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SEC Football: Ranking the Top 10 True Freshmen to Watch in 2015

A new wave of talented true freshmen will be joining the SEC for the upcoming 2015 College Football season. While some of these freshmen may have to wait their turns on loaded depth charts, incoming standouts like Byron Cowart, Martez Ivey and Daylon Mack hope to make an immediate impact when they arrive on campus this fall. 

With the SEC's record of recent dominance on the recruiting trail, it's nothing new to see young players come in and contribute in their first year on campus. This years' freshman class should be no different. 

While it has become common to see true freshmen shine in collegiate athletics, it's still remarkable to see any player come in and play at a high level after being in high school less than a year ago.

However, despite the incredible influx of talent the incoming class brings to the table, it's not always the most talented players that are able to make the instant impact for their school. 

Players not only need to have the talent and ability to get on the field right away, but also need to be in a situation where the current depth chart gives them the opportunity to receive immediate playing time.

There is also the matter of an incoming freshman being able to grasp his team's scheme and learn his own positional responsibilities in that scheme.

Finally, a player's physical readiness out of high school also helps determine how early he'll see the field in his first season at the next level.

Recent standout true freshmen such as Amari Cooper, Jadeveon Clowney and Nick Chubb have proven how effective a talented true freshman can be when given an ample opportunity.   

 

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Kendell Jones Commits to Alabama: 'The Hulk' Will Be a Dominant Defender in SEC

Last week was a roller coaster of sorts for Killeen, Texas, defensive tackle Kendell Jones Jr. In a matter of 24 hours last Thursday, he was committed to Alabama, not committed to Alabama and then the social-media messenger of a top-five list of schools—which he would ultimately decide from immediately after Friday's Shoemaker High School spring game.

When Friday concluded, Jones was SEC-bound. The Killeen Daily Herald's Jordan Mason noted the commitment: 

The 4-star lineman, with the appropriately fit nickname "The Hulk," verbally committed to Alabama and added to the Crimson Tide's budding class. Jones is the nation's No. 11 defensive tackle and the No. 66 player overall.

Jones gives Alabama its ninth pledge of the 2016 class. The Crimson Tide breathed a sigh of relief after a May 14 report announcing that Jones then committed to Alabama was shot down by Jones' father, Kendell Jones Sr.

The commitment also gives Alabama something that can't be taught—size. At 6'4½" and 361 pounds, Jones is a large, but slim, athlete who, to the naked eye, looks closer to 320 or 330 pounds. He possesses brute strength and deceptive speed for a guy of his stature, as he showcased at The Opening Dallas Regional, where he earned an invitation to the event finals in Beaverton, Oregon, in July. The Opening congratulated Jones on his decision:

Entering the week, the much-anticipated race was believed to come down to Texas and Alabama. Jones told Bleacher Report last week that he wanted to commit to the school "who wanted me there the most." He added that he wanted to be at a spot with "a family environment, good academics and a place where I can learn a lot and have fun."

Jones will get that in Tuscaloosa, and he'll learn a lot about the game of football from a coach who knows how to win championships in Nick Saban. He was recruited by defensive line coach Bo Davis and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Although committed, Jones is still expected to take visits to other campuses. According to his father, Jones will look to make trips to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and some of the other schools showing high interest in him.

In the meanwhile, Alabama is getting a player who can be an extremely disruptive defender on the line in the SEC. He bench presses 420 pounds, squats 600, deadlifts 610 and power cleans 335, and he will use that power to be a solid run-stopper.

Jones joins 3-star defensive tackle Raekwon Davis as a member of Alabama's defensive lineman class. Combined, the duo gives Alabama more than 13 feet and 670 pounds of interior toughness. Davis, who is 6'7" and 315 pounds, committed back in August of last year.

The Crimson Tide's defensive class also includes 4-star defensive back/athlete Shyheim Carter and 3-star safety Joshua Perry. Jones' addition makes a scary lineup even more intimidating.

In short, Jones' nickname fits him. And Alabama fans are looking to see him emerge into a dominant player sooner than later.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: Top Remaining 2016 Recruiting Targets for Wildcats

With just five commitments for the 2016 recruiting class, Arizona has a lot of work to do in order to assemble another solid group of prospects and maintain the momentum Rich Rodriguez has built over the past three seasons.

