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Is College Football's 'Bag Man' Phenomenon Really Such a Bad Thing?

Steven Godfrey of SBNation penned an extraordinary long-form piece titled "Meet the Bag Man: How to buy college football players, in the words of the man who delivers the money." It was a striking expose in which Godfrey talked at length with an unnamed "bag man" about the standards and practices when it comes to money flowing into the pockets of college football players in the SEC.

In the piece Godfrey publicized the underground culture that insiders would never dare discuss with outsiders. Simply put, he gave readers a look at the topics that college football players really talk about. Whether it is recruits comparing notes about the "perks" at certain schools or former players recalling the "help" that came out of nowhere, fans got an inside view of what it looks like from the other side. Not message board rumors. Not disgruntled players hoping to bring someone down. Not a coach reporting another coach because he lost a recruiting battle. No, this was an unbridled look at how the money changes hands and, more importantly, the way it flows from one area to another.

Godfrey has sparked his own news event, including an appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show and an "Ask Me Anything" with Reddit scheduled. His facts are undeniable, but the morality of it all is an interesting element worth delving into and examining. Undoubtedly, the topic of "How to buy college football players" will leave a bad taste in some folks' mouths. However, as Godfrey showed, it is far more than just about big money and throwing it around at stud players. It's a delicate ecosystem of funding, relationships and hopes of upward mobility. An ecosystem where against the rules is not synonymous with bad. Where it is a facet of the business structure, and not necessarily a cause for outrage.

Who really gets hurt if, as Godfrey mentions, a "bag man" gives a recruit money to fix the family tractor?

Certainly, the bag men, coaches and schools want to win, but on the players' side, winning is rivaled by family stability, simply going to college and having a relatively normal collegiate experience.

Those goals align. Programs need talent. Talents need school, and football is often their way in. It is that synergy that creates a near-symbiotic relationship between the two sides. And relationship is key, because more than money, both sides have to grow to trust the other for the preliminary seed to grow.

Meanwhile, the judgment from the outside is real. Non-participants discussing rules and glorifying amateurism. Of course it's better to let that 5-star's family tractor go unfixed than it is to help his family and reap the benefits. Surely, giving that 4-star's mom a better job to make School A more attractive is poor form compared to allowing her to spin her wheels to make ends meet.

At least that is what those bound to the NCAA structure believe.

Luckily, for those involved, the NCAA structure is not a moral barometer. Getting caught is bad, but offering the help and keeping it off the books is acceptable and tends to benefit the kids, all while sometimes leading to championships.

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Alabama Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

With Alabama’s A-Day spring game set for April 19, the Tide are nearing the conclusion of spring practice.

A critical loss in the secondary and the fallout from the Tide’s first scrimmage held last Saturday headline the biggest news of the week.

 

News of the Week

As detailed by Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser, Nick Saban expressed optimism following the scrimmage.

“I was really pleased with the effort and intensity the players had,” Saban said. “I really like the attitude of this team in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they work, the effort that they give and the mental and physical toughness that we play with.”

The biggest headliners on offense were quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper, while linebackers Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall led the charge defensively.

Cooper, who caught 10 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, looks primed to have a monster season under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

However, the news wasn’t all good. Sophomore corner Eddie Jackson suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill during the scrimmage, according to ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.

Jackson’s injury means a corner rotation already thin on experience will be without a key contributor—one who was seeing reps with the first team for a majority of the spring—for the foreseeable future.

Another distraction for the Tide came on Thursday when junior linebacker Dillon Lee was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

In a statement released by Alabama’s media relations department, Saban said he will handle the situation appropriately, "once I’ve had a chance to review all of the information.”

Lee has been one of the spring’s most notable standouts, and his off-field mishap is concerning for a team looking to regain its focus and discipline heading into the season.

 

Sims Takes Charge

While Saban has repeated that the quarterback competition is one that will play out well into fall camp, Sims took a step forward in separating himself from the pack in the first scrimmage.

The senior went 16-of-23 for 227 yards and two scores with no interceptions. Those numbers were good enough to get the attention of Saban, who praised Sims for “taking some command,” as noted by Scarborough.

Considering Sims was able to hurt the defense by making big plays through the air, his continued development as a passer gives the Tide’s offense an added dimension when his ability to create plays with his legs factor into the equation.

“There are two plays with Blake: the one they call on offense and then when that one doesn't go right, it's the one he makes with his feet,” senior safety Nick Perry said.

If Sims continues to make progress, he has a strong chance of exiting the spring as the prime challenger to incoming transfer Jacob Coker when fall camp begins in August.

 

Defensive Notes

Last week’s report featured a note on Saban’s unhappiness with the perceived depth and talent along the defensive line. However, Saban clarified his thoughts on that position during a visit to Mobile for a charity dinner, according to AL.com’s Mike Herndon.

