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What Are QB Kenny Hill's Chances of Starting at TCU in 2016?

Has TCU found its successor to Trevone Boykin? Former Texas A&M starting quarterback Kenny Hill certainly hopes so. 

Hill confirmed with Travis Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram what had been speculated for months: that he would be transferring to the Horned Frogs. Hill told Brown that he will enroll on June 1 ("two Mondays from now" he said to Brown). He will sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining in 2016.

That would seem to perfectly set up his own run at the starting quarterback spot since Boykin will be a redshirt senior this season. Will it work out that smoothly? We'll find out in a year or so, but Hill will have the time to learn and the resources available to be successful. 

Put another way, you have to like Hill's chances of earning the starting job next year. He'll be in the right environment to succeed, it'll be a matter of whether he wants to or not. 

It starts with the fact that he'll be under the guidance of co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. It's been well-documented what both of those guys have done for the Frogs offensively. In 2013, TCU ranked at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in every major statistical offensive category. Last season, the first with Cumbie and Meacham, TCU averaged nearly 200 more yards per game and 21 more points per game. Only Baylor had more points per game nationally (48.2 to 46.5). 

The improvement was visible across all positions, but the most dramatic difference was with Boykin. This was a guy who seemed bound for a position change. Under Cumbie's guidance, however, he morphed into a one-man offensive show, accounting for 354.5 yards per game—best in the Big 12—and 42 total touchdowns. 

The best part is, as Chris Brown of Grantland notes, Boykin can be even better this year: 

Hill is a big-time talent and further along as a passer now than Boykin was at the end of the 2013 season. The A&M transfer will have the benefit of learning under Cumbie and Meacham for a year without having to worry about game action. It's his "internship" so to speak. Assuming no one scoops up Cumbie and/or Meacham in the next two years for a head coaching gig—that could be a big assumption—Hill could have as many as three years as their pupil. 

Of course, three other quarterbacks—Grayson Muehlstein, Foster Sawyer and Zach Allen—are being coached by Cumbie as well. The difference is Hill has starting experience in an Air Raid-based offense under his belt. Unless Boykin gets hurt and someone successfully steps in to replace him, the quarterback competition should be wide-open in '16.  

Everything sets up advantageously for Hill, but there's also a certain amount of responsibility that falls on him as well. Hill got off to a hot start last season by throwing for more than 500 yards in the season opener against South Carolina.

However, things began going south five games later in a loss to Mississippi State in which he threw three interceptions. Two games later in a shutout loss to Alabama, Hill was benched in favor of freshman Kyle Allen. Shortly thereafter, he was suspended two games for violating team rules. He was also hit with a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in March of 2014. 

Those are learning experiences for Hill. A change of scenery can sometimes be just what a player needs to start over. In his first season, he won't have to worry about playing, only about understanding the playbook, developing chemistry with new teammates and getting better. Nothing will be rushed. 

Hill isn't guaranteed the starting job in 2016. Head coach Gary Patterson just doesn't work that way. Plus, there's not an immediate need at quarterback. Hill will have the chance to come in and compete for the job in 2016. If he does all the right things, he has the talent to take the field in purple next year. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Building College Football's Ultimate Secondary

As college football has become a more pass-heavy game, with quarterbacks constantly stretching the field and going vertical on offense, having talented players in the defensive secondary has become increasingly important. 

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joins Stephen Nelson to build college football's ultimate secondary.

Who is on your ultimate secondary? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Toughest College Football Stadiums to Play In

In college football, no road game is easy. When you take your team on the road, you run into a number of factors, from unfamiliar locker rooms to hostile fans to stadiums that keep the noise hovering low over the field, making on-field communication nearly impossible.

However, a few stadiums stand out as places where a victory should truly be treasured, where overcoming the odds, the noise and the fans rising against you is really special. They’re the toughest places to play in college football. Here’s a look at the 10 toughest stadiums for visiting teams.

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Odds on Where 4-Star Tight End Naseir Upshur Lands at Next Level

Naseir Upshur, a 4-star tight end, per 247Sports, has not yet decided on where he will play his college ball. With several offers on the table, he has a tough decision ahead of him. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as he handicapped just where Upshur could land at the next level. 

Who is the favorite to land this 4-star stud? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jordan Elliott Tweets Top 8: Which Schools Hold Edge in Race for 4-Star DT?

Dominant defensive lineman Jordan Elliott is among the top 2016 college football prospects in Texas, commanding nearly 40 scholarship offers.

The 6'4", 305-pound tackle inched closer toward a commitment Thursday evening when he shared a top-eight list on Twitter:

Elliott, a 4-star recruit from Westside High School in Houston, remains open to attending universities across America. His collection of favorites features teams from five different conferences. He didn't order programs by preference, so we're left to wonder which schools truly sit atop this list.

Rated 12th nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Elliott exhibits college-ready size and skills. He tallied 78 tackles—31 for loss—and 12 sacks as a junior.

His latest recruitment update comes one month after he unveiled a list of 10 favorites. There was significant turnover in that top group, with Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Baylor and Oklahoma missing the cut this time around.

Elliott added Georgia, LSU and Utah into the mix. 

