Big 12 recruiting scorecard

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
1:30
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The latest on what's happening on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 as we wind down summer camp and 7-on-7 season and inch closer and closer to putting the pads back on.

BAYLOR
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Longtime Baylor commit ATH Blake Lynch transferred to Gilmer (Texas) High School, a big-time East Texas program, this summer and is trying his hand at a new role. The former Troup (Texas) quarterback played wide receiver at the Texas state 7-on-7 tournament this past weekend, and that's the position our ESPN scouts see him playing in college. Lynch's commitment to BU remains solid.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: RB Devine Ozigbo of Sachse, Texas, is set to announce his commitment next Tuesday and is down to eight schools on his list: Iowa State, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Boise State, Boston College and Mississippi State. The Cyclones are selling him on the chance to be the only rusher they take in their 2015 class, but ISU's top competition for Ozigbo might be its in-state rival.

KANSAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ESPN 300 running back Tyreik Gray told our Damon Sayles this past weekend he wants to take official visits to Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisville before deciding on signing day. Gray is also expected to take an unofficial visit to Texas on Friday. Gray transferred to powerhouse Houston Lamar this spring and is being recruited as a RB/DB by most schools.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats' newest commitment came from ILB Chase Johnston. The Carl Junction, Missouri, native impressed enough at a K-State camp this summer to earn an offer, running an impressive 4.6-second 40 at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Johnston also went to Arkansas and Missouri camps this summer and made a strong impression, but KSU was his first and only scholarship offer.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners appear to be in the lead now for ESPN 300 offensive tackle Madison Akamnonu of Arlington (Texas) Bowie, and he could be closing in on a decision soon. The 6-foot-5 lineman's father attended OU, and this is likely going to come down to a Texas-Oklahoma decision for the rising four-star. For what it's worth, two of Akamnonu's high school teammates have already committed to TCU.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes are out in front for a sleeper wide receiver out of Louisiana. Don't be surprised if OSU locks up a pledge from Jalen McCleskey of Covington (Louisiana) St. Paul's in the near future. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound wideout has visited Stillwater several times and could end up being OSU's first WR pledge for 2015.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU is one of two early offers for Plano (Texas) Prestonwood linebacker Deonte Williams. Baylor has also joined the mix with an offer for the teammate of ESPN Junior 300 receiver Michael Irvin Jr., and Williams is planning to camp at Florida State soon. The Horned Frogs already got Williams on campus this summer and are in good shape so far.

TEXAS
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Texas hosts its first-ever "Under The Lights" camp on Friday night inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, and a star-studded turnout is expected. Among those planning to attend are all 11 commits in this class and reportedly as many as 25-plus members of the ESPN 300 for 2015 and 2016, highlighted by WR Ryan Newsome, CB Holton Hill, CB Kris Boyd and possibly OLB Malik Jefferson. Top QB targets Kai Locksley (2015) and Shea Patterson (2016) will also be on campus.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Texas Tech had just two of its commits qualify for Nike's The Opening in Oregon, but both were stellar. QB Jarrett Stidham finished in seventh place in the final Elite 11 standings and DT Breiden Fehoko proved he's one of the nation's strongest linemen with an event-best 42 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press. Both will play in the Under Armour All-America Game after their senior season.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: LB Riley Nicholson is expected to make his decision this week, and the Mountaineers are finalists along with UCF and NC State. The Kissimmee (Florida) Osceola standout visited all three schools multiple times during his recruitment, but UCF's rise to prominence in 2013 might be the difference-maker in this battle.
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HOOVER, Ala. -- For all the good that has come Auburn's way in the last year, it dropped the ball this time.

The announcement that star quarterback Nick Marshall, who was cited on Friday for possession of a small amount of marijuana, won't be attending this week's SEC media days was a mistake. This was an opportunity for the face of the program to stand up and confront his recent mistake. This was a chance for a potential Heisman Trophy candidate to own up to his transgression and be a leader.

This was a perfect time for Marshall, who now has two off-field strikes on his college resume, to take responsibility and show some maturity with all eyes and tape recorders on him.

Instead, his coach and his teammates are left to talk about him. They have to deal with the distraction that Marshall created, and that isn't fair to the players who will be in attendance. Tight end C.J. Uzomah, who is replacing Marshall, shouldn't have to spoil his media days experience by covering for his teammate. It's not the responsibility of Uzomah, nor any of his teammates, but now they'll have to face questions their captain should face.

Malzahn met with members of the media earlier Monday and talked about Marshall being left home because of the honor and privilege it is to attend SEC media days. He made it clear that Marshall didn't deserve such an honor, and that one of his punishments was that he'd have to stay home think about what he'd done.

