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Oregon Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Duck Taken in the 2014 NFL Draft

Four Oregon football alumni were selected in last weekend's NFL draft: two on offense, two on defense. Each of the four leaves a sizable void that head coach Mark Helfrich and staff must fill to remain in the hunt for the Pac -12 championship...

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How Georgia Will Recover from Losing CB Shaq Wiggins to Transfer

Offseason roster attrition is something most schools hope to guard against, and one potential national title contender got bitten with the transfer bug on Friday.

Georgia announced that Shaq Wiggins, a rising sophomore cornerback who started eight games last season, according to Phil Steele's start chart, will transfer to another institution.

"Shaq and I have been talking over the last few days and a fresh start is what he believes is in his best interest," head coach Mark Richt said in a release from Georgia. "We respect his decision and certainly wish him nothing but the best."

Wiggins had 19 tackles, three for a loss, four pass breakups and two interceptions last season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. In the spring game, he had two tackles and one pass breakup and looked like he was in line to be a starter for first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Where will Georgia turn?

Wiggins was the lone bright spot last season in a secondary that was high on talent but short on consistency, and joins former safety Josh Harvey-Clemons in the "unexpected departure" department.

Damian Swann will likely retain his starting job at one cornerback spot.

That may (and probably does) scare Georgia fans after Swann routinely blew coverages and arm tackles last season. The arm tackling issue may persist because Pruitt and the new staff can't coach effort, but blowing coverages is something that the new staff has made a point to fix by simplifying former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's scheme.

On the other side, Wiggins was a contender for first-team snaps despite bouncing between the first and second teams this spring. J.J. Green played running back last season, but could slide into that cornerback spot after switching positions this offseason. Sheldon Dawson, a reserve who started one game last year, could win the job. Brendan Langley can play both corner and safety, and redshirt freshman Aaron Davis could walk through that door.

The X-factor is Reggie Wilkerson.

The former 4-star prospect who enrolled in January 2013 had worked himself into the rotation last offseason, but tore his ACL last summer and missed the entire 2013 season. Now a redshirt freshman, the 5'11", 171-pounder has a chance to pick up right where he left off once fall camp starts in August.

It's never a good thing when a part-time starter leaves. But even if the writing wasn't on the wall, Georgia has recruited well in the secondary over the last few years. Pruitt's goal to simplify the defense will help the entire unit get better, and Wilkerson's return from injury gives him even more options.

Wiggins' transfer may have been a shock, but it's something that Georgia can recover from. The talent is there, and now the system will be coordinated by Pruitt, a coach who recognizes the importance of simplicity.

 

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

 


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Marcus Mariota Tops Way-Too-Early Big Board for 2015 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft is now officially behind us, and while many people will gratefully take some time off from evaluating and discussing college football prospects, for others the clock is now ticking toward the 2015 NFL draft.

For myself, full-scale evaluations won't begin until just before the 2014 college football season begins in August. But some preliminary work never hurts, and I've used it to compile my first big board for next year's draft class.

This initial list is pretty heavy with skill positions—four quarterbacks, four wide receivers and two running backs are in the top 25, and only three defensive players are in the top 10.

Remember, this is not a mock draft in any way; it is merely my own ranking of the best draft-eligible college prospects in 2015. 

 

*Indicates underclassmen

 

1. *Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota was rising very quickly up draft boards over the winter before he announced his intention to remain at Oregon. He has unbelievable athletic ability and became a better thrower and pocket passer as the year progressed. 

 

2. *Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Peat was the best offensive lineman on Stanford's outstanding line as a sophomore in 2013. He is incredibly long at 6'7" and has more than enough athleticism to be a stalwart left tackle in the NFL. Still a little bit raw, Peat can improve his draft stock immensely with a bit more development.

 

3. *Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Still a relatively unknown commodity at this point, Gregory started his college career at Arizona Western, a community college in Yuma, Arizona. Gregory was a football and basketball star in high school and showed off some unbelievable athleticism in his first year at Nebraska in 2013. His size (6'2", 235 lbs) and quickness off the edge will grab scouts' attention.

 

4. *Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

I don't think we really know what we are in for in 2014 with regards to Winston. He's a phenomenal talent, but is he NFL-ready? He makes some great plays, but does Florida State's offense cover up his weaknesses? Also, is he mature enough to handle the pressure of being a professional? Be ready for all those questions, and more, over the next 12 months.

 

5. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

This may be a lot higher than other people have Scherff, but he's a legitimate top talent at left tackle. He might be the most polished player in this entire draft class, and he will get even better after choosing to go back for his senior year at the offensive line factory that is Iowa.

 

6. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

A long, athletic, playmaking corner with a nose for the football, Ekpre-Olomu would have been a first-rounder had he come out this year. There's no doubt that he will be one of the best defensive players in the nation as a senior in 2014.

 

7. Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State

As a former defensive tackle who only converted recently to the offensive line, Erving was sensational in 2013 in only his second season as a left tackle. There's a whole lot to like about the trajectory of this prospect's career.

 

8. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson

Beasley spent 2013 terrorizing quarterbacks, and he'll only get better and stronger in 2014. His size (6'2", 235 lbs) lends itself more to playing as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL, and I think he'll spend less time with his hand in the dirt this year.

 

9. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

Ogbuehi is the big upside pick for next year's draft. He's a great pass-blocker because he has quick feet and long arms, but there's a lot of seasoning still left to be done.