Elliott initially pledged to Baylor. He backed off that commitment in early April after spending two months in the Bears class.

His chances of still ending up in the Lone Star State appear strong. Texas, in particular, is viewed as a slight favorite among recruiting analysts.

The Longhorns hold 58 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, doubling up USC (25 percent). Head coach Charlie Strong is rooted on defense and made some in-state splashes on that side of the ball during an up-and-down 2015 recruiting cycle, headlined by 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson.

Texas didn't extend an offer until late February, but strong momentum didn't really start building in this recruitment until around that time.

Houston, the lone non-Power Five program on this list, is certainly a wild card to land the local standout. The Cougars sent a strong message Thursday night by securing a commitment from top-rated Texas defender Ed Oliver.

The 5-star defensive tackle opted to stay put in his hometown despite an offer list that largely mirrors Elliott's scholarship sheet. Houston's staff aims to pair the powerful interior linemen together, and clearly the Cougars are in a better position with Elliott at the moment than Texas A&M and Baylor.

When we look beyond Texas, USC seems to be Elliott's most likely landing spot. The Trojans offered last month and are a borderline dream school for the coveted defender, who grew up rooting for the team.

USC reached into Texas last signing day for prized running backs Ronald Jones and Aca'Cedric Ware.

Alabama is also worth keeping a close eye on as the presumptive SEC favorite after offering in February. Elliott is slated to spend time in Tuscaloosa next month, per Wescott Eberts of SBNation.

Considering the seismic changes that altered his list this spring during the course of four weeks, it's difficult to read too much into the finality of Elliott's latest favorites. This situation is fluid to say the least, but our latest glimpse into his recruitment gives us another opportunity to see where things stand with teams in Texas and beyond.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Volunteers' 2015 Offseason Checklist

The steady trickle of Tennessee football-related information coming out of Knoxville—and everywhere else, for that matter—has slowed to a stop in time for the warm weather months.

It's that time of year when you start counting down the days until SEC media days usher in the news again.

Unless you're really into recruiting or have been following the Everett Golson sweepstakes, you're itching for information that's difficult to come by. But football never stops.

That's the case in Knoxville, as a few of the players stuck around in Knoxville for mini-term and others are dispersed throughout the nation for a bit before mandatory workouts bring them back. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, for instance, is serving a monthlong internship in Florida.

Once he returns, he'll have several offseason goals to reach before practice begins. The Vols have several of their own to live up to the massive expectations placed on the program entering the 2015 season.

Coach Butch Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown last week that rather than puff out their chests at all the hype, the Vols have gotten to work:

We do have a lot of positive momentum, and I think our players have fed off that. They've been extremely focused. Their capacity for work, their mental effort, their mental intensity, I thought they brought it each and every day.

That's what you want. You want the expectations, because this is a very proud football program. But we also understand we have a long, long ways to go in the development of our program.

So, to kick off a time of year when baseball and beaches are the "in" things, let's take a look at the Vols' offseason checklist.

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Who Will Be Ohio State's Secret Weapon in 2015?

Fresh off their national championship victory, the Ohio State Buckeyes seem to stay in the headlines. From their trio of star quarterbacks to their ferocious defensive line, most of these players are household names. 

But who on this roster could be Urban Meyer's secret weapon in 2015?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joins Stephen Nelson to reveal his secret weapon for the Buckeyes in the video above.

Will Parris Campbell make a difference next season? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can 5-Star DT Ed Oliver's Pledge Make a Non-Power 5 School a Recruiting Sleeper?

If you followed the recruiting of 5-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver—if you truly followed his process—you wouldn't consider his commitment to Houston Thursday evening a shock.

Oliver's older brother, Marcus, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Cougars. His old high school coach is Corby Meekins, who spent 15 years at Westfield High School in Houston before joining Tom Herman's staff as the tight ends and fullbacks coach. Not to mention, Oliver has always had Houston high on his list, along with LSU.

Regardless, Oliver's pledge is of blockbuster status for Houston. Oliver is the first 5-star pledge for the Cougars in at least a dozen years. In fact, the last 4-star commit for the Cougars was wide receiver Deontay Greenberry in 2012. The last 4-star after that? Tight end Jon Clark back in 2002.

As the nation's No. 5 defensive tackle, Oliver is a player that many coaches want and many players want to play alongside. His commitment is exactly what the Cougars needed, as they now not only have a signature pledge in the 2016 class, but also have someone who can recruit players around the greater Houston area.

Take 4-star defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, for example. The Houston prospect, who attends Westside High School just minutes away from Oliver, announced his top eight Thursday, which included three SEC schools, two Pac-12 schools and a Big 12 and Big Ten school.

And Houston.

Staying close to home to play college ball is something Elliott has thought of. Are the Cougars a legitimate contender for Elliott?

About as much as they were a contender for Oliver. And we saw how that ended up.

"I like the legacy that we can build," Elliott said of Houston. "Me and Ed combined would be a scary sight."

Elliott said he has built great relationships with both defensive line coach Oscar Giles and director of high school relations Dallas Blacklock. He said he communicates with them on a daily basis.

