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Miami Football: Ranking 10 Best 'Canes in BCS Era

Year after year, talented athletes don the orange and green of the Miami Hurricanes. Some players stand above the rest and only one can be the best.

In 2013, the BCS breathed its last breath, ending a stretch of college football that contained a Miami team ESPN called the best in the era.

While the program has long been considered one of the premier NFL-producing schools, these players are measured strictly on collegiate performance during the BCS' relevance.

That last part is important: The BCS existed from 1998-2013, so players will only be judged for contributions throughout the 16-year period.

 

Notes: All stats courtesy of hurricanesports.com. Any marked years signify a given player the BCS-eligible seasons spent at Miami, but complete career stats will be provided.

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How Braxton Miller's Offseason Training Will Impact Ohio State in 2014

The Ohio State football team is still a few weeks from reporting for fall camp, but Braxton Miller isn't waiting that long to get ready for the 2014 season.

Coming off a shoulder surgery that cost him all of spring practice, Miller has been working hard this offseason to improve for his final year as the Buckeyes' quarterback. 

That's good news for Ohio State.

Getting healthy was a top priority. According to Cameron Moon of The Plain Dealer, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says Miller is "not 100 percent, but he's close."

Due to offseason NCAA restrictions, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff can't evaluate summer workouts. Despite the direction of his coaches, Miller has made great progress.

Ohio State is expected to be one of the handful of teams to make a run at major college football's first-ever playoff—an array of media publications project the Buckeyes as a top-six preseason team—but Meyer will need his quarterback at his very best for that to happen. Ohio State must replace four multiyear senior starters along its offensive line, its top rusher (Carlos Hyde) and top receiver (Corey Brown).

That puts a lot of pressure on Miller, but the dual-threat signal-caller spurned last year's NFL draft to prove he can handle it.

“I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year,” Miller said in January, according to an official release from the school. “Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game."

Accomplishing that takes diligence—a trait that Miller has proven to posses throughout his collegiate career. For the second consecutive offseason, he has enlisted the help of quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr., to improve his passing game.

That kind of offseason dedication has paid off for Miller so far. In each of his three seasons, he has shown dramatic improvement in the passing game.

Those improvements aren't lost on Meyer, who's expecting big things from Miller this season.

"If he makes the same strides he made year one to year two, year two to year three and this year, year four, he could have a great year," Meyer said, according to Moon's Plain Dealer feature.

Aside from working with notable quarterback coaches, Miller is putting in extra work with his teammates. Last week—on a Friday night in the middle of the summer—Miller was in Ohio State's practice facility running drills with receiver Jalin Marshall.

Working that hard and building that kind of chemistry during the offseason pays dividends on fall Saturdays. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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One Commitment Every Big 12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

As we head into the heat of summer, the temperature gauge on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 is starting to rise as well. 

Teams across the Midwest are trying to add depth and replace stars in the wake of the new college football era. 

One hot prospect will be outside linebacker Anthony Wheeler of Dallas, Texas. The 4-star recruit that's part of the 2015 class is targeted by both Texas and Oklahoma. 

With that, let's check out each Big 12 team's most coveted 2015 recruit heading into the summer. 

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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12 College Football Teams Guaranteed to Struggle on Offense in 2014

In the high-scoring world of college football, to struggle offensively is a relative term.

In 2013 nearly half of the 126 FBS programs averaged 30 points a game or more, and scoring 20 points per game could still land you in the bottom 20 of the national rankings. And from a yardage standpoint the numbers were even more outlandish, with more than 70 teams gaining 400-plus yards per game.

But even with all those beefed-up statistics and overworked scoreboards, a number of teams will find it difficult to keep up with the Baylors and Oregons. That includes some programs that are expected to contend for division or conference titles, meaning some teams might have to (egads!) rely on defense to be successful during the 2014 season.

