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LSU Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

In the form of the 2014 LSU National L-Club Spring Game, football is officially returning to Tiger Stadium and Baton Rouge, La.

Following five weeks of practice, the LSU football team is ending the spring session with the annual intrasquad scrimmage.

The Tigers must replace Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Anthony Jennings and a handful of other key starters next season, so the spring game provides an initial look at how Les Miles and Co. are preparing for the 2014 campaign.

The spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. local time), and GeauxZone (subscription needed) is carrying a radio feed of the scrimmage.

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LSU Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time and More

Even though the LSU Tigers were 10-3 in 2013, the program didn't reach the standards most expect out of Baton Rouge each year. The three regular-season losses were the most the program has had since 2009.

As the spring game approaches, head coach Les Miles and his staff are putting the final touches on the preparation for the upcoming campaign. There's obviously still a lot of moving parts. The current recruiting class will be a factor in the spring game and the season.

Per David Ching of ESPN.com, Miles said:

I think we’re trying make a determination as we design the summer plans that, 'This is where this guy’s going to be, this is where this guy’s going to be’ and how to operate it. 

I think the skill players on offense are going to be musts and I think the skill players on defense, with the safeties stepping in there and being able to play -- I just think the recruiting class will hit us just where we need to be hit.

With uncertainty at quarterback, the team may have to lean on its running game and defense even more than normal. All of the positions will be of interest to fans, but undoubtedly, the quarterback hopefuls will be under a microscope at the spring practice.

What comes of this situation will likely dictate how far the Tigers can go in the rugged SEC.

Here's the date and time for the spring game:

DateLocationTime   Sat, Apr 5 Baton Rouge, La. (Tiger Stadium)   1 p.m.

 

Players to Watch

Anthony Jennings

With Zach Mettenberger moving on to the NFL, the QB torch is being passed in Baton Rouge. Who will carry it? That's exactly what Miles must figure out before the start of the 2014 season.

In relief of an injured Mettenberger, Jennings led a game-winning comeback against Arkansas. He also started the team's 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

With that experience, he should be able to hold off early enrollee Brandon Harris. Miles would probably prefer to hand the ball over to a player who has had some major experience. In the spring game, Jennings needs to show his growth from last year and lock down the position.

 

Maquedius Bain

Bain redshirted last season, but he has the size, strength and quickness to be a major force in the middle of the defensive line.

Carter Bryant of Bleacher Report said this about the 6'3" 303-pound defensive tackle:

"Maquedius Bain has the talent to be the next great LSU defensive tackle." 

The Tigers have a long lineage of dominant defensive tackles. Bain has the physical tools to become another link in the glorious chain. We'll see if he can flash some of his abilities during the spring game.

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Ole Miss Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

In 2013, the Ole Miss Rebels showed some improvement from the previous season. The 8-5 record was the program's best mark since 2009, and the year culminated with a second consecutive bowl appearance and victory.

Looking ahead to the 2014 campaign, the Rebels would love to turn the corner and become one of the upper echelon teams in the SEC. Head coach Hugh Freeze seems to have the long-term mission in mind with this tweet:

That said, every stakeholder would like to see things progress sooner rather than later.

The spring game will give fans their first opportunity to see this year's squad in action. Here's how you can watch:

DateTimeTV Network and Live Stream Sat., April 5 1 p.m. CSS/ESPN3

 

Players to Watch

Bo Wallace

The junior quarterback certainly had his moments in 2013. He nearly out-dueled Johnny Manziel in a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on October 12. The following week, Wallace helped guide the team to its biggest win of the season.

He threw for 346 yards as the Rebels knocked off No. 6 LSU 27-24. In order for the Rebels to become part of the SEC elite, they need for Wallace to become a star. As an upperclassmen, he must take an even bigger role as a leader of the team.

Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South wrote this about the quarterback's maturation and upcoming campaign:

Wallace made strides and better decisions from 2012 to 2013; still, there’s much more he can improve upon. Wallace is one of the handful of proven veteran returning quarterback starters, and the amount of success the Rebels’ team achieves will be resting on Wallace’s shoulders.

All eyes will be on him during the spring practice as well as during the season.

