Big Ten tipping point classes 

January, 28, 2015
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Michigan and Ohio State couldn’t be in more opposite situations both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Buckeyes are coming off winning the national championship. The Wolverines had a losing season and coaching change, bringing Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor.

Official visits, unofficial visits, in home visits and everything else one can possibly think of is happening with one week until national signing day, Feb. 4. As expected, Twitter is abuzz right now with information flowing constantly all day and night.

Here is a look at some highlights from Tuesday.

@HamiltonESPN: ESPN300 five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson headed to Florida on Tuesday afternoon for an unofficial following a trip to Ole Miss and Alabama over the weekend. In a recruitment that could go a number of different directions, the Rebels and Gators are the best bets to be standing on national signing day unless Auburn can pull the upset. Jefferson is scheduled to visit LSU this weekend, followed by a national signing day announcement live on ESPN.

@HamiltonESPN: Nick Saban was in South Florida on Tuesday, and one of his stops was Coconut Creek High. The reason is simple -- Coconut Creek is home to a trio of ESPN Junior 300 prospects, including top cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who has an Alabama offer.

Kyler Murray isn't the only high-profile Texan who will shape the future of Lone Star State recruiting, as ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill will announce their decisions together Friday.


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Recruit breakdown: DE CeCe Jefferson 

January, 27, 2015
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What he brings: CeCe Jefferson possesses a nice blend of size and athleticism that can allow him to be a disruptive and versatile front-seven defender. This is a prospect with very good height, bulk, and strength at this stage, and coupled with his first-step quickness and range he can create problems as both a run defender and pass-rusher. A physical player, he has the size and strength to set the edge when he stays low, and is also quick enough to shoot gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield at times. He needs to continue to develop, but has the tools to be a handful coming after the quarterback, with the ability overpower blockers or quickly work around them. When he keeps his 'foot on the gas pedal' he can be a factor in pursuit with very good redirect skills and range for his size. Jefferson moved around defensively quite a bit in high school, and a more singular focus should help aid his development in the little things, though he will likely continue to be aligned differently some at the college level to take advantage of his athleticism and create mismatches. The five-star did miss most of his senior season with a shoulder injury, but it shouldn’t take long for him to shake off any rust. Once healthy and with full maximization of his ability, Jefferson can be a disruptive defensive playmaker at the college level.


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There were times when Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles looked like a future star in the SEC. Some even went as far as to say that he had the most NFL potential of any starter in the conference. But he was a different player down the stretch. He threw for more than 200 yards just once during the Wildcats' six-game slide to end the season.

The solution isn't to replace to Towles. The talent is there and so is the potential. But Kentucky must find and develop some weapons in the passing game to help the young signal caller.

Position to improve: Wide receiver

Why it was a problem: Kentucky's leading receiver, sophomore Ryan Timmons, finished with a mere 536 yards on the season. Nineteen other SEC players finished ahead of Timmons in yards, and every team other than Vanderbilt had at least one player with more yards. Granted, Javess Blue was right behind Timmons with 525 yards, but there was clearly no go-to wide receiver for Towles and the Wildcats. Timmons and Blue had just three games of more than 100 yards receiving between them, and the duo only accounted for seven receiving touchdowns on the season. The stats look even worse if you go beyond those two. There were simply no big plays, no consistency and very little improvement among the wide receivers, and it was a major reason why you saw Towles and this offense regress in the second half of the season.

How it can be fixed: There's hope. For one, Towles will be better in 2015. He'll have another offseason to train, get stronger and develop a rapport with his wide receivers. Second and maybe more importantly, Kentucky is bringing in Shannon Dawson as its new offensive coordinator. Dawson comes from West Virginia where he was known for running a pass-happy offense. This past season, the Mountaineers featured Kevin White, one of the nation's top wide receivers, and had three wideouts with more yards than Timmons. The Wildcats might not put up those kind of numbers in Dawson's first season, but it's a step in the right direction and one that has to have fans excited about the future in Lexington.

