Feed aggregator

Clemson Football: Realistic Expectations for the Tigers' 2014 Season

When one begins to break down Clemson’s potential 2014 season, there are a few factors that come into play. In some cases I think fans have very high expectations for next season, and in other cases, fans aren’t ready to dance in the streets just yet. Clemson’s season will be similar to the past two seasons in that it will all ride on the two big games: Florida State and South Carolina. This year you throw Georgia into the mix again, but those two big games will be the deciding factors again.


Breaking Down the Schedule

When you take a look at the Tigers’ schedule, there are three different categories you can place each game.

The two games that should definitely be won are South Carolina State and Georgia State. Then you have the games that should be won but will still present challenges.

Those games are North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Georgia Tech and North Carolina really jump out of that category.

The Tigers always seem to struggle a bit with Georgia Tech, and North Carolina is a sleeper in the ACC this year. The Tar Heels have the potential to have a really good season, so that will likely be a close game.

Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina make up the third category, for obvious reasons. These are the three games that will be very difficult for the Tigers to win, and it will all depend on how they come to play on that particular day.

Playing in Athens will be tough because of Georgia’s power running game and its much-improved defense. Going to Doak Campbell is never an easy task, especially this year with Heisman winner Jameis Winston leading the offense again. There isn’t much to say about that last game. I can sit here and break down every little detail about the Clemson-Carolina game, but all that really matters is which Tiger team comes to play on November 29.


Comparing 2013 and 2014

While ESPN analysts will continue to focus on what Clemson lost this season with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, I am going to instead focus on what the Tigers have returning.

When you look at the quarterback position, there isn’t going to be a drastic change. While Cole Stoudt can’t make all the throws that Boyd did, the Tigers still have a veteran leader who has a great feel for the system. Stoudt has had plenty of experience under Chad Morris’s offense, and I think that level of comfort will show on the field this season.

At running back, veterans D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks return, while Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye will also look to get into the mix. C.J. Davidson is a speed guy who will likely be used on certain plays and formations.

While there are many backs in the mix, I think the fact that one hasn’t broke away from the pack yet is a slight concern. We are only through spring ball at this point though, and the summer will present an opportunity for a running back to outright win the starting job.

The Tigers have plenty of options at wide receiver with veterans Charone Peake and Adam Humphries leading the way. There are also many young guys that will contribute including Mike Williams, Germone Hopper, Artavis Scott, Kyrin Priester, Demarre Kitt and Trevion Thompson.

Offensive line and the secondary are areas of concern. The offensive line situation can be better measured at the end of the summer, but anytime a team loses two solid starters like Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley, there is going to be a little concern.

The secondary can be very good, but it’s hard to judge at this point because of the youth. The Tigers have many young players in the secondary who can be playmakers, such as Mackensie Alexander, Adrian Baker, Korrin Wiggins, Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green. Hopefully for the Tigers, guys like Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters will step up and be leaders in that secondary.

The other areas such as linebacker and defensive line should be just as good, if not better, than last season. These positions should not be any worry at all to Tiger fans.


The Realistic Expectations

When you take into account what Clemson has returning with the defensive line and the weapons on the offensive side of the ball, I think it can have a very good year. Last year there were preseason mumbles about a national championship, but that would just be wishful thinking for 2014.

With the question marks on the offensive line and the youth in the secondary, it will be tough for the Tigers to run the table against physical teams like South Carolina and Florida State.


Realistic Expectation: 9-3 or 10-2

Bottom Line: It will be another year like the previous ones in which the Tigers have a very good team but still just aren't quite ready to get over the hump. The offense should be very good again, and the defense will be improved, but will it be enough to take down Florida State and South Carolina?



Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M: Breaking Down Where Cedric Ogbuehi Landed on 2015 NFL Draft Boards

The 2014 NFL draft is complete and three Aggies were selected in the first round. In 2015, Aggie left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is projected to extend the Aggies' streak to five years of having a player selected in the top 10 picks of the draft. 

Von Miller started it all in 2011 when he was selected No. 2 overall by the Denver Broncos. Ryan Tannehill was selected No. 8 overall in 2012 by Miami, with Luke Joeckel going No. 2 overall to Jacksonville in 2013. 

Two added to the Aggies' newest tradition in the 2014 draft, with offensive tackle Jake Matthews selected No. 6 by Atlanta and wide receiver Mike Evans selected No. 7 by Tampa Bay. 

If Ogbuehi is selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, he will be the third offensive linemen from the Aggies' 2010 recruiting class to accomplish the feat. Ogbuehi may be the most physically gifted of the trio.

The lean 6'5", 305-pound athlete resembles a linebacker or tight end more than a typical offensive lineman. He has rare speed for his size and has reportedly ran a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash during testing at A&M.  

Ogbuehi was recruited to A&M by former head coach Mike Sherman with the hopes that he would develop into a left tackle. He started at right guard in 2012 and right tackle in 2013 as he waited for his turn behind Joeckel and Matthews. 

Ogbuehi has quick feet and tremendous balance. He is the prototype of what the NFL is looking for at the left tackle position. He is a big body with catlike quickness and agility. Those are the kind of offensive linemen who end up starting in the Pro Bowl at the left tackle position. 


NFL Farm System

The Southeastern Conference is playing the best brand of football outside the NFL. The SEC produces the most NFL draft picks on a yearly basis. It is a physical brand of football highlighted by the battle in the trenches. 

