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Michigan Football: How Tim Drevno Can Retool the Wolverines' Offensive Line

Tim Drevno’s current contract with the Michigan Wolverines expires five days after the final game of the 2017 season is played—meaning that he has just enough time to show off his expertise prior to potentially renegotiating for something a little sweeter than $800,000 per year (plus healthy bonuses).

That’s assuming he does what everyone thinks he’s going to do, and that’s assuming he wants to stick around Michigan for an extended period of time. The components are there for Drevno; he just has to assemble them by the time the Wolverines head west to take on the Utah Utes on Sept. 3 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Ideally, Drevno has his starters and two-deep roster in mind. If not, he’ll have a better idea after playing Utah.

According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics, Michigan quarterbacks were sacked during roughly 14 percent of plays in 2014, ranking No. 74 overall. The O-line only allowed 2.73 standard-down line yards, ranking No. 94 in the land.

In terms of adjusted line yards, a measure weighed in the NFL, Michigan ranked No. 50 in the FBS this past season. Basically, Football Outsiders asserts that anything above a rating of 100 is “good”—the Wolverines finished at 104.9.

Also a positive for Drevno, Michigan’s “power success” was a staggering 71.9 percent, good enough for No. 32 in the nation.

That’s a workable scenario for Drevno, a proven craftsman of the trench-dominating types. By following Football Outsiders’ numbers, and by mentally reliving 2014, it's safe to say that the Wolverines’ O-line must better protect during passing downs and make sure to maintain its growing push when it comes to running the ball.

During an 11-year co-coaching relationship, he and Jim Harbaugh had forged stout and sustainable offensive lines along the West Coast, most notably with the Stanford Cardinal and then again with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2014, Drevno left the Bay Area for USC, where he coached All-American Max Tuerk Jr., who was one of three Trojans to earn first-team league honors on offense. 

Today, Drevno’s job is to recreate that past success, in some shape or form, in Ann Arbor, a city that hasn’t seen an elite O-line in roughly seven years. 

Most—if not all—Michigan fans are expecting something similar to what was done at Stanford. They wouldn’t snub their nose at the idea of an NCAA’d version of a 49ers-like O-line, either. If all goes as planned for Drevno, the Wolverines should, at the very least, land somewhere in the middle of that range. If things unfold in a more favorable manner, Drevno could end up having the finest O-line he’s ever had and possibly one of the best at Michigan.

Yeah, ever.

In short, things can get retooled quickly if he keeps doing what he’s doing and builds upon his current roster—one of his guys, if not the majority, should pan out down the road and evolve into an every-Saturday star. That’s the idea, anyway.

 

Recruiting Staples

Right now, Michigan is in possession of one of the top OL classes in modern history. Four of its top six commits for 2016 are O-linemen, and they’re four of the best in the nation, per 247Sports. Michigan also has its hooks in a few of the best available for 2017, namely 5-star OT Wyatt Davis of California, who has a longstanding relationship with Drevno.

 

In Running Condition

In the past, recruiting only supplied hope for better days—but then, later in the season, it dumped a cold glass of reality on Michigan fans, who were left unsatisfied with high-ranking classes that didn’t perform.

Today, a true turnaround seems likely under the new guy in town, and the transition is going “smoothly,” according to former starting center Jack Miller, who spent four practices with Drevno before leaving the game to pursue other personal interests this past spring.

Still in contact with many of his former teammates, Miller has heard “very good things” in regard to the Wolverines’ progress.

In 2013, the line allowed 34 sackings of its starting quarterback, Devin Gardner. In 2014, the line allowed 26, making Gardner, who is now pursuing an NFL career as a receiver, one of the most touched signal-callers in college football for two years running.

Was it due to poor coaching? Was it poor effort on the part of the players? Someone had to be blamed for an ineffective offense, right?

“Well that’s a really hard question to answer, because I don’t think it’s as black and white as that,” Miller said with a laugh. “In your guys’ [the media] world, you’re fortunate that it gets to be, right? And that’s what people want to hear. But the reality of it is that there is no right or wrong answer. It is no one’s fault at all times, at least in our situation during the previous years [under former OL coach Darrell Funk].”

During stretches, the left side would look great, but the right side would flounder. During other times, the middle and right would be serviceable, but the left would struggle. But there were times when everyone was in sync.

There is work to do everywhere, probably more so at the right tackle and right guard positions, but for the most part, everyone upped their level of play this past fall. The 5-7 finish overshadowed those steps, but Drevno isn't inheriting an inept bunch of Joes. 

“Last year in particular we really improved, and it didn’t go noticed—and that’s OK—but it didn’t go noticed as much because of our offensive struggles throwing the ball, which resulted in defenses playing just to stop the run and safeties being able to play up in the box and stuff like that,” Miller said.

“I don’t think it was the coach’s fault, but I would say that it was a player thing at times. I would say for some of the struggles that we had, it was a lack of experience—but I think that this is the first year in how many ever years that Michigan will finally have it to where everybody has played football before, and we haven’t been able to say that for a while.”

With the likes of left tackle Mason Cole—who started 12 games as a true freshman in 2014, heading a group of hungry athletes—Miller sees nothing but forward motion for the O-line in 2015. Although no longer a member of the team, Miller, who is aware of the flood of commitments from recruits, is quite confident that the Wolverines—particularly their O-line—will land on their feet this season.

As a rule, most OL coaches want the same thing. They want to see players improve leverage skills, blocking, footwork and hand placement. None of that should be a problem this fall—at least not as much as it had been in the past, says Miller.

But most of all, they want tough guys.

“Funk wanted that, and Drevno wants that,” Miller said. “They have pretty similar philosophies in terms of technique.”

 

The Makings

Two weeks ago, Erik Swenson, the first to commit to Michigan’s 2016 class, was at church when he ran into a family friend who used to work for the Philadelphia Eagles. As it turned out, that friend offered sound advice—the same things mentioned by Miller and the same things taught by Funk and, more importantly, Drevno.

