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Updated 2014 Heisman Odds Post-Braxton Miller Injury

News of Braxton Miller's reinjured shoulder, which will keep Ohio State's senior quarterback out for the 2014 season, has altered the college football landscape in a couple important ways. It changes the outlook of the Big Ten, the College Football Playoff and the Heisman Trophy races.

SI.com reports that the injury is a torn labrum in his right shoulder. 

Miller is the twice-reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and was listed in August as the No. 3 favorite to win the Heisman, per Jack Randall of Oddsshark.com. Only last year's winner, Jameis Winston, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had smaller odds.

Miller's absence thins the field of contenders, eliminating a player who was valued at 15-2 to win. In theory, that means he would have taken home the award once every 7.5 times this season was played. For obvious reasons, his lack means other players have a better shot.

But who—if anyone—jumped up the odds board most in the wake of this injury? How might the new Heisman landscape look?

Let's take a quick preview:

 

 

The Group of Five Becomes Four

Their odds reflect it only slightly, but four of the biggest beneficiaries of Miller's injury are the other front-runner candidates, who now have one less strong quarterback to contend with.

Before this, there were a discernible top five candidates on the Heisman ballot, all quarterbacks: Winston, Mariota, Miller, Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley. Now, there are only four of them. And each of their odds go up a little bit because of it.

That is not just for statistical reasons, either. Florida State, Oregon, Baylor and UCLA all now have a slightly bigger margin for error with regard to making the CFP. Ohio State was the type of team that could have easily run the table and forced a quality one-loss team out of the playoff. Without Miller, that seems much, much, much less likely.

Other favorites rising include Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who was rated just outside that top five and now slides into Miller's spot. He's now the fifth-most likely quarterback to win the Heisman, and Auburn's odds of making the CFP increase a slight amount.

The top running back candidate, Todd Gurley of Georgia, also sees a small boost because there's one less blue-chip quarterback to compete with, although this news effects him less than that core four.

If a running back is going to win this award—something that has happened only twice (counting Reggie Bush) in the past 14 years—he was going to need a transcendent season before Braxton's injury.

Now? Well, not much (if anything) has changed.

 

The Biggest Riser

You don't want to call anyone a "winner" when a player gets injured, especially a player such as Miller who is so fun to watch/good for the sport. We are all sort of losers in his absence.

On paper, though, no one benefits from this news more than Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, whose team now becomes the favorite to win the Big Ten/make the CFP. His Heisman odds should see a considerable uptick because of that.

Not that he "needed" the boost, per se. Cook was a fast-rising candidate even before Miller's injury. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder called him a Heisman dark horse—in his own words: "I'll tell you…this dude's a bro"—and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports had him going in the top 10 of his first-round mock draft for 2015.

Everybody wants a piece of Cook after his hot finish to 2013-14, which included a pair of superb games in the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl, and now everybody is going to get it.

Also rising because their Big Ten Championship odds go up are running backs Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska. Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com, who thoroughly understands the politics that go into regional Heisman voting, thinks Gordon will be the Midwest voters' new champion (so to speak):

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg also gets a slight bump, albeit one that doesn't land him in the top 15. Fair or not, his team's postseason ineligibility will make it tough for him to win this award.

2016 is more likely Hackenberg's year.

 

The Long-Shot Riser

There are favorites, there are dark horses, there are long shots, and there are long long shots. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds probably registers as the latter. But if he leads an upset of Ohio State in the first week of the season, he'll start to creep up the hierarchy.

Of course, beating the Buckeyes with Miller and without Miller are two very different things, the former being much more impressive. Still, Ohio State's defense remains just as scary in Miller's absence (if not scarier now with a chip on its shoulder), and the offense has enough pieces to keep from imploding.

If Navy starts the season 1-0, Reynolds will be put on the map.

Not that he necessarily prefers that. When asked in August if he belongs in the Heisman conversation, Reynolds calmly told reporters, "I'll let you worry about that," per Gene Wang of The Washington Post.

Reynolds' numbers, however, speak much louder than his words.

He finished last season with 1,346 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns, a year highlighted by an NCAA record eight total touchdowns in a triple-overtime win over San Jose State.

If he keeps posting ridiculous lines like that, and he has a signature win over Ohio State on his resume, is there any reason (other than "he plays for Navy") to keep Reynolds off Heisman ballots?

That Week 1 game in Baltimore just became a huge one.

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Meet JT Barrett, Braxton Miller's Replacement & Ohio State's New General

At his press conference on Saturday, Urban Meyer raved about a "J.T. Barnett" who was impressing him in Ohio State's quarterbacks room. It only takes one quick scan to realize that no such player exists on the Buckeyes roster—although it's not too hard to figure out who Meyer was making reference to.

