Allen. The Tigers are missing Jermauria Rasco due to injury but are still loaded at the position with Danielle Hunter, Lewis Neal, Frank Herron and M.J. Patterson. The LSU pass rush struggled last season according to The New Orleans Advocate's Matthew Harris.

Will one emerge as a playmaker? Keep an eye on Hunter, who showed flashes of excellence last season.

Hunter is one of many young, talented Tigers with something to prove. Here are five more players to look out for on Saturday.  

 

Other News and Stories

With LSU's lack of depth this spring and talented incoming recruiting class, Miles has had to play the role of fortune teller, according to David Ching of ESPN.com

The Tigers announced they will play UCLA and Arizona State in the distant future. The Advocate's Ross Dellenger caught up with LSU associate athletic director Verge Ausberry on the science of making football schedules. 

Chandler Rome of The Advocate reported on how the young cornerbacks of LSU are having to learn quickly. 

LSU will host its annual pro day next Wednesday, April 9.  

 

*Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower for updates live from the LSU spring game. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Week 5 Spring Practice Stock Report

Welcome back to the weekly Spring Practice Stock Report. We're just over a week away from the Blue-Gold game, as the Irish head down the home stretch of spring practice. 

It's been a big week for Notre Dame football. Some additions, some subtractions and even some Q&As with a few assistant coaches, giving us a rare progress report from position coaches.

Let's get to it.

  

The Dismissal of Rashad Kinlaw Thins Out the Cornerback Depth Chart

Brian Kelly announced Friday morning that rising sophomore cornerback Rashad Kinlaw was dismissed from the football program.  

"From my perspective, from a football perspective, he didn't live up to the rules within our football program," Kelly told the South Bend Tribune. 

The loss of Kinlaw isn't one that the Irish will feel right away, but likely forces the Irish to add another cornerback in this year's recruiting cycle. Seniors Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown aren't likely to return for a fifth year, which made 2013 an important season for Kinlaw's development. 

The New Jersey native was running with the third team for most of spring and likely was going to drop down another rung when Florida transfer Cody Riggs joined the program this summer.

Losing a player each spring has turned into a rite of passage for the Irish, and Kinlaw now joins Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal, Tee Shepard and Aaron Lynch in a group gone, but certainly not forgotten.

 

Kerry Cooks Continues to Build His Texas Pipeline

Over the past week, Kerry Cooks added two Texas natives to the Irish's 2015 recruiting class. First he landed jumbo safety Prentice McKinney from Dallas and just a few days later received a verbal commitment from Jalen Guyton, a wide receiver from Allen. 

That continues Cooks' string of success in the state of Texas, following up a strong recruiting cycle where the Irish plucked Nick Watkins, Grant Blankenship and Kolin Hill from the Lone Star state, with all three holding offers from Charlie Strong's Texas program. 

In past recruiting cycles, Mack Brown had an early lead on in-state recruits, identifying and offering players well before other programs gave chase. But Strong's recent arrival has pushed back the evaluation process, and it looks like the Irish are taking advantage. 

McKinney brings a jumbo-sized safety to the secondary who the Irish don't have, a big hitter that does significant damage from center field. Guyton is a deep threat for Allen, the back-to-back Texas 5A state champs and one of the best programs in the country. 

Great work by Cooks, who is turning into one of the finest recruiters in the country, and who is already responsible for 2015 commit Jerry Tillery in Louisiana. 

 

In Addition to Recruiting Texas Hard, Irish Are Doubling Down on California

Notre Dame has experienced some heartache lately on the recruiting trail in California, spending significant time and resources recruiting the state only to lose out on some key recruits. But don't expect Brian Kelly to back away, even if the Irish turned out bridesmaids in the chase for John "JuJu" Smith, Matt Dickerson and Michiah Quick. (Let's keep Eddie Vanderdoes out of this group.) 

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune points out that new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur will be joining Mike Denbrock out West, bringing another body to an important recruiting territory. 

Kelly handed LaFleur most of what used to be promoted offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock’s old territory. LaFleur has the West Coast from Los Angeles north to Seattle, his home state of Michigan, and Hawaii, where Punahou School in Honolulu has produced another must-have defensive prospect in the mold of former Irish All-American Manti Te’o (defensive end Canton Kaumatule).

Denbrock’s revised territory includes the Southernmost part of California and Chicago.

