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Georgia Football: Will Any QB Emerge as Front-Runner in Spring Game?

It's the closing stretch in Athens, and the crowded quarterback battle for the Georgia Bulldogs appears to have been narrowed to two.

According to the practice report released by Georgia, junior Faton Bauta and sophomore Brice Ramsey put up nearly identical statistics, completing 17 of 28 pass attempts each. Bauta tossed for 250 yards, two touchdowns and a pick; while Ramsey—last season's primary backup—threw for 219 yards and one touchdown.

Head coach Mark Richt commented on his two quarterbacks in the release:

I thought they both had some good moments and a couple bad moments again. I couldn't tell (the completions and attempts were the same) until I looked at the stats. I wouldn't have been able to predict that. As it went, Faton was a little hotter on the front end, and Brice was a little hotter at the tail end of the scrimmage. They're getting there. They really are.

Noticeably absent from the report was redshirt freshman Jacob Park, who received only a handful of snaps on Saturday, according to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph.

So who will be the star of the spring game Saturday afternoon between the hedges?

Both are neck-and-neck, but I'll take Ramsey as the favorite to shine.

New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has a pro-style pedigree after coaching in the NFL since 2001, and as has been the case for the duration of Richt's tenure, the Bulldogs will run a pro-style system that's founded on establishing the run and working off of play-action.

Ramsey was good enough to win the primary backup job last season under a similar scheme, and he played well at times—particularly in mop-up duty vs. Kentucky, when he completed all five of his passes for 80 yards and one touchdown.

The next step is winning the job when it's vacant, so why wouldn't he be the man for Georgia in 2015?

That's not to say that Bauta won't have a role. He will.

The 6'3", 218-pounder from West Palm Beach, Florida has a little bit of Tim Tebow in him in the sense that, while he isn't going to win the gold in the 100-meter dash, he can do some things on the ground and run over a linebacker or two.

But Ramsey has the arm strength to be a force within the offense despite coming from a Wing-T offense at Camden County High School in Kingsland, Georgia, as the video below from his high school days illustrates.

He gives the Georgia offense more upside.

Let's be honest, the No. 1 attribute that Richt and Schottenhemier are looking for in a quarterback is the ability to stretch the field, and Ramsey is more likely to do that consistently.

Whatever happens in the spring game, though, Georgia's primary focus of the spring seems to already have been accomplished. The race appears to be down to two, with Bauta—who will have some kind of role regardless—in the mix.

That gives the wide receiving corps—which is replacing its top two players from a year ago—a little bit more clarity on who will be involved in the game plan as the Bulldogs enter the summer workout session. That's invaluable as they hit the practice field to work on their own.

Either contender seems capable of winning the job, but Ramsey just seems to be a better fit.

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Where Will Auburn Turn After 4-Star QB Austin Kendall Committed to Oklahoma?

Quarterback Austin Kendall announced his commitment to the Oklahoma Sooners on Tuesday afternoon, less than a month after backing off an initial verbal pledge to Tennessee:

The 4-star North Carolina prospect picked up an offer from Oklahoma in late March while on a campus visit in Norman. He traveled to Auburn a week later, spending time with the Tigers just four days before his decision became public.

Kendall, a 6'2", 205-pound junior standout at Cuthbertson High School, quickly emerged as one of Auburn's primary 2016 targets following his decommitment from the Volunteers. 

"I sat down with [offensive coordinator Rhett] Lashlee and Coach [Gus] Malzahn. They really want me," he told Woody Wommack of Rivals earlier this week. "They're going to take one quarterback right now, they say, and they want me to be it."

Kendall, rated eighth nationally among pro-style passers in 247Sports' composite rankings, threw for 4,461 yards and 49 touchdowns in 2014. He added 519 yards and nine scores on the ground.

Auburn was viewed as a top contender to eventually land Kendall along with Kentucky. Instead, he's headed to Oklahoma, leaving the Tigers with a pivotal slot to fill in this cycle.

Malzahn and Lashlee have their sights set on multiple quarterbacks, with offers extended to 4-star recruits Dwayne HaskinsJarrett GuarantanoJawon PassErvin Barrett and Xavier Gaines

Haskins appears to be focused elsewhere, with LSU, Notre Dame and Maryland emerging as potential landing spots. Guarantano is set to commit April 15, selecting either Tennessee, Ohio State or Rutgers. 

That leaves Pass, Barrett and Gaines—each considered premier dual-threat playmakers at the position—as viable options. 

Pass, a 6'5", 220-pound prospect, has drawn comparisons to fellow Georgia product Cam Newton. It isn't hard to imagine him doing damage in the same offensive attack that vaulted Newton to a Heisman Trophy and national stardom. 

Rated second nationally among dual-threat talents, his recruitment currently centers on the Tigers, Alabama, North Carolina and Louisville. Pass' older brother was a member of the Cardinals' 2015 recruiting class.

Gaines doesn't possess the unique physical stature of Pass, but he's proved to be one of the top overall athletes in Florida. Other interested teams include Clemson, Ohio State, Texas and Virginia Tech. 

Auburn is considered more likely to secure a commitment from Pass, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball, which accounts for expert predictions. The Tigers hold a slight edge over Louisville, with 36 percent of all projections.

Pass used to sell popcorn at Auburn basketball games, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Now, Tigers fans hope he'll become the main athletic attraction on campus. 

Barrett is locked in at 100 percent to Auburn in the Crystal Ball. The 6'2", 213-pound Orlando, Florida, standout named the Tigers and Alabama co-leaders last month.

