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Andrew Thomas to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Georgia Bulldogs weren't about to let one of their state's best offensive linemen slip through their grasp. On Sunday, the Bulldogs received a commitment from offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who announced his decision during ESPNU’s broadcast of The Opening finals.

Trent Smallwood of UGASports.com shared video of Thomas' announcement: 

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Thomas is the 10th-best OT in the 2017 recruiting class. The 4-star recruit also ranks 49th nationally overall and fourth in the state of Georgia.

A head coaching change can occasionally alter a school's chances of landing a prized recruit. For Georgia, firing Mark Richt and hiring Kirby Smart didn't deter Thomas from wanting to come to Athens. The school's spring game might have been a decisive factor in Thomas' decision.

An SEC-record 93,000 fans packed inside Sanford Stadium to watch the exhibition, per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach.

"It was ridiculous; I didn't think that many fans would come to a spring game," Thomas said, per Dawgs247's Jake Rowe. "It was surreal. It made me want to put the pads on."

He also sent out this tweet after the game:

Smart can't take all or even most of the credit for the trend, but he's continuing Georgia's habit of reeling in offensive linemen who are very good but don't necessary crack into the elite class of recruits. Below are all of the road-graders who joined the Bulldogs in the last five years and where they ranked in 247Sports' composite rankings:

Although Thomas has played on both sides of the line for Pace Academy in Atlanta, there's no question his future lies on offense. He still has a somewhat slight frame for the position (6'5", 295 lbs), but he is built much more for offensive tackle than he is for defensive tackle.

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman will need to work with Thomas right away, though, since he's such a work in progress. Not only does Thomas need to get a bit stronger, but his technique can be lacking at times. Especially in the SEC, his slow first step could turn into a major issue if he doesn't iron it out early in his Georgia career:

Thomas' motor and work ethic on the field aren't in question after he has spent time at two different positions in high school. There's little doubt he'll be willing to put in the work to address his flaws as a blocker.

He's also a good enough athlete that he won't be limited to playing on the right side, and once he adds muscle, Thomas will have little trouble physically battling the edge-rushers he'll see at the next level.

Georgia fans shouldn't expect the Bulldogs' newest commitment to make an immediate impact upon his arrival. He'd be a liability on the line if Smart and his staff elevate Thomas to a prominent role in the offense.

If his coaches are patient, though, and let Thomas gain some experience and grow as a player, he should be one of Georgia's most important linemen in a few years.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Toneil Carter to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Georgia added a big piece to its backfield ahead of the 2017 season, securing the commitment of Toneil Carter on Sunday.

The talented ball-carrier revealed his college decision in an announcement at The Opening:  

Carter is the fifth-ranked running back in the 2017 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. The 4-star recruit also sits No. 107 overall and No. 16 in the state of Texas.

The Langham Creek High School standout grabbed the attention of head coaches across the country after running for 1,382 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014 and following up with 1,206 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015, per 247Sports.

It's no surprise Carter had scholarship offers from a number of top schools, including Alabama, LSU, Georgia, TCU, Baylor, Michigan, Michigan State and Texas A&M. Last August, he discussed how he was happy to take his time before making a final decision.

"I get asked all the time if I'm committing early, and I'm not," Carter said, per ESPN Recruiting Nation's Jeremy Crabtree. "There aren't too many guys in my situation, and I want to enjoy the process some before I make a decision. I owe it to myself to not be in a big rush."

Carter's vision and ability in the open field stand out when watching his highlights from his sophomore year. He's patient enough to let the play develop before he accelerates into the second level:

247Sports' Colt Barber also shared a short clip of Carter running drills to lower his center of gravity when he carries the ball:

Learning to run with his shoulders lower will only help Carter at the next level. An upright running style doesn't necessarily make a running back any more or less effective, but it could leave Carter more susceptible to injury.

That critique aside, Carter is an otherwise well-rounded back. Despite his 5'10 ½", 197-pound frame, he isn't afraid to welcome contact and attack the defender. He also possesses a nice blend of strength and agility, which allows him to use a more finesse-based approach in the open field in order to elude a tackler.

Carter isn't the kind of running back who needs to take a seat on passing downs either. He can be a target out of the backfield or stay back and help ward off would-be rushers in pass protection.

It would be unfair to expect Carter to deliver immediate results in the way Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley—two of the better true freshman running backs in recent years—did upon heading to college. However, Carter could unquestionably help Georgia's offense in 2017 given his versatility.

And in another year or two, he could potentially be one of the best in the country at his position.

Georgia has boasted the likes of Gurley and Nick Chubb in recent years, though, so Carter has big shoes to fill as he prepares to join the mix in the Bulldogs' backfield.

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The Opening 2016: Results, Rankings, Highlights and Reaction from Saturday

The best talent that high school football has to offer in the United States has descended upon Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, for The Opening, one of the most prestigious showcases that young athletes take part in. 

The festivities began Wednesday and included two days of drills and practices where some big names in the NFL managed to give these recruits some pointers, via Bleacher Report NFL:  

Positions were stacked up against one another in one-on-one drills, such as wide receivers against defensive backs, which exposed and highlighted each individual's skill set:

It helped create the Nike+ SPARQ ratings system:

On Saturday, it was all about the seven-on-seven games between six different teams. Here are the rosters for each team, where the players are headed to college if available and some of the day's best plays:

The seven-on-seven games did not have any tackling, as it was one-hand touch below the shoulders. With no offensive lines, quarterbacks only had 3.5 seconds to throw the ball before a delay of game was called, which signified a sack. 

All drives started at the 20-yard-line, where offenses would only get three downs to work with. Once they entered the red zone, then they would get four downs. 

Saturday's Best Plays

Team Alpha Pro wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey, who is uncommitted, made sure that he stood out even if his catch from Georgia commit Jake Fromm wasn't exactly highlight-worthy, via Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani:

Fromm was able to thread the needle on that play while showing off his accuracy. In a game against Team Vaporspeed, he recorded three first-half touchdowns.

Ohio State commit and fellow Alpha Pro teammate Tate Martell also had a chance to show his pinpoint eye with a completion to Wisconsin tight end commit Jake Ferguson, via Kirpalani:

That didn't mean there were no wide receivers capable of making some sterling catches. Team Mach Speed's James Robinson, who is uncommitted, made this crazy one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone, via Kirpalani:

On the defensive side of the ball, Oklahoma commit and Team Vaporspeed cornerback Tre Brown provided one of the defensive plays of the day with this pick-six against Michigan commit Dylan McCaffrey of Team Hypercool, via Andrew Nemec of the Oregonian:

But McCaffrey had a big moment of his own, leading Team Hypercool to a last-second win over Team Lunarbeast by hitting tight end Josh Falo in the back of the end zone, via 247Sports' Tom Loy:

It wasn't the only last-second heartbreak Team Lunarbeast would experience either, as MaxPreps showed:

The final day of The Opening will come Sunday and determine a seven-on-seven champion. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Grant Delpit to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

LSU added a playmaker to the backend of its future defense Saturday when safety prospect Grant Delpit committed to its 2017 recruiting class, per Ross Dellenger of the New Orleans Advocate. 

The 6’3 ½” and 181-pound Delpit is a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 92 overall player, No. 9 safety and No. 20 prospect from the state of Florida in the 2017 class.

Delpit garnered interest from some of the nation's top schools before he ultimately chose where he wanted to attend. LSU and Baylor received all of 247Sports' "Crystal Ball Predictions," as of April 20, but blue-chip programs such as Alabama, Notre Dame, USC and Oklahoma were also included on his 247Sports’ college list.

