Over the weekend, that crop of freshmen reported to campus for the official start of their collegiate careers.
With summer conditioning and fall camp fast approaching, these first-year players will have a limited opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Who will step up and prove they're ready to make an instant impact this fall?
Mike Weber Will Beat Out Bri'onte Dunn for the Backup RB Spot
Ezekiel Elliott will need the occasional breather this fall.
After closing out the 2014 season by amassing 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns during Ohio State's three postseason victories, Elliott established himself as the country's most explosive returning running back and a Heisman Trophy candidate for 2015.
The Buckeyes will need a reliable backup for Elliott, though, after moving last year's secondary ball-handler (Curtis Samuel) to wide receiver.
Bri'onte Dunn emerged as a candidate to fill that role this spring, receiving a bulk of the carries in spring practice while Elliott recovered from minor wrist surgery.
But by the midway point of the season, Mike Weber will surpass Dunn on the depth chart.
The 5'9.5", 219-pound wrecking ball of a runner was rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 9 running back in the 2015 class. He has the vision to navigate through traffic, the strength to break through arm tackles and the speed to run away when he hits the second level. Those are all assets that will help him thrive in Ohio State's offense this fall and beyond.
Nick Conner Will Earn More Playing Time than Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker
Five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and 4-star athlete/linebacker Jerome Baker were the highest-rated prospects in Ohio State's 2015 class, but they're already a step behind fellow freshmen Nick Conner.
The crown jewels of the Buckeyes' class reported to campus last weekend, but Conner has been at Ohio State since January after enrolling early. He took part in the Buckeyes' spring camp, and that time proved to be pivotal as he emerged as a legitimate playmaker on defense.
That much became clear during Ohio State's spring game. Conner was one of the bright spots defensively, registering a game-high seven tackles (four of which were solo) to complement a forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup.
"[Conner]’s going to be good,” offensive lineman Billy Price said after the spring game, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch. “He’s tough … he’s raw, and to have the kind of guys he has in his unit (to bring him along), things are going to get good for him.”
Conner's head start should get him on the field before Hilliard and Baker, but Meyer set realistic expectations for the spring game star.
“We had high expectations for him," Meyer said, via May. "Hope he doesn’t redshirt and gets involved in the kicking game. He had a very good day (in the spring game). He’s a tough guy who plays hard; good qualities to have.”
K.J. Hill Will Contribute at Wide Receiver
Even though the Buckeyes lost two key contributors to their wide receiver corps with the departures of Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, Meyer will have plenty of talent on the perimeter this fall.
Ohio State returns key wideouts Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith, and young guys such as Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell and Samuel should factor in as well.
But that bevy of talent won't keep K.J. Hill off the field.
Rated as the No. 152 prospect overall for the '15 class, Hill was a signing-day surprise for Ohio State. He brought his 6'0", 188-pound frame and elite playmaking ability to Columbus last weekend, and it won't take him long to make an impression on the coaching staff.
He won't be a starter, and it may take him a while to find his footing, but Hill will be making plays for the Buckeyes offense by season's end.
Two Offensive Linemen Will Crack the Two-Deep Rotation
Ohio State's biggest priority for the 2015 recruiting cycle was to secure as many offensive linemen as possible.
Meyer came through, getting six linemen to join the ranks in Columbus on signing day. And by the end of the season, two of those freshmen will be listed on the two-deep depth chart.
After giving the current backups a long look this spring, Meyer came out of spring camp disappointed with his depth up front.
“The area (of worry) is the offensive line. That’s the problem,” Meyer said, according to Ryan Cooper of The Lantern. “And once again, not the starters, because I feel good (about them) … I’m very alarmed by the second group of offensive linemen right now.”
His incoming freshmen will provide instant depth. Four-star standout Isaiah Prince will be backing up Chase Farris at right tackle, and 4-star guard Matthew Burrell will be right behind Pat Elflein at right guard.
Robert Landers Will Emerge as a Budding Star at Defensive Tackle
The Buckeyes have had steady play at the defensive tackle position over the last few years with the likes of Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett clogging the middle.
