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Mike Leach and Washington State Staff Reel in Giant Fish

Judging by the pictures, Mike Leach and the Washington State coaching staff recently had a successful fishing trip on the Salmon River.

It may have started out as a way for the coaches to bond with each other away from the football field, but it ended up as a memorable experience, thanks to one big catch.

Check out just how long their catch was:

According to Football Scoop's Scott Roussel, the coaching staff says that the fish was a sturgeon.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Why Texas Tech QB Davis Webb Will Be Biggest Surprise of 2014

There's a precedent for this.

Johnny Manziel was in his second year out of high school when Kliff Kingsbury, then the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, named him the starting quarterback over Jameill Showers (the favorite to start) and helped guide him to the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

"He has the feel of a kid that has always expected this moment," Kingsbury said after naming Manziel the starter, according to Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman.

If he only knew the half of it.

Now Kingsbury is entering his second year as the head coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech, where he's spent the summer hyping up another two-years-removed-from-high-school QB. Like Manziel, he was a looked-over 3-star prospect on the 247Sports Composite, and like Manziel, he is not much to look at physically (at least not yet).

But just like Manziel, Davis Webb can play.

That became obvious during Webb's true freshman season, when he, unlike Manziel, was called on to make a few starts. Walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield beat Webb for the job out of camp, but by the end of the season, after Webb threw for 403 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State, the job was so obviously Webb's that Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.

Now the job belongs to Webb indubitably. The team and the offense are his, and the 6'4", 215-pound sophomore from Prosper, Texas, is good enough to...well, to prosper. Not just at an All-Big 12 level, but as one of the very best statistical quarterbacks in America.

Webb could be the shocker of the season.

Kingsbury doesn't mince words. He never has, and he never will.

That was his style as a player—Kingsbury, by the way, won the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation's top QB in 2002—and that's been his style as a coach. Confident and outspoken. Eccentric and hip and cool.

Despite this, the comments Kingsbury made about Webb in late May seemed out there. Way out there. Even by his own "way out there" standards. Here's what the second-year coach had to say about his second-year quarterback, per Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com:

He has a chance to be very special. He has one of the quickest releases and strongest arms I’ve been around. Very smart, intellectual thinker. Processes things very quickly. Sees the field. Great at checking to the right place. He probably had the best spring I’ve ever been around as far as protecting the football and making plays in our scrimmages. In our live scrimmages, [he had] 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions, which was a huge step from where he was last year.

I think he’s one of those top-5 pick talents with his arm strength and his mind and his size, and how athletic he is for being 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds.

It is normal, as a first reaction, to rebuff Kingsbury's praise as hyperbole and coachspeak. Of course he'd call his quarterback a top-five type of talent. What is he supposed to say—that he isn't?

But look a little closer, and you realize that he might not be so crazy. Webb is not a household name—his namesake, Katherine, is better associated with college quarterback play than he is—but perhaps he ought to be. His true freshman season was that historically good.

Webb finished No. 12 in the country in ESPN.com's Total QBR metric last season. The three players immediately behind him were Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater and Connor Shaw. Tajh Boyd, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr could all be found a little further down the list.

Only six returning players finished ahead of him:

Not a bad list to be on.

Because he ranks so high, based on his own performance, you might think calling Webb the surprise of 2014 is a misnomer. How could someone who's already placed himself on that list be a "surprise"?

The answer to that question is simple: Because he still don't get no respect. When the most recent batch of Heisman odds were released in February, per Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com, seven of the eight QBs listed above were included.

Care to guess which one was not?

Exactly.

The Total QBR data at ESPN stretches back to 2004. During that time, no true freshman has ever posted a higher score than Webb's 82.6 in 2013. That's a decade's worth of data that Webb stands on the forefront of—and still nobody seems to notice him!

Well, not nobody. People understand that Webb is poised to be good. He just hasn't penetrated the national discourse.

