The University of Washington's secondary took a hit Friday afternoon when it was reported the Huskies dismissed sophomore cornerback Naijiel Hale, according to the Seattle Times' Adam Jude.
Hale took to Twitter to make the announcement official:
The cornerback was expected to see an increase in his playing time after a freshman season that saw him appear in 14 games, starting two of them, with 12 total tackles and two pass deflections, per GoHuskies.com.
While he's made his name as a football player, Hale has another claim to fame, as Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman points out:
Hale was ranked 23rd nationally among all cornerbacks in the class of 2014 coming out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, according to 247Sports. He received interest from other schools like Arizona, to which he originally committed, along with UCLA and Utah.
Depending on what has gotten him into trouble, Hale will be a hot commodity to schools looking for a player capable of developing into a shutdown cornerback.
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Prized playmaker Trey Sermon reached a new phase of his widespread recruitment Thursday evening, unveiling a list of collegiate favorites.
The 4-star Georgia running back released a collection of 10 teams on Twitter:
Sermon, a 6'1", 206-pound prospect, is rated fourth nationally among rushers in 247Sports' 2017 composite recruiting rankings. He sits 44th overall on the list of prospects approaching their junior season.
His favorites feature six SEC squads. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee each made the cut.
Sermon also included Ohio State, Stanford, Miami and Michigan. It's a group that represents four Power Five conferences and several possible playoff contenders.
The Sprayberry High School standout is considered a premier commodity in Georgia, rated fifth among 2017 Peach State products. While Sermon is clearly willing to explore opportunities far beyond state borders, his most likely landing spot might be local.
The Bulldogs remain in the market for a 2017 running back and recently lost 4-star 2016 rusher B.J. Emmons to Alabama. Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer already claimed a commitment from elite in-state quarterback Bailey Hockman and could piece together the makings of a promising backfield by bringing Sermon on board.
"I like Georgia, it is a great school," Sermon told Kipp Adams of 247Sports. "Pretty much the coaching staff (is what I like most). They are really good guys and I can tell they just want all their athletes to do well, not only in football but after that. Georgia is pretty high up there."
Former star Bulldogs running back Thomas Brown spearheads this recruitment for Georgia following an extremely successful tenure as an assistant at Wisconsin.
If you're looking for another strong SEC contender in this race, Auburn is a team to watch. The Tigers and Bulldogs are already going head-to-head for 2016 Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield, and Sermon is another crucial mutual interest.
Head coach Gus Malzahn does an outstanding job plucking players from the Peach State. His team could establish an edge if it shows Sermon what he needs to see in person this season, as Auburn will aim to line up at least one on-campus visit for a game day.
Odds are in favor of Sermon signing with an SEC-affiliated university, but an upset isn't out the question here. Reigning national champion Ohio State looms large if he opts to leave the region.
The Buckeyes hosted him in Columbus last month and he left town with a scholarship offer. Sermon attended the team's Friday Night Lights Camp and became the latest backfield target for Urban Meyer.
"I'm here to impress the coaches, and hopefully earn an offer," he told Bill Greene of Scout.com before the event. "This is a long way from home, but I'm interested in the school and they're interested in me, so I decided to come up here."
Sermon isn't under any time crunch so it's probably wise to keep so many options open 18 months shy of his national signing day. Campus visits and other running back commitments are likely to reshape this recruitment moving forward.
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On Thursday, when six-year-old Brady Carpenter was greeted with a hug after asking Jim Harbaugh how much milk he had to drink to grow tall enough to be a quarterback, it provided just the latest of many viral moments that have emanated from Michigan this offseason.
But for those who have been a fan of the summer—and spring—of Harbaugh since he returned to college football last winter, it was an image worth savoring. Because, with the Wolverines' first fall camp under their new head coach kicking off on Friday, the unprecedented preseason buzz for a team that's coming off of a losing season is about to come to an end.
"Just to let you know, we're going into a submarine and you won't see us for a while," Harbaugh said at Michigan's media day on Thursday. "You won't hear from us. You won't see us. We'll be working."
That's hardly been the case for the past seven months, when intentional or not—Harbaugh claims the latter—the Wolverines have been a mainstay in the headlines of the college football world. Even rival Ohio State, which is coming off of a national championship season, hasn't been talked about as much as Michigan seems to have been, despite the Wolverines posting a 5-7 record just a season ago.