"I feel like I'm a dual threat, which is just like Nick Marshall," Barrett told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. "The things Nick Marshall can do, I could probably do better. That's how I feel."

It remains to be seen if Auburn would shut down its recruitment of Pass if Barrett pulled the trigger on a pledge.

Auburn's ambitions to sign a single quarterback in this class could certainly change. Malzahn made a late push for eventual Ohio State signee Torrance Gibson last winter despite holding a commitment from Tyler Queen.

With Kendall out of the equation, Auburn could opt to explore other opportunities at the position. Potential targets include Tylin Oden (Tennessee), Jalen Hurts (Texas), Anthony Brown (New Jersey) and Chazz Surratt (North Carolina). 

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Which College Football Team Will Have the Biggest Turnaround in 2015?

Ohio State took the college football world by storm, winning the 2015 College Football Playoff national championship. The new season is sure to have new contenders, some of which struggled throughout last year. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss which team will have the biggest turnaround this upcoming season. 

Who do you think will have the biggest turnaround? Check out the video and let us know!

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USC Football: What to Watch for in Trojans' 2015 Spring Game

Offseason playoff darling USC is in an exciting but daunting situation. Either the Trojans will be officially "back" in 2015, or they'll fall short of expectations—again. 

It's playoff or bust next season, and the first big look into this team's capabilities will be this Saturday, April 11, in the program's spring game.

There's already mounting pressure for second-year coach Steve Sarkisian to surpass last year's 9-4 debut. With the long summer months of the offseason just around the corner, here's what to watch in USC's spring game this weekend. 

 

Finding Playmakers on Offense

Everyone knows what quarterback Cody Kessler can do. Last season, he was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 (69.7 completion percentage, 3,826 yards, 39 TDs, 5 INTs) but didn't get the attention to match because of Marcus Mariota's Heisman-winning season at Oregon. 

That should change next season, but what about the guys around him? Who fills the shoes left by receiver Nelson Agholor? Who becomes the Trojans' leading rusher?

The first question is easier to answer: sophomore JuJu Smith. In his first season with USC, Smith was the team's second-leading receiver with 54 catches for 724 yards and five touchdowns. At 6'2" and 210 pounds, he's a big, physical presence in the passing game with all-conference and perhaps All-American potential. 

“I don’t mind being the go-to guy,” Smith said via Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. “I’ve been doing more stuff after practice [to get better]. I’m working on my routes. Before, I just knew I had to get to a spot and get the ball. At the beginning of spring, I thought I’ve got to make plays. Now, I’m just having fun.”

Finding a No. 2 option in the passing game could be a job done by committee. Darreus Rogers caught 21 passes a year ago, four of which went for a touchdown. Adoree' Jackson could still play offense and defense because of his athleticism. Tight end Bryce Dixon is supremely talented but has faced off-the-field issues and was suspended earlier this spring for a "student conduct issue." 

Meanwhile, running back reps could still be up for grabs. Junior Justin Davis rushed for nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns last season. With the Trojans having depth issues at running back, it's been the Davis show. 

That could change once preseason camp rolls around, as Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West wrote last month. Namely, Tre Madden should be at or near 100 percent as he recovers from a season-ending toe injury: 

While the running back group may be slim today, it will receive a boost in time for fall camp when Madden should be at full strength and highly touted signees Aca'Cedric Ware and Ronald Jones II will be enrolled. It's believed the freshmen will push for playing time and Davis knows all too well what that's like having done it himself. 

For now, there are two players seemingly prepared to take on bigger roles in 2015. Who else is ready? 

 

Building the Protection Up Front

Kessler won't be getting knocked around a lot on Saturday. Along those lines, spring games don't always show how good the offensive line is. Packages are usually pretty vanilla, and the goal is to keep everyone, especially the quarterback, upright. 

But if Kessler gets "spring-game sacked" a lot, so to speak, there could be a problem. 

USC gave up nearly 2.5 sacks per game last season. To put that into context, that was tied for 96th in the country. Not all of that is on the offensive line, per se. As Kessler explained to Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, he has a responsibility to avoid unnecessary sacks: 

USC surrendered 32 sacks last fall, and Kessler blames himself for lots of them. “The numbers look good,” he says, “but there are sacks I shouldn’t have taken.” Even in the Holiday Bowl, where he was terrific in USC’s 45-42 win over Nebraska (he completed 23 of 39 attempts for 321 yards with three touchdowns), Kessler was sacked twice. It still bugs him.

Still, you can't not acknowledge that the Trojans started three freshmen along the O-line. There are going to be growing pains associated with that. 

One of the best things that can happen for an O-line is to grow together. Since the O-line returns intact, it should theoretically be better. New offensive line coach Bob Connelly has been getting plenty of praise this spring, too. 

Even though there won't be any major hits on Kessler, his pocket protection will be of the utmost importance. 

 

Replacing Leonard Williams and Filling Out the Defensive Front

Former Trojan defensive lineman Leonard Williams is the biggest loss from last year's group. Williams graded out as the top defensive lineman in this year's draft, according to B/R draft specialist Matt Miller, and is very likely headed for a top-five pick

Never mind Leonard's stats—which, for the record, included seven sacks and 80 tackles—that's a talented guy to replace period. 

Delvon Simmons should remain a staple of the defensive line. Elsewhere, there could be a lot of moving pieces. Redshirt senior Claude Pelon is the favorite to earn one of the defensive end spots, according to Johnny Curren of ESPN.com

This is probably the hardest unit to get a read on right now. Pelon suffered a shoulder injury late in practice on Saturday, and if it winds up being serious, it will certainly shake things up here. When Pelon went to the sideline, [Malik] Dorton took his place with the No. 1 group, while also taking reps with the No. 2 unit at nose tackle. [Don] Hill, normally a rush end, lined up on the interior at defensive end. Temple has spent the entire spring going with the No. 1 group at nose tackle in place of the injured Antwaun Woods (pectoral muscle).

