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Ranking the Most Quotable Head Coaches in College Football

College football coaches are judged on their win-loss record, their performance in clutch situations and how they fare on the recruiting trail. Being a great quote is just a really nice bonus.

There are some coaches in the game today that have a knack for spouting out memorable lines during press conferences and other interviews. Often these come in the heat of the moment, usually in reaction to an unexpected event, but they also come as a result of that coach's sense of humor and personality.

Whatever the reason, when a microphone or tape recorder is nearby we're all ears, eagerly anticipating the next great quip or one-liner.

Here's our ranking of the most quotable college football coaches in the game today, ranked based on how memorable their lines tend to be as well as the reactions they provoke.

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Cardale Jones Responds to Twitter User Regarding 'All Lives Matter' Comment

We knew Cardale Jones could shut down the Twitter world with his humor. On Thursday, his feed took on a whole new, deeper meaning.  

The Ohio State quarterback started off the morning by commenting on the ongoing hashtag war between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter, tweeting: "Why is it that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien [sic] in custody are African American? You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define "All"?"

Responding to Jones' thoughts, a Buckeyes fan with a now-deleted account wrote: "worry about getting us fans another championship....stay out of this bulls--t. #GoBucks"

Jones' response was, well, perfect:

Shutting down a Twitter troll and forcing him to delete his account? Rumble, young man, rumble.

Here's a reminder that Jones can be found at @CJ12_ in case you've haven't yet followed the best athlete account on the World Wide Web.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Adidas Gets It Right (Mostly) with Cornhusker Alternate Uni

For the last few days, Nebraska fans have been on pins and needles, as Adidas teased the Cornhuskers’ new uniforms. On Thursday, we finally got a look at what Adidas has in mind.

A tribute to history. A future advantage. @Huskers new TECHFIT x #Primeknit#HuskerBold uniform. #GBR#teamadidaspic.twitter.com/S0BELqcL1f

— adidas Football US (@adidasFballUS) July 23, 2015

This year’s offering will be a one-off, worn on Oct. 24 against Northwestern—much like the Purples did last year with their Gothic-inspired alternates against Nebraska.

It’s not quite as dramatic a look as Adidas gave Louisville for its alternate uniform. And it’s not the sweeping full-uniform change that Adidas put together for Miami this year. Nor is it the missed-opportunity disaster that Adidas fostered on UCLA.

So how did Adidas do in making Nebraska part of its #3StripeLife?

The Good

The helmet works well, basically replicating the standard helmet with a matte black base and chrome red striping. Functionally, it’s a matte version of the 2012 alternate helmet, which up to now was the sharpest of the helmet offerings.

There is one difference, though. On the back of the helmet, there will be giant-sized player numbers with the same horizontal slashes that permeate the design of the uniform. 

@PhilHecken has Adidas ever watermarked school names / nicknames into jerseys before? I've never seen it pic.twitter.com/xd0SAbRXYo

— Jake Sanchez (@j_sanatez) July 23, 2015

The jersey is a real amalgam of previous alternates for Nebraska. Since 2013, Adidas has used the stencil-like numerals for Nebraska’s alternate, and this year’s offering is no different. It has the black from Nebraska’s 2013 alternate and incorporated the “metallic” look from the 2014 model.

However, by using a red-on-black color scheme, Adidas will hopefully make the numbers legible from a distance, a huge problem with the 2014 offering.

The pants are functionally identical to last year’s model, with the color scheme being swapped (red-on-black instead of black-on-red) this year. The subtle sans-serifed N inside of the side stripes on the pants is repeated this year, which is a clever addition.

One other observation is the number Adidas chose for the uniform: 15. Probably not breaking news, but it's further confirmation that De'Mornay Pierson-El is slated to be the face of Nebraska's program for 2015.

The Bad

Yes, the undershirt is ridiculous, as pointed out by Paul Lukas of UniWatch.