“He said that you have to be tough,” said Swenson, the No. 19-ranked OT and No. 177-ranked overall player of his cycle. “Nowadays, everybody’s big, everybody’s good at what they do. There’s so many top-ranked tackles. But some guys can’t handle it mentally or physically—being tough and wanting to grind it out and earn your spot. That can really make a difference between good offensive linemen and average offensive linemen.”

At 6’7” and 285 pounds, Swenson is one huge target for those looking to make a name. Playing for Downers Grove South, an Illinois powerhouse, only increases the opposition’s desire to check him.

That rarely works out as planned, though.

“My freshman year, I was blocking a guy, and I hit him so hard, I threw him to the ground, and as his back hit the ground, he coughed up blood all up into my eyes and all over my nose; it was running down my face—and I didn’t even notice it until I got to the sidelines and my whole white uniform was covered in blood,” said Swenson, who says there are plenty more like him in Illinois—the home of high school lineman combines and the home to six of the top 50 offensive linemen of 2016.

“I’m used to the tough mentality,” he said. “I love run blocking; it’s actually my personal favorite, to be honest with you. There’s nothing more fun than pancaking a guy.” He then followed with a line that every O-line coach would love to hear: “You’re putting him in the dirt or keeping him away from the quarterback.”

Again, on the surface, the “tough” mentality seems pretty cut-and-dried—of course coaches want those guys. They’re not out looking for those who shy away from contact or those who cower from a challenge.

Finding more players with Swenson’s blend of competitiveness, handle and knowledge of the game and willingness to sacrifice limbs for wins will only benefit Drevno as he refurbishes existing parts and orders new ones.

“I really like how they’re trying to bring it back to ‘old Michigan,’” Swenson said of discussions with Harbaugh and Drevno. “Drevno is recruiting really well, the right kinds [Michael Onwenu, Ben Bredeson, Devery Hamilton, etc]. If we can’t run and we can’t just stuff it down their throats, we can’t win a football game—I kind of like the idea that they have, and I’m excited to see how it turns out this season and during the upcoming seasons as well.”

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes by way of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

De'Andre Johnson Suspended Indefinitely by Florida State: Details and Reaction

Freshman quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who is in the mix for Florida State's starting job in 2015, was suspended indefinitely for a violation of athletic department policy Thursday.

According to Warchant.com, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher announced the punishment, although he didn't elaborate on the nature of Johnson's transgression.

Per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, however, the Jacksonville, Florida, native allegedly punched a woman in a bar.   

According to 247Sports, the former First Coast High School standout was a 3-star prospect who was rated as the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in his class.

Following a practice in March, Fisher made it clear he had high hopes for Johnson moving forward, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

"I thought De'Andre Johnson had a really nice day today—does a lot of things very instinctively, man, I think that guy's gonna be a really good player," Fisher said

Johnson may have had an uphill battle in terms of becoming the Seminoles' starting signal-caller this season anyway since he is competing with junior Sean Maguire, who started a game in place of current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston last year, and Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson.

Although the length of Johnson's punishment is unclear, one can only assume that it will put him well behind Maguire and Golson in the quarterback competition.

FSU's quarterback battle is wide open now that Winston has moved on to the NFL, but Johnson likely moved himself out of the conversation for the time being.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ron Johnson Commits to Michigan: What 4-Star DE Brings to Wolverines

Michigan remains America's hottest college football program on the recruiting trail, further fueled Thursday afternoon by a commitment from dominant New Jersey defensive end Ron Johnson.

The 4-star prospect shared his decision on Twitter after spending time on campus:

Johnson, a 6'4", 240-pound rising senior at Camden High School near Philadelphia, traveled to Ann Arbor this week along with a few other area standouts. He was accompanied by 4-star wide receiver/defensive back Ahmir Mitchell, 4-star tight end Naseir Upshur and 4-star offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, a 2017 recruit and high school teammate.

Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh now holds 20 total commitments in his latest class, including 14 new pledges this month. It's been a remarkable stretch for a program that failed to produce a single 2016 commit during the first 14 weeks under a new regime.

This could be the first of several impactful players from New Jersey to join the group.

Mitchell is seriously considering Michigan, along with Ohio State and Rutgers. Wide receiver Brad Hawkins, a fellow 4-star talent from Camden, and 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary are among other top options in the state who may also further bolster this class.

Gary, the top-rated overall recruit in 2016, plays at Paramus Catholic High School. It's the alma mater of prized 2014 prospect Jabrill Peppers, who took delight in Thursday's development:

Johnson is the team's top-rated 2016 defender to this point, joining a group that already features four 4-star offensive linemen. Harbaugh has placed a high value on gaining depth in the trenches, and Johnson adds yet another intriguing player up front.

Rated 14th nationally among weak-side defensive ends, Johnson recorded 144 tackles and 14 sacks during the past two seasons. He is still expanding on an impressive physical frame, but already feels confident in his abilities to play balanced along the edge.

"People look at me as a pass-rusher, but I'm a big run-stopper too," Johnson told Bleacher Report. "I can sit on the outside and help shut things down."

He throttles lead blockers with explosiveness produced by a powerful lower body and displays excellent lateral agility while pursuing ball-carriers through traffic, flashing a mean streak in the process.

"Ron is a great competitor and teammate," Hawkins told Bleacher Report. "He's a huge part of our defense because he control things up front and plays very aggressive. Plus, he's a great athlete."

Johnson chose Michigan over an expansive offer list that includes Alabama, Miami, Michigan State, Missouri, Rutgers, Penn State and Wisconsin. His father played college football for the Badgers.

He fills a position of need for the Wolverines, who missed on top in-state defensive end target Khalid Kareem earlier this week. He surprised many Wednesday with a commitment to Alabama.

Michigan will look to maintain momentum moving forward through the summer. The Wolverines now claim five 4-star prospects from five different states in the past three weeks.

 

Recruit rating courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 College Football QBs with the Strongest Arms

Having a strong arm isn't the most important part of being a quarterback, but it is a luxury. Sometimes, there's nothing more beautiful than watching a quarterback spin it 50 or 60-plus yards downfield. Of course, arm strength isn't just about heaving it downfield; it's also about putting the ball on a rope to the sideline or squeezing it into tight coverage. 

