Feed aggregator

Predicting the Achilles' Heel of Every Projected Top 25 Team for 2015

Across the nation, college football programs are shaking off the rust and getting ready for spring practice. 2014, for better or worse, is in the books. 2015, and all of its associated promise, is on the horizon.

While coaches don’t have a complete accounting for what they’ll have on hand this fall, due to freshmen who have yet to arrive on campus and veterans who are fighting their way back from offseason surgeries, they have a pretty good idea.

Every program, from Ohio State on down, has its strengths. But every program also has weaknesses. Spring is about trying as best you can to shore up those weaknesses and making yourself better entering fall practice.

Here’s a look at every Top 25 team’s Achilles' heel. The Top 25 ranking is taken from Bleacher Report’s most recent Top 25 filed by Ben Kercheval.

Begin Slideshow

Underrated 2016 RB Vavae Malepeai 'Can Be Feature Back for Big-Time CFB Program'

Vavae Malepeai, a 3-star running back, per 247Sports, is a guy not many are talking about. Part of the reason is that he hails from Hawaii, unable to receive the big-time press. But that is not stopping him from putting up huge numbers. 

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder breaks down Malepeai's game and where he could potentially land at the next level. 

What is Malepeai's ceiling? Check out the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Austin Kendall Decommits from Tennessee: Which SEC Alternative Offers Best Fit?

Quarterback Austin Kendall ended a long-term commitment to Tennessee on Tuesday, backing off his verbal pledge on social media:

The 4-star North Carolina recruit initially joined the Volunteers' 2016 class last summer. He headlined a Tennessee recruiting haul that rated 12th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings prior to his decommitment.

Kendall, a 6'2", 205-pound passer at Cuthbertson High School, is considered one of the country's top prospects at a crucial position. Listed eighth among pro-style quarterbacks in the aforementioned composite rankings, he is valued by teams far beyond Knoxville.

Scholarship offers also arrived from Boston College, Virginia and Miami, among others, following a sophomore 2013 season that saw Kendall complete 61 percent of his passes for 1,668 yards and 20 touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

He topped those totals in 2014, tossing 4,461 yards and 49 scores in 15 games. Kendall flashed versatility during his junior campaign, gaining another 519 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

His offer list has continued to expand, and diverse options—along with the three quarterbacks Tennessee signed in February—may have ultimately led him to reassess his situation.

Shortly after announcing the decommitment, Kendall unveiled three new possibilities during a conversation with Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

"Kentucky, Auburn and Florida," Kendall said.

Based on that list, it appears he's still likely to compete in the SEC when his college career commences. 

Though a decision may remain far off for Kendall, let's break down each of his three top interests.

 

Auburn

Head coach Gus Malzahn extended an offer to Kendall just a few weeks ago. Kendall is one of several quarterbacks who've drawn interest from Auburn, one of the most aggressive pursuers of the position early in this cycle.

The Tigers landed 3-star quarterback Tyler Queen during the last cycle, and he enrolled on campus early. Auburn also made a late charge at dual-threat talent Torrance Gibson, who ultimately opted to stick with his Ohio State commitment. 

Quarterbacks have enjoyed immense success under the direction on Malzahn, whether they were elite-level passers like Cam Newton or relied more on raw athleticism like Nick Marshall.

The program currently has sights set on predominantly mobile prospects in the 2016 class, namely Jawon Pass and Xavier Gaines.

It's hard to imagine that Auburn will wait long to secure a commitment at the position, considering its offensive track record and the presence of top-rated wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers in this class.

Kendall's willingness to line up a campus visit in the near future could be key. He has no planned university trips at this stage, per Bartow.

 

Florida

The Gators are an outlier here, as the program has yet to formally offer Kendall. It's a bit surprising, since new coach Jim McElwain doesn't currently have one of "his guys" at quarterback on the roster.

Florida pushed hard late in the 2015 recruiting cycle to flip Florida State commit Deondre Francois and Louisville pledge Lamar Jackson—hosting both before national signing day—but came up empty in those endeavors. 

