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Clemson Football: Recapping the Biggest 2014 Offseason News so Far

The Clemson Tigers are coming off one of the most successful periods in school history. For just the second time since the school began play in 1896, the Tigers have reeled off three straight 10-win seasons. 

So naturally, much of the talk around Death Valley relates to Clemson's recent success.

However, this offseason has been more about what Clemson must replace to repeat that type of success versus enjoying what the program has built.

Tajh Boyd, arguably the greatest quarterback in school history, is gone. So is Sammy Watkins, one of the best offensive players in the history of the ACC.

Senior Cole Stoudt gets the first crack at replacing Boyd. Can he hold off true freshman Deshaun Watson?

Here is a look at four of the top news items of the 2014 offseason for the Clemson Tigers. 

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How Sound Mind, Sound Body Football Camp Evolved into One of Nation's Best Camps

Detroit is a fitting backdrop for the 10th annual Sound Mind, Sound Body football camp, which kicks off Thursday, June 12.

After all, the camp was founded in 2004 by Motor City native Curtis Blackwell as an integral part of his nonprofit organization—the Lifting As We Climb Foundation.

The foundation’s primary goal was to enhance college opportunities for young athletes and reverse negative trends—such as the 25 percent high school graduation rate, according to the Associated Press (via Fox News)—that existed in his hometown at the time.

What began as a local camp spread across the state of Michigan, into the Midwest and now will play host to some of the nation’s top prospects from across the country.

Over the last decade, SMSB has helped more than 1,000 student-athletes earn college scholarships—with current NFL players such as Nick Perry, William Campbell and Johnathan Hankins counted as SMSB alums.

But how did SMSB expand, and what makes it different from the number of camps popping up across the country?

As Blackwell’s childhood friend and fellow Detroit native Chanterius Brock—who serves as the Director of Player Recruiting for SMSB—describes it, the camp’s fabric is heavily influenced by what the two friends and alumni of Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School witnessed growing up.

“In a city like Detroit, it’s about trying to identify any and all opportunities to teach these kids before it’s too late,” Brock said. “They can’t see the tangible reality that is there for them if they work hard and apply themselves academically, trust in God, respect people and others and themselves. These are the skills that are lacking.”

Brock recalls seeing plenty of talented athletes fail to capitalize on the chance to make it to college, and it wasn’t because of a lack of athletic ability.

“We (Detroit players) were underachieving in terms of the gap between talent and actual success as student-athletes,” Brock stated. “The best players that I’ve played with and against and coached, these aren’t the kids that are playing Division I football or the ones who went on to have the most successful careers.”

When he went off to play his college ball in Tennessee, Brock bristled when classmates would tell him about the superiority of football in the South.

In his mind, the opportunities for success weren’t equal because the commitment to football in the two regions was vastly different. That’s where he and Blackwell worked to bridge the gap with SMSB.

“My thing was that we knew we had talent, but we just lacked the resources,” Brock said. “So I said to myself, ‘when I go home, I want to be able to provide those resources to kids like myself who didn’t have them.’ It was kind of like a divine type of thing for us (he and Blackwell) to connect because our visions were so similar.”

Together, they developed a term for their strategy in unifying their vision—“aggressive creativity.”

On a small scale, Brock—who spent time in Detroit as an assistant coach on the prep level—set out to establish opportunities for the kids he was coaching. Meanwhile, Blackwell’s focus was on networking and cultivating relationships with high school and college coaches, as well as with administrators on the college level.

The first major project put together was a winter camp dubbed the “Michigan Football Showcase” in February 2007 at the University of Michigan.

“We had about 400 or 500 prospects at that showcase,” Brock said. “That was really our inlet when it came to building relationships with schools and coaches. Kids came from all over the Midwest. That kind of surprised us, that we could get kids from out of town. That’s when it flipped for Sound Mind, Sound Body.”

However, their breakthrough moment on the national recruiting scene didn’t come until they were able to add one element that separates their camp from the litany of similar ones across the country.

Blackwell’s background as an intern with the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association helped him develop relationships that contributed to the expansion of SMSB.

Furthermore, his role in managing and understanding compliance rules and regulations was critical in getting college coaches to actively participate in the SMSB camp a few years ago.

“First, the original battle was getting coaches and schools to recognize that it was legal,” Brock said. “Once they understood that and got things cleared with NCAA compliance, we were getting more and more schools who wanted to be a part of it.”

Once college coaches were on board, that helped SMSB lure top prospects from all over the country.

Additionally, landing a sponsor such as Adidas three years ago further established SMSB as a marquee event in recruiting circles.

“Adidas has come on board and been a great sponsor in terms of providing uniforms and cleats to every kid at the camp,” Brock said. “That’s been a huge partnership for us.”

This year, SMSB will feature more than 200 college coaches in attendance—including Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Penn State’s James Franklin. This year’s camp will feature hundreds of prospects from around the country, including 5-star standouts such as Jashon Cornell and Preston Williams.

Over the two-day camp, in addition to hearing from and being mentored by camp counselors such as former NFL great Jerome Bettis and current Broncos defensive lineman and SMSB-alum Kevin Vickerson, student-athletes will go through training sessions on topics ranging from NCAA eligibility to conflict resolution.

With the presence of the college coaching community and the multiple training sessions designed to teach invaluable life skills, SMSB has transformed into a unique camping experience.

The camp is now a self-sufficient brand that is thriving, even after Blackwell left his post as camp director last August for a position on Dantonio’s staff at Michigan State.