Meet J.T. Barrett, coach.

He's the new starting quarterback at The Ohio State University.

The plan was always for Barrett to hold that title one day—just not necessarily so soon. But with the news that Braxton Miller's re-injured shoulder will cost him the entire 2014 season, Barrett suddenly finds himself atop the Buckeyes' quarterback depth chart, with less than two weeks to go until their season opener.

Where He Came From:

At 6'1" and 225 pounds, Barrett arrived at Ohio State in January 2013 as a 4-star prospect byway of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas. Despite enrolling early, Barrett never saw significant snaps—not in practice and certainly not on the playing field—as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered during the senior season of his high school career.

Yep, the same Barrett who is expected to take the field in Baltimore for Ohio State's opener with Navy on Aug. 30 is the same player who hasn't taken an actual game rep since Oct. 5, 2012. That's obviously a scary proposition for any Buckeye fan to take into consideration, as a team that was just ranked fifth in the nation could now be lucky to finish fifth in the Big Ten.

But while Barrett's inexperience is certainly cause for concern, there's also a lot to like about Ohio State's new starting quarterback. What that means for the Buckeyes' 2014 prospects remains to be seen, but here's what you need to know about the new QB-1 in Columbus.

 

The Good

Despite having only been on a college campus for little more than a full season, Barrett has already shown resiliency, and not just in how he has recovered from his injury.

Entering his second fall camp in Columbus as Ohio State's third-string quarterback, Barrett was essentially an afterthought—especially on an offense that was centered around a Heisman hopeful ahead of him. But as Miller's recovery from a previous shoulder injury went slower than expected, more reps at quarterback were to be had, with Barrett using enough of them to leapfrog third-year sophomore Cardale Jones as the Buckeyes' second-string signal-caller.

"J.T. Barrett's moved slightly ahead of Cardale in the quarterback derby," Meyer stated on Saturday. "That's because of his opportunities."

Expanding on Barrett's recent promotion on Monday, Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman had high praise for the now-former understudy.

"The offense moves better when he's in there," Herman said of Barrett. "Not that Cardale is doing a bad job, but the offense moves more frequently when J.T. is the quarterback, and that's the sign of a good one."

Despite being just a second-year player with no playing experience at the college level, Barrett has also already been lauded for his leadership within the Ohio State locker room. And while he may not be a physical freak capable of stringing together single-game highlight reels like Miller, he prides himself on his intangibles and ability to spread the ball around.

"I'm a grinder. I really hate to lose. I probably hate to lose more than I like to win, honestly. A competitor, a really tough guy," Barrett said. "I'm pass-first, throwing the football and distributing it to the receivers. I'm able to run. It could be a quarterback design run or just be a scramble."

In a best case scenario for the Buckeyes, Barrett would overcome his inexperience by distributing the ball to a plethora of potential playmakers like Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, Devin Smith Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, Johnnie Dixon and Curtis Samuel. He may not be the one-man show that Miller often has been throughout his college career, but Barrett could help open Ohio State's options offensively and make it less one-dimensional than it's been at times with Miller at the helm.

The Bad

Barrett's inexperience aside—which there's no denying—he also possesses physical limitations as both a passer and a runner. Comparing the arm strength of his top-three quarterbacks, Herman placed Barrett at a "distant third," behind both Miller and Jones.

"We're going to work on strengthening his arm," Herman promised.

That's fine and well, but also a process that would likely take an entire offseason and the Buckeyes don't even have an entire two weeks until the start of the season. Even when he was a true freshman, Miller's big arm managed to make big plays for Ohio State, which is a luxury it likely wouldn't get to enjoy with Barrett at the helm.

Asked how he'd feel about putting Barrett—or Jones—into an actual game right now, Herman expressed confidence, but also trepidation.

"I wouldn't say it's where it was the previous two years, but close," Herman said of his confidence in OSU's backup quarterbacks. "By no stretch of the imagination are we where we were at that position with Kenny Guiton, arguably the best backup quarterback in college football the last two years."

And while Barrett has time to develop into the safety valve that Guiton was, it's hard to imagine him doing so in time for the Buckeyes' second game of the season—a Sept. 6 home date with Virginia Tech. The Hokies may be unranked, but they'll be as talented as any team that Ohio State faces this season—especially on the defensive side of the ball—and will undoubtedly be a tall task in what will likely be the second start of Barrett's college career.

