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Oregon Football: NFL Draft Projections for Every Former Duck

Several former Oregon Ducks await their NFL draft fate in the coming days. 

The unpredictability of the draft is evident in the various projections for Oregon alums like Taylor Hart, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff. Three of the program's top performers in recent years are slated anywhere from the early middle rounds to the later rounds, depending on the outlet. 

B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has some of the Ducks' 2014 draft class slated on his big board. Other Oregon alumni hope to defy the odds and hear their names called this weekend.  

 

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Oregon Football: NFL Draft Projections for Every Former Duck

Several former Oregon Ducks await their NFL draft fate in the coming days. The unpredictability of the draft is evident in the various projections for Oregon alums like Taylor Hart, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff...

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C.J. Conrad Commits to Kentucky: Wildcats Land Big 4-Star TE

Kentucky continues to clean up on the recruiting trail in Ohio. The Wildcats claimed a commitment from 4-star tight end C.J. Conrad Friday afternoon, giving head coach Mark Stoops four 2015 pledges from the neighboring state:

Conrad, a 6'5", 225-pound standout at Keystone High School (LaGrange), is the ninth member of a class that ranks among the nation's top 25 in 247Sports' composite team rankings. His commitment caps off a newsworthy week for the Wildcats, as Stoops received a contract extension through 2018 Tuesday.

The talented playmaker is an improving blocker who already shines downfield as a pass target. He led Keystone in receiving during each of the past two seasons.

Conrad caught 59 passes for 924 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, per MaxPreps. Those efforts helped him secure scholarship offers from Illinois, Indiana and Toledo before his junior campaign kicked off.

Despite playing in a run-heavy offensive attack, Conrad secured 47 receptions for 579 yards and six scores in 2013. By early spring, his offer list expanded to include Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Duke and Syracuse.

Conrad's decision came down to Kentucky and Indiana:

Keystone coach Rob Clarico applauded the dedication Conrad has displayed while developing into a premier college prospect, as per Cleveland.com's Bill Landis:

The younger kids look up to him like he plays for the Browns. I can tell them about all the hard work he’s put in and that he never misses a workout. If their dreams are to be as big as C.J., they have to work as hard as C.J. did.

The Wildcats have made significant offensive strides in the past week. Ohio wide receiver Alex Stump committed to Kentucky over West Virginia and Georgia Tech Saturday.

Conrad is rated No. 9 nationally among tight ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is the second composite 4-star commit in Kentucky's class, joining in-state linebacker Eli Brown.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 College Football Programs That Changed Revamped Recruiting Strategies

Change is synonymous with college football, but one thing that seems to remain consistent is a team's recruiting footprint. However, when change occurs it's often when a school is at the bottom and looking to shake things up.

Yet, over the past few years some big-name programs have gone about some pretty big changes on the recruiting trail thanks to new coaching staffs. Whether it's connections from a previous school or someone being from a specific state, there are reasons for a change in where and why a school recruits new areas. 

For a few schools it has meant completely redesigning how they go about recruiting and where they do the most recruiting. Let's explore five examples of this over the last few years. 

 

*All recruiting info courtesy 247Sports.com.

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LSU Football Film Study: Why the Tigers Tight Ends Need to Step Up Next Season

Simply put, LSU needs more production from its tight ends. 

The Tigers tight ends have combined for 28 catches and zero touchdowns over the past two seasons. For comparison's sake, Arkansas' Hunter Henry, Mississippi State's Malcolm Johnson and Georgia's Arthur Lynch all caught at least 28 passes and two touchdowns last season alone. 

Ironically, the Tigers had one of their best years offensively under Les Miles in 2013. Miles had a 3,000-yard passer in Zach Mettenberger, a 1,000-yard rusher in Jeremy Hill and two 1,000-yard receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. 

But if there was a criticism of the offense, it would be the lack of other options. Outside of Hill, Landry and Beckham Jr., LSU had few players that threatened its opponents. This, in turn, would sometimes make them easy to defend. 

LSU did not have a single tight end whom defenses would respect in the passing game. And the film shows it. 

 

LSU vs. Georgia

LSU lost in a 44-41 shootout against Georgia in an SEC instant classic. The passing offense, in particular Mettenberger, should be the last to blame for the heartbreaking defeat. The Tigers defense surrendered the lead late in the fourth quarter. Mettenberger and the offense needed a field goal to tie the game. 

On the first play of the drive, the LSU offensive line made a horrendous error and gave up a sack. The Tigers were able to get a first down via a Beckham Jr. reception on the next play, but LSU's final timeout was burned after the sack, and Mettenberger took a vicious shot. 

As the drive went on, the Bulldogs were able to clamp down tighter on Beckham Jr. and Landry. A quarterback as talented as Mettenberger should know other options will open up.

LSU faced a 3rd-and-10, needing about 35 more yards to be in field-goal range.

The Tigers line up three receivers, with their two best, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry (JL), to the left of the formation. Tight end Travis Dickson (TD) lines up on the left side of the offensive line. 

Off the snap, four of the five eligible receivers all run deep routes with the last at running back serving as the personal protector for Mettenberger.