There is a reason so many marquee schools pursued the hard-hitting safety. Delpit boasts the overall skill set and versatility to play right away at the college level, especially because he delivers blows across the middle of the field to receivers and running backs but can also play in coverage if needed.

Gabe Brooks of Scout.com provided a breakdown of Delpit’s abilities and pointed to his instincts and how often he “gets his hands on a lot of passes.” Brooks also noted Delpit is a threat to take it the distance when he gets interceptions because of his speed and athleticism and praised the safety for his aggressive style of play.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports was impressed by what he saw from Delpit at the Pylon 7-on-7 National Championship in Las Vegas, the Bootleggers 7-on-7 event and The Opening New Orleans Regional. Simmons pointed out Delpit “looks comfortable on an island in coverage” in addition to his ability to play center field as a safety, which gives his new coaching staff the opportunity to mix and match where they put him in the secondary.

With that type of versatility and athleticism, Delpit will likely see the field during his freshman year.

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Les Miles, Kevin Sumlin Reportedly to Be Deposed in LSU Lawsuit vs. John Chavis

LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin will reportedly both give depositions as part of LSU's lawsuit against former defensive coordinator John Chavis, per the Advocate's Ross Dellenger.

Chavis, whom the Aggies hired ahead of the 2015 season, filed a lawsuit against both LSU and Texas A&M in February 2015 regarding the buyout clause in his contract with LSU.

A Texas judge threw out Chavis' lawsuit in August 2015, citing a jurisdictional problem, yet he and LSU remain embroiled in a legal dispute. According to Dellenger, the school is looking to recoup $400,000 as part of his move to Texas A&M. Chavis and the Aggies, meanwhile, argue he didn't start working for the school until after he gave his required 30-day notice to LSU about taking a new job.

NOLA.com's Ron Higgins reported Chavis' since-dismissed suit said he gave the Tigers his resignation on Jan. 5, 2015, and then stopped being paid by the school on Feb. 4. That time frame would nullify the need for Chavis or A&M to pay the buyout.

However, Higgins noted Chavis may have been working for the Aggies earlier than he said:

Yet, there are pictures of Chavis wearing Texas A&M gear while recruiting that hit the Internet Jan. 15 and Jan. 23. In the Jan. 23 photo, Chavis, dressed in a Texas A&M coaching pullover, is giving the camera two "thumbs up" while flanking Northeast Oklahoma Jr. College cornerback Justin Martin along with Aggies' defensive back coach Terry Joseph. Martin, ironically, ended up signing with Tennessee where Chavis was D-coordinator from 1995-2008 before coming to LSU.

The caption of the picture, which first appeared on a Facebook site called Juco Football Frenzy (which apparently no longer exists), reads, "Justin Martin was just visited by Texas A&M D Coord John Chavis & DB coach Terry Joseph."

In December 2015, Chavis' attorney, Jill Craft, argued an admission by LSU that it made "nominal" alterations to his contract in 2012 hurts the school's standing in terms of pursuing the buyout, per Dellenger:

It's exactly what coach has been saying all along, that the contract was altered after he signed it in 2012. You can't alter a contract and try to claim it's valid, and you certainly can't sue over it. One of the things they did admit that was altered was the buyout provision. In some sense, it's vindication.

Dellenger didn't specify when Miles and Sumlin will give their depositions in the case but wrote they're scheduled for later this month.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nick Brahms to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star OG Prospect

Nick Brahms, a 4-star offensive guard prospect from Navarre High School in Florida, announced his commitment to play college football for Auburn Saturday.

Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports had the news of Brahms' decision and included comments from the standout blocker:

One of them is his bond with Tigers offensive line coach Herb Hand, who joined the staff earlier this year.

“Me and him have been talking a lot lately,” Brahms said. “We have a good relationship. He’s intense and he’s full of energy. He’s the right guy.”

The vibe at Auburn was another plus, Brahms noted.

“Just the family — how close they are,” Brahms said. “The players, I’ve talked to them, too, and I like them.”

Brahms is the class of 2017's ninth-ranked offensive guard, the 30th-best player from Florida and the No. 153 overall recruit in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

After not really being on the recruiting radar following his junior high school season, Brahms burst onto the scene with a strong performance at the New Orleans Nike Opening Regional. He earned an invitation to The Opening's national showcase and promptly went from a 0- to a 4-star recruit.

"We feel he's a top-20 guy, and we don't pay a ton of attention to the ratings," said The Opening director Todd Huber of Brahms in April, per Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani. "The guys that do it are smart guys, but I think you will see that [his] rating will catch up to reflect how good of a player he is."

The near-overnight stock boost Brahms received wasn't without merit. His blend of size, athleticism and technical brilliance earned him the distinction as one of the nation's premier offensive line prospects.

Although he lined up at right tackle most often during his junior year, Brahms projects well to guard in college. The 6'4", 285-pounder already has a sturdy frame and doesn't carry a lot of excess weight, which bodes well for his NCAA transition.

Brahms is surprisingly agile and is therefore a big asset in pass protection. As a run-blocker, he plays with a clear fervor and aggressive streak, but he could stand to be more consistent with his pad level.

Since he has only recently begun to realize his upside, there's no telling how good Brahms can be when he receives excellent coaching from Auburn's staff at the next level. At the very least he should be a quality starter—perhaps as early as his true sophomore year.

The fact he projects well as a guard and has experience playing tackle bodes well for Brahms' bid to see the field for the Tigers sooner rather than later. With a strong showing in early practices, he could make a push to start in his first year on Auburn's campus.


Star rating, rankings and measurements courtesy of 247Sports.

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One Trap Game for Every Power 5 College Football Team in 2016

College football fans love to look ahead. Hypotheticals and what-ifs are emotional currency in a game where only four teams ultimately compete for the season’s biggest prize in the College Football Playoff. Too often, a program’s destiny is not completely within its control. Other teams must win or lose for your team to reach its goals. That isn’t easy to handle, so fans think two moves ahead.

Not coaches. Veteran coaches have seen too many bad things happen a week before “the game” or a week after an important contest. Maybe a team is looking ahead or coasting on its glory, and bad things happen. These are “trap” games.

They're games a program normally shouldn’t lose but gives up for reasons well within its control. As always, college football is full of them in 2016. We’ve identified a potential trap game for each Power Five program. They’re matchups against deceptively tough teams or at bad points on the schedule, or both. Where is your team’s trap located? Read on.

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Quarterbacks That Could Be Transfer Candidates If They Don't Win Jobs This Fall

Quarterback competitions own the college football news cycle during the summer and early in the regular season, but the result of those battles can lead to winter headlines.

Partly due to the increasing popularity of the graduate transfer market, players are more likely to pursue what they feel is a better opportunity to start. Trevor Knight (Oklahoma to Texas A&M) and Davis Webb (Texas Tech to Cal) highlight the group of immediately eligible signal-callers this season.

But they're not alone. Other younger quarterbacks slipping out of the conversation for 2016 and beyond may elect to flip schools, too.

Depending on the outcome of these competitions, several quarterbacks could make a similar move next year.

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The Opening 2016: Biggest Takeaways from Day 4

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Friday arguably was one of the most action-packed days The Opening has seen in years.