 

10. *Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

People were all over the board about Hundley as a prospect over the winter, but nearly everyone was in agreement that he made a smart decision by going back to school. He's got a tantalizing combination of arm strength and athleticism, and he will push Mariota and Winston for the top quarterback spot in next year's class.

 

11. *Landon Collins, S, Alabama

Collins was almost as good as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2013, and he could easily get drafted higher than his former teammate in next year's draft. He is a strong player in both run support and pass protection.

 

12. *Nelson Agholor, WR, Southern California

Agholor is similar in some ways to Marqise Lee, who slipped to the second round of the 2014 draft, but he doesn't have the consistency issues that Lee had. He's already got big-time experience and is a smart player who does a bit of everything.

 

13. *Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

It's really difficult for me to separate Cooper and Agholor, who are both juniors with exceptional talent. Cooper may have a bit more upside, as he's a more natural athlete and can create plays after the catch.

 

14. *Leonard Williams, DE/DT, Southern California

Williams is a big run-stopper who is going to fill a 4-3 defensive tackle or 4-3 defensive end role, depending on how he develops as a junior in 2014. He's got a good mix of strength and quickness on the inside.

 

15. *Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

The monstrous Oakman will not remain in the shadows for very long. At a chiseled 6'9", he's an absolute force off the edge. After a tumultuous first few years in college, Oakman has finally settled in at Baylor and has the potential to dominate.

 

16. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami

Perryman is sort of next year's version of C.J. Mosley. He doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well, but he's very athletic and versatile on the inside and will be a solid NFL player for years.

 

17. *Dorial Green-Beckham, WR

What to do with Green-Beckham? He has all the physical ability in the world, but his recent off-field issues have put a big damper on his future after being dismissed from Missouri's team. We'll have to wait and see what happens here, but his stock has already taken a major hit.

 

18. *Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Calhoun is a freak of nature athletically. He's got good size (6'4", 257 pounds), but his quickness and bend around the edge is deadly. He needs to get a little stronger at the point of attack, but his upside is massive.

 

19. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Petty isn't quite in that elite class of quarterbacks, but he's got the arm of a gunslinger and the mentality of a game manager. This combination helps him excel in a spread offense like Baylor's, and Petty would do well to operate in a similar offense in the NFL.

 

20. *Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

If you're looking for the next Adrian Peterson in this draft, Gurley is your guy. He's 6'2" but has the quickness of a 5'9" sprinter. The only things holding him back are injury concerns.

 

21. *Hroniss Grasu, OC, Oregon

A bit of a random name to some, Grasu was one of my favorite offensive linemen for the 2014 draft before he announced that he was going to return to Oregon. He's got a warrior's mentality and battles like crazy on the interior line despite being more of an athlete than a bruiser.

 

22. La'el Collins, OT/G, LSU

Collins was a dominant run-blocker at guard in 2012, but he switched to left tackle in 2013 and was equally as good. Look for him to have another great season and be a first-round prospect next year.

 

23. *Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Waynes is a long, well-rounded cornerback who will remind a lot of people of his former teammate Darqueze Dennard on the field in 2014. Look for him to take a big step forward this year.

 

24. *T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

There have now been two straight drafts without a running back being selected in the first round, but Yeldon (along with Gurley) will look to change that in 2015. Yeldon is a very quick and feisty player who should dominate in 2014 for 'Bama.

 

25. *Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Diggs is hands-down the most explosive player in this draft. At 6'0", 195 pounds, he is bigger than guys like Tavon Austin and De'Anthony Thomas, and he's so quick and elusive that he'll draw a lot of interest as long as he produces for the Terrapins. 

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Marcus Mariota Tops Way-Too-Early Big Board for 2015 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft is now officially behind us, and while many people will gratefully take some time off from evaluating and discussing college football prospects, for others the clock is now ticking toward the 2015 NFL draft...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michigan Football: Realistic Expectations for the Wolverines' 2014 Season

Michigan slid to 7-6 last season after an abysmal 1-4 month of November that began with a crushing defeat on the road to Michigan State and ended with a loss at home to Ohio State. Michigan sat idle while its two main rivals met to decide the Big Ten Championship—clearly not what Brady Hoke had in mind when he returned to Ann Arbor to replace Rich Rodriguez.

Hoke’s teams have struggled since his initial 11-2 season and fans are getting restless for a Big Ten championship as he enters his fourth season.

Michigan faces a brutal schedule because of its alignment in the new Big Ten East Division with Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and new conference members Maryland and Rutgers.

How likely is a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game this season for Michigan?

 

Nonconference Games

Michigan starts by facing a ghost from its past. Appalachian State returns to Ann Arbor as Michigan looks to avenge its epic 2007 loss, which marked the beginning of the end for former coach Lloyd Carr.

Several seasons ago, this game might have been interesting, but the Appalachian State program is a shell of its past glory. An argument could be made that Michigan is too, but even so, there is no way the Wolverines lose this game.

Next up is a road contest with Notre Dame which marks the final meeting between these two historic programs for the foreseeable future. The key here is that Michigan travels to South Bend. Hoke’s teams have struggled on the road under his tenure, and it’s difficult to see a scenario where Michigan wins this one—not while rolling out a new offense while piecing together an offensive line.

