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The Opening 2014: Predicting Where All Uncommitted Recruits Will Land

With The Opening taking place on July 5-10, that means 162 outstanding recruits will be in Oregon competing against one another at Nike headquarters in Beaverton. While many prospects scheduled to be in attendance have already made their decisions, a good portion of the players at the event will be uncommitted.

Predictions are always fun, and this piece will focus on the uncommitted recruits at The Opening. A 5-star defensive tackle appears ready to announce he's following family tradition, while a 4-star receiver looks like he will be catching balls at UCLA.

Also, Texas could be the pick for a 4-star running back.

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Florida State Football: Top 5 Quarterbacks That 'Noles Will Face in 2014

The Florida State football team will face 12 teams that have good—but not elite—quarterbacks.

Every opposing quarterback on the schedule, even the ones in our top five, has a question mark. That includes the No. 1 choice, Notre Dame's Everett Golson, who isn't the most accurate passer (58.8 percent in 2012) and didn't play a snap in 2013.

For teams looking to try and upset FSU, this is bad news. The Seminoles are the defending champs, and the target on their backs is unmistakable. But FSU had the nation's No. 1 pass defense in 2013, allowing just 156 yards per game. And the Seminoles return a loaded secondary led by cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams and safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews.

All of the quarterbacks have a strong supporting cast of playmakers around them. Here's a look at the top five quarterbacks that FSU will see in 2014.

 

5. Jake Heaps or Ryan Williams (Miami)

2013 stats: Ryan Williams: 22-of-32 for 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Heaps: 128-of-261 for 1,414 yards, 8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions (at Kansas).

Williams was having a strong spring until he tore the ACL in his right knee and had surgery. While it's not known when he may be able to return, he told the Miami Herald that he has had no setbacks in his recovery and hopes to be the starter going into the season. 

Heaps adds drama to the quarterback competition. The former Kansas quarterback, who graduated and is eligible to start for Miami immediately, completed just 49 percent of his passes last year. He has had an up-and-down college career, and The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter analyzed his hit-and-miss performance against Kansas State in 2013.

It's possible Miami could start both Williams and Heaps in 2014. But either quarterback, along with tailback Duke Johnson and receiver Stacy Coley, could make for a dynamic offense when FSU visits Miami on Nov. 15.

 

4. Jeff Driskel (Florida)

2013 stats: 42-of-61 for 477 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

There are many knocks on Driskel, the most notable being his alarming number of turnovers. He has thrown just 14 career touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. But he's also been less than productive: He tossed 12 TD passes in 12 starts in 2012.

Driskel played in just three games in 2013 before breaking his leg against Tennessee on Sept. 21. But offensive coordinator Brent Pease is gone and coach Will Muschamp hired Kurt Roper, a former Duke offensive coordinator, who has installed a spread offense in Gainesville.

That offense should suit Driskel's talents better, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee. Florida isn't deep at receiver, but Quinton Dunbar caught 40 passes for 548 yards (albeit without a touchdown) and Andre Debose is back for a sixth season after missing 2013 with injury. If healthy, Driskel and Co. will provide a much tougher challenge when the Gators play at FSU on Nov. 29.

 

3. J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State)

2013 stats: 113-of-190 for 1,333 yards, 9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.

Walsh hasn't won the starting job going into preseason practice, although Jake Trotter of ESPN.com writes that he appears to be the front-runner to start on Aug. 30 against FSU in Arlington, Texas. He will compete into August with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph.

Walsh has the ability to beat defenses with his arm and feet. He threw for 135 yards and ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in a win over Mississippi State. He also had 326 passing yards in a win over Texas-San Antonio and 322 passing yards in a loss at West Virginia.

 

2. Cole Stoudt (Clemson)

2013 stats: 47-of-59 for 415 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.

Stoudt played mostly in mop-up situations as a backup to Tajh Boyd. But Stoudt is a senior with experience (287 college plays), and he's thrown just one interception. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes, and coupled with the lack of mistakes, he should be an efficient quarterback despite being a first-time starter.

The 6'4'', 210-pounder won't be able to throw to Sammy Watkins (a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills), but Clemson has enough speed and talent at receiver, led by senior Adam Humphries (41 receptions, 483 yards, two touchdowns). This is a different Clemson team but not one that FSU will overlook when the teams face off in Tallahassee on Sept. 20. 

