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How Will Notre Dame Deal with Navy's Option?

For the 88th consecutive season, Notre Dame takes on Navy in the longest running intersectional rivalry in college football. And for almost just as long, the Irish walk into a football game where there's little to gain yet much at stake. 

A win against Navy? Pretty underwhelming, particularly now that the College Football Playoff selection committee already turned their noses up at the Irish's current slate of opponents.

As the rest of the Power Five teams get into the meat of their conference schedules, the Irish look almost old-fashioned as they take on the service academy, even if there are noble intentions behind the rivalry. 

Of course, looking past Navy should be done at your own risk. Even if people have forgotten that Navy had Ohio State on the ropes until the fourth quarter of its season opener, the Midshipmen and their vaunted triple-option attack make for a difficult matchup, especially in the middle of the season's grind. 

Brian Kelly said on Tuesday:

I can tell you among the coaches throughout the country, if we were just polling coaches, they would tell you nobody wants to play Navy. But sometimes when you talk about the average fan, they hear about an academy, and they don't think in terms of how difficult of an opponent it is.

Don't expect any fans to be playing the violin for the Irish this week, coach. But with Keenan Reynolds entering Saturday night's contest healthy after a monster game against San Jose State, Notre Dame will have to find a way to slow down the triple option and one of college football's most dangerous playmakers. 

Here's how they can do it. 


Take Away the Fullback

While Reynolds hasn't put up numbers like he did last season, the Navy fullbacks have been doing serious damage this year. The duo of Noah Copeland and Chris Swain are eating opponents alive with the fullback dive, running for a collective 1,057 yards on just 136 carries, a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry on one of the most basic plays in all of football. 

Navy fullbacks have worked their way into Irish nightmares in recent years. In 2009, Vince Murray ran for 158 yards on just 14 carries as he essentially ended the Charlie Weis era in Navy's 23-21 victory.

A year later, it was Kelly and Bob Diaco who got pantsed, this time by fullback Alexander Teich. Teich ran into the record books as he went for 210 yards on 26 carries, carving up the Irish defense from the inside.

The Irish coaching staff has made some adjustments since that fateful 35-17 beating, switching to a four-man front instead of their base three-down under Diaco. But that hasn't necessarily made stopping the fullback any easier, with Swain running for 5.3 yards a carry in last season's 38-34 escape.


Try to Dictate Terms Defensively

If we've seen any major change this season, it's been Brian VanGorder's hyper-aggressive mentality with the Irish's young defense.

While Diaco preferred to have his defense try its best to be "creaseless," making the Irish's defensive linemen hold the point of attack while reading the option, don't expect VanGorder to throttle back the aggressiveness. 

Part of what's made VanGorder so successful early in his time in South Bend is his ability to see what an opponent does and try to neutralize that facet of their game plan. That's a little bit tougher with a system like Navy's, where the Midshipmen have specialized at something so specific that it's become a bit scheme-proof. 

But with Navy's offensive line struggling with injuries and not as good as some of Niumatalolo's better fronts, Notre Dame's strength on the defensive line could take the Midshipmen out of their game plan through aggression alone. 

Personnel-wise, we've gotten clues that Notre Dame will make some tweaks. Isaac Rochell will slide inside to defensive tackle, putting Sheldon Day at defensive end.

Kelly also talked about seldom-used fifth-year lineman Justin Utupo getting opportunities to contribute, a year after he played well against both Navy and Air Force. 

The youth on Notre Dame's front means there'll be growing pains. But perhaps they can be negated by setting the tone, forcing Navy to make choices as opposed to having the defense read and react. 


Win the Turnover Battle

Few things will matter more on Saturday night than the turnover battle. With Navy sitting at 106th in the nation in turnover margin, the Midshipmen can't afford to give the ball away to the Irish offense, a unit that should be incredibly proficient against an undersized defense.

If you're looking for one of the key ingredients in Navy's best performances against Notre Dame since they broke the Irish's 43-game winning streak in 2007, turnovers tell the story. In Notre Dame's humbling 2010 loss, the Irish were minus-2. In the 2009 loss, Charlie Weis' squad was minus-3.

In games that Navy's managed to keep close—2013 and 2008 specifically—the Irish have won tight games even while being a collective minus-6 in turnover margin.

Niumatalolo was candid earlier in the week when he talked about the perfect recipe for a victory over Notre Dame. It required some help from the Irish.

"We played about as good as we can play and we still lost," Niumatalolo told Bill Wagner of The Capital earlier this week, when talking about last season’s 38-34 finish. "To even have a chance, we have to play perfect and they have to help us a little bit."


Score Early on Offense and Run Away from the Option

Just as Niumatalolo acknowledged, the Irish can win simply by coming out of the gate quickly. While winning the turnover battle is crucial, the best way to beat Navy's triple option is a quick offensive start by Notre Dame.

Converting in the red zone and putting points on the board early and often gives the Irish a rare opportunity for a first-round TKO. With a Navy option attack unable to play catchup on the ground, turning to their passing game would spell near-certain disaster, regardless of how competent Keenan Reynolds is as a passer.

Navy's offensive line has already given up 15 sacks this season. The Midshipmen have only thrown 86 passes all year. Forced to drop back and beat someone through the air, Reynolds won't survive, especially if VanGorder dials up a blitz package and Navy gets away from their bread and butter.

We saw that happen in 2011 and 2012, with efficient offense eliminating any threat from Navy before the first quarter was over. If the Irish can take a step forward behind Everett Golson (a game after nearly putting up 500 yards against Florida State), there's little Navy's option offense can do to stop it. 

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Notre Dame Football: Why the Irish Offense Needs to Be Extra Efficient vs. Navy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Navy’s triple-option offense has been well-documented heading into Saturday’s game, but it will be Everett Golson and Notre Dame football’s offense that must sharpen to go head-to-head with the Midshipmen.

With Navy running the option and continually gnawing off large chunks of time from the clock, Golson and the Irish must be crisp and efficient with potentially fewer possessions and less time with which to work.

“Each possession you just have to score,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “If that takes a little bit longer, you're still going to get your possessions, the way the game plays out.”

