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USC Trojans Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Kickoff in a new era of USC football is one week closer, with the Trojans capping their first round of fall camp Friday. 

"A good starting point," is how cornerback Josh Shaw described the opening of practice to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

Practices started at Howard Jones Field Monday through Wednesday, then moved to the Coliseum on Thursday night. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian opened camp with spectators welcome part of the time, music and a frenetic pace

Operating with a roster of almost 20 fewer players than most Football Bowl Subdivision programs, USC avoided losing more of its ranks to injury. But the Trojans did not come out of the first week of practices unscathed.  

The passing attack lost a potential contributor this week when tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was ruled academically ineligible, per USC's official athletic Twitter account:  

Cope-Fitzpatrick shined in spring practices as the Trojans' only available scholarship tight end. Randall Telfer was injured, and 4-star signee Bryce Dixon had not yet arrived on campus.

Cope-Fitzpatrick's departure means a much steeper learning curve for Dixon, but Telfer told Michael Lev of the Orange County Register he's prepared to take the freshman under his wing.

"He’s a great athlete. He’s got so much potential. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do for us this year," Telfer said.

 Two more freshmen hit the ground running in the first week of preseason workouts. Five-star recruits Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith made the most of their first opportunities in cardinal and gold.  

The duo even went head-to-head, as Scout.com's Gerard Martinez captured via Twitter:  

The two most highly rated prospects of the Trojans' 2014 signing class are making an immediate impact that's catching the attention of their new teammates.

"JuJu Smith, Adoree' Jackson, these true freshmen are out here balling," wide receiver Darreus Rogers told Sarah Bergstrom for USCTrojans.com. "It makes everyone have to step their game up a notch."

Sarkisian is also watching their production closely—in part to avoid overworking them. The coaching staff is evaluating their abilities on both sides of the ball, particularly Jackson. Sarkisian told the Los Angeles Times that keeping Jackson's plate full without overwhelming the newcomer is key.  

We've done everything in moderation, really counted his reps, so we know exactly what he's doing in every phase. If you look at sheer number of reps, his reps aren't more, necessarily, than other guys but it is a lot mentally.

Fellow freshman Toa Lobendahn continued his progress from a standout spring, remaining with the first-string offensive line.

Lobendahn was one of five early-enrollee freshmen from the 2014 signing class and made the most of his immediate opportunity. He talked to 247Sports' Scott Schrader about this performance thus far and his fit at USC. 

Like Lobendahn, cornerback Chris Hawkins impressed coaches before camp. Sarkisian sang the redshirt freshman's praises at last month's Pac-12 media days, saying "Hawkins had a really good spring."  

Hawkins is parlaying that good spring into a possible Week 1 start. With Kevon Seymour out, Hawkins is in the first-team rotation, via Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com:

With Lamont Simmons also impressing in the first week of practices, the Trojans are looking at potentially going into Week 1 with a very deep secondary. 

USC's linebacker corps features a new name, though not a new face. Scott Felix, formerly Scott Starr, changed his name to his father's this week, per USC's official athletics Twitter account:

The 2014 season also brings changes to USC's longtime home, the Coliseum. Via USCTrojans.com on Thursday, the university announced plans to "enhance the fan experience." 

While these changes primarily entail new concession options and minor facilities upgrades, one new feature of note is that Sarkisian will participate in interviews before and after the game, as well as halftime, aired on the Coliseum's video board.   

That's quite the departure from the days of 29-second press conferences. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores.

 

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USC Trojans Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Kickoff in a new era of USC football is one week closer, with the Trojans capping their first round of fall camp Friday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

What NCAA's Power-5 Autonomy Ruling Means for Notre Dame

You can ruin a good thing. 

So while on paper, the NCAA's approved restructuring to give the power-five conferences autonomy over their own governance makes sense, it also pushes us closer to the end of college sports as we know it.

Hailed as progress, the restructuring (best described here by colleague Ben Kercheval) will firmly illustrated the distinct line in the sand between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in the ever-changing world of collegiate athletics.

At Notre Dame, it pulls one of the most high-profile—and deep-pocketed—athletic departments in two distinctly different directions. Join the arms race, or risk drifting even further out to sea.

For Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick, it's just another move on a chessboard that needs constant evaluating. Swarbrick has already adeptly navigated conference realignment, relocating Notre Dame's sports to the Atlantic Coast Conference while keeping the football team independent.

He also made sure Notre Dame kept its door to the College Football Playoff open, serving as the driving force behind the construct of the four-team playoff and working with SEC commissioner Mike Slive in an unlikely partnership that helped seal the deal.

On paper, the ruling is being heralded as a success, a key concession made by the bureaucratic glacier known as the NCAA. 

"I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership. The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree."

Used for good, this governance means additional benefits to student-athletes. Full cost-of-attendance scholarships, stipends to help students and even extended health care and four-year scholarships are being bandied about.

That's how Slive views the decision (not all that surprisingly), as he talked to Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel:

I know there’s angst amongst some of our colleagues in Division I, but I think those are fears that are really not necessary. This is not about competition. We’re pretty competitive. We don’t need to create additional advantages for competitive purposes. We don’t need to create additional advantages for our ability to generate revenue.

What we want to do simply and solely -- and the cynics have a hard time accepting this -- is to create a system that benefits student-athletes.

Of course, not everybody agrees. Not even some head coaches in the power conferences. 

Randy Edsall, new to the Big Ten as he brings Maryland to the conference for the 2014 season, thinks like a lot of others do

"I think it’s one step closer to the five conferences splitting off,” Edsall told a group of assembled media, according to CSNBaltimore.com  "I really do, but again I think there’s bigger issues now that you have that in terms of who is really going to take charge of what’s best for football.

"Yeah, you have this autonomy, but now what are we going to do with that to get the collegiate model, you know, the way it should be or back to where it was?"

Edsall is new in Big Ten country, building his reputation in the Big East, a conference better known for basketball, so maybe Jim Delany hasn't won him over yet. 

But Kansas State's Bill Snyder didn't bite his tongue either, the 74-year-old coach with his name on the side of the Wildcats' newly renovated stadium, calling it how he saw it

"It's no longer about education," Snyder said, according to CBSSports.com. "We've sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don't fault TV. I don't fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that's what they do, but athletics—that's it. It's sold out."

Snyder's observation isn't a new one. At this point, selling out in college sports is like MySpace. It's been around so long that we're not even sure if it exists anymore. 