Embarrassing. I think the red "N" stands for "No." pic.twitter.com/GyNvcfEqVR

— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 23, 2015

(And before you say it, yes, we’ve all heard the one about the N standing for “knowledge,” thank you very much.)

But it’s an undershirt. No one other than the players will ever see it outside of today’s reveal.

Of bigger concern is the tire-tread stretch pattern on the jerseys. Of course, we’ll hear from Adidas all about how it will make the players faster, lighter and stronger.

But, come on.

The primary reason for the design is to give a unified look to all Adidas-outfitted schools. The German outfitter wants you to know, at a glance, that a uniform is living the #3StripeLife, and the pattern—along with the diagonal slashes in the stripes, as seen with Nebraska, Miami and UCLA—is how Adidas will accomplish that goal.

And The Amalgam

Adidas has come under withering scrutiny over the last year or so for producing flops in uniforms. It’s no accident that Michigan, Tennessee and Notre Dame have all stopped living the #3StripeLife when they got the chance recently.

So there was more than a little pressure on Adidas to get things right this year for their football offerings. After a huge fail (UCLA), an interesting alternate (Louisville) and a qualified success (Miami), what Adidas would do with Nebraska was a cross-your-fingers moment.

Taken on its own, the 2015 alternate is a success. For alternates, black seems to work better than red, as it’s easier to differentiate it from Nebraska’s standard uniforms without being overly weird.

Prior to this season’s gear, the 2013 black uniforms were the best in my book, followed by the under-loved 2012 giant N uniforms (although Wisconsin’s that year were better) and then the 2014 “duct-tape” model, which worked far better in theory than in practice.

But when you look at the history of Nebraska’s alternates—never mind how weird it is to think of alternate uniforms as having a “history”—this year’s offering seems like a re-tread.

See what I did there, referring to Nebraska’s tire-tread-pattered uniform as a “re-tread”? Quality analysis at work.

There’s really not much new in these uniforms. Instead, it feels like taking the best parts of previous uniforms and melding them together in the hopes of getting something right.

Functionally, the uniform takes the black helmet from 2012, the black shirts from 2013, and the shiny numbers and N-pattered pant stripes from 2014 in a way that will be (hopefully) legible from a distance.

So overall, it should be fun to see Nebraska take the field on October 24 in these uniforms. Assuming the numbers are legible, Adidas managed to avoid a car-crash of a uniform. And the black uniforms and helmets should be a hit.

But it’s hard not to feel like this year’s offering is anything more than a recycling of previous years’ models. And that’s not what an alternate uniform is supposed to be.

This column first appeared at the Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

New 5-Star Ohio State Commit Nick Bosa Has Skills to Be Better Than Brother Joey

Nick Bosa, following in the footsteps of his famous older brother, has decided to leave Florida for a college football career in Columbus.

The 5-star St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) defensive end announced his commitment to Ohio State on Thursday via a Twitter post that indicates a proverbial passing of the torch from his older brother, Joey Bosa:

The elder Bosa, a junior standout at Ohio State, is a two-year starter who earned Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. A strong 2015 campaign could put him in contention to become the top overall pick in next year's NFL draft if he chooses to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Nick's commitment Thursday ensures there will be yet another talented lineman to fill the void for Ohio State after Joey's departure.

The 6'4", 265-pound playmaker is rated No. 1 among 2016 strong-side defensive ends and ninth overall nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is considered the Sunshine State's top senior defender.

Bosa becomes the 18th member of a star-studded Ohio State class. His pledge also pushes the Buckeyes past Florida State and LSU atop the composite class rankings.

The Seminoles were viewed as a viable contender for Nick, while Florida and Notre Dame also received interest. But despite a lengthy list of scholarship offers, few ever imagined he would end up anywhere other than Ohio State.

All 57 expert predictions in his 247Sports' Crystal Ball pointed to Columbus as Bosa's ultimate destination. It always seemed to be a case of when, not if, he would join the Buckeyes class.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, fresh off his third national championship as a coach, reeled in a dominant prospect who will face immense expectations at Ohio State. Joey has quickly become a Buckeyes legend, and Nick faces a long road to step out of that shadow during his college career.