Rodriguez's recruiting strategy with the Wildcats has been to get as many of his pledges in place before the upcoming season begins. Last year he had 21 commits by the first week of August and ended up signing 25 players to land the nation's No. 42 class (per 247Sports).

The five commits already in place for 2016 include two quarterback prospects—after not signing one in 2015—and has the Wildcats ranked 43rd. There are several other areas of need that still need to be addressed in this class, however.

Here's a look at some of Arizona's top remaining recruiting targets for 2016.

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Arizona Football: Top Remaining 2016 Recruiting Targets for Wildcats

With just five commitments for the 2016 recruiting class, Arizona has a lot of work to do in order to assemble another solid group of prospects and maintain the momentum Rich Rodriguez has built over the past three seasons...

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2015 College Football QBs We Would Want with Game on the Line

Quick: Your favorite team is down with two minutes remaining and is backed up inside its own 20-yard line. You have the choice of any quarterback in college football to drive down the field and get the win. Who do you want? 

Call this the Jameis Winston list (or, for you Group of Five aficionados, the Kellen Moore list). Forget how a quarterback played during the course of the game. When everything is on the line and you need a score (or to run out the clock), which quarterback do you want on the field? That's what we attempt to answer. 

Note there isn't a single, great "clutch" metric that calculates quarterback stats in the fourth quarter/overtime when the game is on the line. Therefore, a mixture of stats—fourth quarter/overtime numbers plus stats when the game is tied or within one touchdown—is used.

It's not the cleanest combination (fourth quarter numbers don't necessarily mean a game is close, and the score doesn't have to be tied with two minutes left), but it provides some context. Experience, especially in late-game situations, also plays a role. 

 

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Kenney Lyke Commits to Michigan State: DB Reveals What He Likes About Spartans

A week ago, Latoya Williams—the mother of Palatine, Illinois, 3-star safety Kenney Lyke—felt her son was on the fence regarding his final decision as he entered the week preparing to verbally commit at Fremd High School.

When it was time for Lyke to announce his choice on Friday, he went with the school that first believed in him.

Lyke announced in front of family, friends, teammates, coaches and faculty that he has committed to Michigan State. He chose the Spartans over Notre Dame, Baylor and Oregon, becoming the 13th pledge of the 2016 class for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.

Lyke still plans on taking a couple of visits before national signing day, but he said on Friday that no longer having the stress of committing to a program is "a relief."

"I was looking for, first of all, the right fit," Lyke said. "I wanted to feel at home with the campus. Second, I'd like to have a good chance to play at a high level. I also like the coaching staff, as well, and all the players around me."

SpartanAvenue broke the news.

Michigan State scored a big defensive back at 6'2" and 182 pounds, someone who can be physical inside the box but also cover receivers. He has solid footwork and is a player who should benefit from the tutelage of defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett.

Confidence may be the one thing that pushes Lyke to the forefront early in his college career.

Although listed as a 3-star prospect, he is a player who makes it a priority to silence his critics with his play on the field. He is a solid open-field tackler, a characteristic needed in a Big Ten conference full of power running backs and athletic wide receivers.

Last week, Williams said she believed her son's pick would come down to Michigan State and Notre Dame. While she likes the educational value and spiritual background of Notre Dame, she also likes that Michigan State was the first school to offer Lyke, a top-40 safety nationally and the No. 16 player from the state of Illinois.

"They were the first one to really believe in my son. They pulled the trigger and opened up doors for him that other schools didn't," Williams said. "They recruited him and stuck by everything they said they were going to do.

"I think the coaches are an amazing fit for him. That's been a program that's continuing to grow and grow."

Lyke has a good relationship with Dantonio and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem, and the Spartans are getting a player who has a nose for the football. He finished his junior season at Fremd with 81 tackles and two interceptions.

The Spartans now have three players in the secondary for their 2016 class. Lyke joins 3-star Michigan safety Demetric Vance and 3-star Ohio cornerback Austin Andrews in the class.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Current College Football Stars Who Could Make Hall of Fame Someday

The most recent class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame, announced in January, was a who's who of the game's greatest players from the 1960s through the early 1990s. It featured former All-Americans, national award winners, league players of the year and major record holders, all of whom were deserving of the honor.

