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Alabama Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2015 Schedule

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s not too early to look ahead to the 2015 season. It never is in Tuscaloosa.

Fans have been doing so since the last seconds ticked off the clock in New Orleans.

Unlike in previous years, this year’s schedule does the Crimson Tide few favors. Gone is the SEC East rotation of a down Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy. This year, Alabama has to go to Athens, Georgia.

Tennessee is on the rise, and the SEC West is as brutal as ever.

Let’s look ahead to the slate and rank Alabama’s toughest games of 2015.

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What to Make of Braxton Miller Refusing to Talk to the Media

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A few minutes into his meeting with the media on Thursday, Cardale Jones was asked what he thinks is going on in Braxton Miller's head as he attempts to rehab from an injury while preparing for an unprecedented quarterback battle.

Jones was honest, admitting it was a tough question for him to answer.

"I have no clue. No clue at all," Jones responded. "He always comes out here with a great smile, and he's always leading guys in a positive direction, but I don't know what he's thinking."

And at the moment, neither does anyone else.

Ohio State quarterbacks were scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday after the Buckeyes took part in their second practice of the spring session. But while it was originally anticipated by OSU officials that Miller would talk to reporters, he opted to return to the OSU locker room, leaving Jones and J.T. Barrett to answer about his future.

"I think it's ridiculous, honestly," Barrett said of speculation Miller would use his ability as a graduate transfer to take his talents elsewhere this offseason.

It very well may be. But there's no reason why Miller couldn't have been the one to say so.

Miller hasn't spoken publicly since tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder last summer, bringing an end to his 2014 season before it ever got started. That's not necessarily uncommon, as injured players don't have reason to comment on a season they aren't taking part in, but Miller's refusal to talk on Thursday raised the eyebrows of many media members in attendance at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

The questions for the introverted Miller wouldn't be the same as they were for Jones and Barrett, as there's simply more uncertainty surrounding his situation. But his decision to duck the media left the impression that as of now, nothing has been decided when it comes to his future.

It remains unclear whether his shoulder will even recover to the point where the two-time Big Ten MVP will be able to play quarterback again, and if it does, it's unknown whether or not he'll do so at Ohio State. The circumstances were different, but when Russell Wilson transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin in 2011, he didn't do so until the summer before the start of the season.

The transfer speculation surrounding Miller was abundant all winter and perhaps hit a peak when the senior signal-caller accidentally favorited a tweet indicating he was rooting for Oregon and against Ohio State in the national title game. Miller took to Twitter to acknowledge that favoriting the tweet was an accident but has yet to speak—or tweet—about the speculation itself.

Thursday gave him an opportunity to do just that with a platform to publicly deny that he would consider taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule that would grant him immediate eligibility at another school. Had Miller spoken to reporters, it would have been a strong indication that he intends on remaining in Columbus this fall, no matter how painful the questions may have been for him to answer.

Instead, Miller's refusal to answer questions—just as he did in open locker rooms at the Big Ten Championship Game and subsequent playoff games—gave the impression that he's keeping his options open for the foreseeable future. If Miller wants to see how his shoulder heals before going on record with anything, that's certainly understandable, but that's far from a guarantee he'll be back with the Buckeyes this fall.

Miller's only public statement since last August came at Ohio State's national title celebration on Jan. 24 when he told fans in attendance it was a, "privilege and honor to be part of this team. Guess what, we've got another year to do it. So go Bucks."

Afterward, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer downplayed the Huber Heights, Ohio, native's statement, admitting that his status for 2015 was still unclear.

"He's in a unique situation," Meyer said. "We'll cover that later."

At the moment, Miller remains at Ohio State, rehabbing his shoulder while taking part in a limited role in the Buckeyes' spring practice. Meyer even said there was something special about seeing the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year back in a scarlet and gray helmet and his No. 5 jersey for the first time since he injured his shoulder last summer.

"I just love seeing him out there," Meyer said. "I love Braxton Miller. I always have. He's always done what I asked him to. He's a selfless guy who works really hard. I am excited to see that guy out there going through the drills."

For now, that may be enough for Miller, as he attempts to rehab and recover to the point that he's able to resume his career as a quarterback.

But until he speaks, the speculation about his future is only going to continue. And there's only one way for him to put it to an end.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Ole Miss Spring Buzz: Chad Kelly 'Perfect Fit' for Offense, Who Steps Up at RB?

The Ole Miss Rebels are coming off one of the most successful seasons in their program's history. But this is a new season, and it starts with spring practice. 

Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee offers his takes on Ole Miss' key issues and hot topics in the video above. 

How will new quarterback Chad Kelly fit in Hugh Freeze's offense? Check out the video, and let us know!

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SEC Football: 10 Biggest Defensive Battles in 2015 Spring Practice

The pads are popping, whistles are blowing and spring football is in the air around the SEC.

On the defensive side of the ball, that means positions battles are raging among players who have the talent to develop into stars in the SEC.

What are the best position battles in the conference?

Our picks based on talent, opportunity and importance to a team's overall outlook are in this slideshow.

 

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NFL Coaches Who Should Come Back to College

Chip Kelly's not on the list.

Before we start, let's get that out of the way. No matter how one feels about the former Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagles head coach, he's not going anywhere—and he shouldn't. He's won 10 games in each of his first two seasons.

There are, however, a handful of NFL coaches whose best choice would be dropping back to college. They proved they could succeed at the FBS level, but they haven't attained as much success in the pros.

That doesn't mean they can't succeed in the pros at some point. All it means is that, currently, their best opportunities lie in college.

Certain coaches just belong there.

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Devin Funchess: Breaking Down Michigan WR's Pro Day Workout

Devin Funchess wasn't at his best during this past February's NFL combine in Indianapolis. But according to several reports, the former Michigan receiver gained some ground during his NFL pro day workout at Michigan. 

The 6'5", 232-pounder blew away his previous 4.7-second 40-yard dash in front of scouts Thursday at Al Glick Field House in Ann Arbor, per DraftInsider.net's Tony Pauline:

Prior to working out for scouts, Funchess trained with strength and conditioning coach Jim Kielbaso of Total Performance Training Center. Kielbaso was clearly impressed with what he saw during Funchess' sprint: 

Several scouts, per Kielbaso, clocked Funchess in the 4.5-range:

Shaving roughly two-tenths of a second from a 40-yard dash is nothing short of incredible. The additional boost could push Funchess back into the first-round conversation. He indeed proved that he possesses "sneaky" speed to complement his prototypical frame. 

 

See to Believe  

Delonte Hollowell, a defensive back, and Devin Gardner, a quarterback/receiver, also joined Funchess during pro day at Michigan. 

Former Wolverines star wideout Roy Roundtree showed support with fewer than 140 characters:

Michigan football Twitter posted shots of the action:

 

Getting Results

Funchess left the workout with a positive outlook, per ESPN's Michael Rothstein:

During the NFL combine, Funchess posted a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, 12 bench reps of 225 pounds, a 38.5” vertical leap and 10’2” broad jump—respectable marks, no less, but not what most expected. Once thought to be a mid-first-rounder, Funchess left the combine looking like a second-rounder. He was rated the No. 66 overall prospect of the draft, ranked No. 11 among receivers.

At 6’5” and 232 pounds, Funchess has deceptive speed that isn’t always recognized by a stopwatch. He’s a player who can turn on the jets during stressful situations, which comes in handy; however, he’s certainly an on-again-off-again type of receiver who needs to work on consistency, not flash.

Funchess finished his junior year with 62 catches for 733 yards and four touchdowns, a mere fraction of what he could have done. But to be fair, he was relentlessly hampered by a lower body/leg injury for most of the season.

 

Draft Guys' Thoughts

Dane Brugler of CBS broke down the strengths and weaknesses of the towering down-field threat, calling Funchess a high-risk/high-reward type of player. The following is a quick summary of Brugler’s thoughts:

  • Funchess has ideal size, which is his No. 1 strength.
  • Funchess has shown “route development,” but still lacks focus during the catching process.
  • A “lean build” could be an issue down the road for Funchess, who could stand to add bulk to his frame.
  • Funchess’ reach and catch radius is an absolute plus—and so is his “freak” flexibility.

In short, Brugler feels that Funchess has the tools to be an NFL receiver—he says that Funchess just needs to work on absorbing contact and completing catches. Drops were a major issue for Funchess in 2014.

NFL.com analyst Mike Huguenin feels that Funchess could be a fit for the New Orleans Saints, who recently traded star tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.

“There's some definite upside with Funchess, and he would be an interesting fit for the Saints with their second-round pick,” he wrote prior to Funchess’ pro day.

Huguenin also noted that Funchess played just one full season as a wide receiver at Michigan—that could certainly influence the perception of Funchess come draft day.