Though less heralded, the loss of middle linebacker Hayes Pullard is every bit as big as the loss of Williams from purely a production standpoint. Pullard led the team with 95 tackles. 

Cameron Smith, an early enrollee, has shown flashes of potential throughout spring. Last month, he intercepted two passes in back-to-back practices. 

“We wanted a big, physical middle linebacker and we got that,” Sarkisian told Wolf. “He’s a better athlete than we expected.”

The Trojans were good but not great against the run and in points per game allowed last year, finishing fifth in the Pac-12 in both categories. The major concern heading into next season is that three of the departures on defense are in the front seven. 

For as much emphasis as the quarterback gets, having a stout defensive front is just as important. To be sure, the Trojans will be breaking in plenty of new names in that area. How those new starters perform on Saturday will be closely watched. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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USC Football: What to Watch for in Trojans' 2015 Spring Game

Offseason playoff darling USC is in an exciting but daunting situation. Either the Trojans will be officially "back" in 2015, or they'll fall short of expectations—again...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Jalen Mills, LSU DB, to Enter Pretrial Diversion Program for 2014 Arrest

LSU safety Jalen Mills didn't miss a single game for the Tigers last season on the heels of a 2014 arrest, and he is now being given a chance to avoid significant legal punishment as well.  

According to Gerron Jordan of WAFB in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the senior defensive back will enter a pretrial diversion program stemming from an incident in which he allegedly punched a woman in May 2014:

Per Jordan, Mills must follow a few conditions in order to successfully complete the program:

If the Desoto, Texas, native is able to satisfactorily follow the pretrial diversion, then it is possible that the charges against him will be dropped.

Mills figures to be a significant part of LSU's perennially strong secondary in 2015, and playing without the weight of criminal charges on his shoulders should be beneficial.

Nothing will be finalized until Mills completes the program, but he is being given a golden opportunity that he cannot afford to squander.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Meet the Darius Andersons of the 2016 College Football Recruiting Class

Will the real Darius Anderson please stand up?

In Texas high school football, expect three individuals to stand tall—and all three have reason to believe they are the Darius Anderson.

In an extremely random twist of events within the 2016 Class, college coaches are forced to be very specific in recruiting a Texas athlete named Darius Anderson. There's a 4-star wide receiver, a 3-star running back and a 3-star defensive tackle all with the same name.

"I never thought I'd see that, ever," said Anderson, the wide receiver and LSU commit who goes by the nickname "Dee." "When my coach told me that there were others, I didn't believe him."

"I mean, it's different," added Anderson, the running back who has eight offers. "It's not like it's a common name."

He's right. While the last name is somewhat common, the first name isn't Joe or Mike or Chris or Matt or any of the other names considered most popular for those born in the 1990s.

These three, however, are making sure the full name gets the necessary ink.

"It's pretty unique," said Anderson, the defensive tackle, "but we want to be known around the whole country. I think it's cool."

Here are the three Darius Andersons of the Lone Star State. To add, these guys aren't to be confused with 2015 East Carolina offensive lineman signee Darius Anderson or the 2016 tandem of 3-star Georgia receiver commit Darion Anderson and 4-star safety Deontay Anderson.

 

4-Star WR Darius T. 'Dee' Anderson

Darius Anderson grew up with the nickname "Dee." The nickname became a mainstay in his recruiting before the start of his junior year with the help of one of his coaches.

"Growing up, everyone called me Dee. Everywhere I went, it was Dee this, Dee that," Anderson said. "One of my coaches noticed there were a bunch of Darius Andersons in my class, so he said, 'Why don't you just go by Dee?'"

The nickname stuck. Before he knew it, he was receiving offers as Dee Anderson. And before he knew it, he was LSU commit Dee Anderson.

Anderson committed to LSU on Aug. 7. He chose the Tigers over offers from UCLA, Tennessee, Boise State, SMU and several others.

"When I went to the campus, I got the offer during a camp," Anderson said of LSU. "After the camp, I walked around and talked to some of the coaches. Then, I went home and thought about it.

"I committed because of how the offensive scheme is set up. I love the campus, and the coaches were cool and welcoming."

LSU got a big target in Anderson, a 6'4", 177-pound receiver with a near-seven-foot wingspan. Although he is committed to LSU, schools such as Alabama, UCLA, Texas and Tennessee should be monitored, as he has good coaching relationships and player ties with all four. Anderson said he's solid with LSU, but his process isn't completely over until after he signs a national letter of intent.

Per The Dallas Morning News, Anderson caught 44 passes for 733 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.

 

3-Star RB Darius J. Anderson

It wasn't long ago when running back Darius Anderson was a "futbol" star rather than a "football" star. Before he became a highly courted offensive football weapon, Anderson was a soccer forward with a future.

"I didn't play football until I moved here," said Anderson, who lived in Dallas before moving to the greater Houston area. "I played soccer all my life. I even played up a division when I was younger."

Anderson was good, but since putting on a football helmet and pads, the 5'10.5", 182-pound athlete has found a place on the football field. He now has eight offers—the latest coming from Iowa State on March 31—and a handful of schools showing high interest.

Texas, Kansas, Iowa State, SMU, Houston, Cal, Colorado and Tulsa all have offered. Schools like Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor are among the schools showing interest. Anderson said that Texas and Kansas are two schools that have shown the most love during his recruiting process. He added that he plans on attending Texas' spring game on April 18.