The day featured intense one-on-one battles pitting linebackers against running backs, defensive backs against wide receivers and offensive linemen against defensive linemen. The day also included a bench- press challenge, a verbal commitment with a Lamborghini as a prop, a tug-of-war battle and tons of recruiting news.

Additionally, Friday saw some of The Opening names of the past return to help the names of college football's future.

Here are some takeaways from Friday's The Opening action:



A day loaded with The Opening alums

Gone from Friday's The Opening were Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Tennessee's Josh Dobbs, Miami's Brad Kaaya and BYU's Tanner Mangum—the college quarterbacks who served as camp counselors.

Friday's roster assistants featured a few athletes who once graced The Opening grounds. Among them were LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, Alabama tight O.J. Howard, Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan and many others.

"I was here in 2013. It seems like yesterday," Adams said. "It's just unreal to get back and see all these guys, the alumni, coming back giving back to the kids. That's what it's all about. I think there's no better feeling to change somebody's life and help them get better at their game. I know I'm excited, but we're all excited to be out here to help.

Additionally running backs Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, two The Opening alums who are now seeing time in the NFL, were also on hand. Elliott, a former Ohio State national champion, not only helped coach the players on the field but also had the chance to hand the Nike+ Football Rating Championship to a Buckeyes commit—4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins.

"It's just great to get back out here," Elliott said. "I think The Opening was one of the most fun times I've had with football. You get to compete against the best. I want to come out and make sure I help these guys have an experience as special as I had."




A Lamborghini and a Laborn pledge for Florida State

Virginia Beach, Virginia, 4-star all-purpose back Khalan Laborn admitted he's never trended nationally on Twitter. That happened Friday with the help of a commitment to Florida State—and a Lamborghini.

Laborn was a part of a Bleacher Report showcase that included handpicked one-on-one battles. Before entering the field, he was in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini Gallardo and ran to the field waving a Florida State flag.

"It was a lot of fun, and I'm excited," Laborn said. "I've always wanted to go there. I mean, Deion Sanders is my favorite player. I'm ready to get to work."

In regard to style points, Sanders and other Florida State fans would approve of the Gallardo, an all-black ride with tinted windows and black rims. Seminoles spears were placed on the doors. Chief Osceola was on the hood.

And when it was time for Laborn, the nation's No. 2 all-purpose back, to compete in his one-on-one battle with linebacker Owen Pappoe, he scored two victories, with the first win resulting in a Laborn backflip.

Florida State now has 11 commitments with Laborn's pledge. He is the Seminoles' top-ranked offensive commit.



No. 1 DT Wilson to set 2 official visits

Houston defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was one of the last athletes to show up in Oregon Thursday night. His flight landed around 9:30 p.m., and he showed up at the host hotel around 10 p.m.

The time change wasn't a disadvantage, as he showed why he's the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle and the No. 3 overall player in the 2017 class.

"It's one of the greatest feelings ever to come out here and see where you compare against the best of the best before you go into your senior season. It all works out, because we all want to just get better this week."

Wilson announced he's looking to set two official visits to USC and Florida State this fall. He's visited Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Alabama and Florida State during the spring and summer. Wilson added that he'll take in a trip to USC before the start of his senior season.

"I'm going and seeing where I can be comfortable," he said. "In my mind, if you can't be comfortable wherever you go, you won't be able to develop. If it's far away and I feel comfortable, that's where I'll go."



Comfort key in ATH Ahmed picking from top five

Kirkland, Washington, 4-star athlete Salvon Ahmed dropped his top five of Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington Thursday evening. The nation's No. 6 athlete said those schools also will be the ones to receive an official visit this fall.

Look for Ahmed to make a well-informed decision, as he's strongly considering his academic career in his final decision. He's looking to major in business marketing and also study media communications.

"Those five schools really stood out," said Ahmed, who has 11 reported offers. "A lot of them talk to me about being a man outside of football and what I could do outside of football a lot more than about me just playing the sport. I want to know what I can do after sports and be successful."

Ahmed said he plans on taking his official visits and then making a decision. 

"I want to know how I'll feel when I step on campus," he said. "I want to know how I feel in a game atmosphere and be a big part of it. Would I be happy being there if I couldn't play football anymore? Those are some of the main things I'm looking for."



Rating contest top three: Potential Buckeyes teammates?

The winner of the Nike+ Football Rating Championship earns bragging rights for being the best high school football athlete in the country. La Grange, Texas, standout J.K. Dobbins, an Ohio State pledge, won the competition with a ratings score of 146.76.

Dobbins ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and completed the 20-yard shuttle in 4.09 seconds. He had a vertical jump of 43.1 inches and threw the power ball 42 feet. His efforts helped him win the title and, ultimately, have Ezekiel Elliott award him the trophy.

"It feels great. It's what I've worked for every day," Dobbins said. "I didn't do all that I wanted to do, but I'm going to keep working hard every day so I can get better."

While Dobbins finished first, defensive back Jeffrey Okudah placed second (142.56), and 5-star running back Cam Akers (140.13). Okudah and Akers, two players ranked among the top 12 in the 2017 class, are 5-star players who are considered heavy Ohio State targets.

Dobbins said he is doing his part to recruit them.

"With Jeff, I'm trying to get him. I hope he joins me as a Texas guy," Dobbins said. "With Cam, I always talk to him, too, about joining us. It would be great having them both.

"If we get all those guys, we could potentially win two championships instead of one. Maybe even three."



USC RB commit Carr: Many 'dream of this opportunity'

Fontana, California, 5-star running back and USC commit Stephen Carr is someone who has made it a priority to relish in the moment.

Carr called The Opening a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and said he's making the most out of the week as one of 166 selected athletes across the country. It's something he said he won't take for granted.

"I know many kids dream of this opportunity, so I'm just blessed to be here with some of the top-notch athletes," Carr said. "That's just the type of person I was raised to be. I've had athletes before me at my school who have made it to The Opening. I get it from them in a way, and I see what they did and didn't do. I work off of that."

Carr, a USC commit since March 2015, said he's using the tutelage from this week to help him grow into a player better prepared for Pac-12 competition. He added that he was "100 percent to USC" but will take all his allotted official visits to get a feel for different campus experiences.

"I haven't scheduled any visits yet, but I know I'll take all five," Carr said. "I'm not sure where I'll go yet. I'll know more later on."


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

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The Opening 2016: Top 40-Yard Dash Times from Nike Football Ratings Championship

BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Opening annually attracts elite talent to football fields on Nike's sprawling world headquarters campus. Regardless of which college football program you support, it's easy to appreciate the sheer athleticism on display during competition between the country's premier high school prospects.

Recruits put their physical talents on full display Friday morning when more than 150 participants completed four phases of the Nike Football Ratings Championship. This combine-like testing features a 40-yard dash, agility shuttle, vertical leap and power-ball toss. 

Let's place our focus on speed here, pointing to players who torched the turf during 40-yard dash efforts. Here's a look at eight who claimed the quickest times and how things are progressing in their respective recruitment processes. 

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Jalen Pitre Comments on Remaining Committed to Baylor Despite Art Briles' Firing

Baylor is in the process of trying to rebuild its image in the midst of a sexual assault scandal involving numerous allegations against former football players, which has led to substantial changes behind the scenes. 

The biggest change for the football program was head coach Art Briles parting ways with the program after the two sides reached a contract settlement. His departure has had a profound effect on future recruits with the exception of 2017 defensive back Jalen Pitre.   

As Andy Hutchins and Bud Elliott of SB Nation noted in June, seven recruits for next year have decommitted from the program and reopened their recruiting. 