LaFleur hasn't been on the recruiting trail in awhile. His last college job was with Ashland University in 2007. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to sell Notre Dame, and LaFleur's NFL experience and work with Robert Griffin III should draw plenty of interest from high school prospects. 

 

A Quarterback Competition Doesn't Mean There's Bad Blood

Malik Zaire caused quite a ruckus when he made public his belief that he thinks he's going to be the team's starting quarterback. 

The confidence, understandably, brought a lot of attention, but didn't change the way Zaire and Everett Golson go about their work

"They are competitive, but they do help each other, believe it or not," LaFleur told ESPN's Matt Fortuna on Wednesday. "Just the other day at practice Malik made a mistake and Everett was trying to explain to him why he made that mistake. Yeah, there is a competitiveness but those guys also help each other at game time." 

 

After Struggling to Force Turnovers Under Bob Diaco, Kelly Hopes New Schematic Tweaks Force Offensive Mistakes

If the Irish defense struggled under Bob Diaco, the struggles were getting to the quarterback and causing turnovers. Those two things are often complementary, with a defense pressuring a quarterback into making a bad decision. 

Kelly talked about some of the schematic changes and how, philosophically, they should help create turnovers for his young defense. 

"We want to create more pressure for the quarterback," Kelly told Douglas Farmer of Irish Illustrated. "We want them under more duress. From that standpoint, maybe the net gain there is turnovers, but I think if they're making bad decisions and throwing the ball away, we're gaining downs in that respect, too.

"I think that's been a process for us. We're moving in a new direction for our defensive personnel. It's coming, and they're making progress in that regard, but it will take us some more time."

Not all defenses are built to create pressure. As we saw with the Irish under former defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's direction, constant blitzing didn't necessarily do anything but let opponents score quicker. 

The personnel on this Irish roster is much stronger than the last few Charlie Weis and Tenuta fielded. But staying sound fundamentally while bringing pressure is key, and that teaching process is ongoing throughout spring. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Q&A: Most Improved Player, Maty Mauk and Mississippi State

Every Friday, we feature questions from Twitter. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

 

@BarrettSallee Who will be the most improved player in the SEC this year?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) April 4, 2014

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.

I know, I know..."he's terrible, makes bad decisions and can't stretch the field."

Just stop.

Driskel has been a square peg in a round hole for his entire Florida career, and now with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper running the offense, he finally is in a system that suits his dual-threat capabilities.

According to GatorZone.com, Driskel has impressed Roper in the limited time the two have worked together.

"I didn't get to see him much before I got here,'' Roper said last week. "That's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He is talented, folks. We're sitting here talking about a guy who is really, really gifted."

Gifted, with athletes around him. Demarcus Robinson has been impressing the staff this spring at wide receiver, Kelvin Taylor rushed for 508 yards in a part-time role last season when the Gators were incredibly one-dimensional and Matt Jones should join Taylor in the Gator backfield this fall once he returns to 100 percent.

Don't write Driskel off just yet. His best work is still ahead of him.

@BarrettSallee What's your overall opinion on Maty Mauk and how far can he take Mizzou?

— Nash Williams (@NashSports) April 4, 2014

Maty Mauk was a fantastic backup and a viable starter as a redshirt freshman, and this offseason will be all about taking the next step and becoming more efficient.

There's no denying the upside Mauk has. He threw for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two picks last season, averaging a whopping 8.1 yards per attempt in the process. But efficiency-wise, he wasn't where he needed to be. He completed just 51.1 percent of his passes (68-of-133), and that's not good enough if Missouri wants to repeat as SEC East champs.

If he can take that next step and become a more consistent passer, he absolutely has the skills and the talent around him to take Missouri back to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. If he doesn't take he next step, though, Missouri could drop a game or two that it shouldn't, and that could be the difference in the division title.

For Missouri, it will take consistent quarterback play and a defense that can get pressure with four and capitalize on mistakes to get back to Atlanta. Mauk can be that consistent quarterback, but he will have to progress as a passer.

@BarrettSallee I think Miss. St. has a chance to surprise some people. Would you agree? I'm an Aggie, but I like Dak Prescott.

— Jimmie Snyder (@labayouboy) April 4, 2014

I agree that Mississippi State will be pretty good. With 16 returning starters, the Bulldogs will be competitive.

And I've gone on record about quarterback Dak Prescott and what he brings to the table by going so far as to say that he's a dark horse Heisman candidate.

