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The SEC East's 7 Most Indispensable Players

There was a glimmer of hope in the SEC East during bowl season, when the struggling division posted an unblemished 5-0 record and announced to the world that it is on the way back.

For the division to take the next step in 2015, though, several key players need to stay healthy.

On Monday, we went through the SEC West's most indispensable players based on talent, scheme and depth. We'll run down the most indispensable player for each SEC East team in this slideshow.

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Ed Orgeron Shows He Can Dominate SEC Recruiting by Landing 2017 DT Tyler Shelvin

Tyler Shelvin, a 4-star defensive tackle, per 247Sports, has officially committed to the LSU Tigers. The 6'2", 310-pound defender will be sure to bring his big-play ability to Les Miles and the Tigers' faithful. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Shelvin's game, as well as what impact he will have for the Tigers. 

What is Shelvin's ceiling? Check out the video and let us know!

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Big 12 Football: 5 Biggest 2015 Heisman Contenders

Spring practices have just started for some programs. Naturally, it's time to peer into the crystal ball and pick out some Heisman Trophy contenders with what will surely be 100 percent accuracy.  

Being a Heisman finalist is as much about fitting into a formula as anything else. Are the individual stats good enough? Are there enough highlight-reel plays sprinkled in? Is the team's record good enough? Are non-quarterbacks versatile enough? 

Believe it or not, those things matter. 

With that in mind, here are five players from the Big 12 who could become Heisman contenders in 2015. Or, more specifically, here are two with a legitimate shot and three others, should the circumstances be right, who could get some chatter. 

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FSU Commit Tyree Horton Athletic Enough to Be Anchor of Seminoles Defense

Tyree Horton is a 4-star JUCO linebacker, per the 247Sports composite rankings, who is committed to Florida State. Horton has experience at Highland Community College in Kansas, and he will be a huge asset to FSU in the future. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down why Horton is a perfect fit for FSU.

What kind of impact do you think Horton can have for the Seminoles? Check out the video and let us know!

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He Won't Get the Hype, but Jonathan Williams Might Be the SEC's Best RB

With running backs like Georgia's Nick Chubb, LSU's Leonard Fournette, Tennessee's Jalen Hurd, Arkansas' Alex Collins and Alabama's Derrick Henry in the conference, it's safe to say that the SEC will be a running back-driven conference in 2015.

Which one is the best?

Chubb has the stats, Fournette has the hype and Henry has the size. The right answer, though, might not even be the most notable name in his own backfield.

Arkansas senior Jonathan Williams.

The 6'0", 224-pounder from Allen, Texas, led the Razorbacks with 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, splitting time with Collins, who finished the year with 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Pretty impressive considering Williams has been splitting carries with Collins over the last two seasons. That's part of the plan, though.

"We're very excited about the combination of Jonathan and Alex together," head coach Bret Bielema told Bleacher Report. "Obviously, they've been able to put up impressive numbers, and the reason for that is because they share the workload."

Williams has proven over the last two seasons that he has the size to take the punishment between the tackles, the jets to be a home run hitter in space and the hands to be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

A true complete back, Williams passed up a chance to jump to the NFL to come back to be part of what's becoming one of the most prolific running back systems in college football.

"I don't think a back that's been in our system since I've been a head coach can survive as a one-back guy. We've had guys gain almost 3,000 yards between the three of them, and there's no way one guy can do that. We've always felt really strongly about having two major guys and one role player, and I think J-Will will take the lead on the role that he'll play his year."

Take the lead, he will. 

Arkansas released its spring depth chart on Wednesday morning, and Williams found himself atop the running back depth chart without an "or" attaching him and Collins.

That's quite a compliment for Williams, who simply goes about his business in the Hog backfield.

"I think we all take Williams for granted because he lacks a little of that 'flash' factor," said Nicholas Mason, program manager and host on ESPN Radio 99.5 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. "We have to forget about a guy not making sexy plays and just look at his production. The kid just gets it done."

He gets it done in an offense that doesn't get too creative with the running game. Of the 916 plays Arkansas ran last year, 557 were running plays (60.8 percent).

Quarterback Brandon Allen was solid as a game manger last season, but Arkansas' ability to remain consistent in the running game without much of a deep threat in a passing game is a massive compliment to the running backs and the offensive line.

