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Stephone Anthony Could Be the 2015 NFL Draft's Surprise First-Round Pick

In a draft class that does not include a top-tier prospect at the inside linebacker position, Clemson’s Stephone Anthony is soaring up draft projections after an eye-opening performance at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday.

Among the off-ball linebackers who participated in this year’s event, Anthony was the standout.

At 6’3” and 243 pounds, Anthony ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, the third-fastest time among all defensive front-seven players at the prospect's gathering in Indianapolis. He ranked within the top 10 in every on-field measurable drill in which he participated and also showed athletic fluidity when the linebackers ran through a positional workout.

Anthony has had a productive collegiate career with 255 total tackles and 35 tackles for loss but was primarily viewed as a between-the-tackles run-stopper with limited range and upside.

The pre-draft process has changed that perception. In addition to his spectacular display of athleticism at the combine, Anthony also showed to sideline-to-sideline range and coverage ability at the Senior Bowl, where he was named by a panel of NFL scouts as the game’s top practice performer among linebackers.

There is no guarantee that the unexpected agility Anthony showed at glorified practices and the Underwear Olympics will translate to NFL games. But although his dexterity was not always apparent at Clemson, Anthony was already an underrated player whose production went overlooked by draft analysts for too long.

Thanks to the combine, Anthony is finally garnering widespread media attention. He already had notoriety among NFL teams, however, according to NEPatriotsDraft.com’s Mike Loyko:

As well as Anthony performed on the field Sunday, he might have helped himself even more by talking to teams in the interview room.

Anthony had official meetings with exactly half of the NFL’s teams at the combine, according to DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline.

Pauline also noted that Anthony has emerged as a favorite prospect of Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Given the Packers’ major need at the inside linebacker position, which was amplified by their release of A.J. Hawk on Wednesday, there’s reason to believe Anthony could be in play for their No. 30 overall pick.

That’s where NFL Network’s Charles Davis projected Anthony to be selected in a mock draft released earlier this week.

Bleacher Report’s Jeff Risdon, who also writes for RealGM.com, believes that Anthony could come off the board even earlier. In his own recent mock draft published at RealGM earlier this week, Risdon mocked Anthony to the Arizona Cardinals as the 24th overall selection.

“This is going to be higher than you see Anthony elsewhere, but it’s not without reason,” Risdon wrote. “Scouts are a lot higher on the long, savvy Anthony than the general public.”


Why Anthony Could Be the Best Inside Linebacker in the Draft

There are other inside linebacker prospects who could factor into the first-round equation—UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, Miami’s Denzel Perryman, TCU’s Paul Dawson and Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney—but Anthony arguably has the most complete skill set among them.

A strong, thickly built linebacker with a explosive downhill burst, Anthony is one of the two best in-the-box run-stoppers at the position in this year’s draft. Perryman is even better than Anthony between the hashes, but the combine indicated that Anthony is a better athlete than Perryman, who had a 40 time of just 4.78 seconds at 5’11” and 236 pounds.

Kendricks and Dawson were more productive than Anthony in college, especially this past season, but both are smaller, and Dawson also tested poorly in Indianapolis.

Entering a league that typically values traits more than production in its draft decisions, Anthony has probably vaulted Dawson and could move ahead of Kendricks in the draft order.

McKinney arguably has the most potential and versatility among linebackers in this year’s draft; a good athlete at 6’4” and 246 pounds, McKinney has experience playing both inside and outside. However, his production at Mississippi State was underwhelming in comparison to that of Anthony and the other top linebackers available this year.

As aforementioned, Anthony fits the profile of a downhill thumper in the middle of an NFL defense. He is ideally suited to play in the inside linebacker tandem of a 3-4 defense—which would be the case if he was drafted by the Packers or Cardinals—but could also fit as a 4-3 middle linebacker.

Anthony is a sound tackler who regularly stops opponents in their tracks. He uses proper form to wrap up his opponents and possesses the strength to drive them to the ground. When he recognizes where a play is going, he can close on a runner quickly and make a big play. 

There is no question that Anthony should be able to play immediately and be productive against the run, but that does not necessarily mean he will be a sideline-to-sideline playmaker right off the bat, even with his athleticism.

As Joe Goodberry of CincyJungle.com demonstrated with the following clip, Anthony can suffer from missteps and does not have enough change-of-direction quickness and pursuit speed to consistently recover.

The biggest concern with Anthony’s game should be that he has subpar instincts, as the clip above demonstrates.