Michigan then returns to Michigan Stadium and should roll over Miami (Ohio) and Utah as the offense jells and the quarterback situation gets settled.

 

Big Ten (First Half)

Michigan begins the Big Ten season with Minnesota at home. Expect the Gophers to make a game of it but eventually fall short. The brown jug trophy will stay in Ann Arbor.

Next up is a road game with Rutgers. Michigan often struggles on the road, but this game should be a rude welcome to the Big Ten for the Scarlet Knights. Expect east coast Michigan fans to pack the stadium as Hoke finally coaxes a stellar road performance from his team.

Michigan then returns to face Penn State for a night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines fell in overtime last season to Penn State, but there will be no such repeat this season. Michigan is money in night games at home under Hoke. No reason to expect anything different versus Penn State this year.

Because of a scheduling quirk (thanks Big Ten!), Michigan then heads on the road to face Michigan State for the second consecutive year. Both teams should be undefeated in conference play, and the winner will be the favorite to represent the division in the Big Ten championship game. Expect Michigan to compete better than last season but fall short. The combination of a road game and tough opponent proves too much for Michigan to overcome.

 

Big Ten (Second Half)

Michigan should enter the backstretch of the season 6-2, with losses to rivals Notre Dame and Michigan State. The heat will be on Hoke in Ann Arbor.

Michigan will handle Indiana for a homecoming victory that should placate the fans a bit. Then, the Wolverines travel to play Northwestern on the road for the second year in a row. Last season, Michigan barely avoided a loss to Northwestern with a desperation field goal in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. Expect Northwestern to win this year unless the team goes on strike before kickoff.

Michigan should then defeat Maryland for its final home game of the season.

Michigan ends its season with another bitter loss to Ohio State in Columbus. Another case of not being good enough to overcome a tough opponent and a hostile crowd. 

An 8-4 finish will keep Michigan from the Big Ten Championship Game and put Hoke firmly on the hot seat for the 2015 season.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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LSU Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Tiger Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

LSU was dominant in the NFL draft yet again. 

The Tigers led all colleges with nine draft picks, according to LSU Sports Information. LSU also had a few major contributors from last year's team that surprisingly went undrafted in Craig Loston and Anthony Johnson. 

Replacing a multitude of NFL-caliber players has become a yearly chore for Les Miles. But luckily enough for Miles, he has plenty of prized thoroughbreds in the stable ready to step up.

Here are the former Tigers who were drafted and the current players slotted to replace them.

 

All stats and rankings via LSU Sports Information, 247Sports, NFL.com and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.   

 

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How Different Will College Football Be as We Transition into Playoff Era?

A sensational story making the rounds last week claims that a Chinese miner was found alive after living 17 years underground following a mine collapse. He had been trapped since 1997 and subsisted on limited fresh water and whatever critters he could find to eat.

Of course, the story turned out to be a hoax, as it was propagated by a site that's the Israeli equivalent of The Onion. But let's just pretend that Mr. Cheung Wai is for real, and he's a huge college football fan (hey, it's my story now, so I'm going with this). The first thing he asks after seeing daylight is: Who won the Rose Bowl last year?

Mr. Cheung must've been utterly confused when he's told that Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, but Florida State won the national championship at the Rose Bowl. Yeah, if you've been living under a rock for the last 17 years, as Mr. Cheung did, college football has been radically different—and will be even more so starting in 2014.

The advent of the BCS was the first monumental change in the way college football's champions are decided. Though its predecessors the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance tried, it wasn't until the BCS when all traditional bowl tie-ins were loosened and all teams were free to meet for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

But the leap from the BCS to the College Football Playoff, due to debut in the 2014 season, trumps the introduction of the BCS.

After all, the BCS preserved and relied on the traditional poll system and merely made an accommodation to make the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup possible. During its 16-year run, only three times (2000, 2001 and 2003) did the BCS title game not feature the top two teams in the final regular-season polls—and none after the standings were fixed in 2004 to heavily favor the polls.

The College Football Playoff, on the other hand, will obliterate the clout of the polls, which go back to at least 1936, when the AP poll came into existence.

With the 13-member committee making the calls on not just the four-team playoff field, but also berths for the four other most lucrative bowls, the significance of the polls will be marginalized. The committee members will rely on many data sets to form their decisions, with the polls being just one of the tools. 

This setup will prompt several significant changes in college football in the coming years:

1. It will place more importance on winning the conference championship than even during the BCS era. The odds of getting a shot at the national championship for a major conference winner has just improved from (at best) 33 percent to up to 80 percent. 

2. It will force top teams in the "Group of Five" conferences to schedule up. They will need to do that not just for a slim shot at making the playoff field, but also jockey to be the team to claim the only guaranteed spot for non-power-conference teams in the CFP bowl games.

3. Depending on how the committee behaves this season, it may even force top teams in power conferences to beef up their own schedules. After all, one major champion will still be left out every year, and the key factor most likely will be strength of schedule. 

4. The PR games of lobbying will continue, but will probably not be as intense as they've been in the BCS era. Instead of trying to sway some 170 voters, there are only 13 people who are theoretically more informed, more savvy and have more data at their disposal. This will lessen the influence of talking heads of TV networks, particularly ESPN and also CBS.

