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Why Tennessee's QB Competition Should End Soon and Who Should Be the Starter

Butch Jones is entering his second year on Rocky Top, and this offseason has been a sequel to the last at one important position—quarterback.

As was the case last year, Tennessee is still searching for the right man to take the snaps with essentially the same cast.

Justin Worley is back for his senior season on Rocky Top, after an up-and-down campaign as a junior that saw the Rock Hill, South Carolina, native win the job exiting fall camp, struggle with consistency downfield, get benched, come back back and play well only to suffer a season-ending hand injury in the Alabama game in late October.

Joshua Dobbs took his place, and the then-true freshman made plenty of true freshman mistakes. The Alpharetta, Georgia, dual-threat signal-caller threw only two touchdowns and six picks for the year. But he came on strong in the spring game with 199 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and 59 rushing yards with a rushing touchdown, according to stats released by Tennessee.

Redshirt sophomore Nathan Peterman has taken a back seat in the battle, and reports surfaced earlier in the offseason that redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson is leaving the program, via John Brice of Rivals.com (subscription required).

So who should win the battle?

It should be Worley, and it should happen early in fall camp, provided he shows that he hasn't regressed.

Yes, I know, Dobbs showed he had big-play ability in the spring game. But Jones told B/R during spring practice that Worley had improved his accuracy downfield.

"Justin Worley has really improved greatly, from leadership to his ability to make all of the throws, particularly the deep balls," Jones said.

He's also put on weight in the offseason, as Wes Rucker of GoVols247.com notes:

Few mention this because he’s a pure passer, but #Vols QB Justin Worley is so much bigger than he was 4 years ago. He’s a legit 224 now.

— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) June 6, 2014

For Worley to lose the job, he needs to show massive regression and have Dobbs set the world on fire in fall camp. Otherwise, Jones would be wise to stick with the senior, who has the experience under his belt for this particular Vols team—which has a small village of weapons outside, including Marquez North, Josh Malone and Von Pearson.

With no returning starters on the offensive line, it's safe to guess that protection may be an issue for the Vols in 2014. Maybe Dontavius Blair emerges as a superstar at tackle and the entire unit comes together during fall camp, and if it does, that's a bonus. But Jones can't count on that.

Tennessee needs someone taking snaps who won't press the issue and take risks when the pressure comes in his face. It needs someone who will take the checkdown or throw it away when it's appropriate. 

That's Worley.

In his final two starts before further injuring his thumb against Alabama, Worley looked pretty solid, throwing for 394 yards, two touchdowns and zero picks in the overtime loss to Georgia and upset win over South Carolina.

Jones can't let this battle linger like it did last year, when Worley won the job in the week leading up to the season-opener vs. Austin Peay. It was clear from the moment toe met leather that Worley was uncomfortable under center, and he only got comfortable after getting benched prior to the Florida game.

Tennessee needs stability, and Worley brings stability.

Because of that, he should be Tennessee's starting quarterback, and it needs to be set in stone sooner rather than later.

 

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

 


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Mackey Award Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The best tight ends in the college football landscape have been identified as the John Mackey Award Selection Committee has announced its 2014 preseason watch list.

A prestigious award given to the top tight end in the nation named after NFL Hall of Fame member John Mackey, heralded by many as the best to every play the position, the 13-year history of the award touts elite collegiate alumni such as Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow II, Heath Miller, Marcedes Lewis and Fred Davis.

While far from an indicator of future pro success, even placement on the preseason watch list validates the talent of each individual and their future potential as one of the best overall players in the country.

As the NFL continues to place a bigger importance on the position, recent winners such as Dwayne Allen, Tyler Eifert and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were able to translate the honor into critical pro roles. The following names can parlay the watch-list nomination into something special with excellent campaigns.

 

 

Stars to Watch

Nick O'Leary, Florida State

The only thing that can stop Nick O'Leary—because it sure isn't any defense in the country—is himself.

O'Leary is one season removed from reeling in 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior, but has already missed time this spring thanks to his second motorcycle accident.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher noted that he hopes the event is a wake-up call for his three-year tight end, who holds the school record for touchdowns at the position with 11, as captured by ESPN's Jared Shanker:

He wrecked a motorcycle again. He's skinned and got a swollen ankle and can't practice but he'll be fine. ... He's skinned from head to toe. He needs to be frustrated. It's not important if I'm frustrated. What's important is if he's frustrated and learned his lesson.

A semifinalist for the award last year, O'Leary is hailed by most as the top senior tight end in the 2015 NFL draft class, including ESPN's Mel Kiper (subscription required). It helps that O'Leary gets to work with elite quarterback Jameis Winston, although his numbers have consistently increased with more playing time regardless of who resides under center:

No matter how it is sliced, O'Leary is a strong candidate to nab the award this season before possibly going on to a lucrative pro career, health permitting.

 

Ben Koyack, Notre Dame

In what is perhaps best described as "Tight End U" at the moment thanks to recent graduates such as Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack is next at the plate as a massive target who can split out wide to create mismatches.