Oliver's pledge bumped Houston up 23 spots to No. 57 in 247Sports' 2016 recruiting team rankings. The Cougars' 2015 class finished the year ranked No. 91, the team hasn't had a top-50 class since 2002.

That could change this year.

The entire Houston coaching staff has made several 2016 athletes a priority, and the odds of them landing a couple of other big names is higher than some may assume.

Among the potential commits are Elliott, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and defensive end Isaiah Chambers. The common denominator? All of the aforementioned recruits are 4-star talents who live minutes away from the Houston campus.

The connection among Houston players is as solid as any nationwide. The players, although competitors, are very tight-knit, and they have had multiple discussions about aligning in college to form one Houston-oriented megapower.

That megapower could form in their backyard.

"I think it is a bond that is getting stronger as time goes on," Elliott said of the player relationships in the city. "I see a group of us coming together at once and making it happen."

If it happens by way of the Cougars, give the major assist to Oliver for jump-starting it all Thursday night.

 

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

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Michigan Football: Predicting the Wolverines' 2015 Win-Loss Record

Given the proper circumstances and conditions, the Michigan Wolverines could win eight or nine games under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh in 2015. But given reality, the fact they don’t have an experienced quarterback and the gaping holes in other areas, a six- or seven-win finish could be in the cards.

Either way, just about anything would be an improvement upon going 5-7 and missing a bowl game.

Optimism is the word in Ann Arbor, but fans must temper expectations. Yes, Harbaugh is the answer for the Wolverines. He represents what they’ve been trying to replicate since 1989, the final year of the Bo Schembechler era. But even he needs an ample amount of time to set parameters.

It shouldn’t take him too long, but a two-year grace period should be extended. It will take him at least that long to get Michigan in position to compete in the Big Ten before taking a hard charge toward Michigan State and Ohio State.

The Wolverines’ 2015 schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 3 at Utah
  • Sept. 12 vs. Oregon State
  • Sept. 19 vs. UNLV
  • Sept. 26 vs. Brigham Young
  • Oct. 3 at Maryland
  • Oct. 10 vs. Northwestern (HC)
  • Oct. 17 vs. Michigan State
  • Oct. 31 at Minnesota
  • Nov. 7 vs. Rutgers
  • Nov. 14 at Indiana
  • Nov. 21 at Penn State
  • Nov. 28 vs. Ohio State

At first glance, dates with the Spartans and Buckeyes catch attention, but Week 1 at the Utes will also present challenges for Harbaugh, who opens the fall against a team that embarrassed the Wolverines 26-10 in Ann Arbor a year ago.

This slideshow will break down the most winnable games to the most, well, losable ones for the Wolverines—plus those in between—by taking a look at returning personnel, coaching, timing and arrangement of games, plus the all-knowing “what if” factor.

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Kenny Hill to Transfer to TCU: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Kenny Hill's days as a member of the Texas A&M Aggies are over, but the quarterback won't have to travel too far to suit up for his next team: the TCU Horned Frogs.

He confirmed he plans to enroll at the school next month, per Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Former Texas A&M and Southlake Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill will enroll at TCU on June 1 and join the football team, he told the Star-Telegram at a high school baseball playoff game Thursday.

"Two Mondays from now," Hill said, asked when he starts classes at TCU.

Hill also said he has been on campus already to watch spring practice and get a jump on learning the offense. It was expected that he wanted to transfer to TCU.

Hill started one year with the Aggies after sitting on the bench his freshman season. During his two years in College Station, Texas, Hill threw for 2,832 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 193 yards.

Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News didn't see the news as a big surprise:

Jeff Tarpley of GigEm247 reported back in January that Hill was transferring away from Texas A&M, with TCU mentioned as his next destination. Hill's father initially denied the report, but his son ultimately chose the Horned Frogs.

Hill will have to sit out a year before he can take the field, which probably works out best for both parties. Trevone Boykin is a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, so barring injury, Hill wouldn't have been starting right away. Having him unavailable will also prevent any sort of quarterback controversy.

The timing also works out perfectly. Boykin is a senior, so after he has graduated, Hill will be ready to take over.

While Hill became a bit turnover-prone during his final games of the 2014 season, he's unquestionably a great addition to the Horned Frogs on the field. He's a multifaceted QB who fits perfectly into head coach Gary Patterson's offense. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Potential Breakout Candidates in 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Significant in-season strides are often borne from summer suffering, and Notre Dame football will be counting on major improvements from many of its rising upperclassmen.

With those pivotal summer months upon us, let’s project some potential breakout candidates for the Irish in 2015. Obviously, there are different degrees of so-called breakout campaigns, based on past production and expected opportunity.

Let’s have a look.

  

The Headliners

For one reason or another, quarterback Malik Zaire, safety Max Redfield and running back/slot receiver C.J. Prosise are expected to take significant steps in 2015.

Zaire obviously has the offense to himself with Everett Golson departing for Florida State. It will be interesting to see, however, how Irish head coach Brian Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford utilize Zaire within the scope of the offense. How much more than a run-first game manager will they ask the first-year starter to be? That answer will go a long way in determining just how high Zaire can ascend in 2015.