I was told what a great defensive line we have, by someone in your position. So I asked: 'What's the basis of your criteria that you're using to make this assessment?' And he says: 'Well, it looks that way on paper.' So, I just kind of took offense to that and said that we're not satisfied with how they're playing, but we're looking forward to them getting better. And they are getting better, and I think probably will be better, more athletic than we were a year ago.

Elsewhere, despite the Tide’s base defense being a 3-4 scheme, Alabama is spending more snaps in nickel sets due to the number of teams using spread offenses with three and four receiver sets.

During the first two practices earlier this week, the Tide’s nickel package featured Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve at the corners, Landon Collins and Geno Smith at safety with Jarrick Williams at star, according to Gribble.

With the injury to Jackson and freshman Tony Brown nursing a shoulder injury, the rotation at corner will be worth monitoring as A-Day approaches. Smith getting a chance to work alongside Collins at safety is also a new development that could stick depending on how things play out until the end of spring.

 

What’s Next

Spring practice is nearing its conclusion, and the next date to pay attention to is Saturday when the Tide will hold their second scrimmage, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

The position battles at critical spots such as offensive line, defensive end, linebacker and at various spots in the secondary are ones to watch over the final handful of practices.

With precious few opportunities for players to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff, expect the intensity to pick up with this scrimmage and the subsequent practices leading up to next weekend’s spring game.

 

 

 

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Nebraska Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

Nebraska football fans know it’s close—so close they can almost taste it. This Saturday, Memorial Stadium will fill up with the faithful once again to watch the spring game, the annual last gasp of football before a long summer.

So if you want to get the most out of this last look at Nebraska football until August, make sure that you’re prepared. Here’s all the information you’ll need.

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Dabo Swinney Gives 2017 WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. Clemson Offer

Keyshawn Johnson Jr.'s recruitment has been heating up, as the 2017 WR has fielded offers from top programs such as Ohio State, Florida State and Arizona State. 

You may now add Clemson to the list. The 6'1", 180-pound ninth grader has yet to record a varsity reception, but his potential has the scouts drooling. 

Johnson Jr. and fellow class of 2017 prospect Darnay Holmes took a visit to Clemson recently and met with Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris.  

Holmes, a 5'11", 180-pound athlete, whose father, Darick Holmes, was an NFL running back for five seasons, was also offered a scholarship to Clemson. 

Both Johnson Jr. and Holmes have a long way to go before college, but with their NFL pedigree, they should have a leg up on the competition. 

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Texas Football: Is Donald Catalon Texas' Most Important Newcomer for 2014?

The Texas Longhorns have 23 new players arriving this offseason as members of their 2014 recruiting class. After losing significant depth at tailback, none could be more instrumental to the program's immediate success than running back Donald Catalon.

Jerrod Heard and Derick Roberson are the faces of this group of newcomers. Over the next four years, no two players will be more important than the quarterback and pass-rusher of the future. As for the 2014 season, Catalon is already on the fast track to a major role without even stepping on the practice field.

Since they did not land an impact safety, the Longhorns do not have a 2014 recruit that needs to contribute immediately. The 'Horns return eight starters on defense, and every departed offensive player has a backup that is ready to assume more responsibility.

At least that was the case before spring practice began. Now that Joe Bergeron has been suspended due to academic issues, the Longhorns need all the help they can get behind returning All-Big 12 runner Malcolm Brown.

Even with Johnathan Gray out for the foreseeable future with a ruptured Achilles, the Longhorns entered the offseason with a deep stable of runners led by Brown. The senior rushed for 462 yards in the four games Gray was out, and Bergeron's 1,392 career yards gave Texas a trusted backup with offensive weapon Daje Johnson on hand as a change-of-pace back. 

Losing Bergeron complicates that expected depth, especially because Brown has missed eight games in his career. Johnson and redshirt sophomore Jalen Overstreet are the other Longhorn backs that carried the ball 10-plus times last season, though, neither should be relied upon to spell Brown on a regular basis.

Weighing just 180 pounds, Johnson is in no way built to handle the ball between the tackles. What he brings is pure, game-changing speed that is better utilized when he is moved around the formation. He possesses great talent, but trying to give him heavy carries would be counterproductive.

Overstreet, a converted quarterback, is less of a known commodity. He rushed for 92 yards on nine carries last season against New Mexico State, but his other 11 totes gained just 10 yards. Coming in at a sleight 215 pounds, the 6'2" glider is no more built for an increased role than Johnson.

In all, that's one out of three tailbacks with proven skill to handle a solid workload. And there's no guarantee he can stay healthy.

For the incoming Catalon, that provides an opportunity to immediately step in as the backup until Gray and/or Bergeron is back in action. The Houston product was 247Sports' top running back recruit in the state, and he possesses a skill set that would be a nice complement to Brown's punishing style.

