REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thirty athletes from the West region in the ESPN Junior 300 met at Redondo Union (Calif.) High School on Sunday morning for the first Nike Football Training Camp of the spring. With hundreds of recruits in attendance, it wasn't surprising that many of the top prospects coming into the event stood out.
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Let's take a look around the SEC as some schools have already opened spring practice and some are preparing for their first workout.
- Short on defensive linemen and flush with talented linebackers, South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward says he will tinker with a 3-4 this spring.
- Gary Pinkel's new contract at Missouri pushes him over the $3 million salary threshold and runs through 2020.
- Georgia's Hutson Mason is focused on improving his mechanics and footwork as he approaches his lone season as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
- Arkansas' Bret Bielema told reporters on Thursday that he will not waver on his opinion that slowing down college offenses will improve player safety.
- Butch Jones says continuity is extremely valuable as his Tennessee program prepares to open spring practice.
- Ole Miss' Deterrian – formerly D.T. – Shackelford hopes to make the most of his his rare sixth season of NCAA eligibility.
- The Advocate's Scott Rabalais writes that LSU's new quarterbacks will bring a Johnny Manziel-like quality to the Tigers' offense that didn't exist when Zach Mettenberger was under center.
- Texas A&M's Manziel has agreed to an endorsement deal with Nike, by the way.
- Kentucky's new special teams coach Craig Naivar brings a Texas connection to the Wildcats' recruiting efforts.
- Eleven former SEC players were among those listed on the ballot for this year's College Football Hall of Fame class.
- In ranking the most talented rosters in college football for 2014, Athlon found that Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Georgia all rank in the top 10.
- AL.com's Brandon Marcello examines Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason's potential successors in Auburn's backfield.
- Surgeon Dr. James Andrews has examined former Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio's knee and says it is not in the bad shape several recent reports have claimed.
- Most SEC athletic directors prefer playing an eight-game conference schedule, but the league's presidents will have their say in the decision.
For now, anyway.
To most of the coaches who want to play fast and want to play without huddling and want to keep the defense from substituting, Alabama’s Nick Saban is the face of the movement to slow things down.
Saban is on record as saying he doesn’t believe football was meant to be a continuous game. He’s also on record as saying he believes more plays and longer games are a detriment to player safety.
His logic (cue his now famed cigarette quote): The more exposures a player has in a game when everything is live, the more susceptible that player is to being injured.
Even though the proposed 10-second rule was tabled by the NCAA football rules committee and never went to a vote this week, it’s a debate that’s not going away.
I think most would agree that the prudent thing was to wait and not push this thing through when there are still so many questions unanswered.
Rogers Redding, college football’s national officiating coordinator, probably said it best.
“Tabling it allows for a broader discussion and time to engage the medical folks more,” Redding said.
Meanwhile, Saban will remain the lightning rod in this debate, and as he told me recently, he can handle it. If you haven’t noticed, Saban doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think or say about him.
And for that matter, he never has been shy when it comes to speaking his mind. He was the only coach in the SEC to endorse the idea of going to nine conference games. He was also outspoken in his opposition to taking head coaches off the road during the spring evaluation period.
Heck, he once compared unscrupulous agents to pimps while speaking at the SEC media days a few years back.
He understands that coaches, media and fans will question his true intentions when it comes to slowing down the game, and it’s a fact that Saban is not a fan of these “fastball” offenses. That’s his word, by the way.
But anybody who thinks Saban won’t adjust, or is sweating to the point that all of his championship rings won't stay on his fingers because more teams are incorporating fast-paced attacks, doesn’t know him very well. Or at the very least, they haven't followed his career very closely.
It’s true the last three teams Alabama has lost to ran some version of a hurry-up offense -- Auburn and Oklahoma last season and Texas A&M in 2012.
It’s also true Saban has won three of the last five national championships with the rules exactly as they are now. The 40-second play clock was adopted by college football in 2008, and Redding said recently that there was a feeling at the time that the advantage had swung somewhat to the offenses.
“To some extent, we knew we were handing the pace of play over to the offense, although I don’t think anybody anticipated that we’d see what we’re seeing today,” Redding said.
The reality is that very few teams snap the ball in the first 10 seconds of the play clock. The bigger issue is that defenses don’t have a window to substitute unless the offense substitutes.