 

1. Everett Golson (Notre Dame)

2012 stats: 187-of-318 for 2,405 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 interceptions.

Golson is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. He may be rusty early in the season after not playing in 2013 due to academic issues, but he should be warmed up by the time Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Oct. 18.

Mobile quarterbacks have had more success (relatively speaking) than dropback passers against FSU in recent years. Auburn's Nick Marshall threw for 217 yards and had two passing touchdowns and one rushing score against FSU (although he completed just 14 of 27 passes). Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas threw for 298 yards with a TD pass and TD run (along with two interceptions) in 2012. Both, of course, were FSU wins.

Golson is the most talented run-pass quarterback on FSU's schedule, although he's clearly not the best pure passer. One advantage: Notre Dame will employ a fast-paced offense. Still, Notre Dame has a deep receiving corps, led by DaVaris Daniels (49 receptions, 745 yards and 7 TDs).  

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and bio information courtesy of NCAA.com and school websites. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Can Bo Pelini Recruit Well Enough to Get Nebraska into College Football Playoff?

Nebraska's last championship in football came in 1997—one year before the start of the BCS—when the Cornhuskers laid a whooping on Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17. 

But as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s, the Huskers' BCS bowl appearances began to dwindle. With the College Football Playoff era approaching this season, the Nebraska program is still solid, but it's not the championship-caliber one it once was. 

If nothing else, under head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska has been consistent. The Huskers have won either nine or 10 games per season—no more, no less—from the moment Pelini took over the program in 2008. Nebraska has even competed for three conference titles under Pelini between its time in the Big 12 and Big Ten but has yet to take home any championships. 

The question constantly facing Pelini is whether he can get Nebraska back to the days the program experienced under former coach Tom Osborne. 

What does that require? It starts, as any coach will tell you, with the Jimmys and Joes.

Coaching matters, yes. Many of the coaches who have won national championships in the BCS era (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles) are still around. Some good fortune matters, too. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in during the 2012 national championship had Iowa State not stunned Oklahoma State. Instead, the Tide got a rematch of their regular-season loss to LSU (and won 21-0). 

But, really, recruiting is the important foundation.

It is also an inexact science, but there are two trends in recent years that indicated a program had a shot at a championship-caliber roster: home state and class rankings. 

The first is obvious. The more high school players per state, typically the more talent there is. In 2013, Football Study Hall broke down where college football players came from by percentage (from 2008-13). Not surprisingly, Texas, Florida and California were the big three. Georgia, Ohio, Alabama and Louisiana came next. Rust Belt states Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan rounded out the top 10. 

Lo and behold, every national champion from 2008-13 came from one of those states. Furthermore, blue-blood programs like Alabama and Ohio State are located near other recruiting hot beds like Georgia and Pennsylvania, respectively, as well. 

Not to mention, these programs recruit nationally. 

Nebraska, meanwhile, ranked 38th in the distribution of recruits. With homegrown players harder to find, the Huskers make a living feeding out of states like Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois and California. Nebraska recruited Texas far more heavily when it was in the Big 12, but that pipeline has largely dried up with the program's move to the Big Ten. 

If a program has to look elsewhere for players, it can be hard to land a top recruiting class. Sure, Nebraska has shiny first-class facilities and a top-tier tradition/atmosphere. But, as Matt Brown of Sports on Earth wrote in February, that only does so much: 

That storied history is not for nothing, but the further Nebraska is removed from that success, the less it matters. Nebraska's best claim aside from its history is its status as the only game in town, the sports team for almost everyone in the state. But that can go only so far. 

In the last five years, the Huskers have just one top-20 class—the No. 16 class in 2011—and no top-10 classes, according to 247Sports. Twice, in 2010 and '14, Nebraska finished outside the top 25. 

Now look at Florida State's, Alabama's and Auburn's classes from the five years leading up to their national championships. The difference speaks for itself. 

These rankings are all from one site, but it does provide a snapshot into how programs are recruiting. Not surprisingly, it usually reflects the state of the program. 

B/R colleague Michael Felder wrote in February that there's no such thing as an "average" recruiting class among the power-five conferences. Either a class is filled with quality additions or disappointments that will get a coach canned. That logic certainly applies to Nebraska. The Huskers' recruiting efforts have been mostly good—just not great. 