Brock marvels at the success stories that have emerged from SMSB. In returning to its Detroit roots, this year’s camp will be a celebration of an event that has turned into a source of pride for the Motor City.

 “We try to teach these kids that as they continue to climb, grow and get better and have success, we want to make sure that you are reaching back and lifting up the next man,” Brock said.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Does Big 12 Football Have Any Legit Heisman Candidates for 2014 Season?

The last Heisman Trophy winner to come from the Big 12 was Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2011. As a whole, the conference has had five winners—Ricky Williams, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Sam Bradford and RGIII—since its inception in 1996. 

With that said, the Big 12 in 2014-15 seems to be lacking a good list of legitimate Heisman contenders, with only three guys that could honestly be brought into the conversation. 

At the top of the list is Baylor signal-caller Bryce Petty, who tore up defenses last season en route to a conference title. 

With that, let's look at the Big 12's best chances to grab a Heisman in the upcoming season. 

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Joker Phillips Resigns as Florida Assistant Coach: Latest Reports and Analysis

Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips abruptly resigned Wednesday afternoon, a move that left many in Gainesville scratching their heads and trying to find a reason.    

Phillips, 51, has been with the Gators since 2012. In addition to his assistant-coaching duties, he served as the team's recruiting coordinator. Phillips previously spent a decade at Kentucky, first as a position coach and recruiting coordinator before a three-year stint as head coach. The Wildcats fired him after the 2012 season, having compiled a 13-24 record in his three seasons, including a 4-20 mark in the SEC.

In a statement released by the university early Wednesday, Phillips cited "personal reasons" for his decision to step down.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons,’’ Phillips said.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy initially reported that possible recruiting violations led head coach Will Muschamp to force Phillips' resignation but later backtracked:

McMurphy did not recant his claim of recruiting violations being at the heart of his departure, but there were not any reports on their severity. Kentucky self-reported incidents involving Phillips in both 2012 and 2013. Both were minor in nature, dealing with text-messaging prospective recruits.

Phillips will be replaced by former Gators quarterback Chris Leak. Leak, who helped lead Florida to its 2006 national championship under Urban Meyer, was an offensive quality control coach as a graduate assistant in 2013. The 29-year-old retired from his playing career in 2012 and has seen his star quickly rise since joining Muschamp's staff.

“Chris is a bright young coach,” Muschamp said. “He is one of the all-time Gator greats and being at Florida is very important to him. He has been working with coach Roper and our offensive staff and is very familiar with our players and new system.”

Whether recruit-related or not, the Phillips fiasco is just the latest controversy for the increasingly embattled Florida program. Muschamp enters 2014 with perhaps the hottest seat in the entire nation. The Gators are coming off a dreadful 4-8 campaign, their first losing campaign since 1979. Many expected Muschamp to be fired after last season, but he was brought back as the Gators instead made major changes to his staff.

Most notably, Florida hired Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator in an effort to fix its dilapidated offense. The Gators averaged only 18.8 points per game in 2013, good for 112th nationally. Roper, who most recently served as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Duke, will attempt to recharge the Gators' batteries with a no-huddle system.

Leak and Roper have worked closely together throughout the spring, so Phillips' resignation might create an even more cohesive staff. From the outside looking in, though, it's just the latest fiasco for a program that already came into the offseason teetering on the edge.

With the Gators home opener against Idaho less than three months away, Muschamp will need to nip the speculation in the bud and move on quickly before what is undoubtedly the most important season of his young coaching career gets underway.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Burning Questions in 5-Star CB Torrance Gibson's Recruitment

Torrance Gibson is one of the hottest commodities on the recruiting trail.

At 6'4" and 200 pounds, the 5-star dual-threat quarterback is from Florida. He is a bit raw with his mechanics and other mental parts of the quarterback position, but he has a high ceiling.

Gibson's recruitment has a wealth of people on the edge of their seats. The following questions are the most burning ones that need answers.

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Uncommitted 2015 Recruits Sure to Leave Big Ten Country for SEC Football

The main heartbeat of the Big Ten's recruiting trail goes through the Midwest. States in the region make up "Big Ten Country," but SEC football powerhouses are not afraid to pluck players from this area.

While Big Ten studs such as Ohio State and Michigan do all they can to keep top recruits close to home, several 2015 prospects appear to be eyeing leaving the Midwest to play in the SEC.

A 5-star defensive end from Illinois may head to Missouri, while Florida is trying to sign a 4-star athlete from Ohio. Speaking of Ohio, both Alabama and Auburn are on the trail of one of the state's 4-star running backs.

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Penn State Recruiting: 5 Commits and Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

Held by Nike, The Opening is a high school combine of sorts that places the country's elite prospects against one another in various competitions and drills, including a seven-on-seven tournament.

With the success that James Franklin has had on the recruiting trail, Penn State will be well-represented in Oregon when The Opening kicks off on July 5.

Here's a list of prospects with Nittany Lion ties who will be competing in The Opening!

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College Football's 10 Most Underrated Players

Not everyone can be a star, at least nationally. 

For every Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney who claims the spotlight, there are dozens of other college football players who play at a high level every week. But, for whatever reason, many of those players just don't get the recognition they deserve. 

These are the underrated players of major college football. 

So it's time to put together a list of 10 of those underrated players. Of course, this list is going to exclude even more players, who are then, in turn, super underrated. 

Can't please everyone. 

Anyway, which players make the list of the most underrated? The answers are in the following slides. 

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