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Elijah Blades to Florida: Gators Land 4-Star CB Prospect

The Florida Gators aren't waiting around to add top talent for next year's recruiting class, as they have landed cornerback Elijah Blades.

Blades confirmed his commitment to Florida on Twitter:

Blades is a 4-star prospect who is both the 26th-ranked cornerback and player from the state of California, and he is ranked 222nd overall, per 247Sports

He's a long and lanky player at 6'2", 170 pounds. There's plenty of room for him to fill out his frame and get stronger to play one-on-one at the line against bigger wide receivers who will come at him in college. 

After giving the Gators his commitment, Blades went on to explain what went into his decision to Luke Stampini of 247Sports: “Just knowing Florida would show love to a California [defensive back], they must really want him. ... Plus, it’s my dream school.”

Andrew Spivey of Gator Country noted that Florida's recruiting superstar is quickly becoming Tim Skipper:

Blades has also undoubtedly taken notice of the success Florida has had developing defensive backs for the next level. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and safety Keanu Neal were both top-20 picks in this year's NFL draft, for example. 

Florida head coach Jim McElwain is known for his offensive prowess, having played quarterback in college and having served as an offensive coordinator at Fresno State and Alabama before he became a head coach.

McElwain and his staff are showing no problems appealing to defensive players, adding defensive end Antonneous Clayton and cornerback Chauncey Gardner and now Blades for 2017.

The SEC is known for its wealth of powerful and intimidating defenses. One key to that is having a secondary capable of shutting down the passing game. Blades gives the Gators another foundational piece at cornerback to build around as they slowly build a talented roster that will compete for conference titles.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Upcoming College Football Home-and-Home Series We Can't Wait to Watch

Strength of schedule is always an important issue late in the season, and that discussion has only become more heated after the creation of the College Football Playoff.

Nonconference games can boost or hurt a team, so programs typically try to schedule a home-and-home series against a respected Power Five conference opponent. Over the next five years, college football fans will be treated to several potentially pivotal showdowns.

The list does not include a matchup in progress or Notre Dame's yearly five-game ACC affiliation. Each series will start in 2016 but end no later than 2020.

Additionally, annual clashes—and that includes nonconference bouts (Florida and Florida State, for example)—were not considered.

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12 College Football Players with the Most 'Take It to the House' Potential

The most exciting players in college football are the ones who can take any play and turn it into a potential touchdown. They're the ones who make fans in the stands sit on the edge of their seats and get the viewers at home to pay closer attention to their TVs.

Having explosive speed or incredible agility in the open field is one thing. It's another to be able to get opportunities to create big plays and then take full advantage of them.

The following dozen players fit both descriptions. They have the wheels to take it to the house on any play in which they can get some daylight, and they also have proven track records of doing just that.

Here are the 12 college football players heading into the 2016 season who have the most potential to create huge gains for touchdowns. This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's based on stats such as explosive plays, touchdowns and yards per touch, as well as their specific roles for their teams.

These are the players who have the best chance of turning a standard handoff, reception or return into something that gets the college football world to pay attention.

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Devin Duvernay to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Devin Duvernay, one of the top wide receiver prospects in the Class of 2016, committed to play college football at Texas on Wednesday. A gifted athlete with high-end playmaking ability, it shouldn't take long for him to make an impact for the Longhorns. 

ESPN.com's Gerry Hamilton was the first to report the commitment, and he provided the following comments from Duvernay:

[I'm] going to Texas. I just feel like they are coming up, and feel good about [head coach] Charlie Strong and his staff's plan and they are going to turn this thing around. I feel like [offensive coordinator] Coach Sterlin Gilbert is kind of the missing piece to help out the offense. I feel like he can add me in, and add some speed to the receiving core.

Duvernay is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 4 wide receiver, No. 4 player from the state of Texas and No. 36 overall prospect in his class, according to 247Sports. The outlet noted he received interest from more than three dozen schools before making a choice.

He previously committed to Baylor but decided to reopen his recruitment in the wake of the school's sexual assault scandal. That became possible because Baylor failed to submit Duvernay's national letter of intent paperwork, per ESPN (h/t Julie Boudwin of the Times-Picayune).

At this point, the Sachse High School (Texas) product remains a raw talent on the outside. He's going to need more polish before he becomes a consistent threat in the passing game. What made him stand out from the crowd was his top-tier athleticism.

Here's an example from the Dallas Nike Football Combine (via Student Sports):

It's easy to see why he's also a threat on special teams. Get him the ball in space and he can make people miss. Once there's a lane, there aren't many players who can chase him down.

He's also planning to use that natural speed in other ways. Michael Taglienti of Saturday Blitz passed along comments from the receiver about his college plans back in August: "I plan on doing both track and football in college."

Given his need for more work in terms of route running, along with learning the offense, it wouldn't be a surprise if he initially makes his impact on special teams. Returning kicks and punts while playing a rotational role on offense would be ideal at the outset.

The short-term outlook should become clearer once he arrives on campus. His long-term potential is intriguing, though. As long as he becomes more proficient in technical areas, his natural talent could help him blossom into a major threat for the Longhorns.

Exactly how long it will take before Duvernay becomes an every-down contributor on offense is a mystery at this point. But there are certainly a lot of reasons for Texas fans to get excited about the signing. He's a major piece to add to the 2016 class.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Could All 3 SEC West Coaches on the Hot Seat Survive 2016?

Remember when Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen got his raise in February of 2015 that brought him into the $4 million club—an "exclusive" society that included every other coach in the SEC West?

The question was asked throughout the college football world: "Which $4 million man will finish last?"

It was Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn in 2015. That performance landed him squarely on the hot seat along with, as Bleacher Report's Brian Pedersen noted earlier in the offseason, LSU's Les Miles and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin—both of whom didn't meet the expectations that their lofty salaries demanded last season either.

So something's gotta give this year, right?

The most likely answer is "yes," but it isn't the only answer.

If Texas A&M and Auburn go 8-4, are competitive in those four losses and make it clear that their offensive issues from 2015 are in the rearview mirror, it's safe to assume that Sumlin and Malzahn, respectively, will likely stick around.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs commented on his primary goal Tuesday at a booster club event, according to Tom Green of AL.com.