 

Robert Nkemdiche

The Rebels' prized recruit from 2013 is heading into his sophomore season in Oxford. With Jadeveon Clowney moving on to the NFL, Nkemdiche could make strides toward becoming the SEC's top pass-rusher.

If Nkemdiche can become an elite force on the defensive line, the Rebels can take that next step. His play is to the defense what Wallace's performance is to the offense.

As a freshman, Nkemdiche had just two sacks. He'll need to be close to double digits in 2014 to satisfy critics and pundits.

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Michigan Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

Last season was a major disappointment for the Michigan Wolverines' football program. After starting the year ranked 17th in the AP Top 25, the Wolverines finished the season unranked with a 7-6 record.

They were handled in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl by Kansas State to put a capper on matters last year.

Injuries and inconsistent play were the primary culprits in the issues of 2013. But that was then and hope springs eternal before the annual Michigan Spring Game.

Head coach Brady Hoke will work to have his group better prepared to meet the expectations of the fan base, and the program.

Here's the information needed to catch the first publicized practice of the season for the Wolverines.

DateTime (ET)TV Network and Live Stream Sat., April 5 2 p.m. Big Ten Network/BTN2Go

 

Players to Watch

Devin Gardner

The Wolverines quarterback showed his grit and weaknesses last season. Though he did throw for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns, his decision-making was sometimes bewildering.

Some of those poor decisions led to his 11 interceptions and ill-advised scramble attempts. Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com said this about Gardner's struggles:

Gardner had moments of brilliance in 2013, but he also had plenty of struggles. He threw 11 interceptions, had nightmarish showings in losses to Michigan State and Iowa, struggled in wins over UConn and Northwestern (at least in regulation), and had three first-half turnovers in a loss at Penn State.

Perhaps because of some of the issues Gardner has had, Hoke has announced that there will be an open competition for the starting QB position.

That said, Gardner proved to anyone who was watching that he had the heart to lead this football team. Playing with an injured foot that would require offseason surgery, he threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns in the narrow 42-41 loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale.

With that as his last game of the season, he gave Wolverines fans something to look forward to. We'll see if we can see glimpses of his continued maturation in the spring game.

 

Jake Ryan

Moving Ryan to inside linebacker could help the Wolverines' entire defense.

Ryan is one of the team's best playmakers on defense, though he was slowed by the recovery from an ACL injury in 2013.

Placing him in the middle has him acting as one of the unit's leaders. It also puts him in more of a read-and-react situation. Per Brian Bennett of ESPN.com, Ryan seems to like his new role:

“It’s been different, because now I’m blitzing up the middle. And last year I was looking at the tight and now I’m reading the running back. But I like it a lot better because you’re in the mix of everything. It’s cool.” 

In 2012, Ryan had 16 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. The Wolverines are hoping to see him return to that form for the upcoming season. The spring game might give fans their first clue.

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Arkansas Football: Position Battle Tracker for 2014 Season

The Arkansas Razorbacks are in the midst of spring practice. To say that there's a lot of competition going on would be an understatement.

After one of the worst seasons in school history, head coach Bret Bielema and his staff are searching for answers to the laundry list of problems. Because 2013 was such a bad year, there are open battles this offseason for every position in the hope that players will step up and make 2014 much better.

Here we take a look at the five main position battles this offseason. A lot of the players expected to be right in the middle of those battles are incoming freshmen who will not arrive until August, so our look covers the entire offseason leading up to the opener at Auburn on Aug. 30. 

With that said, it's time to go into the battle zone.

Begin Slideshow

Blake Bell Injury: Updates on Sooners TE's Knee and Return

Blake Bell's transition to tight end may take a little longer than first thought. The Oklahoma Sooners senior will miss spring practice after injuring his knee, per The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.

Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com reported that Bell suffered a sprained knee and that he won't require surgery:

For the past three years, Bell has been listed as a quarterback for Oklahoma. He started eight games last season, throwing for 1,648 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. With the emergence of Trevor Knight, though, Bell was pushed to the periphery.

As a result, he will be playing tight end for his final collegiate season. The spring represented a great time for Bell to learn and get a grasp on his new position heading into the 2014 campaign.

