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SEC Football Q&A: Should Alabama Fans Be Concerned About the Tide QB Situation?

With the exception of Arkansas, the spring practices around the SEC are in the books, and we've entered what former South Carolina and Florida head coach Steve Spurrier calls "talkin' season."

So let's talk.

Spring games have given us a glimpse of where each team stands heading into summer workouts, position battles are raging and preseason predictions will soon be flying.

What should we make of Alabama's quarterback situation? Just how good is Georgia? Those questions and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.


Not much, because some monster named Tim Williams decided to pay mortgage in the Alabama backfield, which made it difficult for the quarterbacks to get going.

It's easy to panic if spring games don't go well, because unlike 10-15 years ago, they are the only real points of reference that fans and media have to base projections on for most schools who have closed practices. In years past, we could say, "Well, Player X didn't have a great spring game, but he tore up a couple of scrimmages."

Because of that, every team in America is either going to win the national title or fire its whole staff—with no room for an opinion anywhere between those two takes.

Alabama's quarterbacks will be fine. 

No, veterans Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell didn't look great, but the younger players—redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts—did, at times.

Barnett made a couple of big-time throws, including one over a linebacker and under the safeties to Xavian Marks in the fourth quarter. Hurts' athleticism was apparent early, and he fit some throws in tight windows on the run, including a couple to Cam Sims. 

"I think both guys made some good throws," head coach Nick Saban said in quotes released by Alabama. "Both guys showed their athleticism in terms of the ability to stretch plays. They certainly look faster and quicker in terms of how we are moving on offense when those two go in there."

The older players are caretakers, while the younger players have the upside. Yes, the older players need to at least provide a threat, and Bateman has a bit more upside than Cornwell due to his own athleticism. But Barnett and Hurts looked fine considering the defense they were asked to go up against.

Plus, this is par for the course for Alabama. 

Blake Sims looked awful two spring games ago when he completed 13 of 30 passes, tossed one touchdown and two picks (and could have had one or two more). Jake Coker went 14-for-28 for 183 yards, a touchdown and a pick last year, per Roll Bama Roll.

How did those two seasons work out? Two SEC titles, two College Football Playoff berths and a national title.

Alabama still has offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin—the ultimate ace up a coaching staff's sleeve.

Kiffin will make it work.


Not really. 

While quarterback Jacob Eason looked awesome in the spring game and should be the starting quarterback from the get-go (as mentioned in the story you responded to), the quarterback battle isn't Georgia's biggest problem.

The line of scrimmage is—on both sides of the ball.

Georgia has questions at both tackle spots on the offensive side of the ball, although the arrival of Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina this summer should help. On the defensive side, injuries decimated the line during spring practice, virtually all key contributors on the projected two-deep are underclassmen and Georgia won't have the luxury to rotate nine or 10 players up front.

"We have to do a better job of being physical in all areas, especially up front along the offensive and defensive lines," Smart said. "First of all, we're not as big as we need to be, but we don't play as tough and as physical as we need to. The good news is that we have time to lift weights and get stronger in our summer program."

Because of those issues, it's hard to imagine scenarios in which Georgia handles tough, physical defensive fronts like the ones that Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee boast. It might win some of those games, but it's hard to trust them at this point. 

That same question exists on the defensive front, where the Bulldogs will square off with some punishing, physical rushing attacks throughout the year.

Georgia is going to be in the mix for the East, for sure. But it's impossible to move them over Tennessee at this point, since Tennessee looked like it solved its biggest issue (wide receiver) during its spring game.


It's hard to say exactly what the trajectory of any team will look like in December without knowing the specific circumstances. For instance, if Tennessee doesn't win the East but goes 9-3 and Joshua Dobbs misses several key games due to injury, I'd say that the trajectory is actually still moving forward. 

But if all rosters stay relatively intact throughout the year in the SEC East and Tennessee doesn't make it to Atlanta, it will be a disappointment, and Tennessee will go from "building brick-by-brick" during the first three seasons of Butch Jones' tenure to stuck in neutral (or in reverse if the season is a complete debacle).

Everything is set up for Tennessee to be successful and win the East for the first time since 2007.

The roster is loaded with depth and experience—which is something that hasn't existed on Rocky Top since the Phillip Fulmer era. The passing game should be better thanks to the emergence of Preston Williams and Jeff George outside. The Vols get Florida at home early in the season and get Alabama at home after it plays a physical road game with Arkansas.

Anything less than an SEC East title shouldn't be accepted by Jones, the players or the fanbase—assuming there aren't any catastrophic injuries or suspensions.

If the Vols miss Atlanta, the bus will be put in neutral, and Georgia and Florida could go zooming right by.


I'm not sure how much of a dark horse he is because a lot of people know about him, but Texas A&M defensive tackle Daylon Mack could be this year's version of former Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

With Myles Garrett dominating attention outside and Daeshon Hall gobbling up his fair share of attention on the other side of the defensive line, Mack will have plenty of opportunities to bring pressure up the middle and become the monster in the middle of what should be a phenomenal Aggie defensive front.

Does he qualify as a dark horse?

I'd say yes, considering the favorite to win the award is Garrett. But Garrett will get the "Jadeveon Clowney treatment" this year, which means teams will shy away from him as much as possible, just as they did during Clowney's final year at South Carolina in 2013. 

Mack will be a force against the run and a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks who will be forced to get on the move quickly, and he'll live up to his lofty 5-star expectations as a sophomore in College Station.

That could result in Defensive Player of the Year honors if things break right for him.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Can Cardale Jones Be an NFL Franchise Quarterback?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — He hasn't played a snap in an actual game in more than five months, but if you thought that was going to stop Cardale Jones from being one of the central focuses of the upcoming NFL draft, you must not have paid much attention to the former Ohio State quarterback's college career.

After flipping the script on his narrative, becoming a national championship-winning quarterback, turning down one opportunity to enter the NFL draft and becoming one of the most polarizing prospects in the next, the conversation about Jones has come full circle and back to the first subject that landed him in the public spotlight four years ago: school.

That's because while speaking to Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal about Jones' pro prospects, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer seemingly suggested Jones' academic responsibilities may have held him back during his time in Columbus.

"A really good skill set, intellectual, very smart, wasn't necessarily very good at school. I wonder if that kind of set him back a little bit," Meyer said. "That's one difference between pro and college—now he doesn't have to worry about classes and going to school and all that stuff. He can focus completely on football."

So the quarterback who first burst into the public's consciousness by tweeting he wasn't at Ohio State to "play school" and that "classes are pointless" during his freshman season in 2012 may not have paid as much attention to his academics as perhaps he should have?

You don't say.

But while Meyer's quote about Jones' interest in class—or lack thereof—is what drew the most attention and generated the most headlines in the past few days, what's been lost in the three-time national champion head coach's analysis of his former quarterback is his larger point. Despite his shortcomings and his disappointing 2015 season, Jones can still be a successful NFL signal-caller.

It might just come by way of an untraditional route.

As Meyer told Ridenour, "I think it's the situation he's going to get put in. I think there's going to have to be patience, an excellent quarterback coach that's going to have to earn his trust. ... It's going to be dictated by the team that takes him, the amount of patience and the relationship he develops with the quarterback coach."

A year ago, when Jones had first contemplated entering the NFL draft following his improbable run through the college football postseason as Ohio State's starting quarterback, such patience may not have been possible. Having started just three games in his college career while simultaneously showcasing all the necessary physical tools on the sport's biggest stage, Jones' perceived draft stock was somewhat of a mystery, but in the draft process, mystery can be a good thing.

"As an athlete, it's all there," Bleacher Report Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller said after Jones quarterbacked the Buckeyes to the national title victory over Oregon in January 2015. "He's huge. His arm is amazing. It would be the best arm in this year's draft. He grades great throwing it to every level of the field. ... I could see someone falling in love with him and going crazy."

While Jones ultimately opted to return to Ohio State for another season, watching the 2015 draft, it was tough to imagine the 6'5", 253-pounder would have slid past the second round. After Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were selected with the first two picks, it wasn't until the New Orleans Saints picked Colorado State's Garrett Grayson in the third round with the draft's No. 75 overall pick that another signal-caller came off the board.

All together, only seven quarterbacks were taken in the 2015 NFL draft.

"He would have easily been the third QB drafted," Miller said in October.

What a difference a year makes.

While the top of this year's draft is seemingly weaker at the position—Cal's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz appear to be the only consensus first-round quarterbacks—the middle to back end appears much more muddied. Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, Kevin Hogan, Dak Prescott and Nate Sudfeld each fit somewhere in that equation, although exactly where is yet to be determined.