The former 5-star prospect Redfield drew loads of praise for his spring development, and his third season in the program could be his coming-out party.

Prosise, meanwhile, was the spring darling, though his role was still undefined, per Kelly, following the Blue-Gold Game in mid-April.

 

Digging Deeper

Beyond some of the obvious and/or well-known possibilities, a slew of other rising upperclassmen seem poised to potentially take the next steps, as well.

On the offensive line, right guard Steve Elmer is set to begin his first full season at right guard. The Midland, Michigan, native has starting experience that dates back to his freshman season, when he logged four starts at right guard, filling in for Christian Lombard. But Elmer began the 2014 season at right tackle before shifting back to guard when the Irish reshuffled the deck three games into the year. With that added time at one spot and multiple months spent alongside center Nick Martin and new starter Mike McGlinchey at right tackle, Elmer could be ready to make a leap in his junior season.

On the other side of the ball, junior defensive lineman Isaac Rochell doesn’t draw nearly as many headlines as Sheldon Day. Even early enrollee Jerry Tillery overshadowed the rest of the line throughout the spring. But you could make the argument Rochell was one of Notre Dame’s most reliable starters in 2014, as the sophomore was one of only three defensive players to start every game. His 7.5 tackles for loss were second on the squad.

Plus, he can do things like this against eventual first-round picks.

After a stout sophomore season, what’s next for Rochell in year three?

Behind Rochell sits a deep linebacking corps, buoyed by a healthy Jarrett Grace and a recovering Joe Schmidt. But it’s second-year inside linebacker Nyles Morgan who could be primed to surge forward in 2015. The former high-profile recruit was forced into action after Schmidt’s ankle injury, and he ended up tallying 47 tackles down the stretch.

Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said during the spring that the coaching staff “feel[s] much better” with Morgan than it did last year.

“I never imagined going into training camp that he’d be playing last year,” VanGorder said in late March. “He just wasn’t ready. But he’s tough. It’s so important to him. He wanted to do right, but he had to suffer through that freshman year. There were some tough, tough times for him, and he stayed right with it. He looks a lot better here in the spring.”

Playing time still needs to be sorted out among the linebackers, but if Morgan’s mental grasp of the defense comes close to matching his physical acumen, he’ll be tough to keep off the field.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Keith Ford to Transfer to Texas A&M: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Former Oklahoma Sooners running back Keith Ford announced he'll be transferring to Texas A&M ahead of the 2015 college football season.

Ford revealed the news to GigEm247's Taylor Hamm:

I'm going to Aggieland. It feels great. When I went up there today you could really tell how much time they put into their player's futures. They care about you getting your degree as much as your success on the field. What really helped me come to my decision was when I sat down with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin. It didn't sound like it was rehearsed or anything. He was just talking to me man-to-man and laid out his expectations for me. He also wanted me to believe in him. After I heard all of that I was like, 'Yea, I'm coming here.' I can't wait to get up there.

Ford ran for 526 yards and six touchdowns in his two years with Oklahoma. Last week he made public his decision to transfer. His Sooners career ended on a somewhat low note after he was injured and suspended in 2014, not to mention he lost his starting job to Samaje Perine. 

Billy Liucci of TexAgs noted that Ford's imminent arrival will give Texas A&M more 5-star recruits than it had in the 10 years before Sumlin took over:

Earlier in the day, Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote that the Aggies were the optimal fit for Ford, who will provide a great foil to fellow running back James White:

White is much more of a power runner than Ford and can lean on defenses and open up those running lanes for Ford. The duo can essentially create a "thunder and lightning" situation in the Aggie backfield.

What's more, Sumlin realized that his offense was way too unbalanced last year (514 passing plays to 421 running plays) and brought in new offensive line coach Dave Christensen to bring a more downhill attack to College Station.

Ford will have to sit out a year following the transfer, so the earliest he'll see the field in College Station is 2016. The Aggies shouldn't have many problems waiting that long with Tra Carson and Brandon Williams, who combined for 960 yards in 2014, coming back for next year.

Nobody doubted how good the passing game can be over the next few years. Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen will make sure that's the case. What was missing on the Aggies offense was a runner like Ford. Throw him in the mix and Texas A&M will be a fun team to watch in 2016 and 2017. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ed Oliver to Houston: Cougars Land 5-Star DT Prospect

One of the top defensive players in the class of 2016 is off the board, as Ed Oliver committed to the Houston Cougars on Thursday, per Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.

Oliver, who stands 6'2" and weighs 277 pounds, attends Westfield High School in Houston. He's considered a 5-star defensive tackle in the 247Sports' composite rankings and comes in as the No. 13 prospect in the country, the No. 5 recruit at his position and the No. 2 player in the state of Texas.

Oliver has been a force in the interior of Westfield's defensive line the past two seasons, accumulating 146 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, seven sacks and one fumble recovery.

His older brother, Marcus Oliver, committed as an offensive lineman to Houston in 2014.

Interior defensive linemen who can collapse the pocket and generate a pass rush are worth their weight in gold. Given his athleticism and scheme versatility, he appears like the type of player who will not only make an impact early on in his career but will do so in varying roles.