Navy ranks in the bottom portion of the FBS in offensive plays per game, averaging 70.9 offensive snaps this season, according to TeamRankings.com. And with a run-based attack, the Midshipmen also rank near the top third of college football in average time of possession, per TeamRankings.com.

Kelly, though, doesn’t want there to be an over-the-top sense of urgency when Golson does get the ball in his hands.

“It's not rushing. It's the difference between being quick and being in a hurry,” Kelly said. “I think when you're in a hurry, you get sloppy, but you can be quick as long as you're sharp.”

Notre Dame will need a sharp Golson on Saturday against the disciplined Midshipmen, who nearly put together the perfect game against the Irish last season before falling, 38-34. With 10 turnovers in his last four games, Golson has sapped the momentum from his share of drives. The emphasis on care becomes even more important against the Midshipmen.

“You can't have turnovers,” Kelly said. “You can't give them extra possessions. We have to score points. There is no question about that.”

Of course, Kelly and the Irish know the dangers of facing Navy all too well. The narrow win last season coupled with Notre Dame’s 2010 loss to the Midshipmen serve as reminders that this matchup is a potential upset waiting to happen.

Last year, Irish quarterback Tommy Rees threw two interceptions, and the Midshipmen charged down the field immediately after the first miscue to claim a second-quarter lead. Navy had a massive edge in time of possession (37:36-22:24), and the Irish only ran 56 offensive plays. (They averaged 73.2 offensive plays per game last season, per TeamRankings.com.)

“From an offensive standpoint, Everett knows what the charge is there running the offense. He's got to be accurate. He's got to be clean in terms of taking care of the football, and we've got to be on top of things offensively,” Kelly said.

“If we're not, it's going to be a dogfight.”


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Miami Football: North Carolina Game a Perfect Chance for True Freshmen to Shine

Even under the threat of sanctions throughout an NCAA investigation, the Miami Hurricanes recruited well under Al Golden.

Four classes into Golden's tenure, the current freshman group has established itself as the best immediate-impact unit, earning starting roles and contributing in the box score.

A meeting with the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, Oct. 31 will be the biggest opportunity yet for the young Hurricanes to shine.

"All of these freshmen work. I can't take that away from any of them. All of them work," Denzel Perryman told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Although Darrion Owens is well behind Perryman as a backup linebacker, he'll likely see additional time Saturday. Since UNC moves at a deliberate pace, Owens should register a decent number of meaningful reps at outside linebacker as a spot sub.

But it's not necessarily the amount of playing time that counts.

"It comes down to knowledge of the playbook and when you get your opportunity, are you making the best of it or not?" Perryman said. "Those guys are really making the best of their opportunities."

Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, a pair of defensive ends, have started to become stalwarts in the rotation. The duo's speed off the edge will be paramount in stopping the speed of Marquise Williams every single time the respective freshmen line up.

While the defensive youngsters will attempt to contain UNC's high-powered attack, the Hurricanes will feature even more freshmen on their own offense.

Braxton Berrios registered a catch in seven consecutive games, reeling in 18 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. The only time he didn't record a reception, Virginia Tech couldn't stop the running game, so Miami didn't need to throw.

Nevertheless, the shifty slot receiver has a perfect chance to rebound, matching up against the nation's No. 119 pass defense. Plus, it won't hurt to have Brad Kaaya tossing him the pigskin.

Kaaya needed a few outings to adjust and settle in, but the 6'4" gunslinger is markedly improving on a weekly basis. He's already among the best shot-callers in the ACC and is creeping up national rankings, too.

Though Kaaya has thrown nine interceptions to date, he's only been picked twice during the last four contests. The maturation process of a young quarterback certainly contributes to that, but efficient passing is also a direct product of satisfactory pass protection.

One lineman contributing to that cause is left guard Nick Linder, who entered the starting unit following season-ending injuries to Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott.

Whether he's been asked to neutralize a weak-side defender or open the immediate running lane, Linder has been surprisingly good throughout two games.

Starting Saturday, Linder won't be the lone freshman on the O-line. After an injury to left tackle Ereck Flowers, Trevor Darling will be pressed into his first career collegiate start. Consequent to senior Jon Feliciano sliding over to replace Flowers, Darling should take over the right edge.

Darling was a talented prospect, heralded as a 4-star offensive tackle and top-100 overall recruit, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Potential is great, but the Hurricanes need the 6'5", 310-pounder to execute despite his inexperience.

If Darling handles his first start well, Miami is likely to light up the scoreboard.

However, the conference battle might be decided by a game-winning field goal, since the Tar Heels have corrected myriad offensive issues in recent weeks.

Of course, this could result in walk-on place-kicker Michael Badgley lining up to give the 'Canes a victory.

Saturday afternoon, Miami will be relying on its talented handful of freshmen to make those chances count, no matter if they are a starter or reserve.

The difference between a win or loss will absolutely be affected by the youngsters, and the ACC tilt might even be decided by one.

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Dave Brandon Resigning as Michigan AD Spells Bad News for Brady Hoke

Michigan's long national nightmare—on Halloween, of all days—is finally over. Well, half over. 

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced that embattled athletic director Dave Brandon had resigned. "This morning I accepted resignation of AD David Brandon," Schlissel said. "I agree with this decision." 

The second shoe to drop in this mess—or "Domino," if you will—would be the termination/resignation of Michigan football coach Brady Hoke.

News of Brandon's resignation was first reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Former Wolverines player James Hackett will take over as the interim AD, as The Detroit News first reported. 

Though Michigan did not elaborate on Brandon's resignation—details are reportedly going to be released later—Adam Rittenberg of ESPN tweeted that recent scathing emails from Brandon to Wolverine fans unearthed by mgoblog.com may have been the nail in the proverbial coffin. 

Brandon was loathed by the Michigan fanbase long before that for his incompetence and attitude. As David Jesse and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press wrote, the Brandon hire was initially lauded. However, marketing and tradition blunders over the years led to growing resentment. 

In the end, though, Brandon's worst decision was his biggest hire: Hoke. That's all it really came down to. 

If Hoke's days weren't numbered before, they probably are now. Whomever Michigan hires to replace Brandon—Schlissel didn't make it sound like having Michigan ties is a prerequisite—Hoke will have to prove he's capable of getting things turned around. Michigan needs a house cleaning, and Hoke's job performance will be under review. 