At some point in the future, players from this era will hear their names selected to be part of this prestigious club. But which ones? The National Football Foundation doesn't consider a player eligible for the Hall until 10 years after his final college season, so none of today's stars will be getting in until 2025 or later.

If we had to guess which ones will be on the ballot at that time, taking into account the requirement that they be named to the first team of some major All-American team during their career, here's our look at 10 current stars who figure to be Hall of Famers in the future.

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FSU Offers Ricky Aguayo, Younger Brother of 'Noles Kicker Roberto Aguayo

The Florida State Seminoles have relied on the near-automatic leg of kicker Roberto Aguayo these last two seasons.

While the 2013 Groza Award winner has at least one more season left for the Seminoles, Florida State could be seeing an Aguayo hit the field for important field goals for a few additional years.

Aguayo's younger brother, Enrique "Ricky" Aguayo, announced Friday he had received his first scholarship offer, and it was from the Seminoles:

"Spoke with [FSU special teams coordinator] Jay Graham today," Aguayo told 247Sports' Chris Nee. "After my performance yesterday at my spring game, he feels that I'm [a] fit for FSU."

While the younger Aguayo is not among the seven kickers ranked by 247Sports, the prestigious Kohl's Kicking Camp has him down as the third best at the position for the class of 2016.

Aguayo's profile on KohlsKicking.com offers more details:

Aguayo is an impressive ball striker who hits clean rotation off the ground. His brother is the best kicker in college and is a probable early round draft pick in the NFL. He has shown great talent and continued to get stronger over the last couple of years. He has the frame and look of a big-time kicker. Aguayo is competitive and wants to be great. Should land a D1 scholarship because of all that he has going for him and his ability to still get stronger in the years to come.

Just like his older brother, Aguayo has shown a knack for hitting pressure field goals at Florida's IMG Academy.

A recent video shows his nailing an attempt while being completely surrounded by yelling teammates:

Florida State currently has one kicker other than the older Aguayo on its roster: Ryan Feely, a redshirt freshman who was a preferred walk-on in the class of 2014.

With the offer now official, Aguayo seems like a lock to go to Florida State and try to continue his sibling's recent legacy of knocking down field goals at an award-winning rate.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking 25 Most Dominant Defenders Heading into the 2015 College Football Season

Just as much as any star quarterback or running back, one elite player on defense can make the difference for a college football program.

Great linebackers can routinely stop the most powerful rushing attacks near the line of scrimmage. Opposing signal-callers will just stop throwing to the side of the field claimed by a lockdown defensive back—that is, if they can stand up through the onslaught of a powerful defensive lineman.

The game lost some outstanding defenders from last season to graduation or early entrance into the NFL, but dozens of dominant stars are still on campus, striking fear into offenses everywhere. 

From the powerful interior linemen who control both coasts to the two famous juniors who lived in their opponents' backfields all last year, college football is filled with plenty of defensive difference-makers.

Ahead of the 2015 season, here is a look at the 25 most dominant defenders in the game, ranked by their individual impact on the field and the overall success of their respective defenses last season.

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Alabama Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

A slow start isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Alabama in recruiting, and it’s not that uncommon either.

The 2016 class might just be taking a little longer than usual.

2015’s haul started similarly but got a big kick-start at the 2014 A-Day, when four players committed, including two 5-stars, pushing Alabama’s class to 14 commitments at the time. This year, it’s been more of a slow trickle, with just eight commitments to date, but no drop in quality.

When doing some early analysis of the Crimson Tide’s 2016 class, it’s important to remember that there are still 10 or so months until national signing day. Consider these more midterm grades, a judge of progress, than a final evaluation.

 

Offense

The fact remains that Alabama still needs running backs, in a bad way.

Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will both likely be gone after 2015, leaving the Crimson Tide with a ton of inexperience at running back.

One of Damien Harris, DeSherrius Flowers or Ronnie Clark should get a little bit of playing time, while Bo Scarbrough has dealt with knee problems during his football career.

So Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin would like to add a running back or two in this class to build a little bit of depth. That’s proven to be a challenge. They have offers out to 12 backs, though most of them already committed.