He did, however, earn this endorsement from Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com, who called Webb the most indispensable player at TTU:

The Red Raiders' hopes for success are sitting on Webb's shoulders. ...

He looked even better during the spring with his spot as "the man" in the Red Raiders' offense, capping his spring with a four-touchdown performance in the spring game. Heading into his sophomore season, Webb is accurate, takes care of the football and continues to improve, making him one of the Big 12's most valuable players.

If he's out of the equation, Tech's hopes for success take a major hit. Not only because Kingsbury's squad is set to have a true freshman Patrick Mahomes, as its No. 2 quarterback, but because Webb's stellar play would be difficult to mimic for any signal-caller.

Kingsbury's offense, which was welded from his time spent learning under Mike Leach (as a player) and Kevin Sumlin (as a coordinator), is among the most dangerous in the country.

Even after losing tight end Jace Amaro, Webb still has explosive players such as Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez to rely on. According to Chatmon, receivers are the team's strongest position.

Webb has a little bit of Manziel in him, too. He wants every play to be the game-changer. Or at least that's how he was when he first arrived.

"He was trying to hit a home run with every throw," Kingsbury told B/R's Ben Kercheval. "He didn't let the game come to him."

To which Webb, himself, conceded, "I have a big head."

Sound like anyone you know?

But now Webb is being lauded for his decision-making, for the way he takes care of the football. He's still got that Manziel mentality, but he's better at reigning it in. And although he'll never be the wizard on his feet that Manziel was, Manziel will never be 6'4" (and slowly filling out).

All of which points to a huge season for Webb—statistically and otherwise. Putting up very good numbers would surprise no one, but Webb is poised to do much more. He's poised to put up Derek-Carr-in-2013 numbers, the type that merit Heisman consideration.

If Texas Tech can cobble together a defense and win nine or 10 football games, that's exactly what Webb will receive.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Why SEC Should Be Afraid of Sophomore Tennessee WR Marquez North

Freshman wide receiver Marquez North burst onto the national scene in 2014 with some monster, highlight-reel receptions. What does North have in store for his sophomore season? 

Tennessee's quarterback situation is up in the air, but expect North to put up huge numbers in 2014 regardless of who is under center for the Vols. 

Watch Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee predict how North will fare in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital

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SEC vs. ACC: Which Power Conference Will Claim Stud DE Jalen Dalton?

Jalen Dalton, a 4-star defensive end, is one of the top recruits in the 2015 class and has yet to decide where he will play college football.

The 6'5", 235-pound playmaker has a unique combination of size and athleticism that will make him a serious threat at the next level.

Bleacher Report's CFB Analyst Michael Felder broke down what school would provide the best fit for Dalton to excel at the next level.

Will it be in the ACC or SEC?

Watch the above video to find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital. Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Blake Barnett Opens Up to Former Texas QB Chris Simms on Decommitment from ND

4-star dual-threat QB Blake Barnett recently decommitted from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and opened up his recruitment. Barnett will now go on a few more visits as a part of his renewed recruiting process. 

Former Texas QB and current Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms went through a similar situation after committing to Tennessee early in his own recruiting process. Barnett and Simms met up to talk about their experiences and what Barnett is looking forward to in his football career. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247Sports Composite

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Why the Big 12 Is Better off Sticking with 10 Teams, for Now

If orange is the new black, then 10 is the new 12.

That would be the Big 12, which is happy to stick with 10 teams.

A couple of Big 12's athletic directors told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that the conference is satisfied with the number of teams right now and has no immediate plans for expansion. They more or less echoed what conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said a year ago.

And why not? The Big 12 last fiscal year actually made more money per school than the SEC and ACC, thanks to the lean and mean number of members.

Once on a deathbed, the Big 12 is now thriving with 10 teams. After losing Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC and surviving the then-Pac-10's attempt to poach Texas, Texas Tech and both Oklahoma schools, the Big 12 now has stability following the additions of TCU and West Virginia in 2012.

