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Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of Tennessee's 2016 Recruiting Class

The Tennessee Volunteers have hit the recruiting trail with a vengeance in 2015, scooping up some of the best young talent in the country. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee joined Stephen Nelson to discuss what they still need to add for this current cycle. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ondre Pipkins Says Jim Harbaugh, Staff Pressured Him to Quit Michigan Football

Michigan senior defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins has one year of eligibility left in his collegiate career. But he says new head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff told him that he won't use it playing for the Wolverines this fall.

According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Pipkins said Harbaugh, head athletic trainer Paul Schmidt and associate athletic director Jim Minick pressured him to retire from football.

The Michigan staff reportedly asked Pipkins 10 times in two months to sign a medical scholarship form that would've ended his playing career.

Pipkins tore his ACL against Minnesota in October 2013 but was able to play for the Wolverines in the 2014 season, recording nine tackles in five games. He recorded 24 tackles in 24 games in his Michigan career.

"I feel I'm healthy and ready to play," Pipkins told Schad. "I don't want to sign the form. I wanted to play for my seniors and for the team. Coach Harbaugh said, 'I recommend you take the medical.'"

Pipkins said doctors were initially concerned about arthritis in his previously injured knee, but it wouldn't keep him from playing his senior season. After more pressure from Michigan, Pipkins said he was sent back to his surgeon, who then recommended a six-month period of rest.

"After consulting with our medical team, we do not think it is in Ondre's best interest as it relates to his health and welfare to play football, short or long term," Harbaugh said in a statement given to ESPN. "He remains on full scholarship and counts toward the 85 scholarship limit in pursuit of graduation from the University of Michigan."

The senior said Harbaugh told him it was "not fair" to his teammates as Pipkins continued to resist signing the medical form. Pipkins said he knows of another Michigan player who has been told to "get healthy by a July 1 deadline or sign a medical to retire."

"College football is a business," Pipkins told Schad. "New coaches have to win games. They want to go with guys they think can win. If I'm a victim of making room, so be it. But if there is no concrete reason to disqualify a player, he should have the right to keep playing."

According to Wolverine247's Steve Lorenz, Pipkins and coaches "were not meshing well since the new staff took over in January." Lorenz also said he was told Pipkins had suffered a couple of concussions at Michigan.

Lorenz's sources told him during spring practice they "weren't expecting Pipkins to be a part of the team in 2015."

Pipkins, who was a 4-star recruit in the class of 2012, told Schad he would transfer for his final year of eligibility.

By his request, Michigan told him he is allowed to contact Oklahoma State, Georgia State, TCU, Tennessee, Florida State and Washington State.

Pipkins may have to transfer to a lower-division school if no other FBS program gives him two scholarship years—he wouldn't be immediately eligible under NCAA rules— to play just one.

The former Michigan defensive tackle posted this message to his Instagram account Friday afternoon:

It's been a tough past couple of months for me and it is true that I will be looking to play my last year of eligibility at another school. I want to thank Coach Hoke, Coach Heck and Coach Montgomery for recruiting me to play at the University of Michigan. I wanted nothing more than to just be #Great at playing for the Maize and Blue... To my brothers and the senior class of Michigan Football I deeply apologize for not being able to complete this journey because I know that we were looking forward to this season more than ever. I love you guys and I will cherish our memories forever. I hope you all understand that this was the best decision for me and my family..... Lastly I also want to thank all of my support system for helping me get through these tough couple of months. I can't wait to see what the good lord has in store for me in the near future. #GodBless

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Penn State Lands 4-Star DL Ellison Jordan

Penn State picked up another key piece for its 2016 recruiting class Friday as coveted defensive lineman Ellison Jordan chose the Nittany Lions.  

The tackle confirmed his college selection on social media. Penn State is on a roll right now when it comes to upgrading its defense for the future. Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com highlighted how things are shaping up after a successful week:

Jordan is a 4-star prospect who rates as the No. 161 player in the class and one of the top 20 defensive tackles available, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The outlet also notes his arrival moves the Nittany Lions into the top 10 of the 2016 team rankings for the time being.

What he lacks in size (6'0'', 270 lbs), he makes up for with an intriguing combination of strength and quickness. He features an explosive first step and could end up playing both end and tackle early in his college career before settling into one spot.