Even if the Buckeyes manage through their non-conference slate and the better part of a lighter Big Ten schedule than most teams, all signs point to Ohio State's Nov. 8 matchup at East Lansing, Michigan, being the Big Ten East's de-facto championship game. Would Barrett be ready to take on the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions on the road and at night by then? It's too early to tell. But at this point and time, it's certainly a tough sell.

 

The Unknown

Can Barrett's intangibles overcome his physical shortcomings? That's the biggest question in Columbus right now.

With Kenny Guiton, the answer was yes, as evidenced by the four victories that the former Buckeyes backup was essentially responsible for in Ohio State's past two seasons. But playing in spot duty and playing for an entire season are two different animals to attack, and Guiton was never faced with the task of the latter.

Now Barrett could be, and while his ceiling is undeniably higher than Guiton's, it's also lower than Miller's—perhaps significantly. Expect the Ohio State offense to change significantly—less designed runs from the quarterback, more quick screen passes and perhaps a heavy dose of the Buckeye running backs—as Meyer and Herman no longer have the ace in the hole that they possessed with Miller, especially as a runner 

Is Braxton Miller really Ohio State's equivalent to LeBron James, as tight end Jeff Heuerman alluded to a month ago? We're about to find out. And that could be up to Barrett to decide.

But as uncertainties in Columbus mount, one thing is for sure: Barrett's head coach should no longer have an issue remembering his name.

 

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

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Meet Texas A&M's New Starters for 2014

The Texas A&M football team will be deeper than it was in 2013, but it still has some areas of questionable depth. The Aggies return 12 starters from the 2013 squad, so they will be breaking in 10 new starters when they open the season against South Carolina. 

The Aggies defense was going to be rewarded for taking its lumps in 2013 while playing so many freshmen. That plan was foiled when two of the starters from 2013 in Darian Claiborn and Isaiah Golden were dismissed from the team. The expected starter at strong-side defensive end, Gavin Stansbury, decided to transfer

The Aggies will feature four new starters on defense. There are still some question marks about who will start in the opening game due to some possible suspensions and injuries

This is a look at who the starters will be against South Carolina on August 28 with the information that is available right now.

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Blueprint for How Ohio State Can Survive Braxton Miller's Injury in 2014

Ohio State senior quarterback Braxton Millerre-injured his throwing shoulder during practice Monday afternoon—a setback that will reportedly sideline him for the entire season and deal a heavy blow to the Buckeyes' title hopes.

The No. 5-ranked Buckeyes were one of a handful of teams expected to make a run at the inaugural College Football Playoff. Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten MVP and Heisman Trophy hopeful, fueled those expectations because of his nearly irreplaceable playmaking ability.

Can Ohio State bounce back without the centerpiece of its offense?

That's a question that won't be answered until Ohio State takes the field, but here are three things the Buckeyes must do to survive without Miller in the fold.

 

Get Defensive

Even before Miller's injury, the Buckeyes' title hopes hinged on Chris Ash's ability to rebuild a beleaguered defense. That unit, which opponents gashed regularly a season ago, is fueled by top-end talent and loads of potential.

If Ohio State wants to maintain its status as a Big Ten contender, the defense will need to step up and realize that potential.

Stocked with 5-star talent across the board, the Buckeyes boast one of the country's strongest defensive lines. Joey Bosa and Noah Spence are terrors coming off the edge, and Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt are the kind of run-stuffing/pass-rushing combination that offenses hate to deal with.

The Buckeyes lost their most productive linebacker when Ryan Shazier opted for the NFL draft, but the unit should see a boost thanks to stronger depth and fundamentals.

The secondary is the biggest question mark. The Buckeyes allowed opposing offenses to throw for 268 yards per game in 2013, which ranked No. 110 in the country. This season, Ash has Ohio State's corners playing press coverage instead of ineffective zone schemes—a move that made a drastic difference during the spring game.

If Ohio State's defense can return to elite status, the loss of Miller won't sting as much.

 

Get J.T. Barrett Ready

Without Miller, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have to get option No. 2 ready for the week-to-week grind of the college football season.

J.T. Barrett, a former 4-star prospect and the No. 3-ranked dual-threat quarterback from the class of 2013, is primed to fill that role.

Barrett won't know the nuances of Ohio State's offense like Miller, who ran Meyer's system at a high level during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He doesn't have the top-end speed or the arm strength that made Miller such a dangerous threat either.

But he's still capable of orchestrating a powerful Buckeyes attack. Although he struggles with his accuracy at times, he has a strong arm and enough speed to be a threat in the run game.

Those characteristics propelled Barrett past Cardale Jones in the Buckeyes' backup quarterback competition.

"The offense moves better when he's in there," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said of Barrett, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "He's probably completing more balls and making more of the right reads in the run game."