But as Mr. Cheung settles into his comfy chair and knocks back his first cold brew in 17 years, he'll know just as much as we do about how the selection committee will go about its business. Such is the brave new world of college football.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Former Tide QB AJ McCarron Says He 'Wasn't Healthy at Alabama'

After claiming throughout the predraft process that he would be a first- or second-round pick, former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was rightfully shocked to hear his name called in the fifth round of the NFL draft, when he was selected No. 164 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.

In trying to reconcile why he fell—why his two national championships as a starter did not equal a higher selection—McCarron went on SiriusXM NFL Radio this weekend and explained that, unbeknownst to most, he was injured for much of his time at Alabama.

Here is a short transcription of what he said, per NFL.com:

A lot of people don't realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama. I sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university; I played through a lot of injuries and we never leaked it because that's just the way it is. I just always tried to fight through for my teammates, my team and the University of Alabama but as of now I'm just excited to get to work with coach (Ken) Zampese and learn under Andy Dalton.

It's been a weird week for McCarron, who was hitherto known as a humble, consummate leader. In some circles, he maintains that reputation. Off-field matters and intangibles were supposed to help his draft stock more than they hurt it.

But ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that McCarron "rubbed (teams) the wrong way" during the interview process, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com, and these most recent comments have been likewise taken the wrong way by the public.

Enough so that McCarron went on a tirade of sorts on Twitter:

Part of what McCarron is saying makes sense.

It didn't seem, to me, like he was throwing anybody under the bus at Alabama. He wasn't saying Saban forced him to play through injuries or that he wasn't happy to do it. He was, and it worked well.

What he was doing was offering a defense for why his tape might not be as good as he thought it was—why his stock slipped all the way down to the fifth round. But in some ways, that might be even worse. The way he said it, it came off more like an excuse than a defense.

And no one likes a quarterback who makes excuses.

Which led Mark Ennis of SB Nation to tweet the following:

Agreed. Perhaps he should try to keep a lower profile.

But with a televised wedding to WAG-turned-celebrity Katherine Webb in the works, that might be easier said than done.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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What Would Happen If the SEC Held a Football Draft?

There were numerous surprises surrounding the 2014 NFL draft, which unfolded over three days in New York City last weekend, but one thing was completely unsurprising: The SEC’s draft dominance.

From South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as the No. 1 overall selection to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam at No. 249, 49 SEC players heard their names called by NFL teams, seven more than the ACC.

Although the league’s seven-year BCS national title streak was snapped by Florida State in January, the SEC remains the nation’s most dominant football conference. It got us thinking: What would happen if the SEC’s best talent was redistributed via a draft?

How would such a process work? Like the NFL, we’d go worst-to-first, with Kentucky getting the first selection and SEC champion Auburn taking the No. 14 pick.

Let’s assume that the player would be an upgrade for the team, and to make it even more interesting, let’s say that a head coach can not select one of his own current players.

Here’s what would happen, in one observer’s eyes, if the SEC held a football draft.

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Notre Dame: Breaking Down Where Ben Koyack Landed on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Boards

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When the NFL draft ended Saturday night after seven rounds, Notre Dame football was in elite company.

Notre Dame’s eight draftees were tied with Alabama and second only to LSU for the most over the weekend.

The deep draft success marked the most Irish players drafted in one year during the Brian Kelly era. The previous high was six in 2013.

While Notre Dame’s overall presence at the draft was somewhat newfound and noteworthy relative to the last few years, the school continued an equally noteworthy performance in another area—but one that has come to be expected over the years.

When the Arizona Cardinals selected Troy Niklas with the 52nd pick, the school noted that Niklas became Notre Dame’s fifth consecutive starting tight end to be drafted in the first two rounds.

Such recent success, coupled with the long-term history—Niklas became the 12th tight end in program history to be chosen in the first or second round—has earned Notre Dame the nickname “Tight End U.”

5th TE in last 10 years at University of ND drafted in 1st or 2nd round ND is TE U!!

— Scott Booker (@CoachSBooker) May 10, 2014

So with Niklas gone, will Irish senior tight end Ben Koyack be next?

So Ben Koyack can pretty much bank on going in the second round next year, right?

— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) May 10, 2014

It’s early, but let’s check in on some 2015 rankings and mock drafts and evaluate Koyack’s prospects.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Paying CFB Players Should Reduce Number of Underclassmen Declaring for NFL Draft

This year's magic number was 36. 

That's the number of underclassmen who weren't selected in this year's NFL draft. In all, 98 underclassmen declared this past January, meaning roughly 37 percent went undrafted. 

The reality of the numbers and percentages becomes more sobering by the year. It'd be great if every player who entered the draft—early or not—was able to realize their dream of playing in the pros. Watching the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Michael Sam break down into tears of raw emotion is part of what makes the draft—and its unnecessarily long gap from the end of the NFL season—worthwhile. 

But, that's not the nature of the draft. There's going to be an equally heavy dose of disappointment for those underclassmen who didn't hear their name called. 

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay thinks media plays a role in players making ill-advised decisions to declare early: 

In response, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote on Sunday that draft experts actually share a responsibility in the increasing number of undrafted underclassmen.

While crafting mock drafts several months to a year in advance may contribute to the trend, so does bad advice. That can come from family or friends, social media or the NFL Draft Advisory Board. 

B/R's NFL Lead Writer Michael Schottey explains:

In any case, Alabama head coach Nick Saban believes the trend is bad for both the NFL and college football. 

