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Alabama Football: Why O.J. Howard Will Be Team's X-Factor In 2014

On a team loaded with freakish talents at the skill positions, sophomore tight end O.J. Howard might be the key for Alabama’s chances to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff this fall.

Sure, Nick Saban is used to having freakish running backs and wide receivers—and this year will be no different with the likes of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper leading a loaded group of skill talent.

However, since his arrival in Tuscaloosa seven years ago, he’s never had a talent like Howard at the tight end spot.

Late last season, Saban commented on just how bright the former 5-star recruit’s future appears to be.

"To have a tight end like him that is certainly a threat in the passing game, either vertically, horizontally or play-action passes is really a tremendous asset for us," Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "He's really matured a lot as a player and is becoming a better blocker and a good all-around player. I think that guy's going to be an outstanding tight end for us."

After showing glimpses of his potential by snaring 14 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a true freshman, Howard is on the verge of breaking out in 2014, as detailed by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread.

At 6’6”, 237 pounds and blessed with breakaway speed, Howard is a valued weapon who can help create a smooth transition for the new parts involved with the offense.

Specifically, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and projected starting quarterback Jacob Coker will love the spoils that come with having a game-breaking talent like Howard at tight end.

He’s versatile enough to be flexed out wide as a receiver in certain sets, and he’s quick and physical enough to exploit mismatches against linebackers or safeties in the middle of the field.

With teams having to respect the Tide’s bruising running game, and be mindful of a receiving unit that could be the deepest segment of pass-catchers fielded by the Tide in Saban’s tenure, Howard brings a new dimension that gives defenses an almost impossible task in stopping the Tide.

Another area where Howard could make a big difference is in the red zone. Considering Alabama converted only four touchdowns out of 10 combined red zone trips in its last two games—both of which were losses—Howard’s ability to create mismatches will benefit Kiffin and his troops greatly in 2014.

The 2014 edition of the Tide are loaded for another national title run. Similar to their recent title teams, familiar elements such as a physical defense and an unrivaled complement of talented rushers are present.

However, after years of tight ends being relegated as sixth offensive linemen in its offense, Howard’s continued development may just be the difference in getting Alabama back to college football’s mountaintop.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Offense, Not Defense, Must Be Huskers' 2015 Recruiting Focus

Nebraska has gotten off to a strong start recruiting the class of 2015 prospects.

In fact, the Huskers ranked No. 14 on 247Sports.com's team rankings list for 2015 back in late February. That ranking even surged to No. 9 by the end of April.

Things are a bit different now, though.

The Huskers currently sit at No. 29 on 247Sports.com's list. Dave Miller of NationalFootballPost.com, on the other hand, has higher expectations for Nebraska. He currently has the Huskers ranked No. 12 in his early prediction.

Reading Miller's take on Nebraska, it's clear what ranks the Huskers so high: the recruits on defense. He specifically mentions twin defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis, as well as cornerback Eric Lee, as the major strengths of the current 2015 class.

Looking at the Huskers' 10 commits, the team's defense is shaping up nicely.

As for the offense, there is definitely some work that still has to be done. That's especially true with the loss of some key potential players.

In the last couple of months, Nebraska has lost Monte Harrison (recruited in the 2014 class) to Major League Baseball. The team also lost Damore'ea Stringfellow and Spencer Tears. While Tears has not committed anywhere else as of now, Stringfellow selected Mississippi over Nebraska.

With the loss of Harrison, Stringfellow and Tears, the wide receiver position could be in trouble come 2015.

The Huskers have quite a few offers out for the position, but currently nothing set in stone. This will be a primary position that head coach Bo Pelini and his staff will have to focus on.

Additionally, Nebraska has made it clear that the team can never have too many running backs.

With Ameer Abdullah graduating after the 2014 season, it's not a bad idea to continue securing the future of the position. Marquise Doherty of Kansas City, Missouri, is high on the Huskers' target list right now, while Pelini has already secured a commit from New Orleans native Kendall Bussey.

It also never hurts to recruit heavily for the offensive line. With so many injuries in 2013, players had to step up quickly to fill in.

Nebraska currently has commitments from tackle Christian Gaylord and guard Michael Decker.

In addition to the current 10 commits, the Huskers will be looking to secure a class of 18-20 players. Looking at the list now, it's obvious Nebraska needs to put some focus on the offense. If Pelini does not, there could be serious weaknesses come 2015—especially at the wide receiver position.

Needless to say, there's a lot of pressure riding on the 2015 class for Pelini. Fans are hoping for a highly ranked class.

Hopefully, that includes a fair amount of offensive recruits, too.

 

Unless otherwise noted, recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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What Each SEC Team Needs to Do to Finish with a Better Record in 2014

Every single SEC team has something it needs to improve on in 2014.

For some, it's tweaking something small in order to take that next step toward a championship-caliber team. Others must solve myriad issues just to get back to a bowl game.

Then there are those who just have to find a way to replace stars they lost to the NFL.

Coaches' jobs depend on fixing these shortfalls, and several teams won't make it into the postseason if these issues aren't addressed.

No matter how good every fan thinks his favorite team is, there's always something they'd like to see improved. No team is perfect, and after a run of dominance throughout the league, the SEC is rife with question marks heading into the season.

Let's take a look at what every SEC team needs to address to finish with a better record in 2014.

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14 College Football Players Who Will Reach Elite Status in 2014

The leap from very good to great is a difficult transition for a player to make, but it is among the most important things in college football. It replenishes the sport with stars after each year's NFL draft and gives new faces to teams to market.

There is a small difference between this list and a normal "all-breakout" team. On this list, many (but not all) players have already broken out. They have proved themselves capable of becoming productive players but have yet become consistently great ones.

No one on this list was considered among the top five or 10 players at his position last season. Most weren't even in the top 20 or 30. In fact, as a guiding rule in constructing this list, I did not include a single player who made his all-conference first or second team.

By the end of the 2014 season, however, these players could—and arguably should—be considered among the very best at their respective positions. Based on their physical attributes, performances in the past and play during spring practice, there is reason to believe they will make the nebulous leap.