"I like the coaching staff at UT," Anderson said. "It just feels right there. They've shown a lot of love, and they have a lot of team chemistry.

"Kansas has really nice facilities. I know a lot of people who have been there who say it's a good place to go. There's a real nice environment there."

Nicknamed "Jet," Anderson's fastest 40-yard dash time has been 4.42 seconds. He ran a 4.48 at a TCU summer camp. At Nike's The Opening Dallas regional last month, Anderson recorded a vertical jump of 38.1 inches. It's his speed, versatility and power running that make him an attractive target.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Anderson rushed for 1,861 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He also caught 22 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

 

3-Star DT Darius D. Anderson

Defensive tackle Darius Anderson isn't the tallest lineman, but there have been occasions where he plays like a giant.

"I hear that all the time," Anderson said of his height—or lack of height—while standing six-feet tall. "I don't let it bother me. I just go out and play."

The more Anderson plays, the more he tends to impress the right people and show that his height doesn't matter. Anderson has an East Carolina offer, but interest from Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, USC and Georgia increases daily.

Anderson showed his skills at Nike's The Opening Dallas regional, and the 295-pounder won his fair share of battles against quality offensive linemen. Being disruptive during run plays is something Anderson takes pride in.

Ironically, it was being disruptive when he found out about another athlete with his name. He met running back Darius Anderson during a select football game when they were younger, and the two have been very close ever since.

"I saw the back of his jersey. It said Anderson," he said. "When he scored a touchdown, I heard his first name called out. It was cool to see another talented player with the same name."

Anderson has made unofficial visits to Houston and Texas A&M this year. He was in College Station for the Aggies' junior day in March. Although he doesn't have offers, Anderson, according to his 247Sports Crystal Ball, is predicted to choose Texas if an offer comes.

Anderson said he wouldn't mind playing on the same college team as his running back buddy. The spring season will be huge for the defensive tackle's stock.

 

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

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Should the SEC Change How Championship Game Participants Are Determined?

Times, they are a-changin' in college football.

In one short decade, we've seen conferences expand, a playoff system created, schools move up to FBS from FCS and even one FBS program—UAB—abandon the sport completely.

Get ready, because there could be more structural shakeups in the future.

According to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, legislation governing the structure of conference championship games is expected to be deregulated by 2016, which would allow conferences that don't have at least 12 teams and play round-robin schedules within each division to stage conference title games. 

The move would directly impact the 10-team Big 12, which is the only Power Five conference that doesn't stage such a contest. But Dodd also mentions that the ACC helped develop the deregulation legislation, and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has a theory as to why.

"I think there's some belief that ACC would play three divisions, have two highest-ranked play in postseason," Bowlsby told Dodd. "Really, nobody cares how you determine your champion. It should be a conference-level decision."

Now, it's not really Bowlsby's place to tell anybody what the ACC's plans are, but it does kick the can further down the road. If the ACC is thinking about changing how championship game participants are determined, should the SEC?

Without a doubt, the answer is yes.

This opens the door for every conference to figure out what's best for them, and as evidenced by the rather downtrodden SEC East over the last few years, incoming commissioner Greg Sankey should take this opportunity to re-evaluate what's best for the conference.

Does winning a geographically determined division automatically make a team title-worthy?

Nope.

We saw this in 2010, when SEC East champ South Carolina (9-3, 5-3 SEC) entered the Georgia Dome to play unbeaten Auburn for the conference title, despite the fact that the Gamecocks would have been tied with Alabama for fourth in the SEC West based on their conference record behind Auburn, Arkansas and LSU.

That shouldn't happen.

So how should the SEC fix it?

Sankey could throw a giant 12-to-6 curveball and completely revamp the way the conference is formatted. SportsDayNow.com's Chadd Scott suggested completely abandoning the divisions, establishing scheduling partners and rotate other teams on and off the schedule. The two teams with the best conference records could then play in the SEC Championship Game.

Is that too aggressive for your taste? 

A simpler solution would be to keep the divisions and long-term scheduling format as is and incorporate a stipulation that SEC Championship Game participants must meet certain thresholds in order to play for the title:

  • Division champs will play in the SEC Championship Game unless the one division champ's conference record is three or more games better than the other. If that's the case, the two teams with the best conference record regardless of division will play for the conference title.
  • A title game participant must finish over .500 in conference play (this almost always is the case anyway, but better safe than sorry).

This way, the SEC Championship Game would reward the best two teams with some built-in precautions that would protect the game from getting a stale matchup while still allowing a division title winner with a tough strength of schedule based on cross-division matchups to be rewarded to a point.

There's no rule that states that geographically determined divisions have to determine champions. Sure, that's the case in virtually all major sports around the country, but there could be a better way.

With deregulation now possible, the SEC should take the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and attempt to not only change itself but become a trendsetter and change the way sports operate.

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Kyle Rose Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction on West Virginia DT

West Virginia defensive lineman Kyle Rose was reportedly tased and arrested over the weekend after an incident where he allegedly struck an officer during a scuffle in Morgantown.

Allan Taylor of the Metro News reports Rose was released on $600 bond after being charged with four misdemeanors, including battery on an officer. The report provided further details about what happened leading up to the arrest:

The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. at Bent Willey's bar on Chestnut Street. Security informed police that Rose had been tossed out of the bar earlier but returned and shoved a bouncer upon re-entering. Police ultimately took the 6-foot-4, 294-pound Rose to the floor after he allegedly shoved an officer in the face. The senior nose guard subsequently continued resisting officers' attempts to put him in handcuffs and had to be tased, police said.