Early 2015 outlook: Timmons is back and could be poised for a breakout season. However, both Blue and Demarco Robinson are gone, which means it's up to the young guns -- Garrett Johnson, Dorian Baker, Blake Bone and T.V. Williams -- to step up and play a bigger role in 2015. All four played as true freshmen and all four made an impact at some point during the season. Johnson, in particular, flashed his potential with six catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a double overtime loss at Florida but was quiet the rest of the year. Fellow freshmen Thaddeus Snodgrass is another name to keep an eye on. He redshirted his first season on campus, but the former ESPN 300 star was the highest ranked of any of the wide receivers in Kentucky's 2014 class. He'll likely factor into the mix when the Wildcats return to practice this spring.
We are looking around the league this week at one position for each Big Ten team that needs improvement, either because of poor production in 2014 or a loss of important personnel. Iowa is up next.

Problem position: Offensive tackle

Why offensive tackle is a problem: Tackle was the least of Iowa’s problems in 2014. In fact, it was the Hawkeyes' clear strength, with Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff on the left side and fellow senior Andrew Donnal opposite Scherff. As Iowa struggled to find consistency elsewhere, Scherff and Donnal remained solid. But there is no heir apparent. See the problem?

How it can be fixed: By doing what Iowa does better than anything else -- develop linemen. Say what you want about the lack of recent forward movement in Kirk Ferentz’s program, the Hawkeyes have continued to produce quality linemen. The head coach’s son deserves credit for the work done with Scherff over the past three years, but Donnal and center Austin Blythe are perhaps better examples of his good work.

Early 2015 outlook: The postseason depth chart lists Boone Myers, a rising sophomore, ahead of junior Cole Croston, the backup in 2014, at left tackle. Both came to Iowa City as walk-ons, though Myers, a backup guard last season, has earned a scholarship. Former tight end Ike Boettger, a sophomore still in need of more weight, started the offseason ahead of freshman Keegan Render on the right side. No matter the personnel, Iowa must find solid replacements. The Hawkeyes don't have the flexibility or athleticism on offense to account for an unreliable pair of bookends. Expect plenty of attention from the coaches paid to the tackles this spring.
Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week we’re taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Louisville Cardinals

Position to improve: Offensive line.

Why it was a problem: Though the Cardinals returned players who combined to start over 100 games, there was inconsistency up front as the Cards transitioned to a new offensive style, new blocking schemes and a new position coach. Louisville struggled to protect the quarterback, and its ground game was up-and-down all season long. Without any veterans at center, Louisville started former walk-on Tobijah Hughley, who made gradual improvement as the year went on. Later in the year, veteran offensive tackle Ryan Mack was benched. He has since announced he would transfer to Memphis. Louisville tied for No. 114 in the nation in average sacks allowed per game (3.15) and No. 92 in the nation in rushing offense (142.7 yards per game). Though the group was better to end 2014, it still fell short of expectations.

How it can be fixed: Another year in the system should definitely help, because it is different from the old scheme under former coach Charlie Strong. So will consistency at quarterback, which was a problem all year. Louisville was forced to play three different quarterbacks because of injury. Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon were both inexperienced and played radically different styles, which does impact the offensive line. But unfortunately for the Cardinals, they are losing their three best, most experienced players in tackle Jamon Brown (All-ACC second team), and All-ACC honorable mention guards Jake Smith and and John Miller.

Early 2015 outlook: Hughley and offensive tackle Aaron Epps are the only starters back next season. Beyond them, there are not many proven players, at least not yet. Center T.C. Klusman, tackle Kelby Johnson and guards Skylar Lacy and Pedro Sibiea all served in backup roles a season ago. Louisville hit offensive line hard on the recruiting trail, and already has signed junior college transfer Khalil Hunter, who could provide immediate relief.
This week, we're taking a closer look at one specific area each Big 12 team needs to improve before 2015. We continue the series with Kansas State, which has numerous holes to fill after graduating several key performers from its 2014 squad:

Position to improve: Running back

Why it was a problem: The Wildcats had a prolific air attack last season with 3,000-yard passer Jake Waters and 1,000-yard receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. But the running game bogged down for much of the season, especially after Waters' shoulder injury midseason limited the frequency he could keep the ball on read options. The previous three seasons, John Hubert was a standout in the backfield. But neither Charles Jones nor DeMarcus Robinson adequately filled Hubert's shoes as a feature back. Robinson averaged just 3.67 yards per carry. Jones didn't fare much better, ranking 21st in the Big 12 with an average of 4.06.