For the second consecutive year, the No. 2 pick in the draft was a left tackle from the SEC. In 2013 it was Joeckel and in 2014 it was Greg Robinson from Auburn. Offensive linemen in the SEC go up against the best defensive linemen in college on a weekly basis. 

Left tackles for colleges in the Eastern Division of the SEC had to face Jadeveon Clowney on a weekly basis for the past three years. Some people think he was the best college prospect available in the 2014 draft, and he was the No. 1 overall pick.

Competing against the top defensive linemen in college football on a weekly basis helps develop the offensive line talent in the SEC. It has allowed players like Joeckel, Matthews and Ogbuehi to prove their worth to NFL scouts.   

When you compete with Dee Ford, Ed Stinson and Michael Sam on a weekly basis you are going to improve as a player. 


Draft Projections

Ogbuehi is expected to be one of the first offensive tackles off the board in the 2015 NFL draft. You simply do not find too many tackles with his skill set. 

He is predicted to be the No. 12 overall pick of the first round by CBSSports.com. The pundits at WalterFootball.com have him going No. 6 overall. 

Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com has Ogbuehi going No. 7 overall. He is predicted to be selected No. 8 overall by draftsite.com. A lot can change between now and the 2015 draft. 

Ogbuehi is almost a consensus top-10 pick right now. Before the 2013 season, there were people who thought A.J. McCarron would be selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. 

Nothing is guaranteed in college football. Ogbuehi could blow out his knee in the Aggies' opening game against South Carolina and ruin his draft status. 

Ogbuehi and Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss enter the 2014 season as the top offensive tackles in the SEC. They both are legitimate candidates to be all-conference and All-American. If Ogbuehi has the kind of year that is expected, he will hear his name called during the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

WR JaQuay Williams Will Reportedly Transfer from Texas A&M

After failing to make much of an impact during his freshman season, former blue-chip receiver JaQuay Williams will transfer out of the Texas A&M football program.

The news was first reported Monday by Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and confirmed Tuesday by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

"Yes, he is transferring," said Williams' uncle, Kevin Ofchus, per Carvell. "It was the distance, and standard things that college kids go through. Things just didn’t work out, and that happens sometimes."

Williams committed to Auburn out of high school in 2012, when he was a 4-star prospect and the No. 100 overall player in the class on the 247Sports Composite.

After failing to qualify academically, he spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, became the No. 4 overall player on the Prep School Composite and committed to Texas A&M after seeing what Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel did in 2012.

At 6'4", Williams is an imposing physical threat who could, with the proper coaching and situation, become a valuable red-zone target if not more. According to Carvell, however, if he transfers directly to another SEC school, he would likely have to sit out two seasons per the conference's transfer policy.

So where might he end up?

Louisville is a popular speculative candidate.

New head coach Bobby Petrino can sell his SEC-approved vertical passing system, and rumors also have former Georgia cornerback Shaq Wiggins, a high-school teammate of Williams' at Sandy Creek High School in Georgia, connected with the Cardinals.

Several people have told Carvell "not to be surprised if Williams and Wiggins both end up at Louisville."

If that is how things play out, Wiggins would reunite with former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and Williams would team up with an offensive mind capable of unleashing him.

The move would be a coup for the Cardinals as they transition out of the Charlie Strong era and into the ACC.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: How Cody Kessler Can Validate Steve Sarkisian's Vote of Confidence

Quarterback Cody Kessler is in the driver's seat of the USC offense for 2014. He can keep firm control of the steering wheel by adhering to a strict road map. 

Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian made an authoritative, if not controversial stance at the conclusion of spring practice last month, naming redshirt junior Kessler the team's No. 1 quarterback. Despite starting last season and leading USC to 10 wins, Kessler was embroiled in a well-publicized competition with redshirt freshman Max Browne. 

Browne will continue to push Kessler when the Trojans reconvene for preseason camp in August. Sarkisian had high praise for Browne on a May 1 Pac-12 teleconference call, via Pac-12.com

Max had a tremendous spring...He showed tremendous development, not only physically but mentally. He's a really good fit for what we're doing offensively, and to Max's credit, he's an unbelievable competitor. He's going to continue to compete with Cody all the way through. And I believe when Max's number is called, he's going to play great football for us.

For Kessler to maintain his spot atop the depth chart, he must build on the momentum he established down the stretch of 2013. 

Kessler progressed nicely over the course of the campaign, overcoming a tumultuous start to lead USC to a 7-2 finish. The Trojans offense operated much more efficiently as the quarterback gained confidence. 

A cornerstone of Sarkisian's offense is a power-run game, of which redshirt junior running back Javorius "Buck" Allen is sure to be central. Allen also proved integral to Kessler's play. 

Kessler and Allen developed a chemistry during the Trojans' second-half run. Allen became a more integral part of the offense, starting with USC's win over Arizona and exploding when the Trojans visited Oregon State. At the same time, Kessler flourished.  

The tandem connected as passer and receiver 22 times for 252 yards last season. 

Kessler also built an evident on-field rapport with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, the team's No. 1 target a season ago. He will again be the focal point of the Trojans' passing attack, but Kessler's ability to find a consistent corps of receivers is necessary to keep defenses from overwhelming Agholor. 

USC cannot afford another rocky start, particularly with Pac-12 rival Stanford looming as the second opponent on the schedule. To that end, Kessler must find a way to operate effectively behind an offensive line still on a steep learning curve. 

Kessler faced a similar proposition a season ago and struggled initially. As the line's collective performance improved, so too did Kessler. 

This year's front five isn't just having to integrate some new faces. Depth is of greater concern, and veterans like Max Tuerk are acclimating to new positions.

