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How Charlie Strong's Switch to the Spread Offense Will Impact Texas Recruiting

There's three yards and a cloud of dust, and then there's 59 yards of total offense in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. 

That's the last thing Texas head coach Charlie Strong needed to see before conceding that something had to change. First, Strong let go of wide receivers coach Les Koenning and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers. While Koenning and Chambers had deep Texas ties, Strong's next move—to that of a spread offense—had deep in-state roots, too. 

Frankly, it's something he probably should have done when he arrived in Austin a year ago. 

Word about the switch surfaced when 2015 quarterback Zach Gentry flipped his commitment from Texas to Michigan last month. In the short term, it cost the Horns a recruit. In the long run, moving to the spread will make life far easier for Texas in recruiting. 

If nothing else, it's a matter of fit. Texas and the rest of the Big 12 sit smack in the middle of spread country. Strong has to adapt to what thousands of high school athletes in the recruiting map run, not the other way around. Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU have all had success with their own versions of the spread. 

Strong's primary responsibility on the recruiting trail is to mine the best in-state talent available. At least on offense, he's yelling into the wind if he tries to sell someone with a spread background on a pro-style approach that no one else in the Big 12 uses. Texas' best years under former coach Mack Brown and quarterback Colt McCoy were born out of the spread. 

While a new offense wasn't enough to lure 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray away from Texas A&M, it was enough to get 4-star athlete Kai Locksley to flip from Florida State, where he more than likely would have been a wide receiver.

And, indeed, Strong noted in his post-signing day press conference that Locksley will have a shot at the starting job as a true freshman this fall. 

Strong recruited Locksley away from the state of Maryland, but there are more than enough spread quarterbacks in Texas' backyard. One, redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, is already on the roster. 

Getting the right quarterback is crucial. It could be the thing that makes or breaks the offense, and thus makes or breaks Strong's chances of making Texas a national power again. Who knows, maybe neither Locksley nor Heard is the answer. The only way to know is to get as many guys who fit the system onto campus as possible. 

To be sure, Strong has experience with great quarterbacks, as he will forever be mentioned in the same breath as former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. However, it's not the only position impacted by the new offense. The Longhorns will likely be moving to new formations where four- and five-wide receiver sets are more common. 

As a result, new wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, who formerly held the same position as well as a co-offensive coordinator title at Oklahoma, suddenly becomes one of Strong's key assistants. Norvell, along with former Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, was let go last month because Oklahoma failed to produce on offense. Along those lines, the knock (fair or not) on Norvell was that he was a relentless recruiter but struggled to develop his receivers

Maybe Norvell needed nothing more than a fresh start. Oklahoma spent the past few recruiting cycles finding personnel that fit more of a run and read-option based attack. For myriad reasons, the results never matched the more pass-happy approach for which the Sooners were best known. 

Now at Texas, Norvell and the rest of Texas' coaching staff can sell everything the school has to offer with a high-powered offense to boot. The pitch to incoming freshmen, such as 4-star receivers John Burt and Ryan Newsome, is that they can be the ones who light the fireworks.

That doesn't mean Texas has to get away from bigger wide receivers like John Harris, who reached 1,000 receiving yards last season. However, it does mean looking at speed guys, which TCU has been doing. It means adding smaller receivers and running backs whose roles may be those of utility players. (In that vein, Newsome is listed at 5'8" and 170 pounds and could double as a return player.) 

In time, Texas would like to be churning out skill players to the NFL at the same rate as Baylor or Texas A&M. Then, that reputation becomes the selling point as much as anything else. A handful of schools claim to be "Wide Receiver U" or "Quarterback U"; the only thing that should matter to Texas is that it joins that group. 

It may take a year before the spread offense pays dividends for Strong in recruiting and on the field. It may take several. It may not ever happen. But any second not spent on implementing the spread was a second wasted for Strong. 

Wasting away is the reason the Longhorns are where they are anyway. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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UCLA Football Recruiting 2015: National Signing Day Grades and Analysis

The UCLA Bruins rounded out 2015's national signing day with a strong class, landing Josh Rosen, Cordell Broadus, Keisean Lucier-South and DeChaun Holiday. These commits will have a big impact for the future for the Bruins.

Bleacher Report College Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the class and dish out their grades.