How it can be fixed: The Wildcats need one of their young backs to emerge. Dalvin Warmack redshirted last season after a heralded prep career in Blue Springs, Missouri, rushing for more than 4,500 yards and 77 touchdowns his final two seasons of high school. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Warmack is in the mold of former K-State great Darren Sproles and offers some big-play ability. The Wildcats also have an intriguing three-star recruit Alex Barnes on the way. Barnes brings some much needed size to the K-State backfield and in theory would complement Warmack's scatback style well. Though Bill Snyder usually redshirts incoming freshmen, Barnes has the physical maturity to help right away.

Early 2015 outlook: With Waters, Lockett and Sexton all gone, the Wildcats have to get way more out of their running game to have any chance of finishing in the top half of the Big 12. With four starters back, the offensive line should be solid at the very least. But the Wildcats have to get more playmaking and consistency out of their backs. Whether it's Jones, Warmack or Barnes -- or some combination of the three -- running back will be a huge key to whether K-State factors again into the Big 12 title race.
This week, we're examining a problematic position for each Big Ten team during the 2014 season and how it can potentially be repaired in 2015.

Your turn, Nebraska.

Problem position: Linebacker

Why linebacker was a problem in 2014: Nebraska has been playing catch-up at the linebacker spot since it moved from the Big 12 -- where it needed more defensive backs and swift linebackers against all those pass-happy offenses -- to the more rugged, physical style of the Big Ten. The Huskers thought 2014 would bring improvement to the position, but a preseason knee injury to starter Michael Rose-Ivey proved a big setback. Once again, Big Red mostly failed to get elite production out of its linebackers, and the lack of size and skill there was evident in losses to Wisconsin, Minnesota and USC. With the graduation of Zaire Anderson and Trevor Roach and the transfer of Courtney Love to Kentucky, the position is perilously thin heading into 2015. New coach Mike Riley and his staff have made recruiting linebackers an immediate priority.

How it can be fixed (solutions on the roster): Rose-Ivey's return from injury should be a big boost, as he was drawing rave reviews before he went down. David Santos and Josh Banderas return a lot of experience, though Banderas saw his playing time dwindle in 2014. Backups Marcus Newby, Austin Williams and Chris Weber also are back but need to take major steps forward.

How it can be fixed (potential help from 2015 recruiting class): The Huskers have only one linebacker currently committed in three-star prospect Tyrin Ferguson. They are still hot on the trail of other linebacker prospects and will continue to hunt for more until signing day. Nebraska is also in the mix for former South Carolina linebacker Kaiwan Lewis, who could provide some immediate assistance as a graduate transfer.

Early 2015 outlook: The Huskers were barely holding it together at linebacker by the time the Holiday Bowl rolled around because of injuries and other issues. Riley understands that the position needs to be restocked and rebuilt. Rose-Ivey is a crucial part of that process if he bounces back fully healthy. Reinforcements are still needed in recruiting, and landing Lewis would be big. Nebraska is unlikely to have one of the top linebacker units in the Big Ten in 2015, but it can hope for a little bit better performance.
Oregon returned to the top of the Pac-12 after a two-year hiatus and qualified for the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014. The Ducks humiliated Florida State in the Rose Bowl but eventually dropped the national championship to Ohio State, setting up an intriguing reloading challenge entering 2015.

Position to improve: There's a plethora of possibilities here -- receiver drops hurt Oregon badly against the Buckeyes, and the Ducks' defense wasn't a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination -- but a massive departure means that focus zeros in on the marquee position: quarterback.