What that means is that the story will just continue to linger until Marshall talks. Instead of putting Marshall, who is a senior, out there to discuss his situation and get it over with, Auburn will have to deal with what probably isn't a major legal issue.

A simple statement won't do when you're dealing with one of the most important figures on your team.

I understand that Marshall doesn't care about the limelight, and he's a very quiet individual. But that doesn't matter. He's the quarterback and the face of Auburn's football team. This is where leaders stand up and shoulder the blame.

Marshall isn't getting that opportunity, and that's a mistake.
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IRVING, Texas -- The Stanley Cup has nothin’ on college football’s newest and biggest prize -- except a little history, of course.

The College Football Playoff trophy, which was unveiled Monday morning from the sport’s new headquarters just outside of Dallas, is handcrafted from 24-karat gold, bronze and stainless steel. At 65 pounds, it weighs almost twice as much as the NHL’s trophy. The actual trophy itself –- the part that will be hoisted in celebration on Jan. 12, 2015 –- is 26.5 inches tall and weighs 35 pounds.

They do things big here in Texas.

With SEC media days also beginning today, it was a nationwide start to a new era – although this is a trophy that the country’s premier conference has yet to stake a claim to. Bill Hancock, executive director of the new College Football Playoff, called the trophy a priceless “piece of art that will be the ultimate goal for college football players during the season.”

There was a round of applause in the small room as Hancock revealed the trophy to a crowd comprised mainly of media, playoff officials and representatives from the trophy’s sponsor, Dr Pepper. None of the 13 selection committee members were in attendance, but they will meet again Aug. 11 in Colorado Springs to finalize any last-minute details about the four-team playoff.

The trophy has a modern, sleek look to it and features a focused football at the center of the base that rises to form an actual-size ball. The entire trophy is three feet tall, and the base is made of bronze with a black finish. Hancock said they were looking for a design that was “contemporary, bold and modern.” They looked at three or four dozen different designs, and video from game celebrations before choosing the trophy.

Fans had mixed reviews on Twitter:

There will always be traditionalists who are hesitant to embrace change, but no crystal ball could ever tell us what’s in store for this season.

SEC Media Days Live (12-7 p.m. ET)

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
12:23
PM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 

Video: Rudy's 'Lost Playoff Speech'

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
10:45
AM ET
video

In a recently discovered clip from his impassioned locker room speech in the movie "Rudy," Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger lays out his idea for a college football playoff.
There he was, a Clemson offensive lineman strolling down the streets of Kyoto, Japan, all 6-foot-5 of him.

Before you get images of a giant surrounded by little people, Kalon Davis stops you like the blocker he is.

"At this point, I'm the biggest guy here, too," Davis chuckled during a phone interview after he returned to South Carolina.

So true. When was the last time you bumped into a beefy offensive lineman shopping for produce at the convenience store? Davis did get his fair share of stares -- and even a few people who stopped and asked for a cell phone picture -- but none of that felt out of the ordinary for a guy already used to being a big man on campus.

[+] EnlargeDavis
Courtesy Clemson AthleticsClemson offensive lineman Kalon Davis lifted and watched tape with the Ritsumeikan University football team while he studied in Kyoto, Japan.
In fact, not much felt out of the ordinary while he studied abroad for two months in Japan -- a requirement for his modern languages major. Not speaking only Japanese. Not taking buses and trains only. Not commuting an hour and a half to do a work out.

While his teammates lifted back home, Davis lifted with a Japanese college football team and also played club soccer, while also taking classes in Japanese language and Japanese culture.

"The environment was different, but the day-to-day living wasn’t much different for me because I was still a student-athlete," Davis said.

Davis always has been fascinated with Japanese culture. He used to sit for hours watching his brother and sister play video games, either on Nintendo or Atari. Then when he got older, he started to play, too. When he arrived at Clemson, he began to study computer science so he could learn how to animate for video games. He also had a minor in Japanese.

But as his interest in Japanese grew, he switched majors. Davis started learning Japanese his sophomore year, and is now proficient. During his time in Kyoto, he stayed with a host family in a duplex. His bedroom was sparse -- a thin futon mattress on the floor surrounded by floor mats. He would leave the house at about 10 or 11 every morning, go to class at the local arts college, then take a bus and train up an hour and a half to Ritsumeikan University to work out with the football team there. Most nights, he did not get back until 10 or later.