The Gators will officially move on from a failed Jeff Driskel era with two 4-star 2014 signees. Treon Harris gained experience with mixed results as a true freshman, while Will Grier is expected to compete for the starting job after a redshirt season.

If either player performs well enough to win over the new coaching staff for the long haul, he may be in position to keep a grip on that role for several years ahead. However, McElwain is eyeing ways to improve every element of the program, and a top-tier 2016 quarterback is necessary regardless of how this 2015 battle shakes out. 

Kendall clearly has interest in the Gators, so expect Florida to take a long look at identifying him as a primary target moving forward.

 

Kentucky

The Wildcats are among Kendall's earliest suitors, and he may very well be the top offensive target for Kentucky. Head coach Mark Stoops has done an outstanding job building the foundation of his 2016 class, which already includes 14 commitments and rates fourth nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Like Florida, the Wildcats are working with a one-year gap at quarterback. Kentucky didn't sign a 2015 passer after landing top in-state prospect Drew Barker last year. 

Now a redshirt freshman, Barker will attempt to seize snaps from incumbent starter Patrick Towles as new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson dissects each candidate. This is another case in which Kendall could take advantage of limited competition behind potential starters, rapidly working his way up the depth chart.

Kentucky hasn't kept its interest a secret.

"Kentucky has been a school he has always stayed in contact with," Cuthbertson coach David Johnson told Bartow.

His older brother, Ryan, is a Wildcats wide receiver. Kendall attended a junior day in Lexington last month.

 

Best Fit

Though he may be feeling the most love from Kentucky, we like the opportunity in Gainesville best should McElwain finally pull the trigger on an offer. Florida has two promising young passers, but neither committed to the current Gators regime, so allegiance must be earned through strong play.

Stoops coveted Barker while assembling his 2014 recruiting class and is giving him a legitimate chance to claim starting duties this spring with four years of eligibility left. Success is never guaranteed for unproven quarterbacks, but loyalties may be a bit tighter between Kentucky and its young gun than what you'll find at Florida this year.

Historically, the Gators also have a stronger chance of surrounding Kendall with elite offensive talent. Florida finished hot on the 2015 recruiting trail and could emphatically capitalize next signing day with signs of a program rebound.

Auburn shouldn't be counted out, but the Tigers may view other quarterbacks in higher regard than Kendall due to their enhanced dual-threat skill sets. Malzahn may be tempted to take two quarterbacks in this class, as he tried to do last time around, but that would create a more crowded situation than Kendall would find at his other two potential SEC landing spots.

The pressure is on McElwain to find an elite quarterback in this class; one he hand-picks himself. If Kendall fits the bill for Florida, it's an opportunity the former Tennessee pledge should accept.

 

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC LB Commit Mique Juarez Will Add Versatility to Reloaded Defense

Mique Juarez is a 4-star outside linebacker, as per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is committed to USC. Juarez will help add linebacker depth to the Trojans next season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down what impact Juarez can have for the Trojans. 

What kind of impact do you think Juarez can have in 2016? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC LB Commit Mique Juarez Will Add Versatility to Reloaded Defense

Mique Juarez is a 4-star outside linebacker, as per 247Sports' composite rankings , who is committed to USC. Juarez will help add linebacker depth to the Trojans next season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

The SEC East's 7 Most Indispensable Players

There was a glimmer of hope in the SEC East during bowl season, when the struggling division posted an unblemished 5-0 record and announced to the world that it is on the way back.

For the division to take the next step in 2015, though, several key players need to stay healthy.

On Monday, we went through the SEC West's most indispensable players based on talent, scheme and depth. We'll run down the most indispensable player for each SEC East team in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Ed Orgeron Shows He Can Dominate SEC Recruiting by Landing 2017 DT Tyler Shelvin

Tyler Shelvin, a 4-star defensive tackle, per 247Sports, has officially committed to the LSU Tigers. The 6'2", 310-pound defender will be sure to bring his big-play ability to Les Miles and the Tigers' faithful. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Shelvin's game, as well as what impact he will have for the Tigers. 