He joins a defensive line that's clearly become a lot more promising in recent days. The only potential downside is that it makes the path to playing time more crowded. Being able to fill multiple roles should help Jordan as he attempts to crack the rotation.

As he gains experience and adds more moves to his arsenal, his natural tools should allow him to become a well-rounded tackle—somebody capable of plugging holes against the run but also featuring enough small-area speed to get after the quarterback.

Penn State clearly heads into the weekend with a lot of recruiting momentum. Now, the question is whether it can build off of it in the weeks and months ahead to bring in a top-five class for 2016.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Maty Mauk Must Do to Lead Missouri to Its 3rd Straight SEC East Title

Maty Mauk's first season as Missouri's full-time starting quarterback was a bit like going to see Major League II. Yeah, the ending was good, but getting there left a lot to be desired—especially after his first year in 2013, when he filled in for injured starter James Franklin for a few games.

Mauk completed 53.4 percent of his passes last season (221 of 414) for 2,648 yards, 25 touchdowns and 13 picks—the second-most interceptions in the SEC behind former Ole Miss gunslinger Bo Wallace.

Despite the high interception number and a completion percentage that didn't exactly jump off the page, Mauk and the Tigers found themselves inside the Georgia Dome in early December for the second straight season, playing for an SEC championship.

As was the case in 2013, it didn't work out.

What must Mauk improve on to land the Tigers back in the SEC Championship Game for the third straight season?

 

Be Better Earlier

Mauk didn't exactly set the world on fire during the first three quarters of games. In fact, he probably didn't even have matches.

All 13 of his interceptions came in the first 45 minutes of games. He completed just 52.2 percent of his passes during that time and routinely had to dig himself and his team out of holes.

To his credit, he did. His nine touchdowns and 166.31 fourth-quarter passer rating—which would have led the SEC and been fifth-best nationally had he done it all year—are mighty impressive.

But wouldn't it be better if he looked like that difference-maker earlier in games?

Whether it's warming up differently, changing the way he gets dressed or whatever, Mauk has to find a way to have the kind of fourth-quarter urgency he showed last season earlier in games.

There are questions along the defensive line, and while that position was a big reason the Tigers stayed in games last year, it'd make life much more comfortable for head coach Gary Pinkel if he didn't have to rely on that on a seemingly weekly basis.

 

Develop Chemistry with Wide Receivers Now, Not Later

For the second straight season, Missouri's wide receiving corps is undergoing a massive overhaul. Unlike last year, though, there aren't veterans such as Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt who are familiar with the speed of SEC football to help ease the transition.

Missouri's wide receivers have a grand total of 10 career receptions—as a group.

Sure, there are talented prospects such as 6'3", 205-pound sophomore Nate Brown (who has five of those receptions), J'Mon Moore also has that big 6'3" frame working for him, and Wesley Leftwich's speed makes him a solid option outside.

This spring, though, the combination of injuries within the receiving corps and the lack of familiarity created a slow learning process. As David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune noted in April, it took a couple of scrimmages for the passing attack to score a passing touchdown, and even when it did, efficiency was still an issue.

Despite an early-season schedule that has Missouri hosting Southeast Missouri, visiting Arkansas State, hosting UConn and visiting Kentucky, Mauk can't afford to learn his new receivers on the fly. Now's the time to hit the practice field and develop that chemistry, so that the offense can hit the ground running in the fall.

 

Run More, Not Less

Remember back in 2011, when Missouri finished with the ninth-best rushing attack in the country at 243.46 yards per game?

It might not have to reach that level again, but with that new receiving corps and a rather mobile quarterback in Mauk, it might not be a bad idea for Pinkel and offensive coordinator Josh Henson to follow that same blueprint.

When Mauk was a backup and filled in for Franklin in 2013, he averaged 5.59 yards per carry on 41 carries. As a full-time starter in 2014, that averaged dropped to 3.45 yards per carry on 108 carries.

Mauk's ability as a dual-threat quarterback went underutilized last season, and he and the staff need to make sure that changes in 2015. When combined with talented veteran running back Russell Hansbrough, Missouri could put together a pretty dynamic offense with the two running threats in the backfield. 

Whether it's designed or on the fly, Mauk needs to take what the defense gives him. At times, that means trusting his legs more.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Is Georgia's 'Do-or-Die' Game of the 2015 Season?