That can be a tough area to improve for a linebacker and will be exposed more regularly by faster opponents at the next level. Nonetheless, there will likely be a team that banks on his skill set and athletic potential early in the draft, knowing that if Anthony can improve his instincts, he can be a regular difference-maker against the run.

The other area of concern with Anthony is whether he will be able to make a regular impact on pass defense. He did not frequently have deep coverage responsibilities at Clemson and does not show much ability to work his way off blockers as a pass-rusher.

That said, he has typically held his own in man coverage against tight ends, while his explosiveness as a blitzer enables him to bring some pressures against quarterbacks.

He was often very effective when used as a quarterback spy on Clemson’s defense and occasionally made some big plays in pass defense. In addition to his game-sealing interception in Clemson’s Orange Bowl win against Ohio State following the 2013 season, he made a one-handed pick against Syracuse this past season.

Should Anthony continue to develop with NFL coaching, his athletic traits suggest that he should be able to be a three-down linebacker at the next level.

If you want to watch Anthony yourself to get a feel for what he can bring to an NFL defense but only have time to watch one game, make it this past season's game against Florida State. You can watch his plays from that game in the following video courtesy of Draft Breakdown, where you can also watch some of Anthony’s other games from 2014 and 2013.

In that game, against one of the most talented teams in the country, Anthony had one of the best performances of his career, recording eight total tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and one pass breakup.

His excellent performance in that game was at a higher level than most of the games in his career, but it—along with his Senior Bowl and combine showings—put his upside on full display.

If Anthony can continue to build on his positive performances, it’s easy to see how he could be a great inside linebacker and worth a first-round pick.


All GIFs were made via Gfycat. NFL Scouting Combine measures and results can be found at NFL.com.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Why DT Ed Oliver Is Most Important Target at Horns' Junior Day

The Longhorns have already gotten a head start in the 2016 recruiting cycle by landing their most important commit of the class. Now they can focus on landing stud defensive tackle Ed Oliver at this Saturday's junior day.

By landing quarterback Shane Buechele, coach Charlie Strong and his staff have a leg up as they start attacking the 2016 class. Buechele gives them a player who has bought into the offense early, which will help them with other talents like receiver Tren'Davian Dickson and tackle JP Urquidez.

It should also be noted that Buechele is really good, as told by Inside Texas' Ian Boyd:

He has a whole lot of what [quarterbacks coach] Shawn Watson looks for in a quarterback; intelligence, good footwork, quick feet, and a solid, accurate arm. Only 6-foot-1 at this time, Buechele makes up for that relative lack of height with a classic delivery. He gets the ball up and out quickly. He also reads the field quickly and anticipates well. When you talk about running packaged plays, you need a quarterback who is fast in his head and fast in his delivery and that’s Buechele. He may not become a star in college, but he could play a big piece in a flourishing and balanced offense. If UT runs the ball as hoped, Shane should make a living on the deep ball where his accuracy shines.

Already a polished passer, Buechele is easily the most important of Texas' four commits, and it will be difficult to unseat him as the face of the class.

Getting a commitment from Oliver might give Buechele some competition, though. If the 4-star quarterback ends up making it on Saturday, he would do well to help the staff persuade the state's top defensive lineman.

The staff should obviously lay out the red carpet for offensive tackle Willie Allen, who will make the trip from New Orleans. But Oliver's combination of talent and ability to make an early impact trump what the out-of-state prospect brings to the table at this time.

First off, Oliver is absolutely off the charts athletically, which is made obvious by the first two plays on the above highlight tape.

We begin with Oliver scooping up a fumble and returning it over 100 yards to the house. He sticks with the play after the quarterback breaks contain, comes up with the ball deep in the end zone and then makes four guys miss as he runs for the score.

That's from a lineman who comes in at 6'2", 285 pounds.

On the next clip, Oliver absolutely runs over his blocker once he decides to go get the quarterback. Opponents at the high school level don't stand a chance.

Oliver projects as a tackle because of his tremendous size, but his quickness lends itself to some work at strong-side defensive end. If he can stay as light on his feet once he nears 300 pounds, we're looking at a weapon that Strong can put anywhere on the defensive front, with room for creativity before and after the snap.

As for need, the Longhorns would certainly like to see Oliver work out at tackle. Desmond Jackson will graduate, and Hassan Ridgeway could legitimately take off for the NFL. That would leave Paul Boyette Jr. and Poona Ford as the starters, with redshirt Chris Nelson and probable redshirt Du'Vonta Lampkin as backups.