For Irish fans wondering what to make of the ruling, there should be comfort in the fact that this isn't new news to Swarbrick. He talked about this ruling as an inevitability back in May, telling the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen that the change is a good one

I think the concept of autonomy is absolutely a good thing, because it reflects there are growing differences in the models among the members of the NCAA. Difference has been reflected over the years by different divisions, right? Division I is different than II is different than III. Well within Division I there are now increasing differences.

And this is a way that allows you to keep the division intact, but recognize those differences, so I think it’s a very creative solution. And I think it’s the right solution.

When reached by Mandel earlier today for comment, Swarbrick said essentially the same thing, reminding all of us that consensus isn't all that easy to find among 65 different athletic departments. 

"People assume a measure of unity that doesn’t exist," Swarbrick told Mandel. "There’s no clear position [among the 65] on some of the key issues. That doesn’t mean we won’t reach solutions. I absolutely believe we will. But the notion that that’s already happened, that we’ve got clear consensus on legislation that is queued up and ready to go—we’re not there yet."

From the sounds of it, one place where the Irish already stand in the minority is over scheduling. ESPN's Brett McMurphy polled the head coaches of the power-five conferences, with almost half of them (46 percent) in favor of playing exclusively power-five opponents. 

Brian Kelly was one of just 23 coaches that was against it. 

Even though Notre Dame has never played an FCS team and plays almost exclusively Power Five opponents already, Irish coach Brian Kelly said he would be against it if it meant no longer playing Navy.

Kelly said removing Navy from Notre Dame's schedule would be "a deal-breaker." Even with teams playing tougher schedules, Kelly said he doesn't favor teams with losing records playing in bowls.

That the Irish didn't feel like giving up one of college football's most important rivalries wasn't surprising. Nor was it surprising that most head coaches have forgotten about things like tradition and rivalry, too laser-focused on winning a conference title, or doing whatever it takes to keep their multimillion-dollar job. 

But as the NFL continues to find ways to become bigger and bigger, it's worth remembering that most of us that love their football on Saturdays don't watch the college game because it's a better product.

We watch because it's a game where tradition and loyalty have embedded themselves, passed down (sometimes begrudgingly) through generations. 

We believe the Rose Bowl is still the granddaddy of them all. That New Year's Day was made for college football. And more specific to Irish fans, we believe that whatever the odds, old Notre Dame will win over all. 

That's the mystique college football risks losing with this pronounced separation. It's the same one that gutted great high school events like the single-class basketball tournament in Indiana or the boys hockey tournament in Minnesota. 

In 10 years, we could be looking at a different college game. A sport that could erase games like Appalachian State's historic win at the Big House. Or Boise State's BCS-crashing victory over Oklahoma. Maybe eventually the opportunity for an independent Notre Dame to play for a College Football Playoff Championship.  

Sure, on paper, Thursday's news makes a ton of sense. It just doesn't make it a good thing. 

 

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Michigan Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The biggest bombshell from the first week of camp was the announcement from Brady Hoke that Michigan will have a free night scrimmage open to the public on August 16. In past seasons the team has had occasional open practices for donors but nothing close to this during fall camp.

“They want to play in front of people,” said Hoke.

He also cited the desire to get players acclimated to the atmosphere of a night game while providing a unique opportunity for Michigan fans. The first 300 season ticket holders will be eligible to get a pass to watch the scrimmage from the sidelines. The deadline to get tickets is 5 p.m on August 13, and fans can either register online or go to the Michigan ticket office in person.

The scrimmage might also be a way to generate ticket sales for a home slate of games with only one marquee opponent (Penn State). The athletic department has been promoting the availability of general tickets, and this game is another opportunity to remind undecided fans what they’ll be missing.


Delano Hill Injury

The first injury reported from camp is defensive back Delano Hill, who broke his jaw bumping into another player during drills. He’s currently lifting weights and doing conditioning but is restricted from contact in hopes he’ll still be available for the season opener.

Hoke said that Brandon Watson, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Jarrod Wilson, and AJ Pearson are getting additional reps in Hill’s absence.

 

Jabrill Peppers Watch

Brady Hoke shot down speculation that the injury to Delano Hill would accelerate freshman Jabrill Peppers into the rotation at safety.

“Right now it’s strictly keeping him at nickel, that’s a unique position,” said Hoke. “The positive thing is he’s a pretty good athlete, he has good recovery skills, so he may take a step the wrong way but he has makeup speed.”

Even his teammates are anticipating his impact despite having not seen him play in full pads yet.

“He's a high-energy guy,” said defensive back Blake Countess. “He had lots of talent in high school, and we’re hoping he can come in and help us.”

Linebacker Brennen Beyer echoed the sentiment. “He seems like he can be a great football player, it’ll be fun to see him put the pads on.”

 

Countess: Team Hungry

Defensive back Blake Countess gave Michigan fans hope that the team has no intention of repeating last season’s 7-6 record.

“The temperament of the team is different, the team is hungry, this is the hungriest I’ve seen the team since I’ve been here. ... I feel really good about this team.”

He also said that the shuffling of the defensive coaching duties had made a big difference in practice and meeting time compared to last season.

 

Offensive Line

According to Hoke, the offensive line is coming along. “They really have done a nice job. ... [I’m] happy with how they finished summer conditioning.”

No word on a starting lineup yet, but running back Joe Kerridge has observed that “...players are learning at a faster pace than last year. Old players are helping younger ones.”

 

Injury Update

Running back Drake Johnson (ACL), defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (ACL), offensive guard Joey Burzynski (ACL) and offensive tackle Erik Magnuson (shoulder surgery) have all been cleared to resume full contact.

Tight end Jake Butt (ACL) has not been cleared but is making progress towards a return later this season.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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Alabama Fan's Anti-Auburn Shirt Features Very Obvious Fail

Trolling a rival is always fun, but it's important to make sure that the bashing can't be turned around and thrown back in your face.

One pro-Alabama shirt tried to take a shot at Auburn with the help of Wheel of Fortune. Unfortunately, the shirt features a glaring mistake.  

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Vernon Hargreaves' Injury, Bama QB Battle

Big Injury Scare

The first goal that comes to mind when thinking about this year's Florida team is "stay healthy."

Last year, 15 players suffered season-ending injuries (10 starters), and 25 players missed a total of 126 games, according to Florida's season wrapup notes.