Catalon's scouting report, courtesy of SB Nation's Wescott Eberts:

And in any case, Catalon's speed in pads is what will be important once he makes the transition to college. In that regard, the opening highlight from the above video shows Catalon bursting into the open field and outrunning a defender with an angle, as well as every other player on the opposing defense.

So it's safe to say that he possesses more than enough explosiveness. A decisive runner who likes to plant his foot and get upfield, Catalon prefers to make subtle cuts at top speed -- he's more of a slide cutter than a jump cutter with elite lateral agility.

A prerequisite for any good running back is good balance and Catalon certainly has it, as he can keep his feet if opponents try to tackle him too high.

One area of improvement for Catalon is to consistently use his 190-pound frame to move the pile at the end of runs. While he can occasionally break arm tackles and drive his legs on contact, he doesn't always maximize runs by finishing strong against smaller opponents in the secondary.

An added bonus to his game is that he has experience out of the backfield as a receiver, so he could be a candidate to split out wide at times in college.

As indicated above, Catalon brings good speed and lateral quickness to the position, while his receiving ability would make him useful on third down. So long as he can add 10 pounds to his 5'11" frame, which shouldn't be a problem, there is enough there for him to spell Brown for 10 totes a game.

A lot can change for Texas by the start of the season. More injuries can befall key contributors, Overstreet or Johnson may prove more ready than expected or one of Texas' missing backs could return to the field in time for the opener. All of which could temper the need to get Catalon rolling as a freshman.

For now, the backfield is the area that needs a fresh body, and the Longhorns are fortunate have a guy like him ready to fill the void.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bralon Addison Injury: Updates on Oregon WR's ACL Tear and Recovery

Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison could miss the entire 2014 college football season after tearing his ACL.

Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com reported that the wideout injured his knee during a non-contact drill on Wednesday. A torn ACL can require up to nine months of recovery, and should that happen, Addison would be out for almost all of the Ducks' 2014 campaign.    

He tweeted out his disappointment on Thursday:

The impact of the injury wasn't lost on USA Today's Paul Myerberg:

Addison was second on the team in receptions (61), receiving yards (890) and receiving touchdowns (seven) in 2013. With Josh Huff having graduated and De'Anthony Thomas off to the NFL, Addison was set for a major breakout this year.

The silver lining—if you can call it that, given the severity of the injury—is that it occurred during the spring. The team has enough time to figure out how Addison can be replaced and should be able to use a medical redshirt to save him a year of eligibility.

Addison, meanwhile, has time to fully focus on his recovery in order to be prepared for the 2015 season.

While this is a blow for second-year head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks are never bereft of weapons in the offense. One door has seemingly closed on Addison for 2014 and opened for somebody else to fill the void.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Head Coach Les Miles Sits in on Texas History Class

Not every day do you see an SEC head coach with time to spare, but Les Miles was in Austin and decided to kill some time by sitting in on a history lecture at the University of Texas. 

There isn't much detail on why the "Mad Hatter" was in town, but one thing is clear: Les Miles likes history classes. 

[Longhorn Network, h/t The Big Lead]

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UCLA Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

The second week of spring practice is underway in Westwood. 

This stock report will primarily focus upon recent entries to the program. Two of the respective risers are in their first seasons under the direction of Jim Mora. 

One member of the team has struggled thus far in camp. It is a mild surprise considering the hype surrounding the former Scout 5-star prospect

Here's a look at the Week 2 stock report for the UCLA Bruins. 

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UCLA Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

The second week of spring practice is underway in Westwood. This stock report will primarily focus upon recent entries to the program. Two of the respective risers are in their first seasons under the direction of Jim Mora...

Begin Slideshow

Breaking Down Alabama's Josh Frazier's Highlight Tape

Josh Frazier is a 4-star defensive tackle who signed with Alabama in February. At 6'3" and 325 pounds, the Arkansas native already looks like a college player.

He has solid quickness at the snap, but his strength and power are what set him apart. He can drop his weight to anchor at the point of attack, which causes a lot of messes in the middle versus running plays.

Based on highlight tape, he has a chance to become a key player for the Crimson Tide's defense.

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Alabama Football: What Will Nick Saban's Secondary Look Like on Opening Day?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you had asked Nick Saban a year ago at what position he could least afford a major injury, the University of Alabama coach almost certainly would have said quarterback.

But his second choice may have been cornerback.

At the time, this position group had the least experience of any on the Crimson Tide, with one-year returning starter Deion Belue and a whole bunch of question marks. The coaching staff was so concerned that three offensive players spent a good part of last spring learning the position just in case, one of whom ended up staying and starting five games.

So when Saban recently had to announce that sophomore Eddie Jackson needed surgery to repair a knee ligament, it obviously was a setback. However, the situation isn’t anywhere near as dire as had a similar injury occurred in 2013.

