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5-Star Iman 'Biggie' Marshall Is Best CB at the Opening

The Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton, Oregon, as Iman "Biggie" Marshall is showing that he can make a huge impact in college at Nike's The Opening.

Do you think he's a lock to USC?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Iman 'Biggie' Marshall Is Best CB at the Opening

The Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton, Oregon, as Iman "Biggie" Marshall is showing that he can make a huge impact in college at Nike's The Opening...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

2014 Stat Predictions for Every Big 12 Football Starting QB

We're just a few months away from the start of the 2014-15 season, and that means it's time to start predicting how the most important players on each Big 12 team will perform. 

At the quarterback position, the Big 12 is loaded with talent such as Bryce Petty, Jake Waters and Davis Webb. It's almost a sure thing that those guys will have big seasons. 

But some question marks include the likes of Trevor Knight, J.W. Walsh and Clint Trickett. 

So let's check out B/R's 2014-15 stat predictions for the starting quarterbacks in the Big 12. 

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Alabama 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

For the first time since September 2011, Alabama is looking for a new starting quarterback. AJ McCarron was very good and very durable during his time in Tuscaloosa, leaving no one with starting experience on the depth chart in his wake. 

For Nick Saban and first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, that meant the waging of a six-way QB battle at the start of the offseason.

Luke Del Rio transferred to Oregon State, but Jacob Coker transferred in from Florida State, so there remains a sextet of players vying for the role at the moment. However, the rumored impending transfer of Parker McLeod, as first reported by Charles Power of BamaOnLine, would knock that number down to five before the season.

Sophomore Alec Morris and true freshman David Cornwell are the long shots, with Coker, senior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman the three most likely candidates to win the job.


QB 1: Jacob Coker

2013 Stats (w/FSU): 18-36, 250 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT; 10 CAR, 15 YDS, 1 TD

Recruiting Info: 3-star prospect; No. 15 pro-style QB in 2011

For reasons that should be obvious, Saban and Kiffin have not anointed Coker the starter or even the favorite. How unfair would that be to the other QBs on the roster—the ones who have, you know, actually started practicing with the team?

Still, insofar as someone new can be a lock to start at the most important position on the field, Coker is a lock to be the quarterback.

At 6'5", 230 pounds, the former Florida State backup has ideal size for the position—something the 6'0" Sims does not. He also has a cannon for a right arm. There isn't a throw on the field he can't make.

However, the question with Coker isn't whether he can make all the throws; it's whether he can read a live defense well enough to make the right throws. That is something that, no matter how he performs in practice, cannot be known in earnest until the regular season.

Until then, Coker is the consummate "Man of Mystery" in college football. The best we have to go on is tangential reports and firsthand accounts. He technically competed into fall camp for the right to start at Florida State last season, but even in the moment—before Jameis Winston was Jameis Winston—it felt like a competition in name only. Still, that hasn't stopped former coaches from raving about him.

Here's what Seminoles quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said about Coker before the BCS National Championship Game, per Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com (then with CBS Sports):

I've never had anybody with his size who throws it as well as he does. Jake has a really quick release with tremendous arm strength. Rarely does it not spiral or not go where he wants it to go…

Coker's arm is kind of at a different level (than Winston's). Jameis has a very special arm, and this isn't any knock against Jameis, but Jake's probably the best I've seen in 25 years at throwing it…

A lot of times when you have a quarterback competition, the most valuable player isn't the guy who wins the job it's the guy who doesn't win the job because they have the ability to almost divide a team. Jake's done a great job of supporting Jameis and helping him in any way he can. That's part of what makes him a special player.

That is some flattering praise. On top of being a grade-A teammate, Coker has an arm that compares favorably with that of the Heisman Trophy winner. But how about the Heisman runner-up?

Here's Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher—a Saban disciple—on how Coker compares with every Saban-era Crimson Tide quarterback, including McCarron, per D.C. Reeves of TideSports.com:

Including what they've had, he's much more talented than anything they've had. I don't mean to discredit the previous guys, they were all great. But this guy is extremely talented. Arm and mind. He's a backup because he's behind the best quarterback in America. (Coker) may have been one of the top three or four quarterbacks in America physically.

We could have been right there in the same position last year with him, I really believe that. You just had to make a choice. If he had played, got his reps and got in that role, we would have done extremely well. I'm a Jacob Coker fan.

Again, even though Fisher credits Coker's mind (in addition to his arm), it is hard to tell what sort of decisions a player will make based on practice reps and mop-up duty. It's one thing to see and think clearly when you're wearing a non-contact jersey or up by 50 points. It's another thing to stay poised against a six-man blitz on 3rd-and-4 with two minutes left and the game on the line in Death Valley.

What can Alabama fans expect from Coker next season? Heck, what can anyone expect from Coker next season? It's a question without a good answer. He could be a Heisman finalist and high-round NFL draft pick. He could also be a backup by Week 5. The range on his season is greater than that of any player in college football.

And no, that is not hyperbole.


QB 2: Blake Sims

2013 Stats: 18-29, 167 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT; 15 CAR, 61 YDS

Recruiting Info: 4-star prospect; No. 19 ATH in 2010

Unlike the two career backups who are projected to start under center as seniors in the SEC this season—Georgia's Hutson Mason and South Carolina's Dylan Thompson—Sims does not have the advantage of knowing his playbook inside and out.

Kiffin's arrival in replacement of Doug Nussmeier set all of the QBs on the roster back to a relatively even playing field. Sims still has the experience advantage because (a) there wasn't a crazy amount of coaching turnover and (b) he's been playing with these teammates for multiple seasons, but that advantage is now a mild one.

And while Sims (and the other non-Coker QBs) did get the advantage of learning Kiffin's system this spring, any momentum they gained—at least with regard to public sentiment—was fractured during an ugly A-Day game, which was dominated by the defense.

Even after the game, Saban warned fans not to hand the job over to Coker. His comments must be viewed with coachspeak-wary lenses, but it would be remiss not to at least mention them.

"Blake Sims did a good job during the spring," said Saban, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "As I said before, we were a little disappointed, he was a little disappointed in the way he played in the A-Day game. We didn't really feature what he could do."

It's nice that Saban put the blame on himself and Kiffin (and the nature of spring games in general), but especially in a fishbowl like Tuscaloosa, it's naive to think the A-Day game doesn't matter. Sims looked like a backup doing a poor imitation of a starter, and he did it in front of 73,000 accustomed-to-McCarron fans.

Sims' height doesn't necessarily jibe with Kiffin's pro-style offense, although his arm looked better during spring practice and his mobility adds a wrinkle that Alabama fans (and opponents) aren't used to.

If he's forced to play in short spurts of meaningful games next season (ostensibly due to injury), he should be able to manage the team and keep the offense moving along reasonably. But if he's forced to be a long-term option, the Crimson Tide might be in trouble.

He's essentially a high-basement, low-ceiling safety net. 


QB 3: Cooper Bateman

2013 Stats: n/a

Recruiting Info: 4-star recruit; No. 4 pro-style QB in 2013

In terms of recruiting pedigree, Bateman is the star of the depth chart at the position. He has the background of an Alabama starter.

At 6'3", 208 pounds, he has the size of a McCarron-type signal-caller, landing somewhere between the freaky measurables of Coker and the less-than-desirable stature of Sims. He also falls between them on the arm-talent spectrum (if such a thing exists).

He was also the most impressive Alabama QB during A-Day:

The only thing Bateman doesn't have is experience. Even Coker and Sims—two players with zero combined starts—supersede him in this regard. Bateman is a redshirt freshman who's never taken a snap or thrown a pass in a real, live college football game.

To wit, that makes him a risky potential option—at Alabama of all places. Tide fans think the word "game manager" is pejorative, but, in truth, that is all that this current team needs. With so much offensive talent, it needs a quarterback who won't screw things up.

Bateman projects as a good one, in time, but something would have to go wrong for Saban to throw him into the fire in 2014. This team would have to be out of the College Football Playoff much earlier than expected and grooming him for next season, or Coker and Sims would have to be injured or woefully unproductive.

If he's forced to play this year under that type of circumstance, expect to see a watered-down playbook. Even more watered down than it's sure to be with either Coker or Sims at the beginning of the year. It would be a heavy diet of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry combined with play-action passes to give Bateman the easiest conceivable reads.

Still, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Bateman to get some reps this season. If Coker is playing well as the starter, he could easily be the one—as opposed to Sims—who subs in during garbage time. The reps would be good for him before the QB competition next season (if Coker struggles or heads to the NFL) or in 2016.

