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Cameron Smith Injury: Updates on ASU WR's Knee and Recovery After Surgery

Big things were going to be expected of wide receiver Cameron Smith in his junior season after a strong sophomore campaign. However, a knee injury is going to cost Smith that opportunity...

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Kenyan Drake Could Be Major Weapon for Alabama Following Incredible Recovery

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For an offense that is tasked with replacing nine starters from a record-setting offense, Alabama got some much-welcome and even surprising news on Friday.

Running back Kenyan Drake was practicing with the team and appeared to go through drills normally just five-and-a-half months after suffering a gruesome leg injury against Ole Miss. You can relive the graphic injury if you so choose here.

Drake’s recovery is remarkable given the severity of the injury and how long it actually took him to do so.

But it’s also a big boost to a Crimson Tide offense in desperate need of playmakers, and Drake was just that last year before his injury.

“Kenyan is really doing better and better,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after Friday’s spring opener. “He actually ran 4.4 when he timed the guys the other day. He's doing really well, getting his speed back.

“Probably can't sustain it, because he's not been able to do the same level of conditioning. He has done all the conditioning in the offseason program. He just hasn't been able to do it to the level of the other players.

“I think he's going to get more and more confident. We were really, really pleased with the progress that he made and what he was able to do in practice today.”

Drake was arguably offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s favorite toy last year.

Through four games and change—before his injury—he averaged more than five yards per carry and had four touchdowns on the ground. He had also caught five passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, including this beauty against Florida:

That single play defines Drake’s career up to this point, and it’s a good representation of everything he brings to the table.

He was motioned out of the backfield, where the defense had a linebacker assigned to him. Said linebacker followed him out to the flat. Drake put a wide receiver-like double move on him and used his speed to burn the rest of the secondary for an easy touchdown.

Drake is a threat as a running back but is very much versatile enough to be used in a lot of different situations, creating a lot of headaches for defenses.

He gets a lot of comparisons to recent San Francisco 49ers signing Reggie Bush, and in some ways, they are very fair. He has the speed to make you account for him every time he's on the field.

That speed was the question following his injury.

It’s tough to figure out how much stock to put into Saban’s 4.4 comment, but even if he was still in that range, it would be incredibly impressive considering how far he’s come. Players who are staying routinely run pro-day drills after their outgoing counterparts work out for scouts.

If the time is true, or even close, it shows that there won’t be much of a drop-off—if any—in Drake’s speed which made him so dangerous.

“He did good,” center Ryan Kelly said after the first day of spring practice. “That was a pretty serious injury and I never saw him get down on himself or anything like that. It was always positivity. I know he’s been running and practicing, stuff like that. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come.”

Drake likely won’t be able to be 100 percent during all of spring practice, like Saban pointed out. He is still getting back in the groove conditioning-wise after riding around on a scooter for much of his recovery.

Still, it’s very much a positive development. Not only for him, but for an offense that will be happy to showcase him in 2015.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Michigan Football: Biggest Storylines so Far This Offseason

The departure of Jack Miller and suspension of Graham Glasgow have inserted major twists and turns into Michigan football’s spring practice sessions.

This past week, Miller announced that he’d be leaving the team and leaving behind a starting job at center. On Monday, Glasgow, Miller’s perceived successor, was shelved by the Wolverines due to a probation violation, leaving one of the most important positions on the team up for grabs.

There have been positives. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom and heartfelt goodbyes. Continuously in the spotlight since his introduction on Dec. 30, coach Jim Harbaugh’s unique and creative recruiting methods have gained national attention.

So has his affinity to be involved with everything, evidenced by a spring training appearance with the Oakland A’s.

As for the battle for starting quarterback, well, this one’s going to take some time to unfold. Could Harbaugh, who's saving lives and joining the Oakland A's in spring practice, add yet another guy to the rotation? It’s a possibility.