Pitre is the lone commit right now for 2017. He is a 3-star recruit and the 58th-ranked safety in the 2017 recruiting class, per 247Sports

In an interview with Max Olson of ESPN.com, Pitre explained that his decision to remain committed to Baylor was partly because the school did not pull its scholarship offer to him after he tore his ACL last October. 

In the time since Briles has been fired, Pitre did note that he has not yet spoken with new acting head coach Jim Grobe:

I haven’t talked to Coach (Grobe), but I’ve talked to Coach [Cris] Dishman recently. He just told me to keep working, keep getting my knee stronger and he wants me to make the best decision for my family. I’m trying to head up to one of their practices and want to build up a good relationship with Coach Grobe.

Pitre did say that being the only 2017 commit to the school is "lonely at times" because he doesn't "have any other commits to talk to," but he remains grateful for "the big picture of college and trying to go get an education for free."

As far as the information that has come out about Baylor over the last two months, Pitre said "it’s not really good" before stating that one reason he remains committed to the program is he doesn't "believe some of the stuff that’s been coming out."

Grobe is Baylor's head football coach on an acting basis. Pitre admitted that if the school decides to bring in all new coaches that it "would have a big effect," though he did say he thinks he would still stay.

Pitre concluded by saying that he hopes to be enrolled in school early in an effort to help recruit for the 2017 class. 

Baylor is still dealing with the serious allegations that have come out against the football program and university. It is doing all it can to move forward, including giving Brenda Tracy, who says she survived a 1998 gang rape that involved two Oregon State football players, an opportunity to speak with the football players. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet JK Dobbins, 2016 Nike Football Ratings National Champion

BEAVERTON, Oregon —In the aftermath of claiming the 2016 Nike Football Ratings National Championship, 4-star running back and current Ohio State commitment JK Dobbins wasn’t satisfied with his performance. 

The 5’9 ½”, 199-pounder out of LaGrange High School in Texas captured the crown as the nation’s most athletic talent in the 2017 cycle with a cumulative score of 146.76.

To claim the top spot, Dobbins busted off a time of 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash, jumped 43.1 inches in the vertical jump, threw the powerball 42 feet and posted a time of 4.09 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.

It was impressive enough to best more than 160 of his peers on hand at The Opening. The super intense and hyper-competitive Lone Star State standout didn’t hesitate when asked which of his individual scores he was pleased with. 

“None of them. Honestly, I felt I should’ve done better,” Dobbins told Bleacher Report. “But, I came out on top and that’s been the main goal the whole time.”

In particular, his 40-yard dash time irked him—even though he was 0.01 off from the best time he’s ever run.

“I wasn’t happy with my 40 time. The fastest I ever ran it is 4.44. But I wanted to go 4.3 today. I didn’t get it so that just tells me I need to keep working harder so I can make that goal,” he said.

Dobbins, who is rated as the nation’s No. 3 all-purpose back and the No. 50 player overall in the 2017 cycle, has also gotten it done on the field. 

Over the last two years, he’s rushed for 4,971 yards and 72 touchdowns while averaging more than 10 yards per carry.

He admits that one of his goals was to show that he’s more than just a speed back. 

If any benefits are to come from his most recent achievement, he’s hoping it erases any doubt about his power and strength.

“Yeah, [my score] also shows my power too. You have to throw the powerball pretty far to be in this competition and I did that. I’m just trying to prove to everybody that I’m one of the best in the country,” Dobbins said.

As an added bonus, he was thrilled to meet former Buckeyes star and current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott—who is at The Opening to serve as one of the college counselors at the event. 

Dobbins accepted the trophy from Elliott, who made sure to give him some good-natured ribbing about how to accept the trophy.

“It’s cool, man. He was an Ohio State running back and I’m going to be the future there, hopefully. He’s a great guy,” Dobbins said.

For his part, Elliott admits he's proud to see the future of the Buckeyes' backfield is in good hands with a talent such as Dobbins on the way.

"The thing that motivated me at Ohio State was continuing the lineage and upholding the reputation of the great pedigree of running backs," Elliott told Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles. "To see the next guy up, come out and represent for the Buckeyes, for that running back role that so many greats played in, it’s really good to see that."

To earn the title, Dobbins beat out his good friend and fellow Texas native 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah—who finished second.

But instead of rubbing it in, Dobbins plans to put on his recruiter hat for head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

He’s one of 10 current Ohio State commitments who made The Opening roster from a class currently rated as the nation’s top overall group. If he has his way, that number will increase sooner than later.

“You know what, that’s my boy," Dobbins said, referring to Okudah. "Jeff needs to come join me at Ohio State, too."

Don’t expect Dobbins to slow down anytime soon. After all, his competitive spirit has been a large part of what has helped him arrive on this stage.

“It means a lot. This is what I work for. I knew I was one of the best, but I just have to keep working. This doesn’t change anything for me. I won’t stop,” Dobbins said. “My mindset is just to go out and work every single day. That’s all I do. I’m going to keep working and keep going hard with the same type of drive. I just have to keep going.”


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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

The cast of characters will be different for defending national champion Alabama in 2016—a new defensive coordinator for the first time in the Nick Saban era, an inexperienced first-string backfield and replacements for key players in the trenches.

But that doesn't change much for the Crimson Tide, who are projected to start the upcoming season once again as the No. 1 team in the country. College football's biggest target continues to stay put on Alabama's back, and several powerhouse teams in a loaded SEC will be gunning for its conference crown.

The strengths of this 2016 Alabama team are clearly defined, as a tradition of stifling defense is showing no signs of slowing down after years of collecting the best recruiting classes in the game. The weaknesses, however, will be more evident when the Tide have the ball in their own hands.

There's a distinct mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar in Tuscaloosa this season as Alabama looks to defend another national title under Saban. And the Tide will hope that generates a few pleasant surprises across the depth chart.

With SEC media days—the unofficial start to college football season—coming up next week, let's take a look at the strengths, weaknesses and possible secret weapons for the 2016 Crimson Tide.



Devastating defensive front

The Alabama defensive front played at an incredible level last season, as the Tide allowed just 75.73 rushing yards per game, 2.43 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns in what turned out to be a 15-game national championship season. They were also third nationally in sacks per game and second in sack yardage.

Yet even with the losses of players such as Jarran Reed, Reggie Ragland and A'Shawn Robinson from that elite defensive front, Alabama has the potential to be even better in the trenches this fall.

The Tide will continue to be able to go as many as three-deep across the front seven with former blue-chip players. Defensive star Jonathan Allen, ace pass-rusher Tim Williams and veteran outside linebacker Ryan Anderson combined for 28.5 sacks last season. Reuben Foster was second on the team in tackles. They're all back for 2016.

Sure, Alabama will have to replace Reed and Robinson on the defensive line, and Ragland is a tremendous loss at middle linebacker. But when the rising reserves include former 5-stars Da'Shawn Hand, Daron Payne and Rashaan Evans—more on him later—there are plenty of reasons to be confident.

"There are some new faces we have to get used to on the defensive line, but we are still a big family," senior defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said, per Charlie Potter of 247Sports. "It won't be different for too much longer."

Alabama should continue to be like a boa constrictor in run defense, and more of its efficient pass-rushing specialists from last season should see more of the field in bigger roles. You won't find a better collection of defensive talent anywhere else in college football.


A secondary that could improve even more 

The Alabama defensive front has numbers and star power. The Alabama secondary, though, has numbers, star power and additional starting experience.