What do you think of UCLA's class? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football Recruiting 2015: National Signing Day Grades and Analysis

The UCLA Bruins rounded out 2015's national signing day with a strong class, landing Josh Rosen , Cordell Broadus , Keisean Lucier -South and DeChaun Holiday . These commits will have a big impact for the future for the Bruins...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Twitter Reacts to UCLA's National Signing Day Results

As national signing day draws to a close, players made the decision of where they would get their education and play football. It's a big day for both players and teams, but no one had a bigger day overall than UCLA...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Baylor Football Recruiting 2015: National Signing Day Grades and Analysis

The Baylor Bears rounded out 2015's national signing day with a strong class, landing Jarrett Stidham, Blake Lynch and JaMycal Hasty. These commits will have a big impact for the future for the Bears.

Bleacher Report College Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the class and dish out their grades.

What do you think of Baylor's class? Check out the video and let us know!

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National Signing Day 2015: Winners and Losers of College Football Recruiting

National signing day did not disappoint. The top recruits in the 2015 class made some unexpected commitments, along with some not-so-surprising ones, but it was always interesting.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate the winners and losers of national signing day.

Who was the biggest winner today?

Watch the video and let us know!

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National Signing Day 2015: Ranking the Top 5 Recruiting Classes

National signing day has come and gone, with all the big-name recruits signing on the dotted lines as they continue their football careers at the next level.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by college football analyst Barrett Sallee as he ranked the top five classes after a wild signing day.

Who is in your top five? Check out the video and let us know!

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National Signing Day 2015: Biggest Surprises of CFB Recruiting

National signing day is coming to an end, and Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer breaks down the biggest surprises along with host Stephen Nelson in the video above.

What do you think was Wednesday's most shocking outcome?

Watch and let us know!


Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports Top 100 and overall team rankings.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: Top Signees, Surprises for Buckeyes' 2015 Class

It's not easy to follow up a national championship, though Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer isn't likely to complain about the challenge. One big reason for that is because of his innate ability to recruit, which is virtually unmatched by anyone outside of Nick Saban. 

The Buckeyes don't have a lot of immediate needs to be contenders in 2015, though one could have said the same thing prior to last year and been proved wrong with how things shook out at quarterback. 

Meyer and his staff are building another strong class, though this one doesn't look like it will take full advantage of that championship win, as the Buckeyes are currently sixth in 247Sports' team rankings. The day certainly wasn't a waste, as there were plenty of notable signees and surprises. 

Here's a look at how Ohio State's 2015 class looks, as well as a closer examination of the key signees and surprises from national signing day. 

 

Worst-Kept Secret: OLB Justin Hilliard

The best player Ohio State landed on national signing day was Justin Hilliard. As nice as it was to see the 5-star outside linebacker put his name on a letter of intent for the Buckeyes, there wasn't much drama because the move had been expected. 

After all, Hilliard is from Cincinnati and has been on Ohio State's radar for a long time. That doesn't lessen the impact he will have for the program or on the recruiting class. 

Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke raved about Hilliard's potential with these comments, via Anthony Lima of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland:

Hilliard is an excellent athlete who has no problems defending the run or pass, though he may have to wait another year before being a significant contributor due to his slight 225-pound frame. 

Meyer does love to let prospects get their feet wet early, so he may not play things safe with Hilliard. The Buckeyes can get him into their workout program soon so that he starts adding muscle and plays his share of snaps as a freshman. 

Whatever path Hilliard takes before getting in Ohio State's starting lineup, he will have little problem finding success. It won't be long before his name starts appearing on highlights for his powerful tackling ability and tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed. 

 

Heart-Stopping Moment: RB Mike Weber

Unlike Hilliard, Michigan prep star Mike Weber kept everyone in suspense on national signing day. He was originally scheduled to announce at 10 a.m. ET but pushed it back to 10:30, though he had a valid reason posted on Twitter:

The Buckeyes still seemed like the favorite coming into the day, despite a late push from Michigan. Weber's next tweet would bring a huge sigh of relief to everyone in Columbus:

As the fine people at Eleven Warriors noted, Weber might have been one of the best gets of the day for Meyer because he is from Detroit:

Jim Harbaugh didn't have a lot of time on the recruiting trail for Michigan after being hired in December, but his resume in college and the NFL could have given him an edge in certain recruiting battles. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, it wasn't a factor for Weber. 

Weber also had some interesting comments about why he chose Ohio State involving current running back Ezekiel Elliott, via George Sipple of The Detroit Free Press:

Given the fragile nature of running backs in college—just ask Todd Gurley if he would have liked the option to leave Georgia after the 2013 season—Weber's comments about Elliott's future shouldn't be a surprise.

It also doesn't hurt that Elliott ran for 1,878 yards last year, including at least 220 yards in the final three games. Weber will likely get some touches as a freshman before taking over full time in 2016, assuming Elliott does go to the NFL after next season. 