Elsewhere, this looks to be a typical offensive Saban recruiting class, heavy on offensive linemen once again with three commitments in the trenches already.

Alabama would probably like to add another slam-dunk left tackle to bookend Cam Robinson for his junior, and likely final, season. Willie Allen, a 5-star from Louisiana, would certainly fit that bill.

Another position where Alabama would like to add another body or two is tight end, where O.J. Howard will be a rising junior with not much in the way of receiving threats behind him.

Brendan Scales was a nice pickup but another receiving threat would be very much welcome.

Also missing right now is a quarterback, a position where Saban has signed at least one guy in each of his recruiting classes.

Alabama’s top two targets are Jawon Pass and Woody Barrett, both dual-threat guys who the Crimson Tide are battling in-state Auburn for.

All in all, Alabama is off to a good start on offense, with the class building from the inside out. It still needs to add a few key pieces but should be in good shape come signing day.

Grade: B

 

Defense

Alabama’s top commitment for 2016 so far is on the defensive side of the ball, but after him there aren’t any other 4-star or higher prospects.

Shyheim Carter was a big get out of Kentwood, Louisiana, and should be able to see the field sooner rather than later. Raekwon Davis was a surprise commitment over his two in-state schools, while Joshua Perry was another plucked out of Louisiana.

The good news for Alabama is that it won’t have to go very far for some very good defensive players.

Marlon Davidson, a 5-star from Montgomery, is highly coveted as a defensive lineman. Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis are two top linebackers just a short drive from Tuscaloosa.

Otherwise, Alabama has three top defensive tackles it is hot after in Rashan Gary, Rashard Lawrence and Kendell Jones.

For the overall class, though, it’s just not possible to give a grade yet with such a small sample size, but that’s OK right now.

Grade: Incomplete

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Latest Vegas Odds Add Even More Ohio State Hype, but Is It Too Much to Handle?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the moment the clock struck zeroes inside of Arlington's AT&T Stadium in January, one word seemed to be on the mind of every Ohio State fan: repeat.

The Buckeyes had captured the first-ever College Football Playoff championship, but even in postgame interviews, the attention was already turning toward the next year. After all, Ohio State just beat Oregon—and Alabama in the semifinal Sugar Bowl a week prior—with a team whose core predominately consisted of underclassmen.

If the Buckeyes were good enough to win a championship this young, how good would they be the following season, when losses to the roster would be minimal and only improvement from their juniors, sophomores and freshmen would be expected?

"I've got a bunch of really good players. I love our coaching staff. The word 'repeat,' we'll have that conversation, certainly not today," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said the day after the national title game. "It's about enjoying it."

Meyer may not have been looking forward at the time, but the rest of the college football world was, with the Buckeyes listed as 6-1 favorites to win the 2016 national title on OddsShark just a day after they put a championship bow on their 2015 campaign.

In the four months that have followed, the Ohio State hype train has hardly slowed down, with the oddsmakers' latest list making the Buckeyes 7-2 favorites to capture a second consecutive college football crown (via OddsShark).

The expectations for Ohio State in 2015 don't stop there either, with running back Ezekiel Elliott's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy at 6-1 on OddsShark—the best odds of any player in the country.

"It's something you dream about as a kid when you're playing NCAA Football and you create your little player, and he wins the Heisman," Elliott answered when asked by Bleacher Report about his Heisman chances just moments after the title game. "Just thinking that I'm going to have the opportunity next year to compete for the Heisman, just it means everything."

Elliott isn't the only Buckeye coming back with Heisman hopes either, as each of Ohio State's three quarterbacks are currently represented on OddsShark's list of Heisman favorites. Cardale Jones has the nation's sixth-best odds at 12-1, while Braxton Miller measures in at 25-1, and J.T. Barrett is listed at 28-1.

Obviously, those odds will change as the season nears and Meyer settles on a starter at quarterback, but there isn't another team in the country that possesses three players on that Heisman list, let alone four.

"I'm not going to change; I'm going to keep grinding," Elliott insisted, before adding, "I'm going to do all I can to win it."

That might be the right attitude to take into this offseason, a cautious confidence that's well aware of all the Buckeyes are capable of and how quickly it can go away. There may not be a better pilot to navigate this situation either than Meyer, who has twice before found himself in the position of defending national champion.