And then there was senior linebacker Joe Bolden, who, this past Thursday, made one of the boldest proclamations of the spring while praising defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

 

No Longer Miller Time

In 2014, Miller emerged as a leader for the Wolverines, and more times than not, he was the one fed to the media after rough games. He handled the wave of critical questions with poise and maturity. Little did he know, he was in the midst of a transformation, evolving from a former reserve lineman to respected spokesperson.

This past season as a fourth-year junior, the 6’4”, 297-pounder started 12 games at center for Michigan, giving plenty of reason to expect him to help anchor the trenches in 2015—but then, after just three practices this spring, he called it quits, opting to pursue business and other personal passions rather than playing the game that ruled his life since childhood.

Why?

Only Miller knows for sure.

Other than it “being time to move on,” he’s yet to really address the subject in full detail. However, during a recent interview, he shed a little light on the subject (more to come on Miller).

 

Sitting Glasgow

In April of 2013, Glasgow was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Months later in July, the up-and-coming lineman pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired and was put on probation for one year. He was supposed to abstain from drinking alcohol—but he didn’t and failed a breathalyzer test administered at 9:59 a.m. Sunday, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press

On Monday, Harbaugh promptly released a statement regarding Glasgow, who had just taken over in Miller’s absence.

"We have been made aware of Graham's probation violation and he has been suspended," Harbaugh said, via release. "Graham will be subject to punishment through the judicial system, the student-athlete alcohol policy and the Michigan football program."

As of now, Glasgow’s future with the program is in serious jeopardy. The terms of his suspension are “indefinite”—and that’s usually not a good sign. The center position is also in a peculiar position, as it now appears that offensive coordinator/O-line coach Tim Drevno will have to resort to third- and fourth-stringers for the time being.

Michigan’s offensive line has been the subject of widespread scrutiny for three years. Improvement up front is necessary if the Wolverines are to even think of competing with Big Ten powers such as Ohio State and Michigan State.

Without a proven starter-caliber player to take over for Glasgow, the offensive line—which has a considerable lack of experience—could regress this season. This spring now becomes extra crucial for lineman development. Absolutely, no questions asked, it has to be priority No. 1.

 

Be Harbaugh's

Harbaugh often jokes about being a simple man. He knows football, he’s not a fan of the word “dismayed” and he’s pretty straightforward, in a roundabout, throw-you-for-a-loop sort of way—at least when it comes to talking to the media.

Recruits?!

Well, they’re different.

Evidently, Harbaugh is 100 percent direct with those guys. He’ll even make a sign to show how much he wants a player at Michigan, which he did for Boss Tagaloa, a 4-star defensive tackle out of California. Harbaugh offered on March 2, but according to 247Sports, the 6’3”, 295-pound Tagaloa has “warm” interest in Stanford.

Tagaloa will certainly have a wait-and-see recruitment, which will probably also be the case for Dwayne Haskins. The 4-star pro-style quarterback out of Maryland has been on Michigan’s radar for more than a year, but Harbaugh and Michigan recently took the time to express more interest by sending a customized video to Haskins. 

Take that, Urban Meyer

Per 247Sports, the 6’3”, 195-pounder has “warm” interest in LSU, Maryland, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

But Harbaugh has made several charges at other 2016 recruits.

Oh, and don’t worry about Erik Swenson’s offer from Alabama. While flattered by the recognition, Swenson, Michigan’s first 2016 commit, isn’t interested in any school but Michigan. The 4-star offensive tackle likes Harbaugh, has family in the Great Lakes State and grew up loving Wolverines football.

 

QB Flux

This past week, passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch was guarded, yet optimistic, while discussing quarterbacks.

Since joining Michigan, he’s seen a lot of good in his three scholarship players: Shane Morris, who’ll be a junior; Wilton Speight, a redshirt freshman; and Alex Malzone, a true freshman and early enrollee.

