Feed aggregator

Where Will Big-Hitting 2015 Safety Jamal Peters Have Most Success?

Big-time 2015 safety Jamal Peters has everyone fighting over his talents. Still uncommitted, he has shown serious interest in top ACC and SEC programs. 

Peters' ability to take on the lead block allows him to play in multiple defensive schemes. Where do you think he will land?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder talk about Peters' future.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former Texas QB Chris Simms 1-on-1 with Alabama Commit QB Blake Barnett

Blake Barnett is a 5-star quarterback committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The No. 3 dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, Barnett will be a great asset for Nick Saban in the future.

Bleacher Report's NFL Analyst Chris Simms had a one-on-one session with Barnett in New York City.

How do you think he will do at the next level?

Check out the video to find out.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Case for Michigan Freshman Sensation Jabrill Peppers to Play Both Ways

For Brady Hoke, the scenario entering the 2014 season is pretty simple: Win, or else.

The “or else” requires no further elaboration. The upcoming campaign will drive his coaching future one way or another, whether at Michigan or elsewhere.

Pressure has started to build—fair or not—despite the university’s unwavering public support for its current head coach. He needs a successful season, or a familiar process will pitch a tent in Ann Arbor and likely be his undoing.

It’s for that reason that Hoke should count on incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers however he can, whenever he can, at whatever position(s) he believes he can handle from Day 1. Take those classic freshman protocols and abandon them entirely.

This is not your typical freshman, and more importantly, this is also not your typical situation.

Peppers, the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports' Composite ranking, is one of the most explosive high school players to emerge in the past five years. He projects as an elite cornerback, not a label many high school corners acquire before playing their first collegiate game.

At 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds, he already has an NFL body. He also has elite speed, something that was on display as he won another New Jersey Non-Public A state track title in the 100-meter dash.

His time of 10.52 seconds was nearly a half-second better than Minkah Fitzpatrick, an Alabama commit and the nation’s No. 42 ranked incoming recruit, according to 247Sports' Composite ranking.

He is, quite simply, a physical specimen.

“Peppers is one of the most dynamic football players I have seen at the high school level,” JC Shurburtt, the national recruiting director at 247Sports told Bleacher Report.

“He was special on defense and with the ball in his hands. There probably hasn't been a high school player I've seen with that type of versatility and skill set since Joe McKnight in the 2007 class."

The buzz is real. It’s prompted a flurry of questions regarding how Hoke will use Peppers out of the gate. Such talk will only continue as we inch toward conference media days.

Speaking with Bonnie Bernstein of Campus Insiders, Hoke offered the following on whether Peppers could assume a Charles Woodson-like role:

Jabrill is a guy that obviously we think is a very good football player. Will he get the ball in his hands, not just play defense? Maybe. We’ll see how things go. We’ll see. Believe me, I’ve got a new offensive coordinator who wants him to play tailback. We’ll see. We’ll go through it pretty well with him.

That coordinator is Doug Nussmeier. Nussmeier was paid handsomely to leave Alabama this offseason, and Hoke hopes he can revive an offense that struggled mightily—especially along the offensive line—in 2013.

Although Devin Gardner had his struggles at quarterback, particularly with turnovers, he didn’t have much help when it came to protection, and the running game didn’t do him any favors.

Such issues were evident while assessing the woeful numbers from a season ago.

Despite the carnage, there’s good news coming. (There’s also a bit of bad.)

The bad news is that the team’s top offensive lineman, Taylor Lewan, is off to the NFL. As one might expect, the issue didn’t suddenly resolve itself this spring without its most proven commodity. The offensive line struggled without Lewan, particularly in the team’s spring game, and it remains a work in progress.

The good news is it really can’t get much worse than it was a season ago. Beyond the obvious, the other, actual bit of good news is that Derrick Green—the prized running back recruit from the 2013 class—has cut weight and looked the part this offseason.

And then there’s Peppers and the spark he could provide.

His role has yet to be defined, but it has gained some clarity. Hoke announced that Peppers will likely start at nickelback, according to Nick Baumgardner at mlive.com.

Keep in mind this could change. Peppers could turn heads in fall camp and acquire a more prominent role in the secondary. Included in this role could be some touches on special teams, and that’s where things could get interesting for the freshman.