“Eddie’s surgery went well,” Saban said Wednesday afternoon. “We feel like we've got a really good chance to get him back for the season. He was having a great spring and doing a good job. This just gives some other people some opportunity to get some reps as well.”

As Alabama prepares for its second spring scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which will be closed to media on Saturday, juniors Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones have worked with the first unit this week. Early enrollee Tony Brown and redshirt freshman Anthony Averett have lined up on the second unit along with sophomore Maurice Smith—who has been learning the nickel spot, or “star” in Alabama’s terminology.

Barring another setback, that’s probably the way they’ll line up for A-Day on April 19th, but like with the quarterback position, it appears the competition to start will continue well into the fall and could go past the season opener Aug. 30 against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome.

Overall, the unit has a lot more experience and a ton more young talent.

“Eddie was having a great spring and probably our best corner, most consistent,” Saban said after Jackson sustained the injury during last week’s scrimmage, when he “just jumped up in the air for a ball and came down funny.”

While it’s no secret that the coach prefers tall cornerbacks, and Jones (5’10”) and Sylve (5’11”) are his shortest players at the position, for now experience wins out.

“Bradley Sylve has had a really good spring and is doing a good job,” Saban continued. “We just seem to not be making as many mental errors as we have in the past at this time.”

Among returning cornerbacks, Jones had the most interceptions (two) and tackles (25) last year.

Coaches were pretty high on Sylve, only to see him be limited by an ankle injury the second half of the season. When healthy, he may be the fastest player on the Crimson Tide, although Brown is the one who’s also been running track this spring.

Unfortunately it’s also led to his wearing a black no-contact jersey during practices to protect a shoulder injury, originally sustained during the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game and aggravated by falling over a hurdle.

“I’m not sure exactly how much more track he’ll do the rest of the spring, but we have a schedule that says what he’s able to do,” Saban explained about the true freshman. “He’s done a good job of managing both of those things. We feel like he’s made a lot of progress and learned a lot by splitting time at spring practice.”

This summer Alabama will also add Marlon Humphrey, rated by 247Sports as the top cornerback in the nation in the recruiting Class of 2014, while Brown edged him in the composite rankings (second and third, respectively). Both were considered 5-star prospects.

“Tony is very competitive,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “He doesn't like to lose. Even out there in seven-on-seven or one-on-one, he's fighting for the ball a couple minutes after the ball has been caught.”

Now contrast to this time a year ago. Besides Belue, the only other experienced player, John Fulton, was out following surgery to repair a turf-toe injury. Belue ended up being bothered by a similar injury all of last fall while making 10 starts, while Fulton struggled during his senior year.

Sylve, who had made the move from wide receiver during the late part of the 2011 season, was a primary backup last spring. Two others, Geno Smith and Jabriel Washington, who have since moved to safety, were splitting reps with wide receivers Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones, and running back Dee Hart.

It only reinforces how much of a problem the Crimson Tide had at cornerback in 2013 and helps explain why Alabama only had 11 interceptions, the fewest since Saban arrived in 2007. Just four were by a cornerback.

In contrast, things look very bright with this group.

“You’ve got Cyrus, you’ve got Bradley, who is really fast. You have Eddie who is really good,” said junior wide receiver Amari Cooper, who also made a reference to safety Laurence “Hootie” Jones, another early enrollee: “Hootie surprised me today. He made a one-handed interception. It was crazy. So those guys are all pretty talented.”

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

 

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Alabama LB Dillon Lee Arrested on DUI Charges

Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee, a true junior who is competing to start on the Crimson Tide's 2014 defense, was arrested Thursday and released on $1,000 bond for driving under the influence, according to Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is aware of the arrest and issued the following statement: "I don't have all of the details at this point and will handle it appropriately once I've had a chance to review all of the information."

Lee was a 4-star recruit and the No. 101 overall player on the 247Sports Composite in 2012, checking in as one of the 10 best outside linebackers in the class. He appeared in all 13 games as a sophomore last season and recorded 16 tackles—mostly as one of the team's best coverage players on special teams.

Known as the "wild man" within the Crimson Tide's locker room, Lee's motor has earned him on-field praise from coaches and teammates alike. Saban lauded him earlier in spring practice, saying he thinks Lee "will be a really good player for us," per Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

However, for all of the good he reportedly does on the field, this is not the first time Lee has gotten in trouble off of it: He was one of two players, along with Ryan Anderson, sent home from the 2013 BCS National Championship Game after breaking curfew, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

A DUI arrest is obviously a little more serious than that.

Even without the arrest (and any potential suspension), Lee was locked and loaded in the battle to start for Alabama next season. He is capable of playing both inside and out, and that versatility should continue to help his chances, but given the depth of blue-chip recruits competing with him, every step Lee takes in the wrong direction is a big one.

We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

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