With that said, the logical next step for Mississippi State isn't just a step, it's a gigantic leap forward.

I recently spoke with head coach Dan Mullen for a one-on-one that will run early next week, and he put that step into perspective better than anybody else could.

"In the last five seasons, six SEC West teams have competed for the national championship," he said. "A lot of times the next step is to build a consistent winner, and then let's go compete for a conference championship. In the SEC West, you skip that step. A conference championship is also a national championship here."

It's the truth. 

The next step for Mississippi State is to win the division and be a national power, and I'm not sure the Bulldogs are there from a roster perspective. Sure, they've got Prescott and a laundry list of returning starters, but is the depth there to make a true run? Not yet.

But I do think Mississippi State will be in more competitive games versus the big boys of the division this year, and could spring an upset or two along the way. 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

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

 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Lane Kiffin Is Already Influencing the Tide's Offense

Even though the University of Alabama’s first scrimmage of the spring will be closed as usual, and Lane Kiffin hasn’t done a single interview with the local writers since being hired in January, some of his influences as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach are beginning to be seen and felt in Tuscaloosa.

They can be broken down into three categories:

 

1. Recruiting

Kiffin helped the Crimson Tide close out the nation’s top recruiting class.

“He has a lot of relationships built up in recruiting from the various schools he has coached,” coach Nick Saban said. “It's very important to have the kind of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach you can recruit to, someone young people want to play in that style of offense. That was an asset for us in helping get some of the offensive players we were able to attract.

“He does a really good job of presenting to the players how they are going to be used in the offense. They have a very clear picture of how they are going to be used. It was a real positive asset of him being involved in the short time he was involved recruiting this class.”

 

2. Identifying and developing Alabama’s next starting quarterback

This will obviously take a while to gauge, especially with Jacob Coker transferring from Florida State after graduating next month, but five others, including early enrollee David Cornwell are essentially getting one-on-one instruction this spring.

“It’s going to be a long time in us developing those players, not being so quick to criticize or quick to try to make a judgment or a decision on any one particular player, but to continue to try to have the patience to develop those guys into the kind of guys that can play winning football for us,” Saban said.

 

3. Running the offense

How different will it be under Kiffin?

“It's Saban, so it's going to be the same offense,” explained senior tight end Brian Vogler. “Obviously there's wrinkles. Every coach brings his own wrinkle to it but you're going to see the same stuff.

“Just a little bit more dynamic. (It's) hard to explain.”

Here, in the words of various Alabama players and Saban, is an attempt to do just that, with some of the changes they’ll be experiencing on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium and fans will eventually see from the Crimson Tide offense:

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

With Georgia’s annual G-Day just more than a week away, here’s the latest on the Bulldogs' spring practices.

 

News from Week 3 

As the reinvigorated Georgia defense continues to shuffle around under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, one piece of the puzzle removed himself from depth chart consideration this week.  Paris Bostick, a 6'1", 217-pound outside linebacker, elected to transfer. 

Bostick redshirted in 2013 as a freshman and has not yet announced his future destination.  According to Logan Booker of Bulldawg Illustrated, Mark Richt said the player's decision was mutually agreed upon, adding, “He has a positive future in football and we wish him all the best in attaining his goals in football and in education.” 

In other news, senior offensive lineman Watts Dantzler continues to be sidelined following a concussion last week.  His absence is noteworthy as he’s one of a host of players contending for two yet unsettled guard positions.

 

Position Battles 

Along the offensive line, Dantzler, Brandon Kublanow, Greg Pyke and Mark Beard continue to duke it out for starting guard positions.  

According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, offensive line coach Will Friend gave a less than glowing assessment of the situation.  “Nobody’s kind of stepped up and said they want to be the guard yet,” Friend said.  “We’re not performing the way we need to inside right now.” 

Meanwhile, the defensive backfield continues to be a revolving door of sorts.  According to Seth Emerson of Macon’s Telegraph, a number of alterations to the depth chart were noticeable—at least for Thursday’s practice. 

Walk-on Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman, started at the cornerback position opposite Damian Swann (a two-year starter and a senior).  J.J. Green cross-trained with the safeties (as opposed to his normal spot with the cornerbacks), where Brendan Langley (also a cornerback prior to this week) is beginning to excel as well. 

Additionally, sophomore Tray Matthews has reestablished himself as a starter at safety.