Police later said Rose admitted he had been drinking before the situation escalated. Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen told the outlet that all discipline would be handled internally. Also included in the report were comments from WVU director of football operations Michael Montoro.

"As with all students, Rose could face student disciplinary action," he said.

Rose is coming off a season in which he registered 35 tackles for West Virginia. In three years, he's tallied 109 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss, and one sack. He was expected to take on a starting role in the middle of the defensive line again next season.

Whether his status will change following the arrest is unknown.

 

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Michigan Football: How Wolverines Can Improve the Ground Game

In 2014, Michigan had the No. 77-ranked rushing offense in the country, racking up an unimpressive 1,954 yards and a total of 17 touchdowns. That type of math simply won’t equate in 2015 for the Wolverines, who just completed their first spring game under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Judging by Saturday, they need more practice. The simple solution to the problem is this: Get better up front and in the backfield.

That, of course, takes time; it can’t be done overnight. The new assistants need time to implement change. 

Harbaugh’s staff is partly composed of offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. Drevno, formerly of USC, is known for crafting sturdy lines. He's coached on and off for 11 years with Harbaugh in the NFL and NCAA.

Wheatley is Michigan’s No. 5 career rusher and has plenty of running experience to share with his student-athletes. He also has NFL and NCAA coaching experience. 

Combined, Drevno and Wheatley's knowledge and expertise should help Michigan push toward re-establishing its once-proud ground-and-pound.

The ground game is a product of cohesiveness between the O-line and the running backs. The entire plan gets compromised if one position group is off-center. That was the problem in 2014. Things rarely, if ever, ran smoothly in unison.

Luckily for Michigan, there is a remedy, a cure to what has ailed its backs and line. That’s Harbaugh’s new staff and Harbaugh’s attitude.

But before the transformation can get started, the Wolverines must learn to embrace the fundamentals. Their lack of fundamentals is what put them in this predicament in the first place.

 

Evaluating the Offensive Line

Before stepping away from the game three weeks ago, Jack Miller was up to his eyeballs in practice with the Wolverines.

While watching the spring game on TV, the former starting center noticed subtle improvements in technique, such as the way tackles and guards “squared-up” against blitzing D-linemen, footwork and other fine details as they pertain to fighting up front.

But like most, he’s hesitant to lay out a firm assessment. The fact that starters played with depth guys didn’t provide enough to really analyze the offensive line. There were windows here and there, but nothing to take to the bank.

“That makes it hard when guys are playing next to guys who obviously they probably won’t play next to this season,” Miller said. “But you know, from an individual standpoint, Graham [Glasgow] is the clear-cut leader and best player up front, I think.”

Glasgow’s ability to “get leverage” on defensive linemen stood out to Miller, who sees a great season ahead for the 6’6”, 311-pound senior. Miller also noticed the performances of Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Mason Cole.

“They’re really trying to perfect their craft,” he said. “They’ve come a long way.”

The depth chart has sprouted. It’ll bloom as the weeks roll into August.

Kalis, a 6’5”, 292-pound senior, has grown into a leading man at guard. Cole, a 6’5”, 287-pound sophomore, could play center or left tackle. Braden, a 6’6”, 331-pound senior, is right for interior or exterior.

Despite two holding penalties and a false-start on Saturday, Logan Tuley-Tillman could find a starting role as a tackle.

There are a lot of not-so-hidden talents on the roster. Miller says they’ll be good to go this fall if they continue to train hard through the spring and summer months. That involves a renewed commitment to detail. In doing so, Michigan should see a decrease in mental mistakes such as penalties and missed assignments. 

 

Evaluating the Running Backs

Chris Howard knows all about the prototypical Michigan run game—he was part of it during the mid-to-late 1990s.

As a senior in 1997, he led the 12-0, national champion Wolverines with 868 rushing yards and seven touchdowns (1,131 yards from scrimmage, eight touchdowns total), so he’s certainly in the know when it comes to X's, O's and expectations.

As a spectator and alum, he wasn’t blown away by Saturday’s spring game. But then again, it was just one live practice—meaning it’s nearly impossible to judge based on what was offered this past weekend, he says. It’d be unfair to do so as well.

“[Saturday was] just such a microcosm of a glimpse of what’s been done these past 15, 16 practices,” Howard said. “I thought [the backs] ran hard and did everything they could possibly do. There weren’t a lot of holes for them to run through, which has obviously been kind of an issue. And it’s really hard to judge a running back by that.”

Right now, mastering square one should be the goal for De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green, a wrecking-ball pair that remains unproven but oozes potential. At roughly 5’11” and 230 pounds each, they possess ideal size for a Big Ten backfield but have yet to put their power to efficient use.

However, Howard believes the Wolverines can succeed with the pair of juniors, though they are missing something—something that’d make life a lot easier for Drevno and Wheatley.

“We don’t have that Barry Sanders-type running back who can make something out of nothing,” Howard said. “We’re just not there. We don’t have that.”

Green or Smith won’t turn into Sanders, but that doesn’t mean that one won’t truly emerge this fall. There are positives to be gleaned from Saturday.

“Derrick looked much faster,” Howard said. “He looked pretty good. De’Veon was very decisive in the way he hit holes. I think that was an issue for him last year; he tended to dance a little bit. But that comes from the uncertainty of knowing where the hole’s going to be at—you know?”

Staying the course, subscribing to the staff’s philosophies and studying film—Howard stressed doing homework—should yield future rewards for Green, who had a couple of nice totes Saturday, and Smith, who bust loose for a 34-yarder. They’re the known commodities. 