That's exactly what Ohio State will need from Miller's replacement, because Meyer has stacked this offense with weapons at every level.

 

Solidify the Offensive Identity

Without running back Carlos Hyde and four multiyear senior starters along the offensive line, Meyer and the Buckeyes were planning to reshape the offense in 2014. Instead of bulldozing over defenses with an array of interior runs, Meyer wanted to utilize Ohio State's speed at wide receiver to attack the perimeter.

That shouldn't change with Barrett at quarterback. Bubble screens and quick passes to the perimeter will help Barrett settle into the offense as he develops the mid-range and deep passing attack.

With players such as Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and Johnnie Dixon, the Buckeyes have a number of lethal options on the edge. Each of those receivers have the ability to take a screen pass to the house, so the Buckeyes can build their aerial attack around the quick throws.

On the ground, nothing should change schematically. Barrett has the skill set to run the read-option offense—along with the other elements Meyer uses to keep defenses off balance. Miller's speed will be the only thing Barrett can't replicate, but a deep stable of running backs will help offset that.

Of course, Ohio State's offense won't be as potent with Miller sidelined, but Meyer was already building an offense that would utilize perimeter speed. Even with their star quarterback out for the season, the Buckeyes still have the tools to attack the edge.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Braxton Miller Reportedly Out for Season with Shoulder Injury

The worst possible scenario for the Ohio State football team is now a reality less than two weeks before the season starts.      

Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch had the initial report regarding quarterback Braxton Miller’s health Monday evening, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN provided the sobering news Tuesday:

Miller had offseason surgery on his right shoulder after injuring it during the Buckeyes’ Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. He missed spring practice and was limited for much of August training as he eased back into things. Per May, Miller reinjured the same shoulder in a second-session practice on Monday, although "he was not hit, having been off-limits from contact since off-season shoulder surgery."

Given the fact that Ohio State lost bruising running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL and four of its five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, this injury is particularly worrisome. Perhaps even more important now is the loss of QB Kenny Guiton to graduation.

Miller was seen as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate for 2014 after posting 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air, and 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year. Perhaps most damaging of all is the impact on Miller's potential NFL career that could have really used a boost with a productive senior season.

Somehow, life will have to move on for the Buckeyes with a season rapidly approaching. May provided some details on the contingency plan:

It likely means redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will start when the Buckeyes open the season against Navy on Aug. 30 in Baltimore. Barrett moved ahead of sophomore Cardale Jones last week in the competition to back up Miller, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. 

Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report had a nugget about that contest with Navy that is sure to interest some viewers:

It wasn’t that long ago that co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner wasn’t particularly concerned with Miller’s health, via Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:

We’re kind of bringing him along slowly. I think we have a really good plan to get him where he needs to be Aug. 30. We definitely don’t need to rush it.

I love Braxton’s work ethic, his attitude, his mentality. His mindset is awesome. His understanding of the game is great, and his leadership has improved. We’re just letting him come along physically.

It’s part of the plan. There was no he got the hook in the middle of the day. It was all planned out. We’re doing that with some other guys who started a lot who are coming off injuries, just watching their volume until they build into it.

That is clearly no longer the case anymore. Instead, Ohio State's once promising College Football Playoff chances are in serious jeopardy. The biggest concern of all, especially given the loss of Hyde and the majority of the offensive line, is the lack of experience under center. ESPN Stats & Info provided the discouraging details in that regard:

SportsCenter on Twitter provided this interesting stat:

Turning the reins over to a freshman was once unthinkable in Columbus, but it has become business as usual in recent years. Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.com added more:

You would be forgiven if you were a glass-half-empty sports fan and you abandoned hope for a postseason appearance. However, the preseason is for optimism, and Eleven Warriors, Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.com and Kramer provided a dose of that:

Still, even the most optimistic fans would admit that the Buckeyes are in some trouble without their star playmaker.

Remember, we are talking about the two-time defending winner of the Big Ten Silver Football as the conference’s best player and one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire country. The previously mentioned loss of Hyde and Guiton cannot be overstated either.

Hyde rumbled for 1,521 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2013 even though he missed three games and single-handedly won some nailbiters (the Northwestern contest comes to mind). Guiton threw for 749 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added 330 yards and five touchdowns on the ground last year. He also started multiple games and rescued the Buckeyes when Miller was periodically injured throughout the past two years.

Now that Miller is out for the season, the national title expectations that are in place every year in Columbus fall on the inexperienced shoulders of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

Don't let the talking heads who decry a weak Big Ten every year fool you either. The Buckeyes will be tested a number of times this season, including in the non-conference portion of the slate against a dangerous Navy team, Virginia Tech and a Cincinnati squad that will be hungry to shock the state's bully.