This is an appreciation of those skills, if you will. 

The list is self-explanatory. These are the strongest arms in college football—and that's it. In the following slides are both starters and quarterbacks still in a position battle. Things such as accuracy and decision-making aren't under consideration. Can you sling it? That's the primary question. 

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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Louisville Cardinals Unveil Fierce New Uniforms for Season Opener vs. Auburn

When Louisville's football team takes the field in its season opener against the Auburn Tigers on September 5, it is going to be sporting a fierce new look.

Thanks to Adidas, Louisville will be wearing a new set of white uniforms. The biggest change to the duds is a very fierce cardinal.

Putting the school's logo on the gloves is nothing new. However, with these uniforms, players can form a cardinal with the backside of their hands.

[Louisville Cardinals, Adidas Football US]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Valuable Asset

Each top team in college football has that one defining characteristic that makes it dangerous.

For some, it's a head coach who has built the program into what it is. For others, it's a recruiting advantage or a well-known booster.

Some schools have massive amounts of name recognition and tradition, while others are rolling off the momentum of recent victories.

Here is the most valuable asset for each program in Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25. These selections are what defines their status as a ranked team right now and what will continue to guide them in the seasons to come.

Sound off on this list in the comments below and submit your own picks for the most valuable assets in all of college football.

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What Is Notre Dame's 'Do-or-Die' Game of the 2015 Season?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish enter the 2015 season with high hopes. After a disappointing 2014 campaign, their sights are set on the College Football Playoff. 

Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson to pinpoint which game could turn out to be the most pivotal. 

Will the Irish crack the College Football Playoff? Check out the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the Top SEC Running Backs of the 21st Century

The SEC has produced some of the best offensive players in college football over the years. In addition to the quarterback position, the power conference has also yielded some top running backs.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee ranks his top SEC running backs since 2001 in the video above. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Allowing Early Entrants Back to College Football Tricky, but Worth Exploring

Greg Sankey has only been on the job as SEC commissioner for less than a month, and he's already stirring the pot.

First, Sankey laid down what can only be viewed as a threat to conferences that allow satellite camps during the SEC's spring meetings in Destin, Florida, saying the conference will allow its coaches to do the same in 2016 if the SEC's current ban isn't adopted nationwide this year.

On Wednesday, Sankey dropped another potentially game-changing idea.

According to Matt Hayes of Sporting News, Sankey suggested that college football should look at mirroring the potential rule in college basketball that would allow players to return in late May after declaring for the draft.

"It’s not something that has been made portable for other sports," Sankey said according to Hayes, "but I would not forgo that that direction could be pursued."

That could open the door to a wide variety of possibilities ranging from players coming back only if they haven't signed with an agent, to a new "underclassmen draft combine" to, as Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com notes, something as extreme letting them come back after they've been drafted.

It's something that needs to be considered.

According to CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler, 24 of the 84 underclassmen who declared for the 2015 draft weren't selected. The previous season, 36 of the 98 underclassmen who declared—nearly 40 percent—didn't hear their names called.

While many of those players have found homes as undrafted free agents and are learning on the job while making a good chunk of change, the finality of having to make a decision based on the NFL's grading system of "first round," "second round" or "neither"—which essentially is a suggestion to go back to school—makes it a risky proposition.

"That would be interesting," said former Texas A&M running back Trey Williams, who left College Station after his junior season and signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent. "If I could do that, I wouldn't right now just because I feel like I'm ready for the NFL. But I'm sure there are a lot of guys who wish they could go back. Once you decide, it's a do-or-die and you either make it or you don't."

Plus, there's the added weight of deciding to leave your team only to come back later in the offseason.

"It'd be kind of awkward coming back, because you already left the team," Williams said. "But it's what's best for you, and I do feel like people deserve a second chance."

That doesn't necessarily mean players who weren't drafted regret their decisions.

Williams signed on as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Redskins and has impressed in the short time he's been with the organization. That didn't come as a surprise to him.

"I was confident in what I was doing," Williams said. "I had confidence in myself, so it was a lot different for me. I came in thinking that it either was going to happen or it wasn't, and I gave my all. I know that if I give my all, I can't complain in the future. If my all wasn't enough, I would have been cool with that. I wasn't really worried about it. I kept giving my all, and here I stand right now."

The draft process for early entrants isn't just hard on the player. Trainers who get players prepared for the NFL draft would have to alter they way they go about their business.

"If a kid wants to train, you're depending on that kid to pay you," said David Irons Sr., owner of Georgia Training Alliance in Lawrenceville, Georgia. "When the agents pay for training, they pay at least a week or two before the kid comes and our training starts. If a kid declares and doesn't sign with an agent, if you're at that level and unsure, you really shouldn't come out."

The specifics of how and when early entrants return to college could be the trickiest part.

"Underclassmen have until January 15, and most colleges are out during that time," said Irons. "From January to May, when the draft comes, if you wait until then you've missed spring practice. Football's not like basketball. A seven-footer is going to be a seven-footer whether he skips two weeks or not. In football, installation, new playbooks and everything else is done during that time. If you miss spring practice, somebody else, a freshman or whoever could come take your job."

Then, of course, there's the elephant in the room—how to prevent players from declaring and taking money from agents without signing with them?

Some sort of fall-back plan, though, would reduce the finality and the speed in which college players must make their decisions on their football future. 

Whether it's mirroring the current plan in college hoops and allowing players to declare and explore their options without signing with agents, or something more extreme like Solomon mentioned (which the NFL likely wouldn't sign off on, but it's at least a thought), the number of underclassmen going undrafted in a professional sport in which careers are short and contracts aren't guaranteed has reached epidemic levels.

In a world where college athletics is increasingly putting the well-being of the student athlete at the forefront, allowing a return to college football for players who want to test the NFL draft waters in a more complete fashion than a simple talent evaluation by the league is necessary.

It would give the player more information on what he needs to work on, reduce the stress of making a potentially life-changing decision in a short period of time and benefit both levels of football.