And although Florida wasn't able to repeat in either 2007 or 2009, Meyer learned plenty of lessons while with the Gators that should aid his efforts in 2015.

"There's a lot of uncles, aunts, and so‑called uncles and aunts and third parties trying to get involved, and the negative is a lot of times when you're that young, that influences you," Meyer said. "I'm worried about that with our program. I'm watching it very closely, and I'm going to visit with each individual because there's some very, very talented guys on our team right now, very talented.

"The human element is very dangerous if those talented individuals open up to people that have their own—they have their own desires or they're trying to gain something from it."

Even with spring football having been in the books for a month now, it's still too early to tell whether or not the sudden celebrity of the Buckeyes—which is always a factor in football-crazed Columbus—has had a negative effect on next season's team. But it's not a coincidence that Meyer routinely downplayed his team's ability during the spring session, even though several of Ohio State's key players only saw limited reps.

"We did not improve as a team. That was not a good team out there," he said following the spring game. "You can tell my mind's spinning here a little bit. How do we get better as a team after we get them out here for a couple of weeks?

"This is a critical offseason for us. This is really critical."

Meyer's motivational tactics may work inside the walls of Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and now more than ever, they'll need to be put to good use. For as heavily hyped as the Buckeyes are heading into 2015, several questions still hang over the team, the most important of which is who will play quarterback for the defending national champions this fall.

But partly because Meyer's track record speaks for itself, Ohio State's expectations for the upcoming season aren't going to die any time soon. This is the reality of playing for an Urban Meyer-coached team, where Heisman candidates line the roster and nothing less than a championship season is seen as a success.

Unlike last year, however, the Buckeyes will enter 2015 with these expectations from not only the inside, but from outside of their program as well. Injuries and youth can no longer be used as excuses in Columbus, as the most hyped team in college football attempts to defend its title.

"The chase is on," Jones said after the national title game.

At Ohio State, it never stops.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LaMar Winston Reveals Top 8: Odds on Where 4-Star Lands

Linebacker LaMar Winston released a list of favorites Thursday evening that's heavy on potential Pac-12 landing spots.

The 4-star Oregon standout trimmed his options to eight teams, revealing his decision on Twitter:

His list includes seven Pac-12 programs. Michigan is the lone exception after offering Winston a scholarship earlier this month. 

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect is a rising senior at Central Catholic High School in Portland. He is considered the state's top overall recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings, which list him 16th nationally among outside linebackers.

Winston secured 74 tackles—13 for loss—during the past two seasons. He flashed formidable playmaking skills in 2014, averaging 25 yards per reception en route to seven touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

Now that Winston has shared which collegiate programs remain on his radar, it's an appropriate time to take a look at the top contenders in this race. We cut the list in half to focus on four teams with the strongest chance of landing the linebacker, handing out odds for each option.

 

Oregon: 2-to-1

The Ducks carry obvious clout as his sole in-state option. Oregon already landed fellow Portland product Brady Breeze, a 4-star defensive back.

Head coach Mark Helfrich has his program in position to land the state's top three prospects for the first time this decade. Breeze is rated second among Oregon recruits, while Ducks tight end pledge Cameron McCormick is third on the list. 

After a run to the national championship game featuring a Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon has never been more popular. Winston can stay close to home in Eugene and join a national powerhouse in the process, adding to a defense that has quietly begun to balance things out on a team known for its prolific offensive attack. 

"I don't know if Oregon is still my favorite, but I still like them a lot," Winston told Andrew Nemec of The Oregonian. "I'm looking forward to getting down to Oregon some more."

 

Washington: 3-to-1

Head coach Chris Petersen has been persistent on the recruiting trail following his first season with the Huskies. His squad picked up a third 4-star pledge earlier this week when California running back Sean McGrew picked Washington over UCLA. 

In-state defender Brandon Wellington is at the foundation of this class. The 4-star safety committed last summer, and Petersen is in a position to pair up perhaps the Northwest's top defensive duo with Winston in play.

Washington signed several linebackers in the 2015 class, but none warranted the attention Winston has received. The Huskies hosted him on campus for a junior day earlier this year, and university proximity is possibly an enticing selling point, as Winston could view Seattle as far enough from home but not so far away as to cause discomfort.