If there are injuries during fall camp, a little bit of panic from Gator Nation is understandable. That's exactly what happened Thursday.

Star sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III injured his left knee in a scuffle during Thursday night's practice—which was open to the public. The AP All-American from a year ago was helped off the field and examined by Florida's medical staff, and Hargreaves' reaction understandably had Gator Nation holding its breath:

He’s walking around now, getting on cart being taken from practice field. He’s sitting in the passenger seat.

— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) August 8, 2014

Hargreaves visibly frustrated, hands on head, banging the cart in annoyance.

— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) August 8, 2014

Head coach Will Muschamp released a statement on VHIII's injury after practice, and it was surely met with relief:

Update from @CoachWMuschamp: “An MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise and he is listed as day to day.”

— GatorZone Football (@GatorZoneFB) August 8, 2014

Losing Hargreaves for a significant amount of time would have been a devastating blow to the Gators, and would have put a ton of pressure on some of the younger guys to step up—just as Hargreaves did as a true freshman. 

It's safe to assume that Hargreaves will miss at least some practice time, which means more reps for guys like Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson—two early enrollees who were already in line for rotational snaps either as backups or, in Dawson's case, perhaps as the "nickel." 

 

All Quiet on the Bama QB Front

If you expected there to be some separation between quarterbacks early in Alabama's fall camp, well, you're probably a little disappointed right now.

There hasn't been.

Legit concern to freak out?

Not really.

Florida State transfer Jacob Coker has only practiced for a week, and while it's likely that he'll win the job (after all, head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wouldn't bring him in to ride the pine), there was no chance for him to beat out senior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman early in fall camp.

The coaches were only able to have limited contact with him during "voluntary" offseason workouts, and they're not going to just hand the job to him until they've got a firm grasp of what he can and can't do.

This is not a typical quarterback battle. The unorthodox circumstances with a new offensive coordinator, an unproven graduate transfer going primarily up against a senior dual-threat signal-caller—Sims—almost forces this battle to go deep into fall camp.

It could go farther, too.

Coker is getting his fair share of hype—he was rated as the No. 1 breakout player (subscription required) in college football by ESPN insider Travis Haney—but don't be surprised if he and Sims both see time in the season opener against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome. Saban did it before, in 2011, with AJ McCarron and Phillips Sims. This battle almost requires it.

 

Lighting a Fire?

The Alabama quarterback battle isn't something to panic over. 

The Tennessee quarterback battle, on the other hand, might be.

Senior Justin Worley and sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are competing for that job, and the early returns from fall camp haven't been pretty from head coach Butch Jones.

In fact, they've been downright ugly, according to Grant Ramey of the Maryville (Tennessee) Daily Times:

Butch on his QBs: "We're not playing winning football at that position right now. I'm always going to be brutally honest with you."

— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014

Butch Jones continued on the three-man race at quarterback: "Efficiency is what we're hunting. And we're not efficient at that position."

— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014

Last Butch on his QBs: "We're going to go back, we're going to refine it. But our passing game needs to take monumental strides"

— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014

Motivation? Could be.

But this quarterback battle is much different than the one at Alabama. Jones let last year's battle go deep into fall camp, and Worley, the eventual winner, didn't look comfortable early in the season before getting pulled, regaining the job and then getting hurt. 

There's more urgency this time around on Rocky Top, and if the inconsistencies last another week or 10 days, it's time to push the panic button.

 

Depth and Versatility

Auburn's secondary was more of a punch line than a power last year, and now it's getting some pieces back.

Defensive back Josh Holsey tore his ACL in October of 2013 and is now back at the position he started his career at—cornerback. He'll provide a quality option for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson opposite Jonathon Mincy, along with converted wide receiver Trovon Reed, Jonathan Jones and several incoming freshmen.

Holsey's versatility and ability to move back to the safety position will be incredibly valuable at boundary safety, where junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief is looking like a potential starter.

"He’ll know both the corner and the safety," head coach Gus Malzahn told Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "We’re just trying to think through the year. Last year, we had a lot of injuries on the backend. He didn’t go through spring, but he got a chance to watch. So we had him out there at corner, but he does understand the boundary safety very well."

Moncrief has been out with an illness early this spring, according to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, which has allowed some younger guys to get valuable reps. Couple that with the versatility he provides and suddenly Johnson has options at the back end of the defense.

 

Beast Mode

The start of fall camp always gives us a chance to get a glimpse of how some players have developed during offseason workouts.

LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter has evidently been spending some time in the weight room. Possibly a lot of time:

More #LSU practice pics, including the freaky pipes of DE Danielle Hunter (FREE) http://t.co/7B07ItUGbepic.twitter.com/cjiUoZnxCs

— LSU Tigers (@Geaux247) August 7, 2014

Hunter and Jermauria Rasco are bookending the Tiger defensive line this year, and with guns like that, Hunter's swim move is going to be something fierce.

Speaking of fierce, remember the last time we saw Alabama running back Derrick Henry in game action? It was when he was accounting for 161 total yards and two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.

The 6'3", 241-pound running back from Yulee, Florida is still a monster:

RB Derrick Henry at #Bama's practice today...#Beast (FREE) http://t.co/eFgoZNeJHYpic.twitter.com/ImKUgBtTkE

— BamaOnline (@BamaOnline247) August 5, 2014 

Anybody want to tackle him? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

One freshman burst on to the scene in Kentucky, and he's a big one.

Matt Elam, a 6'7", 375-pound defensive tackle from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, stepped foot on campus and the ground likely shook. Look at this guy

Matt Elam...mother of god pic.twitter.com/eLiIJBt5Ze

— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) August 5, 2014

Defensive ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith will certainly enjoy Mt. Elam taking up space in the middle of that Wildcat defensive line, which will allow the two veterans to get after the quarterback.

 

Steve Spurrier vs. The SEC Network

Whenever Steve Spurrier has something on his mind, he's going to tell you about it. This week, he took aim—subtly—at the NCAA.

While discussing the new SEC Network with his players, Spurrier took a shot at NCAA's rules which prevent players from being paid:

Spurrier joke w/ team, on SEC Net in 90+million homes: "I said 'you know what that means, don't you fellas? More money, but not for you.'"

— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014

Spurrier: "The players need to share in it, just a little bit. I'm not talking about paying them $100,000 a year."

— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014

Spurrier: "We're trying to give them a little pocket money and give their parents money to go back and forth to ball games."

— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014

If that wasn't enough, Spurrier invited local media to sit in on film study, one day after the SEC Network's camera's did so:

Spurrier opening first 5 minutes of film study for media since SEC Network was given opportunity yesterday.

— GamecockCentral.com (@GamecockCentral) August 7, 2014

Never change, Head Ball Coach. Never change.

 

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Alabama Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

The Alabama Crimson Tide carry heavy expectations into every college football season, and 2014 is no different.

Will the Tide maintain their standard of excellence? Watch as B/R's experts predict how Alabama's season will shake out. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football 2014: Complete Preview of Tigers Offense

In 2013, the LSU Tigers offense ranked 24th in the country in points scored, at 35.8 per contest, en route to a 10-3 campaign.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on the Tigers' offensive outlook ahead of the 2014 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Iowa Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

The Iowa Hawkeyes found success in 2013 after a disappointing 2012 campaign. The team finished the season 5-3 within the Big Ten Conference but failed to defeat LSU in the Outback Bowl and finished the year with an 8-5 overall record.

How will Iowa fare in 2014?

Watch as B/R's experts examine the Hawkeyes ahead of the regular season. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Top 50 Ranked CFB Players If EA Sports' NCAA Football 15 Existed

To the dismay of the virtual masses, EA Sports killed off its NCAA Football video game series this year following a string of lawsuits, potential future lawsuits and headaches over how student-athlete compensation would work in the not-too-distant future.

This crushed us video game folk, and it also killed my offseason and weekly columns at Bleacher Report.

Using NCAA Football (insert year here), I would begin simulating the season the nanosecond the game was released—usually picking up the game at midnight and simulating well past sunrise and sanity. Once this was complete, I would then simulate the top games on a week-to-week basis, highlighting the premier matchups.

It’s worth pointing out that the NCAA Football franchise exited our lives by going five-for-five with its BCS bowl picks last season. What an eloquent way to depart. Before we say goodbye, however, we’re taking the baton from our favorite game and running until we can’t run any longer (about 35 feet, give or take).

Since EA Sports won’t be providing individual player ratings for the 2015 class (and because the whole No. 7-is-actually-Jadeveon Clowney-thing is out of the bag) we will jump into the breach. We’ve assigned a rating to each of the nation’s top 50 players for the 2014 season and gone so far to address some of the notable virtual attributes that contribute to their rating.

Speed, power, arm strength, accuracy, blocking (both run and pass), trucking and other characteristics that were prevalent in the game have made the trek to our hypothetical world. It’s the most incredible scouting process imaginable, the result of one individual still struggling to cope with the loss of his best friend (a video game).

Let’s celebrate the death of the franchise—at least for now, because perhaps it will be back some day—by agreeing on every single rating and bellowing out "Kumbaya" in the comment section.

Begin Slideshow

Auburn Football 2014: Complete Preview of Tigers Defense

In 2013, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's unit surrendered 24 points or more in seven games. Now in his second year with the program, head coach Gus Malzahn will expect improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

How will Johnson, who is also in his second year with the team, and the defense fare in 2014? Will they be able to contend for the national championship?

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on Auburn's defense before the season starts. 

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Ohio State Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The first week of fall camp for the 2014 season is about to wrap up at Ohio State, and unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of storylines to be found in Columbus.

Whether it's health concerns over their Heisman Trophy candidate, the return of a formerly dismissed player or Urban Meyer's thoughts on various position battles, the Buckeyes have found a way to consistently manufacture headlines with three weeks to go until their season opener against Navy.

What follows is a firsthand account from inside Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center over the last week. The Buckeyes have hardly hit their stride yet, but will look to build on a strong start as two-a-day practices approach in the coming week.

 

Miller Maintenance

As the media was welcomed to witness Ohio State's third practice of the week on Wednesday, one observation in particular was made by those in attendance: Star quarterback Braxton Miller was hardly participating.

With Miller's importance to the Buckeyes having been compared to that of LeBron James' to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was obviously concerning to see the reigning two-time Big Ten MVP sitting out in favor of understudies Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. But as Ohio State offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner explained, Miller's limited action on Wednesday was a part of a bigger plan to bring him back from offseason shoulder surgery.

"We have a really good plan to get him where he needs to be Aug. 30, and we don’t need to rush it. The guy has played for three years, so just bring him along like a pitcher in spring training," Warinner said. "An inning, then two innings, then three innings and by the time opening day comes, he can pitch seven innings for you or eight innings or whatever you need. So, I think we’re doing that the right way."

That seems to be in line with what Meyer stated Monday, when he said that the Buckeyes staff would be monitoring its star player's reps for the remainder of fall camp. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that Miller may not be capable of handling a full workload just yet, although he insisted to ESPN.com that's not the case.

“Nah, nothing [wrong] at all,” Miller told Austin Ward. “I’m 100 percent, just trying to stay healthy. I’ve got to get it back in shape."

 

The Reinstated Returns

When the Buckeyes hit the practice field for the first time on Monday, they did so alongside a familiar, albeit unexpected face.

After being dismissed from the Ohio State program in July as he faced charges of possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and rioting/failure to disperse stemming from an incident in Lorain, Ohio, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle was reinstated to the Buckeyes roster moments before the start of the team's first fall practice.

Days earlier, the drug-related portion of Sprinkle's charges were dropped, and he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of failure to comply.

Sprinkle's return to the OSU program will come at a price, however, as he'll pay his way through school for the remainder of the summer before sitting out the Buckeyes' season opener against Navy.

"He was dismissed because of an arrest and some bad words was involved like cocaine or something like that and it was all dropped," Meyer explained. “He lost his scholarship for the summer. Every week, he has community service and a multitude of other things to take care of before he’ll ever see the field.”

While the 6'3", 283-pounder isn't expected to make much of an impact this season, his additional depth will be welcomed on an Ohio State defensive line that will be without suspended All-Big Ten defensive end Noah Spence for the first two games of the season.

 

Fear the Freshmen

A year ago, Meyer showed a reluctance to play true freshmen, ultimately redshirting 17 members of his 24-player class for various reasons. Meyer insists that this season will be different, and his actions have already proved it.

While Monday's dual-practice sessions were split between first-year players and veterans, two true freshmen were selected to work with the latter. Unlike their classmates, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and wide receiver Johnnie Dixon found themselves practicing with their older teammates on the first day of camp, after what Meyer described as "rare" offseasons for the two true freshmen.