Sure, Chubb is a monster, Fournette has the potential to be a superstar and Henry is a physical freak who jumps off the screen.

But Williams is a proven superstar and rarely gets mentioned in the conversation.

That makes him, by far, the most underrated running back in the SEC.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Will Cardale Jones End Ohio State's QB Competition Before It Even Begins?

Cardale Jones could end college football's most polarizing and intriguing position battle before it truly has a chance to take shape. 

Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett—two former Heisman Trophy candidates in their own right—may be helpless to prevent it as they recover from injuries that ended their 2014 season.

Ohio State's quarterback quandary is not only one of the most fascinating storylines in the country—it may be one of the most unique in college football history. 

There's Miller, one of the most electrifying playmakers in the country and one of just two players in Big Ten history to win the conference MVP award in back-to-back seasons.

Then there's Barrett, who not only possesses the single-best quarterback rating among returning players in the NCAA, via cfbstats.com (h/t Peter Berkes of SB Nation), but he's also coming off the most prolific season in Ohio State history (despite playing in just 12 games). 

And finally there's Jones, who led Ohio State to a historic thrashing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game before ripping Alabama and Oregon to win the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Urban Meyer, who's coached at the collegiate level since 1986 and won three national titles, has seen a lot of things. But even he is a bit bewildered by Ohio State's quarterback dilemma. 

But Jones, the only signal-caller among this elite group who's fully healthy, has all the momentum.

Or rather, he's the only one who's capable of carrying the load at the moment.

With spring practice officially underway, Meyer provided an update on the recovery process for both Miller and Barrett on Tuesday. Miller, who's coming off shoulder surgery, is a bit ahead of schedule and throwing light lob passes. Barrett, fresh off a broken ankle suffered against Michigan, has his ability to throw, but his lack of mobility will prevent him from participating fully this spring.

Their top priority is getting healthy and avoiding setbacks.

That leaves Jones to receive the lion's share of snaps this spring. And even though he played well during Ohio State's jaunt through the postseason, he still has a lot to learn.

“Cardale is getting more reps than he's ever gotten,” Meyer said, via Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod. “He became a very functional player with repetition…he's still almost a rookie—an older rookie that hasn't had a lot of reps.”

How much better will Jones get with those invaluable repetitions this spring? How much chemistry will he build with a new-look receiving corps that doesn't feature Devin Smith or Evan Spencer? 

Will he gain an insurmountable lead in this unprecedented race?

Those aren't questions Meyer is willing to entertain. The Buckeyes' head man is taking things in one day at a time.

“How does it play out? I don’t know,” Meyer said, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. “It’s day by day, player by player. That’s the focus. Not what’s going to happen or what do we foresee.”

What can be seen, however, is the opportunity that lies ahead of Jones. The Buckeyes have 13 more practices before closing out camp with the spring game on April 18.

That gives Jones 14 more opportunities to increase his lead over Miller and Barrett.

 

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Recruiters, Coaches, and Analysts Need to Watch This 2016 Recruit

Meet Aaron Manning, an unranked, talented wide receiver and running back from Rancho Cucamonga, California. He does not let rankings get in his way. He is determined to make it to the next level. 

Check out the video above, where Manning discusses his family, his detractors and his football goals. 

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Tennessee Football: Ranking the Volunteers' Top Recruiting Targets for 2016

With Tennessee taking fewer football commitments in this year's recruiting class due to sheer numbers, the Vols' 2016 start isn't quite as torrid as it has been the past couple of cycles.

That's not necessarily a bad thing as UT can be a little more selective in handpicking players than in years past.

Most of the recent activity for head coach Butch Jones in this recruiting class hasn't been positive, however.

First, linebacker Emanuel Bridges decided to reopen his recruitment after an early pledge to the Vols. Then, on Tuesday, 4-star quarterback pledge Austin Kendall decommitted.

Kendall had been shaky since Sheriron Jones gave UT three quarterback pledges in the 2015 class and lead recruiter and former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian departed. So now, the Vols will begin the quest to sign their signal-caller in this class as well.

With just five early commitments in the '16 class, there is plenty of room for Jones and crew to work and numerous spots to fill.

Tennessee's roster features several big needs, so with those in mind as well as some elite talent with some Vols connections, and other factors such as geography and bloodlines, let's take a look at some of the top targets on UT's board.