Which is all fine if a program is content winning nine and 10 games a season. Most, in fact, would love nothing more than to have that. But if a program wants to hoist a championship trophy, it can't have a top-20 class once in a while. Not without a lot of work cut out for it. 

Based on recent national champions, Pelini has a lot of work to do as a coach if he's going to overcome Nebraska's natural recruiting disadvantages. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Alabama Football: Why O.J. Howard Will Be Team's X-Factor In 2014

On a team loaded with freakish talents at the skill positions, sophomore tight end O.J. Howard might be the key for Alabama’s chances to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff this fall.

Sure, Nick Saban is used to having freakish running backs and wide receivers—and this year will be no different with the likes of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper leading a loaded group of skill talent.

However, since his arrival in Tuscaloosa seven years ago, he’s never had a talent like Howard at the tight end spot.

Late last season, Saban commented on just how bright the former 5-star recruit’s future appears to be.

"To have a tight end like him that is certainly a threat in the passing game, either vertically, horizontally or play-action passes is really a tremendous asset for us," Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "He's really matured a lot as a player and is becoming a better blocker and a good all-around player. I think that guy's going to be an outstanding tight end for us."

After showing glimpses of his potential by snaring 14 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a true freshman, Howard is on the verge of breaking out in 2014, as detailed by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread.

At 6’6”, 237 pounds and blessed with breakaway speed, Howard is a valued weapon who can help create a smooth transition for the new parts involved with the offense.

Specifically, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and projected starting quarterback Jacob Coker will love the spoils that come with having a game-breaking talent like Howard at tight end.

He’s versatile enough to be flexed out wide as a receiver in certain sets, and he’s quick and physical enough to exploit mismatches against linebackers or safeties in the middle of the field.

With teams having to respect the Tide’s bruising running game, and be mindful of a receiving unit that could be the deepest segment of pass-catchers fielded by the Tide in Saban’s tenure, Howard brings a new dimension that gives defenses an almost impossible task in stopping the Tide.

Another area where Howard could make a big difference is in the red zone. Considering Alabama converted only four touchdowns out of 10 combined red zone trips in its last two games—both of which were losses—Howard’s ability to create mismatches will benefit Kiffin and his troops greatly in 2014.

The 2014 edition of the Tide are loaded for another national title run. Similar to their recent title teams, familiar elements such as a physical defense and an unrivaled complement of talented rushers are present.

However, after years of tight ends being relegated as sixth offensive linemen in its offense, Howard’s continued development may just be the difference in getting Alabama back to college football’s mountaintop.

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Nebraska Football: Offense, Not Defense, Must Be Huskers' 2015 Recruiting Focus

Nebraska has gotten off to a strong start recruiting the class of 2015 prospects.

In fact, the Huskers ranked No. 14 on 247Sports.com's team rankings list for 2015 back in late February. That ranking even surged to No. 9 by the end of April.

Things are a bit different now, though.

The Huskers currently sit at No. 29 on 247Sports.com's list. Dave Miller of NationalFootballPost.com, on the other hand, has higher expectations for Nebraska. He currently has the Huskers ranked No. 12 in his early prediction.

Reading Miller's take on Nebraska, it's clear what ranks the Huskers so high: the recruits on defense. He specifically mentions twin defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis, as well as cornerback Eric Lee, as the major strengths of the current 2015 class.

Looking at the Huskers' 10 commits, the team's defense is shaping up nicely.

As for the offense, there is definitely some work that still has to be done. That's especially true with the loss of some key potential players.

In the last couple of months, Nebraska has lost Monte Harrison (recruited in the 2014 class) to Major League Baseball. The team also lost Damore'ea Stringfellow and Spencer Tears. While Tears has not committed anywhere else as of now, Stringfellow selected Mississippi over Nebraska.

With the loss of Harrison, Stringfellow and Tears, the wide receiver position could be in trouble come 2015.

The Huskers have quite a few offers out for the position, but currently nothing set in stone. This will be a primary position that head coach Bo Pelini and his staff will have to focus on.

Additionally, Nebraska has made it clear that the team can never have too many running backs.