 

Storylines for Week 4 

Next week, Georgia holds its annual spring game at Sanford Stadium.  In many ways, that scrimmage will be fans’ first chance to see a new-look defense and a reminder of Georgia’s offensive prowess. 

A few questions that need to be answered on the defensive side of the ball: 

  • How quickly are players adapting to Pruitt’s simplified—but still aggressive—scheme?
  • Who will emerge as a lockdown corner other than Damian Swann?
  • Will J.J. Green settle as a cornerback, safety or at the star position?
  • How fast can Pruitt’s lighter defensive line play?

While the regular season is still a long way off, the more questions that can be answered next week, the better—at least as far as fans are concerned.  After all, the Bulldog faithful want to be encouraged that the volatility caused by former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s departure for Louisville, and the jubilation surrounding Pruitt’s arrival, will ultimately be for the betterment of a struggling defense. 

On the offensive side of the ball, a starting rotation needs to emerge along the line.  Cohesion will be as important to this unit as anything, and chemistry will only be built after a starting lineup is set. 

And of course, the spring game will give fans an opportunity to see Todd Gurley run the football again and watch Hutson Mason distribute the ball to his many weapons.  But no news is good news for this prolific offense as Georgia can ill-afford another rash of injuries.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Texas Longhorns have reached the midway point of the first spring football session of the Charlie Strong era. 

The Longhorns' first scrimmage of spring did not go the way Strong would have liked. Even though the team started strong, it didn't finish that way, which was not something that pleased the head coach.

"The longer the scrimmage went on some guys just quit competing and that's what we can't have," Strong said. "We're not good enough to go waste practices. That's not who we are and that's not what we're all about."

The Longhorns obviously have a ways to go until the team is ready to play an opponent, but expecting anything different would simply be wishful thinking. Changes are going to be gradual under a new staff with entirely new offensive and defensive schemes.

What Texas fans should expect is gradual progress, and from the sound of it, that progress is taking place.

 

Quarterback Progress

The good news for Texas fans is things might be coming together for some key players. And the first is the quarterback.

Some people may have been concerned that quarterback David Ash would never take the football field again after suffering recurring concussion symptoms throughout the 2013 season. But according to Strong, Ash has shown steady progress through the first half of spring practice.

"The thing about David is he's studying it and working at it. And each practice he has gotten better."

It is still very early to declare Ash as the go-to guy, but his day-by-day progress is a step in the right direction.

 

Diggs Stepping Up

One constant the defense has is defensive back Quandre Diggs, who has been an impact player for his three years at Texas. Diggs' decision to return for his senior season was welcomed with open arms by Texas because of the leadership he brings to the secondary.

"He's coming into his own and showing his leadership ability," Strong said. "He can play at corner and we can move him to the nickel. He's a very smart football player. His size is not what you typically like to see at that position but he knows how good he is and plays within himself."

Diggs' personality would appear to mesh well with the new staff. He has never been one to hide his feelings—good or bad—in press settings and enjoys the toughness Strong and his staff bring to the team.

"These guys don't care what you did in the past," Diggs said. "If you are a leader or a veteran, they're going to expect you to show them that on the field. I respect that because I feel like no guys on this team should be able to just settle. Guys should be hungry to show what type of players they are."

 

Offensive Line

The offensive line took a hit when tackle Kent Perkins went down with a knee injury. Texas released an injury update to the media stating Perkins had successful knee surgery and will miss the remainder of spring practice.

This injury came to an offensive line that is already slim on experience. Aside from Perkins, the Longhorns have three linemen with starting experience. But Perkins' injury isn't all terrible because it has given other players the opportunity to step up and show their skills.

"Losing Perkins hurts us because he was doing so well," Strong said. "But it now gives us a chance to look at the younger guys and watching them compete and making sure they get enough reps."

Strong did not specify which younger guys the staff is watching, so this position will remain one to watch moving into the second half of spring. 

 

The Red River Showdown

Away from Spring football, the Texas-Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas has once again been renamed and rebranded, this time to the AT&T Red River Showdown. The annual showdown, first called the Red River Shootout, was changed to the Red River Rivalry in 2005 in coordination of the 100th meeting.

Regardless of the name, the annual rivalry is arguably one of the greatest atmospheres in college football. When the Longhorns and the Sooners divide at the 50-yard line, an intense competition is almost certain to follow.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. You can follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

12 Major College Football Teams Who Could Throw the Ball Fewer Than 300 Times

Run-pass balance is overrated in today’s college football.