Once the weakest link in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama secondary stepped its game up in a huge way last season. Opponents had the eighth-worst combined QB rating against the Tide pass defense, and it ranked in the top 10 in interceptions. Not bad for a unit that entered the season with only one returning starter at the cornerback, safety, nickel and dime positions.

Now, in 2016, Alabama welcomes back All-American cornerback-turned-safety Eddie Jackson and young star cornerbacks Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey to its starting lineup. Ronnie Harrison, who picked up a start as a true freshman last season, is set to take over for Geno Matias-Smith at free safety.

As Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh wrote earlier this year, the talented depth Alabama boasts up front carries over into the secondary. Almost all of the defensive backs on the roster were 5- or 4-star recruits. One of the lone 3-stars was none other than Jackson, who became a household name with six interceptions and two touchdowns last year after his position switch.

"Similar to how Alabama's defensive line could attack in waves this past season, the secondary might be able to do likewise in 2016 and give opposing offenses a multitude of looks," Walsh wrote. "The talent is there again, with some experience mixed in that will only improve over the [offseason]."

The Alabama defensive front will get a ton of deserved attention this fall for the huge amount of collective size and skill it has built up there. But the secondary could be the unit that leads the way for another potentially legendary Saban defense.


Deep talent pool at receiver

While there is still a question mark at quarterback for Alabama heading into fall camp, whoever wins the job is going to have plenty of weapons to spread the ball to this upcoming season.

Alabama brings back its top two receivers from last season—Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart—and a tight end in O.J. Howard who had the game of his life in the national championship victory over Clemson.

Ridley averaged nearly six catches per game as a true freshman and posted four 100-yard performances. He has the look of a potential All-American in 2016. Stewart was ultra-reliable, catching multiple passes in all but one game last season for the Crimson Tide. The experienced Howard might be the most skilled tight end in the country with more consistency.

Alabama also replaces breakout transfer Richard Mullaney with Gehrig Dieter, who caught the ninth-most passes in the country last season as a key figure in Bowling Green's uptempo attack. The 6'3" Dieter won't be expected to put up the same kind of numbers in Lane Kiffin's offense, but he has the tools to be a game-changer this fall for the Crimson Tide.

The Crimson Tide also get back Robert Foster and Cam Sims this season. Derek Kief caught the lone touchdown of Alabama's A-Day game, and he has the chance to break into what is a deep rotation. 

Alabama has the talented bodies to keep up a high level of competition among the receiving ranks throughout the rest of this offseason and into the regular season. That should turn into even more improvement for the wide receivers and tight ends in what is now an experienced corps.



Inexperience in the backfield

A new starting quarterback is nothing new for Alabama. In the last two seasons, the Tide have had first- and only-year starters at signal-caller, and they won the SEC both times. 

Breaking in new running backs isn't completely unexplored territory for the Tide under Saban, either. Alabama had a different top rusher each year between 2010 and 2014. Once again, the depth of the Crimson Tide is a huge advantage when faced with major roster turnover.

However, Alabama is facing a combination of the two scenarios in 2016. Another large quarterback derby is set to continue into fall camp, while a new starting running back must replace Heisman winner Derrick Henry.

Junior Cooper Bateman has one game of starting experience at quarterback for Alabama, and younger players with high potential such as Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts will continue to push for the top job. The lack of offensive production at A-Day was discouraging for the Tide, but it did come against what could be the best defense in the entire country by season's end.

Running back, on the other hand, is filled with inexperience. Alabama returns just 296 rushing yards from last season, which is by far the fewest in the Saban era. In the past, the Tide have been able to replace their No. 1 back with an established reserve. That's not the case this year with Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.

Both Scarbrough, a Henry clone who put up ridiculous numbers in spring scrimmages, and Harris, one of the lone bright spots on offense at A-Day, are extremely talented. But they will both be thrown into the fire this fall alongside a brand-new starting quarterback. That's a rather unfamiliar issue Alabama will have to work through in 2016.


Consistency, new blood on special teams 

All in all, the special teams unit for Alabama played well at the perfect time last year. Shaky starts gave way to top-notch play for both kicker Adam Griffith and punter JK Scott as the Tide rolled their way to another title.

But the consistency issues reared their ugly heads this spring, especially for Griffith. The up-and-down kicker missed four field goals in A-Day before tacking on a pitch-shot effort from 21 yards out. In the two seasons that Griffith has been the top kicker for Alabama, the team has finished 97th and 82nd nationally in field-goal percentage.

Griffith has shown incredible power and accuracy at times for Alabama, as he drilled several clutch field goals in wins last season over Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Scott can make a claim as the nation's best punter when he's on his game, like when he averaged more than 48 yards per boot in five different contests last season.

The key for Alabama's special teams unit, which will now be led by running backs coach Burton Burns, will be keeping that consistency throughout the 2016 season. The Tide need to re-establish that beginning-to-end confidence while also breaking in new starters—possibly Ridley and Xavian Marks—at both kick and punt returner.

"If you're going to be in those positions as a punt returner or kickoff returner or even as a slot receiver, your ball security has to be something that everyone can depend on," Saban said this spring, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. "And I would say that to anybody that was going to do that on our team."

The punt-return game will be a special spotlight this fall, as Cyrus Jones gave the Crimson Tide four big-time touchdowns in that category last year. Alabama had some newfound success on special teams in 2015, and several question marks stand in its way of a repeat performance this season.


Secret Weapons

LB Rashaan Evans

In his first two seasons at Alabama, Evans lined up at outside linebacker and had modest success there as a reserve. Last year, Evans was fourth on the team in sacks with four, including two against Deshaun Watson in the national title game win over Clemson.

But Evans was at a new position this spring at Alabama, and he took full advantage of it. The Crimson Tide moved him inside to help with the loss of Ragland. Evans then recorded a team-high 17 tackles at A-Day—a number that was far bigger than any other Tide defender in the scrimmage.

"We recruited him because he had a great fast-twitch ability to rush on the edge, and he did a good job of that last year," Saban said in the spring, per Marq Burnett of SEC Country. "We still have every plan to use him at that, but we were looking at where can he develop as an every-down position player the best."

Evans brings an added injection of speed and pursuit to the inside linebacker spot with the likes of Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Keith Holcombe. Whether he lines up there in special packages or becomes a regular at inside linebacker, the Tide can use him to provide extra pressure up the middle and security in passing situations.

"I've seen greatness in him, like footwork, all that," Foster, who played with Evans in high school at Auburn, told Potter. "He brings a lot. For our defense, he moves quick, and he can get to the ball much faster, so that's a win."

Evans' move makes the Alabama defensive front even more dangerous for 2016. He should bring an additional dimension to a defense that offenses aren't used to seeing from the Crimson Tide.


WR Robert Foster 

Foster won't be a completely secret weapon to anyone who was paying attention during the first three weeks of Alabama's 2015 campaign. But his return has been somewhat overshadowed with Ridley, Stewart and Howard set to start again for the Tide.

The junior was in that starting lineup for Alabama early last season, starting in the opening trio of games against Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee and Ole Miss. Foster posted nearly identical stat lines—four catches for around 50 yards and a touchdown—against the Badgers and the Blue Raiders before suffering a torn rotator cuff against the Rebels.

Foster got back into action this spring for the Crimson Tide, and he picked up right where he left off in the fall. Saban sounded pleased with his improvement and consistency after the injury.