Both are suiting up in the NFL, and now, Ohio State is looking for their next star defensive tackle.
The Buckeyes may already have that in Robert Landers.
The 6'2", 295-pound run-stuffer was only rated a 3-star prospect and the No. 476 prospect overall for the class of 2015. But the Buckeyes have made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough over the last few recruiting cycles—Darron Lee in 2013 and Elflein in 2012—and Landers could be next in line.
Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt will start and play a majority of the snaps inside, but Landers will factor into the rotation.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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One of the biggest catch phrases Tennessee football coach Butch Jones loves to use over and over again when talking to his team and to the media is "consistency of performance."
It's something every coach harps on, but Jones dissects it so much during film study that he points out breakdowns in mechanics repetition from play to play.
It's a cornerstone of playing winning football, he believes.
Considering how young the Vols have been (and still are) over the course of Jones' three years in Knoxville, it hasn't always been an easy aspect to teach. But entering a season where UT is expected to at least compete and possibly contend, it'll be scrutinized even more closely.
So, who on Tennessee's roster has proved to be consistent forces for the Vols? There are several, and it's no surprise that the vast majority of those deserving to be on this list are upperclassmen.
One factor that was weighed heavily in devising this list was proving consistency over the course of time. Most players on this list have done it for years, and they are just perfecting their crafts as they mature. The one underclassman who made the list belongs because of his uncanny consistency of excellence.
These guys may not always get the headlines as being the biggest stars on the team, but Tennessee can count on them every time they step on the field.
You may not always hear safety Brian Randolph's name, but at times when he hasn't been on the field, the Vols have missed him desperately. Also, you don't hear Cameron Sutton's name a lot because of the position he plays.
Let's take a look at the five most consistent players on Tennessee's roster.
It's been a tough few years, but Texas football has no shortage of candidates for the top-10 players of its long history.
The Longhorns have come a long way since their first team played four games in 1893. They've won four national championships with 32 conference titles and had two players hoist the Heisman Trophy.
The road to those accomplishments were paved by a long line of great football players, starting with Bobby Layne in the 1940s, then extending all the way to Vince Young and Colt McCoy in the 2000s.
Some of them won national awards and shattered school records, others displayed amazing consistency in helping their teams achieve greatness as a whole. But they all made their mark on the history of the program and set the standard for every future player who wants to enjoy similar success.
Someone has to get production from the Michigan Wolverines’ wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. Evidently, one offensive coordinator—Tim Drevno—wasn’t enough, so head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to bring along Jedd Fisch to handle the finer points of the aerial game.
Tabbing Fisch as the passing game coordinator was the correct move.
With collegiate experience dating back to 1999, Fisch has accumulated quite the resume while working with some of the game’s most respected coaches and coordinators.
Prior to joining Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, Fisch handled offensive coordinator duties with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the team’s struggles, he found ways to improve quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Chad Henne and Denard Robinson.
And, really, he didn’t only “improve” Robinson—he flipped “Shoelace” from a quarterback into a running back/receiver. That proved to be another correct move. Robinson, who missed three games due to injury in 2014, rushed for 582 yards and two scores. He also caught 23 of 31 intended passes for 124 yards.
Small adjustments can make a difference.
Fisch's resume could stand up to any comparable coach's track record in the game.
And, yes, he’s done great things on both sides of the ball with a few players, teams and high-profile coaches, such as Seattle's Pete Carroll (QB), then-Houston's Dom Capers (assistant to the coach) and then-Denver's Mike Shanahan (WR). His knowledge of offense and defense has been enriched at every stop of his career.
Part of having success is knowing and exploiting the opponents' weakness(es). It's safe to say that Fisch is well-versed in that regard.
But none of that will matter if he can’t squeeze every ounce of potential from—and form genuine relationships with—Jake Rudock, the assumed starting quarterback, and a stable of pass-catching options which include but aren’t limited to receivers Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Freddy Canteen, Brian Cole and Maurice Ways, and tight ends Jake Butt, Ian Bunting and A.J. Williams.
