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Ohio State Football: True Freshmen Who Need to Make an Instant Impact in 2016

Ohio State will field a very young team when it kicks off its 2016 campaign against Bowling Green this September, and with so many holes in the current depth chart, true freshmen Austin Mack, Michael Jordan and Nick Bosa have a big opportunity to make an impact this fall.

The Buckeyes, who are replacing eight starters on each side of the ball, wrapped up spring practice last month and are bracing for summer conditioning and fall camp. That's when head coach Urban Meyer and the coaching staff will cement their depth chart and determine who will see the field for a potential Big Ten title and playoff run.

Those championship aspirations will be easier to achieve if these three players acclimate to the collegiate level right out of the gate.


Austin Mack, Wide Receiver

Ohio State lost the players responsible for over 80 percent of its receiving yards in 2016 with the graduations and early departures of wide receivers Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall, running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Nick Vannett. 

In desperate need of perimeter playmaking ability, Austin Mack could provide a huge boost to a depleted wide receiver corps in 2016. 

The former 4-star wideout graduated high school early to take part in winter conditioning and spring practice, and that extra time paid off for both him and Ohio State. Mack showed an exceptional tenacity and work ethic during workouts, and that extended to the field when spring camp opened.

He was so impressive that he had Meyer envisioning big things in the fall.

"Austin Mack is going to play next year," Meyer said, according to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod. "It's two days and I know it's too early to say that, which I have a tendency to over-evaluate guys and get too excited about them, but he's doing fantastic."

The wide receiver room will get a bit crowded when Noah Brown, Corey Smith and Curtis Samuel work their way back into full speed, but Mack did enough to prove he has what it takes to compete at this level. 


Michael Jordan, Offensive Guard

It takes a special kind of talent for a true freshman to win a starting job before the season starts. The intricacies of the pass- and run-blocking schemes, paired with the increased physicality from the high school level, make for a very difficult transition.

It usually takes a year for young linemen to adjust, but Michael Jordan, the 4-star standout from Canton, Michigan, has made quick work of getting up to speed.

Like Mack, Jordan enrolled early to participate in spring drills, and that's where he made his surprising surge up the depth chart. After lining up at tackle in high school, Jordan transitioned to the interior as a potential backup for Demetrius Knox at right guard. 

But instead of settling in as a reserve, he created a position battle and got the best of Knox by the end of spring.

New Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa talked about Jordan's unexpected rise, according to Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.

I don't know how to put that in words, because I wouldn't have expected that. We knew he was a talented young man, but until you get out here and the speed of the game, and how he adjusts to the speed of the game, he's adjusted really quickly.

For a freshman who should still be in high school, who graduated early to be here at this level of football, doing the things he's doing? I'm surprised and impressed at that.


Dwayne Haskins, Quarterback

This time last week, Dwayne Haskins wouldn't have appeared on this list, but one stroke of bad luck shows how important he is to Ohio State in 2016.

News broke on Wednesday that third-string quarterback Stephen Collier tore his ACL and would miss the 2016 season. That injury will likely thrust Dwayne Haskins into the third spot on the depth chart behind J.T. Barrett and Joe Burrow.

Meyer heaped high praise on the 4-star quarterback on national signing day, who's more in the mold of Cardale Jones as a pocket passer than a dual threat like J.T. Barrett.

But Ohio State fans are well aware of how important it is to have depth at the quarterback position. In 2014, the Buckeyes were down to their third quarterback in Jones when they hit the postseason, and all he did was beat Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon on the way to the program's first national title since 2002.

Unless disaster strikes, Ohio State won't need to call Haskins' number this fall, unless it's at the tail end of a blowout. But the Buckeyes know better than any team in the country that having three game-ready quarterbacks can be the difference between a championship run and a late-season collapse. 


All recruiting information via 247 Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Joe Paterno Was Allegedly Told of Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse by Child in 1976

Former Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach Joe Paterno was allegedly informed by a child about sexual misconduct by defensive assistant Jerry Sandusky all the way back in 1976, according to details of a court order released to PennLive.com's Charles Thompson.

The documents, which are part of Penn State's ongoing insurance case regarding Sandusky settlements, say "a child allegedly reported to PSU's head coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky."

Paterno—who died in 2012, two months after being fired by Penn State amid the Sandusky controversy—maintained he had no knowledge of any previous acts. An investigation uncovered that former assistant Mike McQueary approached Paterno and claimed to have seen Sandusky molesting a child in a Penn State shower. Paterno reported the events to his superiors, but the incident was never reported to authorities.

The court order released Thursday indicated there were additional reports of misconduct by Sandusky in 1987 and 1988. One such incident allegedly found its way to Penn State's athletic director at the time, Jim Tarman. It's unclear if Tarman, who retired in 1993, ever took action. 

"There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU," Judge Gary Glazer wrote, per Thompson.

Sandusky was perhaps Paterno's most loyal assistant during his tenure at State College. He began as a defensive line coach in 1969, served as a linebackers coach from 1970 to 1976 and then was the defensive coordinator from 1977 until his retirement in 1999. Paterno and Sandusky won two national championships and went undefeated four times together.

The Sandusky scandal all but ruined Paterno's national reputation. Once viewed as a bastion of what is good about college sports, he has been pilloried despite protests from his family. Wick Sollers, the attorney from the Paterno family, released a statement Thursday denying the former coach acted inappropriately, per Thompson:

Over the past four-and-a-half years Joe Paterno's conduct has been scrutinized by an endless list of investigators and attorneys.

Through all of this review there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct by Coach Paterno. To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate.

An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno remains major college football's winningest coach with 409 victories. The NCAA reinstated 111 of his wins in 2015 after having taken them away as part of sanctions against Penn State following the Sandusky scandal.

Paterno was never charged with a crime.


Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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Kirby Smart Is the Biggest Threat to Knock Nick Saban, Alabama from Atop SEC

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Had there been a glass of water involved, University of Georgia coach Kirby Smart could have done a spit take earlier this week when asked about a comment he made during national signing day.

"I said it would be fun?” he blurted about recruiting against his former boss, Nick Saban, during the Southeastern Conference spring coaches teleconference with reporters. “Oh man, I hope I didn't say it would be fun.

"I don't look forward to that because I know Nick does a great job in recruiting. He's very relentless. He does a really good job, and they have a great product to sell, so it’s a tough one.”

Actually, the same could have been said the other way around, as for years Smart has had the reputation of being one of college football’s best recruiters. He had the advantage of doing so for arguably the sport’s best coach and helped create Alabama’s ongoing dynasty but now brings the same enthusiasm to his alma mater.

That’s going to be a problem for Alabama, the reigning national champions and first repeat SEC champions in nearly 20 years.

While Saban likes to say, “I sort of end up driving the bus” to describe his program, Smart was the closest thing he ever had to a co-pilot. At minimum, the new head coach was in the front seat for most of the past decade after having initially been hired to be someone who could be developed and move up the ranks. 

Smart definitely did that, having signed on at LSU in 2004 as a defensive backs coach and followed Saban to both the Miami Dolphins in 2006 and Tuscaloosa in 2007, where a year later he became the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator.

In 2009, he won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, and three years later, he earned a similar honor from the American Football Coaches Association.

But of all the assistant coaches Saban’s had over the years, Smart’s the one who came closest to thinking the same way, which was a big reason for Alabama’s consistent defensive success during an era that saw radical changes to the game.

Anyone who wants to understand Saban’s attention to detail only needs to go back and watch the final couple of minutes of the 2011 title game against LSU, when Alabama was ahead 21-0 and reserve linebacker Alex Watkins jumped offside. Even though the outcome was no longer in doubt, he went ballistic along the sideline.