However, in passing, he mentioned how “other guys” would later enter and possibly factor into the race. He didn’t specify who or what, but Fisch’s comment came at a time when a report by Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman about Iowa grad Jake Rudock potentially visiting Michigan hit the Web like a ton of bricks. 

At this time, the Wolverines have 10 quarterbacks on their spring roster, including the three scholarship players and an array of walk-ons—plus Ramsey Romano, a current Wolverines baseball player who just so happened to be a star quarterback back in high school.

It’s clear that Michigan isn’t completely satisfied with its quarterback situation. Why else would it bring in seven more to compete with Speight, Morris and Malzone? On top of that, and the slew of quarterback offers for 2016, there is John O’Korn, who transferred from Houston and will be eligible in 2016.

Talk about overkill. But Harbaugh and Fisch are bent on finding the one, not just “a” quarterback, making their load-the-roster approach appear logical and quite reasonable. In all likelihood, they’re testing Speight, Morris and Malzone’s capacity to compete under immense pressure.

That, again, makes a lot of sense.

 

More Power?!

This past Thursday, Bolden, a linebacker, swung for the fences while taking questions from ESPN’s Dan Murphy, who wanted to know about the influence of Durkin and Mattison on Michigan's already stout defense. 

“You got the two best defensive coordinators in the nation on the same staff,” said Bolden, from a mountaintop. “There’s no other team in the nation that has that, and if you find them, let me know.”

Inside, outside, in the middle—Bolden doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play. Transitioning from Mattison’s 4-3 to Durkin’s 3-4 hasn’t been an issue, either. Bolden has obvious confidence in the defense, his teammates and in himself. 

The attitude of Michigan’s defense hasn’t changed; it’s just gotten more powerful now that Durkin is paired with Mattison. With Durkin's less vocal and Mattison's more vocal approach, the defensive coaching staff has an ideal balance of grit, technique, experience and potential, said Bolden. 

The defense, once again, is and will be among the top storylines to watch during the offseason.

 

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 during other media availability. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Over the last two years, Georgia has evolved into one of the most confusing teams in the SEC East.

It's clear that the talent is there for head coach Mark Richt to make a run at the division title and perhaps attain more. But inexplicable losses—last year, one came against Florida—seem to prevent the Bulldogs from breaking through their ceiling.

Will new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put Georgia over the top, or will the loss of former coordinator Mike Bobo, running back Todd Gurley, wide receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley and several key defensive pieces keep Georgia down?

We'll take a look at Georgia in our spring practice primer.

 

What to Watch on Offense

The quarterback battle will undoubtedly dominate headlines this spring, and rightfully so.

Since the spring of Aaron Murray's sophomore season, there hasn't been much concern under center, as Murray shined through his senior season and handed the reigns over to Hutson Mason for the 2014 season. With Mason gone, junior Faton Bauta, redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and redshirt freshman Jacob Park will contend for the top spot on the depth chart this spring.

Ramsey is the most experienced of the group, but only had 39 pass attempts as a freshman—mostly during mop-up duty after Mason had departed with a big lead. The inexperience across the board has created quite a battle in Athens.

"It's just a lot of work to be done between now and that first game and a lot of competition to happen," Richt said in February, according to Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia. "You know, the quarterback position is as wide-open as it's ever been since I've been at Georgia probably. It's going to be an interesting battle I would say."

Bauta has that Tim Tebow bruiser quality to him as a dual-threat quarterback, and Park probably has the most upside of the trio. It will be interesting to see how Schottenheimer—who's known as a pro-style coach—handles this battle.

What he doesn't have to worry about is running back, where super sophomore Nick Chubb leads a loaded backfield that includes senior Keith Marshall and fellow sophomore Sony Michel.

The backfield will serve as an insurance policy for the eventual winner at quarterback, because with two new receivers outside, Georgia will incorporate a run-first approach out of desire and necessity early in 2015.