"Solidifying our offensive line," was a lingering concern Sarkisian addressed on the teleconference call. "Who's going to be where and the depth...is one key component for us." 

All of this is happening while the team learns a new offense, too. Kessler explained the challenges of the hurry-up, no-huddle scheme to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated

Sometimes it's difficult because you want to talk to guys between plays. You can't do that. If you miss a throw or miss a play, you can't sit there and be upset about it because you have to run three or four plays after that.

To that end, improvisation is crucial to Kessler's early-season success—both in how he calls plays, and how he reacts to any potential breakdowns in blocking. 

Kessler has his new head coach's confidence and the starting quarterback job. Now it's up to the redshirt junior to lead the Trojans offense to success in 2014. 


Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: How Cody Kessler Can Validate Steve Sarkisian's Vote of Confidence

Quarterback Cody Kessler is in the driver's seat of the USC offense for 2014. He can keep firm control of the steering wheel by adhering to a strict road map...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Power Ranking Top 25 2015 College Football Recruits from the West Coast

This could be the deepest class of recruits that the West Coast has produced in 10 years.

The main state on the recruiting trail out West is certainly California, but states such as Arizona, Washington and Nevada put out more talent than many people realize.

While two 5-star quarterbacks receive most of the attention, the region also features four 5-star defensive prospects. The state of Hawaii has two studs on this list, plus Utah is represented since it has a school that competes in the Pac-12.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Realistic Expectations for the Bruins' 2014 Season

"Expectations." It's a popular word around UCLA football right now.

With the most experienced and largest returning starting corps in the Pac-12 and the momentum of a 10-win season, the Bruins have high expectations for their 2014 campaign.

A second Pac-12 South Championship in Jim Mora's brief tenure as head coach is a realistic expectation, albeit somewhat short of the grandeur quarterback Brett Hundley expresses in the trailer for Pac-12 Networks' The DriveHundley mentions playing in a Rose Bowl and pursuing a national championship. 

Indeed, the program's first conference championship since 1998 is one expectation the team has not shied away from discussing.

"We feel like we've taken another step up," Mora told Dan Greenspan of the Associated Press

Taking another step last season meant winning 10 games, a program-best since 2005. In the coming season, another step means joining college football's elite.

Doing so won't be easy. UCLA plays one of the more difficult schedules in the Pac-12, drawing each of the North Division's top three teams from a year ago: Oregon, Stanford and Washington.

Competing for the Pac-12 Championship means the Bruins must go 2-1 against their divisional competition to ensure that they lock up the South Division.

Competing for a national championship means securing an invitation to the inaugural College Football Playoff. A Pac-12 Championship might seem like a golden ticket into the tournament, though the formula may not be that simple.

Stanford won back-to-back conference titles in 2012 and 2013, sporting two losses each season. The Cardinal were ranked No. 6 in the final BCS standings of 2012 and No. 5 last year.

Thus, precedent suggests anything worse than a one-loss season will have the Bruins on the outside of the College Football Playoff looking in. Should UCLA go 2-1 against the North, it must then run the table against Arizona, Arizona State, Texas and USC—teams that won a combined 36 games in 2013.

Star players will be crucial to UCLA's pursuit of a championship, but not burdening them too much with expectations is of equal importance.

Consider sophomore linebacker Myles Jack. His star turn as a two-way playmaker last season earned him Pac-12 Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year, but this year presents Mora and his staff with a dilemma.

Jack is central to the Bruins meeting their expectations, so striking the right balance between his defensive and offensive contributions is a delicate act. Mora explained this on the May 1 teleconference call:

I don't plan on minimizing him. He's a really good football player and we're going to get him the ball in as many ways as we can, but we don't want to ever take away from what he means to our defense because he's a truly special linebacker. 

Jack played offense exclusively in the Bruins' 38-33 loss to Arizona State. While the UCLA offense needed his presence at running back, the defensive void was evident in the first half. The Sun Devils blindsided the Bruins with 35 first-half points and built a gap UCLA never quite bridged.

The loss cost UCLA a second straight Pac-12 South Championship.

"We'll never do that again," Mora said of using Jack exclusively on offense.

Jack again excelling as a two-way player is a realistic expectation—just within moderation.

"As far as my running back role, it'll come down to situations. We have good running backs," Jack said. "Coach Mora views me as a defensive player, so he's going to make sure my offense doesn't sacrifice my defensive production."

In much the same way Mora and his staff cannot rely too heavily on Jack, the same is true for Hundley. The redshirt junior quarterback is indeed the catalyst of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's uptempo scheme, but is at his most effective with another standout helping to shoulder the load.

Hundley rushed for a team-leading 748 yards in 2013 and also passed for 3,071 yards.

His run output more than doubled from 2012, a byproduct of the same circumstances that forced Jack onto the offensive side. Conversely, Hundley passed for almost 700 fewer yards than in his freshman campaign.

Hundley's rushing stats may drop in 2014 if a consistent No. 1 running back emerges, but there's plenty of room to produce even gaudier passing numbers.

With a deep receiving corps and another year of experience under his belt, more effective passing from Hundley isn't just a possibility—it should be an expectation.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Realistic Expectations for the Bruins' 2014 Season

"Expectations." It's a popular word around UCLA football right now. With the most experienced and largest returning starting corps in the Pac -12 and the momentum of a 10-win season, the Bruins have high expectations for their 2014 campaign...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

NCAA Makes NFL Player and Girlfriend Sign Affidavits for Relationship

The NCAA needs proof that people are dating for love, not the financial benefits.