I've only included 14 players—two for every position group on the field—so plenty of qualified candidates did not make the cut. I feel the most confident in backing these players, but there are arguments to be made in so many different directions.

Chime in below, and let me know whom you would have included.

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Dorial Green-Beckham to Oklahoma: Latest Details and Reaction to Transfer

Dorial Green-Beckham was one of the more dangerous wide receivers in college football in 2013 for Missouri. But after being dismissed from the team, he has decided to transfer to Oklahoma. 

SoonerSports.com confirmed the news Thursday:

Head coach Bob Stoops announced that wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has joined the University of Oklahoma football roster. Under NCAA rules, Green-Beckham can immediately enroll in classes and begin team activities. He would be eligible to compete in games for the Sooners beginning in 2015.

'We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career,' Stoops said. 'Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.'

Green-Beckham shared his comments on the situation:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell posted this message and picture of Green-Beckham:

Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in April after an incident in which a female student at the University claimed he pushed her down several stairs while trying to get into an apartment to see his girlfriend. He also had had two marijuana-related arrests before that incident, and was suspended a game for the second arrest in October of 2012.   

He was suspended from the team initially before the decision came down to dismiss him altogether. 

On the field, Green-Beckham was excellent for Missouri in 2013, catching 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Had he been eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, he certainly would have declared. He wasn't, however, which perhaps explains his transfer to Oklahoma. 

That remains true even if he never plays for the team, per Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report:

Green-Beckham can practice with the squad, however, so even if he never steps on the field for the Sooners he can use the next year to stay in football shape, practice, continue to fine-tune his craft and take classes. In that regard, the transfer makes far more sense than simply waiting a year for the draft without joining another program. 

And perhaps he has decided that he will come back for a senior season, though that seems unlikely. There's little doubt that Green-Beckham has NFL talent. The questions teams will have for him in a year, however, will be about his character and behavior. 

A year in Oklahoma out of the spotlight might be just what he needs to start rebuilding his reputation.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Dorial Green-Beckham Impacts Oklahoma's Offense

The "marginal interest" between Oklahoma and former standout Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, as first reported by Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman, turned out to be far more than marginal after all. 

Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com reported Thursday morning that Green-Beckham was on campus visiting with Sooners coaches. Other reporters like Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman picked up on the news, and soon the story turned into a stakeout of sorts outside OU's practice facilities. 

A short while later, Oklahoma announced Green-Beckham was officially a member of the team. In an email statement, Green-Beckham said he would make the most of his new opportunity:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

The whole story led to some confusion, voiced by John Infante of AthleticScholarships.net, as to whether Green-Beckham was even allowed to meet with OU coaches at all, given that it's a dead period. 

However, Infante later explained that there are loopholes to this dead period, the most likely of which is the following: 

Second is if Green-Beckham signed a financial aid agreement with Oklahoma. Then dead periods do not apply. And because Green-Beckham is not a midyear enrollee intending to graduate high school early, this interpretation does not apply. So Oklahoma is not at risk for a violation of the letter of intent restrictions if Green-Beckham does not ultimately enroll at OU.

Now that Green-Beckham is a member of the Sooners, the question is whether he plays this year or next. The wideout would need a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible this season since this would still be considered a transfer.

Green Beckham was involved in two previous drug-related incidents at Missouri, as well as an alleged assault incident that ultimately led to his dismissal. How that would translate into a "hardship" worthy of a waiver remains to be seen.

(Hint: it doesn't.)

In theory, Green-Beckham could practice with the Sooners this year if he doesn't receive a waiver and bolt for the NFL next spring. However, that would defeat the purpose of bringing Green-Beckham on to begin with, and that may not sit well with NFL teams who want to see that he's matured. 

According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Green-Beckham was admitted to Oklahoma under a zero-tolerance policy: 

Regardless of whether Green-Beckham sees the field this year or next, he brings a legitimate playmaker to the passing game—which, as it so happens, Oklahoma needs.

 

As a sophomore for the Tigers, the former No. 1 overall recruit of 2012 caught 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. That's nearly 300 yards more than Oklahoma's leading returning receiver, Sterling Shepard. And at 6'6" and 225 pounds, Green-Beckham has about eight inches and 30 pounds on Shepard. In short, Green-Beckham would give the Sooners another weapon in the downfield/red-zone department. 

With the departures of Jalen Saunders, Jaz Reynolds and Lacoltan Bester, the wide receiver group was Oklahoma's biggest question mark on offense. Adding Green-Beckham would take some pressure off of quarterback Trevor Knight as he continues to develop as a passer. 

 

Green-Beckham could be viewed as the so-called "missing piece" for an Oklahoma program with College Football Playoff aspirations. Even if he doesn't play until next year, he'll still be a part of a young offense that has a lot of talent and room to grow at the skill positions.

They key for Green-Beckham—and Oklahoma's coaches have undoubtedly told him this—is to keep himself in line. Talent is often awarded second, third and fourth chances, and Green-Beckham is as talented as they come. So there's a good chance he's getting another shot at a program that recruited him out of high school. 

If he blows this opportunity, he could start running out of good ones. But if Green-Beckham cleans up his act, he can be an important part in what could be another championship run in Norman.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Brandon Harris Speaks, Herschel's Huge Workout

Brandon Harris Speaks

It's not often that we hear from freshmen at LSU, but when they get out of the confines of Baton Rouge, it presents more opportunity for them to speak their minds in front of live microphones or, in this case, a television camera.

Harris showed up at former LSU running back Jacob Hester's camp, and KTBS in Shreveport got his thoughts on his ongoing battle with sophomore Anthony Jennings for the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback.

"I want him to put who he feels like gives us the best chance to win the national championship on the field," Harris said. "If that's me, I'm going to take it and take full advantage of it, be thankful for the opportunity and play as hard as I can. If it's Anthony, I'm going to be very supportive of him. That's how you handle the situation. Competition brings out the best in everybody, it doesn't build enemies."

That maturity is refreshing, especially from a true freshman.