The Cougars just improved on the defensive side of the ball, in other words.


Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Early Grades for the 2016 Recruiting Class

Nebraska football fans know that even though the 2015 season is still months away, important work is being done involving the 2016 recruiting class. New head coach Mike Riley and his staff are beating the bushes (and social media) looking for the next crop of talented players to don the scarlet and cream.

Currently, according to 247 Sports, Nebraska’s 2016 recruiting class is No. 33 nationally and No. 7 in the Big Ten. But with a total of just six commitments, there’s plenty of room for the class to grow.

Based on what we know now, here’s a snapshot of how Nebraska is looking for next year’s class.

 

Offense

Nebraska currently has five commitments on offense:

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Star

Composite

John Rairdon

OG

6’4”

260

4-star

.9651

Bryan Brokop

OT

6’5”

273

3-star

.8888

Jared Bubak

TE

6’4”

235

3-star

.8538

Terry Wilson

QB (DUAL)

6’2.5”

187

3-star

.8407

Patrick O’Brien

QB (PRO)

6’4”

225

3-star

.8456

There are two big takeaways from this list, even at this preliminary stage. The first is the commitment of Rairdon, who would be Riley’s highest-ranked recruit at Nebraska by 247Sports’ criteria. Landing the 4-star’s talent on the offensive line would be a big coup for Riley and a huge boost for Nebraska’s offense in the years to come.

The second fascinating takeaway is the commitment of dual-threat quarterback Wilson. For his own talents as a 3-star prospect alone, Wilson is a good get for Nebraska. But more interestingly, Wilson’s commitment means that Nebraska is still actively recruiting dual-threat quarterbacks. That was an open question with Riley given his pocket-passing, pro-style offense from Oregon State.

Then on Thursday, Nebraska secured a commitment from 3-star pro-style quarterback prospect O’Brien. Having both quarterbacks in the 2016 class, in addition to the five scholarship quarterbacks currently on the roster who would have eligibility in 2016, suggests that at some point there will be attrition at the position (perhaps sooner rather than later, as Nebraska is still three over the 85-scholarship limit for 2015).

Notable among the offers out for Nebraska is 4-star running back Devwah Whaley, who according to the Omaha World-Herald, has NU in his top 10, and junior college O-line prospect Malcolm Pridgeon, who according to the World-Herald stands at 6'8"(!) and weighs 303 pounds.

Grade: A

 

Defense

At present, Nebraska only has one defensive commitment:

Name

Position

Height

Weight

Star

Composite

William Johnson

OLB

6’3”

220

Three-star

.8617

The position is important, as Nebraska currently has only five scholarship linebackers outside the players signed in the 2015 class.

New defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s quarters defensive scheme relies on having three linebackers on the field most of the time, so Nebraska will have a great need for depth at linebacker going forward. Adding a junior-college transfer like Johnson should help Nebraska with ready-to-play talent next year.

Defensive tackle will also be an area of particular need for Nebraska in 2016, with Kevin Williams graduating and juniors Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins potentially leaving early for the NFL if they have a big 2015 campaign (Collins is included in the “others considered” category of the early 2016 first-round draft projection of ESPN’s Mel Kiper).

Of course, there’s plenty of time for Nebraska to grow its defensive haul for 2016. Linebacker/defensive end prospect Quayshon Alexander is widely expected to pick Nebraska, although Sam McKewon of the World-Herald reports that Alexander is “slowing down” his recruiting process.

Grade: C

 

Overall

It’s a little scary to see Nebraska rated No. 7 in the Big Ten and No. 33 overall for the 2016 class. Ending up there would be a frightening sign of things to come.

But there’s plenty to be encouraged about, between the decisiveness at quarterback and the early handling of a position of desperate need on defense.

It’s way too early to panic about results, and there’s enough good things happening to offer some comfort this early in the process.

Grade: A-

 

All measurables and prospect rankings are from 247 Sports.

This column first appeared at The Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter at @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Which College Football Stars Will Lead Major Stat Categories in 2015

Our fascination with sports statistics is something that will likely never die, and if anything it has become more pronounced with the creation of advanced metrics. College football hasn't delved very deep into that pool just yet, as basic stats still hold the most weight.

And while leading the major statistical categories doesn't automatically correlate to future success as a professional (or even current success for college teams), we still keep a close eye on who throws, runs or catches for the most yards, who scores most often and who on defense is making the most tackles, sacks and interceptions.

Many of last year's FBS leaders in the top stat categories have either graduated or turned pro, so we'll have several new names atop those lists for 2015.

Here's our prediction for the most significant stat leaders, based on a review of top returning players and the amount of production expected from them this season.

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2017 4-Star Daquon Green Dishes on New Ohio State, SEC Offers

As one of the rising young talents emerging from the state of Florida, 2017 4-star wide receiver Daquon Green has created his share of highlights during his prep career.

If he has his way, however, he could one day report on highlights in the sports world instead of create them.

“Right now, I'd like to pursue journalism,” Green told Bleacher Report. “I'd like to be a sports analyst one day or even get into the business side of sports.”

Judging by the swelling offer list for the 6’1”, 183-pounder from Tampa Bay Tech High School in Florida, his future on the gridiron appears to be a very bright one.