In what should be seen as a testament to the Bosa bloodline, Nick actually has the attributes to become even better than his older brother, depending on individual dedication and further fundamental/physical development.

Nick wreaks havoc in the offensive backfield, terrorizing opponents and inspiring teammates with the same level of relentlessness that makes Joey such an endearing star. Nick tallied 30 tackles for loss and five sacks last fall, leading one of the nation's most prominent high school programs to a state championship.

His winning pedigree and punishing style of play in the trenches put him in rarefied territory among 2016 recruits.

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles scouted Bosa as part of B/R's CFB Recruiting 200 series:

The stock of Nick Bosa appears to rise every day, but the hype is real. …

Bosa brings toughness and tenacity to the football field. He's a big, strong athlete who plays with a chip on his shoulder. It's that mean streak that makes Bosa such an intriguing player. He already has the mindset of a college athlete; now it's simply a matter of getting him on the field.

Given his skill set and mentality, the evidence suggests Nick might match Joey's experience as a true freshman starter. How his career unfolds from there will eventually determine which Bosa goes down as a bigger Buckeyes hero.

Joey's journey in Columbus is at least halfway through, featuring an abundance of accolades and a national championship ring. Nick, the newest member of America's top 2016 class, has the necessary tools to duplicate—and perhaps even exceed—his predecessor's accomplishments.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated Odds: Where Will 2016's No.1 Recruit Rashan Gary Land?

Rashan Gary is the top-ranked recruit in the 2016 class, according to 247sports.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer throws down some odds on where we may see Gary land.

Where do you think he will end up? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Xavier Kelly Sets Decision Date: Where Will 4-Star DE Land?

One of the nation's top pass-rushers will come off the board Friday when 4-star defensive end Xavier Kelly announces his commitment.

The 6'5", 255-pound Kansas native recently announced via his Twitter account that he will choose from a group of eight finalists: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State, Michigan, Oregon and TCU.

Kelly is scheduled to announce Friday at 2 p.m. ET, as Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports detailed.

Kelly, who initially committed to Kansas State back in November 2014, has been on a whirlwind tour in the last month, with Clemson and Georgia being the last two schools to get him on campus earlier this month.

Which school has the inside track on adding the nation's No. 8 weak-side defensive end and the top prospect from the state of Kansas?

As Wiltfong noted, at the end of June, Kelly stated that a trio of schools—Alabama, Florida State and Georgia—were standing out to him.

However, it appears Clemson is the school gaining the most traction on his Crystal Ball page since he's set his announcement.

Kelly visited Clemson back in late May and returned last week for head coach Dabo Swinney's All-In cookout, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

As Hale McGranahan of the Clemson Insider noted, Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive ends coach Marion Hobby were treating Kelly as a top priority while he was on campus.

"They were just giving me a lot of good reasons why I should be here," Kelly told McGranahan. "They feel like they really need me. They said it's perfect timing for me to come to Clemson because they really need some players at the position. They're in need at that position, so they want me to come in." 

As Ourlads detailed, the Tigers depth chart at defensive end has three upperclassmen among the top four players at the position, which illustrates the staff's desire to load up on quality pass-rushers in this cycle.

After his Clemson visit, he made the short trek to Athens to attend Georgia's Dawg Night camp.

According to Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, the Bulldogs also made an impression on him thanks to the opportunities they can present him on the field and in the classroom.

"Georgia is a great fit for me because it is close enough for my family, they are in the SEC, and they have great academics," Kelly told Adams. "I want to major in business, and they have a great business school."

The Bulldogs are also targeting quality pass-rushers in the 2016 class. But Kelly may fit in as more of an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's 3-4 scheme.

However, given Clemson's need at defensive end and his fit as a traditional pass-rushing end in its defense, the Tigers appear to hold the edge in landing Kelly's pledge heading into his announcement.