Dickson begins to run his route with a linebacker playing man coverage against him. For every play on the drive up to this point, he'd only been covered by a linebacker. 

Mettenberger has a good, but not great, pocket to throw. The Bulldogs bring a blitz that LSU deciphers quickly and blocks well. He has more time to survey the field and make the decision. 

Mettenberger decides to attempt a back-shoulder throw to Landry (JL) in double coverage—which is not a bad option to a receiver of Landry's caliber. It is an extremely difficult throw to make under immense pressure.

Dickson (TD) is in man coverage in open space against a linebacker and would have been a better option. 

A view from behind Mettenberger shows Dickson was able to create some separation, yet Mettenberger decides to go with his more trustworthy option in Landry. 

But this slide shows partially why Mettenberger did not throw the ball to Dickson. Even though the ball is already thrown, the linebacker (LB) was able to shrink the gap quickly between himself and Dickson quickly. 

LSU's No. 1 receiving option at tight end needs to create more separation in man-to-man coverage. 

 

LSU vs. Alabama

LSU was down 31-17 to the Alabama Crimson Tide with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers desperately needed to score to get back within one possession. 

LSU lines up in a near identical formation as the previously shown play against Georgia, except Mettenberger is under center on this one. 

After the snap, LSU releases four receivers up the field and keeps Jeremy Hill in the backfield as a personal protector. The Crimson Tide only rush four and all linebackers clearly sink back into coverage. This means Mettenberger should trust his six-on-four protection to give him time to survey the field.  

Alabama is clearly in Cover 2 as LSU runs a play with three routes on the left of the formation. This essentially guarantees at least one receiver running his route to have a one-on-one matchup. Landry (JL) releases upfield as Dickson (TD) runs an out route against a linebacker in the middle of the field. 

Dickson then releases vertically up the field on an "out-and-up" route, leaving the linebacker (LB) defending him flat-footed. Landry continues to work up field, drawing the safety to help over the top. Beckham Jr. runs a dig route underneath. 

Dickson blows by the linebacker after running an immaculate route, as Landry gets smothered in double coverage. All Mettenberger has to do is see the safety has worked his way over to Landry, then dart the ball to Dickson for the easy touchdown. 

Mettenberger has all day to throw the football, as Alabama only rushed four players. 

Instead, Mettenberger forces a ball to Landry that should have intercepted. Dickson stands wide open, knowing LSU missed a golden opportunity. The Tigers would not score again, as LSU went down to Alabama, 38-17.

 

What about 2014?

The above tape showed Mettenberger's lack of faith in players not named Landry or Beckham Jr. Dickson is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but he should not be a No. 1 option at tight end. 

Nevertheless, Mettenberger should have delivered the ball to Dickson on both of the above plays. Yet his deep faith in Landry—and his lack thereof to the tight ends—told him to throw the ball to him no matter the coverage.  

LSU fans should not worry, though, for next season, as there is hope for the future. 

Dickson returns for his senior season, as do veterans Dillon Gordon and Logan Stokes. But the breakout star will be DeSean Smith. The sophomore showed flashes of brilliance in the spring game with three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

The Tigers are high on incoming freshman Jacory Washington. Washington is a great fit in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's offense and can stretch the field with his speed.  

LSU will also be developing a young quarterback next season. Whether it be Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings who wins the job, Cameron will call simple plays for tight ends to help them get in a rhythm. 

 

Conclusion

When great football teams face off against each other, the more complete team usually wins.

Georgia and Alabama defeated the Tigers last season. The talent gap between the Tigers and those two defeats were not wide, but at tight end there was a massive discrepancy. 

Alabama's No. 1 option at tight end, O.J. Howard, bursted through in the first half for a 52-yard touchdown. Howard is a rare breed, so nobody is asking the Tigers tight ends to be like him. But because Mettenberger had little cohesiveness with his tight end, he missed an easy pitch-and-catch touchdown to Dickson.

This essentially created a plus-14 advantage for the Crimson Tide, which is massive in a rivalry game that is annually so close. Nick Saban's defense could have been exploited by the tight end in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, as well. 

To be fair, LSU's lack of receptions at tight end does not mean they have been bad. The Tigers have had phenomenal blockers on the edge in Gordon and Stokes, both of whom play vital roles in the running game.

But for LSU's passing game to be successful in 2014, the Tigers need to have a viable threat through the air at tight end. 

 

*Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Football: An Early Look at Tigers Defense in 2014

Clemson’s defense last season was a work in progress but still had a much better season than the previous year. The Tigers ranked 24th in points allowed at 22.2 points per game and led the nation in tackles for loss with 123. Many of the defense's stars return, with the exceptions of Spencer Shuey, Quandon Christian and Bashaud Breeland.

 

Defensive Line

The defensive line could be among the best in school history with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett leading the way. D.J. Reader, Corey Crawford, Deshawn Williams, Tavaris Barnes and Josh Watson have also been solid in their time with the Tigers. Young players that could make an impact are Shaq Lawson, Ebenezer Ogundeko and Scott Pagano. Martin Aiken and Carlos Watkins are definitely guys who could compete for time on the field as well.