"I don't think the NFL really wants this, I don't really think the colleges want this," Saban said via AL.com. "I don't think it's in the best interest of the players and I don't know what the solution to the problem really is."

The solution itself is hard to find, but ultimately, the decision comes down to dollars and value. There's no reason for a draft-eligible underclassmen not to at least consider jumping to the pros, no matter where he might land—if he lands anywhere at all.  

B/R's Adam Kramer wrote in January that declaring for the NFL draft early is one of the safest risks a player can make: 

It’s easy to assume that those who weren’t drafted made a mistake. Then again, many of these players will latch onto NFL teams and eventually make rosters. For perspective of what this means, the rookie minimum in 2013 was a cool $405,000. 

Think of your post-graduation salary for a moment and process this "disappointment." And was your education paid for—or almost completely paid for—to start?

A quick glance over the list of top undrafted free agents, courtesy of Gil Brandt of NFL.com, boasts plenty of recognizable names: Florida State running back James Wilder Jr., Oklahoma State wide receiver Josh Stewart, Florida defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy and Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla. 

Remember all of those guys? Many weren't drafted for reasons unique to them, whether it was off-the-field issues, injuries or simply because they hit their football ceiling. 

Sometimes, the reasons are even more personal. Texas linebacker Dalton Santos recently took to Twitter to ask for donations, which is allowed under NCAA bylaws, for his mother's open-heart surgery. If a player is draft eligible and his mother is sick, the chance to land a six-figure salary that would pay for medical bills is tempting. 

Almost all of the players on the aforementioned NFL.com list have already signed with teams as undrafted free agents. Perhaps, they'll make the team and the league minimum. 

Suddenly, the bad advice doesn't look so bad. The mistake doesn't look so costly. 

Since NFL teams can draft or pass over any player they want while keeping their hands clean, there's no incentive to make life better for players at the collegiate level. And since the NCAA does not allow athletes who declare early to return and finish out their eligibility, they're left to figure out what to do next. 

One option would be for the NCAA to allow undrafted athletes to return to school, but that requires loosening either scholarship caps or transfer restrictions—or both. 

But if the NCAA paid all of its football players an additional stipend and/or allowed them to profit from their likeness, the value of staying in college football would go up.

Would it prevent all underclassmen from declaring early? No, because a possible six-figure salary is still six figures, but the risk/reward balance shifts. 

This isn't a proposal that affects only the football players in the so-called "Power 5" conferences. This applies to every level of college football that offers a scholarship. 

How does the NCAA make it work? There's no easy answer—certainly nothing easy enough to be explained here. 

It's up to the schools, and their highly educated administrators, to figure it out. After all, the NCAA membership's willingness to act as a de facto D-League for the NFL while refusing to alter the status quo is why this issue exists in the first place. 

 

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

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Former 4-Star OT Austin Golson Transferring from Ole Miss to Auburn

Sophomore offensive lineman Austin Golson, who played guard for Ole Miss last season and was projected to start at tackle in 2014, will officially transfer to Auburn as a walk-on.

Golson is from Prattville, Alabama and has hinted at the move throughout the winter in order to be closer to his sick grandparents. Though there has been no official word from Auburn, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the following in a statement, according to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports:

"Austin Golson has informed us he has decided to move closer to his family and is choosing to walk on at Auburn, following normal transfer rules. We wish him the very best."

Golson didn't start as a true freshman last year, but he appeared in all 12 games as a reserve. According to Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledgerhe left the Grove Bowl (Ole Miss' spring game) atop the depth chart at right tackle, although JUCO signee Fahn Cooper was expected to push him for the position during fall camp.

Without Golson, Cooper is the favorite to start opposite sophomore left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Kellenberger also suggests that Golson could apply for a hardship waiver and be eligible to play in 2014, although it is more likely that he has to sit out a year, per NCAA transfer rules. In that case, he would have to pay his own way as a walk-on before joining the team in 2015, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

It is hard to fault Golson for wanting to be near sick family members. If that is indeed the primary motivation for his transfer, there is no controversy. However, Steven Godfrey of SB Nation—the writer of "Meet the Bag Man," who has a pretty good grasp on the shady side of southeastern recruiting—is a skeptic of Golson's story:

Regardless of whom and what you believe, Golson will be joining the Auburn football program and should do well in Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee's offense, which makes good use of versatile blockers.

Golson was the No. 10 offensive tackle and No. 94 overall player on the 247Sports composite in 2013.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Rutgers QB Philip Nelson Arrested: Latest Details, Comments on Alleged Assault

Rutgers quarterback Philip Nelson, who transferred from Minnesota in January, allegedly assaulted a man who is now fighting to stay alive from head injuries sustained in the attack. According to Dan Duggan of NJ.com, Nelson was arrested early Sunday morning in Mankato, Minnesota, and booked into Blue Earth County Jail.

Duggan then reported Monday that the victim, a former linebacker for Minnesota State-Mankato by the name of Isaac Kolstad, 24, is in critical condition at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. Kolstad's father, Blaine Kolstad, provided an update on his son's condition, per CaringBridge.org:

Isaac suffered a severe head injury early this morning. He is currently in Critical condition and fighting for his life. He is young and strong, but the battle he has in front of him is enormous. He had one surgery today to put a pressure gauge in his skull. He may need additional surgeries in the coming days. We do know that his brain did sustain permanent damage. We do not yet know to what extent and won't for many days. He is very sick. Please pray for Isaac and all of those involved.