If he wins the job, he'd be the first true freshman starting quarterback to ever start a season as the Tigers quarterback. His performance this spring, which culminated with a game in which he completed 11-of-28 passes for 195 yards, tossed three touchdowns, rushed for 77 yards and scored once on the ground, should have drawn him close to Jennings, if not put him ahead. 

If he's as good as Hester and the rest of the former players in the video claim he is, he should run away with the job early in fall camp.

 

Smart Sounds off on All Things CFB

As much of a shock as it was for Harris to step in front of the camera, it was also a treat to catch Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart in front of a live mic.

Smart joined The Front Row on WCNN 680 The Fan in Atlanta and covered myriad topics including his future as a head coach—if and when he decides to move on from Tuscaloosa. We already touched on why his patience is refreshing earlier this week, but what else was discussed?

  • Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton were nightmares to prepare for (not breaking news, but still noteworthy). Former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden was no slouch, either.
  • Defensive end Marcell Dareus, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Javier Arenas were some of the top players he has coached in Tuscaloosa.
  • Linebacker Trey DePriest could become a star.
  • Starting two true freshmen at cornerback, which could happen if Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey shine in fall camp, isn't ideal.
  • Jeremy Pruitt is a great coach and teacher and a solid hire for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Head coach Nick Saban's "one voice" policy makes sense, and there's no reason to change it. But it is nice when his assistants speak, even if all they do is provide a slightly different tone to the party line.

 

From Punchline to Power?

Georgia got good news this week, as junior college transfer corner Shattle Fenteng was cleared academically and will complete his transfer from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, according to Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

That's big news because Fenteng—the third-best junior college cornerback in last year's recruiting class—will join a Georgia defensive backfield that has quite a bit of personnel uncertainty.

Damian Swann and Sheldon Dawson are likely to get the nod as Georgia's starting cornerbacks, but Fenteng gives new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt just one more option to consider as he attempts to fix that inconsistent secondary.

 

The SEC's Third-String Sleeper

Everybody knows about the Arkansas dynamic duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams at running back, but don't sleep on the third man up.

Korliss Marshall had a great spring game with 99 yards and two touchdowns and will serve as the home run hitter in this Hogs' offense.

"Marshall is one of the most explosive players who I've ever coached," head coach Bret Bielema told B/R. "We got a monster there that kind of reminds me of a time when I was at Wisconsin, when we had a trio of players who went on to have NFL careers in John Clay, James White and Montee Ball."

If Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen can simply pose a threat through the air, the Arkansas running game could be one of the SEC's best—even if the season doesn't go as planned.

 

Must-See TV

The SEC Network has built a pretty solid staff so far, but specific programming news has been noticeably absent. It covered both bases this week when it announced that Dari Nowkhah will host a daily, weeknight show at 6 p.m. ET called SEC Now.

This shouldn't be a shock.

This kind of show was a natural, and Nowkhah was the natural choice. He has experience with ESPN on ESPNU, knows the conference and is entertaining on camera.

Who will join him on set? There may be a revolving door of analysts with him, but he'll be the face of the show, which is a great decision for the new network.

 

Nothing to See Here

Clay Travis of FoxSports.com reported this week that the SEC Network was nearing a deal with Comcast to carry the new 24-hour cable channel upon its launch on Aug. 14. It's just another sign that the dominoes are beginning to fall.

The SEC Network already has major carriage deals with AT&T U-verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber and several other smaller carriers, which, as we reported in early March, makes it more successful than the Big Ten Network the day it launched in 2007.

Everybody calm down and take a deep breath. It'll be OK.

If you don't have the SEC Network and want it, you will be able to get it when it hits the air—most likely on your current carrier. These carriage discussions are all started at different times, often on purpose to put pressure on other carriers within the market.

ESPN, which wholly owns the SEC Network, already used its other Disney properties to work out a deal with DISH. That's the beauty of the format of the SEC Network. If it needs to leverage Disney Junior or some other non-sports network to get the leverage it wants, it can. It will.

I have DirecTV. DirecTV doesn't have a carriage deal with the SEC Network yet. I need the SEC Network to do my job. I'm not worried.

 

Freak

Former Georgia running back Herschel Walker told TMZ he does 750-1,500 push-ups and 3,500 sit-ups every day. At age 52. EVERY DAY.

Related: My dedication to keeping my New Year's resolution to get shape seems much less significant now.

 

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

 


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Dorial Green-Beckham Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding WR

Updates from Thursday, July 3

Oklahoma announced that Dorial Green-Beckham has joined the program. The release specifies that Green-Beckham is not eligible to play until 2015.

Head coach Bob Stoops discussed Green-Beckham's arrival in the announcement.

We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career. Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.

Green-Beckham also commented in the team's release:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report weighed in on the news of the transfer:

Original Text

Dorial Green-Beckham's football career might be back on track "Sooner" rather than later.    

The former Missouri wideout was spotted in Norman visiting the Oklahoma campus, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey snapped a photo of Green-Beckham outside the Barry Switzer Center with Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jay Norvell and recruiting director Cale Gundy:

There was some confusion about whether this kind of visit is permissible during a "dead period," during which contact in-person with potential recruits is explicitly prohibited. Athnet's John Infante explained how Green-Beckham might be a special case:

First is if Green-Beckham is not actually "meeting" with the Oklahoma coaches. The dead period does not prevent Green-Beckham from being on Oklahoma’s campus. It also does not prevent the coaches from calling him or taking his phone calls. Picture Green-Beckham strolling around the OU campus while chatting on the phone with the coaching staff. That is permissible.

Second is if Green-Beckham signed a financial aid agreement with Oklahoma. Then dead periods do not apply. And because Green-Beckham is not a midyear enrollee intending to graduate high school early, this interpretation does not apply. So Oklahoma is not at risk for a violation of the letter of intent restrictions if Green-Beckham does not ultimately enroll at OU.

Kersey indicated that Green-Beckham signed the financial-aid agreement:

Missouri dismissed the would-be junior in April while he was being investigated for shoving a woman "down at least four stairs," per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. Prior to that, he also had two marijuana-related arrests.