"He's playing with a lot more confidence and has got better knowledge of the position," Saban said in March, per Walsh. "I think sometimes you can learn a lot when you don't play."

The former 5-star recruit has the talent to be a breakout star for the Alabama offense, as he has both the height (6'2") and speed that teams love to see in a top-notch wide receiver. He's reportedly the fastest receiver on the team, as Matt Zenitz of AL.com noted he was clocked at a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash. 

Foster was just beginning to become a key playmaker for the Crimson Tide when he suffered a season-ending injury. Now armed with the lessons he learned from the sidelines, Foster should take that huge leap forward in 2016.


CB Anthony Averett 

One of the secret weapons Alabama could deploy in its deep and experienced secondary this season is junior Anthony Averett, who has been patiently waiting as a reserve cornerback for the last couple of seasons.

Averett has a great shot at some major playing time this season. Fitzpatrick slid over to nickelback last season for the Crimson Tide when they went with five-defensive back sets. That leaves a hole at cornerback opposite Humphrey, and Averett fits that position well.

Like Humphrey, Tony Brown and several other defensive backs on Alabama's roster, Averett is a high-quality speedster. According to Zenitz, he is a former New Jersey high school state champion in the 55-meter sprint, and he's been clocked in the 40-yard dash at a team-high 4.34 seconds.

That amount of speed will be a real weapon at cornerback for Alabama, especially when it moves Fitzpatrick to his favored nickel role. Although he doesn't have the bulk of most Tide defensive backs, Averett is tough to beat on deep balls and brings plenty of experience in the system.

"He's come a long way since freshman year and even since last year," former Alabama defensive back Maurice Smith said, per Zenitz. "He's learned a lot of the plays, and he's starting to play faster on the field. You can definitely tell. And with his speed, it makes it a lot easier playing corner on that island."

Averett was one of the winners of the Bart Starr Award this spring, which is given to the most improved players on the roster. Don't be surprised if he keeps that momentum going toward a key role on another fantastic Alabama defense.


Stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kirk Merritt Transfers to Texas A&M: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Former 4-star recruit Kirk Merritt announced his intention to transfer to the Texas A&M Aggies on Friday, according to a post on his official Twitter account

Merritt played for the Oregon Ducks in 2015 after committing to the Pac-12 power following a standout career at Destrehan High School in Louisiana, but the electric playmaker decided to bolt from the program after just one season. 

A heralded athlete prospect during his time at Destrehan, Merritt emerged as the seventh-ranked player in the state of Louisiana and the fifth-ranked all-purpose back among 2015 recruits. Overall, he ranked No. 171 nationally in his recruiting class. 

During his lone season with the Ducks, Merritt largely saw time in a multitude of roles on special teams. According to Sports-Reference.com, he caught five passes for 61 yards and carried the rock just three times for 13 yards as a freshman. 

He also tallied seven total tackles and returned one kick for 28 yards. 

With the Aggies, Merritt should get more opportunities to showcase his athleticism and flaunt his game-breaking capabilities. 

Adding Merritt to the mix will also give head coach Kevin Sumlin another weapon to deploy in an offense that flirted with explosive potential throughout the 2015 season to the tune of 425 yards per game


Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jarrett Stidham's Baylor Exit Gets 2017's Transfer QB Market off to Early Start

That sound you heard Thursday afternoon was the opening bell to college football's next quarterback transfer market.

Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to be the No. 2 quarterback at Baylor this fall, tweeted that he would be transferring from the Bears program that continues to lose players in the aftermath of the school's sexual assault scandal:

Last month, Stidham made an Instagram post that seemed to confirm he would stay at Baylor. But whispers of a transfer picked up Wednesday morning, and he confirmed them later that day.

As Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee put it on Twitter, the news of Stidham's departure should excite a lot of college football coaches across the country:

By announcing that he was leaving Baylor, Stidham immediately became the hottest quarterback recruit in the entire country for the 2017 season. He'll start an early recruiting war among programs that could use a dual-threat quarterback of his caliber.

Stidham came off the bench last year for Baylor after an injury to No. 1 quarterback Seth Russell and put up 419 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State in his first career start. He had two more starts before suffering a season-ending injury of his own. For a true freshman, his numbers were phenomenal:

The Texas native would be an extremely talented option at quarterback for any program looking for an instant-impact player. Stidham would be an immediate upgrade at starting quarterback for a lot of teams.

Stidham was the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 38 overall recruit in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports' Composite Rankings. 247Sports' own ratings had him as a 5-star. 

That's like throwing another elite quarterback into a Class of 2017 that is almost completely booked up when it comes to blue-chip commitments at the position. Of the 25 5- and 4-star quarterback recruits in the Class of 2017, only one of them—Jack Sears—is uncommitted.

Programs that need a quarterback for 2017 could flip one of these pledges, but that would almost definitely require them to have had a good relationship with the recruit before his commitment. It's extremely tough to pull off, even for powerhouse programs.

With Stidham, though, things are different. It's a wide-open recruiting battle again for a blue-chip, dual-threat quarterback who now has collegiate starting experience in a Power Five conference. Any school that wants him can get to work right now at recruiting him.

According to David Ubben of Sports on Earth, Stidham is "considering enrolling at McLennan Community College in Waco and working out during the season." By not playing anywhere this fall, Stidham would maintain the remaining three years of his eligibility and be able to transfer to any FBS school for 2017.

There's also a chance Stidham could directly transfer to another FBS program and use 2016 as a redshirt year, keeping the three eligible seasons intact. But as Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated reported, if Stidham goes that route, his options might be limited to schools outside the Big 12:

Stidham could also transfer to schools in nine FBS conferences right now and use 2016 as his redshirt year, but he could not do that in the Big 12. Big 12 transfer rules require players transferring between conference schools to lose a year of playing eligibility. This is why Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield initially lost a year while sitting out 2014 after transferring from Texas Tech. Mayfield got 2014 turned into a redshirt year because of a conference rule tweak that lifted the penalty for walk-ons leaving to be walk-ons elsewhere in the league. Stidham, who was on scholarship at Baylor, won't be able to do that.

Either way, the race is on for Stidham, and plenty of schools could come calling for the quarterback who picked up 23 scholarship offers as a high schooler.

Stidham could stay in-state with Texas A&M, which has a thin depth chart at quarterback and only one year of Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight. He would be the perfect fit for the Aggies' high-powered offense and would keep them from possibly having to start true freshman Kellen Mond in 2017.

There's a chance Stidham would go with one of the other Big 12 schools in the Lone Star State. Texas could use another talented quarterback in its new-look offense. Texas Tech, the school Stidham was originally committed to in high school, might lose the strong-armed Patrick Mahomes to the NFL this offseason.

Schools outside the Big 12's footprint will clamor for Stidham as well. Auburn and Oregon, two famous spread-offense programs that have had great success with transfer quarterbacks, will undoubtedly go after Stidham again.

Ubben also noted that if current Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles—the son of former head coach Art Briles—doesn't stay with the Bears past this season, Stidham could follow him to his next school. Kendal Briles was Stidham's primary recruiter at Baylor and helped flip him from Texas Tech:

The race to secure an elite quarterback on the recruiting trail is a long and difficult process, and almost all of the options out there right now for 2017 are already claimed. 

But Stidham's transfer gives a fresh start to plenty of schools in what will be a complex and highly publicized second recruitment. 

It gives an early and eye-opening start to 2017's transfer quarterback market, the form of college football "free agency" that has overtaken the last several offseasons, especially in Stidham's home state of Texas.