It's a no-brainer to at least explore different options and put them all on the table.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

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

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

Nebraska football fans already know they are in for big changes with the arrival of new head coach Mike Riley. But after being caught in a Groundhog Day type of almost-but-not-quite-good-enough seasons in the past, it’s a legitimate question to ask why fans should expect a breakthrough in 2015.

One reason for optimism might be true freshmen seeing the field and making a difference. Last year, we saw what a difference De’Mornay Pierson-El made for Nebraska. Here are five (well, not exactly) true freshman who could see themselves as starters in 2015.

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Damion Miller Commits to Texas: Longhorns Land 2017 4-Star WR

While the current focus in recruiting right now is on the class of 2016, Charlie Strong and his Texas staff are already building their 2017 haul with its latest in-state commitment.

Four-star wide receiver Damion Miller, who is currently ranked as the No. 41 receiver and the No. 246 overall player for the class of 2017, committed to Texas on Thursday morning.

The news was announced on the Twitter account of his high school team, John Tyler HS in Tyler, Texas:

Miller is the first pickup of the 2017 class for Texas. He recorded 614 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore for the Lions, who made it all the way to the Texas state semifinals last season.

According to 247Sports' Brian Perroni, Miller averaged more than 23 yards per catch in 2014 and also played safety for the Lions.

The 6'2" wideout impressed during a minicamp at Texas earlier this month and was offered a scholarship June 14.

"I love Texas," Miller told Horns247. "It’s really close to home, and the education is great. I also really like Coach Strong. He’s a disciplined coach and challenges his players."

The young receiver also holds offers from Baylor, Houston, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Miller ran his 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at a Texas A&M camp earlier this month.

He told 247Sports' Taylor Hamm after the Aggies' camp that he would probably commit after his junior season, but the recent interest from Texas has caused him to make a quick-fire pledge to the Longhorns.

Miller's size and speed make him a great receiver prospect for the Longhorns. As a member of the class of 2017, he also has plenty of time to grow his game and his ratings over the next two seasons at John Tyler.

Texas will hope Miller's commitment is the start of a hot streak on the recruiting trail.

The Longhorns capped their 2015 class Wednesday with a commitment from Australian punter Michael Dickson and picked up the sixth 2016 pledge last week in 3-star defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

If Big 12 Expands, Which Teams Should Be Added?

And here we go. Again. 

About two weeks removed from the five-year anniversary of realignment-palooza, Oklahoma president David Boren took a match to the college football offseason and lit the whole thing on fire.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday following a meeting of the board of regents, Boren reiterated that the Big 12 should "strive" for 12 teams (h/t Ryan Aber, the Oklahoman): 

I think it’s something we should strive for while we have the time, stability, all of that to look and be choosy. (We) can be very selective about who we want to add. It would have to add value to the conference. I think we should.

How many years can this go on? Finally, it just gets to be really debilitating. I worry about that. That’s something I just worry about long-term about the conference, not short-term.

Just like that, college football Twitter went nuts

This isn't new, though. Getting back to 12 teams has been Boren's stance before, and it's not going to change. But, OK, it's nearing July, and college football is in hibernation mode, so we'll play along. 

If the Big 12 was to expand—more later on why this is a complicated matter—who would it target?

This is tricky. By Boren's own admission, extending invites to other schools has to be done "scientifically—not emotionally" with a focus on "the right partners" (h/t Guerin Emig, the Tulsa World). 

Who are those "right partners"?

This isn't 2011, when the Big 12 was on the verge of collapse thanks to the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC (ironically enough, as Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated noted, "Boren’s flirtation with the Pac-12" played a role in those departures). 

Adding teams now is about ensuring stability as much as it is about growing either the brand or geographical/television footprint (or both). It's not about having 12 teams for the sake of 12 teams, as David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest wrote about the matter last December. 

"You don't add teams to a conference so you can hold a championship game," Ubben wrote. "You do it if it makes fiscal sense and doesn't water down your product on the field."

Here's what matters in expansion: television money. That's it. Not academics, which is the biggest lie in realignment, and not anything else.

Here's what has to be asked: Does adding teams help the bottom line so that existing members aren't taking a pay cut? Boren claims the conference's media rights deal prevents this, but there's bowl money involved as well. 

The problem is pickings are slim. The window to pluck Clemson and Florida State from the ACC, for example, has passed. Realignment among power conferences is likely done for the time being with so many leagues in the middle of multi-billion-dollar television contracts with grant-of-rights agreements. 

That leaves few realistic options: Boise State, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Memphis. With apologies to the respective fanbases, none of those are great options. 

Boise State has a great following. As far as Group of Five teams go, the Broncos are easily the most recognizable. But expanding north into smaller TV markets is counterintuitive to what realignment has been about lately. 

BYU is the best pure fit. As Staples noted, "BYU is to Mormons what Notre Dame is to Catholics. Of all the remaining expansion candidates, the Cougars probably are the most viable from a brand-name standpoint." It's no secret either that the Cougars are desperate to join the Power Five ranks. However, refusing to play on Sunday is a roadblock.

Central Florida is a great up-and-coming program. Baylor knows all about what the Knights can do after losing to them in the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. It's a huge school, too—about 60,000 students—which will pay off in alumni interest down the road. 

Cincinnati has been a steady program over the past several years in a nice TV market. The problem is the Bearcats aren't a huge draw. 

Memphis has experienced a recent surge in football under head coach Justin Fuente. The program is also investing in facilities and opening up a new footprint. Additionally, for selfish reasons, the city has great barbecue.

(Note: This won't be taken into consideration, but maybe it should be. For that matter, why aren't we discussing programs in destination cities? Add Miami, Tulane and San Diego State, and enjoy the annual trips.) 

Of all the options, BYU and Central Florida make a lot of sense, especially if expansion isn't imminent. Chances are both will be exactly where they are in three, five or 10 years from now.

The thing about expansion/realignment, though, is that it seems like it's one step away from happening all over again. 

The Big 12 has held firm that it has no plans to expand. In response to Boren's comments, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News that he's not under "the indication that the majority of our presidents feel that way." 