"I don’t have a particular time frame," Schlissel said about hiring his next AD. "I have excellence in mind."

Hoke was Brandon's guy, but it won't matter going forward. That may not count for everything in terms of job security, but it counts for something. 

Unlike Brandon, Hoke has been classified as a great guy who is merely in over his head. Even in the national fury of the Shane Morris concussion situation, the general vibe was that Hoke was more negligent than malicious

What the Morris outrage came down to was that a faction—probably large—of Wolverine fans wanted Hoke gone anyway, and player safety was a topic through which they could vent their frustrations.

But what Hoke's tenure at Michigan comes down to is wins, something he hasn't had nearly enough of lately. Hoke is 18-16 since going 11-2 in his first season in 2011, with win totals declining every year. The Wolverines are 3-5 this year heading into November.

The decision to remove Al Borges as offensive coordinator and bring in Doug Nussmeier hasn't paid off, but only because there are far too many problems for Nussmeier to fix in one season. The offensive line remains a mess, and there are no answers at quarterback. 

In that vein, there's been nothing to indicate that Michigan is close to turning a corner. The Wolverines need to win three of their final four games—against Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Ohio State—just to make a bowl game. 

All are certainly winnable if you are of the "throw out the record book in rivalry games" persuasion. However, one can realistically see Michigan losing two more games, which would effectively keep this team home for bowl season. 

The question is still whether Hoke makes it to the end of the season at all. Hackett definitely has the power to make a decision on his own at the end of the season, so the lack of a permanent AD might not be a factor in Hoke's job security. All the same, the outlook isn't promising. 

Will Hoke keep his job? Just know that if he's re-applying for the position, his resume isn't shining. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Mark Stoops, Kentucky Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction, Analysis

Mark Stoops' tenure as the head football coach at the University of Kentucky is as solid as it's ever been. The school has reportedly agreed to a long-term contract extension with the coach. 

According to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, Stoops' new agreement with the Wildcats goes through the 2019 season:

Per Aaron Smith, Stoops' new deal includes a hefty pay raise starting in 2015:

Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio notes that the Wildcats are taking a gamble with Stoops' deal:

According to Kyle Tucker of The Courier Journal, Stoops will get a lot more money if he can turn Kentucky into a bowl contender each year:

Tucker provided a full transcript of the press conference to announce the deal. 

Kentucky is off to a 5-3 start this season, though a 2-3 mark in the SEC does show there's still a lot of work to be done. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said that he believes Stoops is the right coach for this university, via Smith:

Barnhart also issued a tweet of his own, noting that Stoops' extension is a sign of faith about where the program is headed even more than about its current progress:

Despite the mediocre conference record this season, the Wildcats have improved dramatically in two years under Stoops. They were winless in the SEC last year (0-8) and 2-10 overall, so needing just one more win to become bowl-eligible is a huge step in the right direction. 

This program has been a laughingstock in the SEC since making its last bowl appearance in 2010. Kentucky won four conference games in three seasons under Joker Phillips from 2010-12. Stoops came into a disastrous situation and turned it around quicker than anyone could have expected. 

Playing in the SEC doesn't do Kentucky any favors, but the progress shown under Stoops provides a legitimate reason for optimism. Credit the school for recognizing it and showing the faith in the second-year head coach to give him a huge raise.  


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Top SEC Football Storylines Heading into November

With every passing week of the college football season, the SEC storylines continue to heat up.

Will the state of Mississippi overpower the state of Alabama in the SEC West? Can Missouri earn an unlikely repeat as SEC East champions? Will Todd Gurley’s return be just in time or a little too late?

These are the kind of questions fans of the SEC want to know. 

Join B/R as we take a closer look at these and other storylines around the conference.

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Auburn's Lack of Pass Rush Could Doom the Tigers' Playoff Hopes

AUBURN, Ala. — Before "The Kick Six" and "A Miracle at Jordan-Hare" sealed two incredible home SEC wins for Auburn last season, there was "The Skip."

On Auburn's final defensive play in a 30-22 victory against Ole Miss, freshman defensive end Carl Lawson fought through the offensive line and sacked Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace.

To celebrate his second sack of the game, Lawson bounced off the ground and promptly skipped to the sidelines, becoming an Internet sensation for a couple of days:

Auburn's defense, led by Lawson and senior defensive end Dee Ford, sacked Wallace six times last season to record one of the program's best single-game performances in that area.

A lot has changed for Auburn since Lawson skipped off the field in the win against Ole Miss last year—and not a lot of it has been positive for the Tigers' pass rush.

With Ford now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL and Lawson presumably out for the entire 2014 season with a knee injury, Auburn's pass-rushing numbers have taken a considerable hit.

Through the first seven games of 2014, the Tigers are well off the pace set last year by the likes of Ford, Lawson and the rest of the defensive linemen—several of whom are still playing this season: 

The lack of a solid pass rush was a concern for Auburn's coaching staff in the offseason after Lawson's injury, and the tune has not changed seven games into the 2014 campaign.

"We definitely need to improve in that," head coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this week. "Our coaches are still working on that. At times this year, we’ve had a good pass rush and other times we haven’t. That’s going to be a big factor with these next five games."

Without a true star off the edge in pass-rushing situations, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has relied on blitzes in his 4-2-5 system to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

In some games, the gambles have worked, and Auburn's defense has been able to improve statistically in many areas while getting to the quarterback.

But the reliance on blitzes turned on Johnson and the Tigers last weekend against South Carolina, when the Gamecocks gained a large amount of yardage on passes down the middle of the field and to their running backs.

This caused Auburn to move toward just a four-man rush with its line, and South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson thrived with little pressure. Auburn's defense only hit Thompson once the entire game.

"Guys still ain't getting there," Johnson said. "We did not play well in a lot of areas, but if you can get the ball out of the guy's hand or get him on the ground a few times and get him tired, it would sure help."

Of Auburn's 12 sacks this season, a little more than half of them have come from the defensive linemen. Junior college transfer DaVonte Lambert leads the team with 3.5 sacks, but his production has trailed off from a hot start to the season.

"We need to go back to practice and start working on pass-rushing moves and line blocks," sophomore defensive tackle Montravius Adams said after the win against South Carolina. "We have to get to the quarterback."