This week alone, Green—who is now up to 16 total offers—has picked up offers from the Georgia Bulldogs, the Ohio State Buckeyes, the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Tennessee Volunteers.

“Those [offers] are really big, especially Ohio State,” Green said. “I've been looking for that one, but I didn't expect it this soon. It was a big surprise for me.”

Green noted he expected the Bulldogs to come through with an offer based on his interactions with Bulldogs receivers coach Bryan McClendon.

“I was expecting that one,” Green said. “Because I had already met with Coach Mac going into my sophomore year, so I had an idea it was coming. But I like him. He's really cool. I enjoy talking with him.”

Both Tennessee and South Carolina offered Wednesday. Green said he is still learning about the Vols program but admitted he's building a good bond with Gamecocks assistant G.A. Mangus.

“I found out when I got out of practice,” Green said of the Gamecocks' offer. “I talked with Coach Mangus right after practice. I told him I'd like to take a visit up there sometime soon.”

Of his newest interests, the one that caught him most off guard was the offer from defending national champion Ohio State.

“Ohio State, they are the national champs,” Green said. “Just watching the NFL draft, they are a program that puts out talent. They obviously have great quarterbacks. It's just a really good school. They have been really good the last few years under coach [Urban] Meyer.”

After watching former prep teammate and former 5-star receiver Deon Cain, who signed with the Clemson Tigers in February, go through the process, Green has an idea of what is ahead as the interest continues to build.

While he figures a decision is a long ways out—perhaps after this season or even during his senior year—he has started to come up with a criteria to help him make that choice.

“First thing is education,” Green said. “Football-wise, I'm looking at the environment at each school and how I fit into the system. I'm looking at the schools that can put me in the best position to succeed. Outside of football, I just want to find a program that can prepare me for life after football.”

Green maintained he has no early leaders, and he is taking a wait-and-see approach as more schools continue to pursue him.

“I'm still wide open,” Green said. “I just want to wait and see what offers come in and then slow things down and try to find the best choice for me.”

 

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

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Alabama Football: Why QB Is Not Tide's Most Important Position for 2015

Alabama's quarterback battle remains one of the most talked about storylines of the college football offseason. The reasons why are fairly obvious: Said battle will extend into preseason camp and has been the subject of grad transfer rumors involving Braxton Miller and Everett Golson. Here's a question, though: Is it really that important who the Tide's starting quarterback is in Week 1?

If anything, Alabama's recent history under head coach Nick Saban has shown that defense is the pavement on which national championship runs are constructed. If the Tide want to get back to a national championship game in 2015-16, their defensive line is going to be position group that gets them there. 

Why? Because it's a group loaded with talent and depth and because it will be the first line of defense for all the talented run games Alabama will face this year. 

By Saban's own admission, “The defensive front is probably the strength," of the team, per Charlie Potter of 247Sports. And if you get a "probably" from Saban, that means he thinks highly of it. 

The quarterback position is fussed over certainly. There's good reason for that. No other position touches the ball on pretty much every play. 

However, it could be considered wasted breath. Having an experienced quarterback isn't a necessity to win a national championship. Since 2009, four of the six national championship-winning quarterbacks were first-year starters. A fifth, Ohio State's Cardale Jones, was the third-string quarterback to start the 2014 season. 

(And technically there's no guarantee Jones will start for the Buckeyes in '15.)

The starts alone don't tell the whole story, of course. Cam Newton and Jameis Winston were special players. Newton was one-and-done at Auburn. Similarly, if Winston was able to leave for the NFL after his redshirt season in 2013, he probably would have been a high draft pick. But the idea is that experience at the quarterback position isn't some sort of prerequisite to winning a national title over the past several years. 

Having a great D-line, on the other hand, is paramount. Even if overall defensive stats aren't superb—since football is now geared almost entirely toward offensive success, what defines a great defense has changed—controlling the line of scrimmage up front allows defenses to get creative elsewhere. 

Within Alabama's defense, the D-line's job is to be the immovable object. It has the players to do that. 

By now, the starting three—Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen and A’Shawn Robinson—are household names. Even the backups—D.J. Pettway, Darren Lake and Dalvin Tomlinson—are good enough that there shouldn't be a huge drop-off, if any. 

But as Charlie Potter of 247Sports notes, Alabama's depth along the D-line goes even further than that: "But that’s only the two-deep defensive line. We haven’t mentioned younger players like Da’Shawn Hand, Josh Frazier and O.J. Smith, who put together strong springs. They would likely crack the two-deep at any other school in the country."

When you have the kind of depth Alabama does, injuries don't cripple productivity—not unless that unit is decimated by them. Rotating players means fresher bodies late in games and late in the season. Traditionally under Saban, when Alabama has been good up front, it's had a lot of success: 

Past trends aren't always an indication of future success, but Alabama's prior defensive stats could hold true for 2015. As Phil Steele tweeted recently, the Tide have the toughest schedule in the country:

Several of Alabama's upcoming opponents have star running backs and/or excellent run games: Wisconsin (Corey Clement), Georgia (Nick Chubb), Arkansas (Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins), Tennessee (Jalen Hurd), LSU (Leonard Fournette) and Auburn (Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson).  