Not to mention the most fair way to settle the conference championship in football. The Big 12 is the only one of the five power conferences that plays a true round robin, in which every member school faces the rest every season.

"The conference schedule is absolutely great," West Virginia's Oliver Luck told McMurphy. "Our tagline is 'one true champion.'"

The Big 12's lack of interest in expanding comes as bad news for a handful of schools with aspirations to join the big boys' club.

Cincinnati is one of the few longtime Big East schools not poached by the ACC and thought to be a prime target if the Big 12 decides to expand. BYU has made no secret about wanting in with the Big 12 and shedding its independent status. Both UCF and USF also desire to be in the mix as they're large public schools in the recruit-rich state of Florida.

While this isn't to say that the Big 12 will never expand, there is even less incentive for it to do so if a proposed legislation is passed by the NCAA. The Big 12 is backing an ACC proposal to allow conferences to stage championship football games without the need of having divisions. The legislation might be voted on as early as this August during an NCAA board meeting.

The only thing missing for the Big 12 as compared to the other four power conferences is the title game, which has not been held since 2010, after Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

But unless not having a conference championship game proves to be detrimental to the Big 12 in the upcoming College Football Playoff era, there isn't necessarily a reason to stage one. And chances are, the Big 12 might end up having the best of both worlds, getting to have a title game without needing to dilute the cash take for each member school.

Why not have the cake and eat it too, if you can?

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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After Joker Phillips Departure, Pressure Is on Chris Leak at Florida

All most of us know at the moment is that Joker Phillips is no longer Florida's wide receivers coach, and Chris Leak is. 

On Wednesday, Phillips abruptly stepped down from his position after one-and-a-half years in Gainesville, citing "personal reasons.

However, ESPN's Brett McMurphy later reported that Phillips resigned because of possible recruiting violations. Footballscoop.com tweeted that the possible violation was a bump, which is nothing more than impermissible contact between a coach and a player during non-contact periods. It is considered a relatively minor violation. 

None of this really adds up. The only thing that can be said definitively is that Leak, the former Gators quarterback who won a national championship in 2006-07, is taking over an important position for Florida. In way, he's almost as important as first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. 

Florida is not void of talent at wide receiver, but it is one of the weaker links for the offense transitioning into the 2014 season. The Gators finished 12th in the SEC in passing offense and their receivers hauled in just 11 touchdowns. That's not entirely on the receivers—the quarterback position was a revolving door—but there wasn't much help on the outside, either. 

Quinton Dunbar returns after catching 39 passes a year ago, but he didn't have a single touchdown. Andre Debose has had a lengthy career derailed by injuries and he's never quite fit in with previous offensive schemes. Demarcus Robinson was a 4-star receiver coming out of high school and saw the field as a freshman—but caught just six passes. 

On one hand, Leak has plenty to work with. On the other, he has a lot to work on. Until Florida gets inside the 5-yard line, that is.

Jokes aside, ESPN's Edward Aschoff thinks Leak is up to the challenge, citing former quarterbacks Tee Martin (Tennessee) Dameyune Craig (Auburn) who have successfully transitioned to wide receiver coaches. 

Leak's work will be on full display as more receivers should see the field this season in Roper's up-tempo offense. That places more importance on their development this offseason, as Roper explained to Bruce Feldman, previously of CBSSports.com, in April: 

We're talented at receiver. We 've got some guys that can run and make plays. We've just got to keep throwing and catching. For so long here they were in two-backs and a tight end, and all they would play was two wide receivers. We just need a ton of throwing and catching together. They haven't played in these formations as much as we're using them.  

When head coach Will Muschamp hired Roper away from Duke, it showed he was committed to turning the offense around in a hurry. After all, his job may depend on it.

The Gators ranked at or near the bottom of the SEC in major offensive categories. Injuries were a major issue for the entire team, but if the offense had been so much as serviceable, Florida likely would have been bowling instead of sitting with a 4-8 record. 