The defensive line's inability to get to the quarterback was part of Auburn's downfall against Mississippi State, when Bulldog quarterback and Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott found a lot of time to throw the ball against a scrambling Tiger secondary.

"The one thing that continues to be an issue right now is we're not getting any pressure on the quarterback with four people," Johnson said after the loss. "It looks like pass skeleton back there, frankly. Until we started bringing some people and getting in his face, [Prescott] was making good throws."

If Auburn is going to stay alive in the race for the SEC championship and the College Football Playoff, the defense will need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback—and that starts this Saturday against Ole Miss.

Even with all of his problems under pressure, Wallace has done a remarkable job for most of this season at getting the ball out of his hand quickly and carving up defenses:

"[Ole Miss'] timing on [pass plays] is just unbelievable," Johnson said. "I don't mean to say pass rush is not important, it always is. But it won't be the same type of game in that you have a guy dropping back in the pocket, throwing the ball downfield on combination routes, and you've got to generate some pass rush on the quarterback."

Auburn has tried out several new faces off the edge during practice and in certain game sets, from an undersized, yet effective veteran in Brandon King to a speedy and lengthy true freshman in Raashed Kennion.

But with just five games left in the regular season, Auburn's coaches know they won't magically find the pass-rusher it has been looking for since Lawson underwent surgery.

Production, Johnson said, needs to improve from the current cast, or else this year's game against the Rebels "will be completely different."

"Guys have to step up," Johnson said. "We don't have a waiver wire, and we can't trade any of them. But we've got to get some guys to put in some production on the field."


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Where Georgia and LSU Turn After Missing on 5-Star CB Tarvarus McFadden

Tarvarus McFadden committed to Florida State during a Friday morning announcement ceremony, capping off a frenzied nationwide recruitment process. The prized defensive back prospect picked the Seminoles from an offer sheet that featured dozens of teams:

The American Heritage High School standout is the second blue-chip recruit to join the Seminoles' 2015 recruiting class this week. Fellow in-state star Jacques Patrick, a running back who ranks seventh all-time among Florida rushers, pledged Monday.

McFadden, a 6'3", 198-pound playmaker, is rated fifth nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He trimmed his list of potential landing spots in recent months, with LSU and Georgia emerging as the top threats to challenge Florida State, a longtime favorite in this pursuit. 

The Tigers and Bulldogs miss out on a rangy defender with rare size and smoothness. Both programs have already assembled impressive classes but must now search elsewhere for additional help in the defensive secondary.

LSU already holds a pledge from one of the country's top cornerbacks in Kevin Toliver, though the 5-star commit continues to explore other options. He visited Virginia Tech, Florida State and Ohio State.

The potential tandem of Toliver and McFadden would have given Tigers fans plenty to be excited about in coming years. However, there's still a chance head coach Les Miles matches Toliver with another 5-star prospect at the position. 

Coveted California cornerback Iman Marshall plans to use an official visit in Baton Rouge before signing day, presenting an opportunity for LSU to pull in another premier player in pass coverage.

"Toliver is a great athlete, and he's very competitive like me," Marshall told me earlier this season. "We could make some serious noise down there. LSU is known as 'DBU' for a reason. They send a lot of defensive backs to the league, which is important to me. It's a place where I feel like I could really develop and polish my skills." 

It may be difficult to lure Marshall away from the West Coast, but nearby defensive backs also offer potential.

Deshawn Raymond, a 4-star in-state target, has spent significant time on campus. The Tigers could quickly turn to him after missing on McFadden, though TCU, Nebraska and Mississippi State are also in the mix.

Georgia was actually viewed as a stronger contender than LSU for McFadden's commitment during the final stretch. Cornerback is a key area of need for this 2015 Bulldogs class, especially after losing 4-star Tennessee prospect Rico McGraw to Alabama in July.

Rashad Roundtree, a Peach State product, is widely viewed as a collegiate safety but could fill a variety of roles at the next level. He is expected to visit Ohio State this weekend, but the Bulldogs have been a strong competitor for his commitment throughout and hold 97 percent of pledge predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

The team is also targeting Nashville cornerback Justin Martin, a junior college player who competes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Georgia extended an offer to the 4-star recruit in early October, but scholarships from the likes of Oklahoma, Miami and Oklahoma State have since followed.

It's imperative for Mark Richt and his staff to claim at least one top-tier cornerback in the coming months as available options continue to dwindle. Georgia could also end up landing a prospect who is currently committed elsewhere. 

Players like McFadden don't come in bunches, and now that he's headed to Tallahassee, it's time for LSU and Georgia to seek out Plan B.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Dave Brandon Reportedly Will Resign as Michigan Athletic Director

Dave Brandon is reportedly expected to step down as Michigan's director of athletics amid growing tension with the fanbase. An official announcement is expected Friday afternoon.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN broke the news:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports provided further details about the press conference:

The move comes as the school's storied football program sports a 3-5 record. The results have steadily declined in recent years after initial success under Brady Hoke, whom Brandon hired after the exit of Rich Rodriguez.

David Jesse and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press have more information on why Brandon was fired:

Once seen as the perfect blend of businessman, Michigan Man and fund-raiser, Brandon has been under intense fire since the summer, when U-M's Board of Regents took the rare step of publicly slapping down a request from the athletic department — for fireworks during football games — complaining that the traditions of U-M football were being lost.

Brandon was facing more potential embarrassment this weekend. Fans have been organizing a protest — "White Out, Dave Out" — by wearing anti-Brandon T-shirts for Saturday's homecoming football game against Indiana (3:30 p.m., BTN).

Some students, alumni and fans — growing more vocal by the month — have been upset with Brandon for some time. A survey of students early this month suggested that his relationship with them was irreparable. This week, the official alumni association ran a web post on its site rounding up comments critical of Brandon. And fans renewed their calls for his head after a popular blog reported this week on several rude e-mails it said were sent by Brandon to fans.

Jim Russ of the Detroit News reports on a replacement for Brandon:

Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated noted it will be billed as a resignation, though there was never another realistic possibility despite what may have gone on behind the scenes:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports says the decision doesn't necessarily mean Hoke is going to follow Brandon out the door in the immediate future:

Brandon had faced mounting scrutiny in recent weeks. He was shoved in the spotlight after an incident involving quarterback Shane Morris back in September. Morris was allowed to re-enter a game shortly after taking a punishing hit, and it was later reported that he suffered a concussion.