Former Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans, but he still has to worry about the NCAA. 

The Sooners have had their share of NCAA violations, although some of them have been laughable in recent years. The school's compliance department is taking no chances on having any preventable violations.

Ikard and his girlfriend are no strangers to sitting courtside at Oklahoma City Thunder games:

With that in mind, the NCAA needs to make sure that both Ikard and his girlfriend are in the relationship for love.

Before the 2014 NFL draft, the Academic All-American shared an interesting tidbit during his interview with WWLS' The Morning Animals, via SoundCloud:

Here's a bit of what he said, via SoonerScoop.com:

They did some digging and I’m actually compliant official with my girlfriend. We had to sign a signed affidavit that she was not dating me just because I was a football player.

They kind of drafted it themselves. I said she just likes big guys, just accept it.

Ikard was also able to use Oklahoma's pasta scandal to his advantage:

(Olive Garden) asked me if I was doing a draft party or having a get together and I said I was doing a little party after the draft and they volunteered to cater it for free. It’s the power of Twitter man. It’s kind of sad but that’s really the truth. I got connected with them during the pastagate thing and I’ve kept a relationship with their social media staff. 

Even after college, the NCAA can still be an issue for athletes.

[H/t Fox Sports]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why SEC Football Teams Should Sell Beer at Football Games

College football, and spectator sports in general, are constantly fighting the battle against 70" flat screens, 11-step commutes to the bathroom and the lure of the La-Z-Boy.

What could help SEC stadiums keep fans in the seats rather than in their man caves?

Beer. Lots and lots of beer.

According to Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva hopes that the SEC will lift its rule prohibiting member institutions from selling beer at athletic events in general seating areas.

"As we talk about the fan experience, which is very important, I think there may come a day that we may sell beer at college events at LSU," Alleva said on Monday, according to Guilbeau. "I think at some point—I don't know if it will be five years from now, 10 years from now—but I think at some point, I think it's going to happen."

Sound risky?

Of course it does.

Allowing alcohol sales in football stadiums in the SEC will, in theory, increase drunken behavior, something that colleges and private security firms work against at every stadium in the conference.

But let's be real, if you're an athletics director, you'd rather fans have access to beer or wine legally within the stadium than have them sneak hard liquor in, which happens everywhere. 

Sure, the liability would be huge, and you'd have to pay more for added security and insurance. But the end result would be a safer and more fan-friendly game experience.

West Virginia started selling beer inside Milan Puskar Stadium in 2011, and the number of game-day arrests dropped by 35 percent, according to the WVU police department (via Freakonomics).

Selling alcohol in the stadium will discourage fans from breaking the rules and bringing in the harder stuff. Adding more security would also create a safer environment.

There could be a financial benefit too.

According to the Associated Press (via The Charleston Gazette), West Virginia made nearly $520,000 off beer and wine sales in its first season selling. The University of Minnesota also recently allowed beer and wine sales at TCF Bank Stadium. Despite losing $16,000 in its first season selling in 2012, it spent $30,000 in startup costs, according to Kyle Potter of the Associated Press (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press)

It should happen in the SEC, which is reviewing its alcohol policy for neutral-site games this spring, according to AL.com.

Or, at the very least, athletic departments should have the option to sell if they feel like it's a good move for the fans and for the bottom line.

It would be a win-win. It'd help keep those bottom lines healthy and fans would be more willing to not only come to games but stay inside the stadium rather than hitting the tailgates early. 


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

With Notre Dame Partnership, ACC Football Smart to Use SEC League Game Model

If the ACC's proposed scheduling model sounds a lot like the SEC's proposed scheduling model, it's because it is.

Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com reported on Monday that there is "significant support" among ACC athletic directors to stay at eight conference games. Faculty athletic representatives are expected to ratify the decision either Tuesday or Wednesday, though ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted that the vote has already been cast in favor of the status quo. 

The apparent requirement, however, is that ACC teams must schedule at least one team from the so-called "power five" conferences each year. 

(How that is enforceable for either the ACC or SEC will be interesting to follow.)

Similar to the SEC, this changes little for the ACC. Teams like Louisville, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State already have longstanding rivalries with teams in power five conferences. And since Notre Dame will play five ACC opponents every year in football as part of a scheduling agreement, the Irish will "count" toward that requirement. 

From Fowler: 

League officials have been asked to consider a model similar to the SEC's – an eight-game conference schedule, plus the guarantee of at least one game against another power conference. Many ACC schools already do this.

Notre Dame's commitment of five ACC games per year lessens the pressure to jump to a nine-game format, which the Pac-12 and Big 12 already use. The Big Ten will begin a nine-game schedule in 2016.

Fowler tweeted separately that, although the ACC would never admit it, support for eight conference games is bolstered by the SEC's model. 

With several longstanding out-of-conference rivalries and the addition of Notre Dame fitting the description of an acceptable opponent, there's almost no incentive for the ACC to move to a nine-game conference schedule. The only way that would change is if an ACC team is, somehow, left out of the College Football Playoff because of an eight-game conference slate.

The ACC is the latest conference to wait and see just how the CFP selection committee weighs factors like strength of schedule. The overwhelming vibe seems to be that if conferences don't have to change their philosophy, then they won't. 

Samuel Chi, B/R's resident playoff guru, writes that other major conferences shouldn't lend the SEC—and, perhaps now, the ACC—a helping hand with the nonconference scheduling requirement. "The SEC wants to have its cake and eat it, too," Chi wrote. "The other conferences shouldn't lend it a fork."