Bottom Line: The defensive line is the strongest part of Clemson’s team next year, including offensive groups. The 123 tackles for loss last season was a school record, and the Tigers should be just as good or even better this season. Beasley is a scary sight coming off the edge, and the focus on him from offensive coaches should allow others on the defensive line to make big plays.

 

Linebacker

Stephone Anthony impressed last season and will be one of the stars on Clemson’s defense. Young players like Ben Boulware and Dorian O’Daniel have done well in spring camp and will likely see time on the field this season.

Boulware has been working at the "Will" position, getting some experience there. Boulware will likely be the middle linebacker when Anthony graduates, but playing him some on the weak side might get him more playing time this season.

Tony Steward, like Anthony, was a big-time recruit and has done good things in his time at Clemson. But he hasn’t quite fulfilled expectations yet due to injuries. The Tigers need him to step up this season and be a senior leader. B.J. Goodson, Kellen Jones and T.J. Burrell are other names to watch at linebacker.

Bottom Line: Anthony and Steward will be the senior leaders for the linebackers, and Korrin Wiggins has a shot at playing the "Sam" position (among other spots). Linebackers should be a solid part of this defensive group.

 

Defensive Back

The secondary is the question mark of the defense. This unit has the potential to do big things, but there’s just nothing to base assumptions off of right now besides spring practice. Travis Blanks didn’t look as good in his sophomore season but will try to rebound and have a solid year.

Jayron Kearse and Robert Smith played well for the Tigers down the stretch and should be solid contributors this season. Youngsters such as Mackensie Alexander, Adrian Baker, Jadar Johnson and Cordrea Tankersley will all be names to watch. Alexander is one of the more exciting young players I can remember the Tigers having on that side of the ball in a while.

T.J. Green made the move from wide receiver to safety, and that should really help Brent Venables’ defense because of Green’s size. He will likely compete for solid playing time and perhaps a starting position.

Though they lost Darius Robinson and Breeland, the Tigers still have Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters at cornerback. Wiggins got playing time last year at defensive back and will likely play some in that rotation this season also.

Bottom Line: The Tigers’ question mark will for sure be in the secondary. Getting Blanks back to playing like he can will be big for head coach Dabo Swinney’s squad. Guys like Alexander and Baker will have to step up, and Jenkins will need to stay healthy. Wiggins, Green and Kearse should play well this season but are still young and may have learning moments at times. Peters and Smith, along with Jenkins, will need to be the vocal leaders in this group.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Q&A: Rhett Lashlee or Kirby Smart, Gators vs. Vols and Maty Mauk

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

@BarrettSallee More likely to be a HC first, Rhett Lashlee or Kirby Smart?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) April 25, 2014

I like Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and I think he's going to be a head coach sooner rather than later. But Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been on the fast track to head coaching superstardom for a few years now, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a big-time head coaching job following the 2014 season.

To a point, Smart and Lashlee are both fighting the same battle as assistants. They're working for head coaches whose strengths bleed over into their respective responsibilities as coordinators. But Smart has been doing it much longer and much more consistently than any coordinator in the country.

His Alabama defenses have finished in the top five nationally in total defense in each of his six seasons as defensive coordinator and first nationally in 2011 and 2012.

The only way I see Smart sticking around as Alabama's defensive coordinator for much longer is if he has been or is promised the head coaching job (either publicly or privately) once Nick Saban retires.

If that's the case, he'll probably have to say no to several high-profile teams making him big-time offers before taking that step.

Lashlee is on the same track, just a few years behind. If he wants to jump and be a head coach at a smaller school, he probably could do that after this season. Or he could sit around, continue to work with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and wait for the "big one."

Talk about a "rich man's problem," both literally and figuratively.

 

@BarrettSallee Florida vs Tennessee in Knoxville this year. Way WAY too early gut prediction. Who has best shot to win?

— Patrick (@patrick1016) April 21, 2014

Florida, but it won't surprise me if it's close.

I love the hire of Kurt Roper as Florida's new offensive coordinator and the potential dual-threat quarterback Jeff Driskel has in his system. The running back corps, which is led by sophomore Kelvin Taylor, is stacked, and there are some decent pieces at wide receiver, including sophomore Demarcus Robinson.

Tennessee has a ton of weapons, too, and that game being in Knoxville will certainly give the Vols a chance. But who's going to block for the eventual starting quarterback? That's the matchup to watch, and right now, it's no contest. Led by "Buck" linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., the Gators front seven is stacked, and I don't know if the Vols can hold up against that group.

On top of that, the Gators have a bye week leading up to the trip to Knoxville while Tennessee will be coming off of a road trip to Georgia. 

Give me Florida...close.

 

@BarrettSallee Maty Mauk going to be able to do enough to make Mizzou a winner?

— Dan Irwin (@danirwinsports) May 6, 2014

I don't want to dodge the question, but I just don't know yet.

Maty Mauk was solid in place of James Franklin last year but only completed 51.1 percent of his passes (68-of-133). Now, he has to win without his top running back and his top three receivers from last year, including Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed in the middle of spring practice.