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News highlighted the aftermath:

After the story appeared on various national networks Sunday and Monday after the game, Brandon authored a lengthy statement after piecing together the events of that game night and the aftermath. The statement was publicly released just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Students then protested Brandon during a rally, and an online petition demanding the president fire Brandon gained steam and had more than 11,000 signatures when it was presented at the Regents meeting.

Brandon was never able to recover as the situation became more tense with each passing week.

Michigan students then organized a public protest over raised ticket prices earlier this month, demanding Brandon be fired.

It also didn't help that the football team wasn't showing any signs of serious progress to divert attention away from the other issues.

No further details about how Michigan plans to move forward were made available. Those should come at the press conference later in the day.


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Ole Miss Needs to Be Aggressive vs. Auburn, so "Good" Bo Wallace Better Show Up

It didn't take long after Ole Miss' 10-7 loss to LSU, tossing the Rebels from the short list of unbeaten teams, for quarterback Bo Wallace to say what needed to be fixed. 

With Auburn and its 39 points per game coming to Oxford on Saturday, the Rebels need to keep forcing turnovers on defense (they rank second nationally in that category). However, the defense can't do it alone, as it showed in the LSU loss. Wallace wants to see his offense open things up after totaling just 313 yards of offense and going 5-of-17 on third down last Saturday. From David Brandt of the Associated Press

The gameplan is "on the coaches — what they call and things like that," Wallace said. "Hopefully we can be more aggressive this week, but I'm going to run the plays that are called. That's all I can do."


"A lot of times when we were throwing the ball it was third down," Wallace said. "It's easy (for the defense) when you know it's coming - 3rd and 9, 3rd and long."

Play-calling is only part of the equation. Players have to execute as well. Behind a makeshift offensive line, Wallace struggled by going 14-of-33 last Saturday, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. Ole Miss' controversial—if you want to call it that—final play against the Tigers, for example, had an opportunity to work. 

Rather than attempt a 47-yard field goal, the Rebels, with no timeouts, opted to try one more play to pick up some yards. As head coach Hugh Freeze explained, there were two options: Get a few yards and stop the clock—whether by running out of bounds or first down—or throw it into the stands without it being intentional grounding. The worst-case scenario, in theory, is that Ole Miss is right where they were before. 

"I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal," Freeze said (via ESPN.com). "He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. I wish I could do that over, for sure."

Throwing it into double coverage, which resulted in a game-sealing interception, is on Wallace. 

That brings up the "Good Bo Wallace" vs. "Bad Bo Wallace" debate.

Wallace plays fearless—give him that much—but it's also something by which Ole Miss will live and die. When Ole Miss' offense absolutely needs a play, Wallace is going to be the guy to make it happen. Conversely, there are going to be times when Wallace does something that makes you scratch your head. Sometimes, there are several of those instances in one game. 

Certainly, "Good Bo Wallace" has to show up against Auburn. If nothing else, the ability to move the offense could be on his shoulders again. The Rebels have not been a great running team and offensive line injuries haven't helped. As Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger writes, teams that have averaged fewer than four yards per carry (Ole Miss ranks 91st in the country at 3.87 yards per rush) haven't won the SEC in more than 10 years: 

Coach Hugh Freeze believes that No. 7 Ole Miss does run the ball well enough to win a Southeastern Conference championship and compete for the College Football Playoff.

But actually doing so, without a dramatic upgrade in production over the season's final month, will require something that has not happened in the SEC in more than a decade. Not since 2002, when Georgia gained less than four yards per carry and was the league's champion.

On the other side, Auburn is tied at No. 26 in the country in stopping the run by allowing just 3.37 yards per rush. To Wallace's credit, he may have a point that Ole Miss needs to be more unconventional against Auburn in hopes that it will open up the run—at least enough to have a semblance of balance. 

However it's sliced, Ole Miss as a team has to play better despite the fact that it's banged up on defense and along the offensive line. Wallace has had good games—251 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama, for example—and bad games against LSU and Boise State. 

If Ole Miss is going to be upend Auburn, Wallace has to play smart. He's not going to change who he is as a quarterback, so basically, he has to have one of his better days. As it's already shown once, the Rebels defense can't win a game by itself. And Auburn isn't a team you want to fall behind against.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Joey Bosa Is College Football's New Rob Gronkowski

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than a year ago, at the free-for-all that is Ohio State's annual media day, I approached a 6'5", 270-pound man-child.

We talked about football for about five minutes; why he decided to come to Columbus from sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his expectations for his freshman season, how the first few weeks of fall camp had gone for him.

It was your standard media day stuff. But as the interview came to a close, I decided to go a bit deeper with the behemoth in front of me.

"So tell me about this music thing," I requested.

"Oh," Joey Bosa said, smiling sheepishly. "You heard about that?"

How could I not have?

Any follower of Bosa (@jbbigbear) on Twitter is well aware of his passion for music, particularly of the electronic dance variety. The Buckeyes defensive end has even gone as far as to give DJing a try, releasing a series of mixes on his personal SoundCloud account.

"I'm a big music guy. I've loved music all my life. I just look up to them and it seemed like an awesome thing to do and I thought I'd try it, so I just got into it," Bosa told me for a story that ran on BuckeyeGrove.com. "A lot of people, that's what they know me for, before football. But, it's definitely a big part of my life. Not as a career—football always comes first—but music is my second love."

Bosa's passion for music is just a glimpse into the personality that defines him as much as his on-field ability does. And now one-and-a-half years into his college career, he has managed to become an internet favorite for both.

Take last Saturday, for example, when his game-clinching sack in Ohio State's double-overtime win over Penn State set social media abuzz. Driving Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch back into quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Bosa became an instant Vine; six seconds of pure dominance captured in just one clip.

“That wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to hit the guard and wrap up, but he blocked down so the hole opened, so I just took it,” Bosa said after the game. “I was tired of trying to work my way around the back, so I just ran him over."

If Buckeye fans had one gripe with the eighth sack of Bosa's sophomore season, it would be that it wasn't punctuated with his signature celebration.