 

Biggest Coup: OT Isaiah Prince

The rivalry between Meyer and Saban took a different turn this recruiting season. Ohio State and Alabama, along with Maryland, were battling for 4-star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince

For a few weeks before national signing day, the Crimson Tide seemed to be in control when Ryan Barlow of 247Sports reported on January 23 that Prince verbally committed to Alabama. 

However, Prince's high school coach Tom Green told Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun on February 3 that the big tackle was still deciding after taking late visits to Ohio State and Maryland:

He’s fresh off his Maryland visit. Of course, like most teenagers, when he got back from Alabama, he was gung ho about that. When he got back from Ohio State, he really loved them. When he got back from Maryland, he really loved them. He’s 17, and they’re all are good programs and have a lot to offer. He just has to sit with his family and figure out what’s the best fit for him. I don’t think he can go wrong. With the position he plays and his talent, I don’t think he can go wrong at any of the schools, to be honest.

Prince made the announcement at his high school on Wednesday to great fanfare, via Michael Bohlin of 247Sports:

One reason that Elliott was able to have the success he did last year was because of the offensive line that Meyer built in his first three recruiting classes. He did have to replace four starters in 2014, which worked out well. 

This year won't see such drastic turnaround, though Joel Hale's departure will leave a void at guard that must be filled. Prince doesn't exactly fit that bill as an outside player on the offensive line, but Meyer certainly has options to play with. 

Every program in the country hopes to be strong in the trenches. Ohio State has been one of the best at building and replacing talent in that area. The addition of Prince is the latest coup for Meyer, who has made a habit out of prospect thievery in his career. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football National Signing Day 2015: 5 Takeaways from Bruins' Class

UCLA football's 2015 national signing day can be best described as bittersweet. 

Head coach Jim Mora swung for the faces on signing day and hit a home run, signing 5-star running back Soso Jamabo and 4-star tight end Chris Clark, both before 7 a.m. local time. Offensive lineman Josh Wariboko and wide receiver Cordell Broadus, both 4-star recruits, followed. 

The Bruins also received a verbal commitment from 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith, but the bitter of the bittersweet signing day came when Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com first reported defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was leaving UCLA to take a positions job with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. 

Nevertheless, UCLA secured a No. 2-rated recruiting class among Pac-12 programs, and the nation's No. 7 class overall, pending Smith's decision.

Five takeaways from UCLA's dramatic national signing day tell the story of a wild recruiting season for the Bruins.

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UCLA Football National Signing Day 2015: 5 Takeaways from Bruins' Class

UCLA football's 2015 national signing day can be best described as bittersweet. Head coach Jim Mora swung for the faces on signing day and hit a home run, signing 5-star running back Soso Jamabo and 4-star tight end Chris Clark , both before 7 a...

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National Signing Day 2015: Highlights from Most Entertaining Recruit Commitments

National signing day is known as a building block for college football programs, but really it has become just a ridiculous spectacle.

Once players started to announce their college decisions on TV, the process escalated to everyone trying to one-up each other for the most memorable moments. Of course, just months after we give these teenagers the national spotlight, they are yelled at for not being humble enough to help the team.

Still, this year's national signing day featured plenty of drama from the top players as well as plenty of entertainment all around. Here is a look at the highlights from Wednesday's events.

 

Chris Warren Flips a Coin

You never know what goes into a recruit's decision. For some, it's a fit within the team. Others want to be at a great academic institution that will help them get a good degree.

For Chris Warren, it was apparently random chance.

The 4-star running back was choosing between Texas and Washington before flipping a coin to make his decision (actually announcement starts at 4:30):

This scenario is obviously extremely difficult to believe, but Michael Florek of the Dallas Morning News did some digging to confirm the story:

Whether Warren was planning on signing with Texas the whole time and this was all an act or really did leave it up to the fate of a coin, this was certainly an entertaining way to make his decision.

 

Marcus Lewis Makes Some Enemies

Over the past week, it seemed like Marcus Lewis was only deciding between Kentucky and Miami. However, some late interest from top programs caused him to rethink his situation, according to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio:

This ended up being a death blow for these programs, as the 4-star athlete signed with Florida State.

Of course, just picking an in-state rival wasn't enough to really anger Miami fans. He had to twist the knife with this line:

You can be certain the next time the Seminoles go on the road to face the Hurricanes, the few fans that do show up will give Lewis quite a hard time.