"We need stability at Auburn, and so we're counting on him to get it done," he said.

Sumlin is in the same boat, knowing that the floor of the program has been raised.

"That's an expectation that has been created since we've been here, and we don't run from that," he told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel. "And that should never change. And to get to that expectation was not easy, but to answer those expectations isn't easy either. So from my standpoint, there's always been a sense of urgency, and that will never change."

Eight wins and a chance for No. 9 in a bowl game should be enough to keep Sumlin and Malzahn around.

For Miles, that won't be good enough based on how some outlets—including ESPN The Magazine—are forecasting the 2016 LSU season.

Those expectations leave Miles a very slim margin for error in 2016. But what if he lives up to that expectation or, at the very least, finishes second in the West and is in the title race through Thanksgiving weekend?

Even though I don't think it'll happen—as explained in Optimistic, Pessimistic and Realistic SEC Predictions—it certainly is a possibility.

Every coach on the hot seat in the SEC West, with the exception of head-to-head-games against two of them, can cool their seats based on differing expectations in 2016 and fixing the problems that ailed them in 2015.

What's more, it's not like other teams in the SEC West are without problems.

Mississippi State is entering the post-Dak Prescott era, has offensive line concerns and has an entirely new defensive staff.

Arkansas has to replace a 1,000-yard running back, a 3,000-yard quarterback, three players off of one of the best offensive lines in the country, one of the best tight ends in the country and fix a secondary that gave up the most passing plays of 20 or more yards in the conference (53), according to CFBStats.com.

Ole Miss has talent, but replacing several superstars from last year's squad and the potential distraction of the NCAA investigation could force the Rebels to take a step back.

It's a reasonable assumption that two or three of the teams mentioned above take steps back, which should elevate the teams with coaches on the hot seat into positions where their jobs won't be called into question.

The last two coaching hires that have been made in the SEC West were in December of 2012, when Malzahn was hired by Auburn and Bret Bielema moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas. The pressure created with big-money contracts suggests that another move being made in the division this offseason is a probability.

But it's far from a certainty. 

"The expectations in the league, especially in the West right now, they're so high," Mullen said at SEC spring meetings earlier this month. "You have seven teams. You have seven student bodies. You have seven administrations. You have seven alumni bases and fanbases that expect to win the West this year.

"Six of them are going to be disappointed."

But the three that were the most disappointed at the end of the 2015 season may not be in the same position after 2016.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 3 Recruits OSU Needs to Finish with No. 1 Recruiting Class

Ohio State surged to the front of the pack and built a strong lead in the race for the 2017 recruiting national championship, and it has maintained its position with the No. 1 class for well over a year now.

But despite having verbal pledges from a pair of 5-star commits, 10 4-star commits and the country's top-rated kicker, the Buckeyes are feeling pressure from Alabama, which gained steam with four 4-star commitments and raced up the recruiting rankings to No. 2 this month. 

Will the Buckeyes be able to hold off Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, who have finished No. 1 in the rankings in each of the last six recruiting cycles?

To do so, Ohio State will need to finish strong with a flurry of marquee commitments. Two big-time pledges from 5-star wideouts Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes are starting to feel more like inevitabilities than possibilities, per 247Sports' "crystal ball" predictions.

If Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer closes the deal with those two wideouts, as expected, he could focus his attention on what could be a historic wave of 5-star talent that would ensure Ohio State lands the No. 1 recruiting class.

Here are the three recruits who could seal the deal for the Buckeyes.

 

Jeffrey Okudah, 5-Star Safety

Ohio State could sign two of the top five players in the country if it can get Jeffrey Okudah to join Josh Myers, 2017's No. 4 overall player and the top offensive tackle prospect.

Okudah, the No. 1-rated safety and No. 5 player overall for 2017, has been one of Ohio State's top targets for months now, and the attention the school is giving him is paying off. The Buckeyes have been trending up in his recruitment, blowing past schools such as Alabama, Baylor, Stanford, Texas and Texas A&M to become his top school. 

"The tradition at Ohio State. It's just a surreal atmosphere," Okudah told Greg Ladky of Rivals in a video interview. "The coaching staff, Coach Meyer wins a lot of games. Coach [Greg] Schiano, a former head coach, I know he can develop me and get me to the next level."

Okudah could take Ohio State's secondary to the next level, especially when he's paired with 4-star Isaiah Pryor, the nation's No. 3 safety, and 5-star Shaun Wade, the No. 2 cornerback—both of whom have already committed to the Buckeyes.

 

Cam Akers, 5-Star Running Back

Why wouldn't a star running back want to play for Meyer and the Buckeyes? 

Since Meyer took over in 2012, the starting running back at Ohio State (Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott) has averaged 1,547.5 rushing yards per season. Elliott was the gold standard, eclipsing 1,800 rushing yards in both 2014 and '15 while running for 41 touchdowns in a 28-game stretch.

Those are the numbers that have Cam Akers, the No. 2 running back and the No. 16 overall prospect nationally, interested in the Buckeyes.

The 5-star Clinton, Mississippi, product was a onetime Alabama pledge, but he decommitted from the Tide and reopened his recruitment on March 3.

Four days later, the 5'11 ½", 212-pound bulldozer was in Columbus for an unofficial visit at Ohio State. That trip got the Buckeyes in the thick of his recruitment, and Akers came away impressed.

“I definitely love Ohio State,” Akers said, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. “My family and myself love Ohio State and what the [football] program is doing. They always produce good running backs. They are always in the running for the national championship and the academics are great also.”

Meyer and the Buckeyes are still trailing Ole Miss as the favorite, per 247Sports' crystal ball predictions, but they're not far behind. And with another visit scheduled for July 22, Akers could be trending Ohio State's way over the summer in more ways than one.

 

Chase Young, 5-Star Defensive End

Few schools have recruited the defensive end position better than Ohio State over the last five years.

The Buckeyes have signed the likes of 5-stars Noah SpenceAdolphus Washington and Nick Bosa and 4-stars Joey BosaJalyn Holmes, Jashon Cornell, Dre'Mont Jones and Jonathon Cooper. But defensive line coach Larry Johnson and the coaching staff are trying to maintain that momentum by earning a commitment from 5-star defensive end Chase Young.