The Georgia Bulldogs are a team that is always in contention. Looking ahead to the 2015 season, which game on their schedule is the most crucial? 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee and Stephen Nelson answer that question in the video above. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Most Underrated Rivalries in College Football

Rivalries are a part of what makes college football so great. The history and the hatred between two rival schools set up must-watch games each year with unique names and even more unique trophies.

Fans all over the country know about the annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. They recognize how huge The Game between Ohio State and Michigan is every year. The Golden Hat for Oklahoma and Texas' Red River Rivalry and UCLA-USC's Victory Bell are iconic sights.

But all rivalries aren't created equal on a national scale, and the spotlight doesn't always shine on some of the most passionate series in college football. Whether it's a lack of name recognition or title stakes, plenty of great rivalries aren't the first ones that come to mind for the average fan.

Here are 10 of the most underrated rivalries in FBS college football. You won't find these games on your average list of "best college football rivalries," but they each deserve attention for their close contests, long histories and—most importantly—the amount of bad blood that drips from each meeting. 

Which rivalry do you think is the most underrated in college football on a national scale, and what are some other overlooked jewels of the annual schedule? Let us know in the comments below.

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Notre Dame Football: Most Important Player at Each Position

Stop us if you've heard this before, but Notre Dame might actually be really good this season. We're talking about a possible playoff contender. 

(Stop laughing. Seriously. We mean it.) 

The Irish return a lot of stars, from linebacker Jaylon Smith to defensive tackle Sheldon Day and receiver William Fuller. If the quarterback situation with Malik Zaire can take off, this can be a scary-good team with NFL talent all over it. 

Certainly, how a player projects at the next level is a factor in determining the most important players for the Irish. However, so does productivity and a player's role. All of those things were taken into consideration in determining Notre Dame's most important players. 

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NFL Draft: Which College Football Running Backs Have 1st-Round Talent?

The number of college football running backs selected in the first round of the NFL draft has rapidly declined. Which college running back will be the next first-rounder?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss and answer that question in the video above.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

No SEC Coaches Are on the Hot Seat in 2015, but What About 2016?

Unlike last offseason, when former Florida head coach Will Muschamp was sitting on the hottest seat in America, the summer of 2015 has been quiet on the coaching carousel front.

Newer coaches are still building programs, veterans have them cooking at a high level and the ones who don't still have plenty of time to turn things around.

But what if they don't?

The 2015 season will serve as the opening act to 2016, which could be one in which several head coaches within the SEC are coaching for their jobs.

Who could be wading into treacherous waters (this is a Mark Richt-free zone...he's not going anywhere)?

 

LSU Head Coach Les Miles

Let's get this out of the way as quickly as possible—I like Les Miles. The 11th-year head coach of the Tigers is always entertaining in press conferences, is honest and has a much better grasp on the English language than anybody else in American sports.

But if LSU struggles to another mediocre season after last year's 8-5 debacle, the 2016 campaign is going to get very interesting for Miles in Baton Rouge.

LSU's offensive struggles have progressed from being simply a liability to a full-fledged epidemic. The Tigers haven't finished higher than sixth in the SEC in total offense since 2008, have struggled to find stability at the quarterback position—save for Zach Mettenberger's senior season in 2013—and have become far too reliant on their defense carrying the load.

That caught up to them last year, when the defense failed to generate consistent pressure and was soft up the middle, as the Tigers sputtered to a .500 record in the conference.

If there's more of the same in 2015—and that's a distinct possibility considering the quarterback situation is essentially the same and the defense is undergoing a transition to new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele—Miles will and should be coaching for his job in 2016.

This is the same LSU team that's finished in the top six in the 247Sports recruiting rankings in each of the last three seasons, has virtually no in-state recruiting competition in a talent-rich state and is consistently sending players to the NFL through the draft.

There's simply no excuse for prolonged mediocrity at LSU.

 

Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin

I'm pretty high on Texas A&M this year and think that the combination of John Chavis coordinating the defense and an offense that's loaded with veterans should keep the Aggies in SEC West contention into November.

What if I'm wrong, though?

If Chavis isn't the magic potion for the defense and the Aggies slide further into divisional anonymity, head coach Kevin Sumlin should get some heat in 2016. After all, the program has regressed every year in the win column—from 11 to to nine to eight—since he took over prior to the 2012 season. 