About an hour after the game ended at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a reporter asked Saban if the competitive fire still burned as hot as when he was a player or graduate assistant. What do you think?” he deadpanned, drawing laughter from the room.

“To me that's probably the greatest feature I've learned or will take with me when I become a head coach, is you have to be demanding,” Smart said just before Alabama destroyed Notre Dame for the 2012 title. “You have to be able to confront people if they're not doing their job or not doing it the way you want it. It's hard sometimes. Just like asking these players to be leaders to go in front of their peers and challenge a guy, that's tough, and these guys have done it. 

“Coach Saban does it and it flows down into our organization. He's been a great asset to me, and I'll take a lot of things with me if I ever get the opportunity.”

Put those traits together, and there’s only one final ingredient needed for a college coach to be successful, and that's location, which applies to both name recognition and recruiting.

Even though it hasn’t claimed a crown since 1980, Georgia is on the short list of programs that could, if not should, be in the title hunt every year. Moreover, the state has such an impressive level of talent that if Smart is able to lock down the borders and keep more of the top prospects from going elsewhere, he’ll have an instant national power.

According to the NFL, during opening weekend of the 2015 season the most players on active rosters were, in order, Florida (204), California (203), Texas (181) and Georgia (114). Georgia was also third on the list of NFL players per capita (one per 84,979 residents).

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had 34 players in the league, which was impressive but nowhere near the program’s potential, as the majority of top prospects had gone elsewhere. Via the 247Sports' composite rankings, Georgia landed just two of the top 10 in-state players in its most recent recruiting class, which is typical.

When Alabama visited Sanford Stadium during the 2015 season, and left with a resounding 38-10 victory, the Crimson Tide roster boasted 14 players from the Peach State, including Kenyan Drake, Dillon Lee, Geno Matias-Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dakota Ball and Adam Griffith

Granted, Smart wasn’t considered the primary recruiter for all of them, but he was considered Alabama’s front man in the state and seemingly had connections everywhere. It helped lead to signing Blake Sims, Austin Shepherd, Nick Perry and Shawn Burgess-Becker.

Some of his best in-state signings have included Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey and Rashaan Evans. 

"It's not me against him," Smart said about Saban. "It's very rare that Georgia and Alabama are the only two teams recruiting a kid. If we’re on a kid, everyone on the SEC is. It's never me against Saban, and I have too much respect for him to say that anyway. I never felt that way.”

Nevertheless, the two programs went head-to-head over numerous players in the 2016 class, and from here it’ll probably only get harder for Alabama to pluck players from across the border. Saban considers anything within a five-hour drive to be prime recruiting territory, and both Atlanta and Athens are well within that radius.

That’s why Smart’s the coach Alabama should be the most concerned with—maybe not this year but definitely down the road—and helps explain Saban recently telling CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd: “Personally, Georgia, if it’s not the best job in the conference, it certainly should be.”

Yes, LSU’s Les Miles won a national championship and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn did as an offensive coordinator. Yet until proven otherwise, Saban clearly has the upper hand against them.

Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss has won two straight against Saban. However, the Crimson Tide bounced back and won the SEC West in both cases.

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain has already shown he’s a very good coach at Florida, which, like Georgia, is annually among the top programs in the nation when it comes to football revenue. But Smart’s the better recruiter.

Even though Smart has yet to be a head coach during a game and Saban's still undefeated against his former assistants, that'll make a difference over the long haul and at least in part come at Alabama’s expense.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

A.J. Dillon Displays Freak Athleticism, Will Be 'All-Purpose Back' at Michigan

Athletes like A.J. Dillon don't go unnoticed very long when it comes to the college football recruiting scene.

Although the 2017 prospect admits that his native New England region isn't exactly a spot that routinely comes under the microscope for high-level coaching staffs, he managed to land on the radar for several of America's most marquee programs.

"People kind of sleep on the area because they don't think we play against good competition," Dillon, a junior at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, told Bleacher Report.

For a second straight spring, the running back dismissed that notion while in attendance for The Opening's New Jersey regional event. He returned to New York Jets facilities Sunday and repeated as high-scorer in combine-like testing procedures that measure vertical jump, shuttle run, power-ball toss and the 40-yard dash.

Standing 6'1", 239 pounds, Dillon clocked a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash and a 4.29 in the shuttle. His athleticism (38.3-inch jump) and strength (40-foot toss) were also on display, earning him SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) ratings MVP honors for a second-straight year.

This phenomenal effort helped Dillon secure a coveted invitation to The Opening national finals held in July at Nike's world headquarters:

His intimidating blend of size and speed attracted scholarship offers from across the country. Nearby Boston College began recruiting him as a freshman, and Dillon ultimately focused on five schools as finalists this spring.

After weighing opportunities at Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia and Wisconsin, he announced intentions to play at Michigan on March 28:

After a visit to Ann Arbor less than a week shy of his decision, Dillon determined that the Wolverines presented a perfect fit.

"Michigan has the three As—atmosphere, athletics and academics," he said. "It's one of the best public schools in the world. It has one of the most talked-about football programs because of what [head coach Jim] Harbaugh is doing and improving the team from five wins to 10 wins last year. Those people in Ann Arbor are supportive of all their athletic programs which really creates a sense of camaraderie." 

Considering Dillon's physical stature and freakish athletic traits, there's plenty of buzz about his ability to fill multiple roles in college. Some project linebacker as an ideal landing spot and, considering his consistent communication with Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown and linebackers/special teams coach Chris Partridge, there's a sentiment that's where he may end up at Michigan.

According to Dillon, that won't be the case.

"I'm going to be an all-purpose back," he said. "I'm not going to be just a third-down back or playing linebacker. I'll be lined up in different situations—carrying the ball, running routes and pass-blocking."

His high school career certainly points to immense promise in the offensive backfield.

Dillon, the grandson of former All-American Notre Dame Fighting Irish receiver and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Tom Gatewood, gained 1,887 yards on the ground last fall (10. 1 yards per carry). He rushed for 3,255 yards and 47 touchdowns during the past two seasons.

Rated No. 24 nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, Dillon is one of three Wolverines pledges who land in the top 50 of that list, along with O'Maury Samuels (No. 20) and Kurt Taylor (No. 47).

Michigan signed Kareem Walker, the No. 4 overall 2016 running back recruit, last cycle. He enrolled early and participated in the program's spring camp.

While Dillon acknowledged a crowded situation could be brewing in the Wolverines backfield, roster depth won't cause him to doubt his potential impact.

"At the end of the day, I do want to get the most touches I possibly can, but I believe the coaches are going to put us in the best situation to succeed," he said. "[Running backs coach Tyrone] Wheatley, who was a big back himself, and the rest of the staff know how they want to use us. I feel confident it's not going to be a situation where I'm sitting on the bench forever. We're all going to get touches in different areas."

Dillon fits the bill as a big, powerful back who could plow through defenses when weather turns nasty deep into the Big Ten Conference season. He believes several pivotal late-fall matchups await Michigan, and the 2017 class will be ready to step up when called upon.

"I can't even describe it or put it into words, but we all have this feeling that something special is going to happen there," Dillon said. "You've got a lot of great athletes all over the field in this recruiting class who are ready to get together and combine their talents at Michigan. There are more on the way too."


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. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Aaron Moorehead, Texas A&M WR Coach, Apologizes for Twitter Rant

Texas A&M wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead issued an apology Thursday for his late-night rant Wednesday, which was seemingly aimed at Tate Martell, who decommitted from A&M on Wednesday. 

"Last night, I made some impromptu comments on social media out of frustration and out of a true love for Texas A&M Football," Moorehead wrote on Twitter. "I want to apologize to all of the young men in high school who work so hard to achieve their dreams of playing college football & I wish them all well wherever they end up. 