Then again, when you're 6'5", 232 pounds and run a legitimate 4.5-second 40-yard dash, there's not much left to question. He has first-round talent. That's never been in doubt.

There are only two big questions surrounding Funchess: 1. Does he have first-round hands? 2. Does he have a first-round work ethic? 

 

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

Note: Official results will be posted Thursday night on MGoBlue, per Michigan's athletic department. Check back for the updated stats and information. 

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LSU Is Hottest Team on the 2016 Recruiting Trail After Latest Commitments

If you're looking for trends early in college football recruiting, the arrow is officially pointing up for LSU. 

The Tigers secured a second 4-star commitment in 24 hours Thursday morning, landing coveted in-state defensive back Cameron Lewis. He announced the decision during a ceremony at Wossman High School, celebrating his birthday in style:

Lewis, a 6'1", 195-pound prospect, is rated 13th nationally among safeties in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is considered the top player at his position in Louisiana.

Several suitors emerged late in Lewis' recruitment.

Arizona State, Georgia, Notre Dame, TCU, Texas A&M and Michigan each extended offers as recently as February. Despite mounting interest from beyond state borders, he was considered a heavy LSU lean as a commitment neared. 

“LSU is a great fit for me and I have a great relationship with the coaches,” Lewis told Shea Dixon of 247Sports. "They really showed so much love and made me know how much they will help me on and off the field.”

Head coach Les Miles' latest addition is another sign that LSU indeed warrants its "DBU" reputation. 

Despite significant changes to the defensive coaching staff this offseason, culminating in the hiring of Kevin Steele and Ed Orgeron, the Tigers have remained steady in the eyes of top targets.

Lewis joins 5-star Florida product Saivion Smith as crucial secondary pickups in the past 17 days. Smith, the top-ranked cornerback in America, pledged to LSU on Feb. 24, giving the Tigers an elite Sunshine State defensive back for the second straight cycle (Kevin Toliver II took center stage in the 2015 class).

Lewis and Smith form one of the country's most impressive defensive duos on the 2016 recruiting trail. They're hardly alone among recent high-impact prospects who've hopped aboard the LSU bandwagon.

The Tigers discovered, offered and secured New Orleans safety Clifford Chattman last month. Though he was largely off the national radar prior to his commitment, the 6'4", 175-pound playmaker possesses freakish athleticism and could fill a variety of roles in the LSU scheme.

Since accepting a scholarship from LSU, Chattman has quickly scooped up offers from Florida State, Arizona, Georgia and Mississippi State, among others. His stock should continue to soar.

That's three defensive commitments with All-SEC potential in four weeks. 

The Tigers have also gained traction with several elite uncommitted recruits, headlined by 5-star linebacker Ben Davis. The Alabama legacy confirmed with Bleacher Report in late February that LSU is among his top contenders.

"I have a really good relationship with the LSU coaches," he said. "(Steele) and I know each other really well from when he was coaching linebackers at Alabama, so him going to LSU makes it even better there. I can't wait to get to a game and see what they have to offer."

Miles has capitalized on recent momentum, seeing his team vault to fourth in 247Sports' composite class rankings. Only Ole Miss—currently holding two more commitments than the Tigers—is ahead in the SEC standings.

The recruiting success has also rubbed off on 2017 efforts. LSU landed 4-star sophomore defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin on Wednesday morning, giving the Tigers' next class another foundational figure.

Shelvin, rated fourth nationally among 2017 defensive tackles, joins No. 1 overall sophomore prospect Dylan Moses in the group. It's a scary duo and an extremely strong starting point toward future recruiting endeavors. 

Miami may still sit atop 2016 recruiting rankings, but this recent scintillating stretch proves no program is more hot on the recruiting trail right now than LSU.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Watch 3-Star HS Football Prospect Tope Imade Deadlift 515 Pounds

When Tope Imade's recruiting process comes to an end next February, he, coaches, friends and teammates could look back on this month and say one thing.

It was the deadlift that started it all.

What began as Imade, a 3-star interior offensive lineman from Arlington, Texas, simply accepting a challenge from his coach is quickly turning into an impressive athletic feat that's turning the heads of college coaches. Last week, Imade set the Bowie High School deadlift record by picking up 515 pounds.

The previous record of 500 pounds was held by 4-star offensive tackle Madison Akamnonu, who signed with Texas Tech last month. Imade, who measured in last week at 6'5" and a slim-looking 320 pounds, finished the feat surrounded by screaming teammates who were excited for the powerful athlete.