Seth Kaplan of MyFox9.com tweeted Nelson's mugshot and a rundown of what he faces moving forward:

"We are in the process of gathering information on the situation and reserve comment until the legal process is complete," said Rutgers athletic department spokesman Jason Baum on Sunday, per Duggan.

Nelson, 20, who is from Mankato, allegedly kicked Isaac Kolstad twice in the head and knocked him unconscious. While he could be facing felony third-degree assault charges, he was also charged with underage alcohol consumption.

Police believe there may have been another man involved in the attack on Kolstad.

Nelson started his collegiate career at Minnesota and logged 16 starts in two seasons, establishing himself as a capable runner and thrower for the Golden Gophers. However, he decided to transfer to Rutgers in January and figured to be the top signal-caller for the Scarlet Knights in 2015 after sitting out next season due to transfer rules. Now, Nelson will likely be away from the gridiron for much longer—perhaps for good.

More importantly, the hope is that Kolstad, who graduated in December, recovers from his critical injuries. 

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Star QBs Falling in the NFL Draft Shouldn't Reflect Negatively on SEC Football

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel waited around in the green room at the NFL draft a little longer than he anticipated, before he was selected No. 22 by the Cleveland Browns.

Not ideal for "Johnny Football," but first-round money is still first-round money.

For other former star quarterbacks in the SEC, the draft was more of a test of patience than the world's most famous job fair.

Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger each had to wait until Day 3 to hear their names called, despite having resumes loaded with wins and video game statistics in college football's toughest conference.

McCarron, who was selected in the fifth round (pick No. 164) by the Cincinnati Bengals, attempted to justify his fall on SiriusXM's NFL Radio by saying he wasn't healthy, according to SportingNews.com.

"A lot of people don't realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama," he said. "I sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university; I played through a lot of injuries and we never leaked it because that's just the way it is."

Both Mettenberger (Round 6, pick No. 168 to the Tennessee Titans) and Murray (Round 5, pick No. 163 to the Kansas City Chiefs) are coming off of ACL injuries suffered late during their senior seasons, and Mettenberger had his NFL combine drug test flagged due to a diluted sample, according to ESPN.com.

Do any of those reasons justify the Arizona Cardinals taking Logan Thomas (Round 4, pick No. 120) and the Houston Texans taking Tom Savage (Round 4, pick No. 135) ahead of the three former SEC stars?

No. 

NFL scouts routinely outthink the room and put an inordinate amount of stock in potential and measurables over game tape, for some inexplicable reason.

Apparently the game tape for Thomas was somehow absent from the film rooms of NFL scouts during the predraft process, because that's inexcusable. There's no way on this planet—or any planet—Thomas is a better quarterback than any of those three former SEC stars, even with the perception of upside that was also prevalent throughout his Virginia Tech career.

Because NFL scouts try to outthink the room and value upside over results, the fall of Murray, McCarron and Mettenberger shouldn't reflect negatively on the SEC or their respective college programs.

Besides, it's not like being selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft is a big problem. Everybody knows about Tom Brady's story, going from the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft by the New England Patriots to a surefire NFL Hall of Famer. 

That, of course, is the exception not the rule.

But the three former pro-style SEC quarterbacks have the chance. Every college football player signs on the dotted line out of high school with NFL superstardom in mind, but what they want more than anything else is a chance.

Murray, McCarron and Mettenberger now have that chance.

Don't blame the SEC or their schools for the fall of these three quarterbacks. Their goals are still very much intact, just with a slightly different path than they initially envisioned.

Blame the process. 

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted

 


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Should the Big Ten Be Worried About Its Lack of Top-10 Draft Picks?

It isn’t unusual, and perhaps the acceptance is what’s most concerning.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Big Ten was absent from the top 10 in the NFL draft, as noted by FoxSports’ Bruce Feldman.

After producing 10 Top-10 picks from 2003-08, the Big Ten has now gone six years without a Top-10 pick.

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 9, 2014

Before diving any deeper, it’s only fair to acknowledge a few noteworthy bullet points. The first being that former Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan was selected at No. 11 in the 2014 draft by the Titans, just outside the top 10.

It’s also worth noting that the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NFL draft was none other than former Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. The Texans were thrilled to see the Big Ten’s streak continue on because they landed one of the NFL’s top defenders along the way. 

There are always exceptions, and assuming the Big Ten has struggled to produce quality NFL talent over the past six seasons is false. It has. Not everyone has been J.J. Watt in terms of production, but the conference has delivered players at various positions who have turned into solid NFL pros.

With those disclaimers out in the open, the Big Ten’s lack of talent near the top of these drafts is alarming. It’s not one year, or three years, it’s six years: one-and-a-half graduation cycles.

Given recent trends in the recruiting world, it’s also not really hard to believe.

While the Big Ten has been absent from the top 10 in the NFL draft over the past six years, the SEC—the nation’s premier recruiter and developer of talent at the moment—has heard its name called 24 times.

Beyond simply having a presence near the top when it comes to the NFL draft, the Big Ten’s overall presence compared to the SEC delivers a similar discrepancy.

In the past six years, the Big Ten has produced 22 first-round draft picks. In that time span, the SEC has produced 58 first-round picks (including 23 in the past two years alone).