 

Snoop Dogg Steals Cordell Broadus' Spotlight

Although Cordell Broadus is a quality player with huge upside, as evidenced by his 4-star rating on 247Sports, he is known mostly as Snoop Dogg's son. The two are even featured in a TV documentary entitled Snoop and Son: A Dad's Dream.

Broadus did have his chance to speak, announcing that he would choose to play for UCLA:

However, it was the rapper who had the best line of the broadcast, discussing his new apparel:

Snoop Dogg is a well-known USC fan, but he will now have to root for the rival Bruins when his son takes the field.

On the plus side, Bleacher Report's Michael Felder believes Broadus can have his own career as he steps out of his father's shadow:

Of course, it might take quite a few touchdowns for people to forget about his lineage.

 

Soso Jamabo Wins This Recruiting Cycle

As much fun as everyone had following recruiting over the past couple of months, there might not have been a bigger star than 5-star running back Soso Jamabo. 

The Texas native got everyone's attention last month when he "narrowed down his choices" on Twitter:

While fans of ITT Tech and the University of Phoenix might have been excited, he ended up snubbing them both for a choice between Texas and UCLA.

Of course, even that decision didn't end up being real because when Jamabo put out the hats, he named his first and second choices as both being UCLA:

For the cherry on top, the running back returned to Twitter to confirm his decision, using hilarious lines from Childish Gambino:

No one will really know what made Jamabo pick the Bruins, but we can be certain the team is not only getting an excellent football player, it is also getting quite an entertaining young man.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tavien Feaster to Clemson: Tigers Land 5-Star RB Prospect

Tavien Feaster, one of the top recruits in the 2016 class, has decided to attend Clemson.

According to IndependentMail.com, Feaster made his announcement official after days of speculation that this move was coming. 

Feaster talked about his decision on local TV, via IndependentMail.com:

I felt like if I get it over with now, I basically know what I want to do that it would make life easy. I get a lot of phone calls and the recruiting process is kind of stressful on me and my parents. I felt like I could get it out of the way. I knew what I wanted to do and it will make qualifying easier for me and I can go on to my senior year of football and focus on my team.

Feaster, a 5-star recruit from South Carolina and the No. 2 running back in the country according to 247Sports, has been attached to Clemson, Auburn and Tennessee throughout this process. The 247Sports Crystal Ball Projections were all-in on Clemson, giving the Tigers 100 percent of the vote. 

Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue also tweeted the same thing, and he also provided some statistical evidence for what Feaster is capable of doing on the big stage:

Ryan Bartow of 247Sports spoke to Feaster before his decision about the process he went through and why Clemson seemed like the odds-on favorite before making his final decision:

"Just the family feel," Feaster said of Clemson. "I love my mom, dad and grandparents. That's a big thing to me. Coach Swinney is a great coach. He's straight forward and honest."

It's not often that during national signing day for 2015 a program will be in celebration mode because of what's coming in 2016, but Feaster is one of the few truly elite prospects in the country. Landing a top-flight running back is a great way to show other recruits that the future of a program is bright. 

Feaster's decision should have a ripple effect that is felt over the next year for his new program. Building around a 6'0", 193-pound runner gives everyone on the coaching staff extra juice as they head out on the recruiting trail during the season. 

One elite talent doesn't instantly make a program a national championship team, but it helps set the foundation for something special. Feaster has the ability to make a program more dynamic the second he steps on campus. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football Recruiting 2015: National Signing Day Grades and Analysis

The Miami Hurricanes rounded out 2015's national signing day with a strong class, landing Jaquan Johnson, Mark Walton and Bar Milo. These commits will have a big impact in the future for the Hurricanes.

Bleacher Report College Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the class and dish out their grades.

What do you think of Miami's class? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football Recruiting: Meet the Wolverines' 2015 Class

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh swung and missed on 4-star tight end Chris Clark and 4-star running back Mike Weber, but he didn’t strike out on national signing day.

In fact, with less than a month to recruit, Harbaugh put together a more-than-respectable 14-man class that should greatly complement the existing talent on the Wolverines roster.

Also important to keep in mind is the fact that Harbaugh signed with Michigan on Dec. 28 and had roughly three weeks to land more than a handful of prospects. He had six commits on Dec. 30, the day he was introduced as the new coach.

On Wednesday, he held a press conference at 2 p.m. to introduce his then-12-man class. Shortly thereafter, Michigan landed 4-star tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and 3-star defensive end Shelton Johnson.

Considering timing and other circumstances, Harbaugh did well his first time around.