"They act like pros," Meyer said of McMillan and Dixon. "They act like grown men, so we let them practice with the grown men today."

McMillan and Dixon aren't the only freshmen who have caught Meyer's eye thus far in fall camp, as the third-year Buckeyes head coach has also singled out Dante Booker, Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith.

Couple that with a talented crop of redshirt freshmen who have already impressed in camp, and a youth movement in Columbus could be on the horizon.

 

Camp Competition

As is the case with most fall camps, position battles have garnered significant attention, with Meyer stating that none has caught his eye more than the fight at left guard. And while Antonio Underwood may currently have a leg up on Joel Hale and Billy Price in that battle, a number of other races for starting spots have also begun to take shape.

After one week, it appears as though Jacoby Boren is ahead of Alabama graduate transfer Chad Lindsay at center, Ezekiel Elliott has emerged as the Buckeyes starting running back, Gareon Conley and Eli Apple are in a dead heat opposite Doran Grant at cornerback and Evan Spencer has been taking first-team wide receiver reps opposite Devin Smith.

Another interesting development has come at safety, where presumed starter Vonn Bell has been the odd man out, behind Tyvis Powell and Cameron Burrows.

Bell appears to have been motivated by the slight, performing admirably on Monday and recording a diving interception in a scrimmage situation on Wednesday. It's also worth noting that the sophomore missed the majority of spring practice due to an MCL injury.

With multiple scrimmages scheduled between now and the season opener, there remains plenty of time left for these position battles to play out before the Buckeyes' battle with the Midshipmen at the end of the month. But the first five days of camp have provided solid insight into who already has momentum, and who has catching up to do.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.

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Kentucky Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Mark Stoops' Kentucky Wildcats had a difficult time competing in the coach's first year guiding the program. Kentucky finished the year with a 2-10 overall record and failed to win a game in the SEC.

Entering his second year at the helm, Stoops' squad will be expected to show improvement.

Watch as B/R's experts analyze the Wildcats ahead of the 2014 campaign.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

The Miami Hurricanes experienced a successful overall season in 2013, finishing 9-4 with a 5-3 record within the ACC.

However, the season ended on a bitter note after losing to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Heading into the 2014 season, Miami will look for both its offense and defense to continue their momentum in order to enjoy another successful campaign.

Before the season starts, B/R's experts weigh in on the Hurricanes.

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Notre Dame Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Notre Dame football kicked off its fall training camp with a week of practice at the Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana.

By rule, the Irish were limited in padding for the first few days, but on Friday the squad was able to hold its first full-pad session. Notre Dame will return to campus and practice Saturday at home for the first time.

Let’s check in on some of the main storylines from the first five days of camp.

 

Quarterback Competition

#NotreDame QB Everett Golson sporting new Under Armour practice duds. pic.twitter.com/sEh0lJ266M

— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) August 4, 2014

We haven’t heard much on the quarterback front, as only the first practice was open to media members, providing a small sample size from which to extrapolate information.

Still, according to reporters at Monday’s camp-opening practice, Everett Golson took the first-team snaps.

Everett Golson took the first-team snaps for #NotreDame.

— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) August 4, 2014

It makes sense for Golson, the older and more experienced signal-caller, to take the first-team snaps, at least out of the gate. And, again, it was only one practice, but reporters lauded Golson’s play.

Everett Golson looked better than Malik Zaire. Obviously one day in but looked more comfortable. EG ran first team offense. #NotreDame

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 4, 2014

At the end of Monday’s practice, Irish head coach Brian Kelly analyzed one of the next phases in Golson’s development.

“You’re either fearful or fearless,” Kelly said to reporters. “And I think there was a time where he was a bit fearful at the quarterback position. I want to get him fearless. I think if we can get to that level where he’s fearless—I’m starting to see that move—that’s where we want to get him… If he gets to that level, it’s going to be fun and exciting to watch him play.”

Thought after viewing first #NotreDame practice: It's one day, and maybe no shock, but it'll be stunning if Everett Golson isn't QB starter.

— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) August 4, 2014

Everett Golson on not being named #NotreDame's starter yet: "I'm not disappointed at all." Said competition should raise his game.

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 4, 2014

 

Kelly Fills in for Denbrock

On the eve of Notre Dame opening training camp, Kelly announced offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock will miss “the first few weeks of preseason camp” after a “recent surgical procedure.”

"I had surgery last week," Denbrock said in a press release. "I'm resting and feeling better every day, but I won't be able to join the team for the beginning of preseason camp. Safe to say, I'm already chomping at the bit to get back with the guys."

Kelly has assumed Denbrock’s duties during the absence, and the head coach shared his observations on the wide receivers with reporters following Monday’s practice.

“We’ve got really top-notch athletes at that position,” Kelly said. “Just spending a little bit more time with some fundamentals today on releases, transition, some of the things that I think really can help them develop a solid foundation because they’ve got a great skill set.”

Kelly said his added time with the wide receivers hasn’t greatly changed his overall ability to evaluate the entire offense. Offensive graduate assistant Ryan Mahaffey has handled wide receiver substitution when the position units all come together, and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur does much of the individual skill-based teaching with the signal-callers anyway, according to Kelly.

Kelly did add on Monday that the Irish are happy to accommodate Denbrock for whatever he is capable of doing. The offensive coordinator has access to the practice film, Kelly said.

 

Consistency and Comfort the Keys on Defense

With a young defense dealing with a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, it should come as no surprise two of Brian VanGorder’s buzzwords have been “consistency” and “comfort.”

In an interview with WatchND’s Jack Nolan after the second practice, VanGorder said the idea of consistency is something of a concern. However, the new defensive coordinator didn’t want to overstate that concern after just two practices.

“[Consistent good play and more productive plays], that will all come,” VanGorder said.

VanGorder said the new rule allowing organized team activities (OTAs) in the summer was advantageous for the defense, maybe even more so at Notre Dame because of the new system.

ND ran mostly a 4-3 defense, with Williams-Jones-Day-Okwara up front. Smith-Schmidt-Turner LBs, Luke-Collinsworth-Redfield-Russell DBs.

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 4, 2014

According to VanGorder, getting his players to excel in that system comes down to comfort.