"My coach kept challenging me to add more weight. He kept adding, and I kept lifting," Imade said. "Eventually, it got to 515, and I got it up.

"It was heavy, but I had my teammates there encouraging me."

Bowie head coach Danny DeArman watched Imade deadlift 450 pounds in athletics class earlier in the week. Imade wanted to attempt more then, but they ran out of class time. Imade went to DeArman and told him he wanted to finish what he started.

DeArman said Imade lifted 450 pounds, then 475. After that, Imade was on a mission.

"He asked me what the record was," DeArman said. "I told him it was 500. He said, 'I want 515.'

"I whistled and got the players to gather around. I told them he was going for a new record. When he lifted it off the ground and got it to his mid-thigh, he paused it, and all of the kids went crazy."

The deadlift video made its way around social media, and it ultimately helped Imade land his two biggest offers to date. On Monday, he was offered by both Washington and Texas Tech. Imade now has six offers, the others being Texas State, Arkansas State, Illinois State and Tulane.

"I didn't even know my coach was videotaping," Imade said. "After the video, I started getting more interest. I think it had an impact on recruiting."

When Imade picked up the Texas Tech offer, he rewarded the program for being the first Big 12 school to take a chance on him. He told Daniel Paulling of 247Sports that the Red Raiders automatically will be in his top three.

DeArman calls Imade "Grizzly Bear" because he "doesn't know if he knows his own strength." Imade currently has a 325-pound bench press and a 500-pound squat, but DeArman said he hasn't been tested to his full potential. Imade said he wants to deadlift 600 before he graduates high school.

Imade added that he hopes the video will help him add more offers to his growing list. He's ready to show what type of lineman he can be at the next level.

"I want to show I'm a great run-blocker," Imade said. "I'm also a great pass-blocker with a really good work ethic."

As for continuing his efforts in the weight room?

"I'm always going to attack the weights," he said.

 

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

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Realistic Expectations for Charlie Strong and Texas in 2015

If Texas head coach Charlie Strongdidn't think the Longhorns were going to play for a national championship last year, what does he think about the 2015 team?

After going 6-7 in Year 1, it wouldn't be surprising if Texas regresses in the win column in Year 2.

Why? There are no clear answers yet at quarterback, several defensive leaders are gone and the schedule is still tough.

Bleacher Report contributor and former Texas quarterback Chris Simms brought up a valid point when interviewed in December: According to him, the program former coach Mack Brown inherited in 1998 was in a better place than the one Strong inherited. 

Though this team should have more of Strong's stamp on it, there's going to be a lot of growing up involved. The question becomes how quickly the Horns can mature. The '14 team showed some promise in November during a three-game winning streak but couldn't sustain it. 

Immediate results are important to some, but the big-picture goal for next season has to be about growth. Never mind the number of wins; can young players show that the future is indeed bright?

Here are realistic goals for Strong and Texas in 2015.

 

Find Someone, Anyone, at Quarterback

Maybe it's time for redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard. Maybe it's true freshman Kai Locksley. Maybe it's a grad transfer who has yet to even speak to Strong, let alone arrive on campus. And for all anyone knows, maybe it's incumbent starter Tyrone Swoopes. 

Whoever starts at quarterback next season, Texas has to get as much as possible out of the position.

Quarterback play was hit-and-miss in 2014, to put it lightly. While Swoopes was put in a tough situation, writers like Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning Newsdon't have much confidence that he is the answer going forward. 

It's amazing that with all the quarterback talent coming out of Texas, the Longhorns can't nail down a top-flight signal-caller. Maybe Heard will change that narrative. With a more wide-open offense being installed this year, perhaps quarterbacks will be more interested in coming to Austin. 

Either way, it's important the quarterback spot isn't a liability again. In theory, all Swoopes had to do last year was move the chains, because the defense was so good. That might not be the situation this time around. 

 

Find One or Two New Leaders on Defense

That leads to the next point: Defense was the one thing that kept Texas in games last season. 

The best players on the team were on that side of the ball: defensive end Cedric Reed, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive tackle Malcom Brown and cornerback Quandre Diggs. Of those four major departures, the losses of Brown and Diggs hurt the most. 

Brown had a legitimate case to be the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and Diggs was the outspoken emotional leader. It was Diggs who was unafraid to call out his own teammates and, at least publicly, seemed more hellbent than anyone on resurrecting the program. 