After the Aggies' 59-0 loss to Alabama last year, ESPN.com's Travis Haney wrote that Sumlin's honeymoon is over in College Station. 

That's fine, and likely accurate.

But just because the honeymoon is over doesn't mean that you can't have a successful marriage. Keyword being "successful."

If the Aggies aren't successful in 2015, the following season could be big for the future of the marriage.

 

Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason

To be fair to Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, he inherited a different kind of Vanderbilt. 

Off back-to-back nine-win seasons under former head coach James Franklin, suddenly there were "expectations" in Nashville, and not the kind that end in the cellar of the SEC East. It was unfair to Mason to expect that kind of season in Year 1 in 2014, but it was also a little reckless to assume that he can get the Commodores back to bowl eligibility after his inaugural season at the helm.

The 'Dores rotated four starting quarterbacks, never settled into a groove and Mason looked like he wasn't prepared to coach in the SEC. Self-awareness showed in the offseason, when he bid farewell to both coordinators, took over the defense himself and hired accomplished offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig after he wasn't retained by the new Wisconsin staff.

That's a nice start to turning things around, but what if it spirals out of control in 2015 similar to 2014's struggles? I don't think Vandy would look for a new coach following this season, but Mason would certainly be on the hot seat entering 2016.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

OSU Fact or Fiction: Will Buckeyes Make CFP? Bosa Best Player in Nation?

The Ohio State Buckeyes are a team loaded with talent and interesting storylines. They enter the 2015 season as the favorite to win the national championship.

Bleacher Report's Lead Big Ten writer Ben Axelrod joined Stephen Nelson to play a game of Fact or Fiction surrounding the Buckeyes.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Are the Michigan Wolverines' Biggest Storylines Heading into 2015 Season?

The Michigan Wolverines enter the 2015 season under new head coach Jim Harbaugh with high hopes. 

What are the Wolverines' biggest storylines? Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by College Football Analyst Adam Kramer to discuss all things Michigan football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Who's the Real Favorite in Michigan's Quarterback Competition?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh wasn't standing nearby, but had he been, it's a safe bet the new Michigan coach would have been impressed.

Shane Morris was a taking a break from his duties as an instructor at the Ann Arbor Aerial Assault quarterback camp to field questions from reporters when the subject of Michigan's impending quarterback competition came up.

The junior signal-caller is far from a stranger when it comes to the touchy topic, but last Saturday marked the first time Morris had met with the media since the arrival of Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock—his direct competition in this year's go-round.

Rather than dance around the Rudock-related questions, Morris spoke with a confidence reminiscent of his new head coach.

"He came here to take my job," Morris said of Rudock. "I'm just not going to let it happen."

If the quarterback competition three hours southeast at Ohio State is being billed by Urban Meyer as friendly, then this may be the furthest thing from it: two signal-callers who each feel they're fighting for their final shot to make an impact in their college careers.

Unlike Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, Morris and Rudock have hardly been teammates for a month, and Morris has admitted the two haven't spoken much since Rudock's arrival in Ann Arbor.

That might be just the way the competition-driven Harbaugh likes it, with his NFL playing and coaching careers making him no stranger to quarterback quandaries. In 2012, the then-San Francisco 49ers head coach opted to stick with the hot hand in Colin Kaepernick over a more experienced Alex Smith who was returning from an injury, a move that was vindicated with the Niners' subsequent trip to the Super Bowl.

But unlike picking between Kaepernick and Smith, the battle between Morris and Rudock hardly presents Harbaugh with an equally intriguing set of options.

At least not at the midpoint of Morris' college career, which has largely been viewed as disappointing after he arrived at Michigan as the nation's No. 3 pro-style quarterback prospect in 2013. In two seasons, the 6'3", 209-pounder has completed just 43 of his 87 pass attempts, a stat line that also includes five interceptions and no touchdowns.

Nevertheless, Morris remains confident that he'll be the Wolverines' starting quarterback come the start of the season.

"I think I can win the starting job because I have the mentality to do so," he said. "It's my job to lose. I'm just going to keep working hard and fend off any competitors that are trying to take it away from me."

That may be easier said than done against Rudock, a fifth-year senior who has a stronger track record at this point in his college career than Morris. In two seasons as the Hawkeyes' starter, Rudock completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 4,819 yards, 34 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, good for a combined quarterback rating of 130.0.