"I also want to apologize to Coach [Kevin] Sumlin and the Aggie Family for not representing our university the right way. I need to do better and I will."

Moorehead, 35, sent out multiple tweets Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning bemoaning a lack of "loyalty." Many viewed his initial tweet as being aimed at touted quarterback Martell, who announced on Twitter he was reopening his recruitment. Martell joined an ever-growing string of quarterbacks to back away from the Aggies, as Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray each left the school after last season.

The 5'10" Martell is considered the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback and No. 33 player in the 2017 class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Moorehead denied his initial tweet was about Martell but added fuel to the fire by doubling down on his comments:

That only served to make things worse, as Moorehead's comments apparently cost the Aggies another recruit. Mannie Netherly, the 27th-ranked receiver in 247Sports' 2017 composite rankings, took to Twitter and announced he was decommitting because of Moorehead.

"After tonight I see what kind of person my 'future coach' is & I myself don't wanna play for someone like that so without further ado I would like to announce that I am decommiting [sic] from Texas A&M," Netherly wrote. 

Sumlin also addressed the controversy Thursday, indicating Moorehead's Twitter privileges may be on the outs, per ESPN.com:

Let me say this: I was made aware of it and I've addressed it with [Moorehead] and we're still working through it. He's taken responsibility for his actions and then we'll move on from there. Basically, that discussion has been had and obviously Aaron has taken responsibility for what he did. ... We'll see what happens from here on out.

Our policy has been if you abuse the privilege, you lose the privilege. I'll put it that way.

Apparently, that's what Moorehead gets for not following the first rule of Twitter: Never tweet. Now it appears he won't be able to. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Best 2017 NFL Draft Prospect for Every Power 5 College Football Team

A few months away from the college football regular season, we already enjoy a relatively clear outlook on each power-conference team's best 2017 NFL draft prospect.

There will be late-rising and breakout players, but most of the following talents have starred at their respective programs for the last two or three years.

Remember, though, NFL franchises aren't looking strictly at stats, so a team's best prospect is not necessarily the biggest producer on a given roster. Additionally, the top prospect may not be a college's first product that's selected.

Ordered alphabetically, this list focuses strictly on draft-eligible players—which includes underclassmen.

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College Football's All-NFL Ready Team for 2016

The NFL draft has come and gone, meaning we can put aside—at least for a little bit—all of the projections about who from the college game will make it in the pros.

Yeah, not likely. The NFL just plucked away more than 250 of college's best players from the 2015 season, and already attention has shifted to the 2017 draft. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is among many who have published way-too-early mock drafts for next year, and that's only part of the wave of projections related to the next crop of college stars who will soon be on their way to the pros.

Dislike it all you want, it's the reality of the relationship between college football and the NFL. We might as well embrace it however we can by putting together an All-NFL Ready team.

This list is comprised of current college football players who, based on their talents and measurables, would have been drafted quite early this past weekend if they were allowed to be picked.

We've picked one player from every major position, limiting the selections to those who were not eligible for the 2016 draft. That means no seniors or redshirt juniors, players who opted to return to school to improve their draft stock.

Being eligible for the 2017 draft isn't a requirement, though. If a freshman or sophomore is the best NFL-level talent at his position in college, then he'll be on this list over a junior.

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Hugh Freeze Comments on Laremy Tunsil's Alleged Texts with Ole Miss' John Miller

As more information about former Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil's alleged social media hack before last week's NFL draft comes out, Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze has broken his silence about the situation. 

Speaking to the media Thursday, per Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Freeze said he knows "nothing" about the information that came out last week. Freeze added he "was shocked living it in real time like everyone else."  

Per Sallee, Freeze also said the Ole Miss administration has been working aggressively to resolve the situation.

Per Daniel Paulling of the Clarion-Ledger, Freeze admitted that patience in a situation of this magnitude is more important than getting a quick answer:

I'm told we made a lot of progress, but the facts are always more important than speed in our public response, which are difficult for me sometimes because I want to respond. Our administration will continue to work with all the parties to get the answers and reach a conclusion as soon as possible, which we're hopeful that's coming quickly.

The big bombshell involving Tunsil and Mississippi last week involved an alleged text message conversation posted on Instagram in which he appears to be asking Ole Miss assistant athletic director for football operations John Miller for money, per Chelsea Gates of 120 Sports:

After being drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th overall pick, Tunsil told reporters that he would "have to say yeah" when asked if he ever took money from a coach while playing for the Rebels, per Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

The NCAA suspended Tunsil for seven games in 2015 for receiving impermissible benefits. 

After Tunsil's alleged Instagram hack occurred, Mississippi issued a statement that it would "aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC" during the investigation, per Paulling.  

Freeze went on to say that he is "not in the process of the fact-finding. I’ll be quick to defend us when we know the facts. I don’t at the present time," per Sallee.

Mississippi has become a prime destination for recruits since Freeze took over in 2012, including having the No. 6 class in 247Sports' 2016 composite rankings. The situation involving Tunsil has raised numerous red flags, with more potentially to come after last week's social-media fiasco. 

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Expansion and Title Game Talk Are Not Worth It for the Big 12

The Big 12 survived the last wave of realignment in college football, and now the waters are getting choppy again.

Just when the conference was stable once again, it's toying with the idea of causing a storm that could put it at risk for its biggest loss yet.

Despite concerns from several of its coaches and its biggest charter member, the Big 12 has discussed expansion and the return of a conference championship game during meetings in Phoenix. 

The chain reactions that could easily arise from either move—the addition of two more teams and a championship game in football—would put the league at greater risk to the financial and competitive problems it's seeking to avoid with these changes.

According to Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, analytics firm Navigate Research gave a presentation on Wednesday to the Big 12 that "concluded the conference would improve its playoff chances by 10 to 15 percent if it expands to 12 teams, drops from nine conference games to eight and adds a championship game."

Navigate ran thousands of season simulations and came up with that figure, which was more than twice the number Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby gave the league's athletic directors and head coaches earlier in the week, per Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

On the surface, that sounds like a no-brainer for the Big 12. Navigate, whose past clients include ESPN, the NFL, Major League Soccer and the United States Olympic Committee, is a trustworthy source telling the league that it's mathematically better off if it expands.

However, that conclusion seems odd, given the sample size. After all, the College Football Playoff has only been around for two years. The playoff is selected by 13 individuals—who could vary from year to year, as we've already seen—and their own individual criteria.

As Matt Scalici of AL.com put it Wednesday, it's hard to project the actions of a two-year-old system:

Right now, with the 10-team round robin, the Big 12 is batting .500 when it comes to getting a team into the playoff. The league had a shot at being 2-for-2 in its current state if it had done the painfully obvious thing of declaring the Baylor Bears the champion in 2014 by virtue of the head-to-head win over the TCU Horned Frogs.

If that happened in 2014, in the words of Baylor head coach Art Briles (via ESPN Insider Brett McMurphy), there wouldn't be any expansion talk right now:

But the debate rages on, and it centers on the ideal of a "13th data point"—a conference title game like the other four power conferences have.

Get to 12 teams, split them into two divisions and bring back the old Big 12 Championship Game. The Big 12 would be on equal footing with everyone else in the race for the playoff. 

But of all conferences, the Big 12 should know that having a conference championship game can do more harm than good for a national title contender, as Peter Berkes and Jason Kirk of SB Nation wrote earlier this week:

The bones of many BCS contenders were scattered in the old Big 12 title game. Upsets between 1996 and 2010 cost the Big 12 four BCS title appearances and nearly put three others on ice.

Since the Big 12 ended its title game in 2010, the conference would've made a hypothetical Playoff in 2011 and 2012, in addition to 2015. That would be three out of five years, or exactly as frequently as the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12.

The memory of the 2014 snub is fresh, but this is silly. It might help sometimes, but there's also something to be said for sitting at home during conference championship weekend and letting other contenders be the ones taking the risks.