Why it was a problem: Well, it wasn't a visible problem in 2014 -- Marcus Mariota delivered the best season in program history and won the Heisman Trophy while he was at it. But the depth behind No. 8 was a huge question mark, one waiting to strike whenever Mariota would no longer be available. It's rearing its head now that life after Marcus has begun.

How it can be fixed: Speculation that Ohio State's Braxton Miller or Eastern Washington's Vernon Adams Jr. could transfer to Eugene has darted through Twitter, but nothing substantive has backed up that gossip as of right now. Assuming an incoming transfer doesn't answer Oregon's quarterback question mark in one swift blow, an interesting competition awaits.

Jeff Lockie, Mariota's backup this past season, is just one of the names involved. Morgan Mahalak and Ty Griffin are two other current roster possibilities, while touted dual threat commit Travis Waller will be joining the program soon. Oregon hasn't struggled to attract talent to its sparkling facilities. Addressing the gaping quarterback question mark and avoiding the dreaded post-Mariota vacuum is about properly identifying and successfully grooming the great one's successor.

Early 2015 outlook: When evaluating and predicting Oregon's quarterback situation, remember just how much supporting talent the Ducks return offensively: Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner, Byron Marshall, Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford, and Evan Baylis are all expected to contribute in 2015. The cupboard most definitely is not bare; coach Mark Helfrich just needs an effective point guard to distribute the ball to all of that explosive talent.

It must be noted that the Ducks' offense has been the strong point of this program for a long time now. Though Mariota was unquestionably excellent, Oregon was explosive before his tenure, too. Perhaps its ability to reload at left tackle (the departing Jake Fisher proved extremely valuable there this season, but Tyler Johnstone will be back to man that spot in 2015) and cornerback (starters Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill are both gone from a unit that surrendered some damage) also should generate some concern.
This question is open to interpretation at Georgia. If we’re talking about the biggest question marks, the Bulldogs have several spots where they lost experienced veterans -- including at receiver, linebacker and defensive line.

But for our purposes, we’ll look at the key position in Georgia’s pro-style offense.

Position to improve: Quarterback

Why it was a problem: It was tempting to pick the young secondary here, but Georgia actually ranked fifth nationally in pass defense, allowing 170.4 yards per game. Instead, let’s discuss why the Bulldogs need to improve at quarterback. It’s not that Hutson Mason was bad in 2014. He set a school record with a 67.9 completion percentage along with 2,168 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions. But Mason and the Bulldogs struggled to throw the ball downfield at times. Considering how effective Georgia’s passing game has been in the Mark Richt era, it’s crazy to see that Mason passed for at least 200 yards in just one game -- when he had 319 in an upset loss to Florida. Granted, Georgia’s dominant running game meant the Bulldogs rarely needed Mason to carry the offense. But an improved vertical passing attack complementing the running of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel could make Georgia’s offense downright lethal.

How it can be fixed: Sophomore Brice Ramsey seems to be the heir apparent at quarterback, although junior Faton Bauta and redshirt freshman Jacob Park also will take their shots at winning the job between now and September. Blessed with prototypical size (6-foot-3) and a strong throwing arm, Ramsey played the most behind Mason in 2014 and did OK, completing 61.5 percent of his passes (24-for-39) for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It’s important to mention here that although Ramsey played far less than Mason, he accounted for two of the Bulldogs’ five longest completions of the season (a 47-yard throw to Jonathon Rumph against Kentucky and a 39-yard completion to Chris Conley against Troy). The kid still needs to work on his accuracy and decision-making, but he can sling it. If he wins the starting job ahead of Bauta and Park, it stands to reason that Georgia will take more downfield shots.