Head coach Gary Pinkel knows how to get the most out of his pieces on offense, but the centerpiece of that offense was supposed to be DGB. Now, it's back to the drawing board.

Because of that, I wonder what Missouri's offense will look like. Will it go back to the 2011 form when it finished ninth in the nation in rushing offense (243.46 YPG), or will Mauk air it out?

Mauk can lead Missouri back to the Georgia Dome and the SEC East title, but there is too much uncertainty in that offense right now to really have a grasp of what it will look like.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Louisville's 2014 Draft Success a Reminder Charlie Strong Will Be Fine at Texas

Charlie Strong became the head coach at Louisville in December 2009, making the class of 2010 his first half-class at the school. One of the first players he landed was a largely unknown defensive end/quarterback from Columbus, Georgia, the No. 1,146 overall recruit on the 247Sports Composite.

That defensive end—now a hybrid linebacker—was Marcus Smith, who was the AAC's top defender in 2013 and was drafted Thursday night by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 26 pick in the NFL draft.

This is what Strong does.

Smith was one of three former Louisville Cardinals drafted in the first round Thursday, joining safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18, New York Jets) and being joined later by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Minnesota Vikings).

The way these players were developed should give Texas fans hope as Strong transitions into their program's head coaching position—especially considering the staff Strong brought with him from UL.

Bridgewater was a much sought-after prospect—the type of player Texas routinely lands—but players like that don't always pan out properly. At quarterback, it seems, this is even more likely than any other position. Nuanced coaching is the key to realizing potential.

And nuanced coaching is what Bridgewater got. Strong and new Texas quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson guided Bridgewater where he needed to go, and Bridgewater clearly appreciated it:

How does this matter to Texas?

Simple. The Longhorns have a pair of talented dual-threat quarterbacks on the roster in Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. Especially in the case of Swoopes, who has not impressed to date since arriving last season, the proper development is needed.

But the talent—the raw, pliable talent—appears to be there en masse:

*Note: Swoopes was listed as an "athlete," while Bridgewater and Heard were listed as dual-threat quarterbacks.

What Strong did with Pryor was even more impressive.

Texas has fancied itself  "Defensive Back U" for the better part of the past decade, and there is no denying its claim to that title. Since the 2006 NFL draft, it has had 10 defensive backs drafted, including seven in the top 50 picks and five in the first round.

And even though we don't have the recruiting data on all of them—Rivals.com was used in this case but only stretches back to 2002—the bits we do have say Pryor was a bigger project than all of them.

Like Smith, Pryor played quarterback in high school before moving full time to defense when he got to Louisville. Strong was able to get the best out of him and teach him the proper way to play.

How?

Because Strong knows how to connect with his players. Not that Mack Brown didn't—who at UT ever disliked playing for Coach Mack?—but Strong does it in a personal, almost poetical way.

"I was Pryor," Strong said during the middle of last season, according to Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal (subscription required). "That's why I call him 'Linebacker' because I like his game. Pryor is an exciting player. I really like to watch him play."

We all do, Charlie.

And thanks in part to you, we all now get to do it on Sundays.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 RB Recruits Ready to Make Immediate Impact

The leap from high school to college football isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a rare skill set and superior strength—physical and mental. Some star prospects are suited for the sidelines as underclassmen, gradually catching up to the pace and demands of heightened competition.

Here, we focus on a collection of backs who are prepared to hit the ground running at the next level, highlighting athletes who are ready from both a physical and fundamental standpoint. Expect to hear about these rushers early in their collegiate careers.

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Michigan Player's Mom Still Thinks Her Son Was to Blame for Jadeveon Clowney Hit

It's been over a year since  Jadeveon Clowney's explosive hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, and one Michigan mom still thinks her son might be to blame.

The mother of Joe Kerridge, who was the Wolverines fullback on the play, still doubts that her son wasn't the one responsible for blocking Clowney on the play.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Irish's 5 Can't-Miss Games of 2014

After finals week ended Friday for Notre Dame students, it won’t be long before the Irish football team returns to campus in June for summer workouts.

The regular season is not far behind, and football is creeping back into the national spotlight with this weekend’s NFL draft.

Looking at Notre Dame’s 2014 schedule, there’s a strong slate of games.

Let’s spotlight Notre Dame’s five most exciting matchups in 2014. The rankings will take into account the quality of the opponent, history with the team, time and location of the game and time of the season.

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An Open Letter to Jim Tressel: Don't Close the Door on Coaching Just Yet

This is a heartfelt message to former Ohio State coach and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel. (Imagine Morgan Freeman is reading it to you. Why, you ask? Because everything sounds better—and is hopefully more convincing—when Morgan Freeman’s reading it.)

 

Dear President Jim Tressel,

Let me start by saying how weird that is to write; I'll get used to it, though.

We’ve never actually met in person, and that’s precisely why I’ve decided to reach out. Not with the hopes of meeting up—I know you’re a very busy man these days and will soon become busier—but because my fandom has company. And the coaching world still needs you.

Before I break into the begging portion of this letter—and beg I shall, unabashedly—I wanted to address some of the comments you recently made. Speaking to Karen Farkas of the Plain Dealeryou provided insight on your future and whether you planned to dabble back into the coaching world.