After knocking down Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel for a sack-turned-safety in Ohio State's fourth game of the season, Bosa subtly threw his hands up into the air, shrugging his shoulders in the process. The celebration seemed to go largely unnoticed by fans at the time, until Bosa pointed it out on his Instagram account the following day.

Instantly, Bosa became a walking meme. Fans and media members alike couldn't help but link his name with the popular shrugging-text emoji, tweeting it whenever they could in association with the now-sophomore.

“It just happened,” Bosa said of the celebration. “I guess a bunch of people liked it so I feel obliged, like I have to do it every time I get a sack.”


That's the emoji that Bosa is mimicking, an inadvertent nod to his popularity with the internet crowd. He threw up the shrug—to much more fanfare—during the Buckeyes' Oct. 4 win over Maryland, again during an Oct. 18 rout of Rutgers and once more after his 2.5 sacks against the Nittany Lions.

But while Bosa's teammates mobbed him before he could even realize that he had just ended Ohio State's close call with Penn State, he still managed to let his personality shine through last Saturday night. Grabbing J.T. Barrett while walking off the field, Bosa let the Ohio State quarterback know that he should be thankful for his star defensive end's performance, in a moment captured by BuckeyeGrove.com

(warning: video contains NSFW audio)

"You're welcome, b---h," Bosa told Barrett with a smile as he pulled him in for a hug.

Mere moments later, Bosa took to Twitter to confirm that the comment was intended to be playful.

Only you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody in Columbus who took issue with Bosa's moment of exuberance, most aware that it fell right in line with the 19-year-old's personality. Despite his dominance, it's rare that a defensive lineman becomes as popular as Bosa has in the past two months, his techno tunes and sack shrugs adding color to an otherwise unglamorous position.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Bosa is pretty good at that whole football thing, too, his eight sacks on the season placing fifth in the nation, despite the Buckeyes having already endured two bye weeks. Having previously stated that Bosa could be as good as any defensive lineman he's ever had, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer admitted that the former 5-star prospect is living up to the hype, as evidenced by last weekend's walk-off sack.

"It was a tailback that was trying to block that big monster," Meyer said. "Obviously he's a tremendous physical specimen with what he was able to do. He's a fast-twitch guy that's real big and strong. A great player."

So what makes Bosa more popular: His personality or his football prowess?



Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Florida State Football: Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seminoles in 2014

With a 24th consecutive victory its rear view, No. 2 Florida State’s attention now shifts to the stretch run of the 2014 season in November.

Now 8-0 on the year and still in control of its own College Football Playoff destiny, let’s take a look at some of the surprising players on this year’s FSU football team.

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Remaining Games That Will Have Biggest Impact in 2014 Heisman Trophy Race

There’s only six weeks remaining in the college football regular season, but the Heisman Trophy is still very much up for grabs.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota still lead the pack in the latest ESPN Heisman Watch poll, but one slip up can change everything. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah are among the names patiently hoping for one of the top two to lay an egg in the next coming weeks.

Fortunately for them, and for those hoping for an exciting stretch run, there are plenty of opportunities for the Heisman Trophy race to take some twists and turns.

Join B/R as we take a look at eight matchups that will have a major impact on the race for college football’s most-coveted trophy.

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Tarvarus McFadden to FSU: Seminoles Land 5-Star DB Prospect

One of the nation's most coveted defensive backs in the class of 2015 is headed to Tallahassee. Tarvarus McFadden, a 5-star defensive back out of the hallowed American Heritage School, announced his decision to attend Florida State on Friday.

Josh Newberg of 247 Sports had the news:

Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden has committed to Florida State. McFadden announced his decision in front of his family, teammates and classmates at his high school.

McFadden decided on the Seminoles over Georgia and LSU. That final three came from a group of scholarship offers that included no fewer than 30 schools.

He has been pegged to stay relatively close to home throughout his recruitment. LSU and Florida State have been in hot pursuit throughout the process, while Georgia got into the fray as McFadden established himself among the nation's best.

The Seminoles were McFadden's first unofficial visit and were considered favorites throughout. A high-performing academic at American Heritage, Florida State helped its cause by enlisting the help of former Seminoles safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle.

“He was really impressive,” McFadden told Chris Nee of 247 Sports. “He was very well spoken. He treated me and my family with respect. He was a five-star who made it to the league and also did very well in school. He achieved one of the best achievements in college football (Rhodes Scholar). I think he is a big inspiration."

While academics played a huge part in his decision, McFadden also had to go where it made the most football sense. He chose FSU over other interested programs in large part because of its reputation developing defensive backs into potential pros. 

If 247 Sports' composite rankings prove correct, McFadden could have a future in the NFL.

He's considered the No. 31 prospect nationally, the No. 5 corner and has seen his profile rise as teams become more comfortable with his ability to translate to Saturdays. Initially pegged as a safety, McFadden now projects at either defensive back position, with some scouts more comfortable with him at corner at this point.

That's a boon for the stock of someone like McFadden, who at 6'3" has the height to match up against almost any receiver in the country. Although there were concerns about top-end speed, McFadden has slowly assuaged those fears and stands apart from his peers as a two-way defensive back.

He's physical enough to help against the run and drives through his tackles, while possessing the speed and quickness necessary to cover most wideouts.

There are few (if any) better all-around corners in the 2015 class. The weight room will become a second home as McFadden attempts to add bulk to his 198-pound frame, but that's the case for a majority of players hitting the next level. His football intelligence is also above-average, so he could see plenty of time as a freshman—even in a secondary as deep as FSU's.

If there are concerns, they revolve around his ultimate position. Safety would arguably allow McFadden to get onto the field sooner and may be his pro position should he reach that point. Corner will be more of a process, simply because Jimbo Fisher will need to ready him for ACC competition, but it's the more important position and ups McFadden's ceiling for effectiveness as a result.

These are all good problems to have. McFadden is joining a staff that specializes in coaxing the most out of defensive prospects and turning them into pro-ready talents. While his commitment is not official—all verbals are nonbinding until national signing day—McFadden stands to become the latest in a long line of stars.

At least, once they find a position for him.