Early 2015 outlook: It’s not necessarily a given that Ramsey will be the starter. Bauta’s work ethic is his calling card, and he will certainly put in the work to impress new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. And Park -- also 6-3 and blessed with a rocket arm -- stood out as a member of the scout team during his redshirt season. Park also can run a bit, so he will be another interesting candidate to watch this spring. He certainly has the tools to challenge for the job, but Ramsey will enter spring practice as the front-runner. If he, or whoever becomes the starter, can come close to Mason’s completion percentage and add the deep throw back to Georgia’s passing game, the Bulldogs’ offense could rank among the SEC’s best next season.
Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week, we’re taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Position to improve: Defensive line

Why it was a problem: The Yellow Jackets knew entering the season that getting a strong pass rush wouldn’t be easy after losing the bulk of their experience in the front seven. Indeed, Georgia Tech finished 108th nationally in sacks per game, 118th in tackles for loss per game, and no Power 5 team in the nation had fewer opponent plays per game that resulted in a loss or no gain. The big-picture result of that lack of backfield penetration was a defense that yielded 6.3 yards per play in 2014 -- 111th nationally and second-to-last in the ACC.

How it can be fixed: Experience was perhaps the biggest problem for Georgia Tech in 2014. After losing four of its top five pass-rushers from 2013, Tech simply had to give young players an opportunity and hope they could learn on the job. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof largely played a bit less aggressively as a result, which cut down on negative plays created, but also helped to keep too many big plays from happening downfield. That dynamic should begin to shift in 2015 now that KeShun Freeman, Paul Davis and others have more experience under their belts, and Tech figures to get back Jabari Hunt-Days, who missed the season because of academic issues. A solid 2015 recruiting class that includes four defensive linemen should add to the mix as well.

Early 2015 outlook: This isn’t going to be a massive overhaul. The hope for the Yellow Jackets is largely that Hunt-Days can be a force in his return to the field, and the players who saw action last season will be better in 2015. Roof certainly knows how to coach up a defense, and he did a solid job with the limited resources he had in 2014. His playbook should be able to be opened up a bit moving forward. It helps, too, that Tech promises to once again have a potent offensive attack in 2015 that will chew up clock and keep the defense off the field. The Yellow Jackets don’t have to be incredibly deep up front on defense, but they do have to be more productive when they’re on the field. In many respects, there is nowhere to go but up for that unit.
In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Quin Blanding, No. 10 in 2014 class

There wasn’t much drama around the recruitment of Blanding coming out of Bayside High in Virginia Beach. He committed very early to Virginia in February of 2013 after considering offers from many of the nation's top programs, including Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Auburn, UCLA, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan. Blanding was one of two five-star defenders to commit to Mike London in the 2014 class, along with defensive tackle Andrew Brown.

It's rare that a freshman makes this list, but that is how good Blanding was as a freshman at Virginia. He started the season by becoming the first Cavaliers true freshman to start a season opener at safety since 1976. He was also one of 10 Virginia players to start all 12 games, and finished second in the ACC in tackles with 123. Those 123 tackles also led the nation for all freshmen. He also filled the stat sheet with six pass breakups, three interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one sack.

Following the special freshman season, the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game standout was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-ACC second team by the league coaches, and to numerous freshman All-American teams.

Entering the 2015 season, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Blanding is a good bet to appear on most preseason All-American teams.

Though Blanding still has two years to play in Charlottesville, he is already on the radar of NFL scouts following the 2016 season.

Honorable mention: Rueben Randle, No. 10 in the 2009 class. Randle played at LSU and was a second-round (No. 63 overall) NFL draft pick by the New York Giants. Eddie Goldman, No. 10 in the 2012 class. Goldman just finished his junior season at Florida State, and has entered the 2015 NFL draft after posting 35 tackles and four sacks in 2014.
Nebraska and Michigan are next scheduled to play in 2018. If the past few days in recruiting serve as an indication, the game can't get here soon enough.

After a weekend in Ann Arbor in which Jim Harbaugh's staff flipped the commitment of Florida defensive end Reuben Jones from Nebraska to Michigan, Daishon Neal on Tuesday poured fuel on the warm embers of a budding Big Ten rivalry.

Neal, a defensive end out of Omaha (Neb.) Central, accepted a visit Monday from Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison. Committed to Nebraska since April, Neal wavered in his pledged after Bo Pelini was fired in November. As Neal worked to establish a relationship with Mike Riley's new staff in Lincoln, he flirted with Oklahoma and Oregon in recruiting, ultimately eliminating both.