Rated the No. 3 weak-side defensive end and the No. 32 recruit for the 2017 class, Young has a long and decorated offer list, but he's seriously considering Ohio State alongside Alabama, USC and the home-state Maryland Terrapins. The Buckeyes are in a dead heat with Maryland, via 247Sports' crystal ball predictions, but they're trying to pull ahead as camp season approaches.

They've got a great chance of doing so in July, when Young visits Ohio State for its marquee recruiting camp/event—Friday Night Lights. If that trip goes well and Meyer can convince Young that he's their priority (Ohio State doesn't have a defensive end in its 2017 class yet), then the Buckeyes would have a great chance of stealing one of Maryland's top prospects. 

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Blockbuster TV Rights Deal Shows Big Ten Prominence Is Here to Stay

It started five years ago with the hiring of Urban Meyer, continued with Ohio State ending the conference's 12-year national title drought in 2014 and was only furthered when Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater to become college football's most-talked-about head coach.

But if there was ever a sign that the Big Ten has staying power in its recent resurgence, it came earlier this week with the revelation that ESPN had purchased the second half of the league's media rights package, completing a massive offseason of negotiations for the conference.

Earlier this year, Fox Sports had purchased the first half, signing on for an average of $240 million per year over the course of six years, per SportsBusiness Daily's John Ourand. With ESPN now on board for $190 per year and CBS Sports laying claim to a $10 million annual basketball deal, the total of the Big Ten's offseason media rights haul finds itself at an astonishing $2.64 billion.

When its new deals kick in next fall, the conference's annual media rights payout will have tripled.

Ourand hailed the Big Ten's negotiations as a "clear win" for the league, and the numbers speak for themselves. If you divide the $444 million the conference will pull in annually across its 14 schools, each will receive a yearly $31.7 million—and that's before adding in additional revenue from the Big Ten Network, bowl games or appearances in the College Football Playoff.

To put that in perspective, each of the 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference received $32.7 million in total revenue from their league in 2015, according to Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com. The Big Ten, meanwhile, paid out $32.4 million to its 11 longstanding members—relative newcomers Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers were on different payout plans—a figure that will only increase with the league's new rights deals.

In essence, the SEC's status as college football's wealthiest conference could soon be in question. With its new deals lasting six years, the Big Ten won't just be the last, but also the next of the Power Five conferences in college football to renegotiate its media rights, which could mean that another financial boost isn't too far off in the future.

Per Ourand:

"Not only did the conference pick up a significant increase in a down market, but the relatively short length of the deal means the Big Ten will be the first major college conference to renegotiate a new deal in what it hopes will be a more robust marketplace."

With Ohio State and Michigan serving as two of the sport's most prominent programs, particularly on the recruiting trail, Michigan State enjoying a steady stream of success—including two of the past three conference titles—and schools like Nebraska, Illinois, Maryland and Penn State hoping to make strides under relatively new head coaches, it's not crazy to think the Big Ten's latest deal could ultimately pale in comparison to its next one, due in 2022.

Plus, with a new influx of revenue, no school in the conference will have an excuse for not investing in its program, although it's not like the league has been lacking financially in recent years either.

The importance of ESPN's addition to the Big Ten's media rights package isn't completely financially based either. While Fox Sports contributing $240 million annually over six years provides an obvious monetary boost for the conference, it's no secret there's a big benefit for the Big Ten to keep its product on ESPN, which is currently in more homes than any other sports cable network.

According to WhatYouPayForSports.com, ESPN is present in 89,465,000 homes while its sister station ESPN2 lays claim to 89,326,000 homes, each of which is more than the 83,209,000 and 51,537,000 homes Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 claim, respectively. Add in ESPNU's 70,776,000 homes and its clear which entity possesses the most viewing opportunities, which matters from an exposure and in turn, recruiting standpoint.

"We're interested in having great partners that have great platforms who are interested in marketing and promotion," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany at the Big Ten spring meetings, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free-Press. "The market will decide what happens. It's a new day, and we've approached it that way."

Per SportsBusiness Journal, the conference coaches agreed. When the Big Ten's struck its initial deal with Fox in April, Ourand reported that, "some of the conference’s powerful basketball coaches were not shy about voicing their displeasure, believing that the lack of ESPN coverage would hurt their recruiting efforts."

Given the aggressive recruiting approaches of coaches like Meyer and Harbaugh, it's not hard to imagine the football coaches agreed.

Only in the end, the Big Ten wound up with the best of both worlds. Not only will the league see its schedule spread across the most-watched platforms in sports, but a newfound surplus of money will keep the conference more than healthy financially, with an opportunity to renegotiate in six short years.

On the field, the Big Ten is thriving, with appearances in the College Football Playoff from two teams in the past two years, with a sleeping giant in Ann Arbor appearing to just be waking. Off the field, it's not doing too shabby either, as the financial pieces fall into place for the conference to continue to sustain its newfound success for the next six years and most likely, beyond.

In either case, this much is clear: the Big Ten is rich.

And at this point, the rich only appear to be getting richer in college football.

 

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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

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Santino Marchiol to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star ILB Prospect

Linebacker Santino Marchiol has given Texas A&M some much-needed attitude and power on defense after committing to the school on Tuesday. 

Taylor Hamm of 247Sports broke news of Marchiol's decision to become an Aggie.   

Marchiol explained to Hamm what Texas A&M had to offer that made it such an appealing destination:

At Texas A&M, I felt like it was the only place where they wanted me to be the first to commit but they never pressured me into it like these other places. I had a great relationship with everyone there, the players and the coaches.

It really just fell into place when I sat down with coach (John) Chavis, who is a historical legend in the SEC. He’s put the most linebackers in the NFL which is crazy. Having an opportunity to play for him and a staff like that in the SEC, in College Station, it doesn’t really get any better.

The job of a linebacker is multifaceted, but it's a position that lends itself to intimidation because it is involved in most of what happens on a given play.

Marchiol brings that intimidation factor, along with excellent tackling skills, to his new home. The IMG Academy standout is a 4-star prospect who is the No. 16 inside linebacker, the No. 39 player from Florida and the No. 269 player in the 2017 class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. 

The Florida native is already well-developed physically at 6'2" and 222 pounds, though he could stand to add some more weight over the next couple of years.