The danger of getting that 13th data point to appease a large committee made of humans is even greater if the Big 12 doesn't expand and still brings in a title game at 10 teams. New legislation passed in January allows the conference to do just that.

In a round-robin system though, that would mean there would be a weird rematch on conference championship weekend that already had a clear winner. Last year, that would've meant a rematch between the 8-1 Oklahoma Sooners and 7-2 Oklahoma State Cowboys, by way of the Cowboys' win over 7-2 TCU.

Beating Oklahoma State again wouldn't have made much of a difference for Oklahoma, who won by 35 on the final weekend of November. If anything, all the rematch would've done is opened up a chance at disaster. The Cowboys get their revenge in a title game, and no one goes to the playoff from the Big 12.

The round robin in its current state would avoid that, and several Big 12 coaches have already spoken out against the idea of expansion for similar reasons.

"Everybody wants to say you have to have expansion so you have a better chance of playing for a national title. They should try to play everybody every year," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said last month, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). "I like the model that we have now, even though it's tougher."

So while it's tough to definitively say that the conference would be better off in a playoff race with a title game, what is really behind the expansion efforts?

According to George Schroeder of USA Today, Bowlsby has said "if the Big 12 does nothing, it will be left behind financially by several other Power Five leagues."

The problem is that none of the expansion candidates for the Big 12 right now are true heavy hitters. If the league wants to catch up financially to the likes of the money-printing SEC and Big Ten, then any pairing of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn aren't going to make up the difference.

More members would also force the Big 12 to ask for more TV money from ESPN and Fox in a restructured deal. And live sports on TV isn't the money-making enterprise it was the last time realignment was a hot topic. As Mandel wrote in January, this could the worst time to start a network, especially with the lack of national fan bases in the current crop of expansion candidates.

Even worse, if the Big 12 pushes for expansion this summer, it could potentially lose its biggest member in Texas. According to Jason Williams of Cincinnati.com, Texas is reluctant to expand and is pressuring TCU and Texas Tech to vote "no" with it. 

Why? Per Williams, the Big 12 has talked about converting Texas' Longhorn Network into a bigger Big 12 Network with ESPN. Texas would still get more money than the rest of the league, but Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman says that the Longhorns would balk at that idea:

I still see no willingness on Texas’ part to fold the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 network, even if the league gives the Longhorns an extra $15 million share to cover its LHN income, because, the Texas source said, “we would get the same money, but lose our branding and having our own channel? Not very compelling. If we get rid of LHN, it will be to change conferences, in my opinion.”

If the Big 12 pushes to expand and tries to get Texas to give up its network for the greater good of the conference, then the biggest athletic program in the league could go elsewhere.

That would be a monstrous loss for the conference, and no combination of current expansion candidates can fill that gap.

So, as it stands right now, the Big 12 has these options on the table as it looks to come to a conclusion this summer:

  1. Expand to 12 teams and add a conference championship game, potentially angering Texas. This would improve the league's CFP playoff chances by only a few percentage points at best, as the power of the conference wouldn't dramatically increase with the addition of the current candidates.

  2. Stay at 10 teams and add a conference championship game. With the round-robin schedule, this could do more harm than good as it would create odd rematches at the end of the season for games that have already been decided (If there's a three-way tie, a conference title game isn't going to solve that problem, either).

  3. Remain at 10 teams and hold off on a title game. Several of the league's coaches have already voiced their favor of this system, and it didn't cost the conference a College Football Playoff contender last year.

The Big 12 isn't magically going to catch up to other leagues financially with the addition of a BYU or a Cincinnati. A conference title game isn't necessarily going to be a net positive, as its recent history suggests.

The league should listen to its coaches and stand still for now. Besides, it's just starting to get used to this whole "stability" thing.


Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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4-Star QB Sam Ehlinger Trains with Future Rivals, Says Texas Is 'On Its Way Up'

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger refused to allow his pursuit of a shot at national Elite 11 MVP end in Texas.

After walking away from regional action April 3 in Houston without an invitation to attend Elite 11 finals, the Lone Star State standout set sights on a cross-country journey. Ehlinger, a Texas Longhorns commit from nearby Westlake High School, traveled alongside his mother to New Jersey last weekend and did his best to prove he belongs among America's premier passers.

"There's nothing better than competing against the best, so I wouldn't want to miss out on that opportunity," he told Bleacher Report.

Far away from home, throwing to a wide receiver group made up of complete strangers, the 6'1 ½", 215-pound gunslinger got it done:

"He built on a good performance in Houston and looked even better today," Student Sports president of sports Brian Stumpf said Sunday after extending the invitation.

Ehlinger will be joined in Los Angeles by 23 contemporaries who also aim to stake their claim as top quarterback prospect. He recently spent time training with two of those competitors, working under the tutelage of acclaimed quarterback coach Steve Clarkson.

Fellow coveted recruits Tate Martell and Shawn Robinson joined Ehlinger for the action, placing three of the country's finest offensive prospects in one drill:

Ehlinger is rated No. 6 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports composite rankings. Martell and Robinson sit at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, on that list.

"It's awesome for the top dual-threat guys to get together, become good friends, compete and make each other better," Ehlinger said. "That's exactly what we did. I got to know them pretty well and they're really cool guys. I think that kind of experience pushes us all to improve."

Robinson is committed to TCU, a Big 12 opponent of Texas. Martell spent the past nine months pledged to Texas A&M but reopened his recruitment May 4 and will consider several suitors moving forward.

Given the potential of each passer and a high level of fanfare surrounding their recruitments, it wouldn't be a surprise to see this trio someday compete for postseason success and personal awards.

Ehlinger understands everything changes at kickoff regardless of the rapport they've established as high school stars.

"We're friends now and the goal is to help make each other more prepared for college," he said. "But once we get on opposite sides of the field, we're not friends anymore. It's going to be fun."

Unless Martell lands in the Big 12—a development that appears highly improbable at this point—Ehlinger is far more likely to stare across the sidelines at Robinson. The Longhorns' past two matchups against TCU were mighty ugly, as the Horned Frogs outscored Texas by a combined score of 98-17 in lopsided victories.

Despite recent struggles in Austin, Ehlinger feels things are trending in the right direction for a team counting on young talent to deliver. Head coach Charlie Strong, carrying an 11-14 record through two seasons with the Longhorns, will face mounting pressure if his program fails to make strides in 2016.

"It's the University of Texas and nothing can take that away no matter what," Ehlinger said. "Once Coach Strong turns it around, we're going to be good for a long time. It's going to happen this year. People are going to start to see this team is on its way up."

Offensive efficiency has been a primary concern throughout Strong's tenure, particularly when it comes to the Longhorns passing attack. Texas collected just 4,350 passing yards (174 per game) during the past two years, with 23 total touchdown tosses and 17 interceptions.

Freshman Shane Buechele, an Elite 11 finalist last summer, enrolled early in Austin for spring practice and figures to be a major factor behind center for years to come. Ehlinger has monitored the young playmaker's progress and looks forward to fighting for reps.

"Shane is a great player," he said. "He's very accurate, has an outstanding arm and I'm just going to feel blessed to be able to compete against him. He's going to make me better, I'm going to make him better. I believe in myself and I believe in him. The best man is going to play and I want to play at the University of Texas. Whatever is going to make the program better is what they're going to do."

Ehlinger, who has been working to recruit other top Texas prospects to the Longhorns' 2017 recruiting class, believes challenges such as the Elite 11 put him in better position to chase opportunities down the line.

"You learn every time you come to one of these events," he sad. "I've applied what they taught me in Houston—relaxing my upper body, focusing on consistency with my feet—and I did better with it. That's always the goal."