 

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

Ranking the Top QBs Notre Dame Defense Will Face in 2015

On Wednesday, we examined the top quarterbacks Texas' defense will face in 2015. Now, let's take a look at the same category for Notre Dame, who just so happens to be the Longhorns' Week 1 opponent. 

The thought process for this list is similar to the previous one. Open quarterback battles take a back seat since it's difficult to project a winner. Previous games against the Irish are taken into consideration, as are career production and preseason/postseason accolades. 

The Irish return a defense that struggled in the second half of the season, but one that also has a lot of experience with proven playmakers like linebacker Jaylon Smith. Which quarterbacks present the toughest challenges for Smith and Co.? Let's take a look. 

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Nick Bosa to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 5-Star DE Prospect

By the time offensive linemen can stop worrying about Joey Bosa, it will be time for his younger brother, Nick, to fuel the nightmares of opposing blockers everywhere.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Bosa will follow in his brother's footsteps and head to Ohio State.

Bosa confirmed the news on his Twitter account:

Bosa is the No. 1-ranked strong-side defensive end and the eighth-ranked player overall on 247Sports' composite rankings.

No matter what the St. Thomas Aquinas High School star does, he'll be inextricably linked to his older brother. Especially early on, as more fans become familiar with Nick's game, everything will be viewed through the prism of where Joey was at the same stage.

Nick will obviously want to get out of Joey's shadow, but there's no question he has reaped some of the benefits from his brother's success.

ESPN's Brian Bennett wondered if having Nick around would keep Joey in Columbus for another season:

Rocco Casullo, then-head coach of St. Thomas Aquinas, spoke in January 2014 about the impact of their kinship and how Nick has always been an attentive learner, per Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

I think having Joey as his older brother has helped him tremendously. If you watch Joey's high school film and how he has matured from his freshman, sophomore and into his junior year, Nick was always around watching him as a youth. Nick always wanted to compete with his older brother and play with the older kids and show everyone that he is a great football player, which he is.

I think that year really propelled Nick big time because he got the experience of playing on a great defense with Joey and (Miami recruit) Anthony Moten, and he saw he fit in. Then it just elevated his game as a sophomore and I can't wait to see what he does this year.

Bosa is well on his way to becoming a major difference-maker at the college level. He's extremely strong and more than willing to use that strength to his advantage. He won't blow by offensive linemen too often; he'll simply run right through them.

He'll only get stronger when he works with a strength and conditioning team at Ohio State.

Technique-wise, Bosa is still a work in progress. He's a bit too reliant on his physical gifts. That's more than enough to make him a beast in high school, but it won't work all of the time against college blockers.

That should only be a minor problem, however. Bosa has the physical tools to become a well-rounded defensive end, and there's little doubt, given his improvement in high school, that he's willing to put in the work to get better.  

 

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Leads the Way on 2015 Preseason All-ACC Team

After taking home the media's preseason vote for the conference championship and Player of the Year award, it's no surprise that Clemson has the most representation on the 2015 preseason All-ACC team.

The ACC issued a press release confirming the selections:

Clemson leads all schools with five selections to the 2015 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Football Team announced on Thursday.

The team was selected by a vote of 163 media members who were credentialed for the ACC Football Kickoff earlier this week at Pinehurst Resort.

Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, who earlier this week was voted the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, is joined on the All-ACC preseason team by Tiger wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, offensive guard Eric Mac Lain and defensive end Shaq Lawson.

Florida State and Virginia Tech each placed four student-athletes on the 2015 All-ACC preseason team, while Pitt had three selected.

Here is the full preseason All-ACC team:

The first team has an extra member at defensive end due to a tie in voting between Lawson and Louisville's Sheldon Rankins. Virginia Tech's Dadi Lhomme Nicolas, who finished second in the ACC last season with 18 tackles for loss, led the position with 108 votes.

Pittsburgh had two of the top three vote-getters in the preseason team. Running back James Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, garnered a team-best 148 votes, while wide receiver Tyler Boyd grabbed 137 to finish third in total votes behind Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo (141).