However, Marchiol's tackling prowess is so good already that he can be an instant-impact player. ESPN's Recruiting Nation noted his ability to diagnose plays and to close quickly as two of his best assets:

Reads quickly, takes good angles. Strong at the point of attack and can shoot gaps. Drops smoothly and shows solid instincts in zone. Delivers a good pop when tackling and wraps effectively. ... Marchiol is a downhill linebacker with very good length and athleticism. Although he could play both inside or outside linebacker at the next level, we feel he projects best on the outside. 

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is in need of all the good vibes he can get right now. The Aggies have had a strange seven-month period in which quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen both transferred from the program. 

The Aggies did put together a solid 2016 recruiting class, finishing 19th in 247Sports' composite team rankings, but it's still a tall task climbing up the SEC mountain when teams such as Alabama, LSU, Mississippi, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee all finished ahead of them in the rankings and always land premier talents. 

Sumlin isn't known for building strong defensive clubs, though the Aggies showed improvement last year, finishing tied for 28th in points allowed and 51st in total defense. Landing a top-tier talent like Marchiol will only help those numbers get better.  

An underrated part of Marchiol's value is that he has the ability to play inside or outside. His size and his explosiveness will make him a better fit on the outside, where he can easily move into coverage or rush the passer when asked. 

However, if Marchiol's new team uses him inside to help stop the run, it will not be wasting his power. 

Versatility is crucial in this era of football, as teams seek three-down athletes at every position. Marchiol fits nicely into the new standard of what a linebacker is able to do and will be a college star as soon as he puts on a uniform. 

 

Recruiting and player info per 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Stats per NCAA.com

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Alabama's New Coaching Contracts Reflect Nick Saban's Emphasis on Loyalty

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was a very untypical exchange during what’s usually a routine conference call.

Tuesday morning, the University of Alabama board of trustees’ compensation committee approved raises for nearly all of the returning football coaches on Nick Saban’s staff and contracts for the new additions, including a $1 million annual salary for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

However, his name wasn’t the one to generate some discussion. It belonged to Scott Cochran, who technically isn’t a football coach, yet director of athletics Bill Battle described him as “The loudest and most energetic coach in America.”

“I know we’re excited that he’ll be with us and is more than a strength coach,” committee chairman Harris Morrissette said. “We’re lucky to have him.”

“He really is,” Battle responded. “He’s the equivalent to a coordinator with what he contributes to our team and the coaching staff.”

The board subsequently approved an annual raise exceeding $100,000 for the assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning (yes, that’s his official title), bumping his salary up to $525,000 a year.

To put that into perspective, the only non-football coach to get a raise Tuesday was women's basketball coach Kristy Curry, from $400,000 to $440,000 through 2020, and it’s probably more than new baseball coach Greg Goff will make (his deal has yet to be announced).

Additionally, all of the football contracts and extensions announced were for two seasons (2016 and 2017). Cochran had three years added to his deal, which was also telling.

More than just rewarding everyone, Tuesday was about the thing that may matter the most to Saban when it comes to his staff: loyalty.

It’s huge to him, and Saban believes it's worth paying for.

You may remember that Cochran recently had the chance to follow former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to Georgia. After thinking it over, he turned his good friend down. Not only is he one year away from being vested in the state’s pension programs—which translates to a lot of money via lifetime membership benefits—but he might now be the highest-paid strength coach in the nation.

According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Iowa’s Chris Doyle held that title last year by making $515,000.

Alabama fans won’t even think twice about the raise for the popular figure who’s “YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH” yells are played at Bryant-Denny Stadium to fire everyone up, just like they haven’t regarding the salaries of the assistant coaches and having probably the most elaborate support group in college football. 

It’s just the cost of winning national championships.

The only assistant coach who didn’t get a bump was offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who is set to make $714,000 in the final season of his three-year contract with Alabama. According to the Los Angeles Times, he had still been receiving paychecks from his former head coaching job at USC through 2013-14, but it's unclear if that’s concluded.

After Cochran, the biggest raises this year went to Burton Burns and Tosh Lupoi, who are taking on added responsibilities. In addition to the running backs, Burns will oversee special teams, while Lupoi is now co-defensive coordinator in addition to outside linebackers coach.

While on the outside it may appear that Saban’s trying to hedge his bet that Pruitt will do a good job, Lupoi may have turned down an opportunity elsewhere like Cochran and/or is now being groomed to someday become defensive coordinator.

Pruitt was the one being groomed few years ago, only to be lured away by Florida State in 2013, where as a first-time defensive coordinator he made $540,000 before landing a much bigger contract at Georgia.

According to the USA Todaycoaching salary database, he made $1.3 million last year at Georgia, and offensive line coach Brent Key made $1.04 million at Central Florida. Moreover, defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley had just been named co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky. 

All four of the new coaches will be making less than their predecessors, which, with this offseason having the most turnover since Saban arrived, will ironically keep Alabama from contending for having the highest-paid coaching staff in 2016.

Smart, for example, had a base salary of $1.5 million last year. He had also been with Saban since his LSU years, moved up the ranks and enjoyed tremendous success along the way.

That’s the thing about loyalty—it can go both ways and be equally beneficial.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Valuable Asset

Conference and national championship dreams are the result of a complete team, but each college football program can point to a singular key contributor along the way.

In order for any team in the preseason top 25 to reach its ceiling in 2016—whether that's the College Football Playoff or simply being in conference contention—the following person likely is the critical piece. If he succeeds, the team will. If not, the program may falter.

While players are the common choice because of previous contributions, roster changes, versatility and depth, the list is not limited to on-field talent. Coaches can be the most valuable asset, too.

The list order is based on Bleacher Report's post-spring practice top 25.

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Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Agree on New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Bob Stoops and the University of Oklahoma agreed on a new contract Tuesday that will keep him in charge of the Sooners sideline through 2021.

John Shinn of the Norman Transcript reported Stoops will make $5.5 million during the upcoming season, adding it "could be more" with performance bonuses.

According to Derek Peterson of the Oklahoma Daily, Oklahoma assistants Mike Stoops and Lincoln Riley also received extensions through 2018.

The 55-year-old Stoops has been Oklahoma's head coach for 18 seasons, posting a record of 179-46. He has nine Big 12 titles to his credit and won the national championship in 2000.