But enter Ty Isaac, who, once integrated, could do wonders for Drevno and Wheatley.

Like Green and Smith, Isaac, a 6’3”, 240-pound junior, has a mixture of speed and power that could alter the tides for Michigan this fall. He’s yet to play a down in the regular season for the Wolverines and barely participated in Saturday’s spring game, yet he could end up being a key addition to the rotation.

He’s an unknown factor who could bring unreal results.

Once healthy, Drake Johnson, a 6’0”, 207-pound senior, could complement the power trio with his natural quickness. He’s already proven capable of contributing.

Then there’s Karan Higdon, a 5’10”, 190-pounder who arrives late this summer. The 3-star Floridian runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, per 247Sports.

The outlook tends to be the same for a lot of teams in the midst of change. Michigan is such a team.

Sifting through options and choosing the best fits is one obvious way Harbaugh can improve his program’s running game. Come fall, he’ll have a pool of at least Green, Smith, Isaac, Wyatt Shallman, Ross Taylor-Douglas and Higdon with which to work.

He’s working from the ground level, but Harbaugh could end up fielding a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Michigan hasn’t had one since Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 1,064 yards as a sophomore in 2011. With exception to 2007, Harbaugh's offenses at Stanford produced a 1,100-yard rusher. In 2008, Harbaugh's second season at Stanford, Toby Gerhart ran for 1,136 yards and Anthony Kimble rushed for 717. 

In all likelihood, he'll need more than a year to right the ship in Ann Arbor, but Harbaugh's potential for quick results is very real. 

 

Come Together

Once upon a time, the counter was Michigan’s “bread and butter," Howard said.

In all likelihood, it’ll be a big part of Drevno and Wheatley’s arsenal this fall. They’re traditional guys who have proven methods. The counter is both traditional and proven.

There are several variations of the play, but the counter is essentially based on a change of direction inside of the tackles; it’s used, in some form or fashion, by every team in America.

For that reason, it’ll serve as today’s example of X's and O's. Mastering this play—grasping basics has been difficult for Michigan—could lead to yards upon yards. It’s the type of run that often throws defenses off balance and sets up larger gains. It's also a nice change of pace when throwing body blows up the middle. 

In an attempt to further detail technique, Howard was asked to describe what he looked for while running such a play: 

“I always got on the hip of my offensive linemen because your offensive linemen are going to take you to the hole, and you’re going to have to read off of him—whether he continues to take you outside or he turns up [the field]…” said Howard, who noted that attention to detail, such as what he described, could help the ball-carriers.

"It’s probably something taught by Wheatley and Drevno," he added.

Running backs process a lot once they get the ball. With just a fraction of a second to make a decision, they need to know they can trust in their line’s ability to block and create holes.

Some backs are better at reading than others and can make do with a developing line. Some backs aren’t as good at reading the play but get by thanks to outstanding lines.

Everything is tangled, woven and intertwined.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Howard.

Miller agrees with Howard’s idea. There is a lot more than running and blocking going on during a running play. The backs aren’t the only ones surveying the field, either. Linemen are tasked with reading levels as well.

What does that entail? Again, to further detail the specifics, Miller was asked to describe a lineman’s role during a counter/power play:

“The idea is that you’re going to get movement from whatever side you’re running it towards and have the guard come around and create a big hole—a kick-out—usually the defensive end and SAM linebacker on the ball, to create a seam right there [at designated spot for runner]," Miller said. 

Typically, a fullback helps plow the trail. Other times, a teammate from the other side of the play will fly in and provide assistance further up the field. 

Got all of that?

Now throw all of that, seven or eight guys aiming to maim, into a split-second window. There isn’t a lot of time to read, let alone breathe. However, Michigan must improve its ability to make adjustments on the fly and adapt while under duress.

That process began last year, says Miller. He's confident that it’ll produce results this fall.

“I think it’s important to know that the running game requires more than a good offensive line,” Miller said. “You’ve got to have tight ends who can block, you’ve got to have running backs who can hit the holes and read where it’s at, and you’ve got to have a passing game that opens up it up and puts safeties further back instead of crowding the box.

"So it’s a whole offensive effort, and I think they’re moving in the right direction.”

Like Howard said, it’s a “symbiotic relationship” between those up front and those in the back. The running backs go as the offensive line goes, so on and so forth. 

That relationship is formed in practice and on game day, but it’s perfected in the film room.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Incoming 2015 College Football Freshmen with Famous Parents

It’s only natural to find players with talented fathers dotting college football rosters. That phenomenon has been happening for years. Fathers pass down their athletic talents to their sons, and many professional athletes have the means and knowledge to mold their sons into standout players in their own right.

2015 was no different on the college football landscape. A number of second-generation stars will take the field for programs across the nation this fall, but one of the most intriguing players is the son of one of this generation’s most famous rap artists.

Regardless, the sons of famous athletes and entertainers should make an impact this season and beyond. Here’s a look at some famous offspring who’ll make headlines in the college football world in 2015.

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Ex-Homeless Baylor Football Player Finding Himself After Losing NCAA Eligibility

Editor's note: According to former Baylor running back Silas Nacita, a school compliance official met with him on February 24 and informed the formerly homeless walk-on that he would no longer be a part of the Baylor football program, pending a full investigation, because he accepted improper benefits, including housing. On March 25, following the completion of the investigation, Nacita informed Bleacher Report that he has been ruled officially and permanently ineligible. On April 5, Baylor confirmed Nacita's ineligibility to Bleacher Report.

 

For more than four minutes he spoke, uninterrupted by doubt or punctuation. He spoke of God and football and failure and how it all webbed together. 

He shared his unwavering love for the sport that had just been taken from him and what he would do to get it back.

"I worked so hard for 12 years for this game, and I have lost it," former Baylor running back Silas Nacita said. "Whatever it is [I need to do to play again], it would be worth it."

Nacita has slept in ditches and hotel lobbies in pursuit of his dream to play big-time college football, per Sports Illustrated's Ken Rodriguez. He's hitchhiked in multiple states, jumping in the backs of pickups, front seats and backseats to get to where he needed to be. 

His journey has been anything but ordinary, although his faith has remained. It has been tested, twisted and bent, but he's come off the other side unbroken.

There's a weight to all of this, one no 21-year-old should ever have to bear alone. It's a weight that he's been carrying for quite some time through various stops in his life, and it's more than just football eligibility. It's about failure, love, perseverance and the power of the human spirit. 

 

A Dream Denied

On February 24, however, Nacita's love was taken away. His dream was put on hold. Just hours before Baylor's first meeting of the offseason, a school official called Nacita into his office. As the player simply listened, the official spoke of improper benefits Nacita had received: a place to live, food and financial support.

"He told me I was suspended from the team for breaking NCAA rules," Nacita said. "I didn't really understand."

Nacita didn't deny the allegations. He didn't ask for further clarification. He didn't protest or respond with anger at the messenger or the program that gave him a chance to live out his dream. He took the earth-shattering news in silence. It wasn't necessarily the day his NCAA eligibility died; there was still a final decision to be made, one that would eventually come. 

But this is where he started to read the writing on the wall. 

"Is that all?" was the only thing he could muster before floating weightlessly out the door and toward his locker—a place of comfort and peace. He sat there in his thoughts until teammates inquired what was wrong.

The development hit the Baylor team and the coaches hard. Nacita wasn't a starter, but given his history and everything he went through to arrive at Waco, he was a locker room favorite and fixture. He was the glue.

The news was especially difficult for head coach Art Briles, whom Nacita had only recently gifted a photo of them standing together with "Thanks for always believing" penned on the image. It was a tribute to Briles, who regularly left "always believe" as his own calling card. 

Despite Nacita's reluctance to break the news, he eventually did. He called his pastor, and the two spoke, not of solutions but of restoring faith in the journey ahead.

"It's been really tough. But through it all, I know God is good," Nacita said. "He blessed me with the opportunities that I've had, and he's always taken care of me. I've been through some pretty tough things in my life, but through it all, God is not surprised. He knows what's going to happen. I have trust in him and know he has a plan for me."

Even with his faith strong and his spirit intact, Nacita struggled.

He missed a midterm, bombed another test and asked for extensions in other classes. Even with understanding professors, Nacita wasn't able to find stable footing. The situation controlled him rather than the other way around.

As he spoke of this dark time—the fact that other walks of life were impacted—you could hear his voice give out some. His regret for letting his athletic situation impact his studies was palpable.

Nacita also shut down physically, at least briefly. He didn't touch a single weight or even think about his body for the first week after he heard the news. With football out of the equation, there was no point. Having been estranged from his family and homeless, football was the constant.

Only now, it wasn't.

 

The Road to Recovery 

Silas Nacita is not easily defeated; he has already gotten up off the mat. More specifically, he joined a gym.

Without access to the athletes' facilities, this was his only option. After getting used to the posh football weight room and other amenities, asking average Joes for a spot might have seen like a drastic transition—and at first it was. But given his options not long ago, Nacita eventually embraced his new digs.

"There was a year I had to go to a park and train with rocks, so this is nothing new for me," he said. "I'm just hoping that I am training for something and not just keeping in shape."

As Nacita's body went to work, his mind still lagged behind. His spirit was nowhere close to where he needed it to be.

With spring break approaching, Nacita loved the idea of dropping everything and truly getting away. He thought about lying weightlessly on a beach and finding peace by letting loose in a different city and state. Given everything he had been through, it was a tantalizing proposition.

But instead of leaving Waco to lose himself, he left to find himself.

"Deep down, I knew that this wasn't going to help me," Nacita said. "I needed to go find some inner peace."

Instead of heading to Panama City, Nacita took an eight-hour bus drive to Edinburg, Texas, on a mission trip. This was not the spring break he envisioned, but it was the one he needed.

When they arrived, the students cleaned out an abandoned church. They went on outreaches. They held carnivals. They shared their love of Jesus. They danced, they played games, and they played football. 

As the days progressed, things improved. Throughout the week, Nacita found what he went searching for.

"It was really, really good for me," he said. "It was a reminder that life is not about me. This is the first time in my life where all the power, understanding and intelligence I have cannot change my situation. It's completely out of my hands. For weeks, I couldn't accept that. I found peace that week."

 

Coming Full Circle

Nacita arrived back in Waco seven days later with a different perspective. He was rejuvenated. He went back to class, back to the gym and even back to the football stadium for Baylor's spring game. This time, however, he sat in the unfamiliar stands, a foreign football landmark.

"My circumstances have not allowed me to be out there with them on the field, which is unfortunate, but I am going to support them whatever way I can," Nacita said. "Even if that's being a spectator in the crowd."

To get to the stadium, Nacita took the same route that he did as player. As he walked into the building, he retraced the walkthroughs and practices that demanded the same path. The memories washed over him as he retraced his steps.

Just before entering the stadium, however, he changed course. Instead of heading to the locker room, he took the other fork in the road. He entered the stadium as a fan. It was then that Nacita saw the Baylor concession stands for the first time.

He took his seat, one close to the far more familiar turf.