Thanks to the hiring of its new head coach, however, a bowl game-less winter in Ann Arbor found itself a little less cold.
"I was in Chipotle with my dad in the line," senior tight end Jake Butt answered when asked where he was when Harbaugh's Dec. 30 hiring was announced. "When I found out, I got fired up. I got a quadruple meat burrito to celebrate. I was super pumped.
"Obviously Coach Harbaugh's one of the better football coaches in the whole world."
That was the initial reason for the sudden spotlight that had been cast on Ann Arbor, and it hardly came as a surprise that a high-profile coach like Harbaugh switching jobs garnered sizable attention. Especially when his new job happened to come at his alma mater, which has spent the better part of the past seven years in college football irrelevance.
"He used to play here. That's a big thing," running back Derrick Green said. "You don't see many coaches doing that."
The months that would follow the announcement of Harbaugh's hiring were even more unlike anything often seen from college head coaches.
It started with his unique Twitter account, which he used to shout out Judge Judy and take a perceived shot at Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer during the recruiting battle for Mike Weber. From agreeing with Nicki Minaj to sharing his preference of "attacking [the] day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind," every thought that Harbaugh shared in 140 characters or less this offseason seemed to create headlines, and subsequently attention for the Michigan program.
But it wasn't just the Twittersphere that helped build Harbaugh's offseason buzz.
Whether due to his unique personality or his knack for being in the right place at the right time, the new Wolverines head man became an easy target for the headline-hungry consumers of college football. Such was the case when en route to the airport for a trip back to California in March, Harbaugh and Michigan staffer Jim Minick stopped on the highway to aid the victims of a car crash on Interstate 94.
The story instantly went viral, only proving the power Harbaugh already possessed before even coaching a game standing on the Michigan Stadium sideline.
"We definitely knew [hiring Harbaugh] was a big deal, but we didn't think, like when Coach Harbaugh saved the lady from the car crash, we didn't expect that to happen," offensive lineman Kyle Kalis said of the attention paid to his new head coach. "You can't count on that."
And then there was the time Harbaugh was pictured shirtless working out with attendees at a summer satellite camp and an April meeting with five Supreme Court justices. Planted PR opportunities intended to spread the word of Wolverines football? Perhaps. Although the former Michigan signal-caller insists otherwise.
"Not striving to be creating any buzz. Just striving to coach the football team," Harbaugh said at Big Ten media days in Chicago last week. "Not trying to be popular or anything. Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked. So just coaching football."
But whether Harbaugh's offseason in the limelight was contrived or not is no longer relevant.
Because with fall camp officially under way in Ann Arbor, all that matters from this point forward when it comes to Harbaugh is how his team performs on the field. The offseason attention may have been good for recruiting and could eventually pay off in the long run, but it will now be results, and not tweets, that define the former San Francisco 49ers head coach's latest endeavor.
"It's been cool. It's been different. With a guy like Coach Harbaugh at the reins, everybody wants a piece, everybody wants to get in here and see what's going on," Kalis said. "That's nice, but at the same time, we like to keep it to ourselves and then let our play do the talking. We've said that, we've said that and we've said that, but this is the year where I think it's actually going to happen."
And while the rest of the college football world—outside of perhaps Columbus and East Lansing—may have forgotten, last season's 5-7 record hasn't been lost on anyone inside the Michigan locker room.
"It's embarrassing," running back De'Veon Smith said. "It's unacceptable. There's no excuse for us to have a season the way we did."
With fall camp now here, the Wolverines can finally turn the page on their disappointing 2014 campaign, even if everybody else in college football seems to have done it for them with the arrival of the Harbaugh era.
That, however, presents its own unique set of challenges, as Michigan aims to prove that it's deserving of hype for reasons more than just its new head coach.
"I'm ready to get on the field and compete and show everybody what we're about and show everybody we're not just about this buzz because we have Coach Harbaugh," Smith said. "We're a great team and we're Michigan. That's what I'm ready for."
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.
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Part of the intrigue of the 2015 college football season is that there are so many unanswered quarterback competitions heading into preseason camp. On top of that, many of those ongoing battles are taking place at high-profile programs, many of which have College Football Playoff aspirations.
Having an experienced quarterback isn't a prerequisite for winning a national championship, but having a settled quarterback competition is.