What causes the friction—public, private, imagined, real or otherwise—is that Boren supposedly speaks with the Big 12's collective brain trust in mind, as noted by Jake Trotter of ESPN.com: 

All of this only pushes the narrative that it's nothing short of a miracle that the Big 12 can put one foot in front of the other without tripping. Couple that disconnect with Boren's quote about the Longhorn Network, which he referred to as "the elephant in the room... that has struggled," and there could be conference network discussions driving things in the next decade. 

Will the Big 12 expand again? Perhaps; no one is ever sure when the landscape will change again, but no decisions have to be made tomorrow, either. The Big 12 can be more diligent about this. Since there aren't any great options, it's unlikely that anything is imminent. 

The more interesting question, frankly, is whether the Big 12's deep-rooted dysfunction will come back into play in the next 10 years or so, regardless of whether it's a 10-member conference or a 12-member one. That seems more likely to affect the league's future. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama's Rise in 2016 Recruiting Class Isn't All Due to Nick Saban

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is unquestionably the face of his Crimson Tide team, and perhaps college football as a whole. The four-time national champion and three-time SEC Coach of the Year is among the most recognizable figures in all of American sports, setting the stage for sustained success on the recruiting trail.

The program entered unprecedented territory last February, securing its fifth consecutive top-ranked class, via 247Sports' composite, on national signing day. The Crimson Tide have landed among the top five on that list every year since 2008, which was Saban's first full cycle with Alabama.

After a relatively "slow" start toward signing day 2016, the Crimson Tide caught first in late spring. Alabama surged to fourth overall in national composite class rankings this month, spurred by 12 commitments during an nine-week stretch.

Saban, known as a tireless pursuer of top-tier high school prospects, surrounds himself with similarly tenacious assistants. It's a staff that turns "down time" into recruiting-department strategy sessions and casts its net across the country in an attempt to keep momentum moving toward more titles in Tuscaloosa.

Whether or not a team is led by the likes of Saban, Les Miles, Jimbo Fisher or Urban Meyer, a cohesive and consistent group effort within football facilities is required to reel in large volumes of talent. The roster counted on to chase championships four years from now ultimately demands replenishment in the present.

Alabama's recruiting efforts occasionally require improvisation, including increased attention toward the Texas landscape. When the SEC welcomed Texas A&M into the fold a few years ago, it essentially expanded the conference's borders, and the Crimson Tide are taking advantage.

Saban signed 5-star cornerbacks (Tony Brown and Kendall Sheffield) from the Lone Star State during each of the past two recruiting cycles. Alabama currently holds three 2016 pledges from Texas products.

Defensive line coach Bo Davis, an original member of Saban's staff who returned to Tuscaloosa in 2014, plays a big role in this department. He previously served as a Texas Longhorns assistant and continues to claim recruiting victories in the talent-laden region.

Davis played a key role in the recruitment of Sheffield leading up to his 2015 signing. Last month, he helped Alabama beat the Longhorns in a head-to-head showdown for prized Texas defensive tackle Kendell Jones.

“He’s a good guy,” Jones' head high school coach Channon Hall told Hank South of 247Sports. “We knew him when he was at Texas. It’s always good when our guys see those guys walk through the door."

Davis also served as a key facilitator for a June commitment from fellow Texas standout Jalen Hurts, a 4-star quarterback and Elite 11 finalist.

The Crimson Tide currently hold more 4-star pledges from Texas (three) than the Longhorns (two), and there could be more to come.

Meanwhile, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal is making another strong case as one of the country's premier recruiters. He finished atop national assistant coach recruiting rankings last cycle and is off to another strong start.

Cristobal, who served as head coach at FIU for seven seasons before coming to Alabama, was the primary recruiter for three 5-star signees in 2015 and already helped land four 4-star offensive linemen in this class.

Since Saban hired him in February 2013, Cristobal has helped Alabama claim 12 blockers who command a prospect rating of 4-star or 5-star. The list is headlined by No. 1 overall 2014 lineman and potential top-10 NFL draft pick Cam Robinson.

His most recent additions along the offensive front—Chris Owens, Deonte Brown and Charles Baldwin—are each 4-star recruits who joined the 2016 class since April.

Cristobal is part of an offensive staff led by coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lane Kiffin, who made significant recruiting splashes as head coach at Tennessee and USC. He and Saban have evolved the offensive vision, emphasizing more importance on dual-threat quarterback talents like Hurts and 5-star 2015 signee Blake Barnett.

"I'm extremely excited about the chance to play for Coach Kiffin," Barnett told Bleacher Report. "Obviously, he's had a lot of success offensively at other places and I think there's an opportunity to do some new things on that side of the ball at Alabama. They're going to do some things to get me on the move and out of the pocket."

This new approach could also help Alabama pluck coveted quarterback Jawon Pass out of Georgia. The athletic 6'5", 220-pound specimen is expected to decide between Auburn, North Carolina, Louisville and the Crimson Tide when he announces July 13.

Pass is yet another piece who, if added to the equation, could help Alabama capture a sixth straight No. 1 recruiting haul. Fellow high-profile 2016 targets include defensive tackle Rashan Gary, offensive lineman Greg Little and Crimson Tide linebacker legacy Ben Davis.

Alabama looked extremely likely to finally surrender its recruiting crown just two months ago.

Now at the start of summer, Saban and his determined staff of assistants appear primed to push for that top spot yet again.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama Big Board: How Can Crimson Tide Return to Top of Recruiting Rankings?

Alabama is one of the top recruiting teams in the country, and the Crimson Tide have been the top recruiting program for three straight years, according to 247Sports

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report Recruiting Insider Damon Sayles to discuss Alabama's updated recruiting board. 

Who are the must-land recruits for Alabama? Check out the video and let us know!

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How Much of a Success Were Jim Harbaugh's Satellite Camps?

The Michigan Wolverines had a steep uphill climb to get back into the recruiting arms race with other Big Ten schools, but Jim Harbaugh and company are on their way. 