"We'll probably have him return some kicks and we'll probably have him do some kickoff returns -- just see how capable he is," Hoke told Brendan F. Quinn of mlive.com. "We think (he is) very capable."

He is, and he will be. And it likely won’t take long.

While corner feels like his permanent landing spot, few can do the things he can with the football in his hands. This play from a high school scrimmage last season served as a reminder of the sheer absurdity he’s capable of.

"I think Peppers absolutely can play both sides,” Shurburtt added on his potential. “In fact, I am not sure how wise Michigan would be if the Wolverines did not attempt to get the ball in his hands at least a few times per game. He's just such an explosive player."

It may not be the more deliberate handoffs. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Those honors should go to Green or De’Veon Smith, another promising young back who, with Green, will likely see the bulk of the traditional carries.

But given the issues with the running game, one would only assume that Peppers will be used in unique ways. He has to be. His presence alone could alter how defenses approach this team, which is an enormous advantage for a unit in desperate need of an edge.

While it’s presumptuous to assume that Peppers will come in and immediately be Percy Harvin—although that won’t stop usage comparisons given the head coach—the upside is too great to deny him for long.

He’s a game-changer—along with tight end Devin Funchess—who will keep opposing coordinators’ coffee makers active well after dinner. Not because of what they’ll do on their 15 to 20 touches, but because of what they can do on that one screen pass or option, that one unassuming play, that a team wasn't ready for.

For Brady Hoke, a coach teetering toward the place no coach wants to go, no scenario should be disregarded. You can’t possibly put all your hopes on one individual player—especially a non-quarterback who has yet to participate in his first collegiate practice—but the potential is too boundless to ignore. Counting on him feels appropriate.

It isn't normal to set these kinds of expectations for a player with a blank canvas, but again, Peppers requires a different protocol entirely. With desperation and necessity blending together as a critical season approaches, no avenue should go unexplored.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Auburn's Positional Units for 2014

After a remarkable 12-2 season that finished with an SEC Championship and a spot in the final BCS National Championship Game, the Auburn Tigers will have a target on their backs this season.

Fortunately for the Tigers and their fans, they have the strength to handle the pressure of SEC and national-title hype.

Auburn returns eight starters from one of the nation's most potent offenses and has depth across the defensive line and linebacker units.

However, Gus Malzahn and his staff will need to see improvement from an underwhelming secondary while implementing an entirely new set of specialists.

Here is a bottom-to-top look at the Tigers' positional units, ranked by experience, performance in previous seasons and an outlook toward the near future. Returning starters are listed as top players, while projected new starters and role players are listed as question marks heading into the 2014 season. 

Begin Slideshow

Kevin Sumlin Needs to Find a 'Johnny Manziel' on Texas A&M's Defense in 2014

Two short seasons ago, there was uncertainty in College Station, Texas.

The Texas A&M Aggies were entering their new life as a member of the SEC West, fresh off a 7-6 season with a new coach and a new quarterback.

A slow transition process was inevitable. Well, until a redshirt freshman quarterback named Johnny Manziel stepped on the field and set the college football world on fire.

Fast forward two years, and it's another big season in College Station littered with high stakes and plenty of uncertainty. My B/R colleague Ben Kercheval noted earlier this month that the expectations generated from head coach Kevin Sumlin's first two seasons at the helm coupled with Texas' downward spiral into national irrelevance makes this a critical year for Texas A&M.

What would help? Finding a "Johnny Manziel" for that defense would be a huge benefit.

Manziel came along at a time in the SEC when defenses dominated. He, along with an influx of new head coaches like Sumlin, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, helped change that. Defense doesn't win championships anymore; "just enough" defense wins championships.

Texas A&M hasn't had enough over the last two seasons.

Not even close.

Isaiah Golden looked like he could be a force in the middle of the defensive line in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Duke, but he was dismissed from the team earlier this month. Linebacker Darian Claiborne led the Aggies in tackles last year, due in part to running backs continually getting to the second level. A full offseason of work could have turned him into "that guy" as well. But he was dismissed with Golden after an offseason of tumult.