Being immersed in the culture was a big thrill, and so was helping out the football team. He was given the coveted No. 52 jersey, an honored number. Davis helped teach the team about fundamentals and certain plays run in America. He learned certain plays specific to Japanese football. Ritsumeikan does not run a hurry-up. Instead, it is a power-heavy offensive team. So Davis spent time breaking down game tape of Stanford's offensive line against Notre Dame. He also watched most of Clemson's games from last season with the team.

"With the football team, there were a couple people who spoke really good English but I wanted to practice my Japanese with them and if I ever had to talk to the whole offensive line or offense, in a team meeting or something, I always had to speak Japanese," he said.

Spending two months away from the football program might give a coach a major bout of angina. But because Davis was able to work out every day and keep up with football, he returned to Clemson in the best shape of his life.

He also returned to three standard questions from teammates?

How was Japan?

How was the football team?

Did you bring me anything back?

Davis tried shopping for Ritsumeikan T-shirts, but could not find any in his size. He bought one, and it barely fits.

OK, so maybe Davis is a little bit bigger than the average person walking down the Kyoto streets.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Welcome to SEC media days!

It didn't seem as if we'd ever get here, but in a couple of hours, the inside of the Wynfrey Hotel will be transformed into a circus. The arrival of SEC media days brings us ever closer to the start of the 2014 season. Remember, this is the first season in which we'll be seeing an actual playoff end the season. That right there might be too much to digest.

But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the actually season, we're turning our attention to SEC media days. It's where you can have 1,000 media members all together -- along with a lobby jam-packed with ravenous fans (usually Alabama ones) -- crowding around kids and coaches.

It really is a beautiful thing, and here are 10 things to keep an eye on this week in Hoover:

1. Life without Marshall: Monday was supposed to be a chance for Auburn to truly introduce quarterback Nick Marshall to the world. Sure, we've all seen what he can do with a football in his hand, but this was where we got to hear Auburn's quarterback talk about all he does with a football. After all, Marshall could be a Heisman Trophy candidate this fall. But after Marshall was cited for possession of a small amount of marijuana Friday, he's out for media days. Tight end C.J. Uzomah will take his place. Marshall should be here to own up to his mistake. He should be here to take responsibility, but he isn't. Now, his coach and teammates have to do that.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama may be picked for the fourth time in five years to win the SEC.
2. Bama talk: For the first time since the 2011 SEC media days, Alabama arrives without the title of defending national champs. The Crimson Tide didn't even make it to the SEC title game. But that won't matter. Alabama will still steal the show. Everyone is here to see Nick Saban and ask questions about why Alabama couldn't get it done last year. We'll hear questions about the present and future for Alabama. And with so much talent returning, Alabama will likely be picked to win the SEC for the fourth time in five years.

3. Mason's debut: Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is headed to the big leagues, but his first official stop as the head man in charge of the Commodores is in Hoover. This ain't Stanford, and it definitely isn't the Pac-12. He'll meet a throng of media members inside a gigantic ballroom. He'll be bombarded with questions about replacing James Franklin, and we'll all wonder if he has what it takes to keep Vandy relevant. Will he wow us during his introductory news conference? Or will he take the businesslike approach and just try to get through such a long day?

4. Muschamp's hot seat: After 4-8 season that saw an anemic offense and a loss to FCS foe Georgia Southern, Florida coach Will Muschamp is feeling the heat under his seat. While he has been very collected about the pressure he should be feeling, he knows that this is the most important season of his tenure. To be fair, Florida dealt with an unfair amount of important injuries, but that means nothing now. Outside of last year's atrocity, Muschamp has yet to take Florida back to the SEC title and is 0-3 against archrival Georgia. Muschamp knows he has to win, and he and his players will be grilled about it all day today.

5. Sumlin dealing with distractions: Johnny Manziel might be gone, but Texas A&M is still dealing with distractions away from the football. Before Kevin Sumlin could even get to media days, he had to dismiss two of his best defensive players in linebacker Darian Claiborne and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden, who were arrested on charges of aggravated robbery earlier this year. One of his quarterbacks -- Kenny Hill -- also was arrested in March on a public intoxication charge. Once again, Sumlin will have to talk about more than just football this week.

[+] EnlargeMaty Mauk
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonMissouri's Maty Mauk threw for 1,071 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in place of the injured James Franklin.
6. Quarterback composure: A lot of talented quarterbacks left this league after last season, but we'll get our fill of quarterbacks this week. Marshall might be absent, but we'll hear from Jeff Driskel, Dak Prescott, Dylan Thompson, Bo Wallace and Maty Mauk. All these guys could have big years and will be crucial to their respective teams' success. Can Driskel rebound after his early, season-ending injury? Is Thompson ready to replace Connor Shaw? Can Wallace finally find some consistency? And can Prescott and Mauk prove their 2013 success wasn't just a flash in the pan?