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report Recruiting Insider Damon Sayles to discuss how these camps have helped Michigan recruiting.

What do you think of Harbaugh's use of these camps? Check out the video and let us know!

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for Top Uncommitted Recruits from Ohio

The state of Ohio has become a hotbed for recruiting. It is turning out some of the top prospects in the nation who will have an immediate impact at the next level. 

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report Recruiting Insider Damon Sayles to discuss where these top recruits will land. 

How good can Ohio State's 2016 class be? Check out the video and let us know!

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What It's Like to Be Coached at Jim Harbaugh's Revolutionary Quarterback Camp

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Brandon Peters dropped back, wound up and fired a ball so fast you could hear it whizzing through the thick June air before firmly landing in the arms of its intended target.

Instantly, the 6'5", 205-pounder cocked his head back in disgust. At any other quarterback camp, the catch would have been a positive play.

At Jim Harbaugh's inaugural Ann Arbor Aerial Assault (A4) quarterback camp, the Michigan commit had just cost his team a man in a game of dodgeball.

Initially billed as a star-studded affair featuring Colin Kaepernick, Jameis Winston and Jay Cutler as guest instructors, Harbaugh's latest outside-the-box offseason tactic still lived up to the hype despite Kaepernick and Winston missing the event due to scheduling conflicts. A plethora of impressive quarterback counselors—Cutler included—still made their way to Ann Arbor for the camp, which drew close to 200 high schoolers last Saturday.

But while the presence of Cutler, Denard Robinson, Tyrod Taylor, Todd Collins, Elvis Grbac, Kyle Boller, Ken Dorsey, Zac Robinson, Devin Gardner and the Wolverines offensive staff still made for an unprecedented collection of qualified quarterback instructors, football seemed to take a back seat at the first edition of the A4 camp.

  

'What's Next?'

As the jugs machine on the Michigan Stadium field fired up just past 10:30 a.m., it wasn't footballs but round, white baseballs that were sent flying into the Ann Arbor sky. It may have been advertised as a quarterback camp beforehand, but Harbaugh was putting his campers through drills meant for the diamond, including pop flies and grounders.

Some campers clearly looked more natural than others when it came to fielding and throwing the baseballs, which Harbaugh said was the exact reason he incorporated it into his camp.

"You can see it, can't you?" Harbaugh asked reporters as the campers broke for lunch around noon. "Field awareness, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination. Throwing is throwing, whether its baseball, football, basketball, a rock. It's the mechanics of throwing."

The former San Francisco 49ers head coach explained that his unique strategy for evaluating quarterbacks was the result of advice from legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh, who once told him that a signal-caller should be the best athlete in his high school. That's why soccer drills, too, soon became a part of the A4 camp, as well as jump-rope competitions that caught parents and campers alike off guard.

"What's next?" one camper could be heard asking to another as they walked to lunch. "Rollerskating?"

Not quite, although the aforementioned game of dodgeball highlighted the second half of the camp, which took place on the outdoor field right outside of the Al Glick Field House. Even the counselors seemed to not know what they were getting themselves into, admitting the A4 camp was unlike any they had ever taken part in.

"This is a little different," Cutler said, comparing Harbaugh's camp to the ones he attended as a prospect. "He keeps it interesting. You get to see what kind of athletes are out here, which is fun."

Harbaugh continued to insist that there's a method to his madness.

"There's a lot of ways to practice at football (other) than just taking a five-step drop and throwing into a net," said Harbaugh, who fielded throws from campers as the camp's de facto first baseman. "You could take athletic reps doing just about anything.

"You could climb a tree."

Campers, however, weren't asked to do that—at least not this year.

What they did receive, however, was up-close-and-personal instruction with several NFL-experienced quarterbacks, so much so that the camp's top prospects found themselves on a first-name basis with their counselors. With Michigan QB coach and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch overlooking the operations of the camp, Cutler could be seen teaching five-step drops to players like Peters, while Dorsey—who was never known for his own arm strength—playfully teased prospects during the camp's long-throw competition.

The roster of instructors may not have been what was once expected, and the drills certainly weren't what was initially anticipated, but based on the smiles from campers and parents alike throughout the day, each appeared satisfied with the overall product.

 

Scoreboard Watching

It wasn't all fun and games, per se, at the A4 camp, as traditional quarterback drills did actually take place. In true Harbaugh fashion, results were monitored on the Michigan Stadium scoreboard, as the nine-hour camp doubled as a camp-wide competition.

For a camp that was light on elite talent from a prospect standpoint, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the star of the show was Peters, nor was it a coincidence that the only player in attendance committed to the Wolverines was marked as camper No. 1. The 2016 4-star signal-caller was the day's high scorer, earning an authentic Michigan helmet autographed by all of the counselors for his efforts.

"I know you," Harbaugh said with a smile as he presented Peters with the helmet at the end of the camp. "We didn't rig this thing."

Fixing the competition in Peters' favor simply wasn't necessary. The Avon, Indiana, native put on a clinic, posting 31.25 points in the camp's scoring system, which took into account football and non-football drills alike.

Perhaps Peters' most impressive moment of the day came when he effortlessly tossed the ball 65 yards in a long-throw competition, the best showing in a rotating pod that included the camp's other top prospects such as 2017 4-star quarterback Jake Allen, 2017 3-star prospect Jack Coan, 2017 3-star signal-caller Tyler Lyle and 2018 prospect Allan Walters.

But while "Pod 1" garnered the most attention from both the Wolverines staff and onlookers throughout the day, they were still ultimately bested by Pod 2 in dodgeball—thanks in large part to Peters' errant throw.

"Watching them compete and how serious they are in doing that," Harbaugh said. "That's where my focus is."

 

Parental Guidance

The recruits weren't the only ones who received some coaching. 

"Last call!" Harbaugh could be heard shouting from outside a nearby conference room as lunch came to a close and campers returned to the Michigan Stadium field. "Rick Kaepernick and Jack Harbaugh on how to raise a quarterback. This is good stuff, you don't want to miss it."