For many of those teams, if you stop the run, you stop the offense. 

That's good news, because if there's any question mark in Alabama's defense, it's the secondary. When you don't put up huge sack numbers (Alabama doesn't), that requires a lot of confidence in the secondary's ability to shut down receivers. 

If Alabama is going to make another run at a playoff spot and take home another national championship, the defensive line is the group that will be the rock on which others will lean.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin deserves the benefit of the doubt that he can take the new-look offense and make it at least a serviceable group if not a formidable one. Whomever Alabama goes with at quarterback, the offense should be fine. 

But it's the defense that will take Alabama to the top of the college football mountain, and the D-line will be the ones leading the way.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Ohio State Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

We're still nine months from national signing day, but Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class is already shaping up as one of the best—if not the best—in the country.

Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' coaching staff have been very busy, securing 15 commitments from top prospects for their 2016 class. The group ranks second nationally behind that of Florida State, which holds a very slim edge over the Buckeyes in 247Sports' team rankings.

With around nine available scholarships remaining—a number that's largely dependent on how many non-senior Buckeyes opt for the NFL draft next winter—Ohio State still has plenty of talented targets left on its board.

But a majority of the work for this year's class is already done. Here are some early grades for the Buckeyes' 2016 recruiting efforts.

 

Offense

With nine players already committed to line up in Ed Warinner's offense, Ohio State is ensuring its ability to light up the scoreboard in the coming years.

A glance at the top of their board provides a glimpse into the Buckeyes' offensive identity.

Kareem WalkerDemario McCall and George Hill are Ohio State's three highest-rated recruits, and they all play running back for their respective high schools.

Walker, the Buckeyes' lone 5-star pledge, surprised everyone when he announced his commitment during Ohio State's national title victory over Oregon. During that game, Ezekiel Elliott was pounding his way to 246 yards and four touchdowns—serving as a shining example of how potent a good running back can be in Meyer's power-spread offense.

McCall and Hill, both of whom hail from the state of Ohio, are offensive threats who can line up in the backfield or split wide in the H-Back role.

Three talented linemen have signed up to block for that trio of ball-carriers. Michael Jordan, a 4-star offensive tackle out of Canton, Michigan, who spurned the home-state Wolverines in favor of the Buckeyes, leads a group that's anchored by bulldozing guards Tyler Gerald and Jack Wohlabaugh.

But if there's one glaring disappointment to Ohio State's 2016 recruiting, it's missing out on 4-star offensive tackles (and Ohio standouts) Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg.

Both were big Buckeyes targets who wound up committing to Brian Kelly and Notre Dame.

That's the worst of it, though. The Buckeyes got a big boost with yet another 4-star, dual-threat quarterback in Tristen Wallace. And with the pending departure of tight end Nick Vannett, Meyer secured depth when he earned the pledge of 4-star Jake Hausmann.

The Buckeyes are still targeting big-time offensive players—such as 5-star wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers—but the group they've already assembled is very impressive.

Grade: A

 

Defense

When signing day rolls around next February, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ohio State bring in seven defensive linemen.

Meyer is nearly halfway there already with verbal pledges from 4-star prospects Jonathon CooperTerrell Hall and Malik Barrow.

Cooper (ranked seventh at his position, 119th nationally) and Hall (eighth, 130th) are similarly rated players who will line up at weak-side defensive end for the Buckeyes. Both are aggressive pass-rushers who will add depth on the edge with the near-inevitable departure of Joey Bosa this winter.

Speaking of Bosa, his younger brother, Nick Bosa, happens to be a 5-star defensive end whom some believe will end up as a better player than Joey. "I can't say it because Joey will get mad, but the little brother might be better than Joey,” Cris Carter told reporters in January 2014. 

The 6'4", 265-pound strong-side defensive end out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is rated the No. 7 overall player in the country, and he's a unanimous pick to wind up at Ohio State, according to 247Sports' crystal ball.

The Buckeyes earned a surprising commitment from the appropriately named Tuf Borland, a 4-star linebacker from Bolingbrook, Illinois, on April 17. His commitment was big for Ohio State at the time, but it became even more important after 4-star linebacker Brendan Ferns eliminated the Buckeyes from his recruitment.

Like the linebacker unit, the Buckeyes only have one commitment for their secondary, but it's from a player they desperately wanted.

Kareem Felder is a 3-star cornerback from Baltimore who spent two-and-a-half months as a committed member of Virginia Tech's 2016 class. That didn't stop the Buckeyes from pursuing Felder, though, and they eventually convinced him to decommit from Frank Beamer and the Hokies to join the ranks in Columbus.

Felder is rated the No. 1,059 prospect in the country, but his offer list indicates that the recruiting services are undervaluing him in a big way.

In the last two months alone, Felder has received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Nebraska. However, the Buckeyes were the heavy favorites to land his commitment once they offered.

Meyer and Ohio State still have a long way to go before they finish their work on the defensive side, but they have a solid foundation to build on.