Now it's time for someone else—maybe multiple people—to take on that role. Per Ourlads.com, the Longhorns have to replace seven starters on defense.

So who steps up?

Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway seems like a natural fit. Ridgeway was overshadowed by Reed and Brown but put together a solid season with 9.5 tackles for loss. He'll be a junior and a veteran on the team.

It's the same story with cornerback Duke Thomas, who will be a senior. Again, Diggs got most of the attention from opposing quarterbacks last season, which freed up Thomas to lead the team with 10 pass breakups. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see some 2015 freshmen crack the defensive two-deep or even start, so it'll be up to guys like Ridgeway and Thomas to show them the ropes. 

 

Get Young Players on the Field

The future faces of Texas football may be in the 2015 class. How many of those players will see the field right away? Maybe several of them. 

Linebacker Malik Jefferson was the No. 1 player in the state of Texas according to 247Sports. He's a program-defining pickup for Strong. 

But Jefferson probably won't be the only one who sees playing time. Running back Chris Warren, cornerbacks Chris Boyd and Holton Hill and receiver John Burt could be among those who make an immediate impact, according to Max Olson of ESPN.com

Texas is going to have a young team in 2015, and the list of signees who can help this team immediately could be a long one. Hill, Boyd, DeShon Elliott, Chris Warren III, Devonaire Clarington, Gilbert Johnson and John Burt are among the many incoming players who could be relied upon early, but they'll have to show up ready to go when they enroll at the end of May. And you never know who will rise up that list -- remember, Jason Hall was Texas' lowest-rated recruit a year ago.

No matter whether a player is a 5-star or a 2-star recruit, adjusting to the college game is tough. Keep in mind that most will have been on campus for only a few months. They're going to be thrown into the fire, and mistakes will be made. 

That's OK. Ideally, these young players will look different—for the better—by the time November and December roll around. Strong is an excellent coach and he has a staff capable of developing players. The only way to do that, though, is to put those players in live (and tough) situations. 

2015 could be another tough year for the Longhorns. Scraping to six wins could be a challenge again. Ultimately, though, it should be a defining season in terms of turning the program around. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

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Oklahoma Football Players, Athletic Director Comment on Racist Fraternity Chant

With the University of Oklahoma still reeling from the video showing members of a school fraternity shouting a racist chant, the football team and the athletic director have released separate statements on the situation. 

Per Oklahoma Athletics' Twitter account, athletic director Joe Castiglione said he is going to meet with the university president and members of the football team about the investigation into the fraternity:  

In addition to Castiglione's statement, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight tweeted out a full statement from the entire football team on the matter:

The statement reads as follows:

In light of the recent release of an undeniably, disgustingly racist video featuring members of a fraternity at our university, we the student-athletes of the University of Oklahoma football team have met to discuss the issues that are at the heart of this matter. This single incident brings to the surface pervasive issues that must be confronted and resolved in order for the university to move forward. We applaud the actions that the university has taken thus far, and we appreciate President Boren's swift and decisive actions following the controversy. We thank Coach Stoops and the staff for wholeheartedly supporting our decisions as a team. As a team, our goal first and foremost is to raise awareness of racism and discrimination on college campuses nationwide. These types of incidents occur nationwide every single year, and our hope is to shed light on this issue and promote meaningful change at a national level. But before we can change the nation, we make it our mission to change our campus. We seek to accomplish this goal by stepping out of the spotlight and integrating the student-athlete experience and the student experience. As student athletes of all races, classes and creeds, we hope to show the university and the community that we are defined by more than the numbers on our jerseys, and that we are human beings that desire to get to know our classmates as we all attempt to end the culture of exclusivity on this campus. Secondary to accomplishing these goals, we also seek disciplinary action for those responsible. The two students that have already been expelled are only a symptom of a larger disease, a disease perpetuated by the leadership of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The chant was not invented by the two that led it, but was taught to underclassmen by people of higher authority. As a team, we have come to a consensus that, in any organization, the leadership is responsible for the culture created and, in this case, encouraged. Being a student at the University of Oklahoma is a privilege, and allowing this culture to thrive is against everything it means to be a Sooner. Ignorance is no excuse. Therefore, we would like to urge the university to continue to investigate the Executive Board of SAE, and we trust that this investigation has already begun. It is our passionately expressed desire as members of the football team for the leadership of SAE to be expelled, suspended, or otherwise disciplined severely. Moving forward, we seek to continue to raise awareness for this issue and reiterate that this is much greater than football. We have not practiced this week, and will not be practicing today as we will demonstrate silently on Owen Field during our normal practice time. We will not forget about this during spring break, and upon our return to the practice field on Monday, March 23, we will continue to address this issue in our media opportunities and by wearing black during our practices. We cannot express how grateful we are to Coach Stoops and the coaching staff for supporting each and every action we have taken, even when these actions may have seemed extreme. We simply cannot wait to get back on the practice field in our pursuit of a national championship, but even a national championship is not more important than using our platform as student athletes to make our university and our nation a better place. We look forward to working with Coach Stoops, Mr. Castiglione, and President Boren to improve the state of our campus and our nation going forward! Boomer Sooner!