As the second half of Harbaugh's unprecedented quarterback camp began, the new Michigan head coach slipped away, sitting alongside about 100 parents as his father and Colin Kaepernick's dad each gave presentations on what it's like to raise a player who plays football's most important position. Harbaugh nodded along as Rick recalled his son winning the 49ers starting quarterback job in 2012 and smiled as Jack—almost as equally as enthusiastic as he is—told stories of Jim's youth, college and pro careers.

The current and former NFL quarterbacks' serving as instructors outside was nice, but the parental seminar was just as big of a part of Saturday's appeal. Receiving nearly as much instruction as their children were outside, parents learned lessons about dealing with realistic expectations, bouncing back from injuries and what it's like to be the parent of players at both the college and professional levels.

With players coming to Ann Arbor from as far away as California and Florida, the parent seminar—and especially the stories from Jack Harbaugh—showed the level of attention to detail that made the attending of the A4 camp worth it. And if one thing was evident inside the room as parents—and even Harbaugh himself—asked questions, it was the restoration of the positive energy that's been missing from Michigan football for the past seven years.

"It's been difficult," said Collins, who played at Michigan from 1990-94 before spending 16 seasons in the NFL. "That turnover and that change, that's what's made it so difficult."

And now?

"If you want to get to the NFL and maximize your talent, where else would you want to go but here?" Collins said of his alma mater, before adding, "Obviously, I'm a little biased."

So too were many of the campers and parents in attendance, Michigan fans who came to Ann Arbor as much to snap a picture with Harbaugh as they did for the NFL-caliber instruction. That's just fine for the Wolverines, who continue to re-establish themselves on the recruiting trail with camps like Saturday's, which featured an interesting nugget from Jack Harbaugh on the eve of Father's Day.

"From the day that I can remember first looking into his eyes, what you vividly imagine, this guy was the all-time daydreamer," Jack Harbaugh said of his youngest son. "That's what we called him, 'The Daydreamer.'

"And sometimes we got called to class. 'Jim is looking out the window, staring out the window. He's a daydreamer.' And I told them, 'Thank God! He's a daydreamer!'"

Just outside—as one of the most unique camps in all of college football took place—that may have never been clearer. With just more than two months to go until the start of the season, Harbaugh's vision was on display, his one-of-a-kind personality accenting a competition-driven event aimed at raising his program's reputation.

"How much fun was that?" Harbaugh asked rhetorically as the nine-hour camp came to a close with his infamous "Who's got it better than us?" chant. "Name me a better camp. You can't, can you?"

Looking on, neither parents nor campers seemed to disagree.

 

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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When Should Florida Realistically Contend for the SEC East?

When "McElwain Watch 2014" ended in early December, it was a breath of fresh air in Gainesville.

Gator Nation bid farewell to the days of inept offenses and welcomed with open arms McElwain—a highly accomplished offensive mind who's been successful at every stop, including as Alabama's offensive coordinator from 2008-2011.

But that 180-degree turn might take more time than it has for other coaches in the SEC.

While Florida does take up real estate in the SEC East, which is still building back to the behemoth it once was, there are still some major roster holes for McElwain to fill.

Most notably, at quarterback.

Sophomore dual threat and returning starter Treon Harris has the experience but doesn't necessarily fit the more pro-style system that McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier typically employ. Redshirt freshman Will Grier is a better fit for the system but doesn't have a college snap under his belt.

Up front, Florida has the third-most inexperienced offensive line in the country with just 10 starts with the program, according to PhilSteele.com. Those 10 belong to guard Trip Thurman, who's nursing a shoulder injury and might not be ready for the fall.

McElwain had a plan, though.

"We were just thin at some areas, and that's pretty obvious," McElwain said in May. "That was the hand that we were dealt, and I look forward to piecing that thing together, and there are probably going to be some new names on the roster."

McElwain has brought in two transfers since spring practice came to a close in two-time FCS All-American graduate transfer tackle Mason Halter and freshman T.J. McCoy—who is eligible immediately after being granted a hardship waiver, according to Luis Torres of the Palm Beach Post.

Because of those two glaring weaknesses and uncertainties, it's unrealistic for the Gators to expect to contend for the SEC East title in 2015.

After all, Missouri has proved that it can be the class of the division in spite of major roster holes of its own over the last two seasons, Tennessee has had a three-year head start on rebuilding its program, and Georgia will—at the very worst—be in the mix.

The 2016 season, though, should be one in which the Gators are legitimately in the mix well into November.

The young offensive line—which will include six freshman enrolling this summer, including 5-star stud Martez Ivey—will have plenty of experience under its belt, the quarterback situation should be somewhat stabilized, and the defense should keep the Gators in plenty of games, just as it has while the offense has struggled over the last few years.

Sure, stud cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III probably will jump to the NFL after this year, linebacker Antonio Morrison and defensive lineman Jon Bullard will exhaust their eligibility, and there might be some other unexpected turnover based on stars who emerge in 2015.

But cornerback Jalen Tabor will still be there, as will running back Jordan Scarlett, defensive end CeCe Jefferson and versatile defensive back Duke Dawson.

Will there be questions in 2016?

Sure.

But a one-year acclimation process should get everybody in Gainesville on the same page, the youngsters familiar with the speed of the SEC and the quarterback at least consistent enough to help the Gators make a title run within the division.

McElwain is the right guy to get Florida back to division prominence, but the circumstances he was dealt this year will briefly delay that process. Once he gets the roster stocked and those players get experience under their belts, look out.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

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

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Jim Haslett's NFL Influence Can Push James Franklin, Penn State over the Top

Between Urban Meyer's rings, Jim Harbaugh things and everything that Mark Dantonio brings to the table, the Big Ten East has not only evolved into one of college football's top divisions, but a constant game of catch-up between the the league's top coaches.

That's why when Penn State announced its hiring of former NFL head coach Jim Haslett as a consultant on Wednesday, it was tough not to think about how it would affect the Nittany Lions' place in the Big Ten's pecking order.