But what if the offseason front-runner or favorite doesn't end up winning the job? Given how wide-open some of these quarterback races are, we could be in for some surprises in the next few weeks. That's the inspiration behind this list: the quarterbacks who would shock the college football world by starting in Week 1.
Because there are a variety of quarterback races, few are the same. Some are wide-open, while others are down to two or three players. In any case, the following races should have clear—or at least perceived clear—front-runners. In other words, in a dead heat between two quarterbacks, it wouldn't be surprising to see either player earn the starting nod.
Instead, we'll spotlight the dark horses who may have a chance to leapfrog the front-runners in preseason camp.
The July onslaught of award watch lists have come and gone, and the time for locking in all of those preseason predictions is approaching.
Each college football individual award, from the Heisman to the Guy, already has a who's-who list of favorites heading into the 2015 season.
TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the top choice to take home player of the year awards, while Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa looks to reignite his race with Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III for the major defensive trophies.
But with so many players and teams in the world of college football, there are always a handful of stars who defy preseason expectations to take home some major hardware. Who could've predicted a clean sweep of the trophy case for Wright last season? What about the Doak Walker Award run for Andre Williams in 2013?
Let's take a look at a sleeper pick for 10 of the biggest awards in college football. These players might have made a watch list this summer—really, who doesn't these days?—but they are far from the top contenders. Keep an eye on these potential breakout stars.
The Michigan Wolverines return five experienced players on the offensive line, but Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff need the big blockers to step up in 2015.
Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson—who combined for 47 starts last season—each return to a unit that was slightly above average. The running game tallied 4.6 yards per carry, good enough for 49th nationally and up 66 spots from the dismal year prior.
However, according to Football Outsiders, Michigan managed 2.73 yards in standard-down situations, ranking 94th in the country. Setting the tone on first down will be a key focus, especially under Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.
The Wolverines' new coaching staff is the biggest reason expectations must be raised for the offensive line. Good coaches expedite development, and Michigan's NFL-caliber coaches bring even more knowledge to the practice facility.
Now, it's not like the linemen have magically become marionettes that Harbaugh and Drevno can manipulate mid-play. The pressure remains on the players to heed the advice and translate it to their on-field performance.
But here's the thing: Thanks to spending countless hours involved with the team, focused college players improve from year to year.
For example, Cole broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. The 6'5", 287-pound sophomore left tackle is heralded as the program's next great lineman, and with or without the new staff, he'd be closer to attaining that status in 2015 than 2014. It's that simple.
Yet it certainly doesn't hurt to have what Michigan boasts on the sideline.
Drevno—who doubles as the line coach—has worked under Harbaugh for 10 of the last 11 years. During Drevno's three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, the team's rushing offense finished No. 8, No. 4 and No. 3 in the league. That followed three straight top-20 campaigns at Stanford.
If Drevno was a part of tremendously successful offensive lines in both the NFL and college, there's no reason Michigan's players won't be taught the proper tools to dominate.
And that, per MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner, is Harbaugh's ultimate goal for the offensive line anyway.
"I'd like it to be dominant," Harbaugh said.
Barring injury, Cole shouldn't leave his post at left tackle. While the rest of the offensive line isn't locked into certain positions quite yet, Michigan should have a solid idea of how the first-team spots will shake out.
Glasgow is the most versatile player, considering he can occupy any interior position. The senior logged 24 starts over the last two seasons. Consequent to Jack Miller's abrupt retirement, though, Glasgow will likely take over at center.
Kalis, Braden and Magnuson should each earn a No. 1 role, but at which position remains a small question. Kalis could play either guard spot, while Braden—the right tackle in 2014—was moved inside, opening a place for Magnuson at right tackle.
On media day, in a video captured by Isaiah Hole of 247Sports, Drevno called the starting five "a work in progress."
The reserve did take a notable hit recently. According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Chris Fox elected to retire following a couple of injury-riddled seasons. Fox only appeared in one game while in Ann Arbor, but perhaps Drevno could've utilized that 4-star talent.
Nevertheless, Logan Tuley-Tillman, David Dawson, Patrick Kugler and Juwann Bushell-Beatty provide much-needed depth at tackle, guard, center and tackle, respectively.
Michigan enters fall camp with five clear starters and four others competing for playing time, all under one of college football's best run-focused coaching tandems. The blockers will do the dirty work so Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, De'Veon Smith and Drake Johnson (when healthy) can receive the glory.