Having been recruited out of high school by Michigan quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, the 6'3", 208-pound Rudock cites his experience with a similar offense and familiarity with the Harbaugh staff as his advantages heading into this summer's competition.

"It's a pro-style offense, a little bit of West Coast. At Iowa, we ran a lot of pro sets," Rudock said at the A4 camp. "Just having done it before is definitely a lot of help."

Like any competition, both players have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Rudock will benefit from his safer style of play, while Morris' impressive arm strength and extra year of eligibility give him a potentially greater upside.

Those around the program insist there's a reason Harbaugh and Fisch recruited Rudock so heavily when he first announced he'd be leaving Iowa after losing his starting job to C.J. Beathard, but also admit Morris played better than expected throughout and since spring practice.

As for Morris' assertion that he's the front-runner in the race, most chalk that up to his personality, which stands in contrast to Rudock's quieter brand of confidence. Whether the difference in the players' approaches will mean anything to Harbaugh this summer remains to be seen, but right now, it's clear that Michigan's quarterback competition isn't as clear-cut as Morris would lead you to believe.

"I want to play. I think every guy in the locker room wants to go out there and play," Rudock said. "I'm not really focusing [on the competition] to be honest. I'm just focused on meshing with the guys, understanding them. Every guy responds differently. Some guys need a little encouragement, some need a kick in the butt."

Apparently, that holds true for quarterbacks as well.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Recruiting: 5 Long-Shot Targets Vols Would Love to Land

With Tennessee's football recruiting class filling up and not expected to be as loaded rankings-wise as the past couple of years, the Volunteers would really like to add a big fish or two.

They're legitimate contenders for so many wide receivers that even though it's arguably the team's biggest need from a depth standpoint, there isn't urgency in recruiting that position.

UT will almost certainly get at least two more elite receivers in this class to go along with Jeff George and Corey Henderson. Given that GoVols247's Ryan Callahan listed at least 15 players recently who have mutual interest with the Vols, the need may be dire, but the quality of quantity is abundant.

Other areas such as the defensive line, offensive line and running back are where coach Butch Jones is really fishing.

With the way UT has recruited since Jones took over and with more time to spend on fewer prospects between now and 2016's national signing day, it would be unwise to rule out the Vols swaying a big name or two.

So, who are some options that may be in play?

If Tennessee is listed in a player's top group (such as Mecole Hardman, Kyle Davis, Landon Dickerson, Donnie Corley, Nigel Warrior and Joejuan Williams), he doesn't qualify for this list.

Instead, let's take a look at some national names who have at least expressed interest in the Vols and would be "takes" for anybody. Here are five marquee guys that UT would love to lure to Knoxville.

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Most Important Players at Each Position

There wasn't a team in the country that showcased the importance of depth better than Ohio State during its historic championship run in 2014.

The Buckeyes entered last season trying to replace four elite offensive linemen, their leading rusher (Carlos Hyde), receiver (Corey Brown), tackler (Ryan Shazier) and cornerback (Bradley Roby), and that was all before they lost Braxton Miller (the team's offensive engine) and Noah Spence (who was expected to be the team's best pass-rusher) for the season.

But none of those hits kept head coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State from marching through the first-ever College Football Playoff and capturing the team's first national title since 2002.

This fall, the Buckeyes return much more talent and experience than they did the year before. But even still, Meyer knows the important balance between setting his starters up for success and preparing his backups for any worst-case scenario.

Here's a breakdown of the most important player at each position.

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Michigan Football: How Tim Drevno Can Retool the Wolverines' Offensive Line

Tim Drevno’s current contract with the Michigan Wolverines expires five days after the final game of the 2017 season is played—meaning that he has just enough time to show off his expertise prior to potentially renegotiating for something a little sweeter than $800,000 per year (plus healthy bonuses).

That’s assuming he does what everyone thinks he’s going to do, and that’s assuming he wants to stick around Michigan for an extended period of time. The components are there for Drevno; he just has to assemble them by the time the Wolverines head west to take on the Utah Utes on Sept. 3 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Ideally, Drevno has his starters and two-deep roster in mind. If not, he’ll have a better idea after playing Utah.

According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics, Michigan quarterbacks were sacked during roughly 14 percent of plays in 2014, ranking No. 74 overall. The O-line only allowed 2.73 standard-down line yards, ranking No. 94 in the land.

In terms of adjusted line yards, a measure weighed in the NFL, Michigan ranked No. 50 in the FBS this past season. Basically, Football Outsiders asserts that anything above a rating of 100 is “good”—the Wolverines finished at 104.9.

Also a positive for Drevno, Michigan’s “power success” was a staggering 71.9 percent, good enough for No. 32 in the nation.

That’s a workable scenario for Drevno, a proven craftsman of the trench-dominating types. By following Football Outsiders’ numbers, and by mentally reliving 2014, it's safe to say that the Wolverines’ O-line must better protect during passing downs and make sure to maintain its growing push when it comes to running the ball.

During an 11-year co-coaching relationship, he and Jim Harbaugh had forged stout and sustainable offensive lines along the West Coast, most notably with the Stanford Cardinal and then again with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2014, Drevno left the Bay Area for USC, where he coached All-American Max Tuerk Jr., who was one of three Trojans to earn first-team league honors on offense. 

Today, Drevno’s job is to recreate that past success, in some shape or form, in Ann Arbor, a city that hasn’t seen an elite O-line in roughly seven years. 

Most—if not all—Michigan fans are expecting something similar to what was done at Stanford. They wouldn’t snub their nose at the idea of an NCAA’d version of a 49ers-like O-line, either. If all goes as planned for Drevno, the Wolverines should, at the very least, land somewhere in the middle of that range. If things unfold in a more favorable manner, Drevno could end up having the finest O-line he’s ever had and possibly one of the best at Michigan.

Yeah, ever.

In short, things can get retooled quickly if he keeps doing what he’s doing and builds upon his current roster—one of his guys, if not the majority, should pan out down the road and evolve into an every-Saturday star. That’s the idea, anyway.

 

Recruiting Staples

Right now, Michigan is in possession of one of the top OL classes in modern history. Four of its top six commits for 2016 are O-linemen, and they’re four of the best in the nation, per 247Sports. Michigan also has its hooks in a few of the best available for 2017, namely 5-star OT Wyatt Davis of California, who has a longstanding relationship with Drevno.

 

In Running Condition

In the past, recruiting only supplied hope for better days—but then, later in the season, it dumped a cold glass of reality on Michigan fans, who were left unsatisfied with high-ranking classes that didn’t perform.

Today, a true turnaround seems likely under the new guy in town, and the transition is going “smoothly,” according to former starting center Jack Miller, who spent four practices with Drevno before leaving the game to pursue other personal interests this past spring.

Still in contact with many of his former teammates, Miller has heard “very good things” in regard to the Wolverines’ progress.

In 2013, the line allowed 34 sackings of its starting quarterback, Devin Gardner. In 2014, the line allowed 26, making Gardner, who is now pursuing an NFL career as a receiver, one of the most touched signal-callers in college football for two years running.

Was it due to poor coaching? Was it poor effort on the part of the players? Someone had to be blamed for an ineffective offense, right?

“Well that’s a really hard question to answer, because I don’t think it’s as black and white as that,” Miller said with a laugh. “In your guys’ [the media] world, you’re fortunate that it gets to be, right? And that’s what people want to hear. But the reality of it is that there is no right or wrong answer. It is no one’s fault at all times, at least in our situation during the previous years [under former OL coach Darrell Funk].”

During stretches, the left side would look great, but the right side would flounder. During other times, the middle and right would be serviceable, but the left would struggle. But there were times when everyone was in sync.

There is work to do everywhere, probably more so at the right tackle and right guard positions, but for the most part, everyone upped their level of play this past fall. The 5-7 finish overshadowed those steps, but Drevno isn't inheriting an inept bunch of Joes. 

“Last year in particular we really improved, and it didn’t go noticed—and that’s OK—but it didn’t go noticed as much because of our offensive struggles throwing the ball, which resulted in defenses playing just to stop the run and safeties being able to play up in the box and stuff like that,” Miller said.

“I don’t think it was the coach’s fault, but I would say that it was a player thing at times. I would say for some of the struggles that we had, it was a lack of experience—but I think that this is the first year in how many ever years that Michigan will finally have it to where everybody has played football before, and we haven’t been able to say that for a while.”