Now without that time, it will be slightly harder for Bell to make the switch. He'll need to accelerate his progress come summer time before the season gets underway.

In the end, it shouldn't turn into a major problem, especially considering Bell doesn't need surgery to repair his knee.

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Notre Dame Football: Everett Golson's Reintegration with the Irish

Everett Golson doesn’t see it as rust.

After a semester and a season away, it took time for Golson to reacclimate himself to the offense, due in large part to the almost entirely new cast of pass-catchers to whom he was throwing.

“I’m throwing to a whole different group of guys right now,” Golson said Friday. “I think what we saw in the first couple of practices was getting the timing down, trusting the receivers. I don’t think rust was an issue.”

It’s still relatively early in the process of developing timing with the new receivers. The only players who caught passes in 2012 still currently on the roster are senior tight end Ben Koyack (three receptions in 2012), junior wide receiver Chris Brown (two receptions) and senior running back Cam McDaniel (two receptions). The numbers are even starker when considering who threw the passes (see chart below).

Where chemistry becomes especially important, Golson said, is when plays break down.

“In football there is a lot of times where there’s not a perfect situation—sometimes you’re getting blitzed, you can’t really see the receiver,” Golson said. “You have to trust where he’s going to be. I think that’s where the chemistry comes down, having that confidence that he’s going to be there when I need him to be there.”

Golson said he isn’t using the spring to simply get back to where he was before he left, only to then make major strides in the fall.

“I have that mindset that I do want to be great, so it’s not about just getting back into the flow for me,” Golson said. “Every day you come out, you’re going to work to be the best that you can be.”

And Golson’s best will be needed. Though Irish head coach Brian Kelly has yet to name a starting quarterback, he talked at the beginning of the spring how Golson is going “to be the guy that drives this force.”

“I think we all know college football and where it is,” Kelly said. “The quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it. And it’s going to fall on him. … We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We’re going to heap a lot on this kid’s shoulders.

“And he knows that.”

Golson said he doesn’t see it as pressure, but rather as an opportunity, and he thinks he has the supporting cast to lead a potent offense. Golson and the Irish offense likely won’t be able to fall back on a 2012-level defense—at least now, at least on paper—to keep the score in the teens (the Irish allowed 12.8 points per game in 2012, good for second in the nation), and he agreed it does create more urgency to put up points. But urgency is not to be confused with pressure.

“I think what we have in place complements each other very well,” Golson said. “The defense, I think they’re pretty aggressive with their blitzes and stuff like that. I think we have to be aggressive as well on offense. Like I said, it’s no pressure. I think it’s more so an opportunity for us to be really special this season.”

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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B/R CFB Mailbag: Impact Sophomores, Dark-Horse Title Contenders

Our good pal Michael Felder, who normally handles the "Your Best 11" mailbag, is off, so this week's college football mailbag will be operated by yours truly. Have college football questions? Tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at benkerch@gmail.com. Together, we'll make the offseason go by quicker. 

Now, let's get to those questions!

 

Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes was the prize recruit in Baylor's 2013 class and considered one of the top wideout prospects in the country. With all the success the Bears have had with wide receivers coming through the program lately, Rhodes had that next-big-thing vibe to him. 

There was a growing buzz about Rhodes during fall camp, too. However, Rhodes only hauled in 10 catches for 157 yards and no touchdowns. He had some trouble with nagging injuries and Baylor was stacked at wide receiver, so there wasn't a need to push him into significant playing time. With Tevin Reese gone, though, Rhodes' role should expand. 

Defensive back Vonn Bell gave Ohio State a glimpse of what could be toward the end of last season. Like Rhodes, Bell was a blue-chip recruit who many expected could play right away. It didn't quite pan out that way as Bell played in just three games. 

Ohio State's coaching staff indicated at the end of last year that it probably would have been beneficial to get Bell more playing time earlier than they did. Unfortunately, Bell suffered a torn MCL at the beginning of spring practices and is out until preseason camp. Still, he figures to be a major player in the Buckeyes' secondary. 