The offensive coaches see that as strategy, which makes perfect sense if the pace of play is going to be dictated by the offenses and not the officials.
What might come out of all this is a legitimate discussion going into 2015 about no longer stopping the clock after a made first down, which is what happens in the NFL.
It should make for another interesting debate.
What’s not up for debate is that Saban and Alabama aren’t going away.
The defenses best equipped to deal with these hurry-up offenses are the ones with the best players, the best athletes -- and probably most importantly -- the best depth.
That sounds a lot like Alabama’s defense.
The Crimson Tide recruits and develops players as well as anybody. They have second-team guys who would be starting just about anywhere else.
Moreover, you can bet that finding more hybrid guys and more quick-twitch pass-rushers has been a priority in these last two signing classes at Alabama. Rashaan Evans comes to mind in this most recent class.
With offenses going so fast and not huddling, those defenders who can move around and play different roles (when you can’t substitute) will be a commodity. The same goes for having a second-team defensive lineman who’s just a shade behind the first-team guy and can come into the game in the second half with fresh legs.
So regardless of what Saban’s agenda is or isn’t, saying he’s trying to create a competitive advantage for his defense through a rules change is a stretch.
The competitive advantage he has created goes back to the way he has recruited and developed players.
And let’s not forget that Alabama still finished fourth in the country last season in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. That’s after finishing first nationally in both categories in 2011 and 2012.
Seeing Texas A&M roll up 628 yards and 42 points on Alabama (despite the Tide winning) was eye-opening last season, especially after the Aggies and Johnny Manziel won in Tuscaloosa the year before. The same goes for Auburn’s 34-28 win over Alabama last season. The Aggies and Tigers both run “fastball” offenses.
But Alabama also outgained Auburn by more than 100 yards last season, missed two field goals, had another one blocked and missed another 57-yard field goal at the end of the game that Auburn turned into one of the most improbable plays we’ve seen in college football in decades.
What’s it all mean?
The game is changing, no doubt, and will continue to change. Similarly, the SEC has a way of bringing even the best teams and best coaches back to the pack.
The best coaches, though, adapt. They evolve and they find answers.
Just a hunch, but here’s guessing the fast lane won’t be too fast for Saban regardless of what rule changes we see … or don’t see.
TE O.J. Howard
6-foot-6, 237 pounds
How he fits: For all Howard did as a freshman, there's an argument to be made that he was wildly underutilized by former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Granted, he was still learning the offense and figuring out how to block SEC-sized defenders, but Howard was nonetheless a headache for even the best defenses given his size and speed. The typical linebacker is too slow to keep up with him, and the typical defensive back is too small to fight for space. Enter new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who has a history of putting his best weapons on the field at any position. He could easily maneuver Howard from tight end to receiver to H-back, similar to what we've seen in the NFL with players such as the Saints' Jimmy Graham.
Best case/worst case: This is a big year for Howard, and not just because of the opportunities Kiffin might give him. Howard will also have the benefit of breaking in a new quarterback. AJ McCarron was about as good as they come under center, but you know how the saying generally goes: A tight end is an inexperienced quarterback's best friend. Howard has a chance to be that safety blanket and catch a lot of passes from whoever Alabama's next quarterback might be. That said, if Howard doesn't continue progressing as a blocker, he could be seen as a liability and struggle to stay on the field as an every-down player. Don't forget that Brian Vogler is the most established, savvy tight end on the roster. As a rising senior, he'll be hard to keep off the field.
For all the series installments, click here.
The former Alabama great is back on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot for a fourth consecutive year after inexplicably not being voted into the Hall each of the last three years. Thomas, who died in 2000 following a car accident, ended his college career with an NCAA-record 52 sacks. He was a unanimous All-American in 1988 and won the Butkus Award that season as college football's best linebacker.