Because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Tigers, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that he'd be surprised if Green-Beckham is granted a waiver allowing him to forgo the one-year transfer rule:

As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted, that would mean the wide receiver is eyeing the 2016 NFL draft rather than 2015:

Green-Beckham had a breakout sophomore season. His numbers jumped from 28 receptions for 395 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 to 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. On talent alone, he'd be a great addition to the Sooners offense.

Putting him together with Trevor Knight would give Oklahoma a great one-two punch in the passing game come 2015. If he can stay out of trouble, bringing Green-Beckham into the fold would be well worth the wait.

That's a big if, however, so this situation will be very interesting to follow as more information develops.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Q&A: What Do We Really Know About Alabama QB Jacob Coker?

Players are gearing up for fall camp, summer workouts are well underway and position battles are ongoing.

Which players will shine? Which transfers will live up to the hype and what offseason questions remain in the SEC?

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

 

@BarrettSallee Barrett what's your opinion of Jacob coker. If you can tweet me back

— My Info (@Ahavis8My) June 27, 2014

I don't have one. I'm not sure how anybody has one.

Coker, the 6'5", 230-pounder who transferred from Florida State to Alabama this summer and is the likely starter for the Crimson Tide, is very much a mystery.

What do we know? He completed 51.2 percent of his passes in Tallahassee over the last two seasons, has a big arm and can run a little bit. 

Aside from that, though, his reputation is built for the most part on hearsay.

I'm not going to base an opinion of him on what his former coaches say he did during closed practices, and I don't believe he pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the starting quarterback job at Florida State last year for a second. Sure, he may have according to coaches, but that easily could have been a motivational tactic for Winston, who had all the buzz exiting spring practice in 2013.

The jury is out on Coker—at least it should be. Until he actually plays a game as Alabama's starting quarterback, it's really premature to have a definitive opinion on him one way or the other.

Luckily for Alabama, with all the weapons around him, he doesn't have to be Peyton Manning out there for the Crimson Tide to be successful.

 

@BarrettSallee what will have the bigger impact for UGA: new DC or attrition in the secondary?

— Chase Paris (@chaseparis) June 27, 2014

Definitely new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

The departures of safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews aren't exactly ideal, but head coach Mark Richt told me in May that it's safe to assume that the transfer of Shaq Wiggins and the move of Brendan Langley to wide receiver meant that some of the pieces were starting to come together following spring practice.

Plus, Georgia has talent back there. Corey Moore, Quincy Mauger, J.J. Green, Damian Swann, Sheldon Dawson and several other members of the Georgia secondary are talented players; they were just lost last year. The reason they were lost is because former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is a terrible teacher.

Pruitt's strengths are his abilities to teach and simplify the scheme, which are precisely the two things that Georgia's secondary needs.

The beauty about Georgia this year is that the secondary doesn't need to be great, it just needs to be adequate. With all the weapons around new quarterback Hutson Mason, the Bulldogs will be able to move the football. If the defense can just force some turnovers and put the offense in good positions, they'll be all set.

 

@BarrettSallee Vandy's conference record? And does UK match it?

— Erik (@gothlaw) June 27, 2014

Oh man, it's going to be a rough year in Nashville.

Right now, I have Vanderbilt at 0-8 in the SEC and Kentucky at 1-7, with that one win being over Vanderbilt (subject to change before the start of the season, of course).

The overly simplistic reason is that Vandy is hitting the reset button with its personnel and coaching staff, while the rest of the division is taking steps forward. 

Georgia and South Carolina are legit national title contenders, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if Florida jumped into that mix as well. Missouri is the defending division champ, and Tennessee has more talent on the roster and more experience with its coaching staff. The 'Dores draw Mississippi State and Ole Miss from the west, both of which will be better and much more consistent.

Where are the wins coming from this year?

New head coach Derek Mason will have a rough go of it in Year 1, but that doesn't necessarily have to be permanent. The biggest challenge he has to face right off the bat is expectations generated from back-to-back nine-win seasons. With time, and patience, he'll be fine.

 

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

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

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Is 4-Star Tyler Petite's Verbal to Duke over USC Starting a Trend or Aberration?

Stating the obvious is a good place to start because it is, if nothing else, a necessary reminder: Duke's David Cutcliffe is doing as good a job as any head coach in college football. 

Last season, the Blue Devils went 10-4, winning the ACC Coastal and recording double-digit wins for the first time in the program's history. Say what you will about the messy history of ACC divisional title races, but Cutcliffe won a division over Miami, Virginia Tech and even Georgia Tech with a roster full of 2- and 3-star players. 

And since things are coming up Milhouse in Durham, Duke got a pleasant boost on the recruiting trail Wednesday with the verbal commitment of 4-star tight end Tyler Petite

Petite, who is from Moraga, California, chose Duke over USC. Clearly, this is a big moment for Duke as a program, which grabbed a big-time recruit from across the country. However, since verbal commitments are non-binding, there's plenty of time for Petite to change his mind. 

But Duke has quietly been improving on the recruiting trail. Though the Blue Devils didn't exactly see a surge following last year's landmark season—the 2014 class was ranked 13th in the ACC by 247Sports—the early returns on the 2015 class are different. 

Duke has 17 pledges for the 2015 class, ranking sixth in the conference and 21st nationally. Though the quantity of pledges in a given class shouldn't be confused with quality, Duke is making more noise than ever before. ESPN's Andrea Adelson explains

Perhaps most impressive of all? Duke is getting pledges from players who are spurning more prestigious football programs. Not only did Petite pick Duke over USC; ESPN 300 receiver Keyston Fuller chose the Blue Devils over offers from Auburn, Clemson and hometown Georgia to name three. 

Just last month, Duke also picked up a commitment from 3-star offensive lineman Reno Rosene, who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin. 

If Petite's verbal commitment is viewed in a vacuum, it's somewhat of an aberration. The highest-profile recruits to sign with Duke under Cutcliffe have been running back Desmond Scott in 2009 and quarterback Sean Renfree in 2008. 

In other words, blue chips have been a rarity for the Blue Devils. 