With Ameer Abdullah graduating after the 2014 season, it's not a bad idea to continue securing the future of the position. Marquise Doherty of Kansas City, Missouri, is high on the Huskers' target list right now, while Pelini has already secured a commit from New Orleans native Kendall Bussey.

It also never hurts to recruit heavily for the offensive line. With so many injuries in 2013, players had to step up quickly to fill in.

Nebraska currently has commitments from tackle Christian Gaylord and guard Michael Decker.

In addition to the current 10 commits, the Huskers will be looking to secure a class of 18-20 players. Looking at the list now, it's obvious Nebraska needs to put some focus on the offense. If Pelini does not, there could be serious weaknesses come 2015—especially at the wide receiver position.

Needless to say, there's a lot of pressure riding on the 2015 class for Pelini. Fans are hoping for a highly ranked class.

Hopefully, that includes a fair amount of offensive recruits, too.

 

Unless otherwise noted, recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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What Each SEC Team Needs to Do to Finish with a Better Record in 2014

Every single SEC team has something it needs to improve on in 2014.

For some, it's tweaking something small in order to take that next step toward a championship-caliber team. Others must solve myriad issues just to get back to a bowl game.

Then there are those who just have to find a way to replace stars they lost to the NFL.

Coaches' jobs depend on fixing these shortfalls, and several teams won't make it into the postseason if these issues aren't addressed.

No matter how good every fan thinks his favorite team is, there's always something they'd like to see improved. No team is perfect, and after a run of dominance throughout the league, the SEC is rife with question marks heading into the season.

Let's take a look at what every SEC team needs to address to finish with a better record in 2014.

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14 College Football Players Who Will Reach Elite Status in 2014

The leap from very good to great is a difficult transition for a player to make, but it is among the most important things in college football. It replenishes the sport with stars after each year's NFL draft and gives new faces to teams to market.

There is a small difference between this list and a normal "all-breakout" team. On this list, many (but not all) players have already broken out. They have proved themselves capable of becoming productive players but have yet become consistently great ones.

No one on this list was considered among the top five or 10 players at his position last season. Most weren't even in the top 20 or 30. In fact, as a guiding rule in constructing this list, I did not include a single player who made his all-conference first or second team.

By the end of the 2014 season, however, these players could—and arguably should—be considered among the very best at their respective positions. Based on their physical attributes, performances in the past and play during spring practice, there is reason to believe they will make the nebulous leap.

I've only included 14 players—two for every position group on the field—so plenty of qualified candidates did not make the cut. I feel the most confident in backing these players, but there are arguments to be made in so many different directions.

Chime in below, and let me know whom you would have included.

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Dorial Green-Beckham to Oklahoma: Latest Details and Reaction to Transfer

Dorial Green-Beckham was one of the more dangerous wide receivers in college football in 2013 for Missouri. But after being dismissed from the team, he has decided to transfer to Oklahoma. 

SoonerSports.com confirmed the news Thursday:

Head coach Bob Stoops announced that wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has joined the University of Oklahoma football roster. Under NCAA rules, Green-Beckham can immediately enroll in classes and begin team activities. He would be eligible to compete in games for the Sooners beginning in 2015.

'We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career,' Stoops said. 'Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.'

Green-Beckham shared his comments on the situation:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell posted this message and picture of Green-Beckham:

Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in April after an incident in which a female student at the University claimed he pushed her down several stairs while trying to get into an apartment to see his girlfriend. He also had had two marijuana-related arrests before that incident, and was suspended a game for the second arrest in October of 2012.   

He was suspended from the team initially before the decision came down to dismiss him altogether. 

On the field, Green-Beckham was excellent for Missouri in 2013, catching 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Had he been eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, he certainly would have declared. He wasn't, however, which perhaps explains his transfer to Oklahoma. 

That remains true even if he never plays for the team, per Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report:

Green-Beckham can practice with the squad, however, so even if he never steps on the field for the Sooners he can use the next year to stay in football shape, practice, continue to fine-tune his craft and take classes. In that regard, the transfer makes far more sense than simply waiting a year for the draft without joining another program. 

And perhaps he has decided that he will come back for a senior season, though that seems unlikely. There's little doubt that Green-Beckham has NFL talent. The questions teams will have for him in a year, however, will be about his character and behavior. 

A year in Oklahoma out of the spotlight might be just what he needs to start rebuilding his reputation.

 

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