Oklahoma's football team has felt the effect of the fraternity members' actions, with 247Sports 4-star recruit Jean Delance withdrawing his commitment to the school. He told B/R's Damon Sayles that he couldn't "go [to Oklahoma] and say I'm comfortable with being there, especially with what my family went through."

While the racist chants were made by a select group of people at the university, it's not the kind of thing that can or should be swept under the rug. Oklahoma has a lot of work to do to repair its image, if that's even possible, but at least the people in prominent positions are going to do what they can to make sure ignorant and hateful things like this don't happen again. 

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Bold Predictions for Alabama Football Spring Practice

The Alabama Crimson Tide football program's spring practices are in full swing as the team looks to continue its SEC dominance. Despite making the first-ever College Football Playoff, there are still some question marks for Nick Saban and his squad.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee offers his bold predictions from Alabama's spring practices thus far. 

Who will challenge Jake Coker for the quarterback position? How will the Tide address their secondary issues? Check out the video and let us know!

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Cameron Lewis to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

LSU has a long tradition of excellence within its secondary, and it took a big step toward preserving its reputation by landing highly touted safety prospect Cameron Lewis Thursday.  

According to Scout.com's Chad Simmons, the Monroe, Louisiana, native has committed to playing for the Tigers in 2016:

Lewis is a four-star prospect, per 247Sports, and he is rated the No. 13 safety in his class. He also plays quarterback at the high school level, and while he is not expected to be under center at LSU, it shows that he has plenty of versatility.

As pointed out by Michael Detillier of WWL-870, Lewis' greatest attribute may be his ability to locate and attack the football after it leaves the quarterback's hand:

Much of the Tigers' success in recent years has been predicated on the secondary's penchant for making big plays and creating turnovers.

There is little doubt that Lewis fits that mold, and it is easy to envision him being a key part of the LSU defense in the very near future.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Odds Where Athletic Safety Deontay Anderson Lands at Next Level

Deontay Anderson, a 4-star safety in the 2016 class, per 247Sports, is still undecided on the college program with which he will continue his career. With many offers on the table, Anderson has a tough decision ahead of him. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer lays down his odds on where he believes the talented defensive back will land at the next level. 

Where will Deontay Anderson play his college ball? Check out the video and let us know!

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Owamagbe Odighizuwa Is a Name to Remember in 2015 NFL Draft

Oh-wah-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah.

Roger Goodell should be practicing that pronunciation for UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa now, because there is a good chance the NFL commissioner will be announcing his name as one of the 32 picks in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.

The spelling of Odighizuwa’s name can be tough to remember, and he was not often the player who stood out most on UCLA’s defense. But the player often simply identified as “Owa” has a case—even alongside quarterback Brett Hundley and inside linebacker Eric Kendricks—for being the Bruins’ best NFL prospect this year.

Ball-watchers and box-score scouts probably did not take much notice of Odighizuwa, who only recorded 12.5 sacks in four playing seasons at UCLA. Those who paid close attention to the play on the defensive line, however, should have noticed that Odighizuwa regularly wreaked havoc in the trenches.

After missing the entire 2013 season with a hip injury, Odighizuwa bounced back to have the best season of his career in 2014. He recorded 59 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four pass breakups—all career highs—and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection.

Since then, Odighizuwa’s draft stock has only continued to rise, as he has impressed observers at the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine and UCLA’s pro day.

There are many qualities about Odighizuwa that make him one of this year’s most intriguing draft prospects, as well as a few reasons for teams to be concerned. But before one digs into Odighizuwa’s tape and his strengths and weaknesses, one should understand how much the 22-year-old has already overcome to get to where he is today.