What is Shelvin's ceiling? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: 5 Biggest 2015 Heisman Contenders

Spring practices have just started for some programs. Naturally, it's time to peer into the crystal ball and pick out some Heisman Trophy contenders with what will surely be 100 percent accuracy.  

Being a Heisman finalist is as much about fitting into a formula as anything else. Are the individual stats good enough? Are there enough highlight-reel plays sprinkled in? Is the team's record good enough? Are non-quarterbacks versatile enough? 

Believe it or not, those things matter. 

With that in mind, here are five players from the Big 12 who could become Heisman contenders in 2015. Or, more specifically, here are two with a legitimate shot and three others, should the circumstances be right, who could get some chatter. 

Begin Slideshow

FSU Commit Tyree Horton Athletic Enough to Be Anchor of Seminoles Defense

Tyree Horton is a 4-star JUCO linebacker, per the 247Sports composite rankings, who is committed to Florida State. Horton has experience at Highland Community College in Kansas, and he will be a huge asset to FSU in the future. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down why Horton is a perfect fit for FSU.

What kind of impact do you think Horton can have for the Seminoles? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

He Won't Get the Hype, but Jonathan Williams Might Be the SEC's Best RB

With running backs like Georgia's Nick Chubb, LSU's Leonard Fournette, Tennessee's Jalen Hurd, Arkansas' Alex Collins and Alabama's Derrick Henry in the conference, it's safe to say that the SEC will be a running back-driven conference in 2015.

Which one is the best?

Chubb has the stats, Fournette has the hype and Henry has the size. The right answer, though, might not even be the most notable name in his own backfield.

Arkansas senior Jonathan Williams.

The 6'0", 224-pounder from Allen, Texas, led the Razorbacks with 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, splitting time with Collins, who finished the year with 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Pretty impressive considering Williams has been splitting carries with Collins over the last two seasons. That's part of the plan, though.

"We're very excited about the combination of Jonathan and Alex together," head coach Bret Bielema told Bleacher Report. "Obviously, they've been able to put up impressive numbers, and the reason for that is because they share the workload."

Williams has proven over the last two seasons that he has the size to take the punishment between the tackles, the jets to be a home run hitter in space and the hands to be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

A true complete back, Williams passed up a chance to jump to the NFL to come back to be part of what's becoming one of the most prolific running back systems in college football.

"I don't think a back that's been in our system since I've been a head coach can survive as a one-back guy. We've had guys gain almost 3,000 yards between the three of them, and there's no way one guy can do that. We've always felt really strongly about having two major guys and one role player, and I think J-Will will take the lead on the role that he'll play his year."

Take the lead, he will. 

Arkansas released its spring depth chart on Wednesday morning, and Williams found himself atop the running back depth chart without an "or" attaching him and Collins.

That's quite a compliment for Williams, who simply goes about his business in the Hog backfield.

"I think we all take Williams for granted because he lacks a little of that 'flash' factor," said Nicholas Mason, program manager and host on ESPN Radio 99.5 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. "We have to forget about a guy not making sexy plays and just look at his production. The kid just gets it done."

He gets it done in an offense that doesn't get too creative with the running game. Of the 916 plays Arkansas ran last year, 557 were running plays (60.8 percent).

Quarterback Brandon Allen was solid as a game manger last season, but Arkansas' ability to remain consistent in the running game without much of a deep threat in a passing game is a massive compliment to the running backs and the offensive line.

Sure, Chubb is a monster, Fournette has the potential to be a superstar and Henry is a physical freak who jumps off the screen.

But Williams is a proven superstar and rarely gets mentioned in the conversation.

That makes him, by far, the most underrated running back in the SEC.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Cardale Jones End Ohio State's QB Competition Before It Even Begins?

Cardale Jones could end college football's most polarizing and intriguing position battle before it truly has a chance to take shape. 

Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett—two former Heisman Trophy candidates in their own right—may be helpless to prevent it as they recover from injuries that ended their 2014 season.

Ohio State's quarterback quandary is not only one of the most fascinating storylines in the country—it may be one of the most unique in college football history. 

There's Miller, one of the most electrifying playmakers in the country and one of just two players in Big Ten history to win the conference MVP award in back-to-back seasons.

Then there's Barrett, who not only possesses the single-best quarterback rating among returning players in the NCAA, via cfbstats.com (h/t Peter Berkes of SB Nation), but he's also coming off the most prolific season in Ohio State history (despite playing in just 12 games). 

And finally there's Jones, who led Ohio State to a historic thrashing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game before ripping Alabama and Oregon to win the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Urban Meyer, who's coached at the collegiate level since 1986 and won three national titles, has seen a lot of things. But even he is a bit bewildered by Ohio State's quarterback dilemma. 

But Jones, the only signal-caller among this elite group who's fully healthy, has all the momentum.

Or rather, he's the only one who's capable of carrying the load at the moment.

With spring practice officially underway, Meyer provided an update on the recovery process for both Miller and Barrett on Tuesday. Miller, who's coming off shoulder surgery, is a bit ahead of schedule and throwing light lob passes. Barrett, fresh off a broken ankle suffered against Michigan, has his ability to throw, but his lack of mobility will prevent him from participating fully this spring.

Their top priority is getting healthy and avoiding setbacks.

That leaves Jones to receive the lion's share of snaps this spring. And even though he played well during Ohio State's jaunt through the postseason, he still has a lot to learn.

“Cardale is getting more reps than he's ever gotten,” Meyer said, via Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod. “He became a very functional player with repetition…he's still almost a rookie—an older rookie that hasn't had a lot of reps.”

How much better will Jones get with those invaluable repetitions this spring? How much chemistry will he build with a new-look receiving corps that doesn't feature Devin Smith or Evan Spencer? 

Will he gain an insurmountable lead in this unprecedented race?

Those aren't questions Meyer is willing to entertain. The Buckeyes' head man is taking things in one day at a time.

“How does it play out? I don’t know,” Meyer said, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. “It’s day by day, player by player. That’s the focus. Not what’s going to happen or what do we foresee.”

What can be seen, however, is the opportunity that lies ahead of Jones. The Buckeyes have 13 more practices before closing out camp with the spring game on April 18.

That gives Jones 14 more opportunities to increase his lead over Miller and Barrett.

 

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Recruiters, Coaches, and Analysts Need to Watch This 2016 Recruit

Meet Aaron Manning, an unranked, talented wide receiver and running back from Rancho Cucamonga, California. He does not let rankings get in his way. He is determined to make it to the next level. 

Check out the video above, where Manning discusses his family, his detractors and his football goals. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Ranking the Volunteers' Top Recruiting Targets for 2016

With Tennessee taking fewer football commitments in this year's recruiting class due to sheer numbers, the Vols' 2016 start isn't quite as torrid as it has been the past couple of cycles.

That's not necessarily a bad thing as UT can be a little more selective in handpicking players than in years past.

Most of the recent activity for head coach Butch Jones in this recruiting class hasn't been positive, however.

First, linebacker Emanuel Bridges decided to reopen his recruitment after an early pledge to the Vols. Then, on Tuesday, 4-star quarterback pledge Austin Kendall decommitted.

Kendall had been shaky since Sheriron Jones gave UT three quarterback pledges in the 2015 class and lead recruiter and former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian departed. So now, the Vols will begin the quest to sign their signal-caller in this class as well.

With just five early commitments in the '16 class, there is plenty of room for Jones and crew to work and numerous spots to fill.

Tennessee's roster features several big needs, so with those in mind as well as some elite talent with some Vols connections, and other factors such as geography and bloodlines, let's take a look at some of the top targets on UT's board.

Begin Slideshow

Pages