Your lead-in was lovely. “I did it for 38 years and enjoyed every minute of it,” you said. With your follow-up, however, you melted my smile into a cartoonish frown:

I do not wake up in the morning and say I wish I was coaching. Sometimes I read the paper and say I am glad I am not coaching. But on Saturdays or Sunday afternoons during playoff games it is exciting and I may yell ‘Call a time out!’ But I do not foresee any interest in coaching. I have got more important things to do. Not that it (coaching) is unimportant.

No need to justify your stance by defending your former occupation; you have very important matters to tend to—matters that now impact how a school is run.

As the Executive Vice President for Student Success at Akron, you made a difference in an area you know remarkably well. And now you will be able to make a difference as the President of Youngstown State University.

Youngstown has made it official that you'll be running the show, and I can't imagine what this must be like for you. Then I saw that you popped in on social media to share how you felt about the job with your many fans:

Excited about the opportunity at YSU! It’s all about student success. Going to miss all the wonderful Zips at UA.

— Jim Tressel (@JimTressel5) May 9, 2014

No, you didn’t ascend to the same role at Akron, but clearly you had other options. We here at Bleacher Report applaud your life-after-coaching rise and whatever might be ahead.

With all that said, let’s change subjects.

Please come back.

Don’t say no, at least not right now, and don’t rule out the possibility of coaching somewhere—anywhere, really—down the line. The game needs you—it misses you—and just fathoming the sweater vest being hung up for good is hard to stomach. Then again, so was your exit.

The treatment you received on the way out was nothing short of ridiculous. Given perspective and the current instability of the NCAA, it is even harder to fathom. You protected your players, and yes, you kept some really unimportant matters secret and lied to the NCAA.

You also rigged a raffle earlier in your career, but who hasn’t done that? And if every coach that kept something hidden from the NCAA were forced to retire, well, we would have no football. We also wouldn't have basketball, and the whole sham would be gone as we know it.

These were petty infractions in a system now accustomed to taking gut punch after gut punch. The fact that you still have a five-year show-cause penalty hanging over you until 2016 is incomprehensible.

I can’t blame you for wanting no part in a sport that turned its back on you. I also can’t blame you for wanting no part in a system still being “overlooked” by the NCAA. But by the time 2016 rolls around, things could look mighty different.

The NCAA will still exist, although collegiate athletics will have drastically changed. The people who oversaw and prompted your exit will likely be gone, and you will have your pick at a handful of marquee jobs. (I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, but quality jobs open up pretty much every other week.) 

More important than the nonsense that comes with this sport, however, was the experience. You loved coaching, and it’s clear you loved your players. In fact, one could argue that your protection of them led to your new life away from the field.

This love was reciprocal. The players loved you right back, and the college fan grew to appreciate your coaching style.

It wasn’t flashy—"punty" might be a better term to use—but goodness, was it effective. Your teams were deliberate and downright dominant at times, and your remarkable 229-79-2 record as a head coach speaks for itself.

As good as you are as a university employee—and as effective as you will be as a president—you will never be able to approach just how excellent you were as a head coach. That’s not a knock on your current occupational production; it’s simply pointing out that you were really, really good at your former craft.

It would be a shame to let one domino of unfortunate events derail that entirely. I don’t need a decision now, but think about it over the coming months and years. By then, "coaching" could be a foreign term for you. If that's the case, we wish you nothing but the best.

Keep us in mind, at least. The game will be waiting—with opportunities aplenty—and your services will be desired. The door is always open.

Also, have you seen some of the coaching salaries lately? You could buy a lot of quality vests and vest accessories with that.

See you soon—hopefully.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

1-on-1 with Former Alabama QB Greg McElroy on SEC Network, Title Races and More

ATLANTA — The talent roster for the SEC Network is currently being filled, and one member of the on-air team when the network launches on Aug. 14 will be a familiar face.

Greg McElroy, former Alabama quarterback and recently retired signal-caller for the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, was announced as a college football analyst for the network on March 24.

What will his new role be? How is he adjusting to his new life in front of the camera? How does he think the SEC will shake out in 2014?

Bleacher Report caught up with McElroy prior to an Alabama alumni event at Hudson Grille in midtown Atlanta.

 

Bleacher Report: How excited are you to join the SEC Network, and what do you feel will be its strong points when it launches?

Greg McElroy: I'm thrilled about it. I think the biggest attribute is really the SEC itself. The entire country will be able to look and see what goes on day to day in the SEC. On game day, they'll see the pageantry and the things that make this area great. That's going to be the most special aspect of the network. Obviously, the people who are on board are first class, and we're really looking forward to having a great start in August.

 

B/R: How much pressure were you under to make the decision to retire and move to television right now as opposed to waiting out the offseason and seeing what happens in the NFL?

GM: To an extent, it was difficult. But at the same time, I realized all of the things that the SEC Network would allow. The fact that it really is football without having to play. Everything I'm doing on a week-to-week basis in preparation is really consistent, so I feel like those things, the lessons I learned in the NFL and college, will be able to translate to what I'm doing now.

It was a difficult decision because I've played the game for so long, but once I evaluated the pros and the cons of the situation between the NFL and the SEC Network, it was really no contest. I couldn't be happier with where I'm at and the resources ESPN is putting into it, and I haven't second-guessed it or thought twice about it.

 

B/R: When you were playing, was there a point when it sort of clicked and you realized that you could have a career talking football on television for a living when you were done playing?

GM: Never really when I was playing in college, but I would say the first inkling when I thought this might be something I wanted to do long term was when I was covering the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season, when Auburn was playing Oregon in Glendale, Arizona. I was on the field and did some work with [ESPN's] Jesse Palmer, and we broke down what Auburn's defense was doing and Auburn as a team in general. Having played them just a few weeks earlier, I kind of brought an interesting perspective. 

As I'm sitting there watching the film, I'm thinking to myself, "This might be something I could do and improve at." I can't say it was something I ever considered in school, but after having that opportunity to be able to talk about the game and having played the game, it was something that just sort of came natural to me.

 

B/R: At Alabama's spring game, you got into some hot water with some Alabama fans when you talked about AJ McCarron's complacency comments on WJOX (via AL.com) and when you picked Auburn as the favorite to win the West (via AL.com). Are you prepared for everything you say being about Alabama and Auburn being scrutinized through the Iron Bowl lens?

GM: Oh, of course. That's what makes the Iron Bowl rivalry as good as any in college football. No matter what, I can't please Alabama fans and I can't please Auburn fans. If I say Auburn is going to win the SEC, then Auburn fans are going to say, "Well, he has to say that" and Alabama fans are going to say, "He's such a traitor." If I say Alabama's going to win the SEC, well then Auburn fans will say I'm a homer and Alabama fans will say, "Well, of course we are."

You can't ever win in that particular case. My job is to be honest in the way I approach it, have an unbiased opinion and tell the people what I think. If that doesn't necessarily please everybody, then that's the unfortunate reality of what I do. 

I have love for every SEC school now. I played all of them. I have been around a lot of guys who have played for those schools, and that creates a certain appreciation for what they do and how each organization operates. 

 

Kirpalani: How 4-Star DE Mekhi Brown Helped Alabama Land Epic Spring Game Recruiting Haul

 

 

B/R: What's going to be your typical week with the SEC Network during the season?

GM: I couldn't tell you any details right now of what I'm going to be doing. At this point, there's such a great lineup of cast members and analysts, I think everybody is still trying to figure out exactly what they're going to be doing. I'm excited to get going, and I know a lot of my week is going to be spent watching film and preparing, and whatever day or days I'm on television, whether that's on site or in studio, I'm going to do my best.

 

B/R: Assuming you're on site somewhere on game day, whether that's with the SEC Nation pregame show or otherwise at some point this season, what's the one thing you never got to experience as a player that you're most excited about?

GM: I never was able to go to Florida. We played there my redshirt year [2006], and I wasn't traveling at that point. I'm really looking forward to getting to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I'd also like to see The Grove at Ole Miss. From what I hear—my dad speaks highly of it and he just loves The Grove—I want to see it.

Those are the two places that I've heard a lot about and I'm really looking forward to seeing.

I've also never been to Faurot Field at Missouri. I'd like to also go see a game again at Texas A&M. I went to a game there as a kid, but it's been a while. The new schools would be nice to visit as well.

 

B/R: Speaking of Texas and you being a Texas kid growing up (Southlake-Carroll), was there anything that shocked you about the magnitude of SEC football once you came in as a player?

GM: It's interesting that you say that, because somebody asked me about that a few weeks ago. I played high school ball in Texas, which is about as big as it gets from a magnitude standpoint for a high school athlete. Coming from a big school in Texas—5A football, Friday Night Lights is very similar. It's not too far off the track. Then going to Alabama, and head coach Nick Saban is one of the most polarizing coaches in one of the biggest college programs. Then, on to New York City to play for the Jets in the biggest media market in the world. 

I've experienced three pretty unbelievable environments and been very blessed, and that's one thing I'm really grateful for. But it is kind of crazy to me to think that I've experienced football at that pinnacle in each level, and I think that's really helped me understand the game and the appreciation for the game.

 

SEC West Post-Spring Power Rankings

 

 

B/R: You said last month that Auburn is your favorite in the West, but what about the East?

GM: Still going through some film, but I think the East is wide open.

When Missouri QB Maty Mauk filled in last year when James Franklin went down, they have a lot of opportunities out there. They did lose some players on the defensive side in Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, but I think Gary Pinkel is a great football coach. He kind of changes how he coaches and treats every team differently. Most great coaches do that.

I do think, though, that the favorite in the East might be Georgia. Looking at how [quarterback] Hutson Mason played in the spring and how he looked in the spring game and the addition of [new defensive coordinator] Jeremy Pruitt and what he has coming back on that side of the ball, they're going to be good. I read a quote saying that there's not one job in that linebacker corps that's solidified, which I think is crazy. Georgia has some studs, including the first- and third-leading tacklers in the SEC (Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, respectively). And on the outside, they have Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. With the talent they have coming back and in that defense, they will be solid.

 

SEC East Post-Spring Power Rankings

 

 

B/R: Is there a player who either played well this spring or is coming in this fall who you think could emerge as a superstar in 2014?

GM: LSU running back commit Leonard Fournette, based on what I've read about that kid and watching his high school film. That kid runs hard, man. He is very talented. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is an obvious choice based on the offense that he's playing in. Another guy who I don't think gets enough credit is Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. He's outstanding. He's probably going to be a first-team All-SEC wide receiver this year. Him and [Alabama wide receiver] Amari Cooper, I would guess. The biggest development you make is between your freshman and sophomore year, and based on what they have coming back, that Ole Miss team is scary. With the amount of freshmen they had contribute last year and a senior quarterback in Bo Wallace who has improved from year to year, the sky's the limit for that team.

 

B/R: Who's the one coach in the SEC who isn't really in that top tier but may elevate himself into that discussion his year?

GM: Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, without question. He's done a great job establishing their identity. He won a crazy Egg Bowl over Ole Miss last year with the fumble at the 2-yard line. This is a big year for the Bulldogs with all that they have coming back. When I was playing, they were always one of the most physical teams. They always had a chip on their shoulder, and they were a blue-collar team. I think this could be the year for them. If quarterback Dak Prescott puts together some good games and limits their turnovers, there's no reason why they can't make a run or be contenders in the West.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.

 


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Virginia Tech Football: What the Spring Revealed About the Hokies' 2014 Offense

In Scot Loeffler’s first season in Blacksburg, the offensive coordinator could only employ a small amount of his system for the Virginia Tech football team, but the program’s recently concluded spring practice showed a lot about what he’s planning in 2014.

Last spring, Loeffler had to struggle just to find dependable receivers and understand the strengths and weaknesses of his offense.

Because the team was still breaking in new starters at all the skill positions, Loeffler was forced to build the offense around Logan Thomas, a result that created some problems.

Thomas certainly carried the offense at times with his passing and running abilities, but his inaccuracy hamstrung the unit, and the sheer volume of his work wore him down over the course of the season.

Now with talented veterans and exciting newcomers at running back, wide receiver and tight end, Loeffler can build his offense from the outside in to help his new quarterback—whomever it might be.

The 15 spring practices and spring game didn’t reveal a huge amount about how the offense will look, and the fact that the team’s quarterback remains unsettled to this day complicates things further, but the spring does offer some clues about Loeffler’s plans for 2014.

 

Running Game Emphasis

Frank Beamer’s offenses have almost always put a heavy emphasis on the running game, but Tech really struggled to run the ball last year.

The Hokies only attempted 37.9 runs per game in 2013, good for 72nd in the nation, and averaged just 119.7 yards per game, the 110th-rated mark overall.

There’s no doubt Loeffler was unhappy with this result given his proclivity for running the ball. While his unsuccessful offense at Auburn had similar troubles with the rushing attack, his offense at Temple was predicated on pounding the rock.

The Owls finished fifth in the nation in rushing attempts with 48.9 per game and seventh in the nation in yards per game with 256.38. It seems like Loeffler wants to move back in this direction with the Hokies in 2014.

The offensive line struggled in run blocking in 2013, but the line was also blocking for an inexperienced freshman in Trey Edmunds and the perpetually injured J.C. Coleman. 

But things seem to be different heading into 2014. Edmunds still put up pretty decent numbers in his time and will have another year of experience, and with Coleman healthy, the development of Joel Caleb and arrival of talented freshman Marshawn Williams, Loeffler has the tools to craft a strong running game.

He’ll be looking to take the pressure off of the team’s inexperienced quarterback, and focusing on the rushing attack is a prime way to do so.

Running backs coach Shane Beamer noted that the team plans on rotating Edmunds, Coleman and Williams as its three main backs, according to TheRoanoke Times’ Andy Bitter.

Edmunds will carry most of the load as the starter, but Coleman and Caleb can contribute on passing downs, while Williams has the power to excel in short-yardage situations.

Freshman Shai McKenzie could get in the mix as well if he’s not redshirted—he just got cleared to resume practicing after an ACL tear sidelined him for his final year of high school—and Chris Mangus will likely contribute on some outside runs and passing plays as well.

While it will be key for the offensive line to improve, and the group of four returning starters will likely help in that department, Loeffler has the runners he needs to be successful. 

Based on the spring drills, it also seems likely that the offense will feature more read-option plays next season, specifically the zone-read play.

The two main contenders for the quarterback job, redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, both have some running ability, meaning it’s a near guarantee it becomes a crucial part of the playbook. 

Motley got several chances this spring to run the option, and he ran it particularly effectively in the spring game for the lone touchdown for Joel Caleb, as the video shows.

Motley runs the inside zone read to perfection, and after a few nice moves by Caleb, it results in a long run for the score.

Loeffler ran the inverted veer quite a bit with Thomas last year, but now it seems as if he has the right personnel to add this new wrinkle as well. 

But that’s not the only innovative decision he’s making in the run game.

 

Wide Receivers on the Ground

When Edmunds broke his leg in the final game of the regular season, Loeffler had to get creative to generate any sort of running game in the Sun Bowl.