The Horns have taken only three defensive tackles in the last three cycles, so Oliver would only be the tip of the iceberg. He's not going to fix depth issues single-handedly, but he has a rare chance to make an instant impact from the position because of his inside-out ability.

Then there's the fact that Oliver would give Texas a 5-star talent the rest of the state's best players can gravitate toward.

This is not to say Oliver could have the same impact as Malik Jefferson in 2015. Strong may never have another player change his recruiting haul like the 5-star linebacker did this past year, as explained by SB Nation's Wescott Eberts.

However, there's no denying that recruits pay attention to where the top talents are going. Oliver's talent level demands attention from his peers.

So while Allen, Dickson and the rest of the 46 junior day attendees should all get at least a fair look, Oliver must be the top priority. With him and Buechele on board early, a top-five finish would be well within Texas' wheelhouse.


Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com, with recruiting data sourced from 247Sports.

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SEC East's Power: No More Waiting, Missouri Is a National Program

It's the team that Vegas doesn't know what to do with. Missouri isn't favored to win in nearly every game it plays but somehow has pulled off top recruits and 23 wins over the last two seasons, a number eclipsed only by Alabama. It simply keeps finding a way to defy the odds.

Georgia fans are beside themselves after seeing this Tiger team from the north essentially dance into the SEC and have incredible success. Head coach Gary Pinkel has excelled at the most important part of his job—winning—and looked really good while doing so.

Recruiting has been the name of the game. In three years, Missouri has landed commitments from the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in 2013 by Rivals in Dorial Green-Beckham and the No. 2 overall player in 2015 by ESPN in Terry Beckner Jr. In addition, it's entirely possible that Pinkel has had classes that may have previously been overlooked.

Reinforcing this, a new re-ranking of the 2012 signing class by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, Mizzou skyrocketed from the No. 31 ranked class (as originally ranked by Rivals) to No. 5 in the country. It shows that everything Pinkel and his staff are doing is an absolute model of how to win. Being "MizzouMade" is beginning to stand out.

But how do you measure the power of a program? A year of success can excite fans and alumni but isn't the measuring stick of greatness. It's consistently pulling off the things that are related to your job, which Pinkel might as well have a Ph.D. in.

Pinkel was shown a solo award for his talent in December when—a year after becoming the school's all-time winningest coach—he was named SEC Coach of the Year. Having won this award previously in the Big 12 Conference, it puts Pinkel in a rare category of coaches who have won the award in two different leagues during their peak in college football.

The awards are products of what Pinkel’s teams have shown on the field in those seasons. In fact, since his previous award, Pinkel’s Tigers squads have won an impressive 75 games, making them a top-five team in that category.

Missouri’s success isn’t limited to being on the field. They stand as the leader in academics in the SEC and are among the best in the nation. In 2013, Pinkel received a letter from NCAA President Mark Emmert, acknowledging the University’s success as a whole. More recently, last year Missouri was tied for the No. 1 spot in the SEC with relation to football academic-progress-rate scores.

But to see the total success of the program, simply take a look to the NFL. Mizzou players are going into the NFL in numbers and are having such success. That is like any group of trained professionals that reflects strongly on their training institution.

A total of 20 former Missouri players are currently on NFL rosters. Much was being made of the Tigers going into last season being “down” at wide receiver. When everything is said and done following the 2015 NFL draft and free-agency pickups, this “down” bunch may have three names in Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White all playing on Sundays.

Missouri hasn't been able to beat Alabama or Auburn in the title games they've played, but it certainly competed well in both games. With all criteria on its resume, the change in culture and the lockdown of local recruiting, it's time that we start calling Missouri what it has shown to be by the fruits of its labor: a national team.


Follow Dan Irwin on Twitter @irwinsports or on Facebook.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Everything You Need to Know About Brian Stewart

Nebraska football fans, say hello to Brian Stewart. During a Tuesday announcement from head coach Mike Riley, the former Maryland defensive coordinator was officially named the Huskers' new secondary coach.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Nebraska football program,” Stewart said. “The opportunity to coach at Nebraska is awesome. My first impression is ‘wow.’ From the weight room to walking down the hallway and seeing the national-championship trophies, Nebraska is what you think it is...a football powerhouse.” 

Fans are now anxious to get to know Stewart. After all, former secondary coach Charlton Warren left big shoes to fill. However, it seems like Stewart will have no problems filling them.

“He’s for real,” former Huskers linebacker Jay Foreman told Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald. “He has high-quality character. I like him. He’s really charismatic. He has all you need."

Foreman would know, too. He played for Stewart when he was with the Texans in 2002 and 2003. Stewart was Houston's defensive backs coach at the time.