 

Michigan: 5-to-1

The Wolverines are a relative newcomer to this race, extending a scholarship offer earlier this month. Michigan assistant Jay Harbaugh already visited Winston in person, displaying the program's serious interest.

As we mentioned earlier, Michigan is the only school in his top eight that doesn't reside in the Pac-12. Head coach Jim Harbaugh aims to return the program to prominence, and a key part of that effort is exhibiting a nationwide recruiting reach.

His current class includes six committed athletes from five states, ranging from Indiana to Alabama. Harbaugh still has plenty of West Coast recruiting ties from his tenures at Stanford and San Diego, and he is expected to host Winston on campus for an official visit, per Nemec.

 

USC: 6-to-1

Among multiple California suitors, we like the Trojans' chances best. USC is steadily regaining traction as a national "destination school" for recruits across the country, further evidenced by 2016 commitments from 4-star Georgia wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and 4-star Michigan linebacker Daelin Hayes.

Winston received an offer from head coach Steve Sarkisian in late February, and he's consistently reciprocated interest since. USC is set to welcome him to campus in July, according to Nemec.

The Trojans' roster strength at linebacker could actually serve as a weakness in this pursuit. USC arguably landed the nation's top class at the position last signing day and already holds pledges from a pair of top-rated 2016 linebackers in Hayes and Mique Juarez, creating a crowded depth chart in Los Angeles.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Are QB Kenny Hill's Chances of Starting at TCU in 2016?

Has TCU found its successor to Trevone Boykin? Former Texas A&M starting quarterback Kenny Hill certainly hopes so. 

Hill confirmed with Travis Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram what had been speculated for months: that he would be transferring to the Horned Frogs. Hill told Brown that he will enroll on June 1 ("two Mondays from now" he said to Brown). He will sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining in 2016.

That would seem to perfectly set up his own run at the starting quarterback spot since Boykin will be a redshirt senior this season. Will it work out that smoothly? We'll find out in a year or so, but Hill will have the time to learn and the resources available to be successful. 

Put another way, you have to like Hill's chances of earning the starting job next year. He'll be in the right environment to succeed, it'll be a matter of whether he wants to or not. 

It starts with the fact that he'll be under the guidance of co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. It's been well-documented what both of those guys have done for the Frogs offensively. In 2013, TCU ranked at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in every major statistical offensive category. Last season, the first with Cumbie and Meacham, TCU averaged nearly 200 more yards per game and 21 more points per game. Only Baylor had more points per game nationally (48.2 to 46.5). 

The improvement was visible across all positions, but the most dramatic difference was with Boykin. This was a guy who seemed bound for a position change. Under Cumbie's guidance, however, he morphed into a one-man offensive show, accounting for 354.5 yards per game—best in the Big 12—and 42 total touchdowns. 

The best part is, as Chris Brown of Grantland notes, Boykin can be even better this year: 

Hill is a big-time talent and further along as a passer now than Boykin was at the end of the 2013 season. The A&M transfer will have the benefit of learning under Cumbie and Meacham for a year without having to worry about game action. It's his "internship" so to speak. Assuming no one scoops up Cumbie and/or Meacham in the next two years for a head coaching gig—that could be a big assumption—Hill could have as many as three years as their pupil. 

Of course, three other quarterbacks—Grayson Muehlstein, Foster Sawyer and Zach Allen—are being coached by Cumbie as well. The difference is Hill has starting experience in an Air Raid-based offense under his belt. Unless Boykin gets hurt and someone successfully steps in to replace him, the quarterback competition should be wide-open in '16.  

Everything sets up advantageously for Hill, but there's also a certain amount of responsibility that falls on him as well. Hill got off to a hot start last season by throwing for more than 500 yards in the season opener against South Carolina.

However, things began going south five games later in a loss to Mississippi State in which he threw three interceptions. Two games later in a shutout loss to Alabama, Hill was benched in favor of freshman Kyle Allen. Shortly thereafter, he was suspended two games for violating team rules. He was also hit with a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in March of 2014. 

Those are learning experiences for Hill. A change of scenery can sometimes be just what a player needs to start over. In his first season, he won't have to worry about playing, only about understanding the playbook, developing chemistry with new teammates and getting better. Nothing will be rushed. 