Ehlinger, who also holds scholarship offers from Florida State and Houston, has dominated since taking over as starter at Westlake. He torched defenses for 6,133 passing yards, 2,082 rushing yards and 103 total touchdowns during his sophomore and junior campaigns.

"He's obviously been as productive as you could want from a high school player on the field," Stumpf said. "Combined with the physical talent he showed today, it was a no-brainer for us to include him in that final 24 for Elite 11 competition in June."


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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Schools to Watch for After 5-Star QB Tate Martell Decommits from Texas A&M

One of the nation’s elite quarterbacks is back on the open market, after 5-star passer Tate Martell decommitted from Texas A&M on Wednesday evening. 

The 5’10”, 203-pounder out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas had been committed to the Aggies since last August.

As SB Nation’s Bud Elliott detailed, the majority of the top quarterbacks in the 2017 class are already committed—which means that Martell figures to be a hot commodity since he’s one of the few marquee prospects left at the game’s most important positions.

Martell, who rates as the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback and the nation’s No. 33 player overall, had already stated his intention to take all of his official visits last month, as noted by Taylor Hamm of GigEm247.

Which schools are ones to watch for Martell now that he has officially reopened his recruitment?

Let’s take a look at a few schools that have already laid the groundwork to be major players in his recruitment.



When Martell originally committed to Texas A&M, his relationship with then-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was a critical factor that led him to jump into the Aggies class.

However, as Brian Perroni of 247Sports notes, Spavital has moved on to become the offensive coordinator at California.

The Golden Bears offered Martell back in February, shortly after Spavital’s arrival in Berkeley.

The next step for the Bears is getting Martell on campus. Considering the success the Bears enjoyed with former passer and 2016’s top overall NFL draft choice Jared Goff, the combination of a quarterback-friendly offense and familiarity with Spavital could be the perfect combination to help lure Martell to Berkeley.


Ohio State

One program that was already making a push for Martell was Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State.

Martell took a visit to Columbus in late March, and head coach Urban Meyer and his staff laid out the red carpet for him, as detailed by Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.

There are a couple of other factors working in the Buckeyes’ favor with Martell.

For starters, Meyer already holds a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Haskell Garrett—who is a teammate of Martell’s at Bishop Gorman.

Additionally, as Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports noted, they are also trending for 5-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey—who is another former teammate of Martell’s and one of his closest friends. 

While it’s unlikely Martell makes another quick decision, the Buckeyes have already built a strong foundation to pursue Martell in hopes of landing his pledge in the end.



Similar to Texas A&M’s predicament of now searching for a quarterback, Oregon is searching for a quality passer after losing a pledge from 4-star signal-caller Ryan Kelley earlier in the week.

According to Justin Hopkins of DuckTerritory, Martell figures to be one of the main options that Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff turn to in hopes of filling that hole in their 2017 class.

Considering that Martell has racked up more than 6,000 yards of total offense and scored 86 total touchdowns over the last two seasons, the Ducks spread uptempo offense appears to be a perfect fit for Martell’s skill set. 

Getting him on campus in the coming months will be a priority for Helfrich and his staff.



One of the first schools to offer Martell a scholarship back in September 2014 was Pac-12 power USC.

Also, the Trojans have yet to land a signal-caller in their 2017 class.

The Trojans are heavily in the mix with Lindsey, and that could play a role in Martell’s choice if he were to ultimately land at USC.

Similar to the Buckeyes having Garrett already in the fold, the Trojans currently hold a pledge from Gorman 4-star safety Bubba Bolden.

However, there’s a lot of work to do for head coach Clay Helton and his staff in order to become a serious player for Martell moving forward.


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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SEC Extra Points: Recruiting Debacle Won't Cool Kevin Sumlin's Hot Seat

While you were sleeping, Texas A&M's 2017 recruiting class crumbled.

First, there was the decommitment of 5-star quarterback Tate Martell—a dual-threat star from Henderson, Nevada, who had been pledged to the program since Aug. 20, 2015.

Immediately after the decommitment of the unquestioned star of the upcoming class, Aggie wide receiver coach Aaron Moorehead issued a subtweet that seemingly could be connected to Martell's announcement.

Later, he clarified that the tweet wasn't directed at Martell.

There was more damage to come though, because early Thursday morning, 4-star wide receiver Mannie Neatherly dumped the Aggies and specifically referenced Moorehead's tweets.

Later, 5-star uncommitted wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey announced that he'll no longer be considering the program.

If you hear loud noises coming from the Texas A&M football complex this morning, chances are it's from head coach Kevin Sumlin storming through the building, slamming doors and trying to get control of his program.

That's a big problem, because Sumlin enters 2016 on one of the hottest seats in the country after his quarterbacks struggled for a second straight year, the offense finished eighth in the SEC in yards per play (5.59) and former 5-star quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen decided to transfer during a two-week span in December 2015.

Sumlin has made some positive moves this offseason, including the hiring of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and the signing of graduate-transfer quarterback Trevor Knight. But the appearance of a program that's out of control is precisely what heated up his seat to "scorching" last December, and now he has something similar to deal with.

You can't have assistant coaches taking what should be private issues public on social media. Adults are supposed to be the adults in the recruiting business, and any adult should recognize that what they put out on social media is essentially a self-managed public relations outlet that should be managed as such (same rule applies for soon-to-be NFL draft picks like Laremy Tunsil).

A head coach has to have control of the message. Whether that's fair to Sumlin—who likely wasn't with Moorehead at 11:36 p.m. on Wednesday night when the first tweet was sent—really doesn't matter.

Sumlin has to have a set philosophy and guidelines on how his assistants are supposed to handle themselves on social media, since social media is now even more public than other events that coaches typically attend, like booster club meetings.

A program that is out of control is the last thing Sumlin needs, and the events of Wednesday night/Thursday morning give that impression yet again.


Blessing In Disguise

Former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley didn't exactly leave Butch Jones a loaded roster when Jones took over prior to the 2013 season, and building that depth has been Jones' top priority since signing on the dotted line.

The Vols will enter the 2016 season as one of the deepest and most experienced teams in the country, and injuries to several potential contributors created even more depth for Jones to work with.

"Even though we had 24 individuals out for the Orange and White game, that was a tremendous opportunity for other individuals to put their football identity on video," Jones said prior to an alumni event at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Wednesday. "We have what's called a 'football identity video' that's put together for every player in our program, and they are constantly putting their identity on that video."

One of the players who stepped up in the face of massive roster issues this spring is wide receiver Jeff George.

The 6'6", 190-pound junior college transfer looked like a red-zone force in the spring game when he caught four passes for 28 yards and caught a jump ball for a touchdown from Quinten Dormady. 

"I thought Jeff George—the way he concluded and ended spring—will really provide confidence and momentum moving forward this summer," Jones said. He's one of those individuals who is going to stay up here in the month of May."

The Vols return a loaded defensive front; stars at linebacker and in the defensive backfield in Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton, respectively; a veteran quarterback in Joshua Dobbs; two stars in running backs Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd; and some talented wide receivers in Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Preston Williams.

Role players took on more responsibility this spring, and Tennessee's football program will be better for it.


No Pressure

Florida head coach Jim McElwain isn't one to shy away from having a little fun with the media. 

Whether it comes to discussing the golf game of reporters or his latest creations on the Big Green Egg (both of those things happened on Wednesday's teleconference), the second-year head coach of the Gators has established himself as one of the most enjoyable coaches in the conference in media settings.

He's also as self-deprecating as they come.

When asked if he cares that Tennessee will likely be picked to win the SEC East—a division McElwain won in his first season in Gainesville—he knocked it out of the park.

"I'm sure that they should be and should beat the heck out of us," McElwain joked. "We're just going to be lucky to show up."