In addition to his time with the Texans, Stewart has also coached for other NFL teams, such as the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. He's coached plenty of teams at the collegiate level, as well.

So, what exactly brought Stewart to Nebraska? The answer is a simple one: Riley.

“The most important thing for me in my coaching career is my family," Stewart said. "Coach Riley and his staff have been together so long, and you can just see the loyalty and trust. I’m proud to be a part of that.”

As for Riley, he believes Stewart will bring a lot to the table for the Huskers.

“Brian Stewart brings a record of success in both the collegiate and professional ranks and will be a great fit at the University of Nebraska,” Riley said. “He has experience coaching and recruiting in all parts of the country, most recently with experience in the Big Ten Conference. We look forward to Brian getting started with our defensive staff and our secondary.”

While it was disappointing to lose Warren after only one year, fans have to be excited about Riley hiring Stewart. After all, it sounds like Stewart wants to stick around for awhile, which is something Nebraska has struggled to do with secondary coaches.

“The quality of life that [Riley] shares with his coaches is second to none,” Stewart said, via Kaipust. “His defensive coordinator has been with him for 14 years. His staff stays with him. And that says more about the head coach than it does about the guys.

“You want loyalty? Be loyal. You want trust? Be trustworthy. I thought that was awesome.”

Beyond loyalty, Stewart has experience. Foreman told Kaipust that “there’s not a defense that he hasn’t run." Considering the Huskers allowed more passing plays of 20 or more yards than any other Big Ten team last season, per NBC Sports, Stewart's experience and knowledge will be beneficial.

As for recruiting, Stewart will be tasked with finding talent in Georgia and Florida, as Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reported. It shouldn't be an issue because, as Riley said in his statement, Stewart has experience recruiting all across the country.

Stewart is already settling in with the Huskers. In doing so, he hopes to show the veteran players that he'll be there, per Christopherson:

I think kids are resilient. They really want to trust you. But I think you can show them better than you can tell them. All I've been doing is let them know, 'I'm here right now. This is how we're going to play. We're going to have fun. We're going to get a group identity and be that. ... We're going to play fast, play hard, and be excited about what we put on tape. And after awhile, the longer I'm here, the more they'll be my sons. … But I've got to show them. I think as a coach, you just got to be consistent and just be present.

And that's what Nebraska fans can take away from Stewart. He's a coach with plenty of experience who plans to just be there.

There will be plenty left to learn about Stewart. However, as of now, that's all Huskers fans need to know.


All quotes via Huskers.com, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Best Fits for the Top 10 Uncommitted 2016 QB Recruits

It may still feel early in the 2016 recruiting cycle, but many top quarterback recruits have already announced their collegiate intentions. Several top-tier passers, including 5-stars Malik Henry (Florida State), Jacob Eason (Georgia) and Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) pledged to programs relatively early in the process.

Those decisions aren't final until national letters of intent are signed, but they force teams to take a closer look at uncommitted members of this class. We examined the top 10 undecided 2016 quarterback in an effort to explore potential destinations at this stage.

Note: Recruits are listed in order of appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.

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2016 5-Star LB Ben Davis Tweets Top 7 Schools

Six SEC teams and one West Coast power are in the running for the services of 5-star linebacker Ben Davis, but thanks to family connections one school might have a distinct advantage.

The 2016 prospect announced his top seven schools on Tuesday via Twitter:

Davis, a 6'4", 230-pound outside linebacker from Gordo, Alabama, is rated by 247Sports as the nation's No. 24 overall prospect in the 2016 class. He's ranked as the second-best player in the state and fourth-best recruit at his position.

Davis is the son of former Alabama star Wayne Davis, who played linebacker for the Tide from 1983-86 and holds the school career tackles record with 327. He's made several visits to Tuscaloosa already, most recently last weekend, when he went to campus at the same time as fellow 2016 in-state prospects Lyndell Wilson and Marlon Davidson of Montgomery.

Wilson, also a linebacker, and Davidson, a defensive end, are ranked first and third in Alabama among 2016 recruits, per 247Sports. A package deal has been discussed between the trio, Davis told John Garcia Jr. of Scout.com.

"Whenever the time comes to pick a college, if we're together that’s going to be cool and if we go different ways, that's going to be cool, too," Davis said. "We're real tight with each other."

All 24 predictions made by 247Sports analysts have tabbed Davis as a future Alabama player, following his father's footsteps. Alabama is listed as an 86 percent favorite for Wilson, while Davidson is projected as going to Auburn.