Recruiting never stops, and Stidham's summer departure from Baylor should start a domino effect of quarterback decisions among high schoolers, JUCO players and graduate transfers for the rest of the 2017 cycle.

Those who respond the quickest to the market's opening bell could leave with what might be its most coveted asset.


Stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star WR KJ Hamler Knows 3 Official Visits, Says Oregon Is 'On Top'

BEAVERTON, Ore.  A native of Big Ten Conference territory, 4-star receiver recruit KJ Hamler is favoring a West Coast university.

The 5'9", 155-pound playmaker, currently at Nike's world headquarters for The Opening prospect showcase, pointed to Oregon as a program of particular interest. Though he's yet to visit Eugene, the Ducks have made a strong impression since extending an offer in late May.

“That offer meant a lot because Oregon has been one of my top schools for a while now," Hamler told Bleacher Report. "When I got it, I couldn’t really believe that happened. A lot of people don’t get an Oregon offer where I’m from [Detroit area]. They’re up on top for me.”

Though he's reluctant to declare an outright favorite and prefers to focus on a collection of schools, Hamler confirmed Oregon is in an enviable position when it comes to his recruiting process.

“I can say they’re at the top," he said.

Rated No. 40 nationally among receivers in composite rankings, Hamler will wrap up his high school career at Florida powerhouse IMG Academy. He spent the past three years at St. Mary's Prep near Detroit, winning four state titles—two on the football field and two on the track.

Hamler joins a loaded collection of talent at IMG, where he anticipates new challenges. 

“The roster is stacked," Hamler said. "There’s a lot of talent on IMG and I’m excited to meet those guys. That competition drives you to be better. This decision wasn’t personal. It was mostly for growth. The focus is on getting mentally and physically better, and ready for college.”

The ability to potentially enroll early at college next winter also motivated him to make the move. He will relocate to the Sunshine State later this month, but will return to Big Ten country before long.

Along with Oregon and fellow Pac-12 member Arizona, Hamler plans to use an official visit at Penn State. He's yet to determine if other official visits will occur beyond those three, and trips to Eugene and Tucson would both be his first.

Nittany Lions quarterback commit Sean Clifford, an Elite 11 finalist who is also at The Opening, continues to make Hamler a priority target. Overall, Penn State is perhaps the most persistent pursuer in this chase.

“I talk to them every day," Hamler said. "If I decide to go there, I know I have a quarterback on my side with Sean. We’re cool and we’re kind of close now. Sean keeps in contact all the time, so does [receivers coach Josh] Gattis and [head coach James] Franklin.”

He cites Penn State's need for a field-stretching deep threat as motivation to further explore options in Happy Valley.

“I could bring a different kind of playmaker to their system," Hamler said. "But, then again, a lot of teams think I bring something new to the offense. Coaches think I can be an electrifying playmaker and provide that for their team.”

He has been to Penn State multiple times already, but no school has hosted him more than Michigan State. Significant familiarity with the program will likely prevent Hamler from implementing an official visit in East Lansing.

“I don’t really need an official visit to Michigan State because I’ve been spending time there since eighth grade," he said. "I’ve got things pretty figured out there and already know everyone with the team."

The Spartans were the second team to offer Hamler, who carries a high comfort level with Michigan State coaches and players alike.

“They’ve been with me through thick and thin, through tough times and good times," he said. "I have a great relationship with the coaches and still stay in contact with them often.”

Michigan State leads his 247Sports "crystal ball" predictions with 60 percent of commitment projections, while Oregon carries the remaining 40 percent. An upcoming series of official visits, including his first trip to Eugene, should continue to reshape this evolving recruitment, with an anticipated commitment unlikely before winter.

“My family wants to fully understand the education part at each school but the rest of the process is up to me," Hamler said. "The official visits are going to be important."


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ultimate Guide to 2016 SEC Media Days

The circus is coming to town.

SEC media days—the annual event held at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, kicks off on Monday and will go through Thursday afternoon.

The event, which features each SEC head coach, three players from each team, commissioner Greg Sankey and a radio row that resembles the one created prior to every Super Bowl, serves as the unofficial kickoff to the college football season.

What should you expect during the four days in Hoover?

Begin Slideshow

Big Ten Q&A: Is the Revival of the Notre Dame Rivalry Good or Bad for Michigan?

Satellite camps have wrapped up, media days are on their way and the start of the 2016 college football season is officially fewer than two months away.

With that in mind, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A, where we'll tackle the rebirth of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry, LeBron James' presence at Ohio State, Michigan's quarterback situation and the best media food spread in the conference.

As always, you can send me your questions each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.


As a college football fan/observer/critic, I love it. Some of my most vivid early-life memories related to the sport pertain to September battles between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish, which always had a way of shaping each team's respective path throughout each season.

Add Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly to the mix, and one would imagine that some of the most intense battles between two of the most storied programs in all of college football will be upon us when the rivalry resumes in 2018.

But for that very reason, I wouldn't necessarily love this move if I happened to be a fan of Michigan football.

Already playing in the ultracompetitive Big Ten East, adding another annual quality opponent to their schedule leaves little to gain and plenty to lose for the Wolverines. Win, and you add just another quality win to your resume, which will already be full with opportunities to do as much thanks to Ohio State, Michigan State and, in most years, Penn State.

Lose, and you leave yourself with little room for error, one more loss away from your playoff hopes officially being on life support.

And while I ultimately believe that winning the Big Ten championship—especially from the East side of the division—will usually be enough to crash the playoff, we're two years in and yet to see a two-loss team make college football's Final Four.

With the series not being revived for at least another two years, a lot can change, both in terms of the landscape of the sport as well as the Michigan and Notre Dame programs.

But for now—and purely from a competitive standpoint—it's tough to see how bringing back a part of the Wolverines' past will help them in the future.


Since Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, his "good friend LeBron" (Meyer's words, not mine), has attended three Ohio State games: the Buckeyes' 2013 Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, their 2014 prime-time showdown with Virginia Tech and the 2015 College Football Playoff championship game.

And while King James was absent from Ohio Stadium throughout the 2015 campaign, it'd be surprising not to see him on the sideline for at least one Buckeyes game this fall.

Which one? It's tough to tell based on his and Ohio State's conflicting schedules.

But if you look at his history of having attended games at The Horseshoe, a clear pattern appears to have developed.

For one, the game has to be big enough for a megastar of James' magnitude to attend. This is a four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion, after all. Despite his love for Northeast Ohio, he's not showing up to watch the Buckeyes blow out Akron or Kent State. Plus, Meyer wouldn't want to waste a valuable photo op with James on a game unlikely to be attended by a who's who of Ohio State recruiting targets.

In theory, the game also has to be early enough in the schedule that it doesn't conflict with LeBron's training-camp schedule with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then again, James did leave a Cavs road trip to attend the national title game in Dallas, so perhaps he could make an exception should the right opportunity present itself, as it did in 2008 when he served as a guest-picker on College GameDay for a late-October battle between the Buckeyes and Penn State.

The only problem is that with an early-season game against Oklahoma being played in Norman, prime-time home games in the first half of Ohio State's schedule are lacking. Right now, I'd pencil James in for an appearance at the Buckeyes' Oct. 29 showdown with Northwestern—especially with the world champion Cavs opening the season at home, where they'll receive their rings—but beyond that, there aren't many other opportunities that meet the King's worthiness.