Cruise with Rudock
As the situation stands today, Rudock seems to be Michigan’s most obvious game-ready option for Sept. 3 against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Of course, the circumstances could change during camp, but Rudock has certainly cemented himself as the Wolverines’ mid- to late-June starter.
In 2010 and 2011, Fisch, then the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator, recruited Rudock, who was then a star at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
A wise man would assume that Fisch and Harbaugh surveyed the situation at hand—the lack of a seasoned signal-caller—and viewed Rudock as the ideal game manager, prompting them to lure the graduated senior from Iowa to Ann Arbor this past spring.
As a guy who does a lot of things at a satisfactory level but not many in exemplary fashion, the 25-game starter has enough poise to serve as a base for Fisch.
Although most Michigan fans probably want to see Fisch air out the ball each Saturday, keeping things simple with Rudock and the receivers may be the best call.
For example, remember the game plan devised by Al Borges for Shane Morris during the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: It was the one that allowed Morris, then a freshman, to play at a relatively comfortable pace without having to do too much.
It may sound odd to cite Borges at this time, but there is a method to the madness.
In terms of how to insert a quarterback into a shaky situation, Borges nailed it. While different at its core, this year’s quarterback situation is also shaky.
With that said, using a slightly revised, more energetic approach based on the same principles may do the trick with Rudock, who would rely on pass-catchers to make plays rather than playing the role of hero.
Again, the term “game manager” certainly applies. Just check out the supporting numbers provided by Chad Leistikow of Hawk Central:
Rudock leaves Iowa as its No. 8 all-time passer with 4,819 yards in 25 career games, all as a starter while compiling a 14-11 record. He was intercepted just 18 times, or on 2.6 percent of his 691 career attempts—a ball-security stat that Harbaugh was known for as a player and now as a coach.
Rudock's five interceptions last fall (on 345 attempts) were the fewest by any Big Ten starter.
Should Michigan's No. 1-ranked experience, per Phil Steele, show up on the offensive line, Rudock could end up having a career year with Fisch.
For the sake of space, the following is a breakdown of situations in which Rudock thrives, per his ESPN.com splits from the 2014 season:
- Manageable third/fourth downs: He threw seven of 16 touchdowns when the Hawkeyes needed three to eight yards to move the sticks.
- Playing vs. the Big Ten: He threw 11 touchdowns with just three picks and completed 60 percent of his passes against conference foes.
- The second half: Although his yards per attempt was nearly two yards lower than in the first half, he threw 10 touchdowns during the third and fourth quarters this past season.
- Get going in the first: Rudock completed 66.3 percent of his passes in the first half (8.06 YPA).
- Goal-line stands: He was sacked zero times and rushed for three touchdowns in goal-to-go situations, demonstrating the ability to remain cool during crunch time. He also threw eight touchdowns compared to one interception (costly red-zone pick in loss to Nebraska).
Now to balance the equation, the following is a list of what stalled Rudock in 2014:
- Red zone: He threw 12 touchdowns while inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but he also completed just 51 percent of his passes.
- On 3rd-and-long (8-10 yards): Rudock completed just 48.3 percent of his passes and had zero touchdown passes.
- Third-down picks: Rudock threw three of five interceptions on third downs.
As always, stats are open to interpretation and can be skewed to make a point. What happened with Rudock at Iowa won’t necessarily transpire in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, Fisch likely knows all about Rudock’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as when and how to utilize him. It’s also likely that some of these examples have been discussed between them.
If all goes well, Butt could end up having a monstrous junior year. That'd be one way to kick the passing game into gear right from the start.
Previously hampered by a pair of ACL injuries, the 6'6", 248-pounder is Michigan's largest target. And since Rudock is decent in goal-to-go situations, Butt could become a powerful force with the game on the line.
Whether as the red-zone safety net or the go-to option on third downs, Butt could become Rudock's Michigan version of Jake Duzey, a similarly sized tight end who caught 36 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns for Iowa in 2014 (10.9 yards per catch).
Together, Darboh and Chesson have made 46 appearances for the Wolverines. There's no need to do the math—that's a lot more than anyone else on the roster, times two or three.