In conference, Ohio State has to face a resurgent Penn State team under the lights in what will be the Nittany Lions' Super Bowl, square off in the annual clash with archrival and hated Michigan that came down to the last play in 2013, and play Michigan State in a rematch of the Big Ten championship game.

The Spartans contained the Buckeyes offense with Miller at the helm in a neutral-site contest last year. Playing that stout defense on the road at night with a possible playoff spot on the line is plenty of pressure for a tested senior, let alone freshman Barrett.

Fair or not, the only way a Big Ten team is getting to the College Football Playoff is by winning the conference. If the Buckeyes can't beat fellow East Division member Michigan State, they probably aren't even reaching the conference title game, given the tiebreaker scenario in this hypothetical.

Not having No. 5 under center will certainly make the task at hand even more difficult.

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Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season

With the Pac-12's most experienced starting rotation returning for 2014, UCLA's lineup will not feature much in the way of new faces. 

Bruins who played significant reserve roles a season ago are vying for the few spots opened by departures. However, a high-profile transfer and highly touted recruit are also in the mix for roles in UCLA's starting lineup. 

These newcomers, coupled with proven commodities, will fill out the Bruins' starting lineup in a potential championship run. 

 

Malcolm Bunche, OT

Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche brings the Bruins front five some much-needed experience. He will also be tasked with protecting quarterback Brett Hundley's blind side, as he was named the team's starting left tackle last week.

"It's a tremendous honor playing the blind side for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football," Bunche said, via Abbey Mastracco of FoxSports.com. "I've just got to keep grinding and working hard on the position and protect my man Brett."

When Bunche announced his transfer to UCLA in the spring, his father, Curtis, talked about the impact Bunche could make for the Bruins. 

"They need an O-lineman to protect that Heisman Trophy candidate's blind side," he told Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.  

Indeed, Hundley could use the protection. Last season, UCLA surrendered 36 sacks to rank No. 109 in the nation. 

 

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE

Redshirt senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa played in all 14 games of UCLA's 2012 Pac-12 South-winning campaign. He made quite an impact with 44 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. 

That should have been a springboard into a monster 2013, but a hip injury sidelined Odighizuwa for the duration of the campaign. 

His return to the Bruins' defensive front is met with great anticipation. Last year when he was injured, Dan Greenspan wrote on NFL.com that a returning Odighizuwa was "likely [UCLA's] top [2014] draft prospect on [defense]." 

Pro scouts are not alone in their excitement about Odighizuwa. 

"He's come back immensely," linebacker Eric Kendricks said last month at Pac-12 media days. "He's going to make a huge impact. You guys are going to start writing about him soon, I guarantee it." 

 

Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace, OLB

Replacing game-changing pass-rusher Anthony Barr is no easy feat, and the competition to do so has extended throughout the offseason.  

In fact, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich may not even rely on any one player to step into Barr's massive shoes. Talking with Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Ulbrich hinted at a platoon-style shift in response to the Pac-12's many uptempo offenses:

We're going to rotate more than we have in the past. You look around at some defenses that are paired [against] tempo offenses, I think it's necessary that you start to rotate guys. Those teams are healthier towards the end of the season, and they are fresher.

The Bruins see the benefit of flexibility, as Deon Hollins told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News

It’s much more amorphous. Since we have so many guys, you can just be so versatile. ... You can do so much with a lot of the guys we have on the field. I think Coach Brick does a great job mixing and matching looks, not having the same concepts.

Obviously, by Week 1, head coach Jim Mora and Ulbrich will place one of the three of Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace and Hollins atop the depth chart. Orjioke and Wallace have each had first-string repetitions, but Wang writes Hollins is a potential difference-maker in nickel formations. 

 

Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young, ILB  

Another heated competition ensues for UCLA's other starting linebacker spot. A number of candidates are vying for the position, but two standouts are Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young. 

Savaiinaea was one of 18 true freshman to play for the Bruins in 2013. He appeared in all 13 games and made his first career start in the Sun Bowl rout of Virginia Tech, filling in for an injured Kendricks. 

Relieving the team's leading tackler was quite an introduction for Savaiinaea into the starting rotation, but his coaches were confident in his ability to acclimate. 

"From Day 1, he has had an uncommon maturity for a freshman," Ulbrich told Foster. "I am not worried at all."

Kendricks returns, but gone is fellow inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt. That leaves a starting role alongside UCLA's top tackler and defensive leader Kendricks, which Savaiinaea could fill. If it's not him, look for Young to emerge. 