Thomas, who had 27 sacks during his final season at Alabama, is easily the SEC's greatest player (who's eligible) who hasn't been inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame. One of the game's most feared pass rushers, Thomas was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Here's a list of other players and coaches with SEC ties on this year's ballot:
- Wes Chandler, WR, Florida
- Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky
- Paul Crane, C/LB, Alabama
- Willie Gault, WR, Tennessee
- Bobby Humphrey, RB, Alabama
- Larry Seivers, WR, Tennessee
- Sterling Sharpe, WR, South Carolina
- Art Still, DE, Kentucky
- Jackie Walker, LB, Tennessee
- Wesley Walls, TE, Ole Miss
- Jim Carlen, South Carolina
- Danny Ford, Arkansas
DALLAS -- Heisman Trophy winning running backs Rashaan Salaam of Colorado and Ricky Williams of Texas are among the players making their first appearance on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot this year.
Some of the other notable first-timers are Iowa State running back Troy Davis, a two-time Heisman finalist, Miami linebacker Ray Lewis, Southern California receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch.
Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas and Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch are among the holdovers on the 75-player major college ballot. There are also six coaches up for selection, including former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.
More than 12,000 National Football Foundation members receive ballots. Their votes are tabulated and then given to the NFF's 17-member honors court, which selects a class of about 14 players and two coaches.
Salaam won the Heisman in 1994, leading the nation in rushing and scoring. Williams was the 1998 Heisman winner and finished his career as the leading career rusher in major college football.
The 2014 Hall of Fame class will be announced in May and inducted in December at the National Football Foundation's awards banquet in New York. The new class will be enshrined at the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta in 2015. The new Hall of Fame is expected to open in time for the 2014 college football season.
Here's a quick taste:
• Georgia players are buzzing about how an entirely new set of defensive coaches will give the Bulldogs a fresh start this spring.
• With Auburn's spring practice approaching on March 18, AL.com's Joel Erickson takes a look at the Tigers' quarterback depth chart.
• Quarterback was a subject of discussion at Alabama on Wednesday, too, as Nick Saban said that his staff will be in no hurry to name a starter.
• Florida on Wednesday released the contracts for the three new coaches on Will Muschamp's staff – including a three-year deal for new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
• LSU's quarterback competition is front and center, as the Tigers prepare for their first spring practice on Saturday.
• DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are among the candidates to become Ole Miss' backup quarterback behind Bo Wallace.
• Kentucky announced its ticket distribution plan for the April 26 Blue-White spring game.
• Missouri revealed on Wednesday that five players with eligibility remaining have “decided to graduate and not play football going forward” according to a team spokesman.
• Multiple reports on Wednesday night declared that Texas A&M has dismissed safety Kameron Miles.
• Vanderbilt assistant Vavae Tata will not coach with the Commodores in 2014 after pleading guilty on Wednesday to a February DUI charge. His long-term status with the program remains unclear.
• South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Clemson's Dabo Swinney are united on at least one point -- their relief that college football's rules committee withdrew a controversial 10-second rule designed to slow down college offenses.
• The Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown looks at five questions facing the Tennessee football team as it prepared to open spring practice.
• Bret Bielema covered a variety of subjects in speaking with the media at Arkansas' pro day.
Because they’re unpredictable, we’ll avoid first-year players such as Cam Robinson. If you want an idea of who could make an instant impact in 2014, we wrote about that shortly after signing day.
Thursday we turn our attention to a player who spent last year learning a new position on defense.
6-foot, 186 pounds
Credentials: The former four-star defensive back had a stellar freshman campaign at cornerback in 2012, playing in 13 games, including a start against his home-state Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship. But that momentum ultimately proved short-lived as Smith was arrested during the offseason for driving under the influence, suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech and then moved to safety where he struggled to break into the rotation, especially early on. He played in all 12 remaining games but didn't start a single contest. However even in garbage time he tied for third on the team in pass breakups (four).
How he fits: Had only Ha Ha Clinton-Dix left early for the NFL, then there might not have been much of an opportunity for Smith to move up the depth chart. Landon Collins might have made do at free safety and Vinnie Sunseri might have remained the starter at strong safety. But Sunseri's surprise decision to enter the draft allows Collins to remain at his natural position of strong safety and clear an opening at free safety that remains up for grabs. Veteran Nick Perry could play there, but he's coming off a season-ending injury and might not be 100 percent. And Jarrick Williams might be an option, but he seems solidly entrenched at the star cornerback position. That leaves Smith as the most experienced option at free, but there's also some other contenders to consider: former professional baseball player Jai Miller and the No. 3 safety in the ESPN 300, Laurence "Hootie" Jones, who arrived on campus in January.