This topic is going to be brought up quite a bit over the next four or five months. The Gators surprised the world by taking the division last year, but quarterback issues and the absence of proven playmakers outside of suspended wide receiver Antonio Callaway make it difficult to pick the Gators again.

In reality, football players and coaches live inside a bubble and only really care about offseason predictions when they get brought up outside the confines of the facility.

"I don't really get caught up in that," McElwain said. "Obviously, that's not my gig. We've got a lot of work here to do to get our organization in line, and that's the fun part—the preparation."


Change In Style

Gus Malzahn took more of hands-off approach in 2015—his third year as the head coach of the Auburn Tigers.

It didn't work.

The preseason No. 6 team in the country sputtered to a 7-6 record, which landed Malzahn on the hot seat. Something must change, and Malzahn is ditching the CEO approach in order to be more involved with the 2016 Tigers.

"There's a lot of moving parts to be a head coach in our league, and at my core I'm a football coach," Malzahn said on Wednesday night, according to James Crepea of AL.com. "That's what I do best, and so sometimes you can get distracted with other things, and I think the easiest way to answer that is, I'm not going to be distracted with the other things when the season gets here. And I'm going to coach football."

It couldn't hurt.

Malzahn had been much more hands-on with the offense during his entire coaching tenure up until last season and had success with all of them regardless of the style of his quarterback. Rhett Lashlee—a Malzahn protege—will still be the offensive coordinator and work directly with the quarterbacks, but a little more input from the architect of the tempo-based power attack couldn't hurt.

What's more, Malzahn—a former wide receiver at Arkansas and Henderson State—is breaking in a new wide receivers coach after Dameyune Craig left for LSU and former Tiger Kodi Burns stepped in. With youth all over the roster outside, some firsthand lessons from Malzahn could go a long way toward helping Burns evolve as a coach and the young receiving corps to develop.


Quick Outs

  • Tennessee tight end Neiko Creamer will seek a transfer, head coach Butch Jones said at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. "Neiko has worked very hard. We're going to help him find a spot where he fits in and can go and help immediately." Creamer played in one game and didn't make a catch as a redshirt freshman in 2015.
  • Florida quarterback Treon Harris and wide receiver Antonio Callaway haven't been with the team since January, and there's been no movement on their suspensions. "Status quo," McElwain said.
  • Will Muschamp wanted to hire former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore as an adviser. But Lattimore's work with prospective student-athletes through the Marcus Lattimore Foundation made it impossible under NCAA rules. No hard feelings, though. "Marcus is still going to be a part of what we do," Muschamp said. "He's going to be a Gamecock forever."


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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Satellite Camps Will Only Intensify Ohio State-Michigan Rivalry

Having each spent the better part of the past month on the same side in the fight to save satellite camps in college football, Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer have proved to make a formidable tag team.

But now that the NCAA has lifted its three-week long ban of the controversial recruiting practice, the Michigan head coach and his Ohio State counterpart can once again return to the roles they were born to play in the college football world. And if anyone was under the assumption Harbaugh and Meyer would remain unlikely allies past their interest in a common cause, it didn't take long for college football's most famous rivalry to reignite.

In fact, as a result of their recent efforts, the bad blood between the Buckeyes and Wolverines has only intensified.

"We certainly monitor everything," Meyer answered when asked about Michigan this past signing day. "We know everything that everybody's doing."

Having brought satellite camps to the forefront of college football a year ago, Harbaugh hasn't shown any signs of slowing down now that the practice is legal in every conference across the country. After last year's "Swarm Tour" included 10 camps in seven states over an eight-day span, this summer's sequel already possesses 14 planned stops, according to a list compiled by the Detroit News.

But while Harbaugh may be the king of satellite camps, Meyer plans on increasing his participation in the practice this offseason as well. In addition to a previously scheduled camp in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Ohio State will also host a camp at Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas High School, the school confirmed to Bleacher Report earlier this week.

"Ohio State, not surprisingly because it's a national brand, has had great success recruiting in Florida," Meyer said in 2014, when his team hosted practices at St. Thomas Aquinas prior to its postseason appearance in the Orange Bowl. "It's a primary area for us because we have so much experience down here. We know most of these coaches."

Unsurprisingly, Harbaugh would also like to hold a camp at St. Thomas Aquinas, a Buckeyes pipeline program that has sent Joey Bosa, Damon Arnette and Nick Bosa to Columbus in recent years and also happens to be the home of 2017 5-star wideout and Ohio State target Trevon Grimes.

And according to 247Sports' Luke Stampini, Harbaugh would like to do so on the same day the Buckeyes are already planning on.

What a coincidence.

Welcome to college football in 2016, at least as far as the offseason is concerned, where turf wars traditionally fought in private on the recruiting trail are now playing out publicly for all of college football—and its fans—to see.

While it seems unlikely that Ohio State and/or St. Thomas Aquinas would allow Michigan to crash its camp—the high school wouldn't confirm the Wolverines' reported interest when asked—the practice of satellite camps now being widespread has created a fascinating dynamic where prep programs may be forced to choose between rival programs that possess mutual interest in their players.

Harbaugh has already witnessed this firsthand, with Georgia and Kirby Smart wasting little time joining Michigan's previously planned stop in Cedar Grove, Georgia, once the SEC lifted its own ban on satellite camps last week. The reality is one-school camps may be few and far between in the near future, as evidenced by a rumored satellite camp featuring Ohio State, Alabama, USC and TCU, per Zach Barnett of Football Scoop.

But when it comes to the Big Ten's biggest rivalry, the chess game that's become offseason planning gets taken to another level.

St. Thomas Aquinas might feel a loyalty to Meyer given their pre-existing relationship, but what about a school with only loose ties to either program? If Michigan is setting up shop in, say, Texas, what's to stop the Buckeyes staff from asking for an invite—and perhaps more importantly, what's the incentive for the prospective high school to say no to a camp that would in turn feature two of college football's most prominent coaches?

Then again, it's Harbaugh who's much more likely to be the aggressor in such situation. While thus far, Ohio State's only officially announced satellite camps have been rooted in self-interest, Harbaugh's reported attempt to crash the STA camp shows a gamesmanship Meyer has yet to match this offseason.

"We have to remain true to ourselves and who are we and who am I," Meyer said of his recruiting strategy on signing day.

Harbaugh is also the only of the two to cross enemy territory at this point, hosting a camp in Youngstown, Ohio, a year ago. On Wednesday, it was revealed the Wolverines would continue their tradition of camping in the Buckeye State, with the announcement of a Michigan-hosted camp at Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio, on June 9, per WGH assistant coach Doug Sangregorio:

To classify Harbaugh's pattern of setting up camp in Ohio as "shots fired" would be a stretch, given the Wolverines' history of recruiting their bordering state. While Michigan has signed just three prospects from Ohio in two classes since Harbaugh arrived at his alma matter, it would have been naive to believe he wouldn't eventually target Ohio State territory more extensively, given Ohio's fertile recruiting ground.

"Anywhere that the youngster has proven to be highly competitive in the classroom, on the football field and a good citizen we're going to want to take a look at them," Harbaugh said on signing day. "You're allowed to cross state borders in my America—and bring them to here."

Satellite camps have only aided Harbaugh's ability to do that, with stops planned all across the country, from Virginia to Atlanta to Texas and California and most places in between set for this summer. While in the Golden State, it was recently revealed the Wolverines will host a camp at Antioch High School, which just so happens to be the home of 5-star running back and Alabama commit Najee Harris, who recently visited Ohio State.

Will Meyer pull a Harbaugh and try his hand at attempting to attend the camp as well? That remains to be seen.

But as satellite camps run rampant, the possibilities appear endless as The Game is no longer just being played on the last weekend of November in college football's most storied rivalry.