The No. 3 senior on Kiper's board and the No. 2 overall tight end on Matt Miller's big board, Koyack has just 14 career receptions to his name in three years with the Fighting Irish, but his potential and size (6'5", 261 pounds) ensure a major role next season with the depth chart above him finally clear.

For his part, Koyack has finally fulfilled his sole reason for attending Notre Dame, as he told ESPN's Matt Fortuna:

You don't come here unless you want to do that. Coming here a freshman, every one wants to get out here and be that No. 1 guy, especially with the reputation like we have. That's pretty much the reason I came here, to have that role. It's something I do definitely look forward to.

There is no doubt Koyack will shine in his final collegiate season as the main safety valve and red-zone target of either Everett Golson or Malik Zaire. His breakout season will add some intrigue to the final race for the award in late November, to say the least.

 

Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State

One of the nation's most violent blockers in the run game, Jeff Heuerman also put on a show last year in the aerial department of the Ohio State offense as a junior.

Thanks to his size at 6'6" and 250 pounds, Heuerman is a chess piece coach Urban Meyer utilizes often to create mismatches in the passing game. His 26 receptions for 466 yards and four scores—with a per-catch average of almost 18 yards and his longest score coming from 57 yards out—suggests big things for the Florida native in his senior campaign.

That said, he too will have to get healthy after it was revealed he will miss the spring with an injury.

"Jeff is going to be fine. I think it's been right about the normal number of injuries, Meyer told ESPN's Austin Ward. "But we should have [Heuerman] ready to go full speed by June."

The No. 2 senior per Kiper and No. 10 overall for Miller has an upside and leaping ability (above 36 inches, per the former)  that makes him a standout, especially when one considers he will spend his final year catching passes from Heisman contender Braxton Miller.

While a bit of a sleeper as he has yet to become a household name, it won't take long for Heuerman to secure his status as a finalist for the prestigious award and make the lives of the selection committee much more difficult than most previously anticipated.

 

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Michigan Football: 5 Less Proven Wolverines Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Improvement is a universally accepted byproduct of experience. In theory, the longer one does something, the better he or she gets. Now apply that principal to Michigan football, because there is a host of Wolverines who are barely on the outside of the bubble, just on the cusp of seeing meaningful and productive playing time each Saturday. 

Offensively, Michigan has linemen in training and a respectable stable of running backs who’ve yet to make an impact on the field for Brady Hoke’s program. Defensively, there are ends, tackles and linebackers who’re nearly there as well.

 

Matt Godin

What else can be said about Godin that hasn't already been said? Think about that. 

Because since high school, not much has been floating around about the former Detroit Catholic Central, quarterback-destroying DE. The 6'6", 283-pound redshirt sophomore has been around long enough to learn the ropes, and this season is the time for him to put those lessons to work on the field. 

Due to Keith Heitzman's move to tight end, ends such as Godin will get reps. At the moment, he should be on your radar as a potential anchor. Yes, an "anchor." As one of many untapped talents, he's yet to show Wolverines fans his true worth. He's not just a solid option to spell a starter, and he's not just a "depth" guy. 

 

Someone on the O-Line? 

O-line, O-line, O-line...had enough of it yet? 

This past offseason was crammed with discussion about the O-line: How would it improve? Who would take over for Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield? How long will it take for Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, to revamp and implement his system? 

Michigan followers will find out this fall. And until then, any reports of anyone doing anything that remotely resembles improvement on the O-line should catch your attention. 

 

Henry Poggi

Poggi generated a little buzz prior to signing with Michigan in 2013 and promises to live up to that billing sooner rather than later. In fact, he’s one of several players on defense cited as up-and-comers by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who spoke about his personnel during the Sound Mind Sound Body (SMSB) camp in Detroit.

At 6’4” and 271 pounds, the redshirt freshman is ready to make his presence known on a hearty D-line that will feature Ondre Pipkins and Willie Henry, among others. Poggi’s been on the ascent since bowl practices and should earn a prominent role within Mattison’s game plan.

 

Chris Wormley

Yet another one of Mattison’s students, Wormley, a 6’4”, 292-pound redshirt sophomore, is a guy who gets talked about to no end; it’s either fans praising his potential and begging for Michigan to play him more often, or it’s the opposite.

So, yeah, viewing Wormley gets tricky. Not to beat a dead horse, but that conversation with Mattison back at SMSB was telling. While detailing who’s doing what, Mattison couldn’t contain his energy. He was exuberant when speaking of Wormley, who had 19 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks in 13 appearances in 2013.

Mattison expects a lot from him. You should, too.

 

Derrick Green

During a recent radio interview, Nussmeier commented on Green’s physique, saying that he “looked great” and is showing signs of progression. At 5’11” and roughly 230 pounds, Green—a former 4-star out of Richmond (Va.)—has the ideal, bulldozer-like frame suited for the Big Ten.

In Week 1 of 2013, he burst for 58 yards on 11 carries during the Wolverines’ romp of Central Michigan. However, he never really found his stride after that, fading away into the sunset as Fitz Toussaint saw most of the action.

It wasn’t until late in the season that Green once again began to turn a few heads. He wasn’t a star by any means versus Ohio State, but his 12 carries for 47 yards certainly helped Michigan stay afloat during the 42-41 loss at the Big House.

Green recently stressed the importance of pass protection, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive, and CollegeFootballTalk noted that Green feels more explosive heading into the new campaign. 

He was supposed to be the next great thing in Michigan’s backfield, and he was supposed to be a real-deal workhorse who could put the offense on his back. So far, he’s a sophomore with nothing but doubters to shake and things to prove. This season could be the difference-maker in Green’s career in Ann Arbor.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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Elite 11 2014: Day 3 Schedule, Preview and Latest Info on Top Prospects

The Opening has arrived, and with it comes the next wave of great college football talent. 

With trailblazers such as Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford having come before them, 18 players have earned the right through rigorous competitions to join Trent Dilfer's roster in the hopes of being selected to the Elite 11.

These future stars, with commitments to locales such as Florida State and Texas A&M, have a grueling task before them in the The Opening beneath a national microscope. The full list of names is as follows, courtesy of the Elite 11 Twitter account:

Let's take a look at when to catch the action, which prospects will be teaming up and updated info around the top names in attendance.

 

What: Elite 11 Day 3, The Opening

When: July 8 at 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPNU

 

Preview

Now that the top quarterbacks are comfortably in Beaverton, Oregon, and have some practice reps under their belt, it's time to get down to the actual competition.

Based on performances, although highly subject to change over the course of the next few days, the Elite 11 standings shake out like so heading into Day 3:

Of course, football is a team sport, so the young gunslingers were sorted into teams and decked out with Nike gear for the competition:

It should come as no surprise that the players are already having great success at the camp, with plenty of names such as Johnny Manziel and Dilfer himself showing up to dish out lessons, as captured by The Opening on Twitter:

The name that should stick out above all else at this juncture is that of current No. 1 Jarrett Stidham, who will look to execute the air raid offense at Texas Tech sooner rather than later.

A dual-threat quarterback, the Texas native stands at 6'3.5" and 190 pounds, and was 247Sports' No. 2-ranked quarterback in that style as a 4-star recruit.

Since arriving in Beaverton, Stidham has continued to keep slugging away with a real chip on his shoulder and has the look of a serious steal for Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury. Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors provided a breakdown of Stidham's performance on Monday:

Today, during a shortened session, Stidham did nothing to jeopardize his standing. Firing on all cylinders during the seven-on-seven style drills, Stidham was sharp, decisive and accurate, earning a lot of praise from camp director Trent Dilfer along the way. The nation's second-ranked "dual threat" quarterback performed with poise and confidence and is now in an excellent position to win the coveted "Golden Gun," given to the camp's top overall performer.

Of course, the competition is young and anyone can come away with the Golden Gun at this point.

The No. 1 pro-style passer according to 247Sports, UCLA commit Josh Rosen has what it takes to steal the show and has been wicked accurate so far, drawing rave reviews from the likes of CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Other names to keep an eye on as things progress are USC commit Ricky Town—who threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns in nine games last year despite an injury—and Air Force commit Ryan Brand, who at 5'10" was personally invited by another short quarterback some may recognize—Russell Wilson.

As is the case each year, the Elite 11 in Oregon will once again display some of the top future talent the sport has to offer. Each player in attendance has a shot at being the next big thing at the collegiate level and beyond, so aficionados of the sport would be wise to carve out some free time on their schedules.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Why Trojans Still Have Every Pac-12 Team Beat

Are Oregon, Stanford and UCLA really the new banner bearers for the Pac -12? Or, are they just taking turns filling the role while the true giant—mighty USC—slumbers, ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

USC Football: Why Trojans Still Have Every Pac-12 Team Beat

Are Oregon, Stanford and UCLA really the new banner bearers for the Pac-12? Or, are they just taking turns filling the role while the true giant—mighty USC—slumbers, preparing for another romp across college football?

Though USC hasn’t finished a season ranked in the AP Top Five since 2008, it’s still the most powerful program in the Pac-12 and the team most likely to produce a string of national championships.

This doesn’t mean that Oregon, Stanford and UCLA won’t make a run at a national title, it just means they are significantly less likely to put together a sustained run of dominance. You know, like the seven years of 11-plus wins and top-five finishes the Trojans pumped out from 2002-2008.

What it comes down to is USC’s balance sheet—the perfect combination of top-tier talent, money, facilities, location and history. It’s a portfolio that no other program in the Pac-12 can touch.

 

Recruiting

The cornerstone of sustaining success in college athletics—other than coaching—is recruiting. It’s the backbone of the constant struggle to fight the turnover inherent to eligibility and the NFL draft.

USC has outgunned the rest of the Pac-12 in recruiting in a way that puts it in a different class. In fact, according to Rivals’ class rankings, only five teams in the country have out-recruited the Trojans since 2011. The short list includes Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Florida and LSU. Auburn is tied with USC, and both programs beat out powerhouses like Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan.

Take a look at the Pac-12 team recruiting rankings since 2011.

There is no real competition for USC, only teams which manage to come close every couple of years. The Trojans will keep winning on the field simply because they continue to dominate on the recruiting trail.

 

Cold Hard Cash

Though it seems safe to assume that USC has a bunch of money to spend on its football program, how much cash is running through its coffers?

Take a look at football revenues versus expenses for the Pac-12 in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

Though USC’s third-place finish in both revenue and profit may come as a surprise, remember that 2012 was the year the Trojans sank to 7-6, their worst mark since 2001.

Oregon, on the other hand, went 12-1 and finished the season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll. Washington’s place at the top of the heap is a little more difficult to understand as it also went 7-6 in 2012, a finish that wasn’t as tragic relative to its overall track record.   

What is clear is that USC earns more than enough money to keep up with the Joneses in the Pac-12, even in an off year when ticket, merchandise and bowl revenue was way down.

 

Location

Though it’s safe to say that sunny Southern California has the edge over places like Madison, Wisconsin, Norman, Oklahoma, and even Tallahassee, Florida, the L.A. area is also attractive within its own region.

Think about it: Would you rather be shipped off to Oregon—yes, it’s scenic, but it’s also cold—rainy Seattle, scorching Arizona or sun-kissed Los Angeles?

Really, the only place that looks better—on the West Coast—is San Diego, but the Aztecs play in the Mountain West, not the Pac-12, which is the regional gateway to the College Football Playoff.

And if you’re thinking, what about UCLA?—that’s a good question. That is, until you look at the facilities the Trojans have to offer.

 

Facilities

USC unveiled its new $70 million, 110,000-square-foot athletics facility in August of 2012, an addition that put the Trojans at the forefront of the facilities arms race in college sports.

To get a feel for the Trojans’ new digs, check out this video tour.

The only program in the Pac-12 that can compete with the McKay Center is Oregon—the Ducks’ flashy quarters have been favorably compared to a Las Vegas casino fantasyland.

Which program has the better facilities? Well, that’s up to the eye of the beholder, but even having to ask the question means that the question is subjective at best.

 

History

No Pac-12 program can come close to claiming the success USC has enjoyed, both in the short term and then further back in time.

Take a look at the numbers, they don’t lie.

Does a history of greatness really matter to a program trying to reestablish itself as a national powerhouse? 

A track record of excellence gives a sense of what can be done. It’s not just what can be dreamed up, it’s what the guys before you already did, something that can be repeated by a talented group of young athletes clad in the same colors.

It’s the difference between hope and reality.

 

The Bottom Line

Not only is USC’s 2014 asset portfolio as good as it was during Pete Carroll’s seven-year reign of terror from 2002 to 2008—it's better. The Trojans still have the money, the talent and the location, and they’ve improved their facilities and added chapters to their history of winning. 

The only thing separating USC from another string of national championships is the right coaching staff.  Tune in to see if Steve Sarkisian and company are that magical ingredient that turns the Pac-12 back into USC’s own personal playground.

 

Statistics courtesy of College Football Data Warehouse.

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Top Big 12 Recruits to Watch at 2014 Nike The Opening

The fourth annual The Opening high school showcase camp, hosted by Nike, is underway, with the camp set to end on July 10. 

The nation's top recruits, including Deontay Anderson and Kris Boyd, are at the camp and are the targets of Big 12 recruiters. 

So with that, let's check out the top targets of Big 12 teams at The Opening. 

Begin Slideshow

Why 2015 Class Will Mark the Beginning of a New Golden Era of Pac-12 QBs

The Pac-12 appears poised to challenge for postseason supremacy in the coming years courtesy of an impressive influx of talent at the sport's most pivotal position.

A slew of star quarterback commitments have set the stage for a thrilling era of high-scoring showdowns, recharged rivalries and Heisman Trophy campaigns.

Conference administrators can extend their thanks to the state of California, home to seven of the top 12 passers in 247Sports' class of 2015 rankings. Among them, five are currently committed to Pac-12 programs.

Defensive coordinators may want to get out of the conference while they still can.

"They're all great quarterbacks, and it's awesome to represent our state so well in this class," UCLA pledge Josh Rosen said.

The 5-star prospect was one of seven California recruits invited to attend the Elite 11 finals at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. After competing in the heralded national quarterback competition, each Golden State standout is sticking around for "The Opening," a three-day camp that features more than 150 of the country's premier high school players.

"There's great competition in California," said Sam Darnold, a rising senior at San Clemente High School who is considering USC, Utah and Oregon. "You can see that with the amount of guys out here for the Elite 11."

Texas, California and Florida seem to perennially compete for the title of most talented football state, but when it comes to quarterbacks right now, the West Coast reigns supreme.

Rosen, who threw 39 touchdowns and won a state title last fall, believes the Pac-12 is in position to climb among the conference hierarchy. A newfound commitment to defending home turf is key to the process, according to the St. John Bosco High School star.

"It's important to keep players close to home, and that's what's happening," Rosen said. "I think that's what the South and the East Coast do so well. They keep their best guys. Lately, West Coast players have been staying out here more. It gives us a chance to prove the Pac-12's rightful place among the ranks of the SEC, ACC and all the others."

In order to maintain conference momentum, top-caliber coaches are a must. Pac-12 schools have managed to acquire and hold on to some of the biggest names in the business.

Jim Mora has rebuilt his reputation at UCLA following an up-and-down NFL tenure. While USC dealt with severe sanctions and questions about Lane Kiffin's future, he was busy establishing a fresh image for the Bruins.

Some wondered if Stanford coach David Shaw could shoulder the load after dealing with the departures of Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck. He's answered the critics, winning consecutive Pac-12 titles and turning down other high-profile job opportunities.

Rich Rodriguez arrived at Arizona fresh off a demoralizing end to his tenure at Michigan. While he has strides to make before his star shines as bright as it did at West Virginia, Rodriguez and the Wildcats are on the right track.

Steve Sarkisian returned to USC late last year after steadily bringing Washington back to respectability. The Huskies responded by prying Chris Peterson away from Boise State after several other schools attempted and failed to lure him away.

These coaches are now reaping the benefits of their diligence, and a strong California quarterback class has responded by predominately staying in the region.

Peterson quickly pounced on 4-star prospect Jake Browning, while Sarkisian managed to flip 5-star recruit Ricky Town away from Alabama in late January.

Town and Rosen, the top-ranked quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, have fueled a new chapter in the longstanding rivalry between crosstown foes USC and UCLA. If both players pan out at the next level, their matchups will be highly anticipated on an annual basis.

"I think people have kind of forced that rivalry on us, and they'll continue to do that with Josh going to UCLA and me going to USC," Town said. "We just try to have fun and embrace it."

They aren't the only two who can expect to be embroiled in Pac-12 battles against regional quarterback contemporaries.

"When we play each other, the media will make it out to be a quarterback battle and try to build up a rivalry part of it," 4-star Arizona State commit Brady White said. "But Rosen and Town will be playing the Sun Devils defense, I'll be facing the Bruins and Trojans defense. Sure, there's going to be talk about a rivalry, but my only concern is trying to get our team a win."

New Oregon commit Travis Waller echoed that sentiment. Still, the Anaheim product anticipates some extra adrenaline when he lines up across the field from a fellow member of this special in-state class.

"It will be crazy when we all play each other," Waller said. "I'll be going all-out because I want those bragging rights. I want to be able to say, 'We beat you guys. The Oregon Ducks take the win again.' I'm looking forward to those matchups."

The rest of the nation should be too. There's a strong chance we'll see multiple All-American contenders and NFL draft picks emerge from a group that has college coaches across the country journeying to the West Coast.

The Pac-12 has a chance to capitalize on this rare collection of quarterback talent in its backyard. So far, conference members have hit on a high percentage of targets, which bodes extremely well for the future of its fans and programs alike.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why 2015 Class Will Mark the Beginning of a New Golden Era of Pac-12 QBs

The Pac -12 appears poised to challenge for postseason supremacy in the coming years courtesy of an impressive influx of talent at the sport's most pivotal position...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Clemson Tigers 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

The Clemson Tigers knew replacing Tajh Boyd at quarterback was not going to be easy. Boyd set every major passing record in school history and is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leader in touchdown passes and total touchdowns.

Boyd also happened to be under center during arguably the most successful three-year run in school history. The Tigers were 32-8 in Boyd's three years as starting quarterback.

Spring practice was supposed to be an intense three-way battle to find out who the Tigers' next starting passer would be. It was—it just ended much sooner than anyone imagined.

Senior Cole Stoudt entered the spring as the presumed starter. He was competing with sophomore Chad Kelly and true freshman Deshaun Watson.

However, as Stoudt looked smooth and under control throughout the spring sessions, Kelly had a meltdown to go along with uneven performances and was kicked off the team after the spring game.

Watson, the projected future of the program, suffered a collarbone injury that sidelined him for three weeks.

So, one day after dismissing Kelly, head coach Dabo Swinney told Fox Sports' Coy Wire that Stoudt would be Clemson's unquestioned starting quarterback when the Tigers head to Georgia to begin the 2014 season.

 

Depth Chart

  1. Cole Stoudt: 6'4", 210 pounds, senior.
  2. Deshaun Watson: 6'3", 190 pounds, freshman.

The Tigers' current depth chart has just two quarterbacks listed: Stoudt as the starter and Watson as the backup.

Experience was going to be an issue for the Tigers this fall behind Stoudt, but after spring practice, Swinney received some good news when David Olson—most recently of Stanford—transferred to Clemson to complete his eligibility.

Sophomore walk-on Nick Schuessler was the presumed third-string quarterback behind Stoudt and Watson.

Olson's presence changes that and could allow Watson to redshirt this fall—at least Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris hope it will.

 

Cole Stoudt

Stoudt has waited three years for this opportunity and, by all indications, he is ready.

As the primary backup to Boyd over the last three seasons, Stoudt attempted a total of 119 passes. He completed over 70 percent of his throws and has only one career interception.

Clemson fans should be confident in Stoudt's knowledge of the offense. Morris will not have to scale back his playbook at all from when Boyd ran the offense.

If a player like Watson or Olson were slated to start, the offense would likely look much different—at least early on.

Stoudt doesn't have elite arm strength, but his arm is strong enough and he can make most throws. His knowledge of the offense also leads him to make quick decisions and take few sacks.

While not as athletic as Boyd, Stoudt is no slouch. He moves well in the pocket and is a good scrambler.

Two of Clemson's first three games are against Georgia and Florida State. If Stoudt performs well in those games, he'll likely be in for a big year.

 

Deshaun Watson

Watson is the wild card in the quarterback mix.

Coaches would obviously like to redshirt him, but there is also excitement surrounding Watson. He is a playmaker, good passer and terrific runner. Watson could open up the offense in ways Boyd could.

Opposing defenses will not only have to respect Watson's arm, but he will bring an extra dimension to the running game.

Morris sees how multidimensional his offense could be with Watson at quarterback. If Clemson struggles to move the ball at any point against Georgia or FSU, don't be shocked if coaches put in Watson for a series or two to see if he can give the offense a spark.

From a passing standpoint, he's not quite ready to lead a college offense yet. He has the arm—likely the strongest on the roster—but struggled with accuracy in the spring. Much of that was likely due to not knowing his receivers or having a strong knowledge of the offense.

According to 247Sports.com, Watson was a 4-star recruit from Gainesville, Georgia, and the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation. He enrolled early because he knew he'd be given a chance to start with Boyd's departure.

Watson will likely end up being an excellent starter for the Tigers—just not this year.

However, if Watson has to relieve Stoudt due to injury, the offense would be in good hands as Morris would adjust his scheme to Watson's strengths.

 

David Olson

Olson transferred to Clemson knowing Stoudt would be the team's starter. So why transfer from one place that has an entrenched starter (Kevin Hogan) to a team with a senior who was already named starting quarterback?

As good as Stoudt may end up being, he is still an unproven commodity.

So is Olson, though. He never took a snap at Stanford.

Shortly after joining the Tigers, Olson told TigerNet.com's Nikki Steele about why Clemson was the right place for him to complete his eligibility:

I graduated a quarter early from Stanford, so that was in late March. From there, I was essentially looking around into situations that had one year of eligibility where I could go in and contribute and help a team. I looked at some smaller schools along the way, but I first got in touch with Clemson after the spring game. They had the news break about their quarterback situation and I sent them an email and they got back with me a few days later and they said they were interested. That is how the whole thing got going.

Swinney and Morris obviously see a player in Olson who could be a strong backup for one year—nothing more. If their starter goes down during a game, then Olson could finish that contest for them.

However, if Stoudt suffers a major injury or is benched for performance reasons, look for Watson to be next in line.

Regardless of who plays quarterback for Clemson this fall, don't look for the Tigers to suffer in the win column. An outstanding defense should allow the Tigers to compete for an ACC title in 2014.

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Top Pac-12 Recruits to Watch at 2014 Nike The Opening

With the backing of Nike, one of the premier recruiting camps each year is The Opening, which takes place in Beaverton, Oregon, at company headquarters. In 2014, the spotlight is brighter than ever, and several Pac-12 recruits will have a chance to raise their profile even higher as they move closer to becoming college athletes.

The lion's share of attention belongs to the quarterbacks, who will take part in their own competition called the "Elite 11" due to the naming of the top 11 signal-callers following the event.

This is the best chance for fans to get a look at the top high school quarterbacks participating in the same drills at the same time with the cameras rolling. There is no other time during the year where as much young talent gathers in the same place to test its skills.

But let's not forget about the other positions, because while the quarterbacks serve as the main course, everyone else will be putting their abilities up against the best of the best as well.

Here are five Pac-12 recruits we'll be watching closely at Nike's The Opening.

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Top Pac-12 Recruits to Watch at 2014 Nike The Opening

With the backing of Nike, one of the premier recruiting camps each year is The Opening , which takes place in Beaverton, Oregon, at company headquarters...

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Bruins 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Starting quarterback Brett Hundley could ultimately become the best quarterback to ever play for the UCLA football program. This list includes the likes of Gary Beban, Billy Kilmer, Cade McNown and Troy Aikman, among others. 

Hundley gives UCLA one of the top returning signal-callers in the entire country for 2014. However, the depth behind the talented quarterback is precarious. A serious injury to Hundley would virtually end any hopes of UCLA battling for supremacy in the Pac-12. 

Redshirt sophomore Jerry Neuheisel and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard complete the remainder of the depth chart at the position for the Bruins.

Woulard has yet to see a snap on the collegiate level, and Neuheisel participated in only two games last season as a quarterback. The majority of his time was spent as the holder on special teams. 

 

1. Redshirt Junior Brett Hundley

Hundley is the unquestioned leader for the Bruins heading into the 2014 season. As a redshirt sophomore, the Chandler, Arizona, native set school records in 2013 for single-season completions (318), single-season passing yardage (3,740) and single-season total offense (4,095). 

Now in his third year as the starter, he's looking to take the next step in truly becoming one of the premier signal-callers in all of the country. 

Hundley does need to improve in various areas. Against better competition, he struggled. Below is a table detailing his statistical output against top teams, such as Stanford and Oregon, compared to the rest of the schedule. Not coincidentally, UCLA lost both of these contests. 

 

Brett Hundley's Passing Statistics Against Oregon and Stanford

 Comp./Att.(Pct.) Yards (YPG) TD INT 37/58 (63.7) 128 2 4

 

Hundley's Passing Statistics Versus the Rest of the Schedule in '13

Comp./Att. (Pct.) Yards (YPG) TD INT 211/311 (67.8) 281.5 22 5        

Hundley does have the propensity to tuck and run when his first or second options are covered up. His awareness in the pocket also needs to improve. On multiple occasions, his inability to throw the ball away on broken plays led to big losses. This was particularly evident in the contest against Arizona State. In the game, Hundley rushed 17 times for five yards. 

UCLA's talented quarterback is a very articulate and mature young man. I'd expect immense improvements in what should be his last collegiate season. The playbook under offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone should also expand even further when compared to last season. 

 

2. Redshirt Sophomore Jerry Neuheisel

The competition as the lead reserve to Hundley is far from over. At this point—and I stress, at this moment in time—Neuheisel likely has a slight lead over Woulard. This battle will continue all season long. 

Neuheisel has more experience in Mazzone's offense. Much like his father, the younger Neuheisel is a very heady player. His grasp of the playbook is rather advanced. 

In the event of a minor injury to Hundley, the Loyola High School product would likely do a solid job. He's a manager of the game in every sense of the term. He won't wow anyone with his arm strength or physical ability. However, he's a good option to have in an emergency situation. 

In the spring showcase game this past April, Neuheisel was unofficially 14-of-22 for 180 yards and two interceptions. 

He was a grayshirt signee under his father in the 2011 recruiting class. Per Scout.com, the 2-star recruit chose UCLA over offers from Idaho and UNLV. 

 

3. Redshirt Freshman Asiantii Woulard

When comparing the pure talent levels of both quarterbacks, Woulard has a clear edge in size, speed and arm strength. Woulard possesses every attribute needed to eventually become a very good collegiate quarterback. 

At this point, Woulard needs to become more polished as a passer. He only started playing the position a few years ago (after initially starting out as a wide receiver in high school). In only two short years, Woulard went from a wide receiver to winning the Elite 11 MVP Award at the famed Elite 11 quarterback camp as a high school senior. 

Camp counselor and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer was particularly effusive in his praise of the young signal-caller:

It was hard not to go with Max [Browne] or Christian [Hackenberg]. Those two were unbelievable. But I think there was a hair separation. I think it came down to this: Greatness is making the highly difficult look very easy. That's what Asiantii did. They did the same stuff; he made it look easier.  

When compared to Neuheisel, Woulard might be more prone to making mistakes on the field. However, he'd also bring the potential for more excitement and production. In a theoretical situation that has Hundley going down for an extended period of time, I'd bet on Woulard getting the call as the starter.

Hundley is a virtual lock to leave after the season. In a perfect world, Woulard would get some experience this year in order to prepare for potentially starting in '15. 

Woulard went 4-of-13 for 42 yards in the spring game this past April. Per Scout.com, the 4-star recruit chose UCLA over offers from Clemson, Kentucky and Mississippi. 

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UCLA Bruins 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Starting quarterback Brett Hundley could ultimately become the best quarterback to ever play for the UCLA football program...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Florida Football Recruiting: 10 Best Gator Recruits from BCS Era

Florida has signed some unbelievable talent since the start of the BCS era in 1999.

This was one of toughest lists to formulate in a while, as quarterback Brock Berlin, safety Reggie Nelson, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, offensive lineman Max Starks, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, quarterback Jeff Driskel, linebacker Brandon Spikes, offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Ronald Powell are just several names who didn't make the cut.

That's because the Gators signed recruits such as a 5-star dual-threat quarterback and receiver in 2006, plus a stud cornerback in 1999. Also, a talented defensive end came to Gainesville in 2004.

All recruiting class ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Recruiting Rankings.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.All stats are from Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

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Why Blake Barnett's Commitment Signals Change in Alabama's Offensive Philosophy

The Alabama offense isn't destined for a complete overhaul under the direction of first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin, but a change in complexion could be approaching on the horizon.

The recipe for success during head coach Nick Saban's tenure regularly combines defensive dominance, a relentless rushing attack and efficient quarterback play that avoids risk.  

That recipe is set to receive a new ingredient in 2015 when Southern California quarterback Blake Barnett comes to Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide's newest commit can sling the ball, but it's his abilities as a runner that provide an intriguing element to the country's top-ranked recruiting class.

That's exactly what the coaching staff had in mind when it extended an offer to the 6'4.5", 200-pound Santiago High School standout in February, less than three weeks after losing 5-star pledge Ricky Town to USC.

"Coach Kiffin and Coach Saban were very fond about the idea of their quarterback being able to run the ball several times in each game," Barnett said Sunday evening after an Elite 11 practice in Beaverton, Oregon. "It's something they were looking for and it made sense as a fit for me."

It made enough sense that he chose Alabama over Oregon, a program that has flourished with quarterbacks who can tuck the ball and take off. He committed to the Tide in June, shortly after ending a seven-month commitment to Notre Dame.

Barnett is rated third nationally among dual-threat talents in 247Sports' composite rankings. He averaged nearly eight yards per carry last fall, rushing for 695 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

A large, physical frame helps him break tackles, but Barnett also flashes the ability to burst past defenders with tremendous speed for an athlete of his stature. Clocked at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune, he exhibits better wheels than those who've orchestrated Alabama's offense during recent title runs.

AJ McCarron, a two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy finalist, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds at the NFL combine. His predecessor, Greg McElroy, finished the sprint in 4.84 seconds during his combine efforts after leading Alabama to an unbeaten 2009 season. The duo combined to rush for just five total touchdowns through the past five seasons.

With Barnett on board and a new mind piecing together the offensive game plan, expect Alabama's philosophy behind center to shift gears in the near future.

"I'm extremely excited about the chance to play for Coach Kiffin," Barnett said. "Obviously, he's had a lot of success offensively at other places and I think there's an opportunity to do some new things on that side of the ball at Alabama."

So how does Barnett fit into the mix?

"They're going to do some things to get me on the move and out of the pocket," he said. "There will be chances to make plays with my feet every game."

It recently became apparent that Saban and Kiffin were open to reimagining the prototypical Alabama quarterback during this recruiting cycle. The Tide extended an offer to fellow California prospect Travis Waller in May and hosted him on campus before receiving a commitment from Barnett.

Waller rushed for 1,293 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, flashing serious speed at Servite High School in Anaheim.

"They wanted to bring in a guy who can be a rushing threat at quarterback," Barnett said.

McCarron and McElroy may have been mobile enough to avoid SEC defenders in the backfield, but no one would ever confuse either player as a "rushing threat."

That label fits Barnett, who is dangerous in the open field and possesses underrated quickness once he reaches the second level. Whether the damage is done on designed runs or improvisational scrambles, his talents open the playbook to new possibilities at Alabama.

Kiffin's track record shows more reliance on the passing game than what fans are accustomed to in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is unlikely to abandon its run-first philosophy anytime soon, but quarterbacks may be allowed more opportunities to make plays and take risks moving forward.

A multi-dimensional playmaker like Barnett can create exciting chances for his team and prolong plays even if things aren't clicking through the air.

"When a play breaks down and the pocket starts to close in I can make things happen," he said. "I think I'll be able to bring that element to the offense and maybe open things up for other teammates."

That's a scary prospect for opponents, considering the latest collection of coveted offensive recruits set to arrive next summer. Barnett, who threw for 2,300 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, has quickly claimed a leadership role in Alabama's class and is ready to get started on the upcoming chapter of his football career.

He'll be able to expand his reach during a stay in Beaverton, where Nike's "The Opening" takes center stage July 8-10. The star-studded event includes 10 Tide commits.

"I'm definitely ready to get to know these guys in person, spend a few days competing and talk about what we can accomplish together in the future," Barnett said.

It's a future that could feature the most dynamic threat behind center during Saban's stunningly successful tenure in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is adapting, a necessary step as it looks to maintain its place on the college football mountaintop.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

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2015 College Football Recruits Who Will Dominate SEC Trenches

The key to having success in the SEC is in the trenches. Having players who can control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense is imperative in the physical conference.

The way for a program to stock talent in its trenches is through recruiting. Looking at the classes of all 14 teams in the league, several of them have commitments from recruits who could prove to be dominant.

Texas A&M has a commitment from a 5-star defensive tackle with outstanding power. Alabama boasts a pledge from a talented guard, while the same can be said about rival Auburn.

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Ranking the Top 5 QBs After Day 2 of the Elite 11 Camp

Day 2 of the Elite 11 camp has concluded with a few quarterbacks standing out amongst the rest. The top signal-callers in the 2015 class have made their way out to Oregon to test their skills against the toughest competition in the country.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with the latest on who performed the best. Who do you think is the best QB in the 2015 class?

Watch the video to check out the top five performances after Day 2 of the Elite 11 camp.

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Elite 11 Buzz: Tennessee Pursuing Torrance Gibson Hardest, 'Ton of Potential'

Torrance Gibson, the top-ranked athlete in the country, is out at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon showing everyone what he can bring to a major college football program in the future. Gibson is still uncommitted, but he has shown serious interest in the Tennessee Volunteers.

This Tennessee target has displayed tremendous athletic ability and raw talent, which will help him succeed at the next level. How well do you think Gibson would fit in with the Vols?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down Gibson's performance in Oregon.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Alabama QB Commit Blake Barnett Sneaks in 'Roll Tide' in Campers' Ears at Camp

University of Alabama commit Blake Barnett broke the hearts of Oregon fans everywhere when he committed to the Crimson Tide, and it looks like he's now excited about his decision. 

At Nike's "The Opening" events in Beaverton, Oregon, Barnett sneaked in a "Roll Tide" in the ears of a number of other campers. 

[Vine, h/t College Spun]

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