Best case/worst case: Versatility will be Smith's biggest asset when it comes to his competition at free safety. Having been in the system two full years, he knows how it works. And having defensive coordinator Kirby Smart back coaching safeties will certainly help his cause, too. But knowing how to play back in space as a safety as well as how to play tight in man coverage as a corner should be a big chip in his favor. Still, less than a year removed from his DUI arrest you have to wonder whether he's fully emerged from the dog house enough to be considered for a starting position.
- For all the series installments, click here
Is Cooper Bateman really ready to take a step forward after redshirting last season? What about Parker McLeod and Alec Morris? Would Saban dare gamble on the run-oriented Blake Sims? Is it possible that true freshman David Cornwell could get a look? My goodness, what about Jacob Coker?! Isn’t the job really his anyways?!
As Saban sat down with a group of reporters on Wednesday to discuss the start of spring practice and a number of other issues facing his Crimson Tide, he seemed resigned to the oncoming quarterback drama. Asked what he was looking for in the next starter, he listed a number of qualities: the ability to process information quickly, to make good decisions, to throw the ball accurately, to manage the game and make the correct calls.
And then came the disclaimer.
“But let me be very clear about this,” he said. “We're not going to be in any hurry to decide who the quarterback is.”
That’s right, folks. Saban and his staff plan on taking their time with this decision. So hold your questions, please. Whatever opinions you have on who should start and why, keep them to yourselves until this is over.
“We're not going to be in any hurry to decide who the quarterback is,” Saban said. “We're going to give everybody a lot of opportunity to compete. You guys are going to ask me at least 1,000 times between now and the first game who's the first-team quarterback, and I'm telling you right now you're probably going to get a 1,000 ‘We're going to wait and see.’”
Saban’s been through this before. If you count John Parker Wilson, he’s been a part of naming three starting quarterbacks at Alabama. He did the same at LSU and Michigan State plenty of times before that. And each and every time he’s been content to employ the wait-and-see approach.
When the temperature rises and the competition heats up in the coming months, Tide fans will do well to remember that Saban didn't rush naming McCarron the starter in 2011, and that worked out to the tune of two national championships and a slew of new school passing records.
“When AJ became quarterback him and Phillip Sims actually alternated quarters in the first two games, I think, to see who played the best,” Saban said, drilling the point home now. “And it really was hard on all you guys.
“I think it's important to get it right. ... And we have one candidate in this horse race who's not even going to be here until May, till he graduates where he is now. He's certainly a guy that's going to compete for the position too.”
Ah, Jacob Coker.
Whatever we think we're able to learn this spring will come with the caveat that the primary competition hasn’t even arrived yet. Coker, who will make his transfer from Florida State complete in May if he passes all his remaining classes, is the presumed frontrunner to win the job. He’s not bowing to the pressure that comes with that, but it won’t change the perception around camp this fall that he's the man to beat.
Saban would cringe at such assumptions. But his desire for less talk and more patience will do nothing to change what's sure to develop into a circus-type atmosphere as we inch closer to the start of the season. Between Coker's hype, the other quarterbacks competing and the arrival of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator, all eyes will be squarely on who's under center in Alabama. Every day a starter isn't named will be a day someone somewhere will talk about who it should be rather than who it actually is.
Just don't look for the competition itself to play itself out publicly. Scrimmages at Alabama are closed to the general public and media. Reporters only see the first few minutes of practice each day, and it's never enough to glean any real information. Getting insight from coaches and players will be next to impossible. None of the quarterbacks are likely to be made available to reporters while the competition is ongoing, and teammates who do speak won't stray from the company line. If you're looking for Kiffin to talk, he'll have his one and only media obligation of the year in early August, and even then he's never been one to show his cards. Which leaves Saban, who won't deviate from his steadfast policy to divulge nothing and speculate on even less.
So trade predictions at the water cooler, shout at the talking heads on television and scream at talk radio all you want. Whatever you do, though, have a little patience. Because whatever soap opera you were hoping for just isn't going to happen. This is The Nick Saban Show and it has very little in the way of drama.