“They’ve got to get comfortable. They’ve got to be able to go out and play fast. That’s really the goal of all football players,” VanGorder said. “When they get a comfort level with all those things, now you have a player that’s playing fast. That’s when I think our scheme will become more effective and exciting for them.”

Perhaps the most important news item of the day: Brian VanGorder’s mustache is now a goatee. pic.twitter.com/ax4keqoB9B

— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) August 5, 2014

 

Young but Deep

The list goes on and on.

Notre Dame lost a slew of proven, frontline players from last year’s team, from TJ Jones and Zack Martin to Louis Nix and Prince Shembo.

But while the 2014 team may be relatively inexperienced and untested, Kelly thinks there may be unparalleled depth this year.

“Our depth is probably—in my opinion— as good as we've ever had [in my five years at Notre Dame],” Kelly said in an interview with WatchND’s Jack Nolan. “They’re not as experienced, but they will get a chance to show that.”

Kelly said he won’t hesitate to dip into the depth, assuring Notre Dame will play a lot of players on both sides of the ball.

Getting today's work in at Culver... pic.twitter.com/lxp8359U2r

Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 5, 2014

When asked about players who stood out early on, Kelly highlighted some of those young, unproven players.

“I'd say it's the younger guys that played small roles last year,” Kelly said. “They are really starting to show themselves this season. Chris Brown is going to play a prominent role. Will Fuller is going to play a prominent role. I think you are going to see a lot more from guys like Devin Butler and Cole Luke. I think we all know that we are going to have to find some young guys to provide some pass rush.”

Notre Dame’s fate in 2014 could very well rest on the development of such young players, those asked to replace the Martins and Shembos of years past.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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LSU Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

LSU head coach Les Miles finally got to play with his new toys at fall camp. 

The Tigers reported to campus for the beginning of fall camp on Sunday and hit the field on Monday. It was the first time Miles got to work with the heavily anticipated 2014 recruiting class

Miles was not disappointed. 

“I think what you see is some very, very talented guys, and some guys that learn quickly,” Miles said, per The (Shreveport) Times. "And this class is that style of class that you can win a national championship with at some point in time, hopefully sooner than later.”

LSU's practices have been divided into two sessions. The morning features projected starters, while the afternoon is focused on freshmen and backups. 

Friday will be the full team practice in full pads. Here is a recap of how things have gone the first four practices of camp.

 

Quarterback Battle Heating Up 

Miles has not given any indication of who his starting quarterback will be in the season opener against Wisconsin. Sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris have rotated working with the morning group. 

Jennings was with the morning group on Monday and Wednesday, while Harris took the Tuesday and Thursday repetitions. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has worked closely with both quarterbacks on every aspect of their game. 

The battle between Harris and Jennings is a close one. Miles and Cameron will likely hold off on their decision for the next few weeks. Yet, Miles said Harris looked spectacular in Thursday's practice. 

"He (Harris) made some of the best throws I've seen today," said Miles per thenewsstar.com

 

Fournette and Freshmen Dazzle

Miles cannot wait to see Leonard Fournette in full pads Friday. 

"It's like having Tiger Woods on the golf course with a putter," Miles said on Wednesday, per The Times-Picayune. "You just want to see him tee off, don't you. We'll have to put pads on before we can see him tee off."

Fournette began the week working with the afternoon group and was eventually moved to the morning session on Wednesday. 

LSU's freshmen class of receivers also made a strong impression. The 6'3'' Malachi Dupre was working with the veterans on the first day of practice. 

D.J. Chark, Trey Quinn and Tony Upchurch also made their debuts. Chark, the lowest-rated recruit of the group, earned high praise from Miles. 

 

Jalen Mills Returns to Team

LSU safety Jalen Mills' second-degree battery charge for an alleged altercation this offseason was reduced to simple battery on Monday, per The (Shreveport) Times. Mills was on the field for practice the same day. He was inserted with the morning group on Tuesday. 

"A misdemeanor being what it is, we're moving forward," Miles said, per The Times-Picayune. "All I can tell you is we're going to handle it internally and work him right here."

Mills is LSU's best safety, and defensive coordinator John Chavis loves his versatility. But it is unlikely he plays in the season opener against Wisconsin.

LSU has plenty of young talent and depth at safety, including 5-star freshman Jamal Adams. Veteran returnees Rickey Jefferson, Ronald Martin and Corey Thompson are more than capable of filling the void. 

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder love the talent the Tigers have in the secondary. 

 

Big Cat Drill

LSU's famed Big Cat Drill was back this week. Geaux247.com's Shea Dixon has the full video. 

Dixon also captured LSU's skill position players going through "The Gauntlet." He archived the full list of participants at Geaux247.com

 

Fall Camp Schedule

LSU will practice again Saturday after putting on full pads for the first time Friday morning. On Sunday, the Tigers will have their annual Fan Day at 6:30 p.m. CST at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Carl Maddox Field House on campus. Media day will be held on the same day in the hours prior. 

When LSU returns to the field next Monday, expect similar practices to week one's. Do not expect any major position changes or decisions on the depth chart, especially at quarterback.  

Here is LSU's schedule for next week, via The Advocate.

Monday, Aug. 11, 9:15 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 12, 8:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. practice

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 9:15 a.m. practice

Thursday, Aug. 14, 4 p.m. walkthrough

Friday, Aug. 15, 8:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. practice

Saturday, Aug. 16, 10:45 a.m. scrimmage at Tiger Stadium (closed to the public/media)

 

*Rankings and stats provided by cfbstats.comsports-reference.com and 247Sports.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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Auburn Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

AUBURN, Ala. — In the first two minutes of his first fall camp press conference, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn made three important announcements:

Starting quarterback Nick Marshall would not start against Arkansas for his marijuana citation.

Cornerback Jonathon Mincy would miss time in the opener too for his drug arrest.

Finally, SEC All-Freshman left guard Alex Kozan suffered an offseason back injury that required season-ending surgery.

With that news out of the way early in camp, it has been business as usual and back to football for Auburn.

The Tigers wrapped up their first full week of fall practice Thursday and will have their first off day on Friday. Since last Friday's opener, Auburn has had one scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium and its first two-a-day practice.

Here is a wrap-up of all the major news and notes from the defending SEC champions' first few days of fall camp.

 

Marshall and Johnson Rotating at First-Team Quarterback

Now that Marshall will not start the season opener against Arkansas, all eyes are on backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

In anticipation of the opener, Johnson has gotten more time to practice with Auburn's returning offensive starters.

Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have not announced how much time Marshall will miss against the Razorbacks, but they both have said Johnson will get more time with the first-team offense this season.

"Me and Rhett decided Jeremy Johnson was going to have a bigger role regardless this year," Malzahn said. "We've talked about him and his ability and how we feel about him. We feel very good about our quarterback position as a whole."

Teammates say Johnson, who did not go live in Wednesday's scrimmage, has now taken more of a leadership role with the offense and with the entire team.

"Jeremy Johnson has come a long way from his freshman year," H-back Brandon Fulse said. "Most freshmen are immature, just kind of lollygagging, but now he’s stepped up. Jeremy Johnson will be a leader now and when Nick leaves, and he carries this team. First game, anytime you put him in, we have 100 percent that Jeremy Johnson will get the job done."

 

Offensive Line Depth Getting Tested Early

During the spring, Auburn experimented with rotations along the offensive line. A few tackles moved to the interior for some work, while other players flipped to the opposite side of the front five.

That experimentation is paying off early for the Tigers.

With Kozan out for the season, starting right guard Chad Slade moved to left guard, while starting right tackle Avery Young moved inside to guard. However, Slade was held out of Auburn's Tuesday practice and Wednesday scrimmage with a minor injury.

"He was one of the guys we held out," Malzahn said Wednesday. "He's fine. He just got a little banged up. Fall camp, a lot of times, especially with the guys we have a lot of information about, you just want to be smart."

According to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, Auburn's midweek scrimmage was focused on "evaluating the entire depth chart," which opened the door for several younger players to stand out in the deep offensive line unit. One player who impressed coaches was Slade's replacement, backup left guard Devonte Danzey.

"We've really seen him improve in the spring, and now he's just improved even more," Malzahn said. "It's almost good to put guys in there with certain groups, see how they respond, and so far, he's responded well. You know, we're trying to develop depth in our offensive line, especially without Kozan."

 

Several True Freshmen Making Early Impact

Last fall, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Marcus Davis were some of the players who contributed to the Tigers' success as true freshmen. This fall, a whole host of newcomers are fighting for their chance to receive some spotlight and hopefully playing time when the season begins.

The biggest spotlight so far this camp has been from the biggest newcomer, 6'6" offensive lineman Braden Smith.

"If I saw Braden in public and I didn't know him at all, and you told me he was a freshman in college, I would not believe you at all," Slade said. "He's one athlete, big and strong. He's going to be something great."

Smith, who was nicknamed Drago because center Reese Dismukes said he "looks like the Russian of Rocky IV," is a freshman Auburn's staff has tabbed as a player with a shot to get in the rotation this fall. After he showcased his athleticism and pure power in offensive line drills throughout the week, the Kansas native was a topic of discussion for both offensive and defensive players in interviews.

On defense, true freshmen Raashed Kennion, Andrew Williams, Tre' Williams, Stephen Roberts and Markell Boston were singled out for praise in Ellis Johnson's Thursday press conference. Roberts has gotten additional work in Auburn's kick returner battle, along with running back Roc Thomas and wide receiver (and early enrollee) Stanton Truitt.

"Here's the deal with Stanton: He is super-fast," Malzahn said last Saturday. "He's got electric speed. So finding ways to get him the ball in space or maybe in the return game or something like that, he's capable of taking it the distance anywhere on the field."

 

Returning Defensive Starters Shifting to New Positions

The story of spring for Auburn's defensive line was "the Rhino package," senior defensive tackle Gabe Wright's name for the larger front four that will be used to combat power offenses.

Now, this fall, it appears the package's namesake will become more of a permanent feature at a new position: defensive end. The slimmer Wright wanted a chance to fill in the position after the departure of Dee Ford and the injury to Carl Lawson, and he has made an impression on the defense so far in camp.

“Gabe is very versatile at everything he does," linebacker Kris Frost said. "He’s very athletic and very strong. I could really see him at any spot on that D-line, and I know he’s going to succeed [at defensive end]."

While Wright is moving to a new spot on Auburn's heavily rotating defensive line, another returning starter is moving back to a familiar position in his return from injury.

Josh Holsey, who started as safety for the Tigers last season before tearing his ACL, is now getting most of his playing time at cornerback, where the team is trying to replace the departed Chris Davis.

"I know it's a big spot to fill from what he did last year," Holsey said. "I know from watching him my freshman year because I played boundary corner as well. I watched Chris Davis a lot. I know everything he did, and he taught me a lot of things. I know those are big shoes to fill, but I feel like I'm capable."

 

Quick Hits

Ellis Johnson gave an exhaustive injury update for his defense on Thursday evening:

- Defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence missed two practices and a scrimmage with an undisclosed injury before returning Thursday.

- Projected starting safety Derrick Moncrief missed a practice-and-a-half with an illness.

- Star Justin Garrett missed some time during Thursday's practice with an injury.

- Wide receiver-turned-cornerback Trovon Reed has been held out of practice with a "nagging" hamstring injury.

- Weak-side linebacker Khari Harding avoided missing practice time after injuring his wrist.

- Offensive lineman Austin Golson has been held out of the last few practices with an undisclosed injury. The Ole Miss transfer must sit out a year before he is eligible with the Tigers, but he was practicing with the second-string offensive line before his injury.

- On the positive side of injury news for Auburn fans, wide receiver Jaylon Denson is at 100 percent in practice. Denson suffered a season-ending tear to his patellar tendon against LSU in 2013. During the media viewing windows of the Tigers' earlier practices, Denson looked sharp running routes and making hard cuts. 

- The offense has practiced several times with a four-wide, no H-back shotgun set, which was seldom seen last season outside of the BCS National Championship Game. Defensively, Johnson has installed an "expanded dime package" for third-down situations that will include three-down linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Nebraska Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

Nebraska opened fall camp this week, which was kicked off by the annual Fan Day on August 1.

Bo Pelini has given the media access to fall camp, much like he did for spring practice. This will allow more insight for fans as the season gets closer. While it's only the first week, position battles and storylines are already starting to take shape.

 

News from the Week

Junior Charles Jackson will miss the entire season due to a leg injury, per Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald. The news is disappointing for the Huskers, who expected Jackson to start at nickel.

"It's a tough blow because he's put a lot of work in, a lot of time into it," Pelini said to the media. "It's very unfortunate for Charles."