Conner ran for a conference-record 26 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, while Boyd became the first player in league history to record 1,000 receiving yards in his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

Aguayo, the 2013 Groza Award winner as the nation's best kicker, has hit at least 90 percent of his field goals in his first two seasons at Florida State and is on pace to break the FBS all-time record for career field-goal percentage.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller, Duke safety Jeremy Cash, North Carolina kick returner Ryan Switzer and Aguayo were also named to the ACC's preseason first team in 2014, with Fuller and Aguayo later finishing the year as postseason first-teamers.

 

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

The start of the 2015 season is just a few weeks away, so let's take a look at some end-of-year predictions. Who will be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after the 2015 season?

Check out Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down who should win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What LSU Needs to Do to Keep No. 1 Recruiting Ranking

According to 247Sports, the LSU Tigers are currently holding the top ranking for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue breaks down exactly what the Tigers need to do to stay in that top spot.

Do you think they can do it? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida's Defense Can Keep the Gators in the SEC East Discussion

For the most part, Florida has been the punch line to a really sad joke over the last two seasons, as former head coach Will Muschamp struggled to keep the program relevant in the down SEC East.

Despite that, the Gators stayed in the division title conversation into November of last year after their surprising 38-20 upset of Georgia in the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

For a team that struggled mightily offensively, managing just 367.6 yards per game (12th in the SEC) and 179.9 passing yards per game (12th in the SEC), being in the discussion in November was a minor miracle—and perhaps an indictment of the division.

Can that happen again?

Muschamp was shown the door, and new head coach Jim McElwain—an offensive-minded coach—brought in former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to run the defense.

Don't expect much of a change.

"There's a lot of similarity, a lot of same language, and I think that that's really important as we go," McElwain said at SEC media days earlier this month. "I just love his energy every day, and the way his teams have played, that speaks for itself."

Collins ran primarily a 4-3 at Mississippi State, where his situational defense was stellar. The Bulldogs led the conference last year in red-zone scoring defense (63.64 percent) and finished third in third-down defense (34.95 percent). 

He inherits a program that was more of a 3-4 multiple scheme under Muschamp and known for attacking the quarterback. Collins might implement more 4-3 looks than Muschamp did, but the goal will be the same.

In fact, it's going to be even more aggressive thanks to a trustworthy secondary led by All-American corner Vernon Hargreaves III, fellow corner Jalen Tabor, safety Keanu Neal and the rest of the talented group in the back end.

"It's going to give us a chance to do some stuff that's out of the ordinary for us," said defensive end Jonathan Bullard. "You know, take a few more shots. When you have guys behind you like Hargreaves, you're not really worried about it. All of our defensive backs there are really good, so it's important for our young guys to know exactly what they're doing. I'll probably take a few more shots."

With Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Taven Bryan, Jarrad Davis, Antonio Morrison, Alex Anzalone and a loaded front seven, the Gators will still bring the same aggressiveness that helped keep them in games even during the down times.

That will allow the offense a little more of a cushion adjusting to McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and perhaps new pro-style starting quarterback Will Grier—assuming he beats out dual-threat returning starter Treon Harris.

Sure, the offensive line will be an issue despite McElwain welcoming two new transfers who are eligible immediately, including two-time FCS All-American Mason Halter (Fordham). That, plus the transition to a new scheme and perhaps a new quarterback, will prevent the level of consistency needed to truly contend.

But with seven starters returning, the defense will at least give the Gators a shot.

"We're going to have to lean on [veterans] as we introduce some of these younger guys, and yet it's up to the offense to kind of take some of the heat off of them as well," McElwain said. "It goes hand in hand."

Plus, look around. It's not like other division foes are absent of holes. Defending division champ Missouri has no proven wide receivers and a defensive line that's very much a question mark, Georgia has a brand-new defensive line and an offense that is a big unknown behind running back Nick Chubb, and Tennessee's offensive line is experienced yet inconsistent.

Florida likely won't win the division, but the defense will at least keep the Gators in games and in the conversation.