2. In a discussion on the ESPNU Football Podcast on Wednesday, my colleague Matt Fortuna made an interesting point in favor of the idea that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has established himself as a success in South Bend despite having had only one BCS-bowl season. Three of Kelly’s coordinators have been hired as head coaches: Charley Molnar (UMass), Chuck Martin (Miami of Ohio) and Bob Diaco (UConn). Here’s another point in Kelly’s favor: he is in year five in South Bend without questions surrounding his job security. Since Dan Devine retired in 1980, only Lou Holtz has passed the five-year threshold.
3. Has it occurred to anyone else that this is the golden age of college football in the state of South Carolina? The Gamecocks have finished 11-2 and in the top 10 in the last three seasons; Clemson has done both in the last two seasons. This from the flagship programs of a state best known in recent years for exporting its talent to national powers such as Florida State and Penn State. What Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney have achieved gets lost because they have one conference title between them in their present jobs. But the state of South Carolina stands behind only Alabama in recent success.
The coaches who want to go fast frown at the thought of a restrictor plate being placed on their offenses, while a few defensive-minded coaches, namely Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, are concerned that player safety is compromised by increasing the number of plays in a game.
“This is the only game in history of any sport where the college game is longer than the pro game,” Saban said.
Compared to the rest of the country, the SEC wasn’t a league last season that necessarily lived in the fast lane, at least as a whole.
Ole Miss averaged the most offensive plays per game (79.8), but only ranked 21st nationally. Texas Tech was first nationally with an average of 90.3 plays per game.
Not surprisingly, Alabama and Arkansas were at the bottom of the SEC. The Crimson Tide averaged 65.9 plays and the Hogs 64.7 plays.
Auburn, which is renowned for its hurry-up, no-huddle attack under Gus Malzahn, was tied for fifth in the SEC along with Texas A&M with an average of 73.8 plays per game.
In 2012, before to Malzahn’s arrival as head coach, Auburn averaged just 60.5 plays per game, which ranked last among 124 FBS teams.
The Aggies went the other way in Kevin Sumlin’s second season in College Station. They averaged 83.5 plays per game in 2012 and dipped to 73.8 last season, a difference of nearly 10 plays per game.
Here’s a rundown of the entire SEC in the last two seasons in terms of offensive snaps per game:
1. Ole Miss: 79.8
2. Missouri: 75.5
3. Georgia: 74.6
4. Mississippi State: 74.2
5. Auburn: 73.8
6. Texas A&M: 73.8
7. South Carolina: 72.5
8. Vanderbilt: 70.8
9. Florida: 68.9
10. LSU: 67.7
11. Tennessee: 67.7
12. Kentucky: 66.8
13. Alabama: 65.9
14. Arkansas: 64.7
1. Texas A&M: 83.5
2. Ole Miss: 76.2
3. Missouri: 75.7
4. Tennessee: 75.1
5. LSU: 70.8
6. Arkansas: 70.5
7. Vanderbilt: 69.2
8. South Carolina: 69
9. Georgia: 67.8
10. Florida: 67.2
11. Kentucky: 67
12. Mississippi State: 66.8
13. Alabama: 66.3
14. Auburn: 60.5
- After putting on a show at the combine, offensive tackle Greg Robinson didn’t participate in on-field workouts at Auburn’s pro day. He’s still aiming for the No. 1 spot in May’s draft.
- It wasn’t long ago that John Calipari did to Kentucky basketball what Saban did to Alabama football, but at this rate, expect Saban to get back on top before Calipari.
- Spring practice has always been closed to Florida fans, but coach Will Muschamp is changing his policy this year.
- LSU opens practice Friday. Here are six key positions battles to keep an eye on this spring.
- A new deal is imminent for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. It will pay him at least $3 million and include raises for his assistant coaches.
- When Ole Miss opened practice Tuesday, Denzel Nkemdiche was nowhere to be found. He’ll miss the entire spring as part of his punishment for an offseason arrest.
- South Carolina is proving that winning can be contagious throughout the sports program, and Steve Spurrier is at the center of it.
- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says the spring game is good for the fans but worthless for the team. The Aggies won’t have one this year because of stadium renovations.
Sometimes you hit it big with them. Sometimes you swing and miss.