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5-Star CB Tarvarus McFadden Commits to FSU, 'All-American' for Seminoles

Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, a 5-star in-state recruit, recently committed to Florida State University, per 247Sports. This is a huge commit for the Seminoles, as he adds some amazing talent to their secondary. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses McFadden's talents and how he fits in Tallahassee.

How well do you think he will do at FSU?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Get Ready for the 'Next Aaron Rodgers,' Texas A&M Fans, Kyle Allen Is Ready

The Texas A&M Aggies have made a change at quarterback, and in comes highly touted freshman Kyle Allen. The Scottsdale, Arizona, product will replace Kenny Hill as the Aggies look to snap a three-game losing streak in Week 10 versus Louisiana-Monroe. 

Is Kyle Allen the next big quarterback at A&M?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Blackshirts Hold Key to Success in November

November is going to be a big month for Nebraska. As the College Football Playoff nears, the Huskers are going to need to be nearly perfect to stay in the discussion.

In order to accomplish that, the Blackshirts are going to need to be better than ever.

Prior to facing Rutgers, defensive coordinator John Papuchis was happy with what he was seeing. According to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star, the DC felt the Blackshirts were improving every week—especially before the Illinois game.

“This is as good as I’ve felt about a group of young defensive players in a long time,” Papuchis said. “We’re seven games in and I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.”

Now eight games in, Papuchis has every right to still feel that way—especially when it comes to the defensive line. Against Rutgers, the Nebraska defense had two sacks and six quarterback hurries in the 42-24 victory.

Dan Duggan of NJ.com reported that Rutgers coach Kyle Flood had high praise for Nebraska's defensive line: 

They are every bit as good as I thought they would be. No doubt, they have disruptive people. They have defensive linemen that can win 1-on-1s, and when you have that, then at times you only have to rush four. When you can rush four, you cover better. And I thought this was one of the better cover teams that we were facing this season.

Heading into November, the Blackshirts are going to have to remain disruptive. Ultimately, if the defense struggles, winnable games will become much more difficult for the Huskers. The defense may have found its stride in October, but the trick will be keeping that going.

It's not going to be easy, either. Rutgers running backs, for instance, averaged only 3.1 yards per carry against Nebraska.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, on the other hand, is going to be much different. He is currently averaging 7.6 yards per carry, per ESPN.com.

As Nebraska prepares to face tougher offenses, the Blackshirts seem to have the right mentality about setting their own offense up for success. Defensive back Nate Gerry spoke with reporters about this:

I think it’s the mentality where we just have to get off the field. We have to put our offense in positions where they can score. We can’t be putting them down at the end of the field where they have to make long drives and sometimes it’s tough for them to go 80 yards. So, we try to get off the field as quick as we can.

Third downs are one area where the Blackshirts have continued to improve. The team will also be able to use that strength against teams like Wisconsin.

The Huskers are sixth in the NCAA in opponent third-down percentage. Upholding that success rate will be imperative in November. Teams like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are going to make it challenging for the Blackshirts. How they respond will ultimately determine whether Nebraska can win the Big Ten Championship and be considered for the College Football Playoff.

“It comes down to execution," head coach Bo Pelini said. "It comes down to everyone being where they are supposed to be and doing their job.”

If the Blackshirts can accomplish that, November could be a great month for Nebraska.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Assessing the State of the Tennessee Volunteers Football Program

Tennessee's game against South Carolina on Saturday night carries plenty enough immediate importance that it's nearing must-win status. But there are significant future ramifications as well.

The Volunteers may be slogging through yet another flirting-with-.500 season, but the coming years look bright on Rocky Top, and another win over the Gamecocks could signify a seismic shift in power between the two programs.

UT needs three wins in its final four games to become bowl-eligible. But, beyond that, head coach Butch Jones' career is ultimately going to be measured by how he fares against the Vols' three biggest SEC East rivals—Florida, Georgia, South Carolina—as well as Alabama.

Another win over Steve Spurrier's bunch on the heels of a 23-21 upset of the Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium last season and an argument could be made that the Vols are on their way up in the division.

A loss means another year of waiting for a turnaround.

Trends don't equal wins, but a look at the way the Vols have been recruiting and how they've developed from a competitiveness aspect within the league indicates they'll soon be a contender.

Jones is about to follow up a seventh-ranked recruiting class of 32 players (of which the vast majority have played) with a growing 2015 class that already has 26 players and is ranked fourth nationally.

But can they surpass a Carolina program that, although struggling this season, has produced three consecutive 11-win seasons?

How about a Georgia team that has beaten its rivals five consecutive times?

Even though an embattled Florida program is likely on the verge of firing coach Will Muschamp, the Gators have still managed to beat the Vols 10 times in a row.

So, what's it going to take for UT to break through? The Vols will need more than just a win this weekend, but that would certainly be a positive first step.

Let's take a look at the state of the program moving forward.


Dobbs Development Vital for Vols Offense

Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs holds the key to the immediate future of the Vols offense.

That may be putting a lot on his shoulders after just one strong game against Alabama, but it's true on several levels. Here's why:

First, Tennessee's marquee quarterback recruits will need time as understudies.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian may have struggled to lure a top-shelf quarterback prospect to Knoxville for much of his first year on the job, but recruiting has since picked up, and UT has a trio of solid commitments on the docket for the next two seasons.

  • Texas signal-caller Quinten Dormady is the nation's 13th-rated pro-style passer in this year's recruiting class and chose UT over offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and others.
  • Murfreesboro athlete Jauan Jennings is a versatile player who could play receiver, linebacker or safety, but he'll get his first crack at quarterback where he's the nation's sixth-ranked dual-threat player on the 247Sports composite. His development has been impressive through his senior year.
  • The Vols also secured one of their top targets for the 2016 class in North Carolina's Austin Kendall, the nation's eighth-ranked pro-style quarterback in that class.

Still, UT has to bridge the gap between now and a promising future. You can't expect a freshman quarterback to come into the SEC and perform at a championship level, so a strong Dobbs is just what UT needs. 

Another reason Dobbs needs to be the quarterback of the present and future is to help out the young, inexperienced offensive line.

Given the undesirable position former coach Derek Dooley left Jones in the trenches, having a mobile quarterback in the interim until that position develops depth, talent and experience is vital to the program's success (and, therefore, Jones' job security) over the couple of seasons.