7. Mauk's composure: Speaking of Missouri's quarterback, he's an incredibly interesting character to watch. He went 3-1 as a starter in place of the injured James Franklin last year, and has the right attitude and moxie that you want in a quarterback. Is he ready to be the guy full time? Is he ready to lead without a stud like Dorial Green-Beckham to throw to or Franklin to help him? A lot of veteran leadership is gone, so all eyes are on Mauk. He's also a very confident person, who isn't afraid to speak his mind. Let's hope he's on his game.

8. Players and the playoff: This is the first season of the College Football Playoff, and we've received just about everyone's opinion on the matter. Well, almost. We haven't heard much from the actual people playing in it. What do players think about it? Are there too many games now? Not enough? Do they care about the bowl experience? Do they even care about the playoff? What do they think?

9. What do players think about getting paid? With the Power Five a real thing and autonomy becoming more and more of a reality, what do the players think about it all? What are their thoughts on the prospect of getting some sort of compensation from their schools? Are they getting enough now? How much is actually enough?

10. What will Spurrier say? Need I say more? We all want to know what Steve Spurrier will say. Will he take shots at Georgia or Saban? Will Dabo Swinney come up? Will another coach be a target? Who knows, and who cares? We just want him to deliver some patented Spurrier gold!
The time for leniency has ended. The use of “internal discipline” is no longer enough. Nick Saban needs to tighten the reins on his program, make an example of someone publicly, and send the message to every one of his players that the offseason has ended, the time for work is here and any instances of poor behavior will not be tolerated.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFollowing yet another brush with the law for an Alabama player, it's time for Nick Saban to take a disciplinary stand.
Alabama has had its name dragged through the mud enough since the end of last season. Saban has dealt with enough negative headlines to know it’s time for more proactive measures.

You could live with Kenyan Drake making a bone-headed decision by disobeying an officer earlier this month. He was trying to get to his car. He wasn’t thinking and he was arrested. You could handle the repercussions coming behind closed doors without condoning the action that led to his arrest. And, frankly, the same could be said for Altee Tenpenny, who wasn’t arrested but was given a citation by police in April for possession of a controlled substance.

Both cases were enough to raise your eyebrows at. Neither was enough to spike your blood pressure.

But Jarran Reed's subsequent arrest this weekend for suspicion of driving under the influence has finally moved the needle. We’ve hit the proverbial “three strikes and you’re out” phase of this annual offseason game we play in major college football where one arrest leads to another and suddenly we start to see a trend. Next we question the health of the program as a whole and wonder aloud whether the coach truly has a handle on things.

Now, it must be said that Saban deserves the benefit of the doubt in such matters. We’ve never had to wonder whether discipline is a part of his process. But even he isn’t immune to the arrest bug. Even he can’t avoid the increasing sound of police sirens at his program’s doorstep.

Now is the time for Saban to step up and deliver a message.

Now is the time to right the course and get his team's full attention.

Fall camp begins in only a few weeks. The start of the season is less than two months away. Alabama has enough questions on the field; the Tide don't need negative attention off it. There’s a new quarterback to break in, two new offensive linemen and a defense that would be described as “rebuilding” if it were any place other than Alabama. If the Crimson Tide want to return to the national championship picture, they can’t afford another issue to tackle.

Drake, Tenpenny and Reed are all in Saban’s doghouse now. So is linebacker Dillon Lee, who was also arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in April. If this keeps up, there won’t be enough room to hold all the team’s disciplinary problems.

Eventually you have to say enough is enough and put a bar on that doghouse door. Eventually you have to show that once you go in, you might not be allowed out so easily.

That time is now for Saban and Alabama. Leniency can no longer be afforded. Decisive, heavy-handed action is needed. The season is almost here, and every player and every coach must get the message loud and clear that mistakes will no longer be tolerated.
Just when you thought you'd seen everything on social media, the athletic directors from Kansas State and Mississippi State took things to a different level Friday.

K-State's John Currie and Mississippi State's Scott Stricklin apparently agreed to a home-and-home series on Twitter. The two ADs went back and forth before agreeing to a deal. Obviously it is a tenative plan, but it came together in a matter of hours.

If only LeBron had accomplished things this quickly.

It all began when Currie invited Stricklin to bring his team to play some football at Bill Snyder Family Stadium:

Stricklin responds with suggested years for the series: Currie's response: Deal done.  
Troy AikmanUSA TODAY SportsTroy Aikman played under Barry Switzer in Oklahoma before enrolling at UCLA.
Have you logged on Twitter today? Turned on the TV? Went to the grocery store or picked up your child from the babysitter? Then chances are you know the King has returned.