The true freshman Young has turned heads at fall camp and earned praise from teammate Myles Jack, a first-year linebacker breakout in his own right a season ago. 

"I love his natural instincts to the ball," Jack told Foster. "Even when the play is not to his side, he's shedding blockers, making his way to the football. He just has a knack for getting to the ball." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com

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Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season

With the Pac -12's most experienced starting rotation returning for 2014, UCLA's lineup will not feature much in the way of new faces. Bruins who played significant reserve roles a season ago are vying for the few spots opened by departures...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tennessee Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

With only a few days left until the Tennessee Volunteers open their 118th football season in Neyland Stadium, it's time to take stock one last time of the upcoming schedule and predict the wins and losses.

First, a sobering fact: Tennessee hasn't had a winning season since 2009 when it won seven games under Lane Kiffin. In fact, the Vols have enjoyed only three winning seasons since 2005, with the other two coming in 2006 and 2007 during the twilight years of Phillip Fulmer's tenure as head coach.

Based on his stellar recruiting efforts, second-year head coach Butch Jones appears to have the Vols on the right track toward competing in the SEC, but first he needs to get Tennessee above .500 for the season and back to a bowl game—something the vast majority of players on the roster have never experienced. 

Unfortunately for Jones, simply breaking even this year is a tall task, given the difficulty of the Vols' schedule in 2014. That said, there are some glimmers of hope, as the team's speed and athleticism received a massive upgrade with the arrival of the 2014 recruits.

In addition, Tennessee's opponents have many question marks as well, as several are breaking in new quarterbacks and adjusting to new coaches and coordinators. 

The margin for error this season is razor-thin for Jones and his young team, but there's enough talent on the roster to make the postseason for the first time since 2010.

Here's a breakdown of how they're going to get there. 

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USF's Jerseys Will Feature 'The Team' on Nameplates on Back of the Jerseys

The name on the front of the jersey is usually more important than the one on the back, but in the University of South Florida's case, the name on the back is pretty important as well.

This upcoming season, the Bulls will wear jerseys with "The Team" on the nameplate on the back of the jerseys.

It's a good concept for teamwork. When the players put on the jerseys, there is no question who they are playing for. Individual stats are great, but South Florida wants its players to play for each other.

[ESPN, h/t SB Nation]

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Dish Network Gives JaMarcus Russell a Chance to Relive the Glory Days

Dish Network has already given USC quarterback Matt Leinart, Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler and Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth a chance to relive the glory days. Now, former LSU signal-caller JaMarcus Russell is joining those former college stars.

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft had a backyard barbecue with the trio of former stars. Given the chance to relive his college days, Russell decided to join in on the fun.

[DISH, h/t Dr. Saturday]

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Alabama Football: Don't Sleep on Kenyan Drake in 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Much has been made about Alabama’s vaunted backfield this offseason.

There’s T.J. Yeldon, the returning starter who’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons on campus and has a good chance at breaking Alabama’s career rushing record. And there’s sophomore Derrick Henry, a 6’3”, 241-pound beast of a human who, in his first significant game action of the season, rushed eight times for 100 yards and a score and took a screen pass 61 yards to the house against Oklahoma.

Lost in all of this has been Kenyan Drake, a junior who was Yeldon’s backup for most of last season and electrified with his speed, but whose fumbling issues relegated him for the Sugar Bowl. He didn’t help his cause with a July arrest for crossing crime-scene tape, either.

But he’s putting together a productive fall and shouldn’t be slept on in that talented backfield. That’s not to say that he’s going to explode to the top of the depth chart and take over the offense. Just that he still has a meaningful role, and his presence could give Alabama yet another dimension in its skill positions to make the offense even more dangerous.

Drake’s speed is his No. 1 asset, and he very much uses it to his advantage. When he came in off the bench as the No. 2 in 2013 and the No. 3 in 2012, he was always a threat to break the big play and did that several times.

“Kenyan, he has great speed,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “He's really a scatback kind of guy. He's really quick. He can make you miss with one move. He gets you open space, it's hard to bring him down.”

His yards per carry stats support that, too:

What’s held Drake back, though, has been a combination of on- and off-field issues.

Off the field, while he hasn’t done anything too drastic, he hasn’t exactly had a clean slate either.

He was suspended for a late-season game against Western Carolina in 2012, his freshman year, for a violation of team rules that coach Nick Saban didn’t specify, though he said that Drake had already been warned once before. Last year, he didn’t make the trip to Atlanta for the season opener against Virginia Tech.