That's why Dobbs' development is imperative.

Nathan Peterman hasn't given any indications yet that he's an SEC quarterback. With Justin Worley out of eligibility, the Vols desperately need two strong seasons from Dobbs to bridge the gap.

Since Riley Ferguson left the program, it's him or a freshman.

At running back, UT is recruiting as well as anybody, and it appears position coach Robert Gillespie is going to have an able stable for years to come.

Already on the roster is Jalen Hurd, who has 581 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as a freshman despite missing most of two games with injuries and running behind a porous line. He is going to be a star.

Fellow freshman Derrell Scott was coveted by some of the nation's top teams out of high school, and his ceiling is also high.

With former Alabama runner Alvin Kamara—the nation's second-ranked JUCO runner, North Carolina bruiser Rocky Reid and in-state speedster Vincent Perry already in the fold in the 2015 class, UT has some future options. And the Vols are in the mix for several other elite backs in this class.

Tennessee's receivers are young and extremely talented, and Jones is adding 5-star prospect Preston Williams to the mix next year to complement Marquez North, Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Co.

Combine that with the young tight ends who've already made an impact this season and the Vols are strong at the skill positions.

Offensive line issues abound, but the influx of four players into the mix next year should help. Tennessee has to build depth and talent there, but the only lineman who won't be back is redshirt senior Jacob Gilliam.

Though the group has taken knocks this year, the experience will serve the linemen well down the road.


Defensive Centerpieces Coming

Tennessee's defense is two impact defensive tackles away from being extremely difficult to handle.

Good news for the Vols is they've got those coming. Kahlil McKenzie is the nation's second-ranked defensive tackle and the bell cow of UT's class, and Shy Tuttle is the sixth-rated defensive tackle. Both are Vols commits.

Factor those two into a unit that already has improved dramatically in the two years John Jancek has been at the helm and it's exciting to think about the future of UT's defense. The Vols have gotten better in every facet of the game from a season ago on that side of the ball.

Though Jancek's scheme thrives on being able to throw different looks and waves of athletes at opponents, UT's depth and size struggles on the interior have manifested themselves into the SEC's 10th-best run defense.

UT already has run through the gauntlet portion of its schedule, so that number should improve. The remaining opponents (South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) should even out the stats somewhat, but the bottom line is the Vols' rush defense woes have to get fixed quickly.

McKenzie and Tuttle are expected to help.

When they are thrown into a rotation that already includes the league's top freshman defender in Derek Barnett (second in the league in tackles for loss) and future stalwarts such as Dewayne Hendrix, Corey Vereen and Dimarya Mixon, UT will be even more talented up front.

On the second level, there's no denying the impact of senior linebacker A.J. Johnson, the SEC's active leader in career tackles and Butkus Award semifinalist.

But with the emergence of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Chris Weatherd and Cortez McDowell as well as the promise of Dillon Bates, Jakob Johnson and others, UT has some potential playmakers.

As a matter of fact, coaches feel so strongly about their depth and talent at linebacker that they've taken only two in this recruiting cycle and may not add another.

UT's stingy secondary is extremely young and features emerging stars like Cameron Sutton and Todd Kelly Jr. With the way he's coaching, DBs coach Willie Martinez is taking advantage of his prowess as a recruiter.

Cornerbacks Micah Abernathy, Darrell Miller and safety Stephen Griffin head a defensive backs class that is big and physical, so Martinez is going to have size and speed to develop, too.

Add the potential of local athlete Jocquez Bruce to play back there and UT will have plenty of options moving forward.


Bottom Line

While making a bowl game would be huge for the perception and direction of this program, the future of Tennessee doesn't hinge on this year's results.

This is only the beginning of Jones' massive rebuilding project that seems neither ahead nor behind of schedule. Instead, UT has performed as expected during an extremely difficult stretch of scheduling the past two seasons.

Tennessee losing hasn't affected recruiting, which is good for the Vols considering they've probably only got an outside shot of making the postseason again this year. Instead, UT remains one of the hottest teams in the nation in living rooms.

Problem is, most others in the SEC are recruiting extremely well, too.

It's going to be difficult for UT to catch up simply because the nation's toughest league is only getting stronger. While the Vols are fourth in the nation in recruiting, they're just third in the SEC, behind Alabama and Georgia, who are both perennially on the schedule.

The Gamecocks aren't far behind with a class of 27 players that ranks sixth nationally.

The Vols' past problems haven't centered on recruiting, even though Jones has that aspect going better than it has since the heyday of the late 1990s under Phillip Fulmer. It's been development of those players once they get on campus.

It's early still, but the defensive improvements are extremely promising in that regard.

Throw in how much improved Bajakian's scheme appeared with a mobile quarterback in place and there's reason to believe things are trending upward for the entire program.

Now, the only thing left is translating all that into wins. This week would be an ideal time to start.


All stats and information taken from CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information gathered from 247Sports.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 Recruits Who Will Bring More Speed and Athleticism to the Big Ten

Four years after a recruiting process that began with little traction for Alabama native Ameer Abdullah, the former 3-star recruit—who was spurned by in-state powers Alabama and Auburn—is dominating the Big Ten as a slashing running back at Nebraska.

One of the most notable perceptions as to why the Big Ten has struggled in recent years is its lack of speed and athleticism when compared to leagues such as the SEC or the Pac-12. 

However, many Big Ten schools are hitting the recruiting trail hard in the 2015 cycle in search of speedy athletes like Abdullah to supplement their rosters.

Powers such as Ohio State and Penn State are faring particularly well, but the rest of the league remain vigilant of their pursuit of some of the top prep athletes in the country.

Which 2015 recruits are set to stock the Big Ten with ample speed and athleticism?

*Recruits listed in alphabetical order. 

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Texas Football: The 5 Most Surprising Longhorns in 2014

Texas' road to 3-5 has been a disappointing exercise in self-destruction—one five-yard penalty and bad snap at a time.

At least the Longhorns and their fans have been able to enjoy the surprise development of Tyrone Swoopes, his go-to receiver and some new starters on the defense.

Relative to somewhat low expectations, these players have come out and established themselves as budding stars in 2014. Whatever reason for optimism lingers moving forward starts with these guys.

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