Somebody has to step up, because while there are weapons all over the Aggies offense and creativity within the coaching staff to succeed no matter who's the quarterback, it's unlikely the Aggies offense will be as potent as it was with the most dynamic college football quarterback of this generation taking the snaps.

Sumlin needs to catch lighting in a bottle on the defensive side of the ball.

One potential candidate would be defensive end Myles Garrett. The No. 2 overall player in the class of 2014 has incredible burst off the edge, the size to be a force against the run and the potential to be one of the most disruptive players in the SEC once he gets his feet wet.

But when, exactly, will that be?

Julien Obioha and Gavin Stansbury are likely candidates to start at rush end and strong-side defensive end, respectively. If Garrett emerges as a force, it could allow defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to drop one of them down to defensive tackle in passing situations and let Garrett's strength—his pass-rushing ability—shine early and often.

If that happens, that would help out a secondary that, while experienced, has dealt with quite a few passes being completed on them over the last two seasons. Then, maybe, cornerback Deshazor Everett will live up to that first-team All-SEC tag Phil Steele gave him in his 2014 preview. 

They better find a star in a hurry, because as was the case in Manziel's first season at quarterback, the Aggies open with an SEC opponent: on the road Aug. 28 vs. South Carolina. 

If a new star doesn't emerge before then, it could be the start of a long season in College Station.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Devin Gardner Should Be Michigan's Starting Quarterback in 2014

Michigan's critical 2014 season doesn't rest solely on its quarterback, but it's a major storyline nonetheless. That said, head coach Brady Hoke wants to eliminate that story as soon as possible. 

Speaking on SiriusXM last Thursday, Hoke said he expects to know which quarterback will take the field—Devin Gardner or Shane Morris—early in fall camp (via Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com):

Even though we have a starter coming back (at quarterback), I think that's a great competition. At the end of the day, somewhere early in fall camp, I think that position will be secured by one guy.

(Someone) who will go out there and lead this offense and lead this team. But, at the same time, having the ability (to have depth) if a guy gets dinged up, or a guy isn't having the day he wants to have or we want him to have. There's an opportunity for the next guy to come in, and that's what's been great (about this).

The battle between Gardner, a senior, and Morris, a sophomore, was closely watched through the spring, with Hoke indicating (via Baumgardner) that Morris had made up ground on Gardner. But Hoke has also maintained that, if the season opener against Appalachian State were tomorrow, Gardner would likely be the choice. 

So unless Morris transforms during summer workouts, it wouldn't be surprising to see Gardner named the starter in the early stages of preseason camp. That will allow Gardner to prepare with confidence and for the rest of the offense, which finished 87th in the nation last season, to jell. 

Make no mistake, allowing the competition to stretch through the spring was a good move by Hoke. That pushes Gardner to show that he's the runaway favorite and Morris can gain some confidence knowing he has a legitimate shot. For that matter, new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can get a good feel for both quarterbacks. 

Ultimately, the nod should go to Gardner. Otherwise, the longer the competition goes into preseason camp, the better chance Morris has of being named the starter. 

Gardner's numbers were far from terrible last season—2,960 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions—but he also had no protection. The offensive line is a major question mark again for the Wolverines, one that could easily determine the outcome of the season. 

If the offensive line is problematic again, it won't matter as much who is behind center. But, of the two, Gardner is a bit more dynamic running the ball. Expect the quarterbacks to run less in Nussmeier's offense, but with Gardner in the backfield, the threat is still there. 

"Absolutely, that's the plan," Gardner said about running the ball via Dave Dye of Fox Sports Detroit. "That's what Coach Nuss is always talking about even when we have (quarterback) read plays where I'll read the (defensive) end. It used to be if it's a question, we'll take it and go (on a keeper). Now if it's a question, we want the running back to hold the ball and to continue to run."

Gardner has the experience and athleticism to give him an edge in the competition. But as Dye also notes, Gardner has a "now or never" urgency that fits in with Michigan's attitude this season. 

Gardner is going to be a fifth-year senior. Starting August 30 against Appalachian State, it will become 'now or never' time for him.

'He's always been kind of a football junkie, but I think he's worked at it more so this spring,' Hoke said.