LeBron James is going back to Cleveland.



That has us at CFB Nation thinking: Which college football players originally left home only to transfer back to put together a successful career? So we racked our brains and came up with a handful of the most successful transfers from the last 25 years of college football. The condition, obviously, is the transfer had to be made back to a school in their native state or at least within 100 miles, give or take a few.

If LeBron ever asks, they can all attest that there truly is no place like (playing at) home.

QB Troy Aikman, UCLA (by way of Oklahoma)

The California native left the Golden State and played his high school football in Oklahoma before enrolling with nearby perennial power Oklahoma, led by legendary coach Barry Switzer. Aikman was promised the Sooners' offense would be more passer-friendly, but when Aikman broke an ankle Switzer went back to the wishbone offense. The Sooners went on to win the national championship under the direction of a freshman quarterback, essentially closing the door on Aikman's Oklahoma career. The Covina, California, product returned to the state and enrolled at UCLA. In his first season with the Bruins, Aikman was awarded with the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. He led UCLA to consecutive 10-win seasons and finished third in the Heisman balloting in 1988. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1989 draft and is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

 Joe FlaccoMarvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco transferred to Delaware to play near his hometown in southern New Jersey.
QB Joe Flacco, Delaware (by way of Pittsburgh)

Technically Flacco did not return to his home state of New Jersey. However, Delaware's campus is less than an hour from Flacco's South Jersey home, making it a closer option than in-state Rutgers, the only FBS program in the state. Flacco played sparingly his first two seasons at Pitt before transferring to FCS powerhouse Delaware. He took the Blue Hens to the FCS national championship and his name is littered throughout the school's record book. He was taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft and has a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP award in his trophy room.

QB Scott Frost, Nebraska (by way of Stanford)

Rarely does an elite prep player from Nebraska leave the state, especially during the Cornhuskers' glory years under Tom Osborne. That's what Frost did, though, spending two seasons at Stanford before returning to the nation's heartland. In his first season, he was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. As a senior, he led Nebraska to an undefeated record and a share of the national championship. He was the first quarterback in school history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.

QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (by way of Michigan)

The second-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2007, Mallett signed with then-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr as the heir apparent to senior Chad Henne. However, spread-option coach Rich Rodriguez replaced Carr at season's end, prompting the traditional pocket passer Mallett to transfer. The Batesville, Arkansas, native moved home to play for the Razorbacks and Bobby Petrino, and he had two exceptional seasons. A two-time All-SEC second-team selection, Mallett threw for more than 3,600 yards in both of his seasons in Fayetteville and led the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl in 2010. He finished seventh in Heisman voting that season.

WR Randy Moss, Marshall (by way of Notre Dame and Florida State)

Transferring was not entirely up to Moss, whose own transgressions cost him the opportunity to play at his dream school, Notre Dame, and under coach Bobby Bowden, who told Sports Illustrated in 1997 Moss was just as gifted as Deion Sanders. Notre Dame denied his enrollment for his role in a fight, and Florida State removed him from the football team after he tested positive for marijuana, violating his probation. Moss transferred to Marshall, which at the time was a Division I-AA school, allowing him to play immediately. In two seasons, he accumulated 174 receptions, 3,529 yards and 55 total touchdowns. He was taken in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft and is considered one of the greatest receivers in league history.

Cameron NewtonChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesGeorgia native Cam Newton won a Heisman Trophy after transferring to Auburn.
QB Cam Newton, Auburn (by way of Florida and Blinn College)

Much like Moss, Newton's transfer issues were self-inflicted. Urban Meyer removed Newton from the Gators' roster following charges of felony burglary, larceny and obstructing justice stemming from an incident in which he stole another student's laptop. He enrolled at Blinn College (Texas) and led the program to the junior college national championship. The following season, Newton was the starting quarterback at Auburn and won a second consecutive personal national title, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and BCS trophy. He won the Heisman Trophy in the weeks leading up to the BCS national championship. He declared for the NFL draft in the days following the national title and went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers. He was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year and is a two-time Pro Bowler.

Honorable mention: Urban Meyer, Ohio State (by way of Bowling Green, Utah and Florida)

So he isn't a player and technically never transferred, but it certainly has a transfer feel to it. He left Florida after the 2010 season, sat out 2011 and then was named Ohio State's coach before the 2012 campaign. An Ohio native, Meyer's first college coaching job was as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. Even as the coach at other programs, he always spoke fondly of former coaches Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce, who hired Meyer away from a Cincinnati high school.

 

This week ESPN.com spent time looking at the future of college football, so here are a few players returning home -- not all are eligible in 2014 -- who could be the next impact transfers.

QB Jacob Coker, Alabama (by way of Florida State)

Coker is immediately eligible and is the favorite to be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback for the opener. He left Florida State after the 2013 season after losing out on the job to Jameis Winston.

QB Brandon Connette, Fresno State (by way of Duke)

The change-of-pace and red zone quarterback for the Blue Devils' run to the ACC championship, Connette left for Fresno State to be closer to his ailing mother.

QB Tyler Murphy, Boston College (by way of Florida)

Murphy is from Connecticut, but there aren't many FBS programs up in New England, and Boston is only 100 miles from Murphy's hometown. The BC coaches believe Murphy is a better player than he showed at Florida and can help Steve Addazio take the program to the next level.

LB Mike Mitchell, Texas Tech (by way of Ohio State)

A blue-chip prospect in the 2013 class, Ohio State was considered the long-time favorite for the athletic product. He signed with the Buckeyes but only lasted one season before transferring to Texas Tech, which was not a finalist during Mitchell's recruitment.

DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA (by way of Notre Dame)

This situation got a little ugly last summer. Vanderdoes was the center of a signing day controversy as Notre Dame listed him on their list of signees before Vanderdoes publicly committed at his announcement later in the day. Before ever playing a down for Notre Dame, Vanderdoes decided he wanted to enroll at UCLA, but Notre Dame would not grant him a release. He petitioned the NCAA and was able to play at UCLA this past fall.

The ACC's nice guys

July, 11, 2014
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College football fans sure find easy targets to wear the black hat. Whether it's a coach bouncing from school to school, a recruit flipping to a rival or someone who just can't avoid making headlines, there remains no shortage of villains in this sport.

That doesn't mean it's without guys worth rooting for, though. Here, we give you five ACC guys whom even rival fans have to appreciate for what they do on Saturdays and beyond.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Rodriguez
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtWR Daniel Rodriguez walked on at Clemson after serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Daniel Rodriguez, Clemson. The Tigers receiver served roughly 18 months in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan. He served in the Army from 2006-10. He earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal With Valor Device. Just watch this "College GameDay" feature on him. One of the better moments all of last season was Rodriguez scoring a 2-yard touchdown against The Citadel on Military Appreciation Day. He enters his senior year with 10 career catches for 30 yards and five punt returns for 31 yards. You don't see stories like Rodriguez's every day, and he certainly helps put the term "hero" in perspective.

Laken Tomlinson, Duke. Tomlinson arrived in Chicago from Jamaica at the age of 10, with little knowledge of the game of football. His recruitment and background is very similar to that of "The Blind Side," with Tomlinson ultimately committing to David Cutcliffe and a then-rebuilding Blue Devils program. He took part in a service trip two years ago in Ethiopia to help construct freshwater wells for local communities. He's blossomed into a pretty good offensive guard, too, earning All-ACC honors during Duke's run to the Coastal Division crown last season.

Kevin Haplea, Florida State. You're out for the season with a torn ACL. So what do you do? If you're Haplea, you help start a charity chapter at your new school. The Penn State transfer founded the Seminoles' chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which, coincidentally, holds its first event, "Lift for Life," today. The fundraising effort raises awareness and research money for rare diseases, with FSU's chapter championing Fanconi anemia, which is the disease that coach Jimbo Fisher's son, Ethan, was diagnosed with. A redshirt senior, Haplea could see his role expand this year, complementing Nick O'Leary in FSU's two-tight-end sets.

Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville. With both of his parents in jail, Mauldin bounced between different foster families before one of his foster mothers introduced him to football in high school. He's excelled since, registering 9.5 sacks last season and earning second-team all-league honors from the American Athletic Conference. Mauldin does no shortage of community work as well.

David Durham, Pitt. The starting defensive end has done no shortage of work around his new community since transferring from Ohio State prior to the 2012 season. Durham has hosted youth football clinics, wrapped and delivered Christmas gifts to families in need, volunteered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and, most recently, was part of a group of Pitt players who visited an orphanage in Haiti in May for a weeklong mission trip. Durham was the Panthers defense's winner of the Ed Conway Award this spring, which goes to the most improved player.
We've already covered the conference's potential villains, so it's only natural that we move on to the good guys.