He, Cornwell and 2015 blue-chipper Blake Barnett are the future.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Why Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah Is Legit 2014 Heisman Contender

Ameer Abdullah has already made a name for himself. After three seasons with the Huskers, the I-back made headlines when he chose to stay for his senior season at Nebraska over entering the NFL draft.

A few months after that decision was made, the benefits are starting to pay off.

Abdullah has already been named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, alongside 47 other high-level performers in college football. He has also been invited to speak on behalf of all Big Ten football players at the conference's annual media days luncheon, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

At this point, it seems like Abdullah is unstoppable. As a result, if the senior is able to stay healthy, he will be a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

The Heisman Pundit has already placed Abdullah on its post-spring watch list. A fan-created Facebook page dedicated solely to his 2014 Heisman campaign already has more than 17,000 likes. Even USA Today noted back in January that the I-back is a favorite to win the award.

It's not just buzz around Abdullah, either. He genuinely has a shot at not only being in New York City on Dec. 13 but also winning the whole thing.

His career stats speak volumes.

If he can replicate the last two seasons and have 1,000 or more rushing yards, it would put him in the Husker history books.

Beyond that, it would make him hard to ignore as a top contender for the Heisman. His numbers are impressive, and they only get better each year.

Plus, Abdullah is more than just a great player. He is also a great example. As the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple wrote, "Ameer Abdullah is team-oriented, degree-oriented, family-oriented, big-yardage-oriented and media-oriented."

That would make him a very welcome member of the Heisman family.

Abdullah won't be alone in this campaign, though. His entire team will also be responsible for helping the senior get noticed. Big wins and a break in the typical four-loss season would help Abdullah tremendously.

Also, a trip to the Big Ten Championship game wouldn't hurt his chances either. Nebraska will have to step up to provide Abdullah the best possible situation to be considered for the award.

However, his talents can and likely will speak louder than anything else. While Heisman voters may take the entire Nebraska team into account, the award is ultimately about the player. If Abdullah shines, it could very well outweigh the type of season the Huskers have.

Things can always change. What's working in Abdullah's favor is that he's staying very level-headed about it. He made mention of that when he addressed the media in January, per Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star:

At the end of the day, you have to take it with a grain of salt and understand there are going to be a lot of high expectations now. You have to stay humble and stay focused on what matters at this point. The Heisman doesn't matter at this point. It's about getting stronger, getting faster, getting back up to speed and getting prepared for next year.

The Heisman Trophy is one of the most prestigious awards in sports. Nebraska currently has three players that have won the award—Johnny Rodgers in 1972, Mike Rozier in 1983 and Eric Crouch in 2001. Could 2014 be the year the Huskers add a fourth?

If anyone has a chance, it's Abdullah.

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SEC Football Q&A: Will Leonard Fournette Ever Deliver on His Heisman Hype?

We are less than a week away from SEC Media Days, which means the football season is just around the corner.

Which players will make a run at the Heisman Trophy? How will Auburn's defensive line look? Will Texas A&M actually field a defense?

Find out in this week's Q&A, which was moved up a day to Thursday this week.

@BarrettSallee Will Brandon Harris or Leonard Fournette ever be heisman finalists?

— maxtoscano (@maxtoscano1) July 3, 2014

The common assumption is that the more likely candidate of the two would be running back Leonard Fournette. After all, he was the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2014 and has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma running back and 2004 Heisman finalist Adrian Peterson.

Harris making it to New York City is much more likely.

That's not a knock against Fournette. The Heisman has just evolved into a very quarterback-centric award over the last 14 years. Only two running backs have won the award since 2000, with one of those being former USC running back Reggie Bush, who had to give his back.

Sure, Auburn's Tre Mason and Boston College's Andre Williams made it to New York last year. But they were absolute workhorses in offenses with quarterbacks who put up solid numbers (especially Auburn's Nick Marshall) but didn't have the video game numbers Heisman voters typically like.

Harris will have bigger numbers and more responsibility, which means he's more likely to get Heisman love.

I love his ability to create behind the line of scrimmage, throw his receivers open and stretch the field with his arm. Plus, he has the ability on the ground to be a difference-maker on read options, designed runs and when his protection breaks down.

He won't put up Johnny Manziel-like video game numbers, but they'll be flashy nonetheless. Plus, he's on a team that routinely contends for the division title. That's a recipe for Heisman success.