It's an interesting point of view. It could also show that college football needs a commissioner—and it needed one yesterday. Not NCAA president Mark Emmert, who doesn't have much in the way of individual power; his job is to speak and act on behalf of the membership. Rather, college football needs someone who can approve or deny things like realignment, make conference schedules equal across the board and approve playoff access criteria. 

If the five most powerful conferences are granted autonomy within the NCAA, there would be no better time to add a commissioner for that group.

But that's wishful thinking. Conferences have the ability to act by themselves and in their own best interest. For the ACC, that means staying at eight conference games and forcing the selection committee to prove it needs to adapt. 

It's hard to blame them, too. 


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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Unique Pressures of Being a Superstar Legacy College Football Recruit

In the end, there was never a lot of doubt where Mitch Hyatt would play his college football.

The seeds were sown long ago. It was just a matter of Clemson harvesting them.

When Hyatt announced his commitment to the Tigers on the evening of February 5, a full year before he could officially sign a national letter of intent, it was the culmination of a process that began 35 years ago when Dan Benish walked onto Clemson’s campus as a defensive tackle signee.

Benish, Hyatt’s uncle, loved his time at Clemson, helping the Tigers win their only national championship in 1981.

Now fans hope Hyatt can live up to the high standards that his uncle set. The expectations are certainly high already. Hyatt—a Suwanee, Georgia, native—is rated as the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect and No. 2 offensive tackle, per 247Sports.com.

By committing to Clemson, Hyatt put extra pressure on himself. But it’s the only place he really wanted to be.

“He enjoyed himself, but he doesn’t enjoy that whole recruiting side of life,” said Hyatt’s North Gwinnett High School coach, Bob Sphire. “His whole thing with me was, ‘I know what I want to do, and I want to focus on helping North Gwinnett be as good as we can be this fall.’ By going to Clemson, getting that done, he can focus on us and his teammates.”

Hyatt had a laundry list of offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Miami, South Carolina, Southern California, Ohio State, UCLA and more.

But he never found anything quite as special to him as Clemson.

He grew up going to games with Benish, who played at Clemson from 1979-83 and spent four seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.

“Going into it, Clemson had a clear head start,” Sphire said. “His association with Clemson, going to games growing up, being around the program. It was Mitch’s choice where he wanted to go. It wasn’t about where his uncle wanted him to go at all. He had a very great feel for Clemson already, a positive outlook on them.”

Sphire praised Clemson’s coaching staff for their recruitment of Hyatt (offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell was the recruiter of record).

“They went into the game with the lead,” he said, “and they didn’t screw it up. That’s for sure.”

Over an 18-month period, Hyatt visited numerous campuses, in Sphire’s words, “doing his due diligence.”

“He was going places and seeing things, but he kept comparing it to Clemson,” he said. “It never lost its luster for him. The shine never came off it.”

About a week before national signing day, Sphire said he could see Hyatt’s recruiting process drawing to a close.

“The whole community, I loved it,” Hyatt told 247Sports. “I went there for a visit for junior day and talked with coach (Dabo) Swinney face to face. He told me how the future would look if I went there, and I liked the plan. It seemed like it was for me.”

According to Sphire, Hyatt is a “quiet, unassuming kid” who didn’t truly enjoy the recruiting process and “is not a recruiting thrill-seeker at all. ... He’s not geared for getting on a plane and going to see Oregon’s uniforms.”

So Hyatt approached him with a plan. North Gwinnett typically honors its seniors who have signed scholarships on the evening of national signing day, a big event for the community.

How would everyone feel if he announced his choice that night? “I thought it was a great time to do it then,” Sphire said. “He didn’t want to steal thunder from the seniors, but we’re a tight-knit team and they were tickled to have Mitch as a part of that. We thought it was the right thing to do with the community, too. Everyone loves Mitch and looks up to him, thinks the world of him.”

So Hyatt announced for Clemson, giving the Tigers’ 2015 class a huge boost just as the calendar turned to officially start the new cycle.

“I wanted to go under the radar,” he toldThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Everyone was focused on the signings, so I wanted to slip in there, tell them, keep it under the radar.”

Committing early also allowed Hyatt to recruit for Clemson, trying to convince other elite players to jump on board with the Tigers. Since then, Clemson has also received a commitment from 4-star offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen.

Hyatt currently stands 6’5”, 271 pounds, also plays basketball and even dabbles as a defensive lineman.

“I think he’s the total package,” Sphire said. “He’s pretty good in all phases of the game and extremely athletic for the size he has. He’s effective as a run-blocker, a pass-blocker, can really play out in space and go out on screens. Some linemen are really good maulers in the run game or pass sets, but he does everything well. He finishes every play, every drill, he’s extremely coachable and has football intelligence.”

And the best is yet to come, Sphire said.

“Once he gets to college, they’ll put about 20 pounds of quality weight on him, beef him up, change him physically,” he said. “With his footwork, his demeanor, he understands the game of football really well. In terms of a lot of the things we do (with a spread offense) he’ll transition to the college game really well.”

He’ll do so while playing on the same field where his uncle played 30-plus years ago, hoping to lead Clemson to similar glory.

It’s a tough assignment, but one that Mitch Hyatt has fully embraced.


*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is New Texas QB Commit Zach Gentry Charlie Strong's Next Teddy Bridgewater?

Nothing shifts the focus from being shut out of the NFL draft quite like landing a blue-chip recruit. 

On Monday, Texas received a verbal commitment from Zach Gentry, a 4-star quarterback from Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 247Sports' composite rankings have Gentry as the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.