Jackson still has his redshirt, which would allow him to play two additional years at Nebraska once fully recovered. Byerson Cockrell is expected to be Jackson's replacement.

In other injury news, long snapper Gabe Miller is out with a back issue. Pelini told reporters that he should be out at least a few days. His replacement is a work in progress.

 

Important Position Battles

Josh Banderas and Michael Rose Jr. are expected to compete for the middle linebacker job. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said it's likely the position battle will last throughout fall camp, per Nyatawa.

It's been pretty clear that the quarterback position is Tommy Armstrong's to lose. Pelini said as much during Big Ten media days, as the SandhillsExpress.com reported. Is that still the case?

During the Aug. 6 practice, offensive coordinator Tim Beck was asked how the quarterbacks look. Per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, Tommy Armstrong, Ryker Fyfe and Johnny Stanton all have work to do but are improving:

I feel like they're at practice three of fall camp, as sophomores. They've got a long way to go, yeah. Just inconsistency right now. We're putting in the install (of the offense) and their heads were swimming a little bit. But there's a lot of good things that they're doing right now. I'm pleased. I'm seeing improvement every day.

Stanton and Fyfe had a chance to work with the No. 1 offense this week. Reporters at camp were very impressed with Fyfe right off the bat.

Armstrong, on the other hand, looks ready to put in the time needed to guarantee the spot is his come Aug. 30.

 

Biggest Storylines

During the Huskers' first practice, something was different. That was the new Catapult GPS trackers. I took a more in-depth look at the trackers, which have been a favorite of Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. In fact, Fisher credits some of the Seminoles' success in 2013 to the trackers.

As for Nebraska, Pelini spoke briefly about them to the media following the Aug. 4 practice.

“They can track these guys, built up some data and learn a lot as far as making sure we’re tailoring practice the right way, not only for performance, but for injury prevention and that type of thing,” Pelini told reporters.

Efficiency has been the buzzword for fall camp so far. As 247Sports' Michael Bruntz noted, the Huskers practiced for a little less than two hours during the Aug. 4 practice. Bruntz also reported that, "Nebraska cut through some of the walk thru time at the beginning of practice, though the number of plays run won’t change."

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Ohio State Football: Why Curtis Samuel Will Live Up to Preseason Hype

When Curtis Samuel's name was called during a spring scrimmage in April, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer gave him one simple instruction.

"Just go," Meyer told the freshman running back, according to Ari Wasserman of Northeast Ohio Media Group. "Just get the ball and go.”

Moments later, Samuel broke through the line and darted past the defense for a 50-yard touchdown.

It was that playmaking ability that caught Meyer's attention during spring practice. Over the summer, Samuel earned the respect of upperclassmen on the team with his work ethic and maturity.

Speaking at Big Ten media days, star defensive tackle Michael Bennett raved about the young ball-carrier.

"Curtis Samuel has a lot of maturity for his age," Bennett said, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group's Doug Lesmerises. "He likes to work and he's gotten a lot better and a lot bigger. I remember he's got a different mentality that you don't see freshmen usually have."

On the set of ESPN's Mike & Mike show a few days later, Meyer revealed his excitement for the freshman running back.

"This guy named Curtis Samuel, a kid out of Brooklyn, New York, a true freshman who came in the spring. He really stole my heart," Meyer said. "He does everything right. He's a gifted athlete, kind of a freak athlete.

"This kid's a stud."

That assessment was just as true last year, when Samuel was rated a 4-star all-purpose back and the No. 59 overall recruit in the country. He had earned offers from programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and USC, but the opportunity to play in Meyer's spread offense was too good to pass up.

Samuel's hype train started crawling this spring, but as the 2014 season nears, it's gaining speed. And unlike some freshmen before him, Samuel is in great position to live up to the preseason hype.

That's because the Buckeyes have an actual need for his services. 

Dontre Wilson generated more preseason excitement last year than any freshman since Terrelle Pryor, but with Corey Brown at receiver and Carlos Hyde in the backfield, his opportunities were limited.

Both Brown and Hyde have graduated, creating a big need for playmakers. Wilson is in line to replace Brown in the slot, and Ezekiel Elliott is the front-runner to fill in for Hyde, but Samuel has surged past a number of talented players in a deep stable of running backs.

By the end of spring practice, Samuel was slotted as the No. 2 back behind Elliott, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

“We have some depth there, but right now 15 (Elliott) and 4 (Samuel) are the two,” Meyer said.

That momentum carried over throughout the summer and into the first week of fall camp. 

As part of the Big Ten Network's football tour, Tom Dienhart was in Columbus on Wednesday to catch a firsthand glimpse of the Buckeyes. He was impressed with the blazer.

"The guy is pure, unadulterated speed at running back."

But it's not just his speed that's standing out.

According to Lesmerises, Bennett told a story highlighting Samuel's toughness. During spring practice, Samuel got his bell rung by senior defensive end Steve Miller on a simple inside run. The very next play, Samuel came right back and "just knocked someone else out cold."

It's rare for a freshman to have that kind of attitude, but Samuel is a speedy playmaker who is showing the ability to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow with the big boys.

In a video of Wednesday's practice, Samuel put that on display during Meyer's famed circle drill. Two players enter the center of a mob created by the football team, and after the whistle is blown, they go at it. The stronger man wins.

When it was Samuel's turn, he won (at the 16-second mark). 

Since arriving in Columbus in January, Samuel has done everything right. 

"That's why I enrolled early," Samuel said, via Lesmerises. "I wanted to get a head start so I was more ready to be a contributor in the fall."

If he stays on the same track, he'll have a big impact on the field this season.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

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6 Most Valuable Backups in 2014 College Football Season

In the 85-scholarship era of college football, depth is as important as ever.

Gone are the days when the likes of Bear Bryant, Barry Switzer or Darrell Royal could stockpile talented players, stacking every key position at the depth chart if only to keep players away from their closest competitors.

The Football Bowl Subdivision’s 85-scholarship limit has evened the field in college football, allowing the likes of Boise State, Central Florida and Utah to win Bowl Championship Series games while competing in non-power leagues like the American Athletic Conference or Mountain West.

Finding players who can step in and duplicate a starter’s production when injuries inevitably happen is not easy, which makes having depth and solid backups so important.

Here is a look at a select group of players across college football who have emerged as the most talented backups. These men are capable of stepping in and making an impact should a starter be sidelined, or even if he stays healthy the entire season.

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