@BarrettSallee Montravius Adams, Elijah Daniel, and Carl Lawson (injured). Who leads Auburn in sacks and with how many?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) June 27, 2014

If Carl Lawson is healthy, Carl Lawson—with double-digit sacks (12).

Since that's sort of up in the air now after the rising sophomore defensive end underwent knee surgery this offseason, I'll go with fellow sophomore Elijah Daniel with 7.5.

I love what Daniel brings to the table. The 6'2", 263-pounder played well as a rotational player last year, notching three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks playing end and dropping down to tackle in passing situations. 

That's exactly why I think he'll have a big year this year. His versatility will make him an important piece of the puzzle and will put him situations where he can and will thrive.

Even if Lawson is out or limited, Auburn will have a bunch of guys sacking the quarterback. Daniel, Adams, LaDarius Owens, Ben Bradley and the entire Tigers defensive line is incredibly deep and incredibly versatile, which means it'll be in the backfield quite a bit in 2014.

@BarrettSallee where does Texas A&M's defense rank (in the SEC) at the end of the season?

— Say Say (@TwerkCity) June 27, 2014

Let's see, 15th out of 14 teams? 

But seriously, it's not going to be great. The front seven is a massive question mark, and the secondary, even though it is a veteran group that includes Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris, is a sieve.

The Aggies really need to find a star in the front seven, and it could be true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett. Whoever it is, the Aggies need to get pressure with four and let the secondary take advantage of those mistakes generated from pressure.

The silver lining for Texas A&M is that it doesn't need to have a great defense to win; it just needs to be opportunistic. Getting pressure with four and forcing turnovers is exactly why Missouri was successful last season, and the Aggies can follow that same blueprint.

It's just not going to happen on that level, though.

Texas A&M's defense will finish 12th in the SEC in total defense this year. That would be a marked improvement but still not good enough. Not at all.


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee. If your question wasn't answered this week, it has been saved and could be used in the future.

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.

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The Biggest Takeaways from Texas A&M Recruits' Performances at the Opening

The Texas A&M football team had seven of its recruits from the 2015 recruiting class participate in The Opening in Oregon this week. A few of those recruits took this opportunity to make a big impression on the national stage. 

The fact that the Aggies have seven verbal commits in their 2015 class participating in this event speaks to the quality of their class. Texas A&M currently has the No. 2 overall recruiting class for 2015. The recruits who traveled to Oregon were Kyler Murray, Jordan Davis, Justin Dunning, Larry Pryor, Daylon Mack, Kemah Siverand and Damarkus Lodge.  

The Opening is a recruiting event put on by Nike. It is the culmination of a series of combines held throughout the nation to measure the athletic ability of the top high school football players in the country. 

The top performers from those combines are invited to compete against each other in 7-on-7 tournaments, linemen challenges and the Elite 11 quarterback academy in Beaverton, Oregon, on the Nike campus. 

Some of the Texas A&M commits took this opportunity to make statements about their ability. A few of them proved that they will be able to contribute from the day they step on campus in College Station. 


Daylon Mack Is A Freak Of Nature

Texas A&M nose guard recruit Daylon Mack showed in testing why he is considered one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the 2015 class. He is currently ranked as the No. 21 overall recruit in the nation, according to 247sports.com, and he may move up after this event. 

Mack measured in at 6'1" and 330 pounds, then proceeded to turn in a blistering time of 4.98 seconds in the 40. That is an exceptional time for an athlete of his size. He also turned in a time of 4.81 seconds in the shuttle and had a vertical leap of 28.1 inches. 

Mack is a recruit about to enter his senior year of high school and he is putting up numbers that would impress scouts at the NFL combine. He has previously show his elite athleticism on the field by scoring on a 61-yard touchdown run as a running back in the Texas high school playoffs in 2013. 

Mack has the size and athletic ability to compete for a starting spot at nose guard from day one at Texas A&M. He is a freakish athlete that has displayed NFL-level athleticism. 


Justin Dunning Is An SEC Safety

There had been some concern over what position defensive back recruit Justin Dunning was going to play in college. Some felt that he would eventually grow into a linebacker or even a defensive end. 