The foundation of the Gators has been defense for the last half-decade. Even though McElwain's track record is as a successful offensive coach, the identity of the Gators will remain.

"As far as the defense taking a step back, that's not going to happen," Bullard said. "We're not going to allow that to happen."

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

CFB Recruiting 200: Top 11 Interior Linemen in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As the summer camp circuit comes to a close, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the top Interior Lineman. 

Other Positions

 

Unlike in basketball, center and guard are two of the least flashy positions on the gridiron.

Those who line up along the interior of the offensive line may not generate daily headlines.

Yet coaches across the country covet top interior offensive linemen because of the need to be stout up the middle.

The latest entry of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 series profiles the top underappreciated big uglies in the 2016 cycle and graded them on a 100-point scale in areas such as strength, pass-blocking, run-blocking and explosion.

How do the top interior offensive linemen in the 2016 cycle measure up?

 

All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani.

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Georgia Football: 4 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

Fall camp is a time for players to build chemistry as well as get in shape for the upcoming season. The Georgia Bulldogs should have both of those things already in place because the team looked in shape during spring practice, and with 11 starters returning, chemistry won’t be hard to build either.

However, with 11 returning starters also comes a new slate of players coming into the fold, which makes fall camp more exciting. The Bulldogs have a talented core of young players and veterans looking to gain playing time this season. And if the Bulldogs reach their goals for this season, it will be because of the players who are able to be productive in fall camp.

So here are four players who are sure to surprise when the Bulldogs hit the practice field in a couple weeks.

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UCLA Football: 5 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

With fall camp starting up in the early portion of August, a look ahead to the UCLA football roster seems like the logical thing to do. 

There are five players with the potential to surprise during fall camp in San Bernardino. None of the five are currently projected to start. In fact, a few might not see the field much—if at all—in 2015. 

However, each has his individual talents to make an impact this coming season. This piece will analyze why the five athletes in question are sure to surprise for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. 

 

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UCLA Football: 5 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

With fall camp starting up in the early portion of August, a look ahead to the UCLA football roster seems like the logical thing to do. There are five players with the potential to surprise during fall camp in San Bernardino...

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The Search for Alabama's Mojo Continues, but Begins with the Defense

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though Mississippi State was ranked No. 1 at the time, when the Bulldogs visited Bryant-Denny Stadium last October, they initially didn’t do the things that had led to that top ranking.

MSU hesitated and was tentative, although part of that had to do with the way the Crimson Tide played. Alabama got a safety and then a field goal followed by two touchdowns en route to a 19-3 lead. The Bulldogs did play better in the second half but never got closer than the final score of 25-20.

“Being No. 1, being in a hostile environment (against) a team that’s used to being No. 1, in their place, it was a good experience,” MSU quarterback Dak Prescott said about the game which essentially settled the SEC West title. “We started out slow, couple of mistakes that put us behind and came back, rallied, and a (with) couple of more minutes who knows?”

While it was the first of three losses over its final four games, Mississippi State looks back on that afternoon thinking “what if?” instead of dwelling on the fact that it hasn’t beaten its rival since 2007. Arkansas went through something similar after its narrow 14-13 loss, and Ole Miss defeated Alabama to knock it from atop the polls.

Granted, the SEC West as a whole has gotten better the last couple of years, but the Crimson Tide lost something along the way as well.

"Guys aren't scared to play us anymore, it’s as simple as that," senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said at SEC media days. "Guys come in very happy, excited to play us.

"I used to see teams break down in the first half and just give up playing. We've got to get that back."

If it sounds like Alabama no longer has its mojo—or for non-fans of Austin Powers movies swagger, moxie or an intangible something that helps make you successful—to a certain extent it’s true.

After winning back-to-back national championships, it had the stunning Kick 6 at Auburn in 2013, and last year, Urban Meyer successfully convinced his players to ignore the Crimson Tide mystique during the inaugural playoffs. Ohio State stormed back from a 21-6 deficit to win 42-35 en route to the national title.