Hill isn't guaranteed the starting job in 2016. Head coach Gary Patterson just doesn't work that way. Plus, there's not an immediate need at quarterback. Hill will have the chance to come in and compete for the job in 2016. If he does all the right things, he has the talent to take the field in purple next year. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Building College Football's Ultimate Secondary

As college football has become a more pass-heavy game, with quarterbacks constantly stretching the field and going vertical on offense, having talented players in the defensive secondary has become increasingly important. 

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joins Stephen Nelson to build college football's ultimate secondary.

Who is on your ultimate secondary? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Toughest College Football Stadiums to Play In

In college football, no road game is easy. When you take your team on the road, you run into a number of factors, from unfamiliar locker rooms to hostile fans to stadiums that keep the noise hovering low over the field, making on-field communication nearly impossible.

However, a few stadiums stand out as places where a victory should truly be treasured, where overcoming the odds, the noise and the fans rising against you is really special. They’re the toughest places to play in college football. Here’s a look at the 10 toughest stadiums for visiting teams.

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Odds on Where 4-Star Tight End Naseir Upshur Lands at Next Level

Naseir Upshur, a 4-star tight end, per 247Sports, has not yet decided on where he will play his college ball. With several offers on the table, he has a tough decision ahead of him. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as he handicapped just where Upshur could land at the next level. 

Who is the favorite to land this 4-star stud? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jordan Elliott Tweets Top 8: Which Schools Hold Edge in Race for 4-Star DT?

Dominant defensive lineman Jordan Elliott is among the top 2016 college football prospects in Texas, commanding nearly 40 scholarship offers.

The 6'4", 305-pound tackle inched closer toward a commitment Thursday evening when he shared a top-eight list on Twitter:

Elliott, a 4-star recruit from Westside High School in Houston, remains open to attending universities across America. His collection of favorites features teams from five different conferences. He didn't order programs by preference, so we're left to wonder which schools truly sit atop this list.

Rated 12th nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Elliott exhibits college-ready size and skills. He tallied 78 tackles—31 for loss—and 12 sacks as a junior.

His latest recruitment update comes one month after he unveiled a list of 10 favorites. There was significant turnover in that top group, with Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Baylor and Oklahoma missing the cut this time around.

Elliott added Georgia, LSU and Utah into the mix. 

Elliott initially pledged to Baylor. He backed off that commitment in early April after spending two months in the Bears class.

His chances of still ending up in the Lone Star State appear strong. Texas, in particular, is viewed as a slight favorite among recruiting analysts.

The Longhorns hold 58 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, doubling up USC (25 percent). Head coach Charlie Strong is rooted on defense and made some in-state splashes on that side of the ball during an up-and-down 2015 recruiting cycle, headlined by 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson.

Texas didn't extend an offer until late February, but strong momentum didn't really start building in this recruitment until around that time.

Houston, the lone non-Power Five program on this list, is certainly a wild card to land the local standout. The Cougars sent a strong message Thursday night by securing a commitment from top-rated Texas defender Ed Oliver.

The 5-star defensive tackle opted to stay put in his hometown despite an offer list that largely mirrors Elliott's scholarship sheet. Houston's staff aims to pair the powerful interior linemen together, and clearly the Cougars are in a better position with Elliott at the moment than Texas A&M and Baylor.

When we look beyond Texas, USC seems to be Elliott's most likely landing spot. The Trojans offered last month and are a borderline dream school for the coveted defender, who grew up rooting for the team.

USC reached into Texas last signing day for prized running backs Ronald Jones and Aca'Cedric Ware.

Alabama is also worth keeping a close eye on as the presumptive SEC favorite after offering in February. Elliott is slated to spend time in Tuscaloosa next month, per Wescott Eberts of SBNation.

Considering the seismic changes that altered his list this spring during the course of four weeks, it's difficult to read too much into the finality of Elliott's latest favorites. This situation is fluid to say the least, but our latest glimpse into his recruitment gives us another opportunity to see where things stand with teams in Texas and beyond.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tennessee Football: Volunteers' 2015 Offseason Checklist

The steady trickle of Tennessee football-related information coming out of Knoxville—and everywhere else, for that matter—has slowed to a stop in time for the warm weather months.