The Sooners reached the College Football Playoff last season, however, they were eliminated in the semifinals by Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

While Oklahoma is in the midst of a lengthy national title drought, the team has won at least 10 games in five of the past six seasons and is a perennial championship contender.

With quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield back in the mix for the 2016 season, Oklahoma figures to be among the nation's top teams, and Stoops will have a strong chance to legitimize his new contract in short order.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Nick Chubb Injury: Updates on Georgia RB's Knee and Recovery

Georgia running back Nick Chubb is continuing to rehabilitate the torn PCL in his knee that cut his 2015 season short.

Continue for updates.

Chubb Expects to Be Ready For Opening Game Tuesday, June 21

"It's gonna be something to see. ... I'm gonna be in Atlanta, and I'll be back for [the] opening game," Chubb said of the team's opening game on Sept. 3 (h/t GATA Dawgs).

His head coach, Kirby Smart, wasn't quite ready to be that optimistic just yet.

"It's hard to say, 'Start the first game, rush for 1,000 yards, do this, do that,' when we don't know what the future holds," Smart said (h/t GATA Dawgs). "He is competing day by day. It would be great to say that he's gonna be 100 percent to start the season, let's go against North Carolina, but it might also be foolish to assume that."

That uncertainty mirrored a report from SEC pundit Tony Barnhart in May on the The Frank Frangie Show (via Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports):

The orthopedic people that I've talked to say from the date you injure the way he injured that knee, it's a calendar year. So if he comes back before the end of September, I'm going to be surprised. But if he comes back anywhere close to what he was before, Georgia's going to develop the quarterback and they're going to have a pretty good football team.

Chubb rushed for 747 yards and seven touchdowns in six games last season before missing the remainder of the season.

Certainly, having Chubb back in action would be a huge boost for Georgia's offense. A healthy Chubb is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and would give Georgia a dangerous weapon to build their offense around. 

In turn, that could take the pressure off of whomever wins the quarterback battle between Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Jacob Eason.

Georgia certainly doesn't need to rush Chubb back into action. In Chubb's absence last year, Sony Michel ran for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, so the Bulldogs are in good hands. Michel is more than capable of carrying the load while Chubb is sidelined.

Still, the thought of a platoon between those two backs has to be frightening for the rest of the SEC. Georgia would be able to grind down opposing defenses and have two fresh running backs in the fourth quarter, though a healthy Chubb would be expected to earn the starter's distinction. 

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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The All-CFB Head Coaches Team Based on Their Playing Careers

The old phrase "those who can't do, teach" is often applied to sports. If someone who loves the game can't quite cut it on the field, he or she should switch over to the coaching side.

These college football head coaches made sure that saying didn't apply to them.

While a large portion of coaches who are currently in charge of FBS programs either played at small schools or rode the bench for bigger programs, several of them had impressive playing careers at the college level and even broke through to the professional ranks.

Here, we present a hypothetical first-team offense and first-team defense—plus a handful of notable second-stringers—made up solely of current FBS head coaches, based on their playing careers. Those who received all-conference or All-American honors and national awards in college got high marks for selection, and multiyear starters who had careers in the NFL were among the best of the best.

Some positions, such as quarterback and defensive back, have plenty of head coaches in their ranks. Others, such as linemen and running backs, were tougher to find. That led to some creative starting lineups for both sides of the ball, but the end result is a team filled with hardworking coaches from all levels of college football.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football Q&A: Is the SEC Scared to Travel for West Coast Games?

In April 2014, the SEC announced a new long-term scheduling format that includes an eight-game conference schedule and mandates that every team plays a Power Five out-of-conference game every season. That mandate goes into effect starting in 2016.

Yet, a tired narrative outside of the SEC footprint still exists: "The SEC doesn't play anybody."

Is there merit to that despite the mandate to play major out-of-conference games every year? That question and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

No, the SEC isn't scared of West Coast road trips. 

LSU opened the 2009 season at Washington and has home-and-homes scheduled with UCLA and Arizona State on its future schedules, according to FBSchedules.com. Auburn has a home-and-home set up with Cal in the future, Texas A&M starts one with UCLA this year and Georgia—which has a built-in out-of-conference rivalry game with Georgia Tech ever year—will do the same in 2025 and 2026.

So tell me again who's scared to go out west?

Alabama? 

The Crimson Tide get right of first refusal at virtually every neutral-site kickoff game, which is the equivalent of an extra bowl game with that bowl paycheck. If they've earned that right, why wouldn't they take advantage of it?

Are some SEC teams known for scheduling cupcakes? Of course.

Mississippi State plays South Alabama, UMass, BYU and Samford this year, and it played Southern Miss, Troy, Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech a year ago. But even the Bulldogs have a road trip to Arizona on the docket in 2022. 

Complaining about the SEC and saying that it routinely schedules cupcakes is like complaining about texting with a flip phone—it's outdated, tired and factually inaccurate. 

Yes, Noel Mazzone will help Texas A&M's offense find its stride in 2016.

Mazzone has evolved from a pure pro-style coordinator during his first stint in the SEC in the late 1990s and 2000s, into a tempo-based, spread coordinator who has remained true to his power roots.

At UCLA, he helped Paul Perkins break the 1,000-yard mark on the ground twice (1,575 in 2014 and 1,343 in 2015), and he helped Johnathan Franklin post 1,734 rushing yards in 2012.

The Aggies have some issues along the offensive line, but James White is a solid all-around back, and former Oklahoma running back Keith Ford is a former 5-star prospect who can be a superstar if he stays healthy.

Plus, Mazzone doesn't have a track record of sending quarterbacks down a spiral of doom in mid-October like his predecessor, Jake Spavital, does. As I noted last fall, the only quarterback who hasn't suffered an October swoon under Spavital since 2012 was Johnny Manziel in 2013. The others—Geno Smith at West Virginia in 2012, Kenny Hill at Texas A&M in 2014 and Kyle Allen in 2015—have all had the wheels fly off after hot starts. 

Mazzone took a true freshman in Josh Rosen last year and helped him set the program record for consecutive completions without an interception at 245. 

That'll work.