Up front, it's more of the same. Georgia returns three starters along the offensive line, and replicating last season's success shouldn't be too difficult for the group as key pieces, like tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston, stay healthy.

 

What to Watch on Defense

Jeremy Pruitt has been a tremendous upgrade over former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, as Georgia's defense improved from 375.5 yards per game in 2013 to 337.2 yards per game in Pruitt's first year in Athens.

That was the good news. 

The bad news is that several pieces of that defense will be gone in 2015, including linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, defensive back Damian Swann and defensive linemen Ray Drew and Mike Thornton. 

The most intriguing defensive position for the Bulldogs this spring is linebacker, where Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd passed on the NFL to come back to school. They will be joined by sophomore Lorenzo Carter, who tallied eight tackles in each of Georgia's final two games. Even Jenkins himself knows that Carter is too explosive to keep on the sideline, according to Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com.

So what will Pruitt do?

Floyd and Carter are too good to keep off the field and Jenkins can drop down and play some defensive line, as he did last year in order to get the trio on the field at the same time. Pruitt has to find a way to make that a permanent solution this spring, because if Georgia can get them all on the field for every down, it would present matchup nightmares to opposing offensive coordinators.

Up front, Sterling Bailey and Chris Mayes will likely lock up defensive end and tackle spots, respectively. But that might not be permanent in Mayes' case, with early enrollee Jonathan Ledbetter already on campus and No. 1 overall prospect Trent Thompson's arrival looming this summer. Bailey and Mayes need to prove that they're leaders and difference-makers this spring.

The battle for the other defensive end spot is wide open and features Josh Dawson, James DeLoach and several others.

Swann's departure is big, but there are still plenty of players in Georgia's defensive backfield who have played a ton of football between the hedges. Cornerbacks Devin Bowman, Aaron Davis, Malkom Parrish and Shattle Fenteng will square off for playing time, while safeties Quincy Mauger, Dominick Sanders and Reggie Wilkerson lead the safeties.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye On

Defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter.

The 17-year-old early enrollee skipped a grade according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, still enrolled early and won't become a legal adult until the day of Georgia's second game of 2015.

He looks like an adult, though, as Logan Booker of Cox Media Group Athens noted in January.

The Tucker, Georgia, native stands at 6'4", 265 pounds and is a perfect fit to play one of the end spots in Pruitt's 3-4 scheme. What's more, the door is wide open for him to earn playing time.

Ledbetter has the size to play right away, the quickness to be a difference-maker at defensive end and will undoubtedly benefit from spending the entire offseason learning the playbook and working in Georgia's strength and conditioning program.

For a defense to be successful, it needs to have depth across the board, but specifically up front. Ledbetter will start as a rotational defensive lineman, but don't be surprised to see that change as the season goes on.

 

Coach Richt's Toughest Task

Managing the offensive shakeup.

A wide-open quarterback race combined with a new offensive coordinator isn't exactly an ideal situation. Richt is an offensive-minded head coach who will undoubtedly have plenty of say in what goes on with Schottenheimer's offense. He will have to manage how quickly his new coach—who's accustomed to professional football players—gives his inexperienced quarterbacks the playbook. 

Ramsey showed flashes of brilliance last year—particularly in mop-up duty against Kentucky, when he completed all five of his passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He will likely be the most comfortable of the trio.

Don't be surprised if Richt—who is more of a CEO now—becomes a little more hands on this spring, as he helps the program navigate some important changes.

 

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.

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. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

Nebraska football fans have been relishing the second week of spring practice, getting a little fix of Husker football before having to settle in for a long summer. Before the spring game on April 11, Nebraska fans will be soaking up as much information as they can get about how the team is performing under new head coach Mike Riley and what they can expect next season.

Here are a few stock-up, stock-down reports on what we’ve learned so far.