If you're looking for an under-the-radar guy, try Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens. The Golden Eagles were awful last season, with just one win against UAB to end the year. The bright side, however, is that win snapped a 23-game losing streak—not to mention it was Mullens' best game (370 yards, five touchdowns). Yes, it was against UAB, but it does give Mullens some confidence heading into next year.

Mullens was tossed early into the proverbial fire and made a lot of freshman mistakes. In Todd Monken's offense, though, he has a chance to put up video game numbers.

 

Is it still too cliche to say UCLA? How about Notre Dame?

In all seriousness, the more I read about the Irish, the more I like. It can be easy to dismiss Notre Dame based on a couple of issues: scheduling and returning starters. However, I also believe those hurdles aren't insurmountable. With the exception of an Oct. 18 trip to Florida State, Notre Dame should be favored in most, if not all of its games. Either way, the Irish have a nice-looking schedule. That's something the College Football Playoff selection committee should theoretically appreciate. 

And even though Phil Steele says Notre Dame has five guys returning on defense, mostly in the secondary, Matthew Ehalt of ESPN.com noted that head coach Brian Kelly actually started 19 different players on defense last season. In addition to defensive depth, quarterback Everett Golson returns, though he'll be challenged by Malik Zaire. 

Also, I'm buying into Marshall. The Thundering Herd are coming off a 10-win season with one of the most exciting, yet underappreciated, players in the game: quarterback Rakeem Cato. If you missed it, B/R's Adam Kramer wrote up a great feature on Cato that pushed me over the edge. So, if you're going to be all "Yawn, do it against a real defense in a real conference #ROLLTIDE!" please direct those complaints HERE.

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on: Nebraska, Texas A&M and Utah State. 

 

This is a rather intriguing question, but with a fairly simple answer—which is "no." 

The most obvious example of why that won't happen was the situation at Grambling State last year. In particular, the school's dire problem with facilities and funding made it sound like it couldn't sponsor a football program at all—at any level. 

Not every historically black college and university (HBCU) is in the same boat as Grambling, but it is a common theme for universities that are under-funded and swept under the rug. In fact, Michael Felder wrote a great piece about that very thing last fall. 

These are small-budget program problems. These are problems that affect schools whose alumni bases are too small/unwilling to donate/can't donate. As much as the NCAA may want to lump Division I schools into one big pot, not all programs can function the same. 

The catch-22 is that eliminating football may also eliminate the best chance for exposure/funding/etc. that a school has. 

Lately, a lot of schools have tried to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (nee Division 1A), viewing it as some sort of promised land. As UMass will attest, that's not guaranteed to work. There are more head-count scholarships to account for, among other expenses. Those expenses may not be covered, even with lucrative television deals. 

In short, moving up to the FBS for any program does not guarantee future riches or competitiveness.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.

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Richie Petitbon Commits to Alabama: 4-Star Vaults Tide to No. 1 Ranking

Alabama added another outstanding offensive lineman to its stockpile with a commitment from 4-star prospect Richie Petitbon. The Washington D.C. recruit pulled the trigger on a pledge Friday, reports Scout.com writer Derek Young.

Petitbon, a 6'4", 301-pound Gonzaga High School junior, joins a Crimson Tide class that now includes nine players. His addition pushed Alabama's class from No. 3 to No. 1 in 247Sports' composite team rankings, leapfrogging Penn State and Texas A&M.

Nick Saban lands a lineman capable of contributing in a variety of capacities. He has significant experience at left tackle but could move inside depending on Alabama's needs along the offensive front.

The Tide have tremendous depth at tackle, so a future within the interior may await him in Tuscaloosa:

Petitbon has an excellent football pedigree. He's the latest member of his family to make a leap to the college level.

His father played at Maryland. Petitbon's name may sound familiar because his grandfather, Richie, was an All-Pro defensive back in the NFL.

He finished his career with the Washington Redskins and served as defensive coordinator under Joe Gibbs. The football lineage makes Petitbon an even more intriguing prospect, given the game knowledge at his disposal while growing up. 

Petitbon is the seventh 4-star prospect to commit to the Tide during this cycle. He is rated No. 4 nationally at offensive guard in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Gonzaga produced 2,400 yards rushing yards last fall with Petitbon paving the way, according to AL.com.