Whether it's because of roster attrition through graduation, early departure or transfers, changes to staff or just a poor offensive scheme, these are the 12 most notable teams that will struggle on offense in 2014.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: 10 Best Wolverine Recruits of BCS Era

Since the start of the BCS era in January of 1999, Michigan has remained a college football powerhouse. The Wolverines are always in the hunt for top talent around the country, and it has resulted in them signing some great recruits.

Former head coach Lloyd Carr signed a stud defensive back in 2001, and he got a good quarterback in 2004. 

Current head coach Brady Hoke got an elite quarterback of his own in 2013, which is the same year he signed a 5-star running back.

 

All recruiting class ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Recruiting Rankings.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.All stats are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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Nebraska Football: Why Terrell Newby Will Be Nebraska's X-Factor in 2014

Nebraska football fans know who the stars on offense are for next season—Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, Tommy Armstrong, and other players who are household names in Big Red Country. The question becomes who will be the player to step up and make a name for himself in 2014.

A leading candidate for that role should be Terrell Newby, a sophomore I-back. Here’s why.

 

He’s Fast

You can’t coach speed. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason. Newby has the kind of breakaway, game-changing speed that can terrify an opposing defense. When you have a player, particularly in the backfield, who can score from anywhere on the field if given a seam, it can change the entire structure of an opposing defense.

When he was healthy, Taylor Martinez had that kind of speed, and we saw how it could affect Nebraska’s offense. While he does not have the overall talent of Ameer Abdullah, Newby’s white-hot speed has the potential to transform Nebraska’s offense.

 

He Can Play Special Teams

If turnovers were problem No. 1 for Nebraska, a lack of production in punt returns was problem No. 1A. Nebraska averaged 3.04 yards per punt return in 2013, ranking No. 123 nationally. That means if, on every punt, Nebraska simply caught the ball and immediately fell forward, its average punt return yardage would be only slightly less than what it achieved in 2013. That’s 5.01 yards per return less than the “average” team’s punt return output last year, No. 62 Northern Illinois.

Nebraska had 23 punt returns in 2013, which averaged out to 1.77 punt returns per game (fair catches and punts out of bounds don’t count as returns). So, even if Nebraska could just get to “average” in its punt return game, that would yield an additional 8.87 yards of field position in a game in punt returns.

That may not sound like a lot, but if you look at drive statistics from last year (courtesy of FBS Drive Stats), the difference in average starting field position between the worst team and the best team in FBS football last year was 9.5 yards. Now, it’s not exactly a like-for-like comparison, but the underlying takeaway is those 8.87 yards per game of field position Nebraska gave up compared to the “average” punt returning team makes a big difference.

Enter Newby, who looks absolutely primed to make a huge difference in special teams. He has the elusiveness to make a gunner miss, and the electric speed to take a small crease and turn it into a big gain. Combine that with the fact that he is not likely to be the primary ball-carrier, meaning he will be fresh and ready to contribute on special teams, and Newby could be a big difference-maker.

The only glimpse of that we have gotten publicly was in kick return drills at the spring game, where Newby (along with Jamal Turner) looked amazing. It may not be the first thing you think of, but if Newby can jump-start Nebraska’s punt return game, that could pay massive dividends to NU’s overall performance.

 

He’s Got The Coaches’ Trust

Last year, Newby had 54 carries as a true freshman. In the Bo Pelini era, only one true freshman I-back has gotten more carries—Rex Burkhead in 2009, with 81. That means the coaches like what they see in Newby and want to get him on the field.

With another year in the program and in the weight room, that workload should only increase. Combine that with an offense that should be less quarterback-centered with the departure of Taylor Martinez, and that suggests a significantly bigger role for Newby in 2014.

If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: 10 Best Tide Recruits from BCS Era

Alabama has signed an army of big-time recruits in the BCS era, which began in January 1999. This list was tough to put together, as current head coach Nick Saban has collected an exceptional amount of talent.

However, not all the players on this list were signed by Saban. A stud quarterback came to Alabama in 2001, while a highly rated offensive lineman joined to the Crimson Tide in 2006.

Yet Saban is responsible for the arrival of a 5-star receiver in 2008, plus a talented running back in 2009.

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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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