With the likes of left tackle Mason Cole—who started 12 games as a true freshman in 2014, heading a group of hungry athletes—Miller sees nothing but forward motion for the O-line in 2015. Although no longer a member of the team, Miller, who is aware of the flood of commitments from recruits, is quite confident that the Wolverines—particularly their O-line—will land on their feet this season.

As a rule, most OL coaches want the same thing. They want to see players improve leverage skills, blocking, footwork and hand placement. None of that should be a problem this fall—at least not as much as it had been in the past, says Miller.

But most of all, they want tough guys.

“Funk wanted that, and Drevno wants that,” Miller said. “They have pretty similar philosophies in terms of technique.”

 

The Makings

Two weeks ago, Erik Swenson, the first to commit to Michigan’s 2016 class, was at church when he ran into a family friend who used to work for the Philadelphia Eagles. As it turned out, that friend offered sound advice—the same things mentioned by Miller and the same things taught by Funk and, more importantly, Drevno.

“He said that you have to be tough,” said Swenson, the No. 19-ranked OT and No. 177-ranked overall player of his cycle. “Nowadays, everybody’s big, everybody’s good at what they do. There’s so many top-ranked tackles. But some guys can’t handle it mentally or physically—being tough and wanting to grind it out and earn your spot. That can really make a difference between good offensive linemen and average offensive linemen.”

At 6’7” and 285 pounds, Swenson is one huge target for those looking to make a name. Playing for Downers Grove South, an Illinois powerhouse, only increases the opposition’s desire to check him.

That rarely works out as planned, though.

“My freshman year, I was blocking a guy, and I hit him so hard, I threw him to the ground, and as his back hit the ground, he coughed up blood all up into my eyes and all over my nose; it was running down my face—and I didn’t even notice it until I got to the sidelines and my whole white uniform was covered in blood,” said Swenson, who says there are plenty more like him in Illinois—the home of high school lineman combines and the home to six of the top 50 offensive linemen of 2016.

“I’m used to the tough mentality,” he said. “I love run blocking; it’s actually my personal favorite, to be honest with you. There’s nothing more fun than pancaking a guy.” He then followed with a line that every O-line coach would love to hear: “You’re putting him in the dirt or keeping him away from the quarterback.”

Again, on the surface, the “tough” mentality seems pretty cut-and-dried—of course coaches want those guys. They’re not out looking for those who shy away from contact or those who cower from a challenge.

Finding more players with Swenson’s blend of competitiveness, handle and knowledge of the game and willingness to sacrifice limbs for wins will only benefit Drevno as he refurbishes existing parts and orders new ones.

“I really like how they’re trying to bring it back to ‘old Michigan,’” Swenson said of discussions with Harbaugh and Drevno. “Drevno is recruiting really well, the right kinds [Michael Onwenu, Ben Bredeson, Devery Hamilton, etc]. If we can’t run and we can’t just stuff it down their throats, we can’t win a football game—I kind of like the idea that they have, and I’m excited to see how it turns out this season and during the upcoming seasons as well.”

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes by way of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

De'Andre Johnson Suspended Indefinitely by Florida State: Details and Reaction

Freshman quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who is in the mix for Florida State's starting job in 2015, was suspended indefinitely for a violation of athletic department policy Thursday.

According to Warchant.com, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher announced the punishment, although he didn't elaborate on the nature of Johnson's transgression.

Per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, however, the Jacksonville, Florida, native allegedly punched a woman in a bar.   

According to 247Sports, the former First Coast High School standout was a 3-star prospect who was rated as the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in his class.

Following a practice in March, Fisher made it clear he had high hopes for Johnson moving forward, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

"I thought De'Andre Johnson had a really nice day today—does a lot of things very instinctively, man, I think that guy's gonna be a really good player," Fisher said

Johnson may have had an uphill battle in terms of becoming the Seminoles' starting signal-caller this season anyway since he is competing with junior Sean Maguire, who started a game in place of current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston last year, and Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson.

Although the length of Johnson's punishment is unclear, one can only assume that it will put him well behind Maguire and Golson in the quarterback competition.

FSU's quarterback battle is wide open now that Winston has moved on to the NFL, but Johnson likely moved himself out of the conversation for the time being.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ron Johnson Commits to Michigan: What 4-Star DE Brings to Wolverines

Michigan remains America's hottest college football program on the recruiting trail, further fueled Thursday afternoon by a commitment from dominant New Jersey defensive end Ron Johnson.