Since then you’ve heard everything from how the Crimson Tide didn’t respect facing a third-string quarterback in the Sugar Bowl to some of the players may have been distracted by the draft evaluations that arrived just before they faced the Buckeyes.

But relentless teams don’t have negative turnover ratios (minus-two).

Hungry teams don’t let up when they get significant leads.

Championship teams don’t get satisfied.

“When you win so much sometimes guys start to lose focus,” Ragland explained.

“A lot of guys talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. That’s when your teammates don’t really look up to you, if you’re not doing the things that you have to do.”

Alabama would like to be more physical on the offensive line and more imposing in the run game, but coming off a record-setting season under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, most of the Crimson Tide's soul-searching has to be done on the defensive side.

It used to take a Heisman Trophy winner to beat the Crimson Tide or a phenomenal team like LSU had in 2011. Not so much in 2014.

Alabama didn’t lead the SEC in scoring defense for the first time since 2008, and it had at least tied for first in total defense every season since 2007. Both streaks were league records, but the Crimson Tide finished third in both statistical categories.

Alabama may have won the Iron Bowl, but fans are still shaking their heads about the 55-44 score. Nick Marshall’s 456 passing yards and 505 total yards were both Auburn records. His top receiver, Sammie Coates, had 206 receiving yards.

So when Nick Saban says, "It's going to be a challenge for our team to re-establish the identity that we would like to play with," and “We gave up too many explosive plays on defense,” he means it—and everyone’s to blame.

However, for two years the players who have been getting pointed to the most have been the cornerbacks, especially the ones not named Cyrus Jones.

It’s the position where Alabama used to land a top recruit every year, but after Dee Milliner in 2010, it really didn’t again until Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey in 2014.

They now appear ready to step up, and with premier prospects Kendall Sheffield and Minkah Fitzpatrick behind them, Alabama may not just be on the verge of a renaissance at the position, but the defense as a whole. 

Any coach can tell you what kind of a difference solid cornerback play can make and how it can help create some swagger. But combine that with a front seven that has the potential to be outstanding, and Alabama could again be dominating...

...if players such as Ragland, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, etc., want it bad enough.

“The leadership we have now this year, guys are talking more about finishing and having more respect on the field for our opponents,” Ragland said. “When we don’t have respect for our opponents that’s when teams sneak up and beat you.

“Anybody can get hit in the mouth at any time.”

So when Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen says that he wants another shot at Alabama and to “find a way to go win it, “ the Crimson Tide’s reaction should be simple—that it’ll do whatever it takes to make him eat those words.

 

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

Florida Football: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for 2015

There are plenty of variables for the Florida Gators this season. The 2015 Gators will feature a new head coach in Jim McElwain, possibly a new quarterback in Will Grier and most importantly a talent-laden roster capable of competing in the SEC.

But a team with just as much talent managed only seven wins last season. How much improvement the Gators will show in year one under McElwain is one of the biggest questions in the SEC heading into the 2015 season.

The Gators' talent could rise to the occasion to make Florida an SEC power once again. On the other hand, McElwain could take his lumps in his first season as a head coach in the SEC. 

Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Florida Gators in 2015.

 

Best Case

In the best-case scenario, McElwain brings the Gators' talented roster together to show impressive improvement in year one. 

Will Grier wins the quarterback battle over Treon Harris early in fall camp and is given plenty of time to establish continuity with the rest of the offense, especially junior receiver Demarcus Robinson and sixth-year tight end Jake McGee. 

As a redshirt freshman, Grier doesn't have game experience, but he certainly has the physical attributes and an accurate arm.

The biggest problem in Florida's offense under Will Muschamp was it was almost always one-dimensional. The Gators finished 12th in the conference in passing each of the last two years. Grier can help change that, and McElwain can bring him along slowly by putting him in situations to make simple reads and throws, much like he did with A.J. McCarron at Alabama in 2011. 