This week, on the heels of his official visit to Nebraska, Neal received an offer from Michigan.

Then on Tuesday, he reaffirmed his commitment to the Huskers in a radio interview with Sharp & Benning in the Morning on Omaha's KOZN 1620-AM.

In the process, Neal and his father, Abraham Hoskins Jr., ripped the Wolverines.

"They made one bad statement," Hoskins said of the Monday visit with Mattison, "and it ruined them. They said without football, Daishon wouldn't be able to go to Michigan -- like we couldn't afford to send him there or we couldn't get him [academically eligible].

"Once he said that, we pretty much escorted him out of the house."

Neal said Mattison "basically tried to call me stupid in front of my face."

Listen to the full audio here.

A few things strike me:
  • Mattison and the Michigan coaches cannot respond until next week, when Neal signs with Nebraska. And by then, the Wolverines will have more important topics to address -- like their own class.
  • Interpret Mattison's purported comments as you wish. He wasn't necessarily insulting Neal. It's a fact Michigan is selective in the admission process and it helps a student's cause to receive a football scholarship. I doubt his statement was related to finances.
  • This feels a bit like Mattison walked into a trap in Omaha. Did Michigan really stand a chance here? Neal had an excellent visit to Nebraska over the weekend, by his own account, and the Huskers benefit from a victory -- perceived or real -- over Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines in recruiting.

Most notably, less than a month into the Harbaugh era, things are going just as well as hoped.

We all know Harbaugh is going to make a run at Urban Meyer and Ohio State in the way he targeted USC's Pete Carroll while at Stanford.

Of course, Harbaugh will get under the skin of Michigan State fans.

A little bad blood with Nebraska is an excellent side story. It makes sense, too.

Nebraska running backs coach Reggie Davis coached for Harbaugh with the 49ers for the past four years. Harbaugh's son, Michigan tight ends coach Jay, worked as an undergraduate assistant for Nebraska's Riley at Oregon State.

Harbaugh, in fact, played late in his NFL career for Riley with the Chargers.

The Huskers and Wolverines figure to coach with similar philosophies and covet many of the same recruits.

In fact, they're battling for another. Tight end Matt Snyder of San Ramon, California, a Nebraska pledge, visited Michigan last weekend.

Home visits from both schools to Snyder are scheduled for this week. Expect a little more sparring.

Now, if only the Big Ten could do something about that four-year wait until they play again.
Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week, we're taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Florida State Seminoles

Position to improve: Linebacker

Why it was a problem: It's not often that a defense can lose a playmaker such as Telvin Smith (and DE/OLB Christian Jones to an extent) and move on without missing a beat. With the talent Jimbo Fisher has recruited, some thought the Seminoles might have minimal drop-off. But the unit had its ups and downs for a variety of reasons. There were injuries and suspensions, and there also a lot of inexperience and not as much athleticism. The linebackers struggled at times against the run and the pass, and there was not a great pass-rusher among the group.

How it can be fixed: A healthy Terrance Smith Jr. will obviously help, and so will a full season from redshirt sophomore Matthew Thomas. Smith battled a sprained knee throughout the second half of the season, and Thomas was suspended for the first six games. The Seminoles need one of their younger linebackers to step up, though, especially with the losses of E.J. Levenberry and Reggie Northrup (ACL surgery). Jacob Pugh played sparingly as a freshman, and Delvin Purifoy never played a down after a season-ending injury. The good news is Pugh, Purifoy and defensive end/linebacker Lorenzo Featherston were all blue-chip recruits in the 2014 class and will have a full year under their belts.

Early 2015 outlook: There are definite reasons for optimism, as Smith and Thomas will be joined by one of the younger players. The 2014 class was filled with talent, and there will be an opportunity for the second-year linebackers to step up. The Seminoles also went the junior college route in the 2015 class with linebacker Lorenzo Phillips. He was the third-ranked outside linebacker among junior college players, and the idea is for him to make an immediate impact. But while the outlook is hardly bleak, one of the younger players has to step up and help the defense return to the top of the national rankings.

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