The same could be said for Jones, except his perceived draft stock is significantly weaker than it would have been just 12 months ago. Despite starting the season as Ohio State's starting quarterback, the Cleveland native ultimately lost a season-long quarterback battle to J.T. Barrett and failed to make an appearance in any of the Buckeyes' final three games.

All of the physical tools draft analysts were drooling over a year ago are still there.

But with more actual game film available, there's become less to like about Jones' game.

"He looks really disjointed. I think that's the best word for it. I don't think he's a good fit in that offense," Miller said upon Jones' benching last season. "Last year it was so simple—throw it deep to Devin Smith—and he was allowed to 'just play.' Now teams are game-planning for him, and he's asked to do more in the offense."

However, despite little having changed between now and then, there remains a path for Jones to not only be drafted, but potentially one day be the face of a franchise. Like Meyer said, it's going to take the right situation—perhaps the right veteran quarterback to sit behind—and the patience to know that even with his apparent physical tools, Jones is far from a finished product.

"The Ohio State offense didn't ask him to go underneath and read a lot of concepts," Miller said last month. "But there's a good foundation to build on."

Not that you'd expect him to say any different, but Jones too believes he can one day be a franchise quarterback. Alluding to the scrutiny he faced in Columbus over the course of the past 15 months, the national champion quarterback pointed out he's no stranger to the spotlight.

"You look at the guys who are franchise quarterbacks for their teams, they have it together on and off the field," Jones said after an impressive pro-day performance in March. "I played at Ohio State. I'm not going to say it's the same thing, but it's almost the same magnitude."

Former Buckeyes safety and Jones' college roommate Tyvis Powell added, "He's a winner. At the end of the day, Cardale's the only quarterback that's 11-0 [as a starter] and that hasn't lost a game. You can't beat that with a bat."

Of course, there's more to being a potential franchise quarterback than career records, saying all the right things and even physical traits. At some point, a team has to be confident enough in your total package to put its future in your hands.

As Meyer pointed out, for Jones, that could still happen. It's just going to need to come at the right place and at the right time.

Could Cardale Jones still become a franchise quarterback in the NFL? Sure.

But the reality remains that it's a long shot.

It also wouldn't be the first time he's overcome the odds.


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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John Franklin III Is the JUCO Backup QB Who Could Take the SEC by Storm

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn quarterback John Franklin III isn't short on confidence. The former signal-caller at Florida State and East Mississippi Community College moved to the Plains in December and began his trek to win the starting job over senior Jeremy Johnson and sophomore Sean White—both of whom started games during the Tigers' lackluster campaign of 2015.

"I believe I'm going to be out there on Sept. 3 the first snap of the game," Franklin said.

The 6'1", 174-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, completed seven of his 11 passes for 61 yards in the A-Day spring game, including a 40-yard touchdown to Marcus Davis, and is squarely in the mix to be named Auburn's starting quarterback.

"I live to play in front of crowds," he said. "I love that. I'm a game-time player. I feel like I'm a different person come game day, and I felt relaxed, comfortable—like I've been playing here for five years. When a lot of people are around, I know when to turn it on and go."

Franklin was a 3-star prospect out of South Plantation High School near Fort Lauderdale whose only Power Five offers were from Florida State and Tennessee. He enrolled at Florida State in 2013 with the intention of competing for the starting quarterback job once Jameis Winston moved on, and he took a redshirt.

He announced he would transfer from the Seminoles in May 2015, shortly after Everett Golson decided to move to Tallahassee from Notre Dame, and played his sophomore campaign as a backup at East Mississippi Community College.

In the limited time Franklin played for East Mississippi, he shined. He was 64-of-110 passing (58.2 percent) for 733 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 451 yards (10.5 per carry) and nine scores.

People who know Franklin best think he will be the starting quarterback at Auburn.

Buddy Stephens coached him at East Mississippi Community College, where he split time with returning starter Wyatt Roberts, who played 11 games behind Chad Kelly (now at Ole Miss) in 2014 and threw 23 touchdowns and only two picks alongside Franklin in 2015, according to the NJCAA, before giving up football and enrolling at Mississippi State.

"It wasn't that John didn't take the job away from [Roberts], it was that Roberts never gave John an open opportunity," Stephens told Bleacher Report. "They co-habitated very well. John, never one time did he whine, did he gripe, did he cry. Nothing."

That's not coachspeak.

"John's a great student of the game and is always watching film," Roberts told Bleacher Report. "We had conversations in weeks before games about what coverages they were doing. It was a friendly competition, no doubt. We were both winners, and that's what we were there for. We helped each other out. When he was in, I was 100 percent behind him helping him out just like he was when I was in the game."

Though Roberts played a more prominent role than Franklin, Stephens saw what his backup was capable of.

"John's very athletic, very smart and can make a lot of things happen," Stephens said. "That's one of the things we talked to the coaches at Auburn about when they came to recruit him. John's probably the best athlete on the field whenever he's on the field."

It was when the Tigers sent coaches to recruit Franklin that East Mississippi made headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

A brawl broke out late in the first half of the Lions' Oct. 22 game against Mississippi Delta Community College with Stephens' crew up 48-0.

What you probably don't know about that brawl is that its genesis stemmed from Franklin—not for nefarious reasons but noble ones.

After entering the game for an injured Roberts, Franklin completed 10 of 16 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown, and he added 10 carries for 172 yards and five scores. It was his most significant action of the season, and it was by design.

"We planned on playing him a lot regardless because [Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett] Lashlee had come to watch him play," Stephens said. "On that Saturday [two days later], Auburn was playing at Arkansas, so Rhett drove through and had to leave at halftime.

"He was wearing everything out in the first half. So, we tried to do it one more time. We tried to get one more series so that we can throw a little bit so Rhett could see it because we knew that this was John's opportunity and John's chance. Well, the other team and everybody else around the league hates us so much because we win, it caused a fight."

It caused a fight but left a lasting impression on everybody who saw him play that night.

"He was on fire," Roberts said. "I came out, and John went in, and it was like a highlight tape. Every time I looked up from the training table, he was running for 60 yards or throwing a deep ball. It was, by far, the best performance he had all season, and it's a shame that all of the chaos broke loose."

Franklin got his scholarship, choosing Auburn over an offer from Buffalo, and now he has a chance to fit into a Power Five system that matches his skills.

For Franklin to take the SEC by storm, though, he needs to use his legs as weapons. He's the key for Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn to get off the hot seat and get Auburn back on the right track.

After winning the SEC title and coming within 13 seconds of claiming the national championship in 2013, Malzahn has sputtered. His Tigers have lost nine of their last 11 conference games and are coming off of a 7-6 season before which they were ranked No. 6 in the country.

There's far too much talent on the roster for Auburn to be mediocre, and if Malzahn tabs Franklin as his starter, Franklin will provide the running option the Tigers need to be successful.

Quarterbacks weren't "live" on A-Day, and if anybody got in the same ZIP code as Franklin, he was ruled down. But Malzahn's offenses are at their best when they have a running threat taking the snaps—like in 2010 when he won a national championship as Auburn's offensive coordinator with Cam Newton contributing 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. In Malzahn's first season as head coach in 2013, Nick Marshall rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 scores, and the Tigers finished 12-2.

"I wish I played 'live' today," Franklin said after Auburn's spring game. "I could have gotten some other stuff done."

The staff knows Franklin isn't there to play a backup role. He's there to be "the man."

"You don't bring in a junior college guy and not expect him to play," Lashlee said in April, per Charles Goldberg of the team's official website. "I can't tell you what exactly he's going to do at this point because he's still in competition to be the starter. He is a guy that has shown he can handle things. He has some impact player ability, so I would expect us to find a way for him to help us regardless."

Franklin served as the scout team quarterback and did his best impression of Marshall for Florida State prior to its meeting with Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game in January 2014. That time with the Seminoles allowed him to hit the ground running on the Plains.

"When I helped out at Florida State, it was definitely my favorite week being the scout team quarterback just because it fit me," Franklin said. "That's one of the main reasons that I'm here now—because this offense fits me. It feels really good to be in an offense that's suited to fit my skill set."

Franklin's stature, speed and elusiveness make him much more of a Marshall clone than a Newton clone. Most of Marshall's damage on the ground came on the outside, with running backs Tre Mason (2013) and Cameron Artis-Payne (2014) taking the lion's share of the work between the tackles. Newton was more adept at running power and inverted veer elements.

For Franklin to play more of the Marshall role, he will have to provide a deep threat through the air. That has been his top priority in 2016.

"I see a big difference from when I first came in to now," he said. "The game is starting to slow down for me.

"The deep ball, I've gotten better at. Just the little things in the offense that are real unique, I'm starting to see myself get better and am going to take that to the offseason."

That's not just self-confidence; that's what his coaches are saying, too.

"The ball comes out of John's hands well. He's got a strong arm. He can spiral the ball, snap it off pretty good," Lashlee told Goldberg. "There's been a couple things naturally that he's worked on that I think that has improved a lot from Day 1 until now. The deep ball wasn't his strength. He can really drive the ball, make all the throws."

That progression will force the Auburn staff to make a choice—between a pro-style option or a scheme with more of a running threat from the signal-caller. If it goes with the running threat, Franklin is the only option.

"This is a quarterback-driven offense," said co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Kodi Burns, who switched from quarterback to wide receiver as a Tigers player prior to the 2009 season—Malzahn's first as Auburn's offensive coordinator. "We're going to do whatever suits our quarterback best—whoever that is."

Johnson entered last season with enough hype to fill Jordan-Hare Stadium, but he threw six interceptions in his first three games of the year, was benched for White and never seemed to have the confidence he showed in the 2014 season opener, when he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the first half versus Arkansas.

White played admirably in Johnson's stead despite being put in a tough spot. He threw only one touchdown to four picks but looked much more consistent than Johnson in the spring game April 9, hitting Davis in stride for a big gain in the first quarter and dropping a couple of beautiful passes to running backs on wheel routes out of the backfield.

But he fumbled in the red zone, tossed what should have been an interception near the goal line and doesn't have the wheels Franklin does.

"Voluntary" summer workouts and fall camp are going to make or break Franklin's quest to win the starting job. Stephens, who not only coached Kelly but also former Rebels Bo Wallace and Randall Mackey, saw firsthand at East Mississippi just how good Franklin can be.

"He has all of the arm strength of any quarterback I've ever had—ever. Anybody," Stephens said. "He has tremendous arm strength. He's tremendously coachable. It's like that first-round draft choice, and you're just waiting on him to click one day in the minor leagues. All of a sudden, he comes to the majors, and he's 19-4 and wins the Cy Young."

Malzahn better hope Franklin can be his ace, because his job depends on it.

The kid from Fort Lauderdale who sought out his chance now has it, and Stephens doesn't think he's going to let it slip through his fingers.

"John Franklin's going to be one hell of a good quarterback," he said.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Craig Evans, Montez Sweat Part Ways with Michigan State Football Team

Michigan State Spartans defensive linemen Craig Evans and Montez Sweat have left the football team for "personal reasons."

The university announced the news Monday in a release (via Mike Griffith of MLive.com): "Michigan State sophomore defensive lineman Craig Evans and sophomore defensive end Montez Sweat have left the football team for personal reasons effective immediately, according to an announcement made Monday, April 18, by head coach Mark Dantonio."  

Evans was suspended during last spring's drills, and Sweat had just finished serving an indefinite suspension that lasted from last season's second game of the year until spring practice, per Griffith.

Evans played in 11 games for the Spartans last year and had stints in which he made an impact for Dantonio's defense. He recorded four tackles twice, once in the team's shocking 17-14 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 21.

He also totaled two tackles in the College Football Playoff semifinals against the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Sweat, meanwhile, did not see much action in his two years at Michigan State. He totaled four tackles in his freshman year in 2014, but the team redshirted him in 2015 because of its crowded defensive line.

"Let's just say I'm behind Shilique Calhoun,'' Sweat said regarding where he stood on the depth chart in August, per Griffith. "I'm one of the fastest guys on the D-line, and they like my pass rush. But I want to be on the field on all the downs."

Griffith noted Dantonio called Sweat's status on the team "in limbo" last week.

Three seniors from the defensive line graduated last year, including potential first-round pick Shilique Calhoun. Evans and Sweat looked to be in position to see an increase in playing time, but that won't be the case.

Defense was the main reason why the Spartans went 12-2 and won the Big Ten title last year. Though losing two guys on the line would normally hurt a team, Dantonio's defenses usually play with a next-man-up mentality, so Michigan State should be fine.


Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com/cfb.

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Lorenzo Featherston to Be Declared Medically Ineligible to Play for FSU

Florida State defensive end Lorenzo Featherston's career with the Seminoles ended on Monday when head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed he's in the process of being declared medically ineligible because of a severe knee injury.

Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat reported the news. Fisher shared the information on Featherston's status at a Seminoles Boosters event in Jacksonville, per Deen.  

Fisher had warned the public March 30 that Featherston may not be able to return to the gridiron.

"I don't know if he'll be able to come back. It'll be interesting to see," Fisher said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone. "We knew it and it’s been bothering him pretty bad, so we've got to evaluate it."

An injury-plagued 2015 campaign limited Featherston to only four games, and he wasn't in action in Florida State's spring practices because of his ailing knee.

Per 247Sports' Chris Nee, Featherston suffered a serious knee injury in high school. He also underwent arthroscopic surgery before the 2015 season began and had been listed as the starter at the Seminoles' "Buck" position, a defensive end-linebacker hybrid spot on the front seven, according to Deen.

Featherston was a unique player who flashed potential as a true freshman in 2014, racking up 19 total tackles and five for loss, per CFBStats.com. At 6'7" and 218 pounds, Featherston's length and athleticism figured to lead to a starting spot.

Unfortunately, he will have to continue rehabbing aggressively to get an opportunity elsewhere if he decides to continue playing football.

Given his size and resultant ability to be a disruptive force off the edge, there's reason to believe some program would take a look at Featherston if he ever checks out medically.

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Should Texas A&M Worry No. 1 Dual-Threat QB Tate Martell Will Use All 5 Visits?

The nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback posted a Monday afternoon tweet that made a few Texas A&M fans cringe.

Tate Martell, the highly touted 5-star quarterback who's been committed to Texas A&M for nearly eight months to the day, tweeted that he plans on taking all five of his official visits when that time comes in the fall. While he stressed that he's still a Texas A&M pledge, he also stressed the importance of taking visits to finalize his decision:

"Currently, I'm in the process of trying to figure out which schools I would like to go visit," Martell said in a statement via Twitter. "I still have some more offers that I would like to receive before choosing which schools to visit, because these visits will ultimately determine where I will be going to college."

Seems simple enough, right? Shouldn't be major news, right? Every high school athlete should be entitled to take all of their official visits, right?


Truth is, that's just not how it works in the recruiting world, particularly when an athlete is committed.

For months, Martell has let social media know exactly how committed he is to Texas A&M. He's been an avid supporter of the future of the Aggies. As a 5-star prospect, Martell is hoping to do the same things for the Aggies as he's done on the field leading national power Bishop Gorman, which had another undefeated season last year.

Those tweets now will be replaced by the statement saying that while he still remains committed to Texas A&M, he is planning on taking all five of his upcoming official visits "because I feel that I have worked too hard to not take full advantage of the opportunities that I have been given." The statement also talked about Martell possibly taking unofficial visits—visits taken on his own dime—if he needs more than five officials to see things clearly recruitingwise.

Should Texas A&M worry about the upcoming visits? Naturally. Should the Aggies automatically assume the worst? Not so fast.

At first thought, this isn't the news Texas A&M wants to hear, especially with the quarterback issues that took place earlier this year. After all, Martell is supposed to be the cornerstone of the 2017 class and the answer to quarterback questions of the future for Kevin Sumlin and his coaching staff. The Aggies, once upon a time, had little to worry about with Martell's recruiting. Now, it almost seems like Martell's process is wide-open again.

Here's the good news for Texas A&M: Martell is not decommitted. In the statement, he mentioned that he not only remains committed, but also believes that "Texas A&M is the best school" for him. Go to Martell's Twitter page, and his pinned tweet dated from Aug. 20, 2015, declaring his commitment to the Aggies is still the first tweet seen. That tweet is accompanied by an Aggies photo edit:

The fact that Martell wants to visit schools may be viewed as concerning, but it's not a deal-breaker for Texas A&M. If anything, it should keep the Aggies coaching staff on its toes. Defensive tackle Daylon Mack was a 5-star athlete who made Texas A&M fight until the end of his recruiting process. He looked around at other schools but signed with the Aggies.

Before quarterback Kyler Murray decided to transfer, he was another athlete the Aggies managed to ultimately sign despite outsiders luring him from his commitment. Will we ever forget Murray's midweek trip to Texas which nearly broke Twitter with all of the comments and backlash?

Sumlin and his staff have been good at closing the deal on recruiting targets. Martell, however, could be their biggest challenge.

Most recently, Martell took an unofficial visit to Ohio State, where he gave the visit high marks, per 247Sports' Bill Kurelic. And on Saturday, Martell gave Nebraska fans hope with a tweet that has since been deleted.

And then are the schools that he's either looking to visit or looking to get an offer from. Martell has 18 reported offers, but some of the heavy hitters on his list of interested schools include Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Miami and Penn State.

For Texas A&M, the best plan is to continue battling for Martell as if he's an uncommitted athlete. His presence would be huge on and off the field for Texas A&M, as he's proved to be a solid player-recruiter for the 2017 class.

Keeping him committed will be a story in itself. Losing him, however, will be even bigger news, and the last thing the Aggies want is to be on the bad end of another 5-star quarterback situation. Expect the Texas A&M staff to fight for Martell's pledge, regardless of where he takes his five official visits.


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

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Alabama Football: Projecting Crimson Tide's Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban is used to getting attention, just not in the way he did over the weekend.

With the University of Alabama holding a special celebration to honor his 10th spring leading the Crimson Tide, his face was just about everywhere. From the game programs professing "A decade of dominance" to the video presentations glorifying his numerous achievements, Saban was celebrated from start to finish. 

"This was a really outstanding day for me personally," he said after Saturday's A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which despite the threat of lousy weather drew 76,212 fans.

The head coach gave a special halftime speech, in which he made sure everyone acknowledged his wife Terry. The night before he was honored by many of his former players, who surprised him with numerous gifts of appreciation, including a new golf bag. 

"It was really heartfelt for me," Saban said. "But at the same time, it’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

"I drive the bus, but we have a lot of quality people that help the players benefit and create value for themselves."

The coach also got a little extra attention when coaching the scrimmage to close spring practices from the backfield when freshman quarterback Blake Barnett spun behind him while trying to avoid the pass rush. Needless to say, it didn't work very well.  

"When there’s a scramble, everybody seems to get attracted to me," Saban joked. "Sometimes when there’s an interception. There seems to be an unusual attraction for players to converge on me. I think it’s intentional to some degree, but as long as I don’t get hurt, I really don’t care. I usually can get out of the way, but I didn’t do a very good job of that today."

As for the rest of the Crimson Tide, our post-spring depth chart is based on how they lined up in the spring game and what might potentially happen over the summer.

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Ranking the Top 25 Seniors Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

Being a senior in college football means a player has navigated a long journey, one likely filled with ups and downs, and now is headed into the final stretch. Seniors are an incredibly valuable commodity, even if they generally aren't considered among the most talented on a team.

Because players can turn pro after their junior year, those who stick around for their senior season often get labeled as less talented. This blanket description doesn't accurately describe each player's individual situation, as while most weren't good enough to enter the NFL draft, some hope to use one last season to improve their pro stock. Others might have gotten off to a slow start in their careers, and a player's senior year is the best chance to shine.

As we have with the freshman, sophomore and junior class, we've ranked the 25 best seniors heading into the 2016 season based on what they've achieved to this point and what is expected of them this fall.

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Auburn Football: Projecting Tigers' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

AUBURN, Ala. — The most crucial spring camp of head coach Gus Malzahn's Auburn tenure is officially in the books, and the Tigers are now transitioning to the long summer months of workouts and new arrivals ahead of what will be a make-or-break 2016 season.

Auburn's spring finale inside Jordan-Hare Stadium provided some more clarity to a potential two-deep depth chart, which Malzahn said he wanted to establish by the end of practices. 

While there are still some question marks at key positions, here's a position-by-position projection of what Auburn's depth chart should look like heading into the summer.

This depth chart does not include members of the 2016 recruiting class who haven't enrolled yet—such as defensive tackle Derrick Brown and wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers—and graduate transfers such as linebacker T.J. Neal and defensive back Marshall Taylor, who haven't arrived on campus.

These projections are based on who was on the Plains at the end of spring camp and where they lined up the most, according to interviews, media viewing window observations and A-Day performances.

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Michigan Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of a Big Ten Championship

National championship buzz surrounds the 2016 Michigan football team, but several elements could keep the Wolverines from even taking the Big Ten crown.

Those factors are both internal and external, including positional questions, execution issues and potential stumbling points on the schedule.

Fortunately for Michigan, its defense should be among the nation's best units—although depth and inexperience at linebacker is a legitimate early concern.

But that possible shortcoming will rarely be exploited. The key for the Wolverines is to address that problem before it matters late in the season—because the schedule is merciless.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star WR Sets Decision Date

Multiple spring games took place over the weekend, and coincidentally or not, several players in the 2017 class decided to end their recruiting processes.

Tennessee was a big winner over the weekend, landing three commitments in 4-star wide receiver K.D. Nixon, 3-star cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza and 3-star linebacker Solon Page III. Nixon is the Volunteers' top-ranked pledge thus far.

While the recruiting world is focused on the 2017 class, there's one name in the 2016 class that still draws a ton of attention.

Here's the latest recruiting news on some of the nation's top players.


2016 5-star WR sets a decision date

It looks like the wait is over for Savannah, Georgia, 5-star wide receiver Demetris Robertson, the top-ranked receiver in the 2016 class. According to 247Sports' Kipp Adams, Robertson is expected to announce where he'll play college football on May 2.

Robertson took his five official visits to Notre Dame (weekend of Sept. 5), Cal (Oct. 3), Georgia Tech (Jan. 29), Alabama (Feb. 26) and Georgia (March 19). He has signed agreement forms for financial aid—documents that bind a school to a player but do not bind a player to a school—with Georgia, Georgia Tech and Cal.

Georgia holds a slight lead on Robertson's 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, and head coach Kirby Smart would love to have a player of Robertson's caliber. The Bulldogs had a top-10 2016 class that featured two 5-stars in quarterback Jacob Eason and tight end Isaac Nauta, both of whom have been on campus since January.

According to DawgNation's Jeff Sentell, Robertson's announcement will take place at his high school, Savannah Christian Prep. Alabama is reportedly out of the race, per Adams. Since he did not sign a national letter of intent, he is not bound to any program and can enroll in the summer. Student-athletes who do not sign national letters of intent are eligible to work out financial aid agreements with the schools they ultimately choose.

Several 2016 signees recently offered their own recruiting pitches to Robertson. The winning school will get a playmaker not only as a receiver but also as a kickoff and punt return specialist. Robertson was the nation's No. 14 player in the 2016 class.


New UGA pledge Poole has eyes on targets

Saturday was big for Georgia, as the Bulldogs landed another stud to go in its defensive arsenal in 4-star cornerback William Poole III. A top-100 player nationally as the No. 12 cornerback in the 2017 class, Poole chose Georgia over Florida, Alabama and others on a list that was 39 offers strong.

Poole joined a talented 2017 class but said he's looking to lead a recruiting revolution that ultimately will land several more elite-level athletes to Georgia's rising class. Among those targets are 5-star JaCoby Stevens—the nation's top-ranked athlete—and the 4-star Georgia trio of defensive end Malik Herring, linebacker Nate McBride and wide receiver Trey Blount.

The biggest target on Poole's plate? Poole said he's keeping close tabs on 4-star cornerback Jamyest Williams, another in-state prospect who he said "can change the momentum of a game at any moment."

"What makes him an intriguing target is not only his love for the game but his competitiveness and thrill to be the best every rep," Poole said of Williams, ranked the nation's No. 7 cornerback. "[He's] not the biggest defensive back, but with him, things like that don't matter, because you're going to feel his presence when he steps on the field.

"Me and him, together in the UGA secondary, I see him playing the Star/nickel position covering those shifty slots, blitzing and using his speed to make plays at any moment. Plus, he's a great kickoff returner/punt returner."

Williams has 46 offers, but Georgia leads the race in his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions.


USC, others on the mind of 4-star DE/LB hybrid

Sacramento, California, 4-star defensive end D.J. Johnson originally had plans to take in USC's spring game on Saturday. Instead, Johnson stayed close to home and attended Sacramento State's spring game. He was there watching his older brother P.J. Johnson, a defensive lineman for the Hornets.

The missed opportunity to see USC, however, doesn't mean Johnson, the nation's No. 12 defensive end of the 2017 class, is putting the Trojans in a secondary position. The 6'5", 240-pound athlete said he's making it a priority to take a visit to the campus soon.

"I know I'm going to make some visits, and right now, I'm trying to get to USC," he said. "It's one of those powerhouse schools and somewhere I know I can go in and fit real well. They have a great team, and you can see how the players love the coaches. They have a great family atmosphere."

Johnson, a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid who claims 40 offers, said he has an appreciation for USC's competitive nature and how the players rallied around Clay Helton when he was interim head coach and once he was promoted to full-time head coach.

Johnson added that while USC is high on his list, other schools are viewed equally. Ole Miss, Oregon, Michigan, Georgia and UCLA are schools to watch as he prepares to trim his list. He said he's planning on making a final decision after his senior season.

"Family atmosphere, that's important to me," Johnson said. "I want to see players and coaches getting along great. I don't want to go somewhere where the players don't like the coaches. I also want to go where I can fight for a job early as a true freshman. I want to be somewhere where I can go dominate."


For 4-star OT, memories of recruiting count

For Jackson, Tennessee, 4-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, the recruiting process is all about making and keeping memories. He has 25 reported offers and holds several schools in high regard.

Last month, Smith had a memorable time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when he visited the Crimson Tide and met with head coach Nick Saban. He was able to spend considerable time with Saban and talk about both football and non-football issues.

"The biggest highlight I've had personally was meeting Coach Saban the first time," Smith said. "I grew up an Alabama fan, so walking into his office and shaking his hand while listening to him tell what a great player I am was surreal."

Meeting Saban will be something Smith will never forget, but will it be enough for him to commit to the Crimson Tide? Smith has a few schools on his watch list, including Ohio State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Notre Dame, Clemson and in-state school Tennessee.

Smith reportedly has made unofficial visits this month to Ole Miss, Ohio State and Notre Dame. At 6'5" and 302 pounds, he is the nation's No. 10 offensive tackle and No. 55 overall player in the 2017 class.


A sleeper option for Detroit 4-star CB?

Remember in September when Ambry Thomas received 129 pieces of mail from Notre Dame all in the same day? Detroit's 4-star cornerback still recalls it as if it were yesterday. There's a reason why Notre Dame remains high on his list.

But the Irish have plenty of competition, as Thomas continues to take his time with his recruitment. Schools like Penn State, West Virginia, Pitt and in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State have all received visits from Thomas this spring.

The one school to keep an eye on, however, is farthest from home. Thomas said there is one school to watch that some may not have on their personal radars for him.

"I'm feeling Arizona," Thomas said. "They've got new coaches around [head coach Rich Rodriguez], especially the cornerbacks coach [Donte Williams]. He's making a personal trip to see me on April 27."

Thomas, now 6'0" and 175 pounds, has 32 reported offers and said he's listening to all schools. LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee are three other schools that could be in the running.

"Everything's going real good," he said. "I'm picking up more offers and receiving more and more interest. It's going fine."


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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Notre Dame Football: Projecting Irish's Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

Notre Dame wrapped up a spring practice headlined by how to replace departed starters, but the Fighting Irish's depth chart has already taken shape.

While some competitions—like at quarterback—will carry through the summer and into fall camp, most of the two-deep is settled. In many cases, even if the starter isn't locked in, the No. 2 is safely ahead of the third-stringer.

Injuries affected Notre Dame during the March and April workouts, and those ailments are reflected on the depth chart.

As expected, the quarterback battle had no ultimate resolution. DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will continue competing for the starting nod. But we know Brandon Wimbush, officially, is not a factor.

Head coach Brian Kelly said he hasn't found a way to give Wimbush enough reps, per Mike Vorel of the South Bend Tribune. The sophomore is likely headed for a redshirt.

Although Tarean Folston earned the No. 1 job in 2015, a torn right ACL ended his year during the season opener. Josh Adams mostly served as C.J. Prosise's backup, but also logged a couple starts, finishing with 880 total yards and seven touchdowns.

Folston and Adams give Notre Dame a formidable combination at the top of the depth chart, while 2015 4-star Dexter Williams gives the backfield substantial depth.

Injuries were a problem for a receiving corps that must replace a strong majority of its production.

Corey Robinson (concussion) recently met with a specialist and will determine whether or not to continue his football career, Kelly told Nick Ironside of 247Sports. A hip injury will sideline C.J. Sanders for a few months, per ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna.

So, Notre Dame had to adapt.

Fortunately, true freshman Kevin Stepherson emerged as a potential immediate contributor, while Corey Holmes took first-team reps. Equanimeous St. Brown and Torii Hunter Jr. didn't change the notion they're headed for starting roles.

Plus, potential mismatch nightmare Alize Jones worked on the outside, too. He's also the primary backup at tight end to Durham Smythe, who missed most of 2015 due to shoulder and knee surgeries.

Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson and Sam Mustipher locked up starting spots at left tackle, left guard and center, respectively, barring injury. Hunter Bivin and Alex Bars must hold off Tristen Hoge and Colin McGovern for the final two positions up front.

The left side of Notre Dame's offensive line will be stronger, but the starboard side isn't much of a concern.

Jay Hayes moved from tackle to end, and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore believes the redshirt sophomore will share time with returning starter Andrew Trumbetti.

"If it's a power team you'll probably see Jay Hayes more. If it's a passing team you'll see Andrew more," Gilmore said, according to Tim O'Malley of Scout. "They'll both start and play a lot. We want that competition."

Hayes and Trumbetti will be opposite Isaac Rochell, who is the second-leading tackler back from 2015. He's a safe bet to start alongside Jarron Jones and Jerry Tillery in the trenches.

Daniel Cage is the top backup at tackle, while true freshman Daelin Hayes should join the rotation on the outside.

Or Hayes could shift to linebacker, which had the unfortunate combination of losing two key contributors and missing top replacement options—Te'von Coney and Greer Martini—due to injury.

Nyles Morgan—thankfully for the Irish—stood out in the middle. "Thankfully" because he was the only healthy option with meaningful experience. Asmar Bilal and returning starter James Onwualu flanked Morgan, who position coach Mike Elston said "is going to have a heck of a year," per Vorel.

In the secondary, true freshman safety Devin Studstill earned plenty of attention. Despite Max Redfield's inconsistency, the multiyear starter likely hasn't lost his job—not yet, at least.

Nick Watkins recently underwent surgery on his broken left arm, but the junior should recover in plenty of time to join fellow outside cornerback Cole Luke, nickelback Shaun Crawford and safety Drue Tranquill in the starting lineup.

Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome are poised to serve as the placekicker and punter, respectively. 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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5 Top-Performing Quarterback Recruits from 2016 Washington DC Elite 11 Regional

The 2016 Elite 11 regional series rolled into the Washington D.C. area Sunday, as dozens of quarterbacks competed at Centreville High School in Clifton, Virginia. Passers predominately represented the 2017 recruiting class, though there were multiple compelling sophomore athletes in attendance. 

Bleacher Report was situated just yards away as quarterbacks underwent drills and instructions that tested their mental and physical fortitude. Here's a look at the five 2017 prospects who qualified for final "pressure chamber" action that capped off an eventful day, along with an impressive underclassman who stepped up.

Elite 11 coach Paul Troth, a former North Carolina all-state high school standout and East Carolina University starter, helped B/R break down each top performer.

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D'Andre Swift Tweets Top 10: Which Schools Have the Edge for 4-Star APB?

One of the nation’s most electric skill players in the 2017 class has narrowed his list to 10 lucky suitors.

D’Andre Swift, who rates as the nation’s top all-purpose back and the No. 33 player overall in the 2017 cycle, announced a top-10 list that includes Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and South Carolina:

The 5’9”, 204-pounder from St. Joseph’s High School in Philadelphia is also the top overall prospect from the state of Pennsylvania.

With his recruitment beginning to take shape, which programs have an edge in the race to land the electric Swift?

One program that would love to keep him close to home is the Penn State Nittany Lions.

PSU head coach James Franklin and his staff hosted Swift in February for a junior day event.

Despite some changes to Franklin’s staff in the offseason, Swift feels comfortable with the direction the program is headed, as detailed by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

“It was good seeing the coaches again and sitting down and watching running back film and seeing the new offense they’re putting in,” Swift told Wiltfong.

Another program that Swift has gotten a chance to view recently is SEC power Georgia.

The Bulldogs, who have a pair of touted junior running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel that could potentially test the NFL draft waters after this season, are looking to land a back who could potentially take over in the backfield when they leave.

As Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247 notes, Swift has been in Athens twice in the last month—including last weekend for the Bulldogs’ spring game.

To make that long trip twice signals his level of interest in Georgia’s program. If he makes it down again in the summer or even in the fall for an official visit, the Bulldogs could be a legitimate threat to pull him away from the Keystone State.

Another program hoping to get Swift on campus soon is ACC giant Florida State.

As Chris Nee of Noles247 reported, Swift is planning to visit Tallahassee soon, possibly before the end of the month. 

Similar to Georgia, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher may have to replace star rusher Dalvin Cook if he bolts for the NFL draft following the 2016 season.

With his list now trimmed to a select few, his visits in the coming months will be critical in helping him arrive at a conclusion.

For now, the Nittany Lions, Bulldogs and Seminoles are among the programs that have to feel good about their chances to land one of 2017’s elite playmakers.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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5-Star QB Tate Martell Takes on 2018 USC Commit in 'Football Pong'

Texas A&M commit Tate Martell and USC commit Matt Corral are two of the most exciting young quarterbacks, so we decided to put them to the test and play some good old-fashioned "football pong."

Watch the two quarterbacks duke it out in the video above.

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Georgia Football: Projecting Bulldogs' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

Kirby Smart's first spring practice as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs is in the books, and the former Alabama defensive coordinator answered a ton of questions surrounding his depth chart after 15 short practices in the "Classic City."

True freshman Jacob Eason staked his claim to the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback, throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Will he unseat returning starter Greyson Lambert or redshirt junior Brice Ramsey?

Who else made cases for starting spots this spring?

Here's our post-spring depth chart for the Georgia Bulldogs, which is based on how they lined up in the spring game and potential moves this summer.

*Denotes summer enrollee

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Ohio State's Torrance Gibson Looks Like College Football's Next Superstar

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Torrance Gibson found himself scoring not one, but two touchdowns during Ohio State's spring game on Saturday, it didn't come as a surprise to those who followed the former 4-star prospect's recruitment.

After all, Gibson is just a year removed from being an Army All-American selection as a dual-threat quarterback, the nation's sixth-ranked athlete and one of the crowned jewels of the Buckeyes' 2015 class.

But when it came to Gibson's paths to the end zone on Saturday, those were perhaps less predictable for those who haven't kept up with the former American Heritage (Plantation, Florida) star since his arrival in Columbus a year ago. Having since converted to wide receiver, Gibson is no longer rushing or throwing for touchdowns but rather catching them, and during Ohio State's annual exhibition, it certainly looked like the right move.

Standing at a rangy 6'4" and weighing in at 205 pounds, looking the part has never been Gibson's problem. Rumors of a potential position switch accompanied the Sunshine State product's recruitment, given his natural athleticism and the emergence of the bigger, faster receivers such as A.J. Green and Julio Jones who are so prominent in the NFL.

And although the Ohio State staff's insistence that Gibson would remain a quarterback lasted less than two months into his arrival on campus—he could first be seen practicing with the Buckeyes wide receivers last August—Saturday offered the first chance for those outside the OSU program to witness the progress he's made.

The results? A team-high six catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns on the Buckeyes' victorious Gray team, and a whole lot of optimism for his future as a wide receiver.

"Got a long way to go," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said of Gibson after the game.

But even in his attempt to temper expectations for the redshirt freshman, the next words out of Meyer's mouth shared even more honest thoughts on Gibson's potential: "It's a freak—but he's gotta go get the ball."

Perhaps Gibson has been having a harder time in practice than the spring game showed, because if Saturday was any indication, he isn't finding much trouble doing just that. Catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Joe Burrow in the game's second quarter, Gibson looked like a natural wideout—one capable of providing the deep-ball threat that had been missing in the OSU offense in 2015.

"We've worked hard, me and him, especially on the deep balls," Burrow said. "He comes out here and runs as fast as he can, and I throw it as hard as I can, because you can’t overthrow the guy."

Gibson's second touchdown "catch"—a two-yard grab on a shovel pass that could have just as easily been a handoff—was admittedly less impressive. But at the very least, it showcased that he's more than just a big-bodied red-zone option, the type of player capable of having multiple roles in the Buckeyes offense, such as when he attempted a pass on a trick play that ultimately went for an incompletion on Saturday.

But while throwing may still be in his repertoire, Gibson remains fully focused on honing his skills as a wide receiver. And although he may have looked like a natural on Saturday, starting quarterback J.T. Barrett's comments after the game lent credence to Meyer's downplaying of his apparent progress.

"He shows some flashes," Barrett said. "He's got hot and cold days. Some days he's hot and he's catching everything and some days he can't catch a cold. Being that it's a new position, I think sometimes he lacks that confidence."

Saturday, however, must have been one of those hot days, even if there is only so much one can read into a glorified scrimmage. Also promising was his apparent chemistry with Burrow, the "other" quarterback in Ohio State's 2015 class whose spring game performance was impressive in its own right.

It may be too soon to call Burrow-to-Gibson the connection of the future in Columbus, but Saturday showed a glimpse of what the two classmates are already capable of when paired together in Meyer's spread offense.

"He'll be my favorite target here pretty soon," Burrow said of Gibson.

For now, however, Gibson remains a work in progress. And while Meyer has insisted throughout the offseason that the former high school standout is "a very good young man," just as he did on Saturday, Ohio State's decision to not let him speak to reporters after his performance in the spring game suggests there may be concerns about him having too much, too soon.

But after his spring game showing, the potential is too apparent to ignore. With the Buckeyes replacing their three starting wide receivers from a year ago, playing time at his new position will be plenty available in 2016 as well.

After the uncertainty that surrounded his first year on campus, superstardom could once again be on Gibson's horizon—it might just come from a different path than many once expected it to.


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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The Most Impressive Freshman Performances in Spring Games So Far

Spring is a time for new blood in college football. Graduation and early entries in the NFL draft are facts of life, and spring practice is a perfect opportunity for coaches to see what they have in younger players who’ll be expected to play larger roles in the coming season.

This spring has been no different. Between early enrollees and redshirt freshmen, a number of fresh faces have made a big impact for teams across the nation. Many have excelled in spring games this month, and we’ll see more over the next two weeks as spring practices wrap up.

Here’s a look at 10 freshmen who’ve stood out in spring games thus far.


Unless noted, all stats are from official team websites. 

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Tennessee Football: Projecting Vols' Post-Spring, 2-Deep Depth Chart

When you take a glimpse of Tennessee's two-deep football roster, the spoils of coach Butch Jones' recruiting labors are oozing from all corners. Entering his fourth year as the head of the program, there's been a complete roster flip on Rocky Top.

Now, there are no excuses when it comes to winning and winning big.

Not only is there talent up and down the depth chart, but there is also a lot of experience. Out of the power conferences, only LSU and Louisville return more starters than Tennessee's 17—a number it shares with several other programs, according to Phil Steele.

Toss in the fact the Vols have made incremental progress in each of Jones' first three years, and there's no reason why UT shouldn't build on last year's 9-4 record, especially considering those losses came by 17 combined points.

Tennessee is deep and strong. Saturday's Orange and White Game didn't get to showcase all that talent with 24 players sitting out due to injuries, but none of those are expected to linger into the 2016 season. That means all those guys who got reps this spring can provide quality depth.

Things are setting up for a good run for the Vols in '16. Let's take a look at the projected two-deep roster going into the offseason.



There's zero quarterback controversy in Knoxville—at least when it comes to the starting spot. As everybody knows, that belongs to Joshua Dobbs, who has the ability to be a dynamic, dual-threat signal-caller.

With all the things Dobbs brings to the table, he must get more consistent with his accuracy. Jones even acknowledged to the media after Saturday's spring game that's still an issue that must get addressed, according to a tweet from the Knoxville News Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak:

The backup job is going to be a battle. Quinten Dormady looked pretty good for the most part in the spring game, but freshman Jarrett Guarantano is coming this summer to stake his claim to the job. The speedy, strong-armed New Jersey native appears to be the perfect candidate to follow in Dobbs' footsteps.

But Dormady won't give up the backup job without a fight.


Running Back

The most safe and sound spot on the entire depth chart resides at running back, where the Vols are elite.

Anybody in the nation would be envious of a junior tandem of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara.

In the former, UT has a bruising, every-down runner who can punish teams between the tackles and still has the giddy-up to get outside. In the latter, the Vols feature a vocal leader with the wheels to do damage in the open field and in the passing game. 

As this spring proved, John Kelly is more than capable of performing as well, and this will be his show once those two go pro, which likely will be following the 2016 season.


Wide Receiver

For the past three seasons, Tennessee struggled mightily on the perimeter, but that position got a facelift since 2015.

Marquez North, Von Pearson and Johnathon Johnson are gone. Replacing them in the rotation will be Preston Williams, Jauan Jennings and Josh Smith, joining incumbent leading receiver Malone as the top wideouts.

For Williams, this spring was a breakout show. He has all the tools to be a dynamic target who can stretch the field. Smith seems settled in the slot, and the Vols look like they've got a serious red-zone threat in JUCO transfer Jeff George, who would not be denied the jump ball in several chances during the spring game.

That duo turned heads on Saturday, including B/R's Barrett Sallee:

UT gets even better at receiver this summer when speedster Latrell Williams, 4-star Marquez Callaway and 3-stars Brandon Johnson and Corey Henderson arrive on campus. Redshirt freshman Vincent Perry could be a weapon in the slot as well.

When you toss in this week's cryptic—but exciting—news that dynamic 4-star athlete Tyler Byrd tweeted out, insinuating he'd start his Tennessee career at receiver rather than safety, as expected, the Vols will have plenty of options on the perimeter:

They need to find a combo that works.


Tight End

A position that has been shallow the past couple of years behind Ethan Wolf all of a sudden looks like it could be a team strength.

A big reason for that is redshirt senior Jason Croom's move from receiver. The big-bodied target should be a force at that spot and a mismatch for linebackers who have to guard him going downfield. He needs to improve his catching, but Croom is a physical specimen.

Wolf's younger brother, Eli, is a walk-on who looks like he'll really help the Vols down the road, maybe as soon as this year. Redshirt sophomore Jakob Johnson—who moved from tight end—had a catch in the spring game and is a physical blocker.

With Austin Pope and Devante Brooks coming this summer, UT will have a full stable of tight ends for new assistant Larry Scott to tutor and develop.


Offensive Line

For the first couple of seasons, Jones was in Knoxville, Tennessee's offensive line was a major issue. Last year, it was a strength, and if the Vols can get through some minor depth issues at tackle this year, it should continue to be moving forward.

Stars such as Coleman Thomas, Jashon Robertson and Dylan Wiesman outfit the first team with strong starters. Though Chance Hall looked like a rising star as a true freshman last year, Kendrick's monster spring will lead to a good, healthy battle at right tackle this fall.

The other tackle, right now, belongs to Drew Richmond. But with all the guard depth the Vols boast, it wouldn't be surprising to see UT move a guard out there to battle him as the Vols bridge the gap to the three freshman offensive tackles coming in who likely won't be ready to play right away.

There's talent and depth across the board along the front, and last year's line paved the way for the program's second-highest rushing total in school history. What will they do for an encore? 



Aaron Medley was solid last year following some very important misses that could have won games against Florida and Alabama. It's hard to put those in the rearview mirror, especially against rivals, but the Vols desperately need him to produce this year.

It's unequivocally the Lewisburg, Tennessee, junior's job. Behind him is walk-on Toser, who nailed a field goal in the spring game Saturday but has never attempted a kick in a game.


Defensive Line

Welcome to coordinator Bob Shoop's biggest concern on his side of the ball. While the defensive ends appear solid-to-spectacular, the Vols simply cannot afford any injuries on the interior, or they're going to be moving some bodies inside for depth purposes.

Starting in the middle, Shy Tuttle is a beast when he's healthy. But after breaking a bone in his leg and damaging ligaments against Georgia last year, he hasn't returned to the field since. His estimated time frame for returning is this summer, but he will be pushing it to be 100 percent by the first game.

Beyond him, Kahlil McKenzie needs to live up to his former 5-star billing. He's massive and could be a force against the run, but his conditioning needs to be a lot better than it was a season ago. A promising spring has the Vols excited about his potential.

He's also excited about getting to work and getting in even better shape for the season, according to Scout's Danny Parker:

Upperclassmen Danny O'Brien and Kendal Vickers are strong backups, and if the Vols can get suspended Alexis Johnson to come back, along with Quay Picou, they'll be fine inside, especially if a guy like Andrew Butcher or Dimarya Mixon could gain enough weight to help inside.

At end, Tennessee could be incredible. The Vols need to rebound from a '15 season that had high expectations but finished with just 30 sacks, which wasn't horrible but wasn't what they expected.

Derek Barnett is the star, and he could have a breakout year to go along with his first two really good ones. Vereen is a senior who is steady, and classmate LaTroy Lewis provides some key snaps, too.

A trio of young, talented players could come into their own and really help UT, though. Kyle Phillips, top-ranked JUCO prospect Jonathan Kongbo and redshirt freshman Darrell Taylor will all contribute and could ultimately work their way into the two-deep. That's a lot of really, really big potential off the edge.



With so many opponents running spread-based offenses, Tennessee likely will have a nickelback on the field more often than not. That would mean the two linebackers who are on the field could be dynamite.

Jones didn't mince words when alluding to Reeves-Maybin and Kirkland to reporters following the Orange and White Game, according to a tweet from Scout.com's Cory Gunkel:

Tennessee must find a viable option to back up Kirkland in the middle between Colton Jumper, Gavin Bryant and incoming freshman Daniel Bituli, and that's a concern. If something were to happen to him, JRM may shift inside.

That's because the two outside 'backers who made a move this spring could fill in nicely. Sapp looks like he could be the next great outside tackler after JRM turns pro. Then there's junior Cortez McDowell, whose special teams prowess could translate to defense as well.

Toss in redshirt sophomore Dillon Bates, and the Vols could have some solid options on the outside. But they simply don't rotate in a lot of linebackers historically because they only play two frequently.


Defensive Backs

Besides the running backs, this position group has the potential to be the team's strength.

Coach Willie Martinez has an embarrassment of talent with which to work and mold on the back end of the defense. Yes, the Vols must replace departed senior starting safeties Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil, but they've certainly got the talent to do it.

At cornerback, Sutton, whom coaches believe is one of the nation's best defensive backs, leads the Vols. He spurned the NFL to return for his final year and help the Vols win something important.

Justin Martin is a special athlete on the other side of the ball, and the Vols have a lot of potential playmakers at corner behind them, led by Emmanuel Moseley, Darrell Miller and D.J. Henderson, among others. A slew of corners are coming in the summer, too.

At nickelback, an all-important UT position, Malik Foreman bolters the Tennessee. He'll start if he can hold off mid-term freshman enrollee Marquill Osborne, that is. 

It may be easier said than done. According to Sutton, via SEC Country's Dave Hooker, Osborne has impressed everybody this spring, and the nickelback spot is an ideal spot for the youngster, Sutton said.

It fits him a lot with his ability to play the ball in the air. He's a physical player as well. I think it's better for him because, especially in our system, the nickel position is a big part of our system. That nickel position, you're always around the ball, you’re always involved in run game (and) pass game throughout the whole course of a game. He can run. Just the God-given ability that he has is going to help him be successful.

Finally, at safety, the Vols got a standout spring from Todd Kelly Jr. and Rashaan Gaulden, who've seized those starting spots for now. Micah Abernathy proved his viability in the race, and Stephen Griffin can provide some quality reps, too. Evan Berry was injured this spring, but he'll battle for a starting spot when he returns, too.

Throw in dynamic freshman Nigel Warrior and the Vols are loaded at safety. All those guys are good enough to get reps.



Finally, Trevor Daniel, who earned a scholarship and will return for two more seasons on Rocky Top, was one of the biggest unsung heroes of UT's 2015 season. The big-legged former walk-on from the Midstate is a potential All-SEC player.

With former U.S. Army All-American Tommy Townsend behind him, the Vols have a bright future at the field-flipping position. 

Between Berry, Sutton and Kamara, UT returns arguably the nation's best kick- and punt-returning trio as well, so expect special teams to be a strength again.


All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at UTSports.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Highlights and Analysis from The Opening Washington Regional

CLIFTON, Va. — An impressive collection of high school football standouts gathered near the nation's capital Sunday, April 17, to participate in The Opening's Washington, D.C. regional showcase.

Prospects from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia naturally played a paramount role throughout a competitive day at Centreville High School. Located at the intersection of ACC and Big Ten territory, there was no shortage of collegiate recruits in attendance. 

From trench showdowns between lauded linemen to one-on-one matchups in passing drills, reps proved to separate elite talent from a crowded pack of players. Though only three athletes from an action-packed regional were selected to attend The Opening's national final, held this summer at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, others may ultimately be added to the roster as coaches continue to survey playmakers from a country-wide regional series. 

A trio of athletes—running back Anthony McFarland Jr., edge-rusher Chase Young and defensive lineman Joshua Paschal—stole the spotlight by securing those invitations.

"It means a lot because it proves all the hard work is worth it," Paschal told Bleacher Report afterward.

However, this group was hardly alone in providing noteworthy developments during the course of a busy event. Bleacher Report covered ground on two football fields Sunday, providing a glimpse of multiple compelling storylines.


Potential Package Deal for DeMatha Catholic Duo?

McFarland and Young followed in the footsteps of former DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Maryland) teammate Shane Simmons, who secured a spot in The Opening's national final last year. The defensive end signed with Penn State this past winter, setting the stage for these juniors to emerge as top recruiting targets at the powerhouse program.

McFarland is rated No. 3 nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, while Young lands at No. 4 on the list of weak-side defensive ends. Both players are considered top-tier 4-star talents and could certainly enter the 5-star echelon by the end of this cycle.

Neither is lacking for collegiate options, as they hold approximately 70 combined scholarship offers. Naturally, several schools have extended offers to both McFarland and Young, presenting opportunities for a continued relationship beyond DeMatha Catholic.

"I think it's a very realistic possibility", said Young, who tallied 27 tackles for loss and 19 sacks last season, according to Brandon Parker of the Washington Post. "That's my close friend; that's my brother. If we go to the same college, we'll turn up together."

New Maryland Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin would undoubtedly love to make this pair a central piece of his first full recruiting cycle in College Park. They spent time on campus earlier this spring, but options beyond state borders loom large. 

Ohio State and Alabama are among key contenders for Young, while McFarland has the Crimson Tide, Georgia and Miami on a lengthy list of favorites that still features more than 15 universities. If they decide to team up in college, we likely won't find out for a while, as each expect to take their respective decision-making process deep into next winter and perhaps all the way to national signing day.


ACC Battle Brewing for Dynamic D.C. Receiver

Local playmaker Sean Savoy turned plenty of heads throughout Sunday's passing drills, posing a substantial challenge for opposing defensive backs with above-average speed and route-running technique. The Wilson High School (Washington, D.C.) junior, who measured in at 5'10", 175 pounds, punctuated several efforts surging into the end zone with defenders a stride behind. 

Savoy saw his recruitment rapidly expand earlier this year when three ACC squads extended offers in a 10-day span that culminated with a March 7 offer from Syracuse. That opportunity was preceded shortly beforehand by scholarships from Miami and Virginia Tech, bringing his total to eight universities.

"It was big," he said. "It's been a dream to have my choice of where I want to play college football and these schools showing interest actually makes that possible."

Miami and Temple both identify him as a potential defensive back, but the consensus among schools is that Savoy's future lies at receiver. Virginia Tech and Miami appear primed to remain contenders as things progress.

The Hurricanes, who also eye him on offense, will receive a visit from Savoy in June.

His explosiveness (a 4.45 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) and route precision present matchup issues inside.

"I can tear it up in the slot," Savoy said.

He caught 55 passes for 1,188 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, averaging more than 20 yards per reception.


Southern California QB Makes Cross-Country Impression

Quarterback Tyler Lytle (shown targeting Savoy in the video above) created his reputation as a coveted recruit with Anaheim's acclaimed Servite High School squad, but he stated a case for Elite 11 finals inclusion on the East Coast. The 6'5", 205-pound passer is enjoying a whirlwind stretch to begin spring, and it hasn't allowed for much rest.

Lytle visited Vanderbilt on Saturday, six weeks after receiving an offer from the Commodores. It was his first journey to Nashville, and he came away with a positive impression.

"It was a great experience, and I got to meet with [head coach Derek] Mason and [quarterbacks coach Gerry] Gdowski," he said. "They introduced me to a business professor there and showed me how much a Vanderbilt degree really means. The campus had a great family feel to it."

Lytle followed the Vanderbilt visit with a trip to The Opening regional, where he qualified for the final round of Elite 11 competition alongside five other D.C. competitors. No quarterbacks earned a invitation to national semifinals, set for the first weekend of June, but he could eventually earn a spot. 

"The ball comes off his hand great, and he's a big kid, so that projects well at the next level," Elite 11 instructor Paul Troth said.

Lytle returned home to California late Sunday evening and has another crucial day scheduled to start his school week. He will throw in front of coaches from Indiana, Purdue and San Diego State on Monday.

His offer sheet now features 18 schools, including Arizona State, Illinois and Oregon State. Colorado is set to host him on campus April 30.


Canadian DB Continues to Cement Spot Among Elites

Ontario native Jonathan Sutherland is the latest prospect from Canada who has made a name for himself at an American school. He attends Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and arrived at The Opening regional with a well-established reputation.

Rated No. 21 among safeties in 2017 composite rankings, Sutherland carries 20-plus scholarship offers. He didn't disappoint while working against and alongside many of the Mid-Atlantic's most impressive talents. 

News of his success Sunday drew rave reviews from former No. 1 overall Canadian Football League draft pick Shomari Williams, who played at the University of Houston and now runs Top Prospects Canada camps. He's tracked Sutherland's football career for years and drew comparisons to a former Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl performer at the position:

Since jumping into United States competition, Sutherland has seen college coaching staffs clamor for his commitment. An expansive list of offers now includes Michigan, Syracuse, North Carolina, Louisville and Wisconsin. 


Prized Offensive Lineman Assessing New Staffs at Nearby Universities

Considered one of the East Coast's premier interior offensive linemen recruits, Johnny Jordan is now into double-digit totals when it comes to scholarship offers. The Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) junior added offers from new coaching staffs at Virginia and Maryland.

He sees promise in both situations and anticipates increased dialogues with those programs as things progress.

"Maryland is trying to totally lock down the 'DMV' (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and establish their position in the area," Jordan said. "UVA brought in a brand-new staff from a different side of the country (head coach Bronco Mendenhall previously led BYU), so I'm interested to see what they do. They're really stressing that their methods are tried and true and will work in the ACC. I'm really interested to see what happens there."

Jordan, who also claims offers from Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina, primarily plays tackle in high school but anticipates a likely switch to center in college. His goal is to commit before or after his senior season, as he would prefer not to announce a choice during the fall while Gonzaga's games are of utmost importance.

Jordan's father attended Penn State, so a Nittany Lions offer would be highly appreciated in the household. He mentioned Boston College, Iowa and Wake Forest as other universities that pique his interest but haven't yet extended an offer at this stage.


'The Mailman' Delivers...Again

Stetson Bennett IV has become a familiar face for Elite 11 coaches during the 2016 camp series. The Pierce County High School (Georgia) junior competed with quarterbacks for a fourth time this year, following past appearances at regional events in Orlando, Miami and Atlanta. 

"He has good demeanor, good velocity, good mechanics," Troth said. "Somebody has to take a shot on the kid because he can spin it."

Beyond his passing skills, Bennett's attire has drawn attention. He's worn a United States Postal Service hat to each event, earning a fitting nickname among peers.

"They call me 'The Mailman'," Bennett said. "It's kind of a trademark."

He admits his 6'0", 175-pound stature doesn't do much to attract immediate attention, but the cap has caught some eyeballs during Elite 11 action. Bennett actually allowed Florida Gators commit Jake Allen to briefly borrow the hat in March, as our Sanjay Kirpalani documented:

The hat, acquired from a hometown friend, doesn't have much sentimental value on its own. However, Bennett believes it's become a trend that will stick for the duration of his Elite 11 experience, and it's easy to imagine he'll hold onto it long after this upcoming football season ends.

The hat's spot in Elite 11 lore could still have room to grow.

He'll head to the Charlotte regional in North Carolina next weekend and wouldn't rule out the possibility of traveling to other events later this spring. Bennett, a two-year high school starter behind center, reports offers from Columbia, an Ivy League program, and Mercer, an in-state FCS squad.

His 2015 season featured 2,924 passing yards and 23 touchdown tosses, per MaxPreps.

After earning a spot in final Elite 11 drills for the second time in four attempts, Bennett hopes continued exposure will increase collegiate interest. In the meantime, he's become a steady competitor coaches continue to appreciate.

"It's always fun to see Mr. Postman out here competing," Troth said.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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