Then in July, he was arrested for obstructing governmental operations when police said he crossed crime-scene tape because his car was inside the marked-off area. Saban suspended Drake after the incident, but Drake was at practice to open fall camp and has been working with the team ever since.

The individual incidents on their own aren’t really cause for concern, but collectively they could be.

His biggest issue on the field is ball security. According to TeamRankings.com, Drake fumbled four times and lost three last season, but it was the timing that made them worse.

Against Kentucky, he fumbled inside the 5-yard line and on the goal line against Tennessee, killing two drives.

So it’s been a point of emphasis for Drake and the running backs as a whole this offseason.

"It's something that you drill in practice," Saban said, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "I think because you practice so much against each other, the better your defense is at finishing and trying to create turnovers, and the more ball awareness and ball security you actually develop on offense."

The fumbling and off-field issues seemed to make Drake a long shot to play meaningful snaps in 2014, but his fall camp performance might say otherwise. So far, he’s put up impressive stats in the two fall scrimmages.

Both scrimmages were closed to the public, so it’s difficult to put context to those numbers, though Saban did say that one of Drake’s touchdowns was a 65-yard reception, so he’s still making big plays.

He’s also drawn praise from his teammates, who note his explosiveness. Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin also called him a “mismatch” player who could create problems.

And his presence would give Alabama three running backs with very different skill sets who could throw almost anything at opposing defenses.

“Drake's more of the speed guy,” Yeldon said. “Derrick's power and speed. And [Henry and I are] both power and speed, too.”

Drake seemed to get lost in the shuffle this offseason, but a productive Drake would just give Alabama another dimension to its offense.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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How Braxton Miller's Injury Will Cause College Football Playoff Madness

The Ohio State Buckeyes have taken a huge hit with Braxton Miller re-injuring his right shoulder, as he will reportedly miss the entire 2014-15 season due to the injury, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss how Miller's injury will affect the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff.

Which four teams do you think will end up in the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, August 18, 2014

Fact: Alabama has been ranked one or two in five straight preseason AP polls. The record is six, held by Ohio State from 1954 to 1959.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Video: Houston Cougars Head Coach Tony Levine Can't Avoid Ice Bucket Challenge

Tony Levine had some fun with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

After explaining certain bylaws of the challenge exempted him from participating, Levine was immersed in copious amounts of ice water the way head football coaches traditionally receive the honor, as two University of Houston football players sneak up on him from behind.

Levine called out people he's been told he looks like to take the challenge next, including actor Stanley Tucci, Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum and meteorologist Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel. 

 

Kelsey McCarson covers University of Houston football for Bleacher Report.

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Under Armour Unveils Notre Dame Football's Uniforms for 2014-15 Season

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have made the change from Adidas to Under Armour, but the team isn't making any drastic changes to its uniforms.

The football team has a very traditional look. Fans who were worried that the team may get a new look with the change to Under Armour can breathe a sigh of relief.

Notre Dame will wear blue jerseys at home.

The Fighting Irish will wear white jerseys on the road.

[Under Armour]

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Clemson Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

It’s time to take one last look at Clemson’s 2014 schedule, which will begin with Georgia in less than two weeks. The 2014 slate offers a couple of tough road games, and features home games against surprise teams within the ACC.

There are a couple of trap games for the Tigers, but the three big games will once again determine the outcome of the season.

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Why Alabama Quarterback Battle Won't Be over Before the Beginning of 2014 Season

While quarterback battles in Aggieland and on Rocky Top have come to a conclusion, the most high-profile one in the SEC continues to burn white hot.

Senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker are still vying to become AJ McCarron's replacement as the quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

Head coach Nick Saban hasn't provided stats following either scrimmage during fall camp, and according to AL.com beat writers Andrew Gribble and Michael Casagrande, Sims may actually have an edge over Coker—a guy who reportedly pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the top spot on Florida State's depth chart in 2013.

Surprised?

Maybe a little bit.

Coker wouldn't be in Tuscaloosa unless Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin expected him to win the job, and the hype surrounding this kid has elevated him to near-superhero status before ever taking a meaningful snap in Tuscaloosa.

"Physically, he's just so gifted," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said. "He's been around now for a number of years, and even though he hasn't been getting a ton of reps at Florida State, but he's been around some pretty good stuff."

But the odd set of circumstances with Coker still learning the offense on the fly, coupled with Alabama's early-season schedule, allows the coaching staff to let the battle wage a little longer than others around the country.

"The big thing that none of us know about him is how he's going to react when he gets out there and faces some adversity," Herbstreit said. "Is he going to be able to check into good plays and check out of bad plays? Is he going to be able to recognize coverages? Recognize fronts? Avoiding disastrous plays is a big part of it."