To adapt, he began using more and more jet sweeps and end arounds to get the wide receivers involved in the running game, and he had some modicum of success. Carlis Parker was the main focus of this new tactic, as he ran six times for 40 yards in the game.

With Edmunds still healing, Loeffler turned to these plays once again this spring, and it’s been similarly effective.

In the spring game alone, receivers accounted for 94 of the game’s 127 total rushing yards.

Demitri Knowles nearly broke free for a touchdown on one 50-yard run, and Parker gained 26 yards on this big play.

With Edmunds’ health and the offensive line’s play still uncertain, it seems as if Loeffler will keep turning to these plays to keep defenses off balance.

Knowles, Parker and redshirt freshman Deon Newsome all flashed impressive explosiveness this spring that prove they have the talent to add to this dimension of the offense.

Similarly, veterans like Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn are capable blockers on the perimeter, giving Loeffler the players he needs to generate some easy yards on the ground.

 

Mid-Range Passing Game 

Although the team is still struggling to develop a downfield passing game, it seems like a strength of this offense will be on short- to mid-range throws.

Even though Thomas had a big arm, he had real trouble getting the ball down the field to this group of receivers.

Knowles has always been thought of as a deep threat given his speed, but he doesn’t have the necessary physicality to fight off cornerbacks on jump balls—a trait that caused multiple interceptions last season.

Instead, the trio of Knowles, Stanford and Byrn were extremely effective on mid-range concepts that don’t stretch too far beyond the first-down marker. 

Each player seems most effective when working post routes or curl routes. Knowles averaged 13.8 yards per catch last season, while Byrn averaged an even 13 and Stanford was at 15.8. 

Similarly, tight end Kalvin Cline averaged 12.3 yards, and redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges seems like an ideal mid-range threat given his size and performance this spring. 

While Loeffler would likely love to have some kind of deep threat to attack over the top of defenses, it has to be comforting to know that he has the personnel to spread a defense out and attack with short throws.

The quarterback running the system will make all the difference. Motley flashed a decent arm in the spring, but he’d surely be better suited to working with shorter routes as he gets comfortable. 

Similarly, Brewer comes from the Texas Tech passing system, which favors short throws—the Red Raiders averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt last season, yet the offense finished second in total passing yards.

All of these things add up to point to what the Hokies will likely look like on offense next year. 

Expect a heavy focus on the running game, but that won’t only entail the running backs—the quarterbacks and receivers are bound to get involved.

But when the Hokies do pass, look for short- to mid-range throws that can move the team methodically down the field.

It’s impossible to know exactly how all this will come together until Loeffler finally selects a quarterback, but the spring gives Hokie fans a pretty good idea of what to look for in 2014.

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Georgia Football: How First-Round NFL Draft Picks Played Against Dawgs

The Georgia Bulldogs were relatively uninvolved in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, seeing as no Dawgs were selected.  That being said, there were still plenty of players of interest selected for Bulldog fans to keep an eye on.

With the SEC's strength and the success of several recent out-of-conference foes like Clemson and Michigan State, it's no surprise that a number of talented players who once faced off against the Dawgs heard their name called on Thursday night.

Here's how these first-round selections played against the Dawgs.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Jim Tressel Named President of Youngstown State University

Former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel's administrative career took another step forward Friday as he was named president of Youngstown State University.

According to The Columbus DispatchTressel was awarded the presidency after missing out on the same position at the University of Akron. Tressel previously served as executive vice president at Akron, but he is set to take on even greater responsibilities at Youngstown State pending contract finalization.

University board chair Sudershan Garg believes that Tressel has all the qualities necessary to thrive in this new role, per The Columbus Dispatch.

After fully examining each and every candidate and reviewing the input from hundreds of individuals across the campus and the community, the Board of Trustees believes Mr. Tressel is the right individual at the right time to lead Youngstown State University. Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation.

Tressel is best known for coaching Ohio State from 2001 through 2010 and leading the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002. Tressel also has a long history at Youngstown State, though.

He coached the Penguins from 1986 through 2000 and was welcomed back into the Youngstown State family by the YSU athletics Twitter account Friday:

Although Tressel had a great deal of success at Ohio State, his tenure there came to a controversial end as he resigned in 2011 in the midst of an improper benefits scandal.

Tressel served one year as a consultant with the Indianapolis Colts before taking on an administrative role at Akron.

There was some concern regarding Tressel being put in such a position after the way things unraveled at Ohio State, but Tressel has excelled by all accounts.

It has long been assumed that Tressel might eventually return to football, but he is now firmly entrenched in another level of collegiate administration.

Tressel already accomplished the ultimate goal in college football by winning a national title, which likely makes it much easier for him to leave that life behind.

From Youngstown State's perspective this seems like a great hire. Tressel has YSU roots and is well respected by those with ties to the school. In addition to that, he will help push Youngstown State to greater prominence on the national scale.

Tressel's image has seemingly been fully repaired since 2011 and this essentially completes his comeback story. Tressel did some great things at Ohio State in spite of the way things ended and there is reason to believe that he'll do the same at Youngstown State in a different capacity.

 

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