With spring practice cranking up for a handful of SEC schools, we’ve come up with our top-five impact junior college newcomers in the league. These guys are all already on campus and will go through spring practice. They’re listed alphabetically.
Dontavius Blair, OT, Tennessee: With the Vols losing all five starters on their offensive line from last season, they need reinforcements. The 6-foot-8, 313-pound Blair is the odds-on favorite to replace Antonio Richardson at left tackle. Blair was rated as the nation's No. 6 offensive tackle prospect in the ESPN Junior College 50.
C.J. Johnson, DT, Kentucky: The Wildcats lost Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble in the middle of their defensive line, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the 6-3, 295-pound Johnson to show what he can do this spring. Kentucky held on to Johnson despite Miami pushing hard until the very end.
Abu Lamin, DT, South Carolina: The Gamecocks need a run-stuffer in the middle, and the 6-4, 295-pound Lamin fits that bill. He has three years of eligibility remaining and has the kind of burst off the ball and overall athleticism to develop into much more than just a run-stopper for the Gamecocks.
Christian Russell, LB, Ole Miss: The 6-foot, 230-pound Russell is big, fast and physical and has outstanding closing speed. The Rebels signed him with the hope that he could step in for Mike Marry in the middle. Russell was ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the country among junior college players.
D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn: The 6-3, 213-pound Williams is the epitome of a big-play receiver. He was rated the top overall junior college prospect in the country regardless of position and has all the physical tools to emerge as Auburn’s No. 1 option in the passing game next season.
A few more to watch:
Because they’re unpredictable, we’ll avoid first-year players like Cam Robinson. If you want an idea of who could make an instant impact in 2014, we wrote about that shortly after signing day.
On Monday, we wrote about running back Derrick Henry jumping onto the national stage in the Sugar Bowl. On Tuesday, we covered Jonathan Allen's room for growth at defensive end. And today we're looking at a player with a few years in the program and plenty of untapped potential.
5-foot-11, 182 pounds
Credentials: The 2012 season was over for him before it ever began. Alabama fans will remember that it was Black -- not Amari Cooper -- who entered fall camp with all the buzz. He was ranked higher by ESPN and other recruiting services out of high school, and the way he looked in practice at Alabama did nothing to quell the excitement over his potential early impact at receiver. But a shoulder injury he sustained in mid-August robbed the speedy Florida native of his first year on campus, forcing him to take a redshirt. And when he came back in 2013, Cooper was coming off a freshman All-American season and the rest of the receiving corps was stuffed with veterans like Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White. Black appeared in eight games and caught eight passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns -- all from backup quarterback Blake Sims in what amounted to garbage time.
How he fits: He may not have a stunning résumé, but to see Black run routes in practice makes you forget all that. The shifty receiver is silky smooth and hits a high gear with seemingly little effort. Now that Norwood and Bell are gone and the depth chart has loosened some, it's Black's time to show whether he'll sink or swim at Alabama. He clearly has the tools, but he'll have to beat out plenty of other talented pass-catchers before he can see the field. Cooper won't be moved, White has a bevy of experience and junior Christion Jones has been a fixture as slot receiver the past two seasons. It's realistic that Black could become the fourth receiver and catch 30 or so balls, but he'll have to fend off a slew of other youngsters: the physically imposing Raheem Falkins, the No. 2-ranked receiver prospect in 2013 Robert Foster and the No. 8-ranked receiver prospect in 2014 Cameron Sims.
Best case/worst case: A repeat of 2013 would be a major setback for Black, especially considering all the youth suddenly behind him at receiver. If he has another year of single-digit receptions, there's a chance he could be passed by. But the good news for Black is that he has what amounts to the freshest of starts college football can offer. He'll not only have a new quarterback throwing him the football (AJ McCarron seemed to prefer veterans he knew better), but he'll also have the benefit of a brand new offensive coordinator who comes to Tuscaloosa with an eye on adding more explosive elements to the offense. Lane Kiffin's arrival could mean a shuffling of personnel at every position, and the receiver corps is especially ripe for an overhaul. If Black can use the spring to establish a rapport with the new quarterbacks and provide Kiffin a good first impression, he could ready himself to compete for a starting job come fall.
- For all the series installments, click here
Recruit Comparison: Kouandjio to Big Cam
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35