Despite returning only one starter from last season, the new offensive line is able to jell early on. Martez Ivey has a freshman season resembling that of Cameron Robinson or Laremy Tunsil. Also, FCS transfer Mason Halter adds much-needed depth at the Gators' thinnest position.

The presence of a passing threat and a capable offensive line open up running back Kelvin Taylor for a breakout 2015 season.  

On defense, the Gators don't miss a beat without Muschamp in control. Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor shut down opposing receivers, while Alex McCalister and CeCe Jefferson put the heat on quarterbacks. 

Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley are able to plug holes in the running game as well. 

The Gators win tough home matchups against Tennessee and Ole Miss as well as on the road against Missouri to set up a matchup against Georgia that could decide the SEC East. 

Florida re-establishes itself as one of the top programs in the SEC, and the McElwain era starts off with a bang. 

Best-Case Record: 10-2 

 

Worst Case

McElwain's first season in Gainesville features more of the same from the past few years. 

Neither quarterback is able to take control of the starting job in fall camp, and the position battle spills over into the first few games of the season.

"I don't know how it is going to happen. I don't know how it is going to go down," Hargreaves said at SEC media days, per the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson. "I don't know if athleticism is going to happen or is Will being more of a quarterback gonna prevail? We'll find out."

The continued lack of an effective quarterback causes the Gators offense to remain as one-dimensional as it has been in the past. 

A depleted passing attack allows SEC defenses to load the box against Taylor, Adam Lane and Jordan Scarlett in the running game. The constant pressure from seven or eight defenders overwhelms the inexperienced offensive line. 

The deficiencies up front keep McElwain from fully implementing his offense in his first year, and the Gators remain one of the worst offensive teams in the SEC. 

The defense talent is still strong but does experience a drop-off with new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins running the show instead of Muschamp.

Florida can't find an answer to replace Dante Fowler Jr.'s pass-rushing abilities, and as a result the defensive front can't put much pressure on quarterbacks, leaving the veteran secondary stuck to cover receivers too long in passing situations. 

After ranking fifth in the conference in total defense last season, the Gators drop a couple of spots to the middle of the pack. 

The Gators get SEC wins against Vanderbilt and Kentucky but end up needing a victory over South Carolina or Florida State for a sixth win to reach a bowl game. 

Meanwhile, questions arise over whether McElwain was the right hire. 

Worst-Case Record: 5-7 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Amway Coaches' Top 25 Poll

As if college football coaches don't already have enough to do in preparation for the 2015 season, nearly half of those in the FBS ranks also must determine who will be ranked in the Amway Coaches' Poll preseason Top 25.

All told, 62 coaches will vote in this year's weekly rankings, which no longer have a bearing on the national title race as they did during the BCS era but nevertheless still provide something to debate about each week. That starts with the preseason poll, which like most before-the-season lists and rankings is based as much on how things went last year as it is on what is expected this fall.

Since we don't know which coaches are voting this year—that gets released along with the initial poll—we can only speculate as to what their thinking will be in how they rank teams at the start of the 2015 season. We've already projected what we think the Associated Press preseason Top 25 will look like, and now it's the coaches' turn to have their rankings predicted.

Please take note: This isn't how Bleacher Report would rank the teams heading into 2015—we'll have our own preseason poll come out just before the season begins—but rather how we expect those who are on the Amway panel will vote. With that in mind, take a look at our projections, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Ranking the Top QBs Texas Defense Will Face in 2015

Texas' defense has a shiny new toy in freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson. The former No. 1 player in the state of Texas, according to 247Sports, figures to play a major role in the Longhorns defense in 2015. In all, the Longhorns could have several young players take the field on defense. 

While that means the future is promising for that side of the ball, it also means there could be some growing pains out of the gate. Specifically, which quarterbacks will be the toughest for Texas' new-look defense to control? We attempt to find some answers in the following slides. 

Quarterbacks still in heated or otherwise-wide-open quarterback battles are given less consideration. Rankings were based on past production (so experience is a valuable metric), ability and accolades. 

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