 

A Journey Full of Adversity

Born April 1, 1992 in Columbus, Ohio, according to UCLA’s official website, Odighizuwa had a nomadic childhood. As reported in a 2009 ESPN.com article by JC Shurburtt, Odighizuwa lived in Nigeria for five years before moving back to the United States, first to Virginia and then to Portland, Oregon, where he played prep football at David Douglas High School.

While some NFL draft prospects had football-playing dads who taught them the game, Odighizuwa did not have that benefit. "His father, Peter, is serving three life sentences for a triple homicide at the Appalachian School of Law (Virginia) in 2002," as noted in Bob McGinn’s NFL draft outlook for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Odighizuwa, in an interview with Mark Whicker of the Los Angeles Daily News last August, credited his mother, Abieyuwa, for keeping him and his three younger brothers on the right path.

“She held us together, she was the rock,” Odighizuwa told Whicker.

Odighizuwa has also credited other role models in his life for helping him along the way. 

In spite of all he has had to overcome, Odighizuwa performed well both on the field and in the classroom at UCLA. He was the Maggie Gilbert Academic Achievement Award winner in 2012, according to his bio on the school’s website, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, according to Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News.

From adverse circumstances growing up to his 2013 hip injury, Odighizuwa has yet to allow anything to stop him from succeeding. This history should be encouraging to NFL teams, who must now determine how likely Odighizuwa is to overcome his next great challenge and become a productive player at the sport’s highest level.

 

Physical Tools and a Well-Rounded Skill Set

As he proved at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Odighizuwa’s physical attributes stack up right alongside those of the other top edge defenders in the 2015 draft class. At 6’3”, 267 pounds, with 33 3/4” arms and 11” hands, Odighizuwa ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash and posted terrific numbers across the board.

Odighizuwa is not likely to be among the top five edge players selected this year; those players are expected to be (in no specific order) Florida’s Dante Fowler, Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Missouri’s Shane Ray and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory.

That said, Odighizuwa arguably has the best combination of size, speed, length and strength of any edge defender in the 2015 draft class.

Odighizuwa has a great burst off the line of scrimmage, and can bring pressure in a hurry if he has a lane to the opposing quarterback.

He also exhibits the ability to convert speed to power and drive a blocker back with a bull rush, like he did in the following clip from UCLA’s win over Virginia this past season (see No. 94, top of screen).

When an opposing offensive line leaves a gap to Odighizuwa’s inside, he is often able to exploit it. In addition to his ability to accelerate, Odighizuwa plays with violent hands and has a moderately effective spin move.

Even when Odighizuwa cannot get to the quarterback, he can be a threat to make a play. His long arms, big hands and 39” vertical leap make it possible for him to get in the lane of passing attempts and swat them down, like he did twice—including the example below—in the Alamo Bowl against Kansas State.

Odighizuwa has the physical traits of a top pass-rusher, but where he really shines is defending the run. In fact, Odighizuwa might end up being the best run-stopping edge defender in this year’s class.

Strong at the point of attack, Odighizuwa consistently holds his ground against offensive linemen and makes plays along the line of scrimmage. While many of the aforementioned top prospects have trouble with getting driven away from rushing attempts, Odighizuwa should be able to make an immediate impact versus the run in the NFL.

In addition to setting the edge effectively, Odighizuwa can crash in to make plays up the middle and also use his speed to pursue runs outside. He is a typically sound tackler.

While Odighizuwa did not make as many spectacular, flashy plays as the edge players who are vying to be potential top-15 picks, he is as well-equipped as any prospect at his position to be a quality three-down starter in the NFL. That said, there are still some areas of concern that could hurt Odighizuwa’s draft stock.

 

Limited Pass-Rushing Ability, Questionable Versatility and Durability

The most evident problem with Odighizuwa’s game is that he lacks the bend and flexibility to turn the corner effectively as an outside pass-rusher. For as many impressive qualities as he put on tape this past season, one thing he rarely ever showed was the ability to win around the outside of an offensive tackle.

While Odighizuwa has very good burst and speed, he is too linear in his movements to win consistently on the edge. Even Kansas State center B.J. Finney, playing right tackle in the Alamo Bowl only due to an injury to the Wildcats’ starter, was able to shield Odighizuwa outside the pocket with ease, like he did to No. 94 in the clip below (bottom of screen).

Odighizuwa’s inability to turn the corner is unlikely to improve significantly, and that weakness limits his potential as an NFL edge-rusher.

To compensate, Odighizuwa must work upon developing his pass-rushing moves. While he is active and strong with his hands, he does not show a great ability to disengage from blocks. He is overly reliant upon his spin move and needs to be more skillful with his upper body, as physical tools alone won’t be enough for him to make a consistent presence in opposing backfields.