Grade: A

 

Special Teams

Over the last few years, Meyer has shown that he isn't afraid to use one of his treasured scholarships on a specialist. In 2015, there was 2-star long snapper Liam McCullough. The year before that, the Buckeyes signed 3-star kicker Sean Nuernberger.

For this year's recruiting cycle, that distinction belongs to Drue Chrisman.

Chrisman, a standout from La Salle High School in Cincinnati, is rated the nation's No. 1 punter for the class of 2016. He had offers from six major Division l schools before committing to the Buckeyes—a rarity for specialists—as BYU, Florida State, Indiana, Kentucky and UCLA were all vying for his verbal pledge.

KohlsKicking.com (h/t Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer) noted that Chrisman is "the most college-ready punter in his class."

Chrisman will have a year to learn the ropes and get comfortable in Columbus before taking over for current punter Cameron Johnston.

Grade: A+

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Auburn Football: Tigers' 2015 Offseason Checklist

Gus Malzahn told reporters in March that he had three goals for his Auburn Tigers during spring practice: to learn the playbook, develop trust and get their edge back.

By camp's end, the head coach said he was satisfied with the results.

"Overall, I was very pleased," Malzahn said, via AL.com's Brandon Marcello. "Our three goals that we went into spring with, we feel like we accomplished them all."

Now, with spring camp behind them, the Tigers head into the summer months with their eyes on August, when they return to the practice field and get ready for their tough 2015 schedule.

But the hard work can't stop with the practices. There's no doubt Malzahn and his staff have goals for the program this summer.

"Our coaches have a better understanding of what we have," Malzahn told Marcello. "Our players are extremely close, and they're trying to do what our coaches are asking them. I'm looking forward to the summer, but overall I think we're in a really good spot."

Here are a few of those goals for Auburn as the long offseason continues on the Plains.

 

Continue learning the playbook

Auburn can't quite continue its work toward getting its physical edge back this summer, but players can continue working on one of Malzahn's goals: learning the playbook.

With Will Muschamp taking over the defense, Auburn has a brand-new system that is quite different from the 4-2-5 look under former coordinator Ellis Johnson.

That means every defensive player, from the veterans down to the freshmen, will continue to learn Muschamp's playbook this summer.

And while Auburn ran an extremely "vanilla" offense at A-Day, don't expect to see the same old things from Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee this fall. The offensive personnel, especially the new starters, can't stop studying.

"I've just been putting in the work. It’s just been paying off. I study the film every day," running back Jovon Robinson told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Ryan Black. "I study my playbook when I can."

 

Plug in the true freshmen

Members of Auburn's 2015 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 9 in the country, are expected to play important roles for the team this fall.

Several of them, such as 4-star defensive back Tim Irvin, enrolled at Auburn in time to go through spring practice with the team. The rest are transitioning to campus in order to begin preparations for the 2015 season.

These summer months are an important time for the veterans on the team to start working with the young players and develop the chemistry they'll need.

"I know they're ready for (the freshmen) to get up there," 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart told AL.com's Wesley Sinor last week. "The D-tackles and ends, we're a group. We're one unit. The wheels shouldn't stop moving or slow down, it should be the same pace."

While these newcomers can't hit the practice field yet, they can hit the playbook and weight room with their new teammates. That time could go a long way toward Auburn's success this year.

 

Recruit, recruit and recruit

Perhaps the most visible thing Auburn can do this summer to build momentum for the future is recruit.

The Tigers are well behind their fellow recruiting powers in building their 2016 class, but the recent commitment of 4-star cornerback John Broussard could be the spark for a big summer.

One of the biggest times in Auburn's recruiting calendar comes next Saturday, May 30, when the program has its annual "Big Cat Weekend."

Auburn is expected to host many of their top targets for the 2016 and 2017 classes. According to 247Sports, the Tigers have seven different 5-stars as top targets in this class, including five top-20 players on the defensive side of the ball, so fans should expect to hear that several of them visited the Plains.

The staff will hope the momentum from Big Cat Weekend will continue into the next several months, when some top recruits will announce their commitments or make important visits.

 

Have a quiet summer

Perhaps the most important goal for Auburn in the eyes of its fans is for the team to have a low-profile summer on the Plains.

A recent transfer spree has thinned some positions on the depth chart, and the dismissal of former 5-star defensive end Elijah Daniel, who was charged with several felony counts of theft and burglary, hurt a line that struggled in 2014.

Last summer, Auburn was hit by the news of quarterback Nick Marshall's marijuana citation and season-long injuries for key underclassmen Alex Kozan and Carl Lawson.

During these next few months, the Tigers need to stay together, out of trouble and away from the injury list. Any more departures or injuries could derail the momentum Malzahn claims the team has built this spring.

Outside of some commitments or notable quotes from SEC media days in July, Auburn fans probably wouldn't mind if their team stayed out of the spotlight for a few months—at least until fall camp begins.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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100 Days from Kickoff: Biggest Storylines of the College Football Offseason

The college football season is roughly 100 days away, with tons of storylines emerging. From Braxton Miller's situation at Ohio State to Jim Harbaugh's evolving Twitter, there is no shortage of headlines being made.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer comb through some of the juicy storylines in the video above. 

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