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Amari Cooper Needs Big Pro Day to Cement Himself as Draft's Top WR

On Wednesday, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper has a chance to open some eyes at the Alabama pro day. Typically, pro days serve mid-tier prospects more than the elite, because so many teams are in attendance it gives them an up close look at the players from a specific school. But does Cooper need a big pro day? He’s already considered a top prospect.

The answer is a definitive yes. In fact, of all the top prospects in this draft, Cooper might be the one who needs a big day more than any other. The reason being that for the talented Crimson Tide star, his status as the top wide receiver in the draft is tenuous.

What’s the difference between being the first wide receiver off the board and the second? It’s hard to be certain, but there’s a real chance that the Oakland Raiders take a wide receiver with pick No. 4. After that, the next likely landing spot for a wide receiver would be the Chicago Bears at No. 7, but more probable are the Minnesota Vikings at No. 11.

There’s a significant difference between being the No. 4 pick and the No. 11 pick, so it would behoove Cooper to fend off West Virginia’s Kevin White with a big pro day.

Cooper’s talent is not in question. In terms of route running, Cooper is the best in this draft class, and he would have been among the very best of the past two drafts. As this Vine shows, Cooper’s ability to shake his defender at the line of scrimmage, then stick his foot in the dirt and square the route is elite.

Amari Cooper route running is icy 😤https://t.co/F2N21oz6EU

— Darious Crawley (@DariousCrawley2) March 4, 2015

Another strength of Cooper’s game is his ability to operate once the football is in his hands. Here’s another great example of how Cooper can make a talented defense look hapless in a near effortless manner. Lateral agility, burst off the line and power to finish are all on display.

Amari Cooper https://t.co/jgZKFhnejv

— Ndamukong Flakes (@Vaca_Frita) March 9, 2015

The movement toward White over Cooper is evident in mock drafts around the league. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. moved White ahead of Cooper in his latest mock draft.

West Virginia WR Kevin White passes Amari Cooper in @MelKiperESPN's Mock Draft 3.0. http://t.co/frsKR9jKBw (Insider) pic.twitter.com/bkFVsG9QUY

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 5, 2015

In addition, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has moved White ahead of Cooper as well. On the other side, CBSSports.com and ESPN’s Todd McShay have stuck with Cooper as their top wide receiver. Cooper has been my top wide receiver since mid-October, and while I love a lot of White’s game, the polish and versatility of Cooper give him a clear advantage.

So, what can Cooper do on Wednesday to change the minds of guys like Miller and Kiper? And more importantly, the minds of those teams in the league who favor the size and physical style of White over his?

The main thing Cooper must do is pick his spots. Cooper can’t make himself bigger or taller, so he has to do it with the drills. Cooper already showed at the NFL combine that he has areas of agility that he is superior to White. However, that is to be expected from a player a bit shorter and lighter.

If Cooper wants to open eyes on Wednesday, he can do it with a fast 40-yard dash. Back in March of last year, Cooper ran an unofficial 4.31 40 at the Alabama 2014 pro day, according to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. Obviously, this is as much legend as anything, but if Cooper could pull a sub-4.4 40 on Wednesday, teams will have to take notice.

It is a given that Cooper is going to catch everything that’s thrown at him. This has been the case during his entire career. Even with that, White is charging on him fast. Cooper displaying truly elite speed would marry so well with his skill set that teams would have to take notice.

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10 Unheralded SEC College Football Players Who Would Be Stars Elsewhere

As members of the premier conference in college football, SEC programs put together some of the best recruiting classes in the nation. The most sought-after recruits in the country headline these classes, but there are others brought in for depth who eventually perform as well as their blue-chip teammates.

If they played in inferior conferences, these guys would be the stars of their teams.

There are so many in the SEC who fall into this group, but which 10 would have the greatest star potential? That's what we'll try to figure out here.

College success doesn't always translate to being drafted into the NFL, but the best of the college game at least get an opportunity to prove themselves at the professional level.

Therefore, NFL Draft Scout's player comparisons according to class were heavily considered when forming this list. Also considered was how highly (or lowly) regarded these players were coming out of high school, according to ESPNU's rankings. In this scenario, the fewer stars, the better.