Gardner added: 'It's your last opportunity to make something happen, leave your stamp, part of your legacy here.'

It's not that Morris doesn't share the urgency to win, but he's still developing at the quarterback position. The Wolverines don't have a lot of time or patience right now. Morris filled in well for Gardner in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State, showing off a nice arm. He may be Michigan's quarterback of the future one day.

For now, though, Hoke has implied Gardner gives this team the best chance the win. That's what he has to go with. As Hoke said, that can always change down the road if Gardner doesn't live up to expectations. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Over, Under Stat Projections for DaVaris Daniels in 2014

It’s been just more than a month since Irish wide receiver DaVaris Daniels was readmitted to Notre Dame:

Ready to get back to it.

— Toot Daddy Fresh™ (@DaVarisDaniels) May 30, 2014

As we discussed in our power ranking of Notre Dame’s positional units heading into 2014, Daniels provides a huge boost to the Irish receiving corps. A rising senior, Daniels possesses plenty of past experience (12 starts) and production (80 receptions and seven touchdowns).

But what is reasonable to expect from the Vernon Hills, Illinois, native this season? Without T.J. Jones, is Daniels poised to post elite, Jones-like numbers?

We’ll set over-under lines for Daniels for some of the key receiving statistics and predict if he falls short or tops the mark.

 

Receptions: 70

We’ll set the line at 70 receptions for Daniels in 2014. In three of the last four seasons since Brian Kelly took over as the head coach at Notre Dame, a Fighting Irish wide receiver has reached 70 grabs.

However, it wouldn’t be too surprising for Daniels to fall slightly short of the 70-reception plateau. There’s a deep stable of young, talented pass-catchers behind Daniels, so there likely won’t be an overreliance on the senior.

Moreover, Notre Dame’s running backs appear ready to shoulder a major offensive load, as senior Cam McDaniel and sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston combine to form a capable three-pronged attack. Their ability may result in fewer pass attempts in 2014.

For Daniels to notch 70 or 80 receptions like Jones and Michael Floyd, he’ll need to improve upon a porous catch rate, according to Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold. Arnold observes that Daniels was actually targeted two more times than Jones in 2013, but Daniels had a catch rate of less than 50 percent.

 

Receiving Yards:1,000

In three of Kelly’s four seasons in South Bend, Indiana, the Irish have had a wide receiver clip the 1,000-yard mark. And while we may not be as bullish on Daniels duplicating the reception totals of Jones and Floyd, he stands a better chance at cracking 1,000 receiving yards.

Daniels has averaged 15.4 yards per catch during his two seasons on the field with the Irish. At that rate, it would take Daniels roughly 65 receptions to amass 1,000 yards.

Those numbers appear within reach for a wide receiver who averaged 10.7 yards per target playing with quarterback Everett Golson in 2012, according to Arnold, compared to 6.7 with quarterback Tommy Rees. That 10.7 yard-per-target average is more in line with that of top receivers. Jones, for example, produced 10.2 yards per target, per Arnold.

Daniels should top 1,000 yards considering his penchant for long plays, too. The rising senior has recorded a reception of at least 20 yards in 15 of the 24 games played in his career. Daniels had touchdown grabs of 61 yards (BYU), 82 yards (Purdue) and 32 yards (twice against Temple) in 2013.

 

Receiving Touchdowns: 9

It might seem like nine touchdowns is selling Daniels short. After all, he registered seven scores as the No. 2 receiver in 2013. But it’s worth analyzing the touchdown totals of past leading receivers under Kelly.

While it wouldn’t be surprising for Daniels to record double-digit touchdowns given the aforementioned proclivity for big plays, the Irish have a capable group of pass-catchers to steal some red-zone targets. Tight end Ben Koyack (6’5”) and wide receiver Corey Robinson (6’4.5”) present longer options than Daniels (6’1.5”).

Seven different Notre Dame players hauled in touchdown grabs last season, up from five in each of the previous two seasons. The Irish appear willing to spread the wealth around again in 2014.

Still, touchdowns are a fickle statistic. Daniels could very well explode for 12, as Floyd did in 2010, or be limited to four, as Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert were in 2012 during the run to the BCS National Championship Game.

 

All statistics are from UND.com unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages