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Does Auburn Need WR Duke Williams to Be a Superstar in 2015?

When mentioning the top stars in the SEC, it won't take you long to land on Auburn wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

For good reason.

The 6'2", 224-pound monster was a solid weapon for head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in 2014, hauling in a team-high 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns and establishing himself as one of the best all-around wide receivers in college football.

Now, with Auburn breaking in new quarterback Jeremy Johnson and a new No. 1 running back, it's up to Williams to be one of the leaders of the offense.

But does he need to be a superstar?

Not really, although I'm sure Williams, Malzahn and Lashlee would welcome that title if he earns it in 2015.

Williams is going to demand plenty of attention from opposing defensive backs and defensive coordinators. While plenty of passes will still go his way, in a perfect world for the 2015 Tigers, it might be best to have Williams serve as a decoy from time to time and let the rest of the talented wide receiving corps take advantage of one-on-one coverage.

It seems like Ricardo Louis has been on the Plains for a decade. Now the 6'2", 215-pound speedster is entering his senior season with an opportunity to take the place of former Tiger standout Sammie Coates as the primary deep threat in the offense.

Pressure? Not according to Louis.

"Pressure, to me, is like I have to do it," Louis said in April, according to former AL.com writer Joel A. Erickson. "I don't want to put that on myself, because I know I'm a great player if I just go out and play."

The duo of Williams and Louis could prove to be one of the SEC's best and further open up an Auburn offense that is going to be more balanced anyway thanks to the presence of Johnson—who's much more dangerous as a passer than his predecessor, Nick Marshall.

There are even more weapons around Williams who absolutely have the talent to make an impact.

Marcus Davis and Melvin Ray are veteran backups who have been part of the rotation for the last two years and know what's expected of them by the offensive staff.

Tony Stevens has plenty of potential, and at 6'4", 205 pounds, can present matchup nightmares for the third- or fourth-best defensive backs on the other side of the ball. Can he be consistent, though?

"The thing with Tony that I've liked is from a mental standpoint," Lashlee told Ryan Black formerly of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "He should be after two years. I feel like he feels (good enough) about the system to where we can move him around a little bit. That will give him a chance to get on the field more and to help us more."

There are even more stars waiting in the wings who don't have that experience.

Myron Burton caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown in the spring game, according to the school's stats. At 5'9", 184 pounds, Stanton Truitt has the size and quickness to be dangerous in the slot. Meanwhile, 4-star signee Darius Slayton has all the makings of a potential superstar.

If things go according to plan, Williams' most important work for Johnson and the 2015 Tigers will be as a threat who not only succeeds as a receiver but creates advantageous matchups for the rest of the receiving corps.

He's one of the best receivers in the SEC, and as long as "Duke" reminds the opposing defense of that from time to time, the Auburn offense will be tough to stop.

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Best Offensive Coordinators in College Football

Offense gets all the attention in college football, but actually compiling a list of the best offensive coordinators is actually a tad more complicated than you'd think. Basically, there's not one defined set of responsibilities from one OC to another. Everyone does it a little differently. 

With few exceptions, we try to stay away from the co-offensive coordinator titles as much as possible. This is a common thing in college football, but it's easier to pin down everything when it's one person running the show. Additionally, the tough part about listing offensive coordinators is that so many head coaches, in essence, hold that position. In many instances, the head coach will call the plays while OCs will draw up game plans. 

Some of these things are unavoidable. With that in mind, let's proceed. Selections were made on offensive stats, improvements, accolades and player development.

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Lou Holtz's House Damaged by Fire Likely Caused by Lightning

The Orlando, Florida, home of former college football head coach Lou Holtz suffered significant damage Sunday, likely due to a lightning strike that started a fire.

Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday tweeted out a picture of the damage done:

The Orlando Sentinel (via Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports) provided additional details about the house and the fire, noting it took multiple hours to extinguish the blaze. Per Watson, "The home, which is reportedly worth $1.6 million, was engulfed in flames and took 60 Orlando firefighters to fight and more than three hours to extinguish. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries during the blaze, but there were not other reported injuries."

Holtz retired from coaching in 2004 after spending six seasons at South Carolina. In 33 seasons as a college football head coach, the 78-year-old won 249 games and one national championship in 1988 with Notre Dame. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

He had been working as an analyst at ESPN since 2004 before leaving the network in April. 

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Derrick Nash, Central Michigan DB, Dies at Age 20

Derrick Nash, a Central Michigan football player who was diagnosed with leukemia, died from the disease at the age of 20 on Monday.

Central Michigan football's official Twitter feed announced the news Monday night:

Central Michigan director of athletics Dave Heeke released a statement about Nash's death, per CMUChippewas.com:

This is a very difficult loss for our football program and entire Chippewa Athletic Program. Derrick was an inspiration to us all and the fight he showed will never be forgotten. The incredible courage he exhibited in never allowing this terrible disease to dampen his positive outlook on life, is a tremendous representation of the type of man he was. Our thoughts and prayers are with Derrick's family and friends during this difficult time.

In May 2013, Hugh Bernreuter of MLive.com spoke to Nash following his diagnosis and about signing his letter of intent to play college football. "Playing Division I football...I never thought I would get the chance, but I was getting the chance," Nash said. "Signing that letter of intent was the greatest moment in my life. It was something I thought would never happen."

CMU's release on its website noted that, after going through treatment, Nash took part in spring practice in 2014 and was set to earn a spot on the roster before doctors found the leukemia had returned.

Nash would never get the chance to play in a game for Central Michigan. He redshirted in 2014 while undergoing further treatment for the disease, though he did get to serve as an honorary captain for the Chippewas in the Bahamas Bowl in December.

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Georgia Bulldogs Fact or Fiction: Will Nick Chubb Lead SEC in Rushing in 2015?

The Georgia Bulldogs are seemingly always in contention in the SEC. Will that be the case in 2015?

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee as they played a game of Fact or Fiction.

Where will Georgia finish in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!   

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Top 5 Takeaways from ESPN's Updated Recruiting Rankings

The beauty of 247Sports' composite rankings is that they make shakeups in any of the four major recruiting sites—247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com—more of a topic of discussion in the college football recruiting world.

When ESPN released its updated ESPN 300 on Monday, a few players were rewarded with a bump in their 247Sports composite rankings.

Here are five takeaways from the new ESPN 300 rankings.

 

Sterling-Cole continues to impress

ESPN thinks very highly of quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole—and rightfully so. Once unranked in the ESPN 300, the uncommitted 4-star is now at No. 111 in the latest rankings.

Sterling-Cole's rise since the spring has been very impressive. When he won quarterback MVP honors at The Opening Dallas Regional in March, he was a 3-star player and the No. 27 dual-threat quarterback. He's now the No. 9 pro-style quarterback after showcasing his skills throughout the spring and summer.

All eyes are on Sterling-Cole, who has schools like Texas A&M, Houston, UCLA, Florida and several others on his list. Texas A&M fans are hoping to land him, as he is an Aggie legacy: His father is former Aggie Chris Cole, who went on to play receiver in the NFL for the Denver Broncos.

 

Major spikes from the defensive front

Nothing helps a player's confidence like watching his rankings escalate emphatically. Four uncommitted, 4-star defensive ends saw a rise of at least 70 spots on Monday.

Brandon Bowen proved to be the biggest winner, as he jumped 190 spots from No. 351 to No. 161. Another triple-digit jumper was Antonneous Clayton, who rose 106 spots from No. 217 to No. 111.

Prince Sammons, a bigger man among big men at 6'8" and 280 pounds, climbed from No. 258 to No. 159, just missing a triple-digit increase in the rankings. Justin Madubuike "only" rose 74 spots but managed to jump into the national top 100, escalating from No. 169 to No. 95.

A fifth defensive end, Georgia 4-star commit Chauncey Manac, rose 75 spots from No. 149 to No. 74.

 

More news about defensive ends

The new composite rankings feature 22 defensive ends in the top 200, and six of those are in the top 50. Nick Bosa is the nation's No. 2 strong-side defensive end behind 5-star Shavar Manuel, but Bosa, also a 5-star player, rose from No. 31 to No. 8 in the composite rankings. Manuel is at No. 6.

While Bosa cracked the top 10, other defensive ends saw an impressive bump in the composite rankings on Monday. Marlon Davidson, another 5-star defensive end, jumped from No. 53 to No. 22. Florida State 4-star commit Janarius Robinson rose 47 spots from No. 83 to No. 36. McTelvin Agim, a 4-star end and the top-ranked player in Arkansas, went from No. 79 to No. 55.

 

Geaux-ing for the win

Teams like Florida State, Miami and reigning national champion Ohio State have either double-digit commitments or near-double-digit commitments from the ESPN 300. However, the team to beat currently is LSU.

The Tigers are the top-ranked team in the 247Sports composite recruiting team rankings with 17 commits. Among the members in the ESPN 300 are 5-star cornerback Saivion Smith, 5-star defensive tackle Edwin Alexander, 4-star quarterback Feleipe Franks and 4-star receivers Dee Anderson and Stephen Sullivan.

The good news for LSU is that more commits could be coming. The Tigers are in a solid position to land 5-star studs such as defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, offensive tackle Willie Allen and safety Brandon Jones.

 

An interesting race for No. 1

The top two players in the ESPN 300: Rashan Gary and Greg Little.

The top two players in the 247Sports composite: Rashan Gary and Greg Little.

The battle for the top-ranked player in the nation appears to be down to a dynamic, uncommitted, 5-star defensive tackle and a technically sound, 5-star offensive tackle committed to Texas A&M, respectively. Betwen them, the two have nearly 60 reported offers.

The summer and fall, however, will play a key role in who ultimately finishes as the No. 1 player.

Will it be Gary or Little, or will another 5-star prospect overtake them? Quarterback Jacob Eason is the No. 3 player in the 247Sports composite. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who rose 37 spots from No. 54 to No. 17 in the ESPN 300, is No. 4 in the 247Sports composite.

Next month's The Opening could be a determining factor in who ends up where.

 

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

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Danny Etling Transferring to LSU Is Great Insurance at QB for Les Miles

Ever since Matt Flynn led LSU to a national title following the 2007 season, the quarterback position—save for Zach Mettenberger's senior year in 2013—has been a wasteland.

Ryan Perrilloux couldn't stay on the field, Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee struggled, the Tigers won in spite of Jordan Jefferson and Anthony Jennings wasn't exactly a game-changer in 2014.

Help is on the way, just not immediate help.

According to Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com, former Purdue quarterback Danny Etling will enroll at LSU this fall, will sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules and have two years to play starting in 2016.

He's a tremendous insurance policy for head coach Les Miles and his staff.

Ideally, Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would like either sophomore Brandon Harris or junior (and recently suspended) Anthony Jennings to evolve into a star this year and hold down the job for at least the next two seasons. 

At this point, though, that might be the college football equivalent of searching for a unicorn, and having Etling waiting in the wings in 2016 will give Miles and his staff some security.

The native of Terre Haute, Indiana, completed 55.5 percent of his passes (239-for-429) during his first two seasons at Purdue, threw 16 touchdowns and tossed 12 picks. The former 4-star prospect in the class of 2013 has a strong arm, can stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball on time and on the money.

His stats from Purdue don't exactly jump off the page, but that's not the point nor is it all that important.

He's the most accomplished quarterback on the LSU roster right now, and unless Jennings or Harris bucks the trend and is successful in 2015, he will be next year when he's eligible to play.

Plus, Etling might benefit from the talent around him—especially at wide receiver where Malachi Dupre will be a junior when Etling can play, and other wide receivers like D.J. Chark, John Diarse and Tyron Johnson will have plenty of experience under their belts. 

As Barton Simmons of 247Sports notes, he could shine in the pro-style system of Miles and Cameron.

What's more, he'll be the only true pro-style quarterback on the roster in 2016. 

Jennings and Harris are both dual-threats, and the loser of the battle this year has a good chance of leaving before the 2016 season. Justin McMillan signed in the class of 2015 and enrolled early, but he is also a dual-threat. The Tigers have a commitment from 4-star stud Feleipe Franks, but he's also a dual-threat and it's a lot to ask for a true freshman to come in, play and succeed right away in the SEC.

Etling not only provides a solid pro-style option for the staff, but he also can act as a bridge to get from the current situation that's unstable-at-best, to Franks.

Does Etling have the same buzz surrounding his name as Florida State graduate transfer Everett Golson? 

No, of course not.

But he is a solid insurance policy for Miles to have in 2016 and beyond, and he could become a star with LSU's stable of wide receivers at his disposal.

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football Players with the Most 'Take It to the House' Potential

Annually, programs scour the country looking for players with the ability to turn an otherwise ordinary play into a big one—often resulting in points, or setting up a potential score. 

These players are few and far between when looking at the college football landscape. However, there are a prominent number of players with the ability to "take it to the house" at any moment. 

This piece will look at 10 players with this potential. It will exclude quarterbacks and solely look at receivers and running backs. The list of athletes will be presented in alphabetical order. 

 

Honorable mentions: Tyler Boyd, Travin Dural, William Fuller, Kareem Hunt, Adoree' Jackson, Brandon Sheperd, Ryan Switzer, Laquon Treadwell, Duke Williams.

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Virginia Tech Football: Hokies' Most Important Players at Each Position

Summer workouts are underway for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and fall camp is right around the corner. The Hokies are looking to get back to the top of the ACC after three middling seasons.

To overtake Florida State and have a shot at the College Football Playoff, Tech needs some of its better—and most important—players to stay on the field and produce at a high level.

Who are VT's most important players? Specifically, who is Virginia Tech's most important player at each positional unit? Keep in mind, an important player does not necessarily mean the best player, but generally those two things do go hand in hand.

Here's a look at the Hokies' most important players by position.

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Cyler Miles, Washington QB, Retires from Football Due to Hip Injury

The Washington Huskies' leading passer from last year, Cyler Miles, will reportedly retire from playing football, per ESPN's Joe Schad.   

Washington confirmed the news on its official website, announcing a chronic hip injury as the reason behind Miles' retirement.

"I am grateful to Coach Petersen and his staff for all the opportunities I have been given here at Washington," he said in the press release. "I am disappointed that my hip injuries will not allow me to continue playing, but I am committed to earning my UW degree and will leave the program with many great friendships and valuable lessons learned."

This isn't a recent issue for Miles. When he originally committed to Washington in February 2012 on signing day, he did so while on crutches as he recovered from hip surgery.

His status for the upcoming season was also in doubt after news that he took a voluntary absence from the team in March.

"Cyler is dealing with some things in his life that are more important than football, and he felt it was important to take some time away from the game," Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said in a statement at the time, per Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. "We are working to support him in any way we can and hope he returns back to the football field soon."

Miles threw for 2,397 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions for the Huskies in 2014. The team isn't exactly flush with experienced QBs who can replace him, per Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com:

Jeff Lindquist likely has the early track on the starting job. He went 10-of-26 for 162 yards and a touchdown while filling in for Miles in last year's season opener. The school had suspended Miles for the first game after he was involved in a fight in February 2014.

K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning did arrive with a fair amount of hype, though. Carta-Samuels was the 11th-best pro-style quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, while Browning ranked No. 5 in 2015, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Diddy Arrested: Latest Details After Alleged Fight with UCLA Football Coach

Renowned rapper and pop culture icon Sean "Diddy" Combs was arrested Monday on UCLA's campus for assault with a deadly weapon after an alleged altercation with a football coach who was hard on Diddy's son during Bruins practice.

TMZ.com reported the news, indicating that defensive back Justin Combs, Diddy's son, was chewed out during strength and conditioning drills by an assistant coach while Diddy bore witness to the scene.

TMZ Sports later reported ex-New York Jets strength coach Sal Alosi, who was suspended for tripping a player during a 2010 game against the Miami Dolphins, was the coach involved in the alleged altercation.

After the practice session had ended, Diddy allegedly went to the coach's office in the school's athletic facility and grabbed him. According to a release on the university's official website, the weapon Diddy used was a kettlebell.

Bruins head coach Jim Mora also spoke on the matter, per the release: "I'm thankful that our staff showed the level of professionalism that they did in handling this situation. This is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved. While UCPD continues to review this matter, we will let the legal process run its course and refrain from further comment at this time."

Diddy is still in the UCLA campus jail for the alleged incident, which resulted in no serious injuries. 

Justin Combs, a rising redshirt junior who is listed at 5'7" and 170 pounds, has appeared in seven games for the Bruins. Ourlads.com does not list him on UCLA's current two-deep depth chart at the cornerback position. His playing time therefore figures to be sparse, save perhaps for sub-packages.

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Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers' Most Important Player at Each Position

Nebraska football fans are well into barbecue season, enjoying the warm weather and wondering why the American League All-Star team will be almost entirely populated by Kansas City Royals. But the 2015 depth chart is never far from their minds, and over these lazy summer months it’s a useful exercise to think about which players are most important at each position.

It’s not necessarily a consideration of who is the best player, mind you, although it usually works out that way. Rather, it’s a question of who is the most important—which player at each position Nebraska needs the most. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the roster.

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football’s recruiting activity over the weekend was devoted to the Irish Invasion camp.

The Fighting Irish landed two commitments before the clock struck midnight on Friday, adding defensive back Jalen Elliott and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson—both Class of 2016 prospects.

Notre Dame also dished out a pair of offers earlier in the week, before the slew of prospects descended on Notre Dame Stadium to work out.

Each week, we’ll keep tabs on the new scholarship offers sent out by the Notre Dame coaches, tracking the recruiting process as the Irish focus their attention toward the 2016, 2017 and maybe even 2018 classes.

 

Malcolm Askew

Class of 2017 athlete Malcolm Askew received an Irish offer Thursday.

The McCalla, Alabama, native is the No. 26 athlete and No. 255 overall prospect in the country. Notre Dame joins Vanderbilt, Michigan State and NC State, among others, with its offer.

“It feels good to have that offer,” Askew told Irish247’s Tom Loy. “They have great tradition. I watched their spring game. I liked how they bounced around and got after it. I talked to (assistant) coach (Mike) Elston, and he said that all the defensive coaches loved me.”

Askew has taken unofficial visits to Georgia and Alabama in the past month.

“I feel like Notre Dame is going to end up high on my list,” Askew told Loy. “I’ll be up there later this summer and again in the fall. I know they graduated 97 percent of all African-American athletes. That’s really big for me, and it was nice to hear.”

 

Anthony McFarland Jr.

Class of 2017 running back Anthony McFarland Jr. received a Notre Dame offer Wednesday.

The 5’9”, 181-pound McFarland checks in as the No. 2 all-purpose back and No. 22 overall player in the country. Auburn, Alabama, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State are among the schools to offer the Hyattsville, Maryland, product.

“It’s another big one for me,” McFarland told 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow. “It’s one of the schools I grew up liking.”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

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

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Predicting the Top 25 College Football Programs of the Next 10 Years

College football is perhaps the world's most unpredictable team sport. Programs come out of nowhere each season to contend for championships, and major powerhouses crumble under intense pressure. Major injuries, massive upsets and surprise coaching changes make the game even wilder.

So, with all that in mind, let's try to predict what will happen in the next 10 seasons!

Pinning down the future of a program is virtually impossible, but recent trends can be good guides for the future, even with the game's constant changes. In order to be a consistent power, teams usually have to recruit well—relative to their competition—and post plenty of wins year in and year out.

Here are this year's predictions of the Top 25 teams in college football for the next decade, which were chosen by average number of wins from the past five seasons, average recruiting class ranking from 247Sports' Composite measure and the directions the schools are trending at this point in time.

Debate this list in the comments below and predict the schools who will be the most likely—on paper, of course—to contend for national and conference titles for the next 10 years. 

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SEC Football: Predicting Conference's Top 2015 Stat Leaders

We are a few short months away from the start of the college football season, and this year, the SEC is sure to be filled with stars—both known and unknown—lighting up stat sheets with stellar play.

Last season, we saw Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott burst onto the scene and jump into the race for the Heisman Trophy with his dual-threat capabilities, freshmen defensive ends Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Derek Barnett (Tennessee) both surpass the conference's freshman sack record once held by Jadeveon Clowney and Ole Miss' Senquez Golson surprise everyone to lead the SEC and finish second in the nation with 10 interceptions.

Who will be the leaders in major stat categories in 2015? Our picks, based on talent, scheme and opportunity, are in this slideshow.

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Big Ten Football: Predicting Conference's Top 2015 Stat Leaders

The college football season is still more than two months away, but anticipation for the 2015 campaign is already building. That holds especially true in the Big Ten following the momentum built by the conference in last year's bowl season.

And while teams like Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and even Michigan have plenty to look forward to in the coming months, there are also several individual players with high expectations for 2015. Never has the Big Ten seemed so loaded with potential first-round NFL draft picks, nor has it possessed so many players capable of lighting up scoreboards and box scores alike.

With that in mind, here are my predictions for which Big Ten player will lead each major statistical category in 2015. Taken into account are the players' past performances, upcoming schedule, offensive/defensive systems and projected offseason development.

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Which Team Has the Most Lethal Offense in College Football?

Defense wins championships, but offense puts the people in the seats. Last year we had some explosive offenses that were shattering records left and right. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate who will have the most lethal offense in college football. 

Which team has the best offense in the country for 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Surprises and Disappointments for Oregon's 2016 Recruiting Class

The Oregon Ducks have long been a recruiting juggernaut. Head coach Mark Helfrich has taken the torch from Chip Kelly and landed some of the best talent in the country. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports' Justin Hopkins as they discussed all things Oregon recruiting. 

What other needs do the Ducks have? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Surprises and Disappointments for Oregon's 2016 Recruiting Class

The Oregon Ducks have long been a recruiting juggernaut. Head coach Mark Helfrich has taken the torch from Chip Kelly and landed some of the best talent in the country...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Schools to Watch After Brodarious Hamm's Decommitment from Tennessee

Tennessee suffered a recruiting setback Monday, losing its grip on dominant offensive lineman Brodarious Hamm.

The 4-star prospect backed off a verbal pledge to the Volunteers that stood since April, according to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. His decision opens the door for other SEC programs to claim a commitment. 

Auburn particularly piques Hamm's interest. The 6'5", 320-pound tackle told Niebuhr he now considers the Tigers his new leader, going so far as to say a commitment could be "close."

It's a strong indication that Auburn is a heavy favorite moving forward and that his feelings toward the program probably played a pivotal role in his leaving Tennessee's 2016 class.

Hamm, a rising senior at Spalding High School in Griffin, Georgia, holds several scholarship offers. His list of options includes Alabama, Louisville, Mississippi State and LSU. 

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn welcomed him to campus last week. Hamm has a solid rapport in place with several Tigers assistants, including offensive line coach J.B. Grimes. 

"They told me they just really want me," Hamm told Niebuhr.

Auburn has always been part of the equation here, even after being edged out by the Volunteers for his initial pledge two months ago. Now at the start of summer, it would be a surprise if Hamm doesn't enter his senior season as a Tigers commit. 

Malzahn enjoyed an abundance of recruiting success in the Peach State during recent cycles, especially along the offensive front. He landed four linemen from Georgia last national signing day and now appears primed to add Hamm to that collection of blockers.

The in-state Bulldogs may ultimately emerge as Auburn's biggest threat.

Georgia extended an offer to Hamm when he was a freshman. He remains on head coach Mark Richt's radar two years later, despite sweeping changes on the Bulldogs offensive staff.

"I was surprised to get an offer from a school like Georgia during my freshman year, especially since I do not have that much film," he told Kipp Adams of DawgNation in 2013.

Hamm, rated 32nd nationally among offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, received a visit from Georgia assistant John Lilly this spring, just days after he spent time in Athens.

Chalk this one up as yet another head-to-head recruiting battle between the Bulldogs and Tigers. Auburn is out in front, but this chase could last longer than many expect if Georgia gains some momentum.

 

Recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports.

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