Texas A&M's offense is in much better hands this year with Mazzone. If quarterback Trevor Knight can recapture at least part of the magic he showed in the 2014 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, the Aggies can contend for the SEC West.

As long as Kyle Davis is healthy, he can be exactly what Auburn needs in 2016.

Assuming John Franklin III is the starting quarterback and provides a running threat off of the edge to complement power back Jovon Robinson, all that's needed for Auburn to replicate the offense it was successful with in 2013 and 2014 with Nick Marshall taking the snaps is a bona fide deep threat like Sammie Coates who has the speed to burn defensive backs deep and the strength to position himself well downfield.

At 6'2", 219 pounds, Davis, a native of Loganville, Georgia, is already bigger than Coates was as a senior. Coates played at 6'2", 201 pounds during the 2014 season, according to his Auburn bio, and had 1,643 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns during the final two seasons of his Auburn career.

One look at Davis' high school tape, and you'll see plenty of Coates in his game.

From his wide shoulders, to his ability to high-point the football downfield, to his speed, he has everything Auburn wants from somebody in that Coates role.

The early enrollee was in a non-contact jersey this spring after offseason shoulder surgery, but he should be good to go for fall camp.

"Kyle's good," wide receivers coach Kodi Burns told Tom Green of AL.com. "He's getting better. I think he's 100 percent healthy now, so that's always good."

I'm not too concerned with Ole Miss' defensive backfield, honestly.

Tony Conner back at 100 percent gives the Rebels a tremendous weapon who can do just about everything from working in coverage in man-to-man situations, playing over the top or walking down to provide pressure. 

Cornerback Tony Bridges had three picks last year, safety C.J. Hampton has patiently waited for his chance and has all of the tools to be a star, Kendarius Webster played in all 13 games last year while notching 41 tackles, and the Rebels have a proven track record of success replacing stars in the secondary under head coach Hugh Freeze.

The bigger issue for Ole Miss is the offensive line.

The silver lining is that, thanks to injuries and suspensions over the last two seasons, Freeze is well-versed on figuring out how to succeed on the fly with offensive line issues. Because of those issues, players like Robert Conyers and Rod Taylor have played significant roles over the last couple of seasons. 

That offensive line has to come together in a hurry. With Florida State in Week 1 and Alabama in Week 3, the Rebels could be worn out, demoralized and left with a slim margin for error early in the season thanks to the fast and physical defensive fronts that the Seminoles and Crimson Tide boast.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Urban Meyer Is the LeBron James of College Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Like many in Ohio on Monday, Urban Meyer spent his day basking in the reflected glory of the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA championship.

So when the Ohio State head coach addressed his own team before an offseason workout, perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he drew on the Cavs' title run for inspiration.

"Why do we do what we do? To win championships," Meyer said in a video released on the Buckeyes' official Twitter account. "You have to look in the face of some of these athletes who gave their life to their teammates. That's what I saw. I saw a guy that backed up what he said."

At this point, Meyer didn't need to say the name for his players to understand who he was referencing.

After all, there may not be anybody in the Buckeye State who can more closely relate to what LeBron James just accomplished than the three-time national champion coach.

By now, the unlikely relationship between Meyer and James has been well-documented. As an assistant at Notre Dame in the late-'90s, Meyer unsuccessfully recruited the high school basketball phenom for a role on the gridiron before intertwined paths led the Ohio natives back to their home state, Meyer a fan of the Cavs and James one of the Buckeyes' biggest supporters.

But the similarities between Meyer and James don't stop at their appreciation for one another, each being at the top of their respective professions, or even their chance recruiting encounter 15 years ago.

Having grown up separated by 20 years and 80 miles on Interstate 90, the careers of Meyer and James have followed paralleled paths, with each having needed to first deliver championships elsewhere before doing so back home.

While the four-time NBA MVP told ESPN's College GameDay in 2008 that had he attended college, he would have done so as a Buckeye, it took taking his talents to South Beach for James to capture his first two NBA championships—a four-year stint with the Miami Heat he's famously referred to as his own college experience.

Having spent the first seven years of his career in Cleveland before leaving to chase championships in Miami, the Akron, Ohio, native found himself a polarizing figure in even his own hometown—something Meyer, who grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, never understood.

"I love LeBron James. A competitor, a good person," Meyer said unapologetically at Big Ten media days in 2012, his first as Ohio State's head coach and a month removed from James' first NBA title with the Heat. "You never hear about anything off the field with him."

A year later, James—still a member of the Heat—was delivering a pregame speech to the Buckeyes and standing on the sidelines of Ohio Stadium for one of Ohio State's prime-time battles.

If there's anybody who understands the value that can be found in leaving home—or awkward professional breakups—it's Meyer, who, after a pair of two-year stints as the head coach at Bowling Green and Utah, also won his first two championships in the Sunshine State as the head coach at Florida. Much like James, Meyer's accomplishments never seemed to be appreciated by his own fanbases for long, as his messy departure from the Gators remains a sore spot in Gainesville to this day.

James knows the feeling. Four years after he angered Cavs fans with The Decision, it was Heat fans who found themselves stung by "The Return" to Cleveland in 2014.

But regardless of how they arrived here, both Meyer and James find themselves back in Ohio and their kinship has never been stronger.

For Meyer, James has been a useful recruiting tool, an unofficial Buckeye who is usually good for one sideline appearance and a handful of pro-Ohio State tweets each season. James' presence at a game may not directly impact the college decisions of many prospects—but it sure doesn't hurt to have him on your side either.

"He means a lot in recruiting," Meyer said of 2014. "You can't measure the positive feeling of him standing on the sideline for an Ohio State game. He truly loves Ohio State."

Thanks in large part to his impressive recruiting prowess, Meyer's returned to the top of the college football world—a place some doubted he'd be capable of reaching after health issues brought his Florida tenure to an end. Since arriving at Ohio State in 2012, he lays claim to a 50-4 record, including a playoff run in 2014 that saw him capture his third national title—his first for his home state.

"In this great state's history, I can't remember momentum like this," Meyer said last summer. "To see the energy in the state of Ohio is fantastic."

James is obviously a big part of that—not just with the Cavs, but in the way he's embraced all of Ohio since returning two years ago. When the Buckeyes won their first national title under Meyer, James was on the sideline, taking to Bleacher Report's UNINTERRUPTED series afterwards to celebrate.