If Petite's commitment is viewed through a lens looking into the near future, it appears to be more of a trend. The overall quality of Duke's class would stand out if, by next signing day, it was still ranked somewhere in or around the top 25. 

Building and winning at Duke hasn't been an easy task for a long time. It's taken Cutcliffe a few years to get things rolling, but there's momentum for the program now. Perhaps one good class leads to two and divisional titles aren't so monumental. 

It has to start somewhere. Maybe it starts with Petite. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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10 FBS Teams on Upset Alert vs. FCS Opponents in 2014

FCS upsets have long been a factor in college football—just ask the 2007 Michigan Wolverines—but they reached an apex in Week 1 of last season, when eight teams from the senior circuit were defeated by teams from the junior.

Eight more FCS teams would beat FBS opponents over the course of the regular season, raising the total to 16. Of those 16 wins, three came against Georgia State, lowering the number of teams that were upset to 14. And of those 14 beaten parties, only seven came from non-power conferences. The other half came from leagues with automatic BCS berths…but still lost to an FCS team. Valar Morghulis!

The headliners of that group included Florida—an SEC power that was one year removed from the Sugar Bowl—Kansas State and Oregon State. Three proud programs were not able to overcome Georgia Southern, North Dakota State and Eastern Washington, respectively.

Which raises an important question: Who will fall victim to the FCS curse this season?

It is not a matter of if it will happen but when, where and to whom. At least a few marquee programs will lose to "inferior" competition; we know this as an near-statistical fact.

Here is a look at 10 candidates to fall in 2014.

The list was based on the strength of the FCS team in question—major props to Athlon Sports for these thorough preseason FCS rankings—and where the game lies on the schedule. A good deal of these matchups stand out for their "trap game" potential.

Chime in below, and let me know where you disagree.

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Which Program Will Build 2015 Marvell Tell into All Pac-12 Safety?

Marvell Tell is one of the biggest hitters in the 2015 class. His size and speed will allow him to develop into an amazing safety at the next level.

The California native has not pledged to a program, but he seems mostly interested in west coast schools. Where do you think he will go?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down this future star.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: 4 Bulldogs Who Are Poised for a Breakout Season in 2014

In some regards, an awful lot is known about the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs.  

Hutson Mason, who started the final two games of last season at quarterback, is coming back to throw to a handful of familiar receivers. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will lead a host of talented running backs behind an offensive line that returns three starters.

Much is needed on the defensive side of the ball, but the majority of last year's key personnel will return in 2014.

Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera will anchor the middle of the field, while talented pass-rushers Ray Drew, Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd will chase quarterbacks.

Even the defensive backfield, which has been plagued by premature departures, returns Damian Swann, Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger—three players who started at least seven games last season.

Ultimately, however, the fate of this team will be decided by less-heralded players who rise to the occasion and establish themselves as household names among Bulldog fans.  

Just in time for the holiday weekend, here are four Georgia players poised for breakout seasons in 2014.

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The Opening 2014: Schedule, Dates, Invites, Roster and TV Info

Following months of buildup, one of the biggest recruiting events on the schedule will officially get underway on Tuesday. The Opening will see several recruits make their commitments during the week, with many hoping to shine and improve their ranking heading into the summer.

Both rosters have a plethora of talented 5-star recruits ready to take the big stage in Beaverton, Oregon, to make their case as the top player at their respective position. With only 162 players making the final cut, each team will have to wait until Monday to find out who their quarterback will be.

Though the prospects won't find out until Monday about the signal-caller for their squad, Elite 11 posted a preview of the finalists:

Between the 7-on-7 matchups and linemen challenges, there will be plenty of prospects for scouts to drool over throughout the three-day event. Though some have already become popular names thanks to committing to a school, others hope to prove their worth to fanbases as they continue on the recruiting trail.

Here's a look at everything fans need to know heading into Nike's The Opening.

 

Top Recruits to Watch

Josh Sweat, Defensive End, Uncommitted

The top defensive end in the 2014 class, according to 247Sports, still hasn't committed. Oh, you better believe there will be some watchful eyes on this outstanding prospect out of Chesapeake, Virginia.

With an astounding 57 programs reportedly interested in Josh Sweat, only one will ultimately add his immense talent to their roster in the 2015 class. Chris Nee of 247Sports notes the latest predictions for the huge recruit:

He added a new Crystal Ball prediction this week, which was for Virginia Tech. The Hokies lead on his Crystal Ball with 48 percent of predictions. Florida State is second with 38 percent. Tennessee (10 percent) and Ohio State (5 percent) claim the remainder of predictions.

He has visited all of those schools with the exception of Florida State. He is due to see the Seminoles in July.

Sweat posted 94 tackles and an absurd 22 sacks last season with Oscar Smith High School and has clearly made a name for himself with his elite-level play on the field.

In a loaded field with some of the best offensive linemen looking to knock him off, this will be a huge test for Sweat. If he can shine once again on one of the biggest stages on the recruiting calendar, Sweat might just secure the top defensive end spot heading into his final season.

 

Kevin Toliver II, Cornerback, LSU Commit

Unlike Sweat, Kevin Toliver II has already announced his intentions for his college future.

The LSU commit is the No. 1 corner in the 2015 class, per 247Sports, and will look to put his elite coverage skills to the test yet again. The young man might not have hit a college field just yet, but he's already had some great coaching at the position, as Josh Newberg of 247Sports notes:

Toliver is already viewed as the top corner and knows exactly where he's heading next year, so he surely doesn't have to worry about proving himself anymore. But gaining more experience from covering top receivers like Preston Williams, George Campbell and DaMarkus Lodge will be great for his future.

With all three of those receivers potentially landing in the SEC, Toliver will have his hands full in the years to come with the Tigers. Getting experience now against the big-name wideouts and best quarterback prospects will simply better him for the road ahead.

 

Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA Commit

Do you like big arms? How about pinpoint accuracy from a pro-style quarterback? Well, quite frankly, who doesn't?