According to Scout's Garcia, Davis plans to visit Auburn, LSU and USC during the spring and summer and could commit before beginning his senior season at Gordo High School. Last season he helped the Green Wave to a 14-1 record and a berth in the Class 3A state semifinals.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: The State of the Secondary Pre-Spring Practice

With spring practice getting under way on March 13, Bleacher Report will break down where Alabama stands at each position group heading in, players to watch and what needs to be done. First up: the secondary.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — While most eyes will be on Alabama’s quarterback position, there arguably won’t be a more important position battle in terms of 2015 success than in the secondary, where the Crimson Tide have a lot of questions to answer after a disastrous season on the back end of the defense.

Alabama gave up more passing yards (3,164) in 2014, more than any other year in the Nick Saban era. It ranked No. 59 nationally in passing yards per game, also a Saban-era low.

Perhaps even more troubling is that the two coaches that worked closest with the defensive backs, Saban and Kirby Smart, are supposed to be masterminds on that side of the ball. It’s safe to say some of the luster has started to wear off of those two distinctions.

This spring, Alabama will inject some new life into that side of the ball with new players and coaches, while young players will need to start developing earlier than expected after the loss of several key contributors.

After a one-year stint with the defensive backs, Smart is moving back to inside linebackers, a position group he coached during Alabama’s elite defensive runs when it was winning championships. Replacing him in the secondary is Mel Tucker, the former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator, who has quite the tall task ahead of him.

What all will be involved in that task?

For one, Alabama is losing a lot on that side of the ball. Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams—three safeties who all started at one point or another this season—are gone. Collins is expected to be a first-round draft pick at strong safety. Perry started all but one game at free. And Williams was a regular at Star and Money in passing situations.

Behind them, Alabama doesn’t have a lot in terms of experience coming back.

Geno Smith will be looked at to to be the leader of that group going forward. The converted cornerback started six games last year at Star or Money and has experience playing free safety. If there was any sure thing to pick from the safeties next year, it’s him.

Jabriel Washington has been a good situational player for Alabama at safety, but at 5’11” and 183 pounds, it’s hard to see him playing much more of a role than that in his senior year.

Otherwise, it’ll be up to some green players.

Hootie Jones played in seven games in 2014 as a true freshman, on special teams or in the secondary. He has a good frame at 6’2” and 221 pounds to play strong safety and has shown a nose for ball-carriers.

The good news in all of this is at cornerback, where Alabama returns three players with starting experience to compete for two starting spots.

Cyrus Jones is all but a guarantee to keep his job as an every-game starter from last year. He was a pleasant surprise last year, as the 5’10” cornerback didn’t back down from bigger receivers, using his physicality to make up the size difference and become a rock solid option for Alabama on the outside.

Eddie Jackson and Tony Brown will likely fight for the No. 2 job like they did much of last season. Both have shown flashes and the natural ability to be great players at the position, but consistency and the mental side of things remain an issue.

There will be a lot of work to do with this unit during spring practice. The goal shouldn’t be necessarily to lock down permanent roles for players but to get players up to speed and see how fast the younger players progress.

Deionte Thompson and Ronnie Harrison were both 4-star early enrollee safeties that have as good a chance as any safety signee to get some early playing time, possibly at Star or Money, two defensive back positions that will need to be filled. Spring will be essential for the pair to get caught up quickly if they hope to be thrust into the mix.

The outlook isn’t bleak for Alabama in the secondary heading into the spring. There is potential for several players to grow into full-time roles who have the talent to succeed at them.

Spring practice will be the first step in this group’s maturation process and a chance to put a bleak 2014 behind it.


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking the Top 2016 JUCO Recruits

While many colleges are scouring the country in search of the nation’s top rising high school seniors, a handful of stud recruits have already emerged on the JUCO circuit.

There are a few benefits that cause programs to consider adding talent from the JUCO ranks.

For starters, those players have been able to mature physically and mentally at a level above the prep ranks.

In turn, most prospects hit the college level and are able to make a smoother transition.

Which JUCO recruits have already gained interest from major programs early in the 2016 cycle? 


Recruits listed in alphabetical order.

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Jim Harbaugh's in for Roller-Coaster Ride with Michigan QBs

Except for a rambling—arguably genius—rant about the college football calendar, Jim Harbaugh offered little to no insight about his first spring practice as Michigan's head coach.

But it was what Harbaugh didn't say on Tuesday afternoon that may have been the most telling, when a reporter asked about how much he enjoys coaching the quarterback position.

"That's the fun part of being the head coach. You can coach any position," Harbaugh said with a smile. "I like coaching all the positions."