"This is for everyone in Ohio, man, because we're always counted out," an emotional James said. "Being from Ohio, in support of you guys, I love you. It's unbelievable."

This past month, the roles have been reversed as James has once again asserted himself as the NBA's top star. And even though Meyer witnessed the Cavs lose Game 4 of the NBA Finals from his courtside view in Cleveland, that didn't stop him from finding a way to relate to James and Ohio's latest championship.

"God bless it did they play hard," Meyer told his team. "I know you might say, 'Well I'm not a Cavs guy,' but get something out of that. I know what I got out of that: I can't wait to do that again with a group of players."

 

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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

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Former Georgia Coach Jim Donnan's Advice for Kirby Smart

ATLANTA — Jim Donnan has been in Kirby Smart's shoes.

Donnan, fresh off five straight double-digit win seasons at Marshall and five straight appearances in the Division I-AA (now FCS) final four—including the 1992 I-AA national title—took over a fledgling Georgia program that, under former head coach Ray Goff from 1989-1995, had consistently underperformed.

Sound familiar?

That's pretty much the same narrative that Smart, who was a part of four national title teams as the defensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2008-2015, inherits in his first season as the Georgia head coach.

Donnan, who still lives in the Athens area, has plenty of advice to offer the new top Bulldog.

"The one thing that I told him was that the biggest mistake that I made my first year was that I spent way too much time with the alumni clubs speaking and trying to promote the program rather than being with the players," Donnan told Bleacher Report. "I felt like I spent enough time with the players, but still, looking at the relationships the first year compared to the second year was night and day."

It appears Smart took Donnan's advice to heart.

As Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald pointed out in March, Smart scaled back his alumni club speaking events from where the schedule sent former head coach Mark Richt. That's not a slight against the alumni who helped and continue to help build the program. It's a matter of putting the current team first while also balancing the responsibilities that head coaches have to ensure a bright future.

"I think I went to 57 of them my first year—either civic clubs or booster clubs or all of that," Donnan said. "You cut that in half or a fourth, and you can spend that much more time with your players. That's the real key. Not only the players, but the families. I think it's great that he invited some players' families over to a couple of the scrimmages this year early because you have to get to know them, too."

That would explain a lot about Smart's approach to one of this offseason's hottest topics—satellite camps.

While there's a huge difference between rubbing elbows with boosters on the "rubber chicken circuit" and teaching high school players around the country the sport, the time strain on head coaches is the same. From the moment the temporary ban on satellite camps was lifted in April, Smart has approached the issues with caution.

"I'm going to go to a couple of them," Smart said at SEC spring meetings in May. "I'll be at a few of these to make an appearance and make sure that we're there, show a face and make sure that we're doing a good job promoting the University. I won't be at all of them, no."

For the most part, he has kept a low profile.

Smart joined Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at a camp in Atlanta on June 2, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, and hit a couple more last week in Cartersville and Buford, Georgia, last week, according to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That's a far cry from the satellite camp world tour Harbaugh has embarked on during his second season as the Michigan head coach.

"We didn't even have that problem," Donnan said. "There has to be a give and take there. Your players have to come first before you do all of that. There's a heck of a lot of promotion that has to go on because everybody wants to meet the coach. He's done a really good job of that."

What goes on behind the scenes during the first full offseason is far more important to the overall health of the program than getting out on the public relations trail.

"There's just so many hats that you've got to wear that an assistant coach hasn't had to wear," Donnan said. "As far as day-to-day press, interaction with the faculty. It's an immense job. You go to work every day and there's about 200 people waiting for you to tell them what you want to do. Whether it's trainers, managers, tutors, doctors; once you get the chain of command down, you're off to a good start.

"It's a big corporation."

Next year, maybe that corporation will put forth a bigger PR blitz.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kirk Merritt to Transfer from Oregon: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Oregon Ducks football team lost some wide receiver depth Monday, when Kirk Merritt elected to transfer out of the program before his sophomore season.

The pass-catcher took to Twitter to announce his decision and thank the coaching staff:

Tyson Alger of the Oregonian noted Merritt also ran track for the school and was a speedster on the football field as well.

The receiver arrived on campus as part of the 2015 class as a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 7 overall player from the state of Louisiana. Merritt represented a solid recruiting pickup for head coach Mark Helfrich and the rest of the Oregon staff because he was a fast playmaker from SEC territory.

While his talent was clear, he was used primarily on special teams during his freshman campaign in 2015. He finished with five catches for 61 yards and tallied one kick return for 28 yards.

However, the Ducks lost both Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall from their 2015 team, and Merritt figured to see an increase in playing time with a couple of openings at the wide receiver spot, especially since Oregon uses an uptempo pace and often subs receivers in and out throughout a game.

Kristen Rodgers of KEZI 9 News in Eugene, Oregon, pointed out “a lot of his teammates said he would be the guy to watch this season” when discussing Merritt.

The cupboard still isn’t bare for Oregon at the wide receiver spot. Alger called true freshman Dillon Mitchell “the standout receiver of the spring.” If Mitchell lives up to that billing, he can fill the void left by Merritt’s departure.

The Ducks also have Dwayne Stanford, Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson as proven pass-catchers entering the 2016 season.

Merritt never lived up to his potential in an Oregon uniform, but the Pac-12 powerhouse still has enough wide receivers to remain competitive as it looks to build on a 9-4 season in 2015.

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Kirk Merritt to Transfer from Oregon: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Oregon Ducks football team lost some wide receiver depth Monday, when Kirk Merritt elected to transfer out of the program before his sophomore season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

End of Cam Robinson's Legal Issues Secure Alabama's Place as Playoff Favorites

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although many mistook it for a breeze, what felt like wind around the University of Alabama campus on Monday was actually the collective exhale of Crimson Tide football fans.

They had pretty much been holding their breath for a month, at least figuratively, so there was a lot of hot air involved. Just how much relief they’ll feel no one’s quite certain yet, only things were suddenly looking a lot better regarding the upcoming 2016 season.

Specifically, it stemmed from the district attorney in Monroe, La., filing paperwork that he had decided to not pursue prosecution of Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson and defensive back Hootie Jones following their hometown arrest on May 17.