I'm assuming the "M" in question here represents Michigan.

If that's the case, I'll rely on the same line of logic I typically follow when forecasting recruitments, or even NBA free agency for that matter: follow the momentum.

In most situations, momentum is everything and obviously the best indicator of where something is headed.

Applying that to the Wolverines' starting quarterback vacancy, the front-runner at the moment would have to be Houston transfer John O'Korn. Even before Jake Rudock's time in Ann Arbor had come to an end, most had pegged O'Korn to be his successor, although Wilton Speight's strong spring certainly seemed to shake the situation up.

But coming off his victory in the QB Challenge at the Manning Passing Academy, momentum once again appears to be in O'Korn's favor. Obviously, an offseason skills championship isn't going to sway Harbaugh's opinion when picking his starting quarterback next month, but winning such competition certainly seems indicative of O'Korn possessing the talent many believed he did when they first touted him as the next UM starter.

Obviously, a lot can change between now and next month, and it wasn't too long ago that momentum seemed to be favor Speight.

But at the moment, it's in the corner of O'Korn, and the finish line is closer than you'd think.


Since sportswriters (like myself) are often self-important—sometimes more so than the athletes they cover—fans following on Twitter are often inundated with tweets about every game-day experience, right down to what they're served in the press box.

After all, who could forget Maryland's official indoctrination into its new conference with the Big Ten ice cream it served during halftime of a 2014 showdown against Ohio State.

Having traveled to almost every Big Ten stadium in my four years of covering the conference, I fancy myself as somewhat of an expert when it comes to the conference's press box cuisine. As far as the best, I'd have to go with Penn State, which adds some local-ish flavor by serving Philly cheesesteaks to reporters before each game.

The worst? That's not a particularly close call, as Michigan State relies on meal vouchers, which allow visiting media members their choice of a brat or hot dog before each game. I know, I know, free food is free food, but one hot dog is hardly enough to stay full throughout the 8-10 hours that are often required for covering a game.

To be fair, I haven't covered a game at Spartan Stadium since 2014, so perhaps their policy has changed. But rest assured, whether the food is good or bad, you'll be hearing about it from me—and other sportswriters—on Twitter in the coming year.


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. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Under-the-Radar Player

Being among the best teams in college football requires a healthy dose of star power, those well-known players everyone can identify. But just as important, if not more so, are the ones who operate outside of the spotlight yet still have a major impact on a team's performance.

These are the players you wouldn't normally mention first, second or even third when discussing a team's best assets.

It's not meant to be a slight against them but rather an indication that they've flown under the radar to this point and haven't caught everyone's attention.

That could all change this season.

Using Bleacher Report's most recent Top 25 rankings, we've picked out an under-the-radar player from each team. These may still not end up being their squad's best performers, but as the 2016 season progresses, you should start hearing their names more often.

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Ohio State Football: J.T. Barrett's 4 Biggest Hurdles to Winning Heisman Trophy

The starting quarterback at Ohio State has to be a Heisman Trophy candidate.

At least, that's the opinion of head coach Urban Meyer, who revealed those high expectations at the tail end of spring practice this April.

"The message was very clear to our team, and if you're going to play quarterback at Ohio State, you need to be a Heisman candidate," Meyer said, according to Bill Landis of the Plain Dealer. He later added, "If you play quarterback at Ohio State in this offense, you have to be a Heisman candidate, or we're going to suffer."

With the latest odds released by Bovada (h/t Patrick Murphy of The Ozone), the Buckeyes have their candidate in J.T. Barrett.

The dual-threat signal-caller already rewrote the school and Big Ten record books in 2014, breaking the single-season conference touchdown mark as a redshirt freshman. He was good enough in his first year to finish fifth in the Heisman voting.

But a broken ankle suffered against Michigan opened a quarterback competition with Cardale Jones, which derailed a followup campaign and another run at college football's highest individual honor.

Now a redshirt junior and the clear-cut leader of both the offense and the team as a whole, Barrett has an opportunity to bring Ohio State its eighth Heisman Trophy in school history.

What are the biggest obstacles he'll face this fall?


The Schedule 

Ohio State has been lambasted in recent years for a perceived lack of schedule strength, as a downturn in quality nonconference opponents was paired with a declining Big Ten.

That won't be the case this year when the Buckeyes take on one of the most challenging slates in the country. 

The Big Ten itself is well on the rise after Ohio State won the national title two years ago, and as a whole, the conference has gone 11-10 in the postseason since 2014. Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern, all of which are on the Buckeyes' schedule this fall, are projected as Top 25 teams by Bleacher Report's Ryan McCrystal.

The biggest challenge, however, will come early when Ohio State travels for a prime-time showdown with playoff contender Oklahoma in Week 3.

With five night games already on the docket, Barrett will have plenty of opportunities to shine this fall. But the quality of opponent will make it extremely tough for him to put up the video game numbers of recent Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.


The Play-Calling

With two big-time quarterbacks, Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and loads of playmaking ability on the perimeter, Ohio State's offense was supposed to be one of the most explosive in all of college football last year.

That explosiveness didn't truly materialize until the final week of the regular season, and much of that was due to a lack of quality play-calling.

The Buckeyes were transitioning from former offensive coordinator Tom Herman (who moved on to be the head coach at Houston) to offensive coordinator Tim Beck, who held the same position under Bo Pelini at Nebraska. Beck struggled to utilize all the tools he inherited, as Ohio State's pass offense ranked No. 100 nationally.

Ohio State figured some things out in its final two games when co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner moved from the sideline to the booth to call plays alongside Beck. The Buckeyes shifted to an uptempo offense, which yielded much better results in routs of Michigan and Notre Dame.

But most of the damage was done on the ground, as the rushing offense accounted for 654 of the 978 total yards Ohio State amassed against the Wolverines and Irish.

If Beck and Warinner can't find the aerial groove the Buckeyes had under Herman, Barrett might not have the numbers to get to New York City.


The Supporting Cast

Another thing that could affect Barrett's numbers is a new and relatively young supporting cast.

The Buckeyes are replacing all of their offensive skill players with the loss of all three starting wideouts (Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller), tight end Nick Vannett and, of course, Elliott at running back.

Ohio State has loads of promising options on the perimeter, starting with Noah Brown and Corey Smith—two relative vets who were supposed to contribute last year before broken legs derailed their seasons. Parris Campbell, Curtis Samuel, Torrance Gibson and Austin Mack give the Buckeyes plenty of potential superstars out wide, but there isn't a whole lot of game-time experience in the group.

When Barrett was at his best during the 2014 season, he worked as a distributor in Ohio State's offense. His two primary targets—Devin Smith and Thomas—are now playing their football in the NFL as second-round draft selections. 

If Ohio State can't identify a few reliable targets for Barrett to lean on, his chances of orchestrating a notable offense diminish greatly. 


The Strong Field

Even if Barrett is able to tame the tough schedule, the passing attack evolves and the supporting cast emerges quickly, it will still be tough to prove himself as the most outstanding player in college football.

The 2016 Heisman candidate field is absolutely stacked.

Ahead of Barrett on Bovada's latest Heisman odds are LSU running back Leonard Fournette (who ran for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns last year), Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (who led his team to the national title game and amassed 5,209 yards and 47 total touchdowns) and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (who totaled 2,703 yards and 17 total touchdowns).

Barrett has even odds with do-everything Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

It's one of the strongest fields in recent memory, and Barrett will need to elevate his game to uncharted territory to come out on top.

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