Clearly, Roper has a big job a head of him. But so does Leak, who has only served as a graduate assistant to this point. 

Like the rest of the Gators coaching staff, Leak will have to produce results quickly.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

 

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Bulldogs Land Two Commits on Same Day

Georgia added a pair of defensive prospects to its 2015 recruiting class Wednesday, picking up in-state linebacker Gary McCrae and Florida cornerback Deandre Baker. The Bulldogs capped the day off with a commitment from McCrae, who pledged shortly after receiving an offer, per Radi Nabulsi of NBC Atlanta.

The duo gives Georgia 11 total commits in a class that currently rates 10th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings:

Head coach Mark Richt continues to stockpile defensive talent in a group of prospects that is heavy on that side of the ball. Among pledges, at least eight are expected to join Jeremy Pruitt's attack in 2015.

McCrae, a 4-star prospect from Randolph Clay High School (Cuthbert, Georgia), is a dynamic player along the edge who brings intimidating size to the field. The 6'4", 220-pound playmaker provides versatility, and he could develop into an effective pass-rusher at the next level with improved technique and added strength.

His loyalties to the Bulldogs are deep-rooted.

"My family members are all Bulldogs fans and I have a player that I look up to that went to school there to from my hometown: Thomas Davis," McCrae told Nabulsi.

Davis was an All-American linebacker and safety at Georgia. He now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

McCrae is the second linebacker to join the class in June. Florida product Juwan Taylor pledged last week and is viewed as the player best suited for an inside position.

McCrae is rated No. 22 nationally among outside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings. Rated 28th overall in Georgia, he is the Bulldogs' seventh in-state commit.

His offer sheet includes Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State, among others.

Baker is the third player Richt has plucked from Florida during this recruiting cycle. The 5'11", 175-pound defensive back competes at Miami Northwestern, where he earned a U.S. Army All-American Bowl invite.

His commitment also came just hours after an offer was extended.

“Coach (Mark) Richt personally offered me," Baker told Rusty Mansell of 247Sports. "He was surprised I committed.”

He chose Georgia over the likes of Tennessee, Rutgers, Mississippi State and Clemson.

Baker is a 3-star recruit who rates 78th nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He adds to a 2015 haul that already includes 4-star Tennessee cornerback Rico McGraw

 

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

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10 Ways Pac-12 Football Can Overtake the SEC in College Football Playoff Era

The Pac-12 is a tremendous football conference. In fact, you could make a very strong case that it's the second-best league in college football with Oregon, Stanford and UCLA all looking like top-notch teams heading into 2014.

But yes, the second-best conference. Because like it or not, the SEC still holds the title of the toughest league in the sport. A recent history littered with national titles and Heisman Trophies proves that. So does tons of first-round draft picks, highly rated recruiting classes and future Hall of Fame coaches.

Nobody in Pac-12 country wants to hear those same things 10 years from now, though. So what can be done about it?

To start, we must look at where the SEC excels over the Pac-12. What exactly is it that makes it a better overall conference? Then, the Pac-12 must bridge those various gaps if it hopes to contend for the title of best league in college football. Let's be clear, too, that this league isn't that far behind. We're not comparing an expansion team to the '97-'98 Bulls. But it is indeed behind.

Here are 10 ways that the Pac-12 can overtake the SEC during the college football playoff era. And let's be honest, if it goes the way of the BCS era, the SEC fans will become insufferable if they aren't enough already.

(Just kidding guys, you're welcome anytime and there's plenty of microbrews for everyone.)

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

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10 Ways Pac-12 Football Can Overtake the SEC in College Football Playoff Era

The Pac -12 is a tremendous football conference. In fact, you could make a very strong case that it's the second-best league in college football with Oregon, Stanford and UCLA all looking like top-notch teams heading into 2014...

Begin Slideshow

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