Harbaugh—a former Wolverines and Pro Bowl quarterback himself—knew the type of answer the reporter was looking for when the question was asked but downplayed his affinity for focusing on his former position. But when Michigan's official website released video of Harbaugh's first practice with the Wolverines, he unsurprisingly had gravitated to the signal-callers.

So why did Harbaugh not divulge on his involvement with his quarterbacks?

Maybe he was just giving one of his signature "non-answer" answers, a skill honed in four seasons of coaching in the NFL. Or maybe he simply isn't ready to rave about the signal-callers who dot his roster.

In what's already been a storied coaching career, Harbaugh's success has been defined by stellar play from football's most important position. At Stanford, the development of Andrew Luck helped carry the Cardinal to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory in 2010, while Colin Kaepernick's ahead-of-the-curve style helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

"That will be the one position I'm sure we'll talk about," Harbaugh admitted. "We don't have one to name today."

Shaky quarterback play was the calling card of Brady Hoke's time in Ann Arbor, with Devin Gardner seemingly regressing and nobody else proving to be a better option. This isn't Urban Meyer inheriting Braxton Miller at Ohio State or Mark Helfrich having Marcus Mariota in his back pocket at Oregon—Michigan's quarterback situation last season was a mess, and it won't be until this fall that the Wolverines can prove 2015 will be any different.

Michigan's spring practice roster touts seven different quarterbacks, with incoming 4-star freshman Zach Gentry not arriving until the summer. Realistically, the Wolverines' quarterback competition will likely be limited to their four scholarship quarterbacks who will be on campus this fall, but Harbaugh stated he won't be restricting his options.

"I don't know if there's an exact number," Harbaugh answered when asked how many signal-callers he'd prefer to work with. "The more good ones you have, the better."

Harbaugh's current options may be unproven, but that doesn't mean they're not intriguing.

If you had to pick a front-runner in the race right now, it'd be junior Shane Morris, the only one of the bunch to take significant snaps in his college career. The third-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2013 class, Morris started the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in his freshman season and one game in 2014 before a concussion brought a premature end to his sophomore campaign.

Having appeared in a total of nine games in his college career, the 6'3", 204-pound Morris has completed 49.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 389 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions.

Challenging Morris this spring will be 6'6", 234-pound freshman Wilton Speight, who redshirted in Ann Arbor a season ago. A former 3-star prospect, Speight ranked as the No. 22 pro-style passer in the 2014 class.

The 6'7", 230-pound Gentry, meanwhile, measures in as the eighth-ranked passer in the 2015 class, while fellow true freshman Alex Malzone ranks 13th. Despite not being as highly ranked and smaller in size (6'1.5", 200 lbs) compared to Gentry, Malzone may already have a leg up on his classmate, as he's currently participating in spring practice as an early enrollee.

With 14 practices and all of fall camp remaining, there's still plenty of time for Michigan's quarterback situation to play out this season. But with so many questions still unanswered at football's most important position, Harbaugh's in for a ride, as even he'll admit his quarterback conundrum is one he still needs to figure out.

"At some point you'd like to think that's clear-cut and somebody earns that, and it's not close," Harbaugh said of the starting quarterback role. "That's what we'll be hoping for."


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

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The Top 2015 NFL Draft Prospect from Every SEC School

The SEC is the premier feeder conference for the NFL. Not only does the SEC send more players to the NFL than does any other conference, but some of the top players in the entire NFL come from the SEC.

Some SEC schools produce more NFL players than others, but every SEC school has at least one player on its roster that will draw the attention of NFL scouts this spring. Today, I'm going to prove that to you.

Which player in the 2015 draft class will make the biggest impact in the NFL from his SEC school? In this slideshow, I predict the answers to this question.

This list contains a wide range of talent, where some players will be top-10 picks in the 2015 NFL draft, while others will hope to latch onto NFL rosters this offseason as undrafted free agents. The high quality of the SEC, as well as its players, suggests most of the guys on this list will be drafted within the first four rounds at the worst.

To decide on which players to include, I used prospect rankings from prominent services such as CBS Sports and NFL Draft Scout. I also considered how well these players rank among their peers across the nation at their respective positions (the top player at many positions comes from the SEC). The players' performances at the NFL Scouting Combine were considered, but they weren't weighted as heavily.

With that, here's the list.  

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Every Top 25 Team's Fastest 40 Time Ever Recorded at the NFL Combine

Some of college football's best players from last season just got put through the ringer over the weekend at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, where they were poked, prodded, interviewed and observed to see if they would make good pros.