Ask Auburn, which ran its way to an SEC championship in 2013 and came within seconds of scoring the national championship as well.

Sure, many teams aspire to 50-50 run-pass balance, whether that number is derived from play calls or yardage.

Some are more content to utilize a low-risk power game capable of dominating opponents into submission.

Today, we examine 12 college football teams from the power conferences—formerly known as BCS conferences—who could average fewer than 25 passing attempts per regular season game.

Since this list only considers college football teams from major conferences, programs such as Navy, Army, Air Force and New Mexico will not appear.

To determine the likelihood of run-heavy attacks, we take a look at passing attempts and consider the returning skill positions—especially quarterback. Coaching tendencies—from head coaches and offensive coordinators—have also been taken into account.

Here is the list of the 12 major college football teams who could throw the ball fewer than 300 times this season. 

Begin Slideshow

Is New-Look Michigan Football Team Ready for the Spotlight?

Michigan has gone through a rough decade, at least by Michigan's historically great standards. Last season's 7-6 record was the low-water mark under Brady Hoke, and it led to a major change in hopes of righting the ship quickly. 

That change came in the form of firing offensive coordinator Al Borges and hiring Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama to replace him. With the move, expectations of greatness were once again raised in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Yet, as the Wolverines go through spring practice, the question is just how changed is this Michigan football team—especially on offense. It's why the spotlight will be on Michigan Stadium this Saturday as the Wolverines take the field for their annual spring football game.

From the outside looking in, it's hard to see how a team that lost bookend tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield as well as do-everything wide receiver Jeremy Gallon can get dramatically better that quickly. 

It's not as if they can point to a stellar run game to get through a transition period or anything. After all, the Wolverines finished No. 102 in the country in rushing offense (125.7 yards per game) last season. 

Given those facts, it means that change has to come from within the players, and that's where a change in the coaching staff can really help...or hurt. Changing coaches gives players a fresh perspective and a clean slate to work with, and for some, that's all they need to refocus and go from good to great.

The biggest scapegoat last season was an offensive line that couldn't open holes in the run game or protect the quarterback (No. 10 in the Big Ten in sacks against with 36). With Lewan and Schofield gone, it means the pressure is on the young offensive line to get things figured out. 

Just how young is the offensive line? Heading in to the 2014 season, it features just one senior and three upperclassmen.

Helping the young but experienced group of linemen is fourth-year offensive line coach Darrell Funk, who has a lot riding on the quick turnaround of this young group.  

Despite the youthful nature of the offensive line, the good news is that it appears the players understand what is expected of them and know last season was unacceptable. 

"We know we don't have the option to not get better," guard Kyle Kalis told Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "It's getting to that point where we can't really say we’re young anymore, because next year, no one is going to want to hear that. So we have to all come together."

According to Bennett's article, the players say the biggest change has been in Nussmeier simplifying things in the run game, allowing athletes to be athletes. 

"You get the the chance to open these huge holes and then let the running backs take one or two steps right or left, find the hill and start running," Kalis said. "That’s a big difference from last year."

That's good news for a team in need of a run game, like, yesterday. Saturday will be all about seeing who can step up and make plays heading forward. 

Speaking of that, former 5-star running back Derrick Green also has a lot to prove after a disappointing freshman season. 

He rushed for just 270 yards on 83 carries in his first collegiate season, and that won't get it done for a player who needs to be the featured back this season. 

Come Saturday, Green and the offensive line will have a chance to show they have improved at the very least—especially since they'll be going up against a very good defense. 

The final part to the offensive equation is a passing game that was dynamic but very inconsistent in 2013. It all starts with figuring out the ongoing quarterback battle. Will it be senior Devin Gardner and his playmaking ability, or will it be drop-back passer Shane Morris? 

Reports from camp have this being a very tight battle, with both performing at a high level and early enrollee Wilton Speight also continuing to contend at the position. 

The good news all the way around on offense is that it appears there is competition, and given all that is new for this team, that's what you want to have happen in spring. 

Although the spring football game is just one of 15 practices for teams, it's an important one. It's especially important when your team has a lot to prove to the fans, critics and to each other.

A good spring game by the offense Saturday will go a long way to proving Michigan could be worthy of the national spotlight once again—a place it believes it belongs on a permanent basis. 

 

*Andy Coppens is a college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @ AndyOnCFB.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages