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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...

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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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Commit Ricky Town Destroying at Elite 11, 'Going to Be a Star in Troy'

Ricky Town is out at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon showing everyone what he will bring to the USC Trojans in the future.

This Trojans commit has shown great accuracy, which will help him push for early playing time. How well do you think Town will do in Southern California?

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


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Commit Ricky Town Destroying at Elite 11, 'Going to Be a Star in Troy'

Ricky Town is out at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon showing everyone what he will bring to the USC Trojans in the future. This Trojans commit has shown great accuracy, which will help him push for early playing time...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michigan Commit Alex Malzone Impresses at Elite 11 Camp, Old-School, Big-Arm QB

Alex Malzone is at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon showing everyone what he will bring to the Michigan Wolverines in the future.

This Michigan commit puts great velocity on his throws, which will help him succeed at the next level.

How well do you think Malzone will do in Ann Arbor?

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arkansas HC Bret Bielema Finding out There Is 'Nothing Like' SEC Football

It wasn't supposed to be this way for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema made the jump from Wisconsin of the Big Ten to the SEC's Arkansas Razorbacks prior to the 2013 season, with three straight Big Ten titles and three straight Rose Bowl appearances under his belt.

The "three" theme continued early in 2013, as the Hogs won three straight to start the season on the heels of three straight 100-yard rushing performances from then-true freshman running back Alex Collins—who just so happens to wear No. 3.

Then the wheels came off.

The Hogs lost nine straight games to close the season, and they finished 0-8 in the SEC for the first time in program history.

Quite a change from Bielema's dominance of the Big Ten.

"The part that jumps out to me is the week-to-week grind," Bielema said. "Certain coaches were hacked off about the SEC only having eight conference games. Well I'd love to see them come try those eight. There's just nothing like it in the world of college football."

The big change Bielema noticed in his inaugural campaign in the SEC was up front on defense, where teams rotated members of the front four often to keep bodies fresh to combat his power rushing attack with Collins and rising junior Jonathan Williams.

"Specifically, the power, the speed and the depth in the defensive linemen was very impressive," Bielema said.

Bielema found that out the hard way last year.

His quarterback Brandon Allen hurt his shoulder diving into the end zone for a touchdown against Southern Miss in the third game of the season. Allen sat out the next game—a loss at Rutgers—and struggled to stay healthy because of the constant barrage of big men.

"Obviously I can't go into great detail, but there were about four or five straight weeks where he wan't able to practice and not really doing anything except walkthroughs and play on Saturdays," Bielema said. "That's a true testament to his character and what he's all about."

The ability to keep those big, athletic bodies fresh is obviously a huge advantage for SEC teams, especially during the season and when that grind starts to take a toll. But it's not just about the defense.

Last year was a banner year for the SEC in the quarterback department, with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel taking snaps at Texas A&M, highly decorated senior AJ McCarron at Alabama and record-setting signal-caller Aaron Murray at Georgia, among others. 

That, coupled with his quarterback's struggle to stay healthy, created a perfect storm that contributed to the rough road in Year 1.

"Every league is quarterback-driven," Bielema said. "In this league in particular, if you have a guy who knows the league, knows how to manage the game, get you out of some difficult situations and not put you in bad ones, it will work very well."

Off the field, one change was welcomed by Bielema with open arms.

The ability to hire and retain a staff at Arkansas was a big selling point for the former Wisconsin head coach, and even though he lost some assistants between his first and second campaign in Fayetteville, the possibility to hire top-notch assistants separates the SEC.

"It was the No. 1 reason for leaving Wisconsin," Bielema said. "I just didn't have the support financially to get it done. They've changed a bit now, but it's just the world of college football. The SEC, in general, sort of sets the standard for what goes on around the world of college football and it's fun to be a part of it."

As for this year, Bielema has some pieces in place to make a surprise turnaround if the Hogs stay healthy. 

Collins and Williams are back at running back, and the emergence of sophomore speedster Korliss Marshall as a home run threat will give the coaching staff the ability to produce a multi-dimensional rushing attack even if the passing game struggles in 2014.

The deep stable of running backs presents a "rich man's problem" for Bielema. Luckily for him, balancing three running backs is something he experienced quite a bit at Wisconsin, including the 2010 season when James White and John Clay broke the 1,000-yard mark and Montee Ball added 996 of his own.

The ability to manage carries and, perhaps more importantly, egos, will be a huge benefit to this Hogs team.

"It's not a 'me, me, me' game, it's a 'we, we, we' game," Bielema said. "Those guys know that, when they tapped their helmets to come out, the next play could go the distance and they want to make sure the fresh guy is in there. The more I can help build a selfless attitude and help the guys understand that it's a team trying to win a game play by play and person by person."

Defensively, the Hogs lost defensive end Chris Smith and defensive coordinator Chris Ash left his post to take a job at Ohio State. In Ash's place is Robb Smith, who will have the luxury of having some quality pieces along the defensive line, including Trey Flowers and Darius Philon.

The overwhelming theme for this year's Hogs defense is simplifying the defense and building a unit that generates pressure with four linemen and allows the secondary—which is long on experience but short on production—to take advantage.

"Robb Smith brings a simplicity," Bielema said. "He has a background in both the NFL and college football. Our defense is going to play a lot more aggressively at the line of scrimmage and get after the quarterback. I'm very, very excited about him."

Year 1 didn't go according to Bielema's plan, but now he knows what to expect in the SEC and is working to implement changes that could get the Hogs program back on the right track. That needs to happen in a hurry, because Year 3 is looming in 2015, and it could be an important one for Bielema in Fayetteville.

After all, it is the magic number.


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


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Things You Need to Know About NCAA's New Football Safety Guidelines

The NCAA announced an updated set of football safety guidelines Monday afternoon, recommending that schools limit the amount of hitting done in practice and reform part of their medical care and concussion programs.

The guidelines were crafted through a collaborative process that began in January and included input from numerous sources.

Per the official release:

The seeds for these guidelines were planted in January when the College Athletic Trainers' Society and the NCAA Sport Science Institute jointly hosted the Safety in College Football Summit in Atlanta. Attendees included athletic trainers, neurologists, team physicians, university sports medicine program directors, the American Football Coaches Association and representatives from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Ivy League and Conference USA, among other conferences. Together, through two days of discussion, the group laid the foundation upon which these guidelines ultimately were built. And while the summit focused on football, two of the resulting documents are germane to all contact sports.

"When you build inter-association consensus, I think it speaks much more powerfully because it's not simply the NCAA making a rule," said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline, whom ESPN's Tom Farrey said the guidelines were a brainchild of. "It's consensus from numerous well-respected medical organizations, from football coaches, from football associations, from all of us.

"In terms of changing the culture around health and safety," Hainline continued, "that's the best way to do it."

It's important to note that these are safety guidelines, not safety mandates. Programs are advised to adhere to them, but they are not required to by NCAA law. They are more of a forceful suggestion.

Still, this is a positive step in the right direction for safety reform in collegiate football—especially once you consider the specifics.

Here are five things you need to know.

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Texas Tech Commit Jarrett Stidham Excites at Elite 11 Camp, 'Top QB in Big 12'

Jarrett Stidham is at the Elite 11 camp in Beaverton, Oregon showing everyone what he will bring to Texas Tech in the future.

The Red Raiders commit has great accuracy with a quick release, which will help him succeed at the next level. How well do you think Stidham will do in Lubbock?

Watch as Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Stidham's performance in Oregon.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Commit Blake Barnett Performing at Elite 11 Camp, 'Future at Alabama'

Blake Barnett is at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon showing everyone what he will bring to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the future.

This Alabama commit has shown great velocity on throws and some dual-threat ability, which will help him succeed at the next level. How well do you think Barnett will do in Tuscaloosa?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down this future Crimson Tide quarterback's performance in Oregon.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Does the College Football Playoff Committee Have Too Much Power?

If there's a constant in college football's changing postseason, it's that there's usually something to gripe about. 

The old bowl system didn't always put the top two teams against each other, so the BCS was created. But the BCS was too controversial, the computer formulas too arbitrary. The years 2004 (five undefeated teams), 2007 (when No. 1 Mizzou and No. 2 West Virginia lost in Week 14) and 2011 (the Alabama-LSU rematch) proved to be difficult for determining the best teams. 

So, a four-team playoff was created to let more than two teams play it out on the field. 

The College Football Playoff, which begins this season, won't eliminate controversy; on the contrary, it enhances it since the field is expanded.  

The College Football Playoff's executive director Bill Hancock, the former executive director of the BCS, hasn't exactly put anxious minds at ease either. Via Vahe Gregorian of The Kansas City Star, Hancock said the voting process among the 13-person committee will involve plenty of "common sense": 

So if there’s any secret sauce this time around, Hancock said, it’s 'common sense.'

That means logical criteria such as strength of schedule, conference championships won, comparisons of head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incentivizing margin of victory).

The issue with Hancock's explanation is that "common sense" is too vague of a concept. What might be common sense to one person might not be to another.

For that matter, how wide-ranging is the definition of common sense within the committee? Getting everyone on the same page sounds like a near-impossible task. Consider, for example, this statement from Arkansas athletic director and committee chair Jeff Long, via ESPN's Brett McMurphy:  

Q: What information will the committee members consider when voting? 

A: 'I think you’re going to get 13 different views,' said Long, the committee chairman. The members will emphasize win-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and results against common opponents. 

Strength of schedule has been touted as an important playoff prerequisite, but it's possible, if not likely, that it is weighed differently among each committee member. Who knows, in time the metric may become obsolete. 

Long also raised eyebrows when he explained in April what the committee would be concentrating on.  

"We don’t think in terms of most deserving on the rèsumè," Long said via Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News"We’re focused on the best four teams and the best ranking in the [playoff] top 25. Again, our focus is the best, not deserving."

We're parsing words, but there's nevertheless a distinct difference between "deserving" and "best." If the four most deserving teams aren't selected to the playoff, then what was the point of the regular season?

Between statements from Hancock and Long, it's easy to see why there are trust issues among fans and media toward the selection process. There's a lot of decision-making power at hand for 13 men and women to be doing something on good faith. 

There's criteria for voting, to be sure—McMurphy broke down the five-step process in April—but public statements from the CFP come across more as a plea for trust. And fans are rarely the trusting type.  

The BCS, for all of its issues, at least had formulas and computer rankings it could point to. They were convoluted but accessible all the same—not to mention capable of taking the blame. 

Of course, the BCS was also subjective because it had human elements. Its standings were formulated by a three-pronged approach using the the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings. 

The selection committee is essentially getting rid of the BCS middle man, which was not human. While it's more efficient, consolidating that power is scary. One vote here is far more influential than in the days where the Associated Press determined national champions. Determining a playoff field is important to fans. Leaving that responsibility in someone else's hands is not easily done. 

When the final playoff rankings are revealed on Sunday, December 7, the fears or hopes of many will be confirmed. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

For the first time since 2010, Nebraska is in need of a new quarterback to lead the team. After four seasons with Taylor Martinez at the helm, it's officially time for someone else to step up.

Despite losing Martinez, the quarterback position isn't in a terrible spot for the Huskers. After an injury plagued the veteran in 2013, redshirt sophomore Tommy Armstrong stepped into place. However, it was never officially his position.

Armstrong split the quarterback duties with Ron Kellogg III.

While Armstrong typically started, Kellogg came in to play quite a few series. This made the quarterback position never truly feel like Armstrong's.

With the 2014 season on the horizon, fans are anxious to see what life is like post-Martinez.

Nebraska will be looking for a player to lead and power through the growing pains of many new faces on offense. The offensive line could have some potential hiccups to start the season, which will require a confident leader to stay calm under pressure. Who will that player be?

Let's take a look at Nebraska's depth chart once fall practice begins in a few weeks.


Quarterback No. 1: Tommy Armstrong

The 2014 season finally belongs to Armstrong. It will be the first year when the starting job belongs solely to the redshirt sophomore.

In 2013, Armstrong got a taste of what it was like to be the leader. However, he split the duties with Kellogg, which frustrated some fans.

That probably won't be the case in 2014.

So, how did Armstrong fare in 2013? The Huskers won seven out of the eight games that he started in, which wasn't bad. It was the turnovers that weren't as great.

"According to STATS, his rate of one for every 16 passes was the fourth-worst mark in the Bowl Subdivision for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts," an article by The Associated Press stated.

During spring practice, eliminating turnovers was an area of focus for Armstrong. Fans are looking for the quarterback to improve upon his 52 percent completion rate. Armstrong plans to do just that.

In fact, he took time this spring to work out with Brett Favre during the offseason.

As for what fans can expect come the 2014 season, that is still up in the air. However, Armstrong's confidence is improving, which should translate onto the field.

Also, it may benefit him not to have to split duties with another player. He'll still get some competition from his backups, but with the job belonging to him, it might just be the boost he needs to make the jump forward in 2014.


Quarterback No. 2: Johnny Stanton

There has been a lot of excitement around Johnny Stanton ever since he arrived at Nebraska. After the annual spring game this year, that excitement only grew.

Stanton was an Elite 11 quarterback when he was recruited by Nebraska in 2012. He was ranked as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in 2013 by 247Sports.comESPN even called him "Johnny Tebow."

Additionally, his athleticism is outstanding. As Husker Corner's Mike Snow noted, Stanton had a 34-inch vertical and 4.79-second 40-yard dash out of high school.

Needless to say, fans were anxious to see him play. Two years later, that hasn't changed.

Stanton redshirted his freshman season in 2013. As for the upcoming season, he will likely be the backup for Armstrong. If he is asked to step up, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

In fact, expect him to continue giving Armstrong a run for his money through fall practice. While Armstrong will prevail as the starter, Stanton will make a name for himself.


Quarterback No. 3: Ryker Fyfe

Ryker Fyfe is a redshirt sophomore who made a case for himself during Nebraska's annual spring game.

For fans previously unaware of him, Fyfe showed a high level of maturity and confidence. He finished the day having completed nine of 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Those numbers were enough to have fans wondering if he'll challenge Stanton for the backup position to Armstrong. While Fyfe did have a great showing this past spring, he'll still likely settle in as the third-string guy for the time being.

Fyfe was unranked out of high school by 247Sports.com, but that doesn't mean he can't compete against Armstrong and Stanton. Being from Grand Island, Nebraska, Fyfe understands what Nebraska football means to the state, which gives him some extra motivation going forward.

While he likely won't start in 2014, Husker fans can feel good about having Fyfe on the roster. If called upon, the confidence he had during the spring game should surface.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Commit Kyler Murray Dazzles at Elite 11 Camp, Could Jump Kyle Allen

Kyler Murray is the top dual-threat quarterback of the 2015 class. He is one of the shortest QBs in the class, standing only at 5'10", but has the running ability to make big things happen in College Station. 

Murray is in Oregon at the Elite 11 camp showing everyone why he is one of the most dynamic players in the 2015 class.

Bleacher Report's college football analyst, Michael Felder, is out in Oregon with a complete breakdown of this future Aggie. How do you think he will do at the next level?

Check out the video and let us know.

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Boasting such names as Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rodney Peete and Pat Haden, it's small wonder that NFL.com's Bryan Fischer ranked USC as the No. 1 program with claim to the title Quarterback U. 

Thus, it's somewhat ironic that in his first season as head coach, Steve Sarkisian inherited a quarterback controversy. 

As a USC assistant, Sarkisian worked with former Trojans and first-round draft picks Leinart, Palmer and Mark Sanchez. He will work to impart the same knowledge on 2014 first-string quarterback Cody Kessler.

But, if for some reason Kessler is sidelined in his second year as the Trojans' starting quarterback, ballyhooed redshirt freshman Max Browne will get the call.  

Oh, Sarkisian and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton must also ready USC's leading signal-caller while introducing a new scheme. 


1. Redshirt junior Cody Kessler

Kessler's performance through the opening month of the 2013 season and his final stretch were night and day. 

His growing confidence was abundantly evident late in the season, and Kessler carried over that positive momentum into the spring. Kessler impressed Sarkisian enough to earn the coach's vote of confidence as first-string quarterback before spring practices concluded. 

"I’m confident we can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback," Sarkisian said in April, via Darian Nourian of the Daily Trojan

Indeed, Kessler has a proven knack for winning games. The Trojans went 10-4 in his redshirt sophomore season, and 7-2 after the dismissal of former head coach and play-caller Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's ouster turned duties over to Helton, and Helton opened the playbook to Kessler. 

Kessler began making strides before Kiffin's firing, but the quarterback also suffered through three dismal performances against Hawaii, Washington and Utah State.

The former coach's revolving door behind center that had both Kessler and the since-transferred Max Wittek taking snaps through the first two weeks negatively impacted Kessler. 

"That got in my head a little bit," he told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times

It makes sense, then, that Sarkisian would want a clear No. 1 quarterback going into preseason camp. And Kessler's earned that job. But the role is one Kessler must continue to earn each time he takes the field. 

Chemistry developed with running back Javorius "Buck" Allen and wide receiver Nelson Agholor last season will buoy Kessler into 2014. However, his grasp on the Trojans' new hurry-up offensive philosophy will shape his redshirt junior campaign. 


2. Redshirt freshman Max Browne

Browne arrived at USC in 2013 with fanfare en tow. He garnered 5-star billing coming out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Washington, and was rated the nation's top overall pro-style quarterback by 247Sports. 

Browne spent his first year in the program learning the nuances of quarterbacking a collegiate offense, but the change in direction for 2014 steepened his learning curve in year two. 

Browne explained the challenges of acclimating to the college game to FoxSports.com's Rahshaun Haylock

You have so many things that are just different—new environment, new teammates, new system but then just the idea of just getting the ball differently, something that's really basic, and that took me a while to get the hang of. I felt like toward the end of the season I got there but it took time.

Despite something of a reboot in his second collegiate season, Browne has familiarity with a spread, hurry-up style from his prep days.

Running Sarkisian's system should be no problem if Browne's number is called. And, if Kessler struggles for any reason, there will be no shortage of Browne supporters calling for the redshirt freshman to see game repetitions. 


3. Freshman Jalen Greene

The signing of early enrollee Jalen Greene to USC's 2014 recruiting class indicated the Trojans' shift in offensive philosophy under Sarkisian.

Greene, a 3-star prospect from Southern California prep powerhouse and reliable USC pipeline Gardena Junipero Serra, is a dual-threat playmaker. His style is a departure from the traditional, dropback passer USC favored in the past. 

The southpaw Greene used his spring practices as an initiation to the collegiate game, an opportunity to hone his skills. Helton told Haylock of FoxSports.com that Greene made strides:

He has such a powerful arm and usually when you have a powerful arm if you just lean just a hair to the left that ball's going to tend to go to the right a little bit. He's trying to get everything going straight lined to his target. [He's] doing a really nice job of working that.

Barring emergency, Greene should redshirt the coming season as he continues to refine his game. 


Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

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USC Trojans 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Boasting such names as Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rodney Peete and Pat Haden , it's small wonder that NFL.com's Bryan Fischer ranked USC as the No. 1 program with claim to the title Quarterback U...

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Notre Dame Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

There’s plenty of youth and unproven talent on the Notre Dame football squad heading into the 2014 season.

In addition to many of the returning underclassmen and some of the relatively untested upperclassmen, the Irish have added a 22-member class of incoming freshmen. Fall ball is not far away, and we recently looked at the rookies most likely to start this season.

This week, we’re analyzing which freshmen could help the squad with strong performances in fall practices.

In determining our list, we emphasized position needs—both in the present and future—and certain players who should be ready to jump right in and positively impact the team.

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