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. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Mannie Netherly Decommits from Texas A&M After WR Coach's Tweets

Class of 2017 4-star wide receiver prospect Mannie Netherly announced on his Twitter that he has decommitted from Texas A&M early Thursday morning:

Netherly is referring to tweets sent out by Texas A&M wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead shortly after 5-star quarterback recruit Tate Martell decommitted from the school on Wednesday, though Moorehead said the tweets weren't about Martell:

The Crosby, Texas, native is the 27th-rated wide receiver prospect in the nation and the 34th-ranked overall recruit in the state, per 247Sports' composite ratings. 

He verbally committed to A&M in November 2015 coming off a junior season in which he recorded 1,002 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, per 247Sports. 

At 6'2", 183 pounds, he has solid height and has his entire senior season to gain some more size to become a more physically imposing player. Yet he still dominated at the quarterback and receiver positions. 

Now that he's officially back in the hunt for a school, Netherly could look at schools like LSU, which he told Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com is "definitely at the top of my list right now right under A&M. I'm 100 percent A&M until anything happens to (Aggies) Coach (Kevin) Sumlin or I change my mind or something like that. LSU is definitely up there."

That something happened on Thursday morning in the form of Moorehead's tweets, which is something head coach Kevin Sumlin needs to address.

With social media becoming more and more prevalent in the sporting world, athletes and coaches alike need to be careful regarding what they post because anyone can see it. That's why a 4-star recruit has decommitted from Texas A&M and why Moorehead might have to answer for his internet actions.


Recruit "star" ratings courtesy 247Sports.

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Tate Martell Decommits from Texas A&M: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Class of 2017 5-star quarterback recruit Tate Martell announced via his Twitter that he has decommited from Texas A&M on Wednesday night:

Martell is the No. 1 rated prospect in the state of Nevada and the top-ranked dual threat quarterback in the nation according to 247 Sports' composite ratings. 

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Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 Commissioner, Comments on Potential Realignment Options

The Big 12 is a conference in crisis. It lacks the growing infrastructure of a conference-owned network thanks to Texas' Longhorn Network, and it's the only remaining Power Five conference without a championship game.

Suggestions for how to fix the problem have been boundless. Coaches have called for the dissolution of the Longhorn Network while imploring the league to look at expansion. At a meeting Wednesday, it appears every possible solution to the problem was discussed.    

"They looked at 14-team scenarios, they looked at a few 16-team scenarios," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "They looked at 12 teams, they looked at 10 teams, they looked at with a playoff, without a playoff. They looked at an eight-game schedule with a strong opponent, an eight-game schedule with a medium opponent. You name a scenario, they've looked at it."

Rittenberg came away thinking expansion is "likely" but couldn't give a timetable. The Big 12 has been mostly treading water since nearly dissolving a half-decade ago, when a last-ditch effort to keep Texas from joining the then-Pac-10 resulted in the Longhorn Network. According to some within the conference, though, that decision has left the Big 12 in a stasis. 

“If we don't eliminate the Longhorn Network and create our own network, they're going to continue to have issues with this league,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said, per Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. “You don't have a Big 12 Network; you have a network within the league that people consider a failure.”

Right now, the Big 12 is stuck at 10 teams, which means it doesn't have a conference championship game. Twelve teams has long been the standard for a conference to have a title game, mostly because all teams within a 12-team conference do not play one another. SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 teams play eight-game conference schedules, with a weight toward a division.

While expansion may seem like the most plausible scenario, Texas is reportedly holding things up. Jason Williams of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Longhorns are working behind the scenes to secure enough votes that a percent majority does not pass on expansion.

The reasoning, once again, is based on the Longhorn Network—a revenue-generator for Texas that does nothing for its Big 12 compatriots. New members, the thought goes, may add even more pressure to Texas to give up the fledgling network. 

In essence: The one thing that saved the Big 12 earlier this century may be the one thing that leads to its destruction now. 

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Coveted DT Recruit Corey Bolds Plans SEC Tour, Has 'Big Brothers' at Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines secured six New Jersey prospects in a 2016 recruiting class that ranked among college football's finest national signing day hauls. Head coach Jim Harbaugh again has sights set on the Garden State in the 2017 cycle, with defensive tackle Corey Bolds emerging as a primary target.

The 6'3", 260-pound Paramus Catholic High School junior shares a tight bond with several members of Michigan's latest class. Most notably, he spent the past two seasons playing alongside No. 1 overall 2016 prospect Rashan Gary.

"I learned a lot from Rashan watching him be the guy who offenses game-planned around," Bolds told Bleacher Report. "He never let all the pressure get to him, on the field and with his recruitment. I saw how he handled it and now I need to go handle things the same way."

Gary, now just a month shy of enrolling in Ann Arbor, spent time with his high school teammate on the sidelines of New York Jets facilities Sunday in Florham Park. Bolds participated in The Opening's New Jersey Regional, where Gary earned invitations to The Opening National Finals in 2014 and 2015.

The pipeline between Bolds' home turf and Michigan run deeper than his fellow Paladins lineman. Wolverines assistant coach Chris Partridge previously served as Paramus Catholic head coach before accepting a position on Harbaugh's staff last year.

"I'm very close with Coach Partridge," Bolds said. "He's someone I can text or call anytime, and it doesn't have to be about football. He's there to listen and help me any way he can."

Partridge plays a pivotal role in Michigan's attempts to lure top talent out of New Jersey. Among the six athletes he helped sign this past winter, several have a close relationship with Bolds. 

"Those guys are like big brothers to me, and I can always look to them for advice," he said.

Along with those Wolverines newcomers, Bolds also looks up to former Paramus Catholic standouts Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who are both entering their third year at Michigan.

Considering these personal ties to the program, it's understood turning down a Wolverines offer wouldn't be easy.

"It would be pretty hard to say no, but none of those guys are making me feel forced," he said. "They want me to come play with them but they all remind me to go through my recruitment like they did and find the best place for me."

Bolds' search for an ideal collegiate fit hasn't been lonely. Paramus Catholic junior Drew Singleton consistently accompanies him on recruiting trips. Coaches typically speak with them together, rather than separating into one-on-one sessions. 

"I call him my brother," Bolds said. "We talk about everything in the recruiting process and we've been planning since freshman year to go to the same college. We speak to each other about which schools we like and which schools we don't like. It takes some of the weight off when you have someone going though the same thing as you."

He referred to the possibility of a "package deal" that would place this defensive duo in the same recruiting class. They explored various possibilities in April, traveling to spring games at Michigan, Clemson and Rutgers.

The Wolverines were first in their itinerary, and it was Bolds' third trip to Ann Arbor.

"The atmosphere was special," he said. "I had fans come up to ask for my autograph and take pictures with me. You can feel the overall love there, and it's just an amazing place to be."

Clemson hosted them the following weekend. Bolds previously spent time with the Tigers in January, and this latest stay presented the chance to gain a greater sense of the university's environment.

"It was pretty exciting," he said. "They're just coming off a trip to the national championship and the whole campus had a lot of excitement. The fans love you, they love the team. I signed a bunch of autographs there too."

In-state Rutgers had an opportunity to impress two weeks later when first-year head coach Chris Ash welcomed the local standouts for spring game festivities. Bolds departed Piscataway feeling positive vibes.

"I'm definitely impressed so far," he said. "They've picked up some big commitments lately, and I love what Coach Ash is doing. I love his intensity and the staff's energy as a whole. They're looking to build something special and really harping on New Jersey guys to stay home."

While Bolds wouldn't deem this trio of universities as an outright top three, each presents a high comfort level for him. He expects to spend some time sorting through various collegiate opportunities with family while eventually figuring out definitive favorites.

The situation could look drastically different within a few weeks.