You won't find them in comic books or out in the Big Ten footprint fighting crime. But even opposing fans won't find it all that difficult to root for this cast of characters. Some overcame injuries or other obstacles, some have been wronged, and others just seem like genuinely good people.

There are certainly plenty of other athletes and coaches whom this could apply to, so it wasn't easy just picking a handful. But true heroes don't expect media attention for their good deeds … plus, we had to cut this list off somewhere.

So, in alphabetical order, here are the unmasked Big Ten heroes:

[+] EnlargeNebraska
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsAmeer Abdullah, left, decided to put the NFL off for another year and return for his senior season at Nebraska.
Ameer Abdullah, running back, Nebraska: About 100 juniors declared early for this year's NFL draft, and no one would've blamed Abdullah if he decided to join the herd. Instead, he decided to stay -- and he's said all the right things. As the youngest of nine children, the other eight of whom have earned college degrees, Abdullah stressed the importance of his education and finishing that degree. When a lot of other players are chasing dollar signs instead of diplomas, that's a refreshing viewpoint. Added Bo Pelini: “He's an All-American on the field. He's an All-American off the field.”

Adam Breneman, tight end, Penn State: Forget the fact he remained loyal and committed to the university throughout the sanctions, when he could've bolted to the likes of Florida State or Notre Dame. He's also used his football celebrity to champion a few charitable causes, something more common for coaches than players. In high school he started “Catch the Cure,” which helped raise more than $200,000 to fight Lou Gehrig's Disease. During his Under Armour jersey presentation two years ago, he even helped man a booth outside the auditorium to seek donations. Currently, he's the secretary of Penn State's nonprofit chapter of “Uplifting Athletes,” which raises money for the Kidney Cancer Association. You don't have to like the Nittany Lions, but you have to like what Breneman's doing.

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator, Rutgers: Underappreciated. Underestimated. Underdog. That's why Friedgen is under two other heroes on this list. It's easy to root for someone who appeared to be unfairly punished – and is now seeking out justice on the gridiron. Friedgen is just about the only head coach to win conference coach of the year and then be fired that same season. It happened with Maryland in 2010; now, he's helping oversee a Rutgers offense that people aren't expecting a lot from. He's in the same division as the Terps -- heck, they're on the schedule this year -- and Friedgen has a chance to show Maryland it made a mistake. He certainly could've handled the dismissal better, but it's hard to blame him and easy to wish him well. As long as you're not a Terps fan, that is.

Jerry Kill, head coach, Minnesota: Stop me if you've heard this before. “I'm rooting against them when they play us, but I'm wishing all the best to ________ the rest of the season.” Chances are Kill's filled in quite a few of those sentences the past few years. He has refused to let epilepsy get the best of him, and his longevity's been a testament to his toughness. He's been a coach since 1985, and he just led the Gophers to back-to-back bowls. Plus, he recently started a new epilepsy foundation for young patients, and he put $100,000 of his own money toward that. How can you not root for this guy?

Jake Ryan, linebacker, Michigan: Torn anterior cruciate ligaments are usually big setbacks, something that means missed seasons or at least gradual returns. Not for Ryan. The Michigan linebacker, a team captain last season, was on crutches last spring and returned in time for the Oct. 12 game against Penn State. Said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: “If he ever truly logged the hours of extra treatment and extra rehab that he has done since the day that happened, I think it would floor you.” Nothing has really been handed to Ryan, as he wasn't a highly sought-after recruit. But he's worked hard and now finds himself on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik and Nagurski awards. It's his final season at Michigan, and big things are expected from him.

Heroes on deck: Tracy Claeys, Stefon Diggs, Herb Hand, Jeremy Langford, Venric Mark

Five SEC players to root for

July, 11, 2014
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On Thursday, we examined five individuals who could be potential SEC "villains" in 2014. And while some people love to be "haters" let's be real, most of us like to feel good about who we root for. If you feel like the player you like is also generally a good guy off the field and does the right things, it makes you feel that much better when he scores a touchdown or makes a big tackle on Saturdays.

With that in mind, let's keep it positive today and discuss five guys that are worth rooting for this season, in alphabetical order:

Luke Boyd, LSU: Boyd's name might not be one known to SEC fans but he has quite a story. The 27-year-old walk-on is an active-duty Marine who served the last five years, including six months in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, he was promoted to staff sergeant. He walked on with the Tigers last season and dressed for home games and hopes to find his way onto the field as a special-teams contributor this season. Another interesting nugget: He was a guest at the 2012 NFL draft where, in full uniform, he announced the Seattle Seahawks' third-round pick -- Russell Wilson.