It will last into the season, just as the fight to win the job did for McCarron, who didn't win the job over Phillip Sims in 2011 until Week 2 on the road at Penn State.

Luckily for Saban, the staff and the quarterbacks, Alabama's schedule lends itself to a similar situation unfolding again in 2014.

Sure, when Alabama signed on to play West Virginia in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the Mountaineers were coming off of a 70-33 thrashing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But head coach Dana Holgorsen's crew has lost 14 of its last 20 games and is a far cry from the team that was routinely contending for BCS games.

After that, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss will provide a nice tuneup for the Tide before the vaunted Florida defense rolls into town on Sept. 20.

"It's smart if there is any doubt to get both of those guys out there and get them game reps," Herbstreit said. "You'd think with defense and special teams alone they'd be able to win those games by running the football. We don't have preseason in college football, so the only way you really find out about your quarterbacks is to play them when they're in front of 80,000 or 90,000 people on national TV."

Coker was brought in to be the guy, and while it's unfair to Sims—a senior—that a newcomer gets the benefit of the doubt, that's the bed the coaching staff made for itself. For Saban and Kiffin, sleeping in it shouldn't be an issue.

Whoever emerges at the top spot on the quarterback depth chart, he'll have a solid running game to fall back on and weapons at receiver all over the place.

If it takes a few auditions in real games for one to step up, so be it. Considering the circumstances and the schedule, that might actually be an advantage for Alabama.

 

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

 


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Nebraska Football: How Huskers Can Withstand Aaron Curry's Departure

Another one bites the dust for Nebraska football.

After two weeks of fall camp, the Huskers have lost another player. This time it's junior defensive tackle Aaron Curry, per Rivals and SoonerScoop.com, via the Omaha World-Herald. Can Nebraska withstand his departure?

The short answer is yes. While the loss of Curry is not ideal from a depth concern, he spent most of spring and fall camp practicing with the No. 2, and occasionally the No. 3, defense, per the Omaha World-Herald.

While Curry started eight games in 2013, his experience was put to the test by sophomores Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine. As fall camp went on, it was clear he would likely be playing backup to both and that his playing time would be much less than last season.

While it was a less-than-ideal situation for the junior, he provided good security behind Collins and Valentine. Who will step up instead? It seems likely that sophomore Kevin Maurice will now back up Collins and Valentine.

Junior Kevin Williams could also back Collins and Valentine up, but his status is currently unknown. As Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reported, Williams went down during the Aug. 18 practice with a lower leg injury. Bo Pelini calls Williams' injury a "day-to-day thing."

Until more is known, Maurice has the talent alongside Collins and Valentine to make an impact.

When word of Curry's departure first came to light, it seemed like he would be transferring to Oklahoma. However, Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com learned that wasn't the case.

Regardless of where he lands, Curry has officially been released from Nebraska, per the Omaha World-Herald.

The biggest loss Curry leaves behind is depth. ESPN 590's Joe Quinn made a good point on the matter.

Beyond depth, what the Huskers lose in Curry is experience. The junior played in 17 games during his two seasons with the Huskers, which includes all 13 games in 2013. According to Huskers.com, Curry has 30 tackles overall, with 26 of those from last season.

That experience is a definite loss. However, as stated, the Huskers have a strong and talented group at defensive tackle. Beyond those listed previously, Nebraska has freshmen Mick Stoltenberg and Peyton Newell to look forward to.

However, before Curry's departure, it was clear that Collins and Valentine were going to be the starters. They've been impressive through fall camp, which should give plenty of Husker fans something to look forward to.

Nebraska can, and will, withstand Curry's departure by continuing on. Valentine will be able to provide some experience to the team, which is beneficial. He had 21 total tackles in 2013, per Huskers.com.

Continuing to focus on him and Collins is exactly what Nebraska needs to keep doing. As for the rest of the group backing those two up, it's all about staying healthy.

Curry's decision is understandable. For the Huskers, it is survivable. Pending no additional injuries, this unit should recover just fine.

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Oregon Commit QB Travis Waller Makes Bold Prediction for Marcus Mariota, Ducks

Travis Waller is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2015 class. His accuracy and mobility provide him with a great set of tools to build upon at the next level. This Oregon commit took some time to talk with Bleacher Report about Eugene and his predictions for the 2014 season. 

How well do you think Waller will do at the next level?

Watch the video and let us know.

 

Rankings courtesy of the 247Sports composite system.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Commit QB Travis Waller Makes Bold Prediction for Marcus Mariota, Ducks

Travis Waller is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2015 class. His accuracy and mobility provide him with a great set of tools to build upon at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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