At 6'7" and 230 pounds, Gentry already has the prototypical size that Division I programs seek. But his size doesn't mean he's a statue in the pocket. "He's all of 6-6. I don't call him 6-7, because if you call him 6-7, people think he's slow," Eldorado coach Charlie Dodson told Jason Suchomel of OrangeBloods.com. "His feet are really good, he runs really well."

Among those to offer Gentry were Alabama, Tennessee and Strong's previous stop, Louisville. 

With top 2015 in-state quarterbacks like Jarrett Stidham committed to Texas Tech and Kyler Murray considering other schools, Texas had to look elsewhere to get its prize quarterback recruit. 

That's exactly what quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, who coached up Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, did when recruiting Gentry, per ESPN's Max Olson

Watson got on Gentry early on while at Louisville and has extended him offers at both schools. The in-state crop of quarterbacks is solid, and there could be room to take another like Quinten Dormady in this class, but Gentry would be a home run and a clear statement that Watson and the offensive staff won't be afraid to pursue elite passers outside the usually loaded Lone Star State. 

Without actually comparing Gentry to Bridgewater—the former hasn't even signed a National Letter of Intent with Texas, let alone arrive on campus or play in a game—Strong may have found a quarterback who can provide some future stability at the position, not to mention elevate it. 

David Ash, the presumed starter had it not been for a recent foot injury, has two more years of eligibility because of a medical hardship waiver he was granted last month. Ash missed most of last season with concussion symptoms. USC transfer Max Wittek seems bound for Texas but hasn't officially announced anything. 

Then there's sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. The point being, there's potentially going to be a lot of blue-chip talent on the quarterback depth chart soon—presumably much more than when Strong recruited Bridgewater for Louisville. 

The problem is that Texas has had a difficult time developing that talent. That shouldn't be an issue under Watson given what he did with Bridgewater. If a quarterback has the smarts and the tools, Watson can coach 'em up. 

It will be interesting to see if Gentry remains committed to the Longhorns until signing day and if he grows into a starting role down the road. 

Texas hasn't had a problem signing highly touted quarterbacks in the past, but the first major commitment of a new coaching regime is always cause for excitement. 

If there's one way Gentry's pledge can be compared to Bridgewater's, it's that it should have fans excited about the future of the program. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Auburn or Alabama Better Set Up for a National Championship Run in 2014?

Over the last five seasons, the winner of the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama has gone on to play for the national title.

During that time, Alabama has enjoyed sustained success at an elite level, while its intra-state rival has gone from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley and back near the peak again.

For the first time in this modern era of success, both programs will enter the 2014 season in the conversation for the national title and will likely land in the Top 10 of the major preseason polls.

But which one is set up better for a national title run?

Auburn came out of nowhere last season in head coach Gus Malzahn's first year at the helm, using a multidimensional, punishing rushing attack to lead the Tigers to within 13 seconds of the crystal football.

Eight starters from that offense are back, including quarterback Nick Marshall, who passed for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns while adding 1,068 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season as the starter. 

Meanwhile, at Alabama, head coach Nick Saban is bringing back a small village of stars at skill positions including wide receiver Amari Cooper and running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon.

There are some questions at quarterback and on defense, but the front seven looked stout this spring and there is talent to work with in a secondary that was hit hard with roster attrition.

So who's got the edge? It's the Auburn Tigers. Here's why.



Marshall's return marks the first time in Malzahn's college coaching career that he's had a starting quarterback return for his second season. His goal for Marshall this spring was to become more proficient in the intermediate passing game, and the 6'1", 210-pound senior passed that test with flying colors.

"He's got a better understanding now," Malzahn told Bleacher Report last week. "You can tell he's more confident. His eyes are in the right spot, he's throwing the ball on time and his checkdowns are right. He's just got an overall better feel for the offense."

Over his eight seasons as a college assistant or head coach, Malzahn has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers.

He will be able to replicate last year's offense, which was predicated on a multidimensional rushing attack and Marshall taking the top off the defense. 

If Marshall adds an intermediate passing game to that mix, the offense will be difficult to stop.

Meanwhile, all of Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's eggs are in Florida State transfer Jacob Coker's basket. Senior Blake Sims looked uncomfortable in the offense in the spring game, so the bar for Coker to reach now that he's on campus is still relatively low.

Is he the second coming of AJ McCarron? He certainly has a big reputation, but it's built largely on closed-door practice reports and the notion that he pushed 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston late into fall camp for the No. 1 job in Tallahassee last season.

Whether you believe he did or not, he's still a mystery.

First-year starters have won four of the last five national titles, so there's reason for hope for Coker and Alabama. But wouldn't you rather have a known commodity heading into the season?


"Just Enough" Defense

A stifling defense has been a staple of Alabama during the first seven years of Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa, but times, they are a-changin'. Defense doesn't win championships anymore. "Just enough" defense wins championships.

That's a moving target for each team based on the offense it runs.

Alabama has struggled with no-huddle teams that boast mobile quarterbacks and has adjusted with some freakish athletes at defensive end in the 3-4 scheme like Jonathan Allen and A'Shawn Robinson—both of whom are likely starters at defensive end this year.

Their athleticism should allow them to slow mobile quarterbacks, but can they do it consistently?

Five, and perhaps even seven, of Alabama's eight SEC opponents in 2014 will have mobile quarterbacks.

Auburn's defense was more punch line than power last season, but the Tigers made it work thanks to a deep defensive line that stayed fresh and a linebacking corps that got better as the season progressed.