Due to their experience, they need to be main features of the offense. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, a chiseled Darboh is designed for securing the deep ball, but he's a reliable inside option, too. At 6'3" and 207 pounds, Chesson works best while flashing inside and outside. During spring availability, he said that the receivers were picking up on Fisch's teachings and getting comfortable with quarterbacks.
That was said prior to Rudock's arrival, so it'd be fair to assume that the addition of a more experienced arm would help expedite the learning process.
With guidance from Fisch, Darboh and Chesson could avoid fizzling out in the second half. Per ESPN.com, Darboh caught 18 passes in each half this past season. However, he averaged 16.9 YPC prior to halftime and just 9.3 afterward. Chesson caught 10 passes in the first half compared to four in the second.
In the not-so-distant past, Michigan actually had a viable one-two punch. That was Devin Funchess, the big-play guy, and Jeremy Gallon, the speedy slasher.
Butt looks like the big-play guy, but the Wolverines remain in search of a slot threat. Developing Canteen, Cole or even Drake Harris for the job is imperative.
Things don't have to be perfect for Fisch, but he needs at least one serviceable athlete at each position in order to implement his system. A coach can't install it if he doesn't have the players.
On the Same Page
As mentioned above, relationships will be for Fisch, the staff and the players. It's a buzz-phrase, sure, but "getting on the same page" pretty much covers the bases, which in turn should tie together the loose ends.
For the past three years, Michigan's offensive line has been one of the worst in all of college football. Considering the levels of perceived talent and experience, that shouldn't have been the case.
Drevno is known for crafting O-lines. His 11-year relationship with Harbaugh should pay dividends this season. Harbaugh likes power football, and power football needs an O-line. Fisch needs an O-line to set the course for Rudock and beyond.
The sooner Fisch and Drevno become buddy-buddy, the better for the program. It's all about continuity, and establishing an open line of communication with Jay Harbaugh wouldn't hurt, either.
Transitions don't happen overnight. Typically, they don't happen within a year, either. But just like he did in Jacksonville, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com, Fisch is constantly assessing the who, what, when, where and why with his personnel in Ann Arbor.
The who, when, where and why will fall together in time. But as of now, Fisch absolutely knows what he must do, and that's rekindle the fire of a passing offense that finished No. 14 in the Big Ten and No. 112 among FBS programs.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world, obviously, it's something you have to work at," Fisch told MGoBlue.com (h/t MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner). "It starts with the quarterback, and then pass protection. We'll constantly emphasize precision, that's where it starts and stops.
"Everyone has to be on the same page, and we'll be very detailed."
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.
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It's never too early to plan your weekends for this fall, is it?
If those plans happen to involve camping out in front of the TV to watch college football, then you're in luck. While many kickoff times and channel slots haven't been set yet, we do have the full rundown available for the 2015 college football season. And with that, we can start blocking out chunks of time that will be occupied with tracking all the action.
The 2015 campaign has one fewer week during the regular season, but that just means the action is more packed in. Every week from early September until early December has at least one big game on the schedule, and some are just overflowing with potentially big matchups.
These are the 50 must-see games of 2015 (regular season only), ranked in order of their national appeal as well as how much they should impact the playoff race.
Defense is what got the Texas Longhorns to a bowl game in head coach Charlie Strong's first year in 2014. Offense is what might have to do the job this time around. Considering the Longhorns could barely move the ball at times last season, improving the offense dramatically is Strong's biggest goal for 2015.
His own job security likely depends upon it, as if you needed any more proof that being the head coach at Texas is that demanding.
Let's start at the beginning. On national signing day in early February, Strong promised Longhorn fans a more wide-open offense going forward, noting that it behooved the program to run something similar to what high schools across the state did. That made sense; Texas is a recruiting hotbed, and the flagship program no longer had a kung-fu grip on the best in-state talent. Promising more excitement on offense is one way to fix that.
At the very least, though, Texas needed a change after finishing last in the Big 12 in passing offense and ninth in points per game.
There's no doubt the offense had to be shaken up—Les Koenning and Bruce Chambers, two offensive assistants, were shown the door as well—but now the question remains whether the changes will spark any, um, change.