Saban has swiftly taken care of future depth in the trenches. Alabama already holds commitments from fellow 4-star guards Lester Cotton and Dallas Warmack.

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Complete Scouting Report for 4-Star Alabama RB Commit Desherrius Flowers

Alabama running back Desherrius Flowers elected to stay in his home state with a commitment to the Crimson Tide last April. The 4-star prospect aims to be the latest addition to a proud lineage of rushers in Tuscaloosa, exhibiting outstanding skills and physicality.

Flowers, a 6'1", 212-pound junior at Vigor High School (Prichard, Ala.), is rated the nation's No. 4 running back prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's listed at No. 54 among all members of the 2015 class.

His recruitment gained steam after a sophomore season that featured 922 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. A pledge to the Tide quickly shut things down and he remains on track to join the team next year.

Flowers has already drawn comparisons to current Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, a possible 2014 Heisman Trophy contender who also hails from the Mobile area (Daphne). Expectations will be high from the moment Flowers arrives on campus, especially if Yeldon decides to depart early for the NFL draft after this season.

We examined the game film to discover what puts Flowers in the upper echelon of offensive playmakers.

Positives

Flowers' game is defined by his violent approach as a rusher. He doesn't leave any questions about his tenacity or physicality, attacking opposing defenses without a shred of hesitancy.

Few athletes in this class are a more appropriate fit for the north-south ground game than Flowers. Equipped with a formidable frame, he carries the ball with authority and refuses to sacrifice yards by yielding or stepping out of bounds.

Flowers is quick to get out of the backfield, firing upfield with a burst off his front foot. Once he reaches the line of scrimmage, his aggressiveness shines.

Even while operating within a crowd of defenders and offensive linemen in the trenches, Flowers doesn't delay or waste steps. He charges though and keeps his feet churning through contact.

Opponents might grab a piece of his jersey in the process, but it doesn't matter. Flowers is deliberate and steadfast while moving forward toward daylight.

His efforts require just one cut and then it's a straight-line sprint. He isn't a burner, but this approach allows him to gain chunks of yardage in a hurry while putting pressure on the defensive secondary.

Once he identifies a rushing lane, impressive acceleration allows him to beat defenders to space and he exploits the gap with a low center of gravity. Flowers is a balanced runner who maintains proper pad level, so tackling him is a tough task.

Given his style and size, it's impressive how quickly Flowers is able to gain velocity. He's an absolute load for defensive backs to handle when he reaches the secondary and most of his takedowns in high school require gang-tackling.

Flowers is an ideal candidate to carry the football in short-yardage situations. He's adept at moving the chains and plunging into the end zone, even when dealing with clogged rushing gaps.

 

Negatives

Flowers isn't going to dance his way out of tight spots. Some running backs can wiggle through containment with an array of lateral moves, but that's not a strong suit for him.

His strength is apparent, but so is a slight lack of hip fluidity. Flowers doesn't always look smooth when forced to cut at the second level and usually loses acceleration on those attempts.

He doesn't have the speed to blow by defenders in space, so sure, tacklers will be able to at least slow him down until help arrives. Flowers will find his way into the end zone often in college if he stays healthy, but it would be unfair to anticipate routine touchdown sprints from midfield at the next level.

Like most high school running backs, Flowers is a relatively unknown commodity in the passing game. If his physical demeanor transitions into blocking efforts and he becomes a capable receiving threat out of the backfield, it will encourage Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to steadily increase Flowers' role.

 

Projection

It certainly appears that Nick Saban has his hands on yet another ferocious downhill runner. Flowers fits the mold of what we've recently seen from Tide running backs and Alabama should feel comfortable with him after receiving a commitment almost two years before his signing day.

The offensive backfield is always crowded in Tuscaloosa so Flowers will need to impress early if he hopes to fight his way onto the field as a freshman. He's already quite physically developed, so there isn't necessarily a need to give him time on the sidelines to bulk up.

Expect Flowers to earn carries as an underclassman. If Yeldon is out of the equation in 2015, his chances of immediate playing time increase tremendously with a strong training camp.

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