In spite of his pass-rushing limitations, Odighizuwa still projects well as a left defensive end for a defense that runs a 4-3 scheme. Given his size and ability to win inside, Odighizuwa can also line up as a 3-technique defensive tackle in pass-rushing situations, which could maximize his value.

Teams that run 3-4 defenses, on the other hand, have more reason to be wary of investing an early-round pick on Odighizuwa, who might not have a natural fit in those schemes.

He played as a 3-4 defensive end at UCLA, and his skill set as a whole is actually tailor-made for that position. At 6’3”, 267 pounds, however, he is undersized to play that position in the NFL.

His length could enable him to play as a 5-technique, but he would likely be asked to add 15-20 pounds, which could be tough for him to do without compromising his athleticism.

From a measurable standpoint, Odighizuwa looks as though he could be a great fit to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Playing from a stand-up position could actually help him as a pass-rusher, as utilizing his speed from wider angles could lessen the need to turn the corner tightly around blockers on the edge.

Making the move to outside linebacker from defensive end, however, is a tough transition that many players fail to make successfully. It would not play into Odighizuwa’s strengths, especially as a run defender, and it is uncertain whether he has the instincts and change-of-direction skills to be effective in space and dropping back into coverage.

Behind the scenes, it’s likely that Odighizuwa is impressing NFL teams with his character and intelligence in the interview rooms. One area that could cause concern for all NFL teams, however, are his medicals.

Having had surgeries on each of his hips, Odighizuwa was one of the players that NFL teams had “a close eye on” at the combine in regards to his medical evaluation, according to CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler. That might not end up having any significant effect on his draft stock, however, as Odighizuwa said doctors “were real impressed with everything” in Indianapolis, per Brugler.

 

Where Will Odighizuwa Be Drafted?

Accounting for his deficiencies as a pass-rusher, Odighizuwa’s profile fits that of a second-round pick more than that of a first-round selection. That said, Odighizuwa ranks among the top 32 prospects in a draft class that is lacking in top-end talent.

At UCLA’s pro day earlier this week, Odighizuwa only participated in position drills—having no need to improve upon his numbers from the combine—but continued to raise his draft stock with “another strong outing,” according to Jordan Lee of the Daily Bruin.

“Odighizuwa is built like a statue, but showed off his athleticism by moving very well in space when asked to drop back,” Lee wrote.

NFL.com’s Bryan Fischer, who was also at the pro day in Westwood, likewise came away with the impression that Odighizuwa’s draft stock is moving up.

The ideal spot for Odighizuwa in Round 1, given scheme and need, might be the Dallas Cowboys, who could draft him with the No. 27 overall pick. He could be an upgrade at left defensive end, but could also help replace 3-technique defensive tackle Henry Melton—who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, according to Melton's agent, Jordan Woy—in pass-rushing situations.

Among teams who run 4-3 defenses, other potential fits in Round 1 could include the Cincinnati Bengals, who hold the No. 21 overall pick, and the Detroit Lions, who pick 23rd.

Should he fall into Round 2, teams who could target him then include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 34 overall), Oakland Raiders (No. 35), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 36) and Atlanta Falcons (No. 42).

Regardless of where he ends up, there are many reasons to believe Odighizuwa will have a productive NFL career. He has great physical gifts, an impressive all-around skill set and a proven ability to overcome the obstacles life throws his way.

 

All GIFs made via Gfycat using videos from Draft Breakdown and Dailymotion.

Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Owamagbe Odighizuwa Is a Name to Remember in 2015 NFL Draft

Oh-wah-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah. Roger Goodell should be practicing that pronunciation for UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa now, because there is a good chance the NFL ...

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Georgia Football: Ranking the Bulldogs' Top Recruiting Targets for 2016

The 2015 signing class has a chance to be a great class for the Georgia Bulldogs. With guys like Trent Thompson, Jonathan Ledbetter and Rico McGraw in the fold, the class has a chance to do some special things before it leaves Athens.

That said, the 2016 signing class is shaping up to be on the same level. Seven players have committed, including Jacob Eason, who is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country.

The Bulldogs are looking to get stronger on the offensive and defensive lines, and they are also looking to add depth at the skill positions. There are some talented recruits out there, and the Bulldogs are not letting them out of their sight.

Here are the rankings of the top recruiting targets for the Bulldogs.

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