Preseason magazines are around for entertainment purposes first and foremost. Their job is to bide the time until real football begins. That said, it's telling that well-known sources such as Phil Steele and Athlon Sports have one offensive Longhorns player—offensive lineman Sedrick Flowers—as a first-team Preseason All-Big 12 selection.
Running back Johnathan Gray, who might be Texas' most well-known offensive player, was a third-team preseason selection by both publications. (Gray, of course, suffered an Achilles injury late in 2013 and was never quite the same last year.)
These types of preseason all-conference teams are put together with last year's production and offseason rumblings/reports in mind. What they tell us about Texas is that few Longhorns are getting attention on offense.
Long gone are the days of Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Jamaal Charles. This year, Strong's checklist includes: sorting out the quarterback competition between Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard; developing the offensive line, which was crushed by attrition last year; and finding a reliable receiving corps after losing their top two wide receivers from 2014—John Harris and Jaxon Shipley.
It's going to be up to Strong and this offensive coaching staff to develop a lot of under-the-radar talent. That's not a line you expect to write about Texas. Ever.
But at least there's some experience returning on offense. That's important because the Horns might not be able to rely on their defense like they did a year ago. There are a couple of staples in place—defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and cornerback Duke Thomas, for example—but there will be a lot of new starters and new players being broken in on that side of the ball.
"This is probably going to be one of those years where we’re going to have to go coach, and we’ll just see how good of coaches we really are," Strong said, per Rod Babers of 247Sports.
Strong and his staff are good coaches. One look at the players Louisville has put into the NFL draft over the past few years is a reflection of that. In time, Texas' defense will be stout again (at the very least, the defensive line should lead the way). But if you want to know if Strong is going to make it as Texas' coach, let's see what he can do with the offense.
Strong is regarded as one of the brightest defensive minds in college football, and his assistant coaching staff reflects that expertise. As such, changing the tune and putting a priority on offense in '15 is going to test Strong's flexibility as a head coach.
It brings to mind what Gary Patterson did at TCU. Patterson, another defensive-minded coach, went outside of his comfort zone and hired two co-offensive coordinators, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, for the '14 season. As it turned out, there may not have been a better set of hires than that all year.
That's not to compare TCU to Texas, but it does show that great coaches are willing to change things up and go in a direction that's different for them. Strong has already started down that path by promising to modify the offense.
Will he get the results to go along with it? That will be his biggest test. If he doesn't, people could get anxious heading into year three.
Put it this way: Strong was listed at "3" on Dennis Dodd's recent hot seat-o-meter. A "3," means "Starting to feel the pressure." Spinning off that rating, Max Olson of ESPN.com recently wrote "Strong's status on this list is debatable, I guess, but I get it: If you're the head coach of Texas and you're coming off a losing season, you're going to feel at least a little pressure."
That little bit of pressure will be a lot of pressure if Texas has two straight losing seasons. If the offense doesn't take a major step forward, that could very well be the case.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.
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College football's next crop of star quarterbacks embark on an annual mission for Elite 11 national MVP honors next month in Beaverton, Oregon.
The competition, featuring 18 rising high school seniors from across America, commences July 5 at Nike's world headquarters. A few days of highly concentrated positional drills and fundamental studies are followed by team-oriented activities at The Opening, a star-studded showcase that features more than 160 of the nation's premier prospects.
A whirlwind spring of individual assessment and the inaugural Elite 11 semifinals—held June 5-7 in Los Angeles—helped event coaches whittle down a large collection of talent. It surely wasn't an easy decision for those in charge, but Penn State commit Jake Zembiec rounded out the list of finalists June 15:
The group of golden-armed athletes includes 16 competitors committed to programs in Power Five conferences, along with two quarterbacks who remain uncommitted. They represent 12 states and could eventually challenge each other for championships and awards at the collegiate level.
Elite 11 alumni include Heisman Trophy winners (Jameis Winston, Tim Tebow, Troy Smith and Matt Leinart) and No. 1 overall NFL draft picks (Winston, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck).