Josh Rosen offers all of those things and more from his 6'4", 205-pound frame and looks every bit the part of the future star quarterback at UCLA. The St. John Bosco signal-caller discussed why he ultimately chose the Bruins for his college future, per Erik McKinney of ESPN.com:

I knew for sure it would be UCLA four days ago. I put UCLA in front a few months ago, but the Michigan visit made me go in depth about why UCLA was the right place for me. A lot went into the decision and it wasn't made just for football. I'm going to the university where I fit best in all aspects.

After throwing for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, Rosen burst onto the scene and is now viewed as the No. 1 quarterback by 247Sports. Already committed and showing flashes of what is to come in the next several years for the Bruins, Rosen might have to compete against players like Toliver and others to prove himself.

In a 7-on-7 setting, look for Rosen to yet again emerge as a star by finding his elite-level receivers down the field with his huge arm. With a huge Pac-12 audience expected in Beaverton, Rosen will prove yet again why he's the next in line of great quarterbacks for the Bruins.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Elite 11 2014: Finals Schedule, Dates, Events and Trent Dilfer's QB Roster

When it comes to the best crops of quarterback prospects, the Elite 11 competition always brings out the biggest stars ready for the next level.

Trent Dilfer's quarterback roster this year includes several big names that have already committed to schools like Florida State, UCLA and Texas A&M. Then there are several others who have yet to announce their intentions and will look to prove their worth on the big stage.

Here's a look at the full roster provided by the Elite 11 Twitter account:

In an event that once saw names like Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford and recently Jameis Winston rise to stardom, the Elite 11 offers some of the best signal-callers from around the country in one competition. All 18 quarterbacks invited will hope they make the final list when it's whittled down to 11 at the end of the week.

Before the finals officially get underway, here's a look at the full schedule for the Elite 11 competition.

 

Dates and TV Coverage

Saturday, July 5: Not televised

Sunday, July 6: Not televised

Monday, July 7: Not televised

Tuesday, July 8: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET

Wednesday, July 9: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET

Thursday, July 10: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET

 

Prospects to Watch

Josh Rosen, UCLA

Josh Rosen has all of the essentials for an elite quarterback. He has the big arm, pinpoint accuracy and a 6'4" frame that makes him a prototypical pro-style signal-caller.

After committing to UCLA, Rosen heads into the competition looking to only prove that he's better than any other player in the running. The St. John Bosco quarterback spoke about why he ultimately chose the Bruins for his college future, per Erik McKinney of ESPN.com:

I knew for sure it would be UCLA four days ago. I put UCLA in front a few months ago, but the Michigan visit made me go in depth about why UCLA was the right place for me. A lot went into the decision and it wasn't made just for football. I'm going to the university where I fit best in all aspects.

The No. 1 quarterback by 247Sports threw for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. Given the immense talent also in the competition, Rosen will look to hold down the top spot in the rankings by outdoing every other signal-caller in Beaverton.

In a 7-on-7 setting, Rosen will yet again emerge as a star with his huge arm and outstanding pocket presence. With a huge Pac-12 audience expected in Oregon, Rosen will look to show UCLA fans why he is better than another quarterback set to play for their rival in the future.

 

Ricky Town, USC

That quarterback Rosen will be compared to is none other than Ricky Town.

The rivalry between UCLA and USC is always exciting on the football field, but it starts early for both Rosen and Town. Formerly the top quarterback in the class, Town spoke about the reasons he chose USC after decommitting from Alabama, per Blair Angulo of ESPN.com:

I'm proud to be a part of the Trojan Family! I've seen many of the top programs and what they have to offer. However, when I had the chance to get on the USC campus last week and spend time with Coach Sarkisian and his staff, I knew after those meetings that USC is where I want to be. ... I chose USC because of the tradition, the academics and the incredible coaching staff.

Despite a knee injury, per the ESPN report, Town still threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns in just nine games last season. After a gutsy performance, he earned the final spot on the roster and will look to make the most of it.

Between the two top quarterbacks, both will put on a show for the fans on the West Coast. As for Alabama fans, they will have to watch and think, "What might have been?" while also enjoying Blake Barnett, who recently committed to the Crimson Tide.

 

Ryan Brand, Uncommitted

No, he's not the top overall, a 5- or even 4-star recruit, but Ryan Brand has proven he's worthy of being considered one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports wrote about Brand's talent: "If we’re talking purely about performance and not factoring in how he projects to the future due to size, Brand was probably the best thrower in attendance."

Not to mention, he also got a pretty special shoutout when he earned his invitation to the finals:

When Russell Wilson gives you a shoutout, you know you've done something special. Wilson, a quarterback who had to prove a lot despite his short stature, has shown that quarterbacks of any size can be elite.

For Brand, it will be about showing that he deserves to be offered by a power-five conference. While he's earned offers from both Indiana State and Air Force, the 3-star signal-caller might be able to emerge and get the letter he's worked so hard for during the recruiting process.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

One Commitment Every Pac-12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

Earlier in this way-too-long offseason we wrote about every Pac-12 team's dream recruit, a piece which took realistic options out of the equation and went warp speed into fantasyland.

This time, we're tweaking the subject matter a bit and taking a look at one player from whom every team wishes it could secure a commitment over the summer. We're still a month away from the start of fall camp, so prime time for recruiting is happening as you read this sentence.

The following players don't necessarily have to be considered "locks" to the school, but we're focusing strictly on guys who actually have an interest in the program. So while Utah would love to get a commitment from 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the chances of that happening are nonexistent.

The quarterback dominoes have begun to fall, but there is still plenty of top talent available. Which players are Pac-12 schools hoping to get a commitment from in the next couple months?

 

All recruiting info via 247sports.com

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One Commitment Every Pac-12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

Earlier in this way-too-long offseason we wrote about every Pac-12 team's dream recruit , a piece which took realistic options out of the equation and went warp speed into fantasyland...

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What Would Nile Sykes' Absence Mean for Notre Dame in 2014?

Blue and Gold Illustrated’s Dan Murphy (subscription required) reported Wednesday that incoming Notre Dame football freshman linebacker Nile Sykes won’t be playing for the Irish this fall, citing unnamed sources.

Soon after the report was published, Sykes tweeted, “I am still currently a Notre Dame student.” The tweet has since been deleted from Sykes’ Twitter account.

Further reports from Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune and Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune suggested the possibility of Sykes transferring.

If—and that's still an important distinction to make—the linebacker were to leave the university, what impact would that have on Notre Dame in 2014?

Sykes, a 3-star signee from Oak Park, Illinois, was slated as the No. 36 outside linebacker in the country and ranked at No. 459 overall. On national signing day, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Sykes a “great addition to our class.”

“[We] really like Nile and his personality,” Kelly said. “He's got a great family. Mom and dad, really excited about being a part of the Notre Dame family. Listen, that matters, too. We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family.”

Kelly praised Sykes’ ball skills and instincts and said the Montini Catholic High School product has the versatility to play inside and outside.

Sykes is one of three linebackers in Notre Dame’s class of 2014. According to Murphy, Sykes has been projected to play outside linebacker for the Irish. While Sykes—the lowest-rated linebacker signee in Notre Dame’s class—likely would not be making major contributions as a freshman, a potential departure would further thin an already questionable position.

Notre Dame returns sophomore Jaylon Smith but must replace Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox and Prince Shembo in the linebacking corps. With Jarrett Grace’s status still up in the air and Ben Councell also returning from injury, Smith is the only healthy player with starting experience.

Still, Sykes probably would not be expected to leapfrog other returning players such as John Turner and James Onwualu on the depth chart.

Thus, a potential departure would mainly impact the Irish down the road. Should Sykes leave the program and free up a scholarship, Notre Dame could take on another player in the class of 2014. Thanks to a recent run of commitments, the Irish currently have 17 players in their class of 2015. Over the past 34 days, Notre Dame has landed 10 new commitments. The surge has bumped the Irish to No. 8 in the class rankings.

But Notre Dame may also be approaching its upper limit for commitments in the class of 2015. A host of players in the senior class could have fifth-year options, which would further tighten the strings on the size of this cycle’s recruiting class.

Whose is next to join? Class is closing out quickly. Go Irish!

— Kerry Cooks (@CoachKerryCooks) July 3, 2014

First, however, there is clarity needed on Sykes’ situation.

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

An Inside Look at the Complex World of College Football Recruiting Rankings

“Initially college coaches hated us. They didn’t want anything they were doing scrutinized. They didn’t want kids they were trying to hide being discovered. High school coaches didn’t trust us. They didn’t know who we were. Now that the high school and college coaches associate us with the rankings and they are more cooperative. We’ve earned our stripes."

– Mike 'The Godfather of Recruiting' Farrell

Over the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to cover college football recruiting for ESPN and Rivals.com. The most common question I get, is who has the better rankings? The answer is none. Rankings are too subjective. There isn’t a rankings formula where you plug in stats, height and weight, SPARQ Rating, or level of competition to get a star rating. 

As an evaluator, I watched a ton of football.  Every season I attended well over 30 games and watched countless other game tapes for up to 12 hours a week.  As you might guess, this is the most time consuming part of the job.  During the spring and summer camp season I traveled the country every weekend to scout players in person.   The other analysts and I teleconferenced for weeks at a time, 8 to 10 hours a day, going over thousands of players individually while breaking down film and fighting for star rankings.   

“Derrick Henry is a five-star to me.  But, is he better than Ty Isaac? They have similar body types and upright running styles and Isaac is a five-star right now.  If we keep him as a four-star it’s going to be difficult to justify. Let’s vote.” – Quote from a Rivals.com evaluation meeting for the final rankings of the 2013 recruiting class.

I’ve been asked countless times, are there industry requirements to evaluate and rank college prospects? The answer is no. Each site has a slightly different model in place.

The System:

247Sports, ESPN RecruitingNation (ERN), Rivals.com, and Scout.com make up the “Big Four” of the recruiting industry. Each site is tasked with the difficult process of keeping up with the ever evolving college football recruiting landscape.  Everyday prospects are offered earlier and earlier such as middle schoolers like Dylan Moses and David Sills. Between new seven-on-seven events constantly popping up, fans hounding prospects on social media outlets, and student-athletes receiving over a 100 letters a day from persistent colleges, it’s a never-ending cycle.

The Big Four

Rivals

Rivals was founded in 1998 as an advertising based site by Jim Heckman and his group out of Seattle, the first Rivals Rankings came out in 2002.  Rivals can be seen as the breeding ground for the Big Four recruiting services as early officers Shannon Terry and Jim Heckman went on to found 247Sports and Scout respectively.

Farrell has been there since the beginning and currently serves as the National Recruiting Director. Former Rivals Radio host Chris Childers gave him the “Godfather” of recruiting moniker when introducing him on his show. 

“In the beginning we were an ad based company that started ranking kids and doing recruiting updates," Farrell recalled. "Essentially we were doing what the magazines were doing quarterly on the Internet. We were giving people quicker access to what kids were thinking and where they were committing. Then we started ranking kids off video.”

247Sports

247Sports is the new techy kid on the block. Rivals.com co-founder, Shannon Terry launched the service merely four years ago in 2010. The site has differentiated itself from the competitors with a couple of key components.

First, the 247Sports Composite is the only list to factor in rankings from other sites in addition to 247's own Top247. The Composite offers an unbiased look at where a prospect stands throughout the entire industry. Second, their Crystal Ball prediction engine also allows for fans and media to guess where prospects will end up. It’s considered the fantasy football of the recruiting space.

“There was a lot of excitement when we launched 247Sports in August 2010, Terry said. “Our industry had been stagnant for several years with very few editorial and product enhancements --while at the same time the digital sports media landscape was moving at warp speeds. We are just now starting to focus on what 247Sports is all about -- Your Team all the Time.”

Scout

Scout.com was founded in 2001 by the aforementioned Jim Heckman and was sold to Fox Sports in 2005. Recently, the North America Media Group led by Heckman purchased the rights back from Fox and led an impressive site redesign.

Scout has one of the most unique origin stories of any of the big four.

“Scout started as The Insiders,” explained veteran west coast recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. “You made money by 900 numbers. If you wanted to know about Notre Dame you would call a number and someone will tell you about this prospect.”

ESPN RecruitingNation

ESPN is the only one of the four sites to have a dedicated TV component to cover recruiting which gives their staff a credibility advantage when discussing recruiting on ESPNU, College GameDay, College Football Live, and SportsCenter. The network has come to own National Signing Day with it’s 12-hour show complete with live commitments, analysis, college staff reaction from the “War Room”, and a running ticker to track all the news. 

Another defining factor for ESPN is that they are not solely dependent on a subscription revenue model. 

When it comes to evaluators, ERN truly values coaching and scouting experience at the college or professional levels.  They also have a smallish staff ranking 2,500 players, so resources are limited.  But, what ESPN may lack in breadth they make up for in depth as their analysts pride themselves on viewing most of the top prospects in person.

The World Wide Leader in Sports also televises high school games, The Opening, and the Under Armour All-America Game.

“ESPN has made a massive commitment to integrating into all of their college football platforms.” said ESPN’s Director of National Recruiting, Tom Luginbill “We have a tremendous advantage when it comes to National Signing Day because our company treats it like the NFL Draft. We also are the only site to offer full player evaluation on who the player actually is and I care more about that than where a player is ranked.”

Showcase Events

As each site has grown over the last few years, the competition to stand out has evolved exponentially. In 2011, ESPNHS (later dissolved and renamed Student Sports) created Nike Football’s “The Opening”. The Opening takes place at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and has since been combined with the Elite 11 Quarterback “Campetition” to come to be considered the nation’s top skills competition.  

“The Opening is the best [camp] from an evaluation standpoint because you at least have players that are equal caliber competing in things that you would actually see on the field at a football practice,” said Luginbill

Student Sports is in charge of selecting the 150-plus participants and all other player personnel matters. The team of experts selects players from in-person evaluations at Nike Football Training Camps, along with film break down and evaluation of student-athlete character. They have “Big Board” of all the prospects and devise teams in their “War Room”. Despite the fact that Student Sports has an experienced group of personnel of talent, they are not directly involved in rankings for any of the “Big Four”.

Rivals responded to The Opening in 2012 when they created their own showcase event called the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour.

At theses premiere events, a player’s stock can rise or fall depending on his performance. These camps serve as a unique platform for top prospects to compete against each other and see how they stack up. Your average four-star prospect may not face top tier talent in their region until they arrive at an elite camp or The Opening. If he doesn’t perform at a high level, he could plummet in the next round of rankings.

Who Cares About The Rankings?

The rankings are mainly for the fans. According to a FootballScoop.com story, only 29% of college coaches trust Rivals.com, they are the first to tell you they don’t pay attention to rankings or stars.  Fans, on the other hand, may know more about their team’s recruiting class than the Athletic Director. 

“The system is flawed. said Former Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School defensive coordinator, Chad Wilson. “You have reporter types without any intimate knowledge of the game trying to determine how much a kid is worth as a player. College coaches by and large don’t respect these opinions, but some for various reasons feel the pressure to govern themselves according to these opinions. Doing so usually ends up being a mistake. With that said, rankings aren’t going away anytime soon.”

Like it or not college coaches have to care about recruiting for two reasons: The fans care and it is a metric their bosses used to evaluate their job performance.

“Now the coaches have bought into recruiting more because the fan base talks about each recruit more, so it’s almost like they are accountable,” Biggins explains. “Where as before you could say oh well who cares how we recruit. At times you have fans that care more about recruiting than how their team does on the field.”

As for the players, some care and some don’t. 

“Stars and rankings don’t mean anything,’ said Florida State commit, Calvin Brewton. I’m a 4-star on Rivals and a 3-star on other sites. Rankings are determined by size, opinion, and what schools offer you. They can measure your height and weight, but they can’t measure your heart.” 

An Inexact Science

There isn’t a guideline or a specific set of criteria for analysts at any of the Big Four to rank and break down athletes consumed by the masses. Again each list is flawed to an extent and that’s all right. The debate gives fans something to talk about and college coaches something to gripe about.

College coaches will tell reporters they don’t look at recruiting sites and that star rankings are for the fans.

However, when a kid commits to their respective school and is considered under ranked or overrated fans are first to let you know via message boards and social media and college coaches will blow up your phone with complaints.

On National Signing Day in 2013, a head coach at a BCS program called to let me know we had one of his signees severely underrated and asked if I could change his ranking after the fact.

I replied, “I’m sorry, I’ve had the chance to see him in game action two or three times in the last couple of seasons and we feel we have ranked accordingly based on his talent.” His response, “I’ve been coaching college for over 30 years and I know South Florida talent. He is better than all the running backs rated in front of him in the state.”

How do you reply? Here is a coach at a major BCS program telling you he knows more about football than you ever will. And you know he is probably right. Yet, he is biased towards his recruit and it is my job to determine the player’s strengths and weaknesses. I saw some holes in his game, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a quality prospect. You do your best job with the information you have. It’s similar to the NFL Draft and every year the draft experts start the telecast with, “its not an exact science.” The boom or bust factor is evident when ranking high school players as well.

"Do the coaches believe we know more than they do? Farrell asks. "No. They never will. But when David Shaw at Stanford says he doesn’t look at rankings. You absolutely know 100-percent that if he isn’t looking then he should be. Not for the rankings, but you have to know who is out there, who’s hot, and what they are saying.”

Kynon Codrington is a national recruiting analyst formerly of Rivals.com.  Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start

David Ash's progress toward a clean bill of health decrease the chances that we will see Jerrod Heard start a game in 2014, but the 4-star recruit is far from the only incoming Longhorn that could run with the first team.

"[Ash]'s not all the way back, but he's out there competing," a source told 247Sports.com's Jeff Howe. "He's throwing a little bit and looking good. He looks like he's going to be fine."

The health of Texas' fourth-year quarterback improves the outlook for the Longhorns and fans who are willing to wait for a little while on Heard. That said, it's too early to completely rule out seeing the future start as a freshman.

And for fans who are eager to get a look at Heard's 2014 classmates, there are three others with a chance to start in their first season on campus, listed in order most likely to least. 

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