Of all the drills run and measurements taken, the figure that always tends to stand out most is how fast every potential draft prospect runs the 40-yard dash. Though it's translation into on-field performance is sketchy, it's still a number that gets remembered over time.

Former UAB wide receiver and kick returner J.J. Nelson ran the fastest 40 at this year's combine, doing so in 4.28 seconds, while ex-Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes was clocked at 4.31 seconds. Both times were the fastest-ever by a player from their respective schools at the combine.

Using Bleacher Report's post-signing day top 25 as a guide, we've charted the best 40 time in the books for each ranked team. Some go as far back as the mid-1980s, long before electronic timing made combine numbers far more accurate, but they still count.

Take a look at who holds the record for each top-25 school, what he did in college and what came of that at the professional level. 

Note: Times are based on those recorded at NFL combines and listed on NFLCombineResults.com or StatisticBrain.com, unless otherwise noted. For schools with a tie for their fastest recorded 40 time, the player listed is the most recent one to record that time.

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Recruiting Odds: Will 4-Star QB Stay Home or Will Jim Harbaugh Land His Next QB?

KJ Costello, a 4-star QB, per 247Sports' composite rankings, has not decided where he will play at the next level. The talented signal-caller has a number of offers from some major programs, but where will Costello land?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer breaks down Costello's game and handicaps the schools in the running to land him.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Buildup to a 2015 season of high expectations and even higher potential for USC football begins next month with the opening of spring practice. 

The upcoming 15 practice sessions will lay the foundation for the Trojans as a team, and for each player individually. 

Those looking to stake a prominent role in USC's 2015 lineup must deliver with strong showings in spring practice. For the four following Trojans, this is especially true. 

Each can solidify a place front-and-center in what should be a big year for the program. 

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USC Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Buildup to a 2015 season of high expectations and even higher potential for USC football begins next month with the opening of spring practice...

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Odds on Where Top 2016 OLB Keion Joyner Lands at the Next Level

Keion Joyner, a 5-star outside linebacker, per 247Sports' composite rankings, has not decided where he will play at the next level. But with a number of offers out there from big-time programs, the talented prospect will have a tough decision to make. 

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer breaks down Joyner's game and handicaps the schools in the running to land him. 

Where will Joyner play in college? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

8 College Football Coaches in Dire Need of a Strong 2016 Recruiting Class

The 2015 classes are in the books, and it's time for coaches to put their attention spans on recruiting the premier names of the 2016 class.

While there are programs who consistently do well in recruiting (Alabama, we're looking at you), there are programs in need of a strong recruiting class before next February. A bad 2016 class won't necessarily put a coach on the chopping block, but it doesn't help a coach's cause if high-star recruits aren't landed.

Wins and losses are determined on the field, and coaches play with who they have. But there isn't a coach around who wouldn't want a class loaded with 4-star and 5-star athletes. Here are eight head coaches, listed in alphabetical order, who are hoping to see that star-studded class for 2016.

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Most Sought After 2016 Recruit Tries to Name Every Offer in a Minute

Parker Boudreaux, a 4-star offensive lineman, per 247Sports Composite Rankings, has the most scholarship offers in college football at an astounding 70. 

Watch in the video above as Parker attempts to name all 70 offers in a minute.

Where will Boudreaux land at the next level? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Redshirt Freshmen Who Could Become Stars in 2015

When we talk about redshirt freshmen, we almost always talk about quarterbacks. But the truth is that redshirts break out at every position, year after year, and become stars after spending one season with the scout team.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, for example, was the best-known redshirt freshman in 2014. But Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (82 catches, 899 yards), Rutgers defensive end Kemoko Turay (7.5 sacks), Baylor linebacker Taylor Young (91 tackles, 8.0 TFL) and Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander (six pass breakups) also became star players at Power Five schools.

Accordingly, we've partitioned this list of potential breakout redshirts by position. From there we chose one former blue-chipper (Top 100 in the 2014 class), one former red-chipper (4-star recruits outside the Top 100) and one former 3-star recruit to keep an eye on.

Deciding who to pick factored talent against opportunity. The highest-ranked player at each position did not necessarily make the list if his road to playing time is barricaded. The first step to becoming a star, no matter one's age or position, is getting on the field.

Sound off below and let us know who we missed.

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Back to Football Just What Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines Need

Jim Harbaugh appeared relieved—not to mention a bit tired—during his first post-practice presser as Michigan’s head football coach. It’s been two months of media frenzy, exuberance from fans and national spotlights since he said "I do" on Dec. 30. The show’s now on the road.