The 4-star prospect shared his decision on Twitter after spending time on campus:

Johnson, a 6'4", 240-pound rising senior at Camden High School near Philadelphia, traveled to Ann Arbor this week along with a few other area standouts. He was accompanied by 4-star wide receiver/defensive back Ahmir Mitchell, 4-star tight end Naseir Upshur and 4-star offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, a 2017 recruit and high school teammate.

Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh now holds 20 total commitments in his latest class, including 14 new pledges this month. It's been a remarkable stretch for a program that failed to produce a single 2016 commit during the first 14 weeks under a new regime.

This could be the first of several impactful players from New Jersey to join the group.

Mitchell is seriously considering Michigan, along with Ohio State and Rutgers. Wide receiver Brad Hawkins, a fellow 4-star talent from Camden, and 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary are among other top options in the state who may also further bolster this class.

Gary, the top-rated overall recruit in 2016, plays at Paramus Catholic High School. It's the alma mater of prized 2014 prospect Jabrill Peppers, who took delight in Thursday's development:

Johnson is the team's top-rated 2016 defender to this point, joining a group that already features four 4-star offensive linemen. Harbaugh has placed a high value on gaining depth in the trenches, and Johnson adds yet another intriguing player up front.

Rated 14th nationally among weak-side defensive ends, Johnson recorded 144 tackles and 14 sacks during the past two seasons. He is still expanding on an impressive physical frame, but already feels confident in his abilities to play balanced along the edge.

"People look at me as a pass-rusher, but I'm a big run-stopper too," Johnson told Bleacher Report. "I can sit on the outside and help shut things down."

He throttles lead blockers with explosiveness produced by a powerful lower body and displays excellent lateral agility while pursuing ball-carriers through traffic, flashing a mean streak in the process.

"Ron is a great competitor and teammate," Hawkins told Bleacher Report. "He's a huge part of our defense because he control things up front and plays very aggressive. Plus, he's a great athlete."

Johnson chose Michigan over an expansive offer list that includes Alabama, Miami, Michigan State, Missouri, Rutgers, Penn State and Wisconsin. His father played college football for the Badgers.

He fills a position of need for the Wolverines, who missed on top in-state defensive end target Khalid Kareem earlier this week. He surprised many Wednesday with a commitment to Alabama.

Michigan will look to maintain momentum moving forward through the summer. The Wolverines now claim five 4-star prospects from five different states in the past three weeks.

 

Recruit rating courtesy of 247Sports.

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

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2015 College Football QBs with the Strongest Arms

Having a strong arm isn't the most important part of being a quarterback, but it is a luxury. Sometimes, there's nothing more beautiful than watching a quarterback spin it 50 or 60-plus yards downfield. Of course, arm strength isn't just about heaving it downfield; it's also about putting the ball on a rope to the sideline or squeezing it into tight coverage. 

This is an appreciation of those skills, if you will. 

The list is self-explanatory. These are the strongest arms in college football—and that's it. In the following slides are both starters and quarterbacks still in a position battle. Things such as accuracy and decision-making aren't under consideration. Can you sling it? That's the primary question. 

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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Louisville Cardinals Unveil Fierce New Uniforms for Season Opener vs. Auburn

When Louisville's football team takes the field in its season opener against the Auburn Tigers on September 5, it is going to be sporting a fierce new look.

Thanks to Adidas, Louisville will be wearing a new set of white uniforms. The biggest change to the duds is a very fierce cardinal.

Putting the school's logo on the gloves is nothing new. However, with these uniforms, players can form a cardinal with the backside of their hands.

[Louisville Cardinals, Adidas Football US]

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Valuable Asset

Each top team in college football has that one defining characteristic that makes it dangerous.

For some, it's a head coach who has built the program into what it is. For others, it's a recruiting advantage or a well-known booster.

Some schools have massive amounts of name recognition and tradition, while others are rolling off the momentum of recent victories.

Here is the most valuable asset for each program in Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25. These selections are what defines their status as a ranked team right now and what will continue to guide them in the seasons to come.

Sound off on this list in the comments below and submit your own picks for the most valuable assets in all of college football.

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