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2016 4-Star CB Jared Mayden Wants to Be Remembered as the Smartest Player Ever

Jared Mayden, a 4-star CB per 247Sports, recently participated in the Pylon Athletics 7v7 event in Las Vegas. Bleacher Report caught up with the talented defender to discuss who he models his game after, his favorite play from his highlight reel and how he'd like to be remembered one day.

What is Mayden's ceiling? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jared Mayden Sets Decision Date: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star CB?

On the heels of a standout performance at the Dallas Nike Opening regional camp in which he earned a trip to The Opening, 4-star corner Jared Mayden told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that he will announce his commitment at the camp featuring the nation’s top prep talent in the summer. 

The 6’0”, 190-pounder from Sachse (Texas) High School rates as the No. 13 cornerback in the country and the No. 142 player overall in the 2016 class.

Mayden has close to 40 offers under his belt, and as his Crystal Ball page indicates, there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite in his recruitment. 

Bartow notes that Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas Tech and UCLA are schools recruiting Mayden the hardest—with the Buckeyes atop that list.

But which school provides the best fit for Mayden at the college level?

For starters, Mayden has a versatile skill set that makes him a coveted prospect for top programs.

“He’s a guy that blends great size at the cornerback spot,” said Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder. “[He] played corner, played a little at the nickel corner spot on the inside. Great size. Great athleticism. [He has] the ability to understand what the coaches were asking him to do. Great technique from him.” 

Those attributes are part of what make him one of the top corners in the 2016 cycle.

As Joey Helmer of OUInsider noted, Mayden had previously reported a top three of Ohio State, Oregon and TCU before backing off that earlier this month.

While the Buckeyes, Ducks and Horned Frogs are all likely to still be in the picture, schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State and Texas may have an opening to to become a factor with Mayden. 

Perhaps a key indicator for Mayden will be the itinerary of visits he’s lined up before he will make his choice.

According to Bartow, the Lone Star State standout plans to visit Oregon and Alabama in April. His last visit will be to Florida State in June—with Arkansas mentioned as another school who could get him on campus before his decision date.

Mayden has a game that translates well at many of the schools on his list of suitors because of his versatility. 

In particular, out of state options such as Florida State and Ohio State have both done a good job in moving corners around and letting them play in different positions.

Another school that could be a good fit for Mayden, as Felder points out, is Texas.

“We talked about how he loves football,” Felder said at the Dallas Nike Opening Regional Camp. “To me, that’s a guy that fits in with Charlie Strong.”

However, as Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles notes, it’s fellow in-state power TCU that could prove to be the best fit for Mayden’s game.

“I can also see him a little bit closer to home at TCU,” Sayles said. “Gary Patterson loves those types of athletes. He can learn a lot from Gary Patterson. I wouldn’t be surprised that if he were to go there, he would [also] land some of his teammates from Sacshe High School.”

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Delton Williams Suspended by MSU After Arrest for Road-Rage Incident

Michigan State running back Delton Williams has been suspended indefinitely from the football team after being taken into custody following a road-rage incident.  

According to Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio announced the suspension for Williams Tuesday and that a statement would be released later in the afternoon:

According to David Harns of isportsweb.com, citing the Michigan State University Police Department, "a person displaying a gun from vehicle at Shaw/Farm in a road rage incident" was taken into custody. Harns cited a "reliable source" as saying that Williams was the person in custody.

This is the second time in three years that Williams has been in trouble with the law. In 2012, as a high school senior, he faced a misdemeanor drug possession charge that was later dropped, per Brian Calloway of Michigan.com. 

Williams has played sparingly in two seasons at Michigan State, carrying the ball 92 times for 554 yards and six touchdowns, but he figured to take on a more prominent role in 2015 with Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill graduating. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Sack Artists Who Will Terrorize Your Quarterback in 2015

Three of the top six, four of the top nine and nine of the top 15 sackers from 2014 return to college football next season.

That is an unusually high number, as evidenced by last season, when two of the top six, three of the top nine and four of the top 15 sackers returned from 2013.