It's up to Drevno and his experienced linemen to provide the running backs with that space on a more consistent basis than a year ago.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When Nick Saban wasn’t talking about how well he thought the summer went, injured running back Bo Scarbrough’s four-game suspension or how he’s someday going to write an autobiography, he established Alabama’s most pressing priorities during his first press conference of training camp Thursday.
While most would think picking a starting quarterback would head that list, it didn't as Saban is pretty confident that competition will eventually work itself out. Instead, his top area of emphasis was something else entirely.
“The last couple of years we have not done very well in turnovers,” the coach said. “We had a minus-two turnover ratio last year for a team that won 12 games—almost unheard of.”
While stressing the importance of turnovers isn’t necessarily new for the coach—Saban made it a team priority in both the spring and summer—the first practices of the fall are when he’ll start seeing if his months of effort are starting to paying off.
He doesn’t just want turnovers to be something that's talked about. He wants the pursuit of turnovers to be ingrained in everything the Crimson Tide defense does.
“Stripping at the ball, running backs falling to the ground, trying to strip the ball,” junior defensive end A’Shawn Robinson said about turnover drills, which have become a bigger part of practice.
A steady decline in the Crimson Tide’s statistics, which culminated with last year's 11th-place finish in the Southeastern Conference in turnover margin (71st nationally), led to Saban's renewed focus on this aspect of the game.
Texas A&M (five), Vanderbilt (six) and LSU (10) were the only SEC teams with fewer interceptions than Alabama (11) in 2014. The Tide's 11 picks were less than half of what they recorded during their 2009 national championship season, and the total brought the program’s average during the Saban era down to 16.6.
In comparison, Saban’s LSU teams averaged 15.2 picks per year (with a high of 21 in 2003), and his Michigan State squads averaged 12.4 (with 15 in 2003).
Moreover, Alabama’s defense only recovered nine fumbles in 2014, tying for No. 68 in the nation. Again, that was low for the Crimson Tide overall, though it was actually up from the previous season’s eight.
"A lot of people weren't really stripping at the ball in the past year," said senior linebacker Reggie Ragland, who led Alabama in forced fumbles with three last season. "We had a down year for turnovers really, so coaches gave an idea for guys to really just start trying to get at the ball and get the ball out."
Actually, they had numerous ideas.
It started with Saban hiring former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as Alabama's defensive backs coach and promoting Tosh Lupoi to outside linebackers coach. Among other things, both were tasked with making their position groups more of a ball-hawking force.
“I think he’s kind of reestablished the standard for expectation in terms of how we play back there in terms of the effort that we give,” Saban said about Tucker.
Next was the creation of the continuous “Ball Out Champion” award, a boxing-style belt that will regularly be passed around among defenders who make big plays. It was on the move a lot during Alabama’s A-Day scrimmage, in which they tallied six interceptions, a fumble recovery and broke up eight passes to go with 19 tackles for a loss, including eight sacks.
Then, Saban changed the messenger. He’s big on having guest speakers regularly address the team, and one of the reasons why is that sometimes some things sink in more if they come from someone else. (Saban compares this to a parent telling a child the same thing over and over, but as soon as another person says it they believe it.)
So during the offseason, Saban called upon one of his former assistant coaches, Jason Garrett, the current Dallas Cowboys head coach who was his quarterbacks coach with the Miami Dolphins and had an invitation to follow him to Tuscaloosa.
“He had NFL stats from five, 10, 20 years,” Saban said. “When you are plus-one in turnovers you have an 80 percent chance to win. When you’re plus-two in turnovers you have a 95 percent chance to win, and it goes up from there.”
Finally, the coaches decided that the members of their defensive front seven needed to come into training camp leaner and ready to go, and all indications Tuesday were that they did just that. Among those who appeared a little trimmer were All-SEC preseason selections Ragland and Robinson, and Robinson told reporters that his weight was down to 314 pounds.
That’s down from a year ago when he played at 320, and Robinson’s hoping to be closer to 310 when the season starts Sept. 5 against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas (8 p.m. ET, ABC). Jarran Reed, who is often next to him on the defensive line and is listed as 313 pounds is also trimming down.
“He’s a lot better,” Robinson said about Reed. “He’s lighter, he’s quicker. He’s faster off the ball, can convert and run the pass just as well as anybody on the team. And so he’s been working on that and just about everything.”
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.
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