While patience is required to see how this class' quarterbacks turn out, the event includes plenty of promising passers.
Elite 11 finals test several traits that ultimately add up to create a quarterback who can lead his team on and off the field. Players are pushed to improve—physically and mentally—throughout the week, while exhibiting quality decision-making habits and a desire to be coached.
Last summer, we witnessed California product Blake Barnett take top honors in Oregon. He is now approaching his first season at Alabama.
Based on what this latest crop of quarterback has accomplished in game action and camp settings, here's a look at how we believe the contenders stack up, with odds for each prospect claiming top honors in Beaverton.
Jacob Eason: 3-to-1
The 6'5", 205-pound passer continues to maintain his spot atop positional composite rankings for a reason. We compare him favorably to top-rated 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen, and he continues to validate the hype in Elite 11 settings.
Eason, who has thrown for 6,228 yards and 59 touchdowns through 25 high school games, per MaxPreps, displays outstanding precision. His detailed footwork and effortless release is exactly what coaches want to see from a top college prospect.
Shea Patterson: 7-to-2
Patterson separated himself from the pack—and just about everyone not named Jacob Eason—during a dominant junior campaign. He completed 65 percent of passes for 2,428 yards and 38 touchdowns, adding another three scores on the ground.
Ball security is among his most admirable traits, and expect that to shine throughout finals action. Patterson has thrown just seven interceptions on his past 422 attempts.
"Shea I would have invited last year as a sophomore," Elite 11 leader Trent Dilfer told Barton Simmons of 247Sports. "I was trying to break the rules last year and bring him as a sophomore."
Dwayne Haskins: 5-to-1
Some may view this as a slightly high placement for the New Jersey native, but he is tailor-made for this competition. Haskins, who stands 6'3", 198 pounds, is technically sound and maintains consistency in his approach, with little sign of drop-off during a day's work.
He also exudes leadership qualities, which should come in handy when Haskins attempts to lead a seven-on-seven squad of blue-chip recruits. His past two seasons featured 36 touchdown tosses and just 11 interceptions.
"I'm a game-changer whenever I have the ball in my hands, whether it's first down or third down," Haskins told Bleacher Report. "I'm going to get the job done. I don't make too many mistakes, and if I do make a mistake, there won't be one the next play. It's about making sure I capitalize on everything around me."
K.J. Costello: 11-to-2
The Southern California standout handled a significantly expanded role in 2014, when he nearly doubled his sophomore pass attempts. Costello completed 60 percent of his attempts for 3,123 yards (nearly 300 per game) and 23 touchdowns, per MaxPreps.
His ability to read defenses across different levels helps put him in solid position each rep. Costello might throw the prettiest deep ball in this class, and he'll have a chance to prove it in Beaverton.
Malik Henry: 6-to-1
Henry has some doubters to silence in the wake of news that he's transferring schools for the third straight season, especially amid rumors that there may have been some disconnect between him and members of the coaching staff. That's an aspect of the game that means a lot to Dilfer and Elite 11 folks, so you can bet they'll keep a close eye on his "coachability" at every turn.
Putting that aside, Henry has all the physical tools you look for from a stud quarterback recruit. Few can rival his pocket presence, and he grades out among the most accurate passers in this class.
Jarrett Guarantano: 7-to-1
Yet to spend a full high school season behind center, Guarantano lacks the game credibility that many fellow competitors bring into this event. However, a few looks at him provide the impression that this young man is special.
We scouted a 2014 game in which Guarantano was sacked nearly 10 times and under duress throughout, but he managed to keep his composure and make a few highlight plays despite a touch setting. That speaks volumes about his resolve, and Guarantano is a candidate for the strongest arm in camp.
"In terms of impressive workouts we've seen this year, from start to finish, he's probably at the top. He's always had the big arm and the physical build you look for at the position." Elite 11 coach Brian Stumpf told Bleacher Report at the New Jersey/New York Elite 11 regional camp.
Feleipe Franks: 15-to-2
The 6'5", 220-pound passer was the first player to pick up an invitation to the Elite 11 finals. Franks, who threw for 2,249 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior, is one of the strongest quarterbacks in this class.
His powerful arm is further enhanced by well-timed dimes that he delivers with frequency. Franks relies on his legs quite often against high school competition and is often on the move, so we're curious to see how he handles things in the pocket.
Brandon Peters: 8-to-1
His national recognition has steadily increased since an April pledge to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Peters warrants the high profile, as he appears to be the Midwest's top passer in this class.
He turned a lot of heads in Elite 11 preliminaries and carries some momentum into the finals, where Peters will match up quite well with his contemporaries in most categories. He drew comparisons from Harbaugh to a former Elite 11 finalist.
"He compared me to Andrew Luck," Peters told Bleacher Report. "It's a similar situation to what he had at Stanford, with Luck being the first quarterback recruit he brought in [with a full cycle]. He thinks I'm a really good fit for him at Michigan like Luck was for him there."
Brandon McIlwain: 9-to-1
McIlwain won't blow people away with his measurables, standing 6'0", but Elite 11 coaches continue to rave about his dedication. He dropped close to 20 pounds of extra weight since last year, transforming his physique in time for a strong 2015 stretch.
McIlwain collected 3,200 total yards and 38 touchdowns last season, and he looks very comfortable in the pocket despite a 2014 campaign that featured 1,100 rushing yards. His attitude could ultimately give him an edge over competitors with more impressive physical traits.
"Every meeting he was so locked in taking copious notes. He was so invested in the process," Dilfer told Simmons after Elite 11 semifinals. "We've had kids do that before and then stink it up on the field. And he was awesome on the field. So the combination of that, he's everything we're looking for in a kid."
Rest of the Pack
Shane Buechele: 10-to-1
Jake Zembiec: 11-to-1
Messiah deWeaver: 13-to-1
Nick Starkel: 14-to-1
Jawon Pass: 15-to-1
Dillon Sterling-Cole: 16-to-1
Patrick O'Brien: 18-to-1
Anthony Russo: 20-to-1
Jett Duffey: 22-to-1
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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The Florida State Seminoles have sported some of the best offensive talent in college football over the course of their storied program's history.
Who will emerge on the Seminoles offense? Check out the video and let us know!
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Transfer season is upon us, and Alabama landed one of college football's top free agents.
No, not Braxton Miller. Calm down, Alabama fans.
According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, the Crimson Tide have landed former Oregon State wide receiver Richard Mullaney.
Mullaney confirmed the news on Twitter a short time after the report surfaced.
He finished second on the Beavers in receiving behind star Brandin Cooks as a sophomore, hauling in 52 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns. He was limited by elbow injury last year but still managed to catch 18 passes for 216 yards and a score.
He's a tremendous pickup for the Crimson Tide.
Kiffin must replace his top three receivers from a year ago, including Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper. Is Mullaney capable of replicating Cooper's season that included 124 catches, 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns?
No, but that's not what he's being asked to do.
After playing FBS football for three years in former head coach Mike Riley's system, Mullaney is—by far—the most experienced wide receiver on Alabama's roster. While most of the Crimson Tide wide receivers are comfortable with the speed of practice and have some snaps under their belts, nothing that comes Mullaney's way is going to surprise him.
At 6'3", 197 pounds, he towers over opposing defensive backs and can win his fair share of 50-50 balls. That's important, because Alabama's new quarterback—whoever wins the job—might need a reliable target such as Mullaney to bail him out when pressure gets in the backfield.
As Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated points out, he's as reliable as they come.
Plus, he's a solid insurance policy.
ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster were tremendous in Alabama's spring game. Stewart had seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, while Foster reeled in six passes for 125 yards, according to stats released by Alabama.
Both of those players look like potential stars, but the absence of consistent big-time experience makes that far from a certainty.
Mullaney provides another option—one that Kiffin can especially use early in the season as that new quarterback acclimates to the starting role.
He doesn't have the track record of a superstar receiver, but that's not what Alabama is asking him to be.
Under Kiffin, he'll be asked to be a reliable weapon the new quarterback can count on and help the younger wide receivers evolve into bigger roles in the program.
For that, he's a perfect fit.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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