While addressing the media Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh didn’t offer much in terms of quotable material, but here’s the gist of the Q&A session: Having the Wolverines start the process now, rather than later, can only benefit as they dive head-first into spring camp.

There won’t be any lag or transition for Harbaugh. He’s coached college ball before, and a stint with the San Francisco 49ers hasn’t altered or thrown off his approach in the slightest.

“Coaching is coaching,” he agreed.                                  

There won’t be any half-steps or second-guessing, either—Harbaugh clearly stated that he’s intent on finding the best player at each position, regardless of circumstance or situation. That careful calculation will manifest itself as a day-to-day evaluation.

“We’re still trying to figure out who the best players are right now—we’ve just had one practice so far,” he said.

Harbaugh’s take-charge attitude, which appears to be based more on performance than words at a press conference, is exactly what the Wolverines need to counter the previous seven years of mediocrity. He even went on to say that he wished he could “bottle the enthusiasm” from his team’s first spring workout—which symbolized a new beginning and true start of a “new year.”

“You feel like, when you start, you lay down a benchmark of where you are—it gives you a place to go forward from, a place to improve from and [an idea of] things to get better at,” he said.


Fresh Eyes

Harbaugh knows exactly what to look for during evaluation periods. The earlier he can identify talent, the better. For the most part, former coaches Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke lacked in that regard. They had their stars and standouts, but they never really appeared to have complete rosters from top to bottom.

Massive holes were common, and costly, for nearly every position group.

With that said, widespread development should be the norm under Harbaugh, who has an expert team of assistants and staffers to assist with the process. He expressed great faith in passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno—the pair is tasked with boosting one of the worst offenses, statistically, in Michigan history.

The Wolverines averaged a meager 20.9 points and 333 yards per game, ranking them at No. 13 and No. 14 in the Big Ten, respectively.


Fresh Attitude

Harbaugh isn’t a cheerleading coach. He will not lead in singing Josh Groban songs, and he certainly won’t take part in any “there, there” talk. That’s not to say he’s not compassionate, which is not the case. But it is to say that he’s all business, all of the time. His chiseled demeanor just isn’t cut for the soft stuff.

Michigan, more than ever, needs that. The program has plummeted within the past decade—it has fallen from being feared to being very much beatable by the little guys of college football. And don’t even get started on rivals; the Wolverines have to crawl before they can walk in that sense. Michigan State and Ohio State are clearly levels above them at this point, having firmly taken hold of the Big Ten.

The past is the past, and athletic director Jim Hackett laid “Michigan Man” to rest back in December. But that doesn’t mean Michigan can’t take comfort in knowing that it got its man, not just any man. The feelings of a return to prominence are real. No longer a dream, the days of powerful Wolverines football are once again in reach and entirely likely. 

Harbaugh knows what’s on the line, and his readiness to embrace the responsibility of truly rebuilding the program—starting with the foundation—is nothing short of ideal for a team that’s most recent big splash came while sharing the 1997 national championship with Nebraska, which was then a member of the Big Eight.

It’s been some time. But Harbaugh’s presence justifiably suggests that now is indeed the start of something special in Ann Arbor. He said so Tuesday, in essence, just without the thing about his presence being the catalyst for the rebirth.


Calm but Confident

Harbaugh isn’t making any promises right now, but the 2015 Wolverines should be in better shape than the 2014 version. Brady Pallante, a former defensive tackle, has been moved to fullback—that shows Harbaugh is willing to immediately flip the script. He doesn't care who did what under whom. Players will get reps where Harbaugh sees fit. 

He expressed excitement in a stern tone. Inside, he probably wanted to jump up and down. He loves the game, why wouldn’t he? But instead, he adopted a subtle tone and deflected questions, perhaps in an attempt to momentarily curb the anticipation and shift focus to growth.

There isn’t a starting quarterback right now. There is no depth chart—because like he said, it was one four-hour practice, the first in a series of efforts to retool the winningest program in college football history.


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. Stats courtesy of BigTen.org

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SEC QB Battles That Will Be Decided This Spring

Around the SEC, very few quarterback situations are set in stone. 

Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is entrenched atop the depth chart in Starkville, as is Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs on Rocky Top and Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk for the two-time defending SEC East champs.

Other programs, however, don't have that luxury.

Coaches will be searching for the next faces of their respective programs this spring, and many could be decided before 95-degree temperatures become the norm around the Southeast. Which battles will be decided this spring? Our picks, based on contenders, coaching and competition, are in this slideshow.

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