Dunning put all that speculation to rest during the testing. The 6'3.5", 204-pound athlete turned in a time of 4.59 seconds in the 40. That is a tremendous time for a safety especially one of Dunning's stature. 

He proved turned in a 38.9" vertical leap. Dunning has explosive power, which bodes well for the future of the Texas A&M secondary. He then went on the field during 7-on-7 competition and snagged a couple of interceptions. 

Dunning looks like the prototypical big SEC safety. He will play immediately in 2015 and should be a physical presence in the Aggie secondary for years to come.


Kemah Siverand Has True Breakaway Speed 

While wide receiver recruit Damarkus Lodge has received most of the hype at the position, fans need to remember the name Kemah Siverand. He has prototype NFL size and speed.

The 6'1", 187-pound athlete turned in a blazing time of 4.47 seconds in the 40. Siverand had a vertical leap of 36.8". which means he will be a viable option for jump balls in the end zone.

He is ranked as a 4-star prospect by 247sports.com. Siverand caught 25 passes for 611 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013,so he showed game-breaking ability on the field.

It is always nice to be able to get out there and prove it on a laser timer. In Siverand, the Aggies are getting one of the best athletes in the nation with breakaway speed. He will be a tremendous addition to the program.

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Quarterback/Wide Receiver Combos That Are Bound to Break out This Season

With quarterbacks regularly eclipsing 5,000 passing yards, and with wide receivers inching toward 2,000 yards, quarterback/wide receiver combos are trending in college football. They're combos that are fun to watch—unless you're an opposing defense, that is. 

Last year, it was Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks. Two years before that, it was Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. 

With the departures of duos like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Davante Adams, or Clemson's Tajh Boyd Sammy Watkins, there's a new crop of quarterback/receiver combos bound to break out in 2014.

The only rule here is the quarterbacks on this list must have thrown for fewer than 3,000 yards last year. Similarly, the receivers must have had fewer than 1,000 receiving yards last year. 

Who are some players to watch? The answers are in the following slides. 

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Questions We Would Love to Ask at SEC Media Days

It is part circus and part mob. Oh, and there is also intermittent college football talk sprinkled among the crowds, the three-letter chants, the pristine golf tans and glorious coaching hair, which appears, for the most part, in unnerving shades of deck stain.

SEC Media Days have become the media days, and the spectacle is upon us yet again.

The event now stretches four days, a sign of just how big it’s gotten. Could you squeeze it all into three days, or even two days? Of course you could. But the Southeastern Conference would gladly soak up the offseason spotlight for as long as it possibly can—stretching expense reports just a wee bit more—and you can’t blame it one bit for doing so.

The basic foundation of SEC Media Days remains the same: Players and coaches flock to a destination—this year, Hoover, Alabama, from July 14 to 17—to discuss the upcoming season and answer every question the media can cough up.

Some of these questions are intelligent and legitimate; others will prompt Nick Saban to stare through a media member’s soul until he melts into a puddle before his peers.

The list of SEC attendees is out, which means the questions can begin to take shape. To help kick-start this process, here are some questions we’d recommend asking next week.

Begin Slideshow

Is USC Updating Its Look with Shiny Helmets?

The University of Southern California football team is known for its traditional uniforms, but the Trojans may have a more modern look this fall.

Inside SoCal's Scott Wolf posted the image of the helmet on Thursday morning. Here's what he had to say about the possible change:

Is this what USC’s helmet will look like next season? The company that makes the Trojans’ facemasks published this photo of a USC helmet and a player told me the helmets would be 'shiny' next season 

Call it chrome, call it shiny. Either way, the Trojans may be sporting a new look this season.

[Paul Lukas, h/t College Spun]

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Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk at The Opening, 'Future Dynamic Duo for Aggies'?

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they have what it takes to play against elite competition. The Texas A&M Aggies have a handful of big-time commits and targets in Beaverton showing that they could be huge assets for head coach Kevin Sumlin at the next level. Do you think we will see all of these insane athletes in College Station?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these studs out at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Commit WR Juwan Johnson Showing He Can Do It All at the Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they have what it takes to be great college players. The Penn State Nittany Lions have a few big-time offensive commits in Beaverton showing they can be huge assets to new head coach James Franklin. How well do you think these monsters will do at Penn State?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these future offensive weapons at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame's Tristen Hoge Proves at the Opening He's No. 1 Center in 2015 Class

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best in the 2015 class. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a big-time offensive line commit in Beaverton showing that he can be a huge asset for head coach Brian Kelly at the next level. How well do you think he will do at Notre Dame? 