More than that, 2015 marks the return of Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a knee injury, and former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields, who spent last season in junior college and will play next year at Louisville.

Could either of those guys crack our list of the 10 best sack artists? Based on talent alone, of course. But this list also considered health, recent production, the supporting cast around each pass-rusher and whether they're a proven fit within their current scheme.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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In the College Football Playoff Era, Is It Time to Ban FCS Opponents?

In a way, Baylor provided free advertising for the University of the Incarnate Word. A year ago on the dot, UIW announced that it had scheduled a game against the Bears in Waco in 2019. 

Be honest: How many of you actually thought that was a real school and not something made up by The Onion? People rushed to their search engines to learn more about the mysterious Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program in San Antonio, Texas, with the quirky name. 

It also shed light on what has become a running joke: Baylor, despite becoming a Big 12 power, doesn't take on anyone of note in nonconference play. Last season, Baylor played SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, resulting in three easy wins. At least in part, that cost the Bears a shot at the College Football Playoff, as they never cracked the top four in the CFP standings

Compare that to eventual national champion Ohio State, which rose to the No. 4 spot in the final rankings even though it lost an early-season game to Virginia Tech. The Hokies weren't some powerhouse, either, winning just six regular season games. 

For one year at least, the playoff selection committee showed it would rather a team lose to a Power Five opponent than beat a nobody. Does this mean it's time for a widespread ban, officially or unofficially, on FCS opponents?  

Not necessarily. Though the Big Ten came to such an agreement in 2013, there's no need to over-correct nationally. 

What ultimately hurts teams like Baylor as much as the actual nonconference slate is perceived effort. Baylor isn't the only offender when it comes to scheduling FCS teams. It is, however, the most recognizable and easiest to attack. 

According to FBSchedules.com, the Bears play an FCS opponent in each of the next five years. That isn't the worst thing in the world by itself, but the only respectable nonconference opponent on paper in the next eight years is Duke in 2017 and 2018.

Simply put: There's no balance. 

Is Baylor even trying? According to athletic director Ian McCaw, there have been talks with other nonconference opponents. The specifics of them, however, remain unclear. 

“You have to look at the entire schedule,” McCaw told Max Olson of ESPN.com in November. “The SEC schools, for example, have some of their weaker nonconference opponents late in the season. If you look at their entire nonconference schedule, the teams look very similar to some of the teams we’ve played.” 

Nonconference scheduling is formulaic, though. That's true regardless of conference or number of conference games. As long as there's at least one difficult nonconference game, the rest doesn't matter as much. 

Take Oregon, for example. In 2015, the Ducks will play FCS opponent Eastern Washington—as a side story, Eastern Washington was the former home for new Oregon transfer quarterback Vernon Adams—and Michigan State. 

Yes, scheduling is a risk/reward move, especially when made years in advance. For all anyone knows, Michigan State could be awful next season. Chances are, though, it won't be. If Oregon is in the playoff conversation, it'll be because of that game, not Eastern Washington. 

Perception has weight in the scheduling world, even if it's misplaced. Last year, the ACC and SEC announced they would require members to play at least one nonconference Power Five opponent every year. However, that opponent could be a basement-dweller like Kansas, Purdue or Colorado and still satisfy said requirement. 

Ultimately, what's the difference between those programs and, say, FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, which just won its fourth straight national championship? In fact, the Bison should be considered a more formidable opponent at the moment. 

The point being, not all opponents—whether FBS or FCS, Power Five or mid-major—are created equally. To place them into categories defined by worthiness is a dangerous line to walk. 

Furthermore, games against FCS teams may not always be the most fun to watch, but they have a purpose. Cupcake games provide money for the smaller programs and a valuable seventh (or sometimes eighth) home game for the bigger program. 