Things don’t just miraculously end up this way. The scouting process and overall evaluation of talent has improved from the NFL level down. It’s still incredibly difficult to project players—especially when it comes to quarterbacks—but it’s light years ahead of where it used to be a decade ago.

This leads us to recruiting, the long corridor to the NFL draft. The process of projecting the nation’s elite high school players to the next level begins here. And like NFL scouting, the results are mixed. 

Not every 5-star player turns out to be a first-round pick. Along those same lines, not every 2-star player pans out to be a lifelong backup. There are outliers, irregularities and situations that arise that serve as lessons going forward.

For proof of this, look at the paths of former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and former Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Each went in the top five of this year’s draft, and each had unique recruiting expectations.

Clowney was the consensus No. 1 overall player according to 247Sports (and everyone else) in 2011, while Mack was a 2-star talent and the No. 2,212 rated player, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings.

Things happen, players develop at different rates and the recruiting world is deemed imperfect plenty. But overall, landing more 4- and 5-star players will lead to bigger, faster and better overall teams. That’s not rocket science; it’s simply connecting the most recent dots.

Since 2009, the Big Ten has not been a regular in 247Sports’ overall team rankings. The SEC, the nation’s premier recruiting fixture by a significant margin, has only increased its presence.

Notice anything similar? You should. The differences between the two conferences in both the recruiting and first-round draft world follow a similar path. As has been the theme during the exercise, there's also nothing about this latest chart that should surprise.

The staples for the Big Ten on the recruiting front are obvious: Ohio State and Michigan have each done their part when it comes to recruiting. Penn State, off to a blazing start with its 2015 class, could enter this conversation under James Franklin in years to come.

There have been fantastic college players to go through the conference and teams—such as Michigan State just this past season—that were developed better than just about every other program in the country.

Overall, however, the sheer depth of talent simply has not been present. And that’s where the NFL draft concerns and lack of top-10 draft picks begin to become a factor.

As is, the Big Ten gets a bum rap. Some of this is deserved. Some of it is not. 

There’s no question that the teams in the conference can recruit better. In fact, they have to recruit better in order to rid themselves of the endless stream of ridicule. Such criticisms become deafening during events such as national signing day, the NFL draft and, most importantly, the national championship.

That’s where the NFL draft drought comes full circle. Forget about what NFL scouts believe in terms of projections. How are the players producing at the college level? In recent years, with the national championship out of reach, the answer has been obvious. 

Sending one player in the top 10 of the 2015 draft won’t suddenly change that for the B1G, but there is an obvious correlation. The streak speaks volumes to the bigger problem at hand.

If the Big Ten can recruit better, it will field more quality teams from the top down. And if it can grab more quality players—4- and 5-star high schoolers with glowing physical ability—the likelihood of some of these players being taken early on the draft will increase. 

It's not a perfect equation, but as the SEC has shown, it comes together plenty. It's on the Big Ten schools beyond the national staples to help change that. Although that's easier said than done.

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Jameis Winston's Father Wants FSU to Have Somebody Around His Son 24/7

Jameis Winston is about to start his third year of college and his second year as an active member of the Florida State football team. By now, one would think he has the autonomy to handle being alone and making responsible decisions.

But after winning the Heisman trophy as a redshirt freshman last season, everything changed. At least according to his father, Antonor Winston, who told Rachel Axon of USA Today that he thinks FSU should have someone with his son at all times to keep him out of trouble.

"He's supposed to have somebody around him 24/7," said Antonor Winston specifically. "He a Heisman Trophy winner so (he's) definitely not supposed to be by (himself)."

This comes on the heels of Winston's most recent transgression: a citation for stealing crab legs from a supermarket, according to Bud Elliot of Tomahawk Nation. More importantly, it also comes on the heels of last year's "Summer of Johnny," when Johnny Manziel transformed from Heisman trophy winner to Internet celebrity and couldn't keep his name out of the news for the wrong reasons.

Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox responded to Winston's father with the following statement, per Axon:

We are committed to doing everything in our power within NCAA rules to provide Jameis Winston with the resources he needs to thrive as a student and an athlete. We will continue to work with Jameis and his family to make them aware of all the support services the university has to offer.

Winston, of course, was also subject to a high-profile sexual assault investigation last fall, and even though he was ultimately not charged in that case, it was a far more serious offense than stealing crab legs.

For all the good he did on the field last season—going undefeated and winning a national championship along with the sport's top individual honor—he has seen little but bad press this winter and spring.

Perhaps the school and Winston's family should be doing more to shield him from becoming the next "Johnny Football," but at the end of the day, he is a person responsible for his own behavior.

So writes Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk:

USA Today frames the story centering on the interview with Winston’s father as though Winston was failed by his family and Florida State. There may be a small bit of truth somewhere in that angle, but even at the age of 20 years old, Winston is the first person who will be held accountable for his actions, both good and bad. What he does with the spotlight will go far in establishing his future NFL stock as well.

With regard to that NFL stock, Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of SI.com and Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report have quoted pro scouts who do not look fondly on Winston after his off-field troubles.

We'll see if he can redeem it in the next 12 months.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Georgia Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Bulldog Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft was rather uneventful for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Thursday night's first round went off without a hitch and without a Bulldog.  Friday's second- and third-round action was also devoid of Georgia products.  It wasn't until the fifth round that the first Dawg had his name called, and when all was said and done, only two Dawgs were selected.