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this Notre Dame commit out at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Commit Deon Cain Taking Command at Opening, 'All-ACC-Caliber WR'

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are elite players in the 2015 class. The Clemson Tigers have two big-time commits out in Beaverton showing that they can come in and have an impact for Dabo Swinney in the future. How good do you think this duo will be at Clemson?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these future offensive monsters out at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is one of the premier individual honors in college football. The award is given to the best defensive player in the country as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America. Aaron Donald was the winner for 2013.

Now the first watch list for the upcoming season has been released. Unlike last year, when Jadeveon Clowney was the clear favorite before a lackluster junior campaign, this time the race is truly wide open. There are no shortage of contenders, though.

Players can be added to the list throughout the fall and given the nature of the race, somebody from off the radar could very well win the trophy. The winner will join the likes of Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Warren Sapp, among other big names.

Here's a complete look at the watch list, as released by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the FWAA:

Although it's a pretty extensive list, it's still a select group considering how many defensive players are eligible across the nation. That's why there's always a chance somebody that doesn't even make the initial listing emerges to win the award in the end.

Vic Beasley (Clemson), Leonard Williams (USC), Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida) headline the list.

The fact Beasley is back with Clemson comes as somewhat of a surprise. He was eligible to enter the NFL draft as a possible first-round pick, which is usually enough for most players to make the jump. The defensive end opted to continue his Tigers career instead.

Heather Dinich of ESPN passed along comments from the dynamic edge rusher, who explained why his decision went right down to the wire:

I want to play in the NFL, it's always been a dream. It's kind of tough to turn down the opportunity to go in the first round. But I looked at the big picture, seeing I could get my degree and also have the possibility of improving my draft stock.

His return is huge for a Clemson defense that's going to take on a bigger burden as the offense rebuilds without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. It should allow Beasley to shine bright on defense and gives him the inside track on the defensive awards.

Williams is a player enjoying a rapid rise. The Trojans defensive lineman has racked up nearly 140 tackles over his first two seasons, 26 of which were for a loss, and 13 sacks. It's allowed him to become a top prospect with an eye toward the NFL draft.

Alas, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes he's still very much a work in progress despite the enormous amount of hype heading into his junior season:

When scouts affix a top-10 grade to a player, they expect to see a player that dominates the game with his presence and skills. While Williams certainly "flashes" that kind of talent, he must take his game to another level in 2014 to truly earn the blue-chip label that observers have attached to his name at this point.

Further improvement in his third season with USC will solidify his stock and allow him to contend for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

Gregory was a force on the defensive line in his first season with Nebraska. He had 65 tackles, 9.5 sacks and even an interception return for a touchdown. He's an athletically gifted end who's only scratched the surface of his potential.

Hargreaves enjoyed an outstanding freshman season for Florida. The cornerback flashed shutdown capability while tallying 38 tackles, 11 passed defended and three interceptions. He should take another step forward as a sophomore.

Myles Jack (UCLA), Ramik Wilson (Georgia) and Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) are some other preseason contenders to watch. All three are creating plenty of buzz and further illustrate the among of depth on the defensive side of the ball this season, even without a singular star leading the pack.

It should make for a very interesting Nagurski Trophy race.


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Alabama's Richie Petitbon Impresses at The Opening, 'Anchor for Offensive Line'

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the most elite recruits in the country. The Alabama Crimson Tide have some big-time commits and targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Nick Saban and his coaching staff in the future. How well do you think these linemen will do for the Crimson Tide?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Crimson Tide recruits at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida 5-Star Targets Ivey and Cowart Destroy at Opening, Must-Get for Muschamp

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to show they are elite recruits in the 2015 class. The Florida Gators have some big-time targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Will Muschamp and his coaching staff at the next level.

Do you think these two studs will end up in Gainesville?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Florida Gator targets out at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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LSU 5-Star Commit Kevin Toliver Is Impressing at The Opening

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. The LSU Tigers have a big-time commit out in Beaverton showing that he can be another name added to that elite secondary in Baton Rouge.

How well do you think this 5-star stud will do at the next level? 

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this LSU commit out at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite

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USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level. Do you think he is a lock to USC?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this USC target at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...