There may be a day when games against FCS opponents disappear, but it's not happening anytime soon. That's because they're not a detriment to a team's playoff hopes so long as there is at least one solid nonconference game to balance it out. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami's New Recruiting Strategy Could Make Them a National Power Again

For a coach facing a make-or-break year in 2015 on the field, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Al Golden is feeling any pressure if you take a glance at Miami’s 2016 recruiting class.

The Hurricanes are loading up in a major way on the recruiting trail—with 18 commitments and a class that currently sits atop the 247Sports team rankings.

Golden and his staff have also gotten off to quick starts in the 2017 and 2018 classes.

How have the ‘Canes done it?

The answer lies in the same way the program’s dynasty teams were built.

Of the ‘Canes 18 commitments in the 2016 class, 12 are from players who are from a trio of counties—Dade, Broward and Palm Beach—that are in close proximity to Miami’s campus in Coral Gables.

The nine combined commitments that Miami has in the 2017 and 2018 classes all hail from the same trio of counties in South Florida.

Larry Blustein, who has covered recruiting for 45 years in the South Florida area and currently does so for SouthFloridaHighSchoolSports.com, explains that Miami’s newfound backyard success is due to a combination of factors.

The first thing Golden and his staff have done is to get more support locally from the high school coaches and mentors in the South Florida area.

New Hurricanes receivers coach Kevin Beard, who also played wideout for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003, explained in a radio interview with WQAM 560 (via Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post) that Miami needed to mend the relationship with the South Florida prep football community. 

“I want them to be heard,” Beard told WQAM. “Once that happens, things will definitely start changing a whole lot faster. The community will start getting back to being for us and not against us because of what the record is. They’ll see we’re making moves in the right direction.”

Blustein agrees and said that the vibes toward the program have changed recently.

“What has happened was that there was a little change here in the last two months or so,” Blustein said. “On signing day, a lot of kids were shuffling off to Alabama and FSU and not staying at home. The guys in the community got together and decided to listen more to Miami and hear them out."

Blustein notes that most kids in the nation’s most fertile recruiting territories have grown up fans of The U—which makes staying at home an easy sell in most cases.

However, given Golden’s struggles since taking over the program five years ago, there’s been an exodus in terms of the top talent leaving the area to go to schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, etc.

Golden drew his share of criticism for that from alums and the people involved with the recruiting scene in the area.

“This year, [Golden] took crap from all of the alumni,” Blustein said. “Jon Beason put it the best when he said that by knocking Al Golden down, what you are doing is hurting your school. If you tell kids don’t go there, you are hurting your alma mater. So why would you do that? You have to back your guy as long as he’s employed by the school. Once he’s not, then we will back the next person. A lot of people took heed to that and took a couple of steps back and realized that he had a point.”

Blustein also said that another thing helping Miami’s cause is the fact that the program’s former stars are still coming back to work out with the current players—something that today’s prep stars notice and look up to.

“One thing that separates Miami from a lot of schools is that the former players aren’t pretenders,” Blustein notes. “They really do come back every year. Jimmy Graham was in the weight room here one day after being traded to Seattle. Lamar Miller is out here with the guys. When the high school kids start seeing that stuff, that’s what the tradition was built on and I think that’s what will eventually get them out of this rut.”

Golden’s staff has also done a better job of getting on top talent early.

“A lot of these kids, like Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins and the 2017 kids in Waynmon Steed and Tyler Dunning, they are players as good as you will find nationally,” Blustein said. “They are absolute beasts, those type of kids, now they are getting the type of kids that Alabama, USC, Ohio State and FSU are coming down here and getting.”

As for the ‘Canes looking to put a fence around their backyard, Blustein said that it’s a strategy that Golden simply had to master in order to turn things around for the Miami program.

“They have no choice,” Blustein said. “[Golden] is in year five. He hasn’t really won a significant game yet. His best win last year was against Duke. In his situation, it’s like he’s facing a 4th-and-10 with one play left and he has to score. The quickest way to turn things around is by locking up the top talent in your backyard.”

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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