Well, this is a new point of view. #SicEmpic.twitter.com/snoOp9jIch

— Silas Nacita (@Salsa_Nacho) March 21, 2015

He watched his team go through the same warm-ups and routines he now knew by heart. Like the steps he took to get here, he replayed them in his mind. He knew what they were going to do next. 

Defensive end Shawn Oakman saw Nacita in the stands and came over to say hello before the game. The two shared a hug, talked for a while and went their separate ways. Oakman readied for the game, while Nacita finally sat down.

The game began, and the entirety of the situation overcame him.

"It was tough," he said. "It was absolutely tough."

Throughout the evening, Nacita's presence became known. By the end of the evening, he might as well have been mayor of the bleachers. He shook hands, took photos and talked with various fans who were eager to meet a young man they had already heard so much about. Some even told Nacita they were praying for him, a gesture he deeply appreciated.

"It was really encouraging to see so many people I didn't know just telling me they support me and they hope to see me out there again," Nacita said. 

Very fortunate to have spoken with @Salsa_Nacho tonite.After all he has been through, his hope in Jesus stands strong pic.twitter.com/g2fRXGmx6B

— Devin Campbell (@DevinCampbell5) March 21, 2015

Eventually, Nacita left the building the same way he came in, the steps a bit more familiar this time around. His taste of Baylor football brought back memories—good memories—and it left him with the same craving he's had all along. As he left McLane Stadium, he felt both empty and alive.

Only a few days later, closure finally came. Nacita received an email from the university and was asked to meet regarding his eligibility. A final decision had been made.

On March 25, Nacita sat down in a room with Baylor officials and learned the news that he was anticipating all along: His NCAA ineligibility was final.

"I didn't shed a tear in the meeting. I wasn't angry. I shook their hands," he said. "It was a pleasant conversation. I didn't go into the meeting expecting good news. I went in expecting confirmation, and that's what I got. I had a little hope in the back of my heart, but when they told me, it was almost a relief. I could start thinking about my future."

Although playing for an NCAA program is no longer an option, the process of continuing his football career has already begun. It began only hours after the word became official, and in reality, the brainstorming began far earlier than that. Nacita has started researching NAIA schools in the area, and he is encouraged that he will be able to continue to play football somewhere.

It won't be in Waco or at a program that carries the same prestige, but that is of limited importance now. There is a dream still to chase, and nothing will stop him from chasing it. The window to play football in front of fans and for himself is still open, even if it's not like it once was.

"If I am going to go out, I want it to be on my terms," Nacita said. "I want to be satisfied with how it ended. I know it's cliche, but I want to leave it out all on the field. I don't want to just leave it in a meeting room somewhere. I love the game and want to play more than ever."

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Can Jalin Marshall Replace Devin Smith as Ohio State's Deep Threat?

Replacing the best deep threat in college football isn't easy.

In fact, it may be impossible. 

That challenge is settling in for Ohio State, which has to fill the void left by Devin Smith's departure. The 6'1", 199-pound wideout was the Buckeyes' home run hitter for four straight years, and now, head coach Urban Meyer needs to identify someone who can stretch the field in a similar fashion.

And while the Buckeyes grind their way through spring camp, Jalin Marshall is emerging as an unexpected replacement.

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith revealed that Marshall—who played the H-back position in 2014—has moved to the outside this spring, running the deeper routes that Devin Smith executed so well.

"Jalin can play outside, and he's going to have a full spring of doing that," Zach Smith said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer

Are the Buckeyes moving their rising redshirt sophomore to the perimeter permanently? Zach Smith isn't ready to pull that trigger, but he's experimenting with a number of different possibilities. While Devin Smith's departure hurts, the Buckeyes are loaded with a number of exciting yet unproven options at receiver.

"We are going to get the best six or seven wideouts in the rotation, so where [Marshall] fits in that is really where we best see him fitting," Zach Smith said, via Wasserman. 

That could be in the slot or playing the H-back position that he thrived in a season ago. After Dontre Wilson suffered a broken foot against Michigan State in Week 11, Marshall emerged as a dangerous weapon for the Buckeyes. In the final six games of the season, he caught 24 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns.

But a new year has brought about a whole new situation for the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel—Ezekiel Elliott's backup at running back last season—is emerging as a player who needs to be on the field, and the coaching staff has moved him to H-back in an effort to get him playing time. Sophomore Noah Brown is making a similar move, as well, working at a number of different wideout positions after dropping 25 pounds in the offseason. 

And then there are the new guys who haven't had a chance to see the field yet—players who have been identified as possible candidates to replace Devin Smith as the team's deep threat. Zach Smith specifically named four underclassmen at the beginning of spring camp, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone

At the end of the day, you need guys with speed, and we have a number of them. Johnnie Dixon's a great example, when he comes back. He is an elite guy. James Clark was before his injury, so when he gets healthy and gets confident, he'll be a guy that we look to.

And then Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell are two guys that can really run. We've got four young guys that haven't done much around here that can flat fly. So it's going to be fun to watch and fun to develop and interesting to see how it plays out.

Four weeks into spring practice, though, and it's Marshall who's getting that opportunity.

He has the speed to burn a defense. According to 247Sports, Marshall was running a 4.4 40-yard dash as a high school senior. But does he have the strength to beat press coverage at the line or the body control to track a ball in the air with a defender on his hip?

Those are the traits that allowed Devin Smith to lead the country in yards per reception by a wide margin in 2014, according to cfbstats.com.

If Marshall can't mimic Devin Smith's game, the Buckeyes will have to look elsewhere for their deep threat. And if they can't find a suitable replacement, the offense might not have the quick-strike ability that it had last year.

 

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

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