He cited insufficient evidence but also told KNOE-TV

"I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I'm doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning," Jones said. 

According to Greg Hilburn of newsstar.com, Jones is the longest serving Fourth District Attorney in modern history, having been elected to the position five times. He also “has a reputation for a light touch with nonviolent criminals and an iron first with violent ones.”

This was clearly among the former.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of the decision, which will be widely debated and criticized from near and afar, it’s nothing short of a huge break for the Crimson Tide’s playoff chances in 2016.

To backtrack for a moment, both players were arrested in a public park at approximately 2 a.m. Hootie Jones was charged with possession of a controlled substance and illegal carrying of a weapon; Robinson for possession of a controlled substance, illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen gun, which is a felony.

At best, it was a couple of young men making a really stupid decision when home on break. At worst, one was looking at potential jail time and a promising career significantly damaged.

It’s unclear what kind of penalty Robinson could have been facing had he been prosecuted and found guilty—which could have taken months, if not years to complete. He also doesn’t turn 21 until October 9 so probably would have been granted youthful offender status, plus the possibility of a plea bargain.

The DA, however, said that four people were in the car and he could not prove who had the gun and small amount of drugs that were discovered by police. He also had to weigh if prosecuting them was worth the time, effort and money.

Of course, neither Alabama player is completely out of the woods yet. The case could proceed in the future if new evidence is presented, and they still have to face whatever punishment head coach Nick Saban might have in mind, although he’s notorious for doing so behind closed doors and not always with a suspension.

For example, in 2014, defensive lineman Jarran Reed and linebacker Dillon Lee were arrested for a DUI, and last spring Geno Matias-Smith was arrested for a second time. None appeared to miss any playing time due to their alleged transgressions. Smith even started every game of the 2015 season.

Instead, Saban’s punishments usually hinge on what the players and team can learn from the situation.

“If we can change their behavior, based on what we do, that would be the purpose of discipline,” Saban said the PGA Regions Tradition Pro-Am on May 18. “Discipline is not necessarily just punishment, which a lot of people view it that way. It’s how you change somebody’s behavior so they have a better chance to be successful. 

“That’s the way that we’ve always done it, that’s the way that we try and do it. That’s the way I’d like to do it with my own children. I think that’s the way that most parents would like to do it with their own children.”

Saban, who is on vacation this week, is not expected to issue a statement on the DA’s decision, and the school had no comment Monday. Even when the head coach returns he probably won’t reveal much other than repeat that Robinson’s never been in trouble before and he considers it an internal matter.

Regardless of what he does Saban’s going to be in the spotlight and criticized, not so much for Jones, a reserve safety, but because of how Robinson can impact this season.

A potential All-American, candidate for the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman and top pick in the 2017 NFL draft, he’s the kind of player who can single-handedly make a huge difference.

Among preseason predictions, Athlon, Lindy’s, The Sporting News and ESPN have all listed Alabama as favorite to win the national championship, with Phil Steele’s annual magazine, which doesn’t hit stores until June 28, opting for Florida State with the Crimson Tide second.

Steele is predicting, though, that Alabama will be No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Poll.

That’s assuming Robinson, a two-year starter, plays this season.

Without him Alabama has a huge hole at left tackle, which was on display during the Crimson Tide’s final spring scrimmage, A-Day. The defense was so dominating that the final score was just 7-3.

Could Alabama make a run at the national title without Robinson? Maybe. But it would have a much tougher time getting past LSU and the rest of the talent-rich SEC West. Had this happened a year ago perhaps there’s a different champion and Heisman Trophy winner.

With Robinson, though, the reigning champions still have to be considered the team to beat in college football, and a playoff favorite. 

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Cam Robinson Situation Latest Example of Football's Power over Society

After a month of speculation, the fate of Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson and defensive back Laurence "Hootie" Jones has come into focus.

They're clear.

The duo was arrested last month in Monroe, Louisiana, and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, while Robinson was also charged with felony possession of a stolen firearm.

According to KNOE in Monroe, Ouachita Parish District Attorney Jerry Jones will not move forward with the charges due to insufficient evidence.

"I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I'm doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years working and sweating while we were all in the air conditioning," Jones said, according to KNOE.

Wait...what?

So because Robinson and Jones—who are both originally from the area—play college football and work hard at it, they're somehow granted legal immunity and don't have to abide by laws?

Really?

This isn't a commentary on the guilt or innocence of Robinson or Jones. However, as Cody Worsham of Tiger Rag noted on Twitter, the arresting officer's report certainly suggests that sufficient evidence existed for the case to proceed.

In a park after hours? Check.

Smell of marijuana from the vehicle? Check.

Jones' handgun in plain sight? Check.

Reason to search the vehicle? Check.

Marijuana in plain sight? Check.

Stolen handgun found under seat? Check.

That certainly sounds like enough evidence to move forward. 

If this order of events happens to me on a random Monday night, do you think that my case would go to trial? In Ouachita Parish, of course it would. Because I'm writing this under a cool vent pumping out air conditioning rather than hitting a tackling dummy.

That's not how the legal system is supposed to work.

Laws are laws. And again, we are not in a position to say definitively if laws were broken. But not moving forward because of who someone is, not because of what someone does, is not how the legal system is supposed to work.

What's even more concerning is that this was a legal road game for Robinson and Jones, who despite being from the area are players for Alabama—one of LSU's biggest rivals. That should put a swift end to any conspiracy theory that representatives of the Tide put pressure on the locals behind the scenes.

This is just another example of football's power over society.

When placed in a high-profile position in a potential case against Robinson—one of the best tackles in college football and a potential early pick in next year's NFL draft—Ouachita Parish chose football as the primary reason to give special treatment to somebody who broke the law.

That's a sad reflection of our society.

If Robinson received the stolen weapon in a way other than stealing it himself and didn't deserve the felony charge, say that. If that reduction renders the case as one that isn't worth the time of the legal system, say that. If there actually is insufficient evidence to proceed with charges or the evidence detailed in the report is inadmissible for some reason, specify what the case is lacking and why.

Don't say that the "main reason" for not moving forward with the case is because they're college football players.

That sets a horrible example for future players who are in Ouachita Parish.

I'll now return to my office with air conditioning, where I'm subject to the laws of society.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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