It remains unclear just how involved Haslett will be and how much input he will have on the Nittany Lions' day-to-day operations, but based on a statement released by Penn State head coach James Franklin, the role appears to be significant:

We are very excited to have Jim with our program. Jim has an outstanding football mind and invaluable experience that will be a tremendous resource. He has great knowledge of the game at the next level, and we plan to put that to good use. He will work with our offensive, special teams and defensive coaches and will be a fantastic sounding board for our staff.

Haslett will have direct contact with members on both sides of the ball for the Nittany Lions, bringing 20 years of NFL coaching experience to the second-year staff.

A native of Pittsburgh, Haslett appears to be a natural fit on a Penn State staff that was looking to increase its NFL experience.

Having most recently served as the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins from 2010-2014, the 1979 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has spent 12 years in professional football as a coordinator, as well as six seasons as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2000-2005.

Having yet to venture back to the college level since a three-year stint as an assistant at Buffalo from 1988-1990, Haslett's impressive resume should bode well in a Big Ten that is being influenced by the NFL more with each passing day.

Especially in the East Division, which currently boasts three potential first-round quarterbacks—including Penn State's Christian Hackenberg—and a coach who was one of the NFL's best as recently as last year.

ESPN.com's Todd McShay currently projects Michigan State's Connor Cook and Ohio State's Cardale Jones as top-10 picks in the 2016 NFL draft, while The MMQB ranked Harbaugh as the 87th-most influential man in the NFL earlier this month, despite the former San Francisco 49ers head coach now calling Ann Arbor home.

With an October prime-time date with the Buckeyes and games against the Wolverines and Spartans to close the regular season, it will be impossible for the Nittany Lions to avoid the NFL's influence on the Big Ten in 2015.

Which is what makes the hiring of Haslett in Happy Valley so intriguing, as the Nittany Lions are not without professional prospects of their own.

Not only could Haslett help prepare Hackenberg for defenses he may face both this season and at the next level, but if you're looking to get the most out of defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, safety Jordan Lucas and four new starters on the defensive side of the ball, there are worse places to look than the 2000 NFL Coach of the Year.

"I am thrilled to join the Penn State football family," Haslett said. "James is one of the great, young head coaches in the collegiate game today, and he is leading this Penn State program in the right direction. The future is very bright for Penn State football, and I am excited to be a part of it."

It remains to be seen just how much a part of that future Haslett will be, whether he'll remain satisfied with his role as a consultant or look to return to the NFL as he did after his last one-year hiatus from the league in 2009, which he spent winning Coach of the Year honors in the UFL.

But should he remain in the college ranks, his presence will be nothing but a positive for Penn State on the recruiting trail.

With the real possibility that Big Ten players will make up one-third of next year's first round, it won't just be on the field that NFL experience matters.

Meyer and Dantonio should only add to their already-impressive resumes of developing pro prospects at their respective schools in the coming year, while Harbaugh's primary recruiting pitch has centered around his four years with the 49ers and the development of star quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford.

"I think it does help that there has been NFL experience in our coaches' background," Harbaugh said on national signing day. "A lot of our players, that's one of their goals, to make it to the NFL. We don't discourage that. In fact, we try to teach it."

That rings true for most college staffs, including Penn State's, with Franklin having spent a season with the Green Bay Packers as a wide receivers coach in 2005.

But outside of Franklin's lone season as an assistant a decade ago, the Nittany Lions' staff lacks NFL experience, most of the coaches having worked their way up through the college ranks before teaming up with Franklin at either Vanderbilt or Maryland, which ran a pro-style system under head coach Ralph Friedgen.

Adding Haslett—even if just as a consultant—changes that, both for the present and potentially the future.

Penn State may not have a staff as experienced as Michigan's is at the next level or with a track record of developing players as strong as Ohio State and Michigan State do, but Haslett helps bring legitimacy to a college world where NFL pedigree matters more now than ever.

And when playing catch-up, every edge matters.

 

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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4-Star Jared Mayden Announces Top 7, Reveals What He's Looking for in a Program

On his 17th birthday, a day when he should have been receiving all the presents, 4-star cornerback Jared Mayden gave the followers of seven schools a small gift of his own.

Early Wednesday evening, Mayden announced via social media his top seven schools, consisting in alphabetical order of Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and UCLA. The announcement was big considering the Sachse, Texas prospect entered the day with 45 offers, the latest coming from Georgia on Tuesday.

Wednesday's announcement is the first of two between now and the second week of July for Mayden. The cornerback will cap his recruiting process with a verbal commitment to one of the seven schools at The Opening next month in Beaverton, Oregon.

Mayden said the seven finalists benefited from having great coach-recruit relationships. He's a player who didn't have one in-state school make his top seven, so having strong relationships with the coaching staffs was key.

"Those seven have been recruiting me since freshman year," he said. "I've been to most of the schools, and the visits have been really good. I feel really comfortable with all the coaches. I got a chance to meet a lot of people, and that's helped me in deciding where I want to go."

Mayden said of the seven schools, four have yet to be visited but will receive a visit between now and the end of the fall—UCLA, Michigan, Florida and Florida State. He will be a welcomed addition, wherever he ends up, as a 6'1" 190-pound cover corner.

And what will separate the eventual winner from the rest of his finalists?

"I think there are going to be more questions being asked, harder questions," Mayden said. "I want to see what the coaches are saying now. I want to see which coaches still really want me."

Mayden added he's called on his older brother, Rice wide receiver James Mayden, for advice regarding a decision. A couple of conversations with his big brother were rewarded with simple advice: Do what's best for you.

"He said to make the decision for myself, that's it," Mayden said. "The family won't be at college with me doing all the reps and going to school. You have to make the best decision for you."

Mayden admitted he is ready to end this process. He said the process, although fun, has made his days overwhelming. A player with 45 offers, Mayden said things got hectic after the first three or four.

But the stressful time is almost over, and at The Opening, Mayden said he'll be able to simply focus on enjoying his upcoming senior year. He's looking to choose a major in college; he said he wants education to be a minor.

"I'm just looking for a school that has a good tradition and stable coaches," he said. "I'm trying to go somewhere and win, but it's really going to depend on how I feel about the coaching staff."

 

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

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