TeamRankings.com indicates the Tigers finished 18th in the country in fourth-quarter points per game, giving up just 4.8 per game in the final frame in the regular season.

The Tigers will follow the same blueprint again in 2014, with a deep defensive line, starting linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy returning off their solid title-game performances, and a secondary that is healthy, has options and got a talent injection thanks to the class of 2014.

Auburn's defense isn't what's typically known as a championship-level defense, but it's effective. That's the goal for any team, particularly one that's going to light up the scoreboard.


Offensive Scheme

It's safe to say that Malzahn's offense can be diverse, even when it's one-dimensional.

The ability of Marshall, edge-rusher Corey Grant, whoever emerges as the power back between the tackles and the offensive line to get downfield and open holes is difficult to stop when it's clicking, and Marshall's ability on the ground should let it click again in 2014.

Malzahn isn't a one-trick pony, though.

Five different quarterbacks have passed for more than 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns during Malzahn's career as a college assistant or head coach.

He'll simplify the offense and keep it simple if it works, but that's not all he does.

Over at Alabama, the new offensive coordinator has a mixed resume. He helped USC win a national title—which was later vacated—in 2004 and got the Trojans to the brink following the 2005 season before Vince Young happened.

However, his reputation has been sullied a little bit after USC's struggles during the final year-plus of his tenure as head coach.

Now that he can focus on X's and O's and ignore some of the other distractions associated with being a head coach, he could reignite his offensive prowess. 

But what if he falls back in love with screen passes when he shouldn't? What if he forgets that Henry and Yeldon are in the backfield? He's still very much a mystery in this new era as an offensive coordinator.

Yes, Alabama's schedule looks relatively easy and Auburn's looks daunting—especially from October 25 through the end of the season. I wrote last week that it's unfair to Alabama to label its schedule "soft" in the offseason, and the same argument holds true for labeling Auburn's "difficult."

Auburn has talent returning and a scheme that it knows works at an elite level.

That's a recipe for success and has the Tigers on the inside track within the state to make this year's run at the national title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Just don't be surprised if Alabama joins them.


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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

An in-Depth Look at Colts' Most Intriguing Selection, Donte Moncrief

While the Indianapolis Colts may not have had the most exciting draft this year, they did get a very intriguing wide receiver out of Ole Miss in Donte Moncrief.

Moncrief was taken by the Colts with the No. 90 overall pick in the third round and was the second player taken by Indianapolis over the weekend after Ohio State offensive lineman Jack Mewhort. Wide receiver wasn't a pressing need right now, but with how many talented prospects there were in this year's draft at the position, general manager Ryan Grigson couldn't pass up on Moncrief.

Some fans may have been upset the Colts didn't draft a player at a position where they needed more help, but Moncrief presents a long-term option at the position. Hakeem Nicks was signed this offseason, but he's on a one-year deal and could be gone after 2014. Meanwhile, Reggie Wayne is 35 years old, coming off a torn ACL and on the final year of his contract.

While he may not make an immediate impact, Moncrief could be a major asset down the road.

Unlike so many receivers Colts fans have seen over the years, Moncrief actually has great size at the position at 6'2'' and 221 pounds. He's used that size to his advantage over the past few years at Ole Miss, putting up 2,371 yards and 20 touchdowns on 156 receptions over the past three years.

Size isn't the only thing that makes Moncrief such an interesting prospect at the next level. The former Ole Miss receiver also does a nice job accelerating to top speed off the line while using body control to position himself to make the catch. 

One of the things that stands out when watching Moncrief that will make offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton very happy is the receiver's willingness to block. Whether it was during run plays or bubble screens, Moncrief never seemed afraid to get chippy with opposing defensive backs, and that helped open up running lanes on a consistent basis.

Moncrief wasn't perfect at Ole Miss, rounding out routes and struggling at times with 50-50 balls despite his size. His production wasn't as impressive as it could have been, but a lot of that was on his quarterback, Bo Wallace, who struggled throwing with consistent accuracy.

Fortunately for Moncrief, he won't have to worry as much about that with Andrew Luck throwing him passes.

With his skill set and size, Moncrief is the ultimate vertical threat, and he showed that multiple times last season. Let's take a look at one of those explosive plays against the Auburn Tigers.

In the third quarter, the Rebels were using "jet" personnel, or four wide receivers with one running back in the backfield. Moncrief was lined up on the outside in the Spread 31 Right formation (three receivers on the left, one on the right and the running back to the right of the quarterback).

On this play, Moncrief is running a deep post towards the end zone. The route isn't the sharpest one, but he's able to adjust once the ball is in the air and makes the impressive catch for the touchdown. You can see the video of the play below at the 3:15 mark.

That wasn't the only big play Moncrief made in the game. He finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions against the SEC champions, and that was one of five games this past season where he had at least 100 receiving yards.

Overall, Moncrief has a unique set of skills that should help him stand out from the other receivers on the depth chart, and while he may not see the field a ton in his rookie season if everyone stays healthy, Colts fans should prepare to hear his name called quite often down the road.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Three Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2014

The dreaded hot seat is one of the worst positions in all sports because with it comes added media scrutiny, potential loss of a job and sometimes just plain old negative vibes. In Pac-12 country, the hot seat is locked away under most stadiums and probably out of commission for the next year.

But at three schools, there are athletic directors who may just want to keep an eye on the keys to the dusty rooms storing the hot seat, because it's not impossible that we could see some coaching changes following the 2014 season.