With that, here are the players.   

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4-Star DB C.J. Pollard Reveals Top 4 to B/R: Where Does He Fit Best?

C.J. Pollard is the type of defensive back who wants the title "do-it-all athlete."

Need him to play cornerback? No problem. Need him to line up at safety? Piece of cake.

Whether the 4-star defensive back from California's Junipero Serra High School is shutting down receivers or delivering the big hit, Pollard has been one to watch. On Sunday, after earning an invitation to The Opening, Pollard broke down what he called his "unofficial top four," a quartet of schools that currently lead the way in his recruiting process.

Emphasis on "currently."

"Right now, I'm looking at USC, Arizona State, Utah and Michigan," said Pollard, the nation's No. 16 safety. "They are four schools that really catch my attention. Not to say that another school can't come in, but I'm thinking about visiting those schools [officially]."

Pollard's versatility would be an asset at any one of the four schools, but if level of comfort is playing the X-factor, look for USC to win this battle. The school is minutes away from home, and he said he loves the "family vibe" and the potential of the program under head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Plus, the Trojans are fresh off landing the nation's No. 2 recruiting class for 2015, barely losing the No. 1 spot to Alabama. He's expecting USC to be good for quite some time.

Still, there's plenty of time for Pollard to make a decision, and contrary to what some may believe, there are no favorites on his list—only potential favorites.

Pollard, who measured at 6'1" and 182 pounds at The Opening's Los Angeles regional, has his reasons for liking all four of the programs high on his list. Utah was his first offer. He said he's taking an unofficial visit there on April 25.

USC has the proximity edge, and he's familiar with the program. Arizona State, however, will get his next unofficial visit. He has a track meet in Chandler, Arizona, and Tempe is roughly a 20-minute drive away.

Pollard said he's a big fan of Pac-12 football. The wild card of the bunch will be Michigan. While he noted Michigan's rich football tradition, he's very intrigued by potentially being coached by Jim Harbaugh.

"That's the school Coach Harbaugh's taking over, and nothing but greatness is expected," Pollard said. "With his NFL expertise, he should be able to master the college level. I think after he gets a season under his belt, that school will end up being dominant."

USC leads Pollard's 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions. In fact, of the nine predictions made for the defensive back, all nine project him to play for Sarkisian and the Trojans.

Pollard said he's planning on taking his time with the process. He added that he will keep his ears open for other offers. LSU, Alabama and Florida State, Pollard said, are three schools that could sneak into contention if they were to offer.

"If they have interest in me, I have interest in them," Pollard said.

Pollard showed on Sunday that he has the skills to play anywhere. He was outstanding at the Los Angeles regional and earned an invitation to The Opening national event this summer in Oregon. It's an event he called "football heaven" for college football recruits.

At the regional competition, Pollard ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash. He also threw the power ball 37.5 feet and recorded a vertical jump of 32.9 inches. It was during the actual defensive back drills, however, when he shined the most, showcasing quick feet and good overall instincts.

The Opening, he said, was a goal of his. Finding a college home is just as important—if not more.

"I just want to show that I can play wherever I'm needed," Pollard said. "I think most like me at safety, but I can play corner and show off my coverage skills. If not, I'll just be a straight-up DB, down to play wherever my team needs me."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. Player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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ACC Football: Most Important 2015 Spring Practice Battles

Players graduate, injuries happen and changes need to be made. Regardless of the situation, important spring practice battles are happening all across the nation. As for the ACC, a few big-time positional battles truly stand out heading into the 2015 college football season.

For teams like the Louisville Cardinals and Florida State Seminoles—sitting with multiple options at the quarterback position—the choices won't be easy.

As for other teams, such as the Virginia Tech Hokies, the battles for multiple starting jobs will be heated. The battles for starting gigs are going on throughout the ACC, so let's take a look at a few of the most important ones to watch out for.

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Bold Predictions for Ohio State Football Spring Practice

The Ohio State Buckeyes open spring practices as the reigning national champions fresh off their unbelievable season in which they battled back from an early-season defeat while going through all three of their quarterbacks.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson caught up with Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer Ben Axelrod to discuss all things Ohio State as it's in the midst of its spring practices.

Is the QB position Cardale Jones' to lose? How dominant can the defense be in 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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