It's that time of year when you start counting down the days until SEC media days usher in the news again.

Unless you're really into recruiting or have been following the Everett Golson sweepstakes, you're itching for information that's difficult to come by. But football never stops.

That's the case in Knoxville, as a few of the players stuck around in Knoxville for mini-term and others are dispersed throughout the nation for a bit before mandatory workouts bring them back. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, for instance, is serving a monthlong internship in Florida.

Once he returns, he'll have several offseason goals to reach before practice begins. The Vols have several of their own to live up to the massive expectations placed on the program entering the 2015 season.

Coach Butch Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown last week that rather than puff out their chests at all the hype, the Vols have gotten to work:

We do have a lot of positive momentum, and I think our players have fed off that. They've been extremely focused. Their capacity for work, their mental effort, their mental intensity, I thought they brought it each and every day.

That's what you want. You want the expectations, because this is a very proud football program. But we also understand we have a long, long ways to go in the development of our program.

So, to kick off a time of year when baseball and beaches are the "in" things, let's take a look at the Vols' offseason checklist.

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Who Will Be Ohio State's Secret Weapon in 2015?

Fresh off their national championship victory, the Ohio State Buckeyes seem to stay in the headlines. From their trio of star quarterbacks to their ferocious defensive line, most of these players are household names. 

But who on this roster could be Urban Meyer's secret weapon in 2015?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joins Stephen Nelson to reveal his secret weapon for the Buckeyes in the video above.

Will Parris Campbell make a difference next season? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can 5-Star DT Ed Oliver's Pledge Make a Non-Power 5 School a Recruiting Sleeper?

If you followed the recruiting of 5-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver—if you truly followed his process—you wouldn't consider his commitment to Houston Thursday evening a shock.

Oliver's older brother, Marcus, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Cougars. His old high school coach is Corby Meekins, who spent 15 years at Westfield High School in Houston before joining Tom Herman's staff as the tight ends and fullbacks coach. Not to mention, Oliver has always had Houston high on his list, along with LSU.

Regardless, Oliver's pledge is of blockbuster status for Houston. Oliver is the first 5-star pledge for the Cougars in at least a dozen years. In fact, the last 4-star commit for the Cougars was wide receiver Deontay Greenberry in 2012. The last 4-star after that? Tight end Jon Clark back in 2002.

As the nation's No. 5 defensive tackle, Oliver is a player that many coaches want and many players want to play alongside. His commitment is exactly what the Cougars needed, as they now not only have a signature pledge in the 2016 class, but also have someone who can recruit players around the greater Houston area.

Take 4-star defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, for example. The Houston prospect, who attends Westside High School just minutes away from Oliver, announced his top eight Thursday, which included three SEC schools, two Pac-12 schools and a Big 12 and Big Ten school.

And Houston.

Staying close to home to play college ball is something Elliott has thought of. Are the Cougars a legitimate contender for Elliott?

About as much as they were a contender for Oliver. And we saw how that ended up.

"I like the legacy that we can build," Elliott said of Houston. "Me and Ed combined would be a scary sight."

Elliott said he has built great relationships with both defensive line coach Oscar Giles and director of high school relations Dallas Blacklock. He said he communicates with them on a daily basis.

Oliver's pledge bumped Houston up 23 spots to No. 57 in 247Sports' 2016 recruiting team rankings. The Cougars' 2015 class finished the year ranked No. 91, the team hasn't had a top-50 class since 2002.

That could change this year.

The entire Houston coaching staff has made several 2016 athletes a priority, and the odds of them landing a couple of other big names is higher than some may assume.

Among the potential commits are Elliott, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and defensive end Isaiah Chambers. The common denominator? All of the aforementioned recruits are 4-star talents who live minutes away from the Houston campus.

The connection among Houston players is as solid as any nationwide. The players, although competitors, are very tight-knit, and they have had multiple discussions about aligning in college to form one Houston-oriented megapower.

That megapower could form in their backyard.

"I think it is a bond that is getting stronger as time goes on," Elliott said of the player relationships in the city. "I see a group of us coming together at once and making it happen."

If it happens by way of the Cougars, give the major assist to Oliver for jump-starting it all Thursday night.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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