Links: Michigan’s 2015 class (247Sports, table below), Harbaugh presser (MGoBlueTV)

 

Chin Up

So Harbaugh didn’t get Clark—not the end of the world. However, the 6’6”, 247-pounder would have been a tremendous fit in the Wolverines offense. Earlier in the week, Clark-to-Michigan was a thing. But on Tuesday, Clark-to-UCLA began to seem more likely.

As for Weber, well, don’t torture yourself too badly. You knew he was staying put with Ohio State, but the fact that he once committed to Michigan and visited this past week with Harbaugh was enough to rekindle dreams of grandeur.

Didn’t happen, and he’ll probably stand behind Zeke Elliott for at least a year.

With that said, the 5’9”, 220-pound 4-star battle tank would have been right at home in offensive coordinator Tim Drevno’s backfield. Again, such is recruiting. Even Harbaugh’s Michigan can’t win them all.

 

Surprise, Surprise?!

Next to Harbaugh, Keith Washington was the man of the hour Wednesday. The 3-star athlete is one of Harbaugh’s “very, very favorite players of this class” and was committed to Cal before choosing the Wolverines.

Harbaugh said he gets a good feel while watching tape of players, and Washington’s highlights were of the impressive variety. His position wasn’t specified, but Washington could end up as a slot receiver or kick returner.

Or maybe even a corner? Who knows? He’s athletic and Harbaugh constantly showered him with praise.

 

Offense Scores Big

Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry are the new arms in town.

The 4-stars are both pro-style quarterbacks, but that’s about where the comparison ends. At 6’7” and 230 pounds, Gentry, oddly enough, seems to be a bit more mobile than Malzone, a 6’1.5”, 200-pounder with a cannon arm and three MHSAA state titles to his credit.

But they both fit well, said Harbaugh, who also secured 3-star wide receiver Grant Perry, a teammate of Malzone’s at Brother Rice. Perry certainly fits the mold—and it didn’t hurt that he grew up a devout Michigan fan, either, said Harbaugh.

Prior to national signing day, it appeared that Michigan would either get Weber to flip or go without a running back for 2015. As mentioned, Weber stuck with the Buckeyes, but the Wolverines didn’t go without—they landed Karan Higdon instead.

While not as highly touted as Weber, Higdon—a 5’9”, 190-pounder out of Florida—brings a certain quality of toughness to the fold, said Harbaugh, who frequently used “tough/toughness” while describing the rest of the 2015 class.

Covering the basics, Harbaugh discussed Higdon’s hard-running style and instincts. But he was also impressed that Higdon made sure he made his visit—according to Harbaugh, Higdon had difficulty along the way while trying to clear airport security on the night of Saturday, Jan. 31, the date of the offer.

Despite issues, Higdon made it that Sunday morning before flying out later in the evening. The fact that he had gone through the gauntlet just to stop in for a few hours blew away Harbaugh.

An obvious win-win, Wheatley brings blocking and hands to the group of tight ends. At 6’6” and 260 pounds, he’s big enough to play the role of a husky pass-catcher or a super-athletic defensive tackle/end.

Wheatley’s father, Tyrone Sr., is one of the greatest running backs in Wolverines history—and he’s also coaching them. The family connection/legacy thing is in full effect with this one.

Grant Newsome, a 4-star tackle, is the latest piece to the revolving Wolverines offensive line. The 6’6”, 290-pound Jersey kid is also, well, you know—“tough." He was also the No. 22-ranked OT of his class, which suggests that he could evolve into a high-caliber college player.

Just a hunch.

Michigan also signed 3-star linemen John Runyan Jr. and Nolan Ulizio. 

 

Defend the Class

Flipping from Nebraska, 3-star defensive end Reuben Jones helped solidify Michigan’s 2015 crop of defensive recruits. Quick and long, the 6’3”, 233-pounder could end up filling an outside linebacker position on occasion.

Notre Dame and Alabama tried to pry away Tyree Kinnel, but instead of jumping ship, the 6’0”, 205-pound safety stuck with Michigan. The 4-star recruit joins an already stocked group consisting of Jourdan Lewis, Blake Countess and, among others, the yet-to-be-unleashed Jabrill Peppers.

Shelton Johnson, a 3-star defensive end, committed to Michigan after Harbaugh’s afternoon presser. At 6’5” and 220 pounds, the Floridian could slide into other roles—maybe that of a tight end?! Johnson finished high school as the No. 20-ranked player at his position.

 

The Kicker

Not only was he a great kicker in high school, but it turns out that Andrew—“John Paul,” according to Harbaugh—David was also a pretty good shortstop.

As expected, Harbaugh complimented the 5’9”, 165-pounder for being “tough.”

And for being a Michigan fan.

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

All recruit info comes courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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