At the Arizona schools, both Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham are safer than ever after coming off solid seasons and with programs on the rise. Jim Mora can do no wrong at UCLA, and unless Steve Sarkisian just forgets to show up to work, he'll be fine for the foreseeable future.

The same can be said for the Washington schools, where Chris Petersen brings with him a solid reputation to the Huskies' program and Mike Leach is working wonders in Pullman for the Cougars. Finally, there's a fellow in Palo Alto named David Shaw who seems to be doing okay.

That leaves us with five other coaches who stand on varying degrees of less-than-solid ground. Which three could find themselves on the hot seat in 2014?


Kyle Whittingham, Utah

When Utah first made the jump over to the Pac-12, it appeared as though Kyle Whittingham would be the perfect man to lead the program into the future.

For one, he had already established a positive reputation after leading the Utes to a dominant Sugar Bowl win over Alabama at the conclusion of the 2009 season. That same Alabama team, we should add, was polishing a national championship trophy one year later.

But since the move to the power conference, things haven't worked out very well. In year one, the team went 8-5 and had a chance to reach the conference title game before losing the regular-season finale against Colorado, 17-14.

That loss would be the start of a long, downward spiral that has left the program coming off back-to-back five-win campaigns. Of course the Utes don't have the talent of the rest of the league, but part of the challenge as a coach is bringing in better talent and finding a way to level the playing field.

Whittingham is a proven coach, and he performed magnificently in the wake of Urban Meyer's departure. But the Pac-12 is on the rise and in much better shape than when his squad first entered the league.

The Arizona schools are on the rise, as are UCLA, USC and potentially Colorado. Getting back to eight- or nine-win seasons isn't going to just happen, and Utah is the only team in its division trending downward.

In 2014, the Utes will have proven quarterback Travis Wilson back (assuming he can stay healthy) to provide stability to the offense. The defense, under Whittingham's guidance, should be tough as usual. But if he can't lead his team to at least six wins, the recent trend will be unmistakable.

Even with another bad season, the school may choose to give their long-time coach another year. But make no mistake: If the Utes start out poorly and are struggling to capture wins, Whittingham's seat will heat up rather quickly.


Sonny Dykes, California

Before you point out that Sonny Dykes only has one season under his belt as the head coach at Cal, please note that it's been taken into consideration. And yes, he still makes this list as potentially having a hot seat in 2014.

To address that first part, we'll point out the former Colorado coach Jon Embree lasted a mere two seasons before getting the ax. The Buffaloes had hoped he would be the man to restore order to a program with a proud tradition, but the team was awful under his guidance.

And awful only scratches the surface of definitions that could apply to Cal football at the moment. The Bears won just one game in 2013, a nail-biter over Portland State. One win for a team that had been consistently challenging for conference titles just five years earlier is not okay, even for a first-year coach.

Going even further with that point, consider that former coach Jeff Tedford was fired after a three-win campaign, and that was with the unpredictable (to put it nicely) Zach Maynard at quarterback, not the steady Jared Goff of 2014.

Speaking of Goff, he remains a bright spot on the team. He has a big arm and a big future and is the perfect player to head up Dykes' "Bear Raid" offense. But one win doesn't cut it at a BCS conference program, especially one that knows what success is like.

Given that Dykes was a new coach and he has an unorthodox offensive philosophy, giving him a second year was a no-brainer. But he needs to at least show signs of forward momentum next season.

That means at least three or four wins, competing hard within the conference and making sure the team stays together even amidst the rough patches that are bound to occur. If he does that, he should be fine. But if he fails to get Cal off the ground for a second year in a row, his job may be in jeopardy.


Mark Helfrich, Oregon

A funny thing happened at the University of Oregon between the time Chip Kelly was hired and when he left for the NFL: Ducks fans raised their expectations of success to unparalleled heights.

That, in turn, has led to doubters of second-year head coach Mark Helfrich despite the fact that the Ducks won 11 games in 2013 and thrashed Texas by a score of 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl. Most schools in the country would be thrilled with that kind of year.

And there are still quite a few Ducks fans very aware of where the program once was and just happy to be competing at such a high level each year. But there's a feeling that with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, the team has a window to win a national championship. And while that window won't close completely with hoards of talent arriving each year, it could become smaller once Mariota leaves.

Is Helfrich the man to keep Oregon in the realm of dominant football programs? For eight games last year, that answer appeared to be a resounding yes. But a 3-2 finish filled with poor play and a blowout loss at Arizona raised questions.

Alabama lost two games as well, for those of you wondering why the same scrutiny isn't on Nick Saban after his team lost two straight to end the year. The difference, of course, is that Saban has a handful of titles stowed away while Helfrich is at his first head-coaching gig at the major college football level.

Is it fair to even consider the possibility that he'll be on the hot seat at some point in 2014? Maybe not. A slew of injuries hampered the Ducks' stretch run in 2013, and it was still just his first season. But a monster matchup with Michigan State looms large in September. Later there will be a difficult test at UCLA, a pivotal home game against Stanford and a trip to Reser where the Beavers will surely be out for revenge.

With all the talent on Oregon, the Ducks must win nine or ten games next season. If they take down the Spartans and fail to show the signs of disarray that cropped up last November, Helfrich will be fine. But if those were warnings of what's on the horizon, Helfrich's seat could warm up, and the pressure from a fanbase that wants to win now will become tough to ignore.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Three Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2014

The dreaded hot seat is one of the worst positions in all sports because with it comes added media scrutiny, potential loss of a job and sometimes just plain old negative vibes...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...