Bolds will visit Penn State later this month, marking his first trip to Happy Valley since he attended the team's 2015 matchup with Michigan (a 28-16 Wolverines win). He'll then turn his attention south in June, lining up a four-school tour of SEC territory.

Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are anticipated destinations during an eventual journey. Among that group, only Mississippi State has yet to extend a scholarship offer.

While Knoxville isn't a stop on his upcoming trip, Bolds expects to separately spend a weekend at Tennessee sometime soon. He hoped to be in the bleachers for the Volunteers spring game but wasn't able to attend.

With at least six schools in line to host him before the season, there's a strong likelihood this recruiting process will undergo alterations as Bolds attempts to focus on favorites. He's taking plenty into consideration during each stop along the way. 

"When I visit schools, I don't like thinking about being a football player," Bolds said. "I like to think about if I'd be happy there as a regular student going to class every day, studying and living on campus. Football can come and go, so I need to be at a place where I feel comfortable."

When it comes to comfort, competitors will have a tough time contending with Michigan. He aims to visit Ann Arbor again this summer after Gary arrives on campus and intends to use an official visit for a Wolverines game. 

Bolds may not need to utilize many official visits this fall if his recruitment reaches its conclusion within a desired time frame.

"I want to commit by my birthday (Sept. 28), but if I don't feel like the time is right I'm going to hold it out, take all my official visits and make the best decision I can," he 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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10 College Football Teams with Most Players in NFL Today

The NFL welcomed a new class of college football's brightest young talents over the past weekend, and it's no surprise which schools were the most represented in the 253 selections.

Ohio State went after a NFL draft record with the massive amount of talent that left Columbus this offseason, led by defensive end Joey Bosa and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The two teams that played in last season's national championship game, Alabama and Clemson, pumped out huge classes of their own. Talent-filled mainstays in Florida and California continued to be impressive pro pipelines as well.

The infusion of hundreds of new NFL players, including those who signed undrafted free agent deals (UDFA) in the past few days, has created a shakeup of which college football teams are the most represented in the pros right now. 

Using the Alumni Tracker at ESPN.com, which has been updated with 2016 draftees and confirmed UDFA deals, let's take a fresh tally of the Top 10 college programs with the most players in the NFL at this moment.

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Despite First-Round Setbacks, NFL Draft Helps Show Alabama's Approach Evolving

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was an interesting exchange that ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay had during a joint conference call with reporters on Monday, when discussing why one of the former University of Alabama players dropped to the second round in last week’s NFL draft.

Specifically, they were commenting on defensive lineman Jarran Reed, who had been almost universally projected to be a first-round pick.

McShay: “I think he fell to 49, in the second round to Seattle, because if you don’t develop him as a pass-rusher he may just be a one-down player. I think that was a theme this entire draft."

“[Teams are thinking] I’m not going to use a first-round pick on a player who might only be on the field for one out of three downs. So that’s the issue, but I think Reed has more tools than people think as a pass-rusher and Seattle got one of the steals of the draft.”

Kiper: “One more thing about Jarran Reed, he plays as hard as anyone. Effort, hustle …”

McShay: “Yes. It’s not just taking on blocks and eating up space, he gets off of blocks and goes and makes plays. He’s fast on a straight line for his size.”

They probably could have said the same thing about A’Shawn Robinson, who everyone knew can pass-rush as he had 5.5 sacks as a freshman defensive end before sliding inside more, and nine for his career.

There was a similar talk with linebacker Reggie Ragland and his ability to effectively defend in pass coverage at the NFL level. Combined with an ill-timed report about having an enlarged aorta (which shouldn’t affect his career) he dropped into the second round as well before Buffalo traded up to snare him.

“I can be a three-down linebacker,” Ragland subsequently told WGR Radio (h/t Chris Brown, BuffaloBills.com). “I did it. I played all three downs in my last year."

“Against Texas A&M I played the ‘mike’ the whole game, the inside backer covering backs and tight ends. Against other teams I played outside and played all three downs. I rushed and dropped from the end position. I can drop and I can cover. I don’t know why people feel that way.” 

Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley disclosed afterward that the Bills had a first-round grade on Ragland, while Reed and Robinson had the misfortune of being in a draft that was loaded with defensive linemen.

Actually, the more telling draft picks from Alabama came after them with cornerback Cyrus Jones to New England in the second round and running back Kenyan Drake by Miami in the third round.

Those sent a message that speed has never been more important in the NFL, something that Alabama already figured out and has been building toward.

For example, last year Alabama made an unprecedented move by moving two cornerbacks to start at safety, which Saban deemed risky because he didn’t know how they’d hold up against physical teams like LSU and Arkansas.

Although, it was in part due to having depleted numbers at safety and trying to get the best players on the field. The other factor was speed and having players who could go sideline to sideline.

That’s not to say that Alabama wouldn’t recruit a hard-hitting safety like Landon Collins or Mark Barron again—it would in a heartbeat—but it’s hard to argue against Eddie Jackson making six interceptions and returning two for touchdowns. 

Previous to that, Alabama made a shift in recruiting linebackers after Trey DePriest was considered one of the nation’s top prospects in 2011 and Ragland in 2012.

While dealing with so many pass-happy, no-huddle tempo offenses, Alabama learned that it had to get faster, especially in the interior where slower linebackers could be exposed. Since then the corps has gotten much faster with the likes of Reuben Foster, Tim Williams and Christian Miller. 

"He's improving a lot,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said about Miller, who is on the verge of earning a lot more playing time. “He's already a long kid, can rush the passer, he's fast, he's quick. He's working on some of the other stuff, stopping the run and bulking up, stuff like that. He's going to be a good player."

Williams has already shown he can get to the quarterback, with 10.5 sacks last season. He just has to show he can handle the physical toll of being an every-down player.

Moreover, Alabama moved Rashaan Evans from outside linebacker to inside linebacker during the spring. He responded in a big way and led all players with 17 tackles during the Crimson Tide’s spring game.

Evans might have been playing against the second-team offense on A-Day, but he still seemed to be everywhere.

“He brings a lot,” Foster said. “He brings quick. He can get to the ball much faster, so that’s a win.”

Consequently, Alabama is set to have its fastest defense ever, and probably its fastest team. If so, everyone will see the difference in next year’s draft, which could potentially be nothing short of historic. 

"Man, that guy flashes," McShay said about Williams. "Like the spin, club move he used for that one sack [against Michigan State], he was an absolute terror."

“If he can duplicate or build on what he did, Tim Williams is a top-five pick,” Kiper added. “He’s like a Khalil Mack, that kind of player.”

Mack was the fifth overall selection in the 2014 draft.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Ishmael Adams Reportedly Pleads No Contest to Misdemeanor Battery

UCLA defensive back Ishmael Adams reportedly agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor battery in a case stemming from an August confrontation with an Uber driver, per TMZ Sports.   

The plea will reportedly result in three years of probation but won't include any jail time, according to TMZ.

Adams was accused of forcefully robbing an Uber driver of a cellphone after being arrested in Westwood, California, on Aug. 30. The Bruins suspended him indefinitely but reinstated him after felony charges weren't filed in the case. He missed three games.

Adams, who made the All-Pac-12 Conference first team in 2014, started every game for the team in 2013 and 2014 seasons. He started eight games for the Bruins last year, accumulating 35 tackles and two interceptions.

He's been making the adjustment to wide receiver this offseason at the request of head coach Jim Mora. 

“We see a guy that can catch the ball in the flat or, like we talked about the other day, that short-area quickness to make people miss and get vertical in a hurry," Mora told Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com. "And he’s competitive and he’s tough, and those are traits you like to see offensively.”

It remains unclear if Adams' no-contest plea will result in another suspension, or if it will affect his status with the team in any way before the 2016 season.

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