That being said, several other former Bulldogs have already signed free-agent contracts, and if recent history is any indication, those players have a tremendous chance of making an NFL roster.  Last year alone, three undrafted Dawgs (Marlon Brown, Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones) survived NFL cuts to garner meaningful rookie playing time.

Here is a look at who will replace Georgia's drafted stars and newly signed rookie free agents.

Begin Slideshow

8 Drafted Players Who Will Be Hardest for College Teams to Replace in 2014

Being a college football fan is a lot like having a wartime romance, you fall in love knowing that it’s a short-term proposition.

You watch a young guy develop into a prolific running back, scoring glorious touchdowns clad in your team colors, all the while aware that the relationship has a definite shelf life of two to four years.

As much as it feels so right when he’s in the lineup, when it’s over, it hurts so bad.

Though all 256 players selected in the NFL draft will be missed by their college programs, some losses will be more painful to the fanbase and the scoreboard than others.

 

 Statistics courtesy of CFB Stats.

Begin Slideshow

Predicting Preseason AP Top 25 Poll for 2014 College Football Season

Spring practice is in the books, and before you know it players will be going through summer offseason conditioning and preparing for fall camp.

That means preseason polls aren't too far around the corner. So to prepare you for them, let's take a shot at projecting what the preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll will look like when it's released this August.

The usual suspects will be at or near the top, including Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Oregon and Oklahoma. But where will they land, who will bring up the rear and who will be left out entirely?

Our projections are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: How Dontre Wilson Can Go from Decoy to Percy Harvin 2.0

When Dontre Wilson flipped his commitment from Oregon to Ohio State in February of 2013, the comparisons to Percy Harvin were instantaneous. 

That's the life of an all-purpose back who decides to play for Urban Meyer. Regardless of talent or ability, there will always be an enormous and inescapable Harvin-shaped shadow overhead.

For Wilson, that shadow looms large as the 2014 season approaches.

With the loss of its leading rusher (Carlos Hyde) and leading receiver (Corey Brown), Ohio State needs a playmaker to step up. Now that spring practice is in the books, Meyer has narrowed in on Wilson, who was named the starting H-back (known as the "Percy Harvin position") for the Buckeyes this year.

What will Wilson's new role look like? How will it differ from last year? 

Before those questions can be answered, here's a brief overview of both players. 

 

If You Can't Do Something Fast, You Can't Do Anything at All

One of Harvin's greatest strengths was one of the easiest to identify when he took the field: speed. 

Harvin operated at a different speed during his time at Florida. The game looked effortless because he was simply faster than everyone, and he paired that with an incredible agility, skill and general awareness that made him a nightmare to defend. 

Wilson has the speed and ability to thrive, but a lack of familiarity with Meyer's playbook prevented him from producing like Harvin did during his freshman season.

Of course, the Gators didn't have a running back like Hyde on their roster during Harvin's first season, so Meyer relied more heavily on him as a playmaker.

That still doesn't excuse Wilson's shortcomings, however. Midway through the 2013 season, Meyer referred to Wilson as a "novelty," which ultimately led to him playing the role of a decoy in Ohio State's offense.

That won't be the case in 2014 for two reasons: Wilson has made huge strides this offseason, and Ohio State desperately needs him to contribute in a much bigger capacity. 

 

The Key Plays

With Harvin sharing a backfield with quarterback Tim Tebow, a simple motion/counter play was devastatingly effective.

Harvin would motion into the backfield from the slot, oftentimes opposite Tebow and another running back, to keep the defense off-balance.

Ohio State implemented similar principles for Wilson last year, but the main goal was rarely to get the ball in his hands. Braxton Miller and Hyde got an overwhelming majority of those touches—as mentioned earlier, Wilson's primary objective was to distract the defense.

When Wilson went in motion, he'd essentially take primary defenders away from the real action designed for Miller in the passing game or for Hyde on the ground.

As shown in the graphic above, even the threat of Wilson getting the ball took two defenders (at the top of the screen) out of the play, and the third defender (at the bottom) was a step behind his man.

The ball fake to Wilson created a number of mismatches down the field. On this play, Miller found Evan Spencer down the seem at the 1-yard line with a perfectly placed pass.

But with Wilson now expected to be a focal point of Ohio State's offense, his presence won't just be a smokescreen. The Buckeyes can open up the playbook and find creative ways such as this to get him the ball.

That play, which was one of Wilson's three touchdowns last season, will be used a lot in 2014. Whether he lines up in the backfield or motions across the field pre-snap, the Buckeyes will be making a concerted effort to get him the ball on the perimeter.

From there, his speed will take over.

Harvin had a lot of success with the interior counter play because he was a more durable all-purpose back. Wilson isn't as sturdy, and because of that, Ohio State will look to get him in space on the edges.

Like Harvin's freshman season, Meyer will need to lean on Wilson as a playmaker. According to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, the Buckeyes' blazer is ready to shed his decoy role for something bigger:

I just didn’t feel like I was that involved. Basically most of the plays I was pretty much just faking and fly sweeping and the defense would bite and we would throw it downfield. So yeah, I felt like a decoy. But now, things have changed, so now I’m getting my chance and I’m making the best of it.

If that's true, Wilson will have the opportunity to turn his Harvin-like comparisons into Harvin-like production.

 

All recruiting information via 247 Sports.

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

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