Shon Coleman, Auburn: Former Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, leaves some big shoes to fill. Coleman, who was his backup at left tackle last season, is a candidate to replace Robinson and what a story it would be if he does so. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Coleman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in spring of 2010 shortly after he signed with the Tigers out of high school. He was able to overcome that and saw his first collegiate action last season. To get to that point is impressive, to finish it off by becoming a starter this year would be a storybook-like development.

Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: He's only a sophomore, but he is the model physically (5-foot-11, 194 pounds) and athletically when it comes to playing cornerback and is already the conference's best at the position. He has the right stuff mentally to be the heartbeat of that Florida defense. A third-team Associated Press All-American last year, Hargreaves is also one of the nicest guys you'll meet, a coach's kid who is incredibly humble.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott is already a talented quarterback who emerged into a real playmaker for the Bulldogs last season. He's a true leader and played through injuries last season and more importantly, the death of his mother, Peggy, who lost her life at 52 after a long bout with colon cancer. He returned to practice shortly after his mother's burial and played later that week against Texas A&M and compiled 303 offensive yards (154 rushing; 149 passing) and two touchdowns in a 51-41 loss. His toughness, both physical and mental, is one of his best qualities.

Deterrian Shackelford, Ole Miss: A rare sixth-year senior, Shackelford missed two whole seasons after an ACL injury that was worse than initially thought when he suffered it in 2011. After missing the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he returned last season to play every game at linebacker and finished seventh on the team with 44 tackles and fourth on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss. He is in the mix to be a starter for the Rebels at linebacker this season and one of the most respected players on the team. After football, he said he wants to be an athletic director or high school principal to positively impact teenagers.
Unfortunately it's the time of year when off-the-field missteps litter the headlines as college football players remind us they aren't much different than many other college students outside of their athletic endeavors. And while occasional misdeeds are getting the headlines other college football players are going out of their way to make a positive impact.

With that in mind, it's never a bad time to look at guys who impact their football team on the field yet strive to have a positive impact on their worlds off the field as well. Here are five Big 12 players to root for this fall, regardless of your normal allegiances:

Deep snapper Nate Boyer, Texas

If you aren't cheering for Boyer to excel, something is wrong with you, die-hard fans of the Sooners, Bears, Red Raiders included. His road to becoming the Longhorns long snapper has been well-documented, from his exploits as a Green Beret to his time in Darfur. Boyer has been a solid special teams' contributor at UT during the past two seasons. The recipient of the 2012 Disney Spirit Award, which is given annually to college football's most inspirational figure, Boyer is entering his final season at UT.

Quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor

Petty isn't just exceptional on the field. He's a guy whose impacts lives off the field as well. The reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year is active in Big Brothers, Big Sisters and FCA. He also has spent time in Kenya on a mission trip with fellow Baylor athletes in 2011 and was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year in 2013. On the field, Petty is a guy who knows how to lead, shoulders the blame during tough times, brings a positive attitude to the Bears' football squad and elite production behind center. Petty's exploits during his time in Waco, Texas are probably coming to an NCAA student-athlete commercial near you at some point in the future.

 

Defensive end Ryan Mueller, Kansas State One of the Big 12's top sack masters, Mueller befriended Kaiden Schroeder, a nine-year-old boy who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Their relationship lead to one of the Big 12's most memorable moments in the spring when Schroeder scored a touchdown in the Wildcats' spring game. Mueller, who had 11.5 sacks in 2013, was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year and has been named as one of KSU's captains for the 2014 season.

Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas Another guy who is active with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Shepherd also volunteers at local elementary schools. He won KU's Galen Fiss Award, which is given for exemplary service to the community and campus. On the field, he's a impact cornerback and kick returner for the Jayhawks leading KU with 15 passes defended in 2013. He was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year.

 

Quarterback Trevor Knight, Oklahoma

Knight is just starting to approach his potential on the field but he's already made a mark off it. The Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP has gone to Haiti twice as a member of OU's “Sooners4Haiti” contingent and is active in FCA, often appearing as a public speaker when his schedule allows. On the field, he's developing as a leader and playmaker and could rise to battle Petty for All-Big 12 honors with consistent performances in 2014.

 

Five Pac-12 players to root for

July, 11, 2014
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There is no shortage of players who will excite on the field in the Pac-12 this season, but it's not all about on-field performance. Whether it's for their off-field contributions or their on-field demeanor, here are five guys worth rooting for even if they don't play for your team.

Taylor Kelly, quarterback, Arizona State: Quick, who was the second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback last season -- UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Arizona State’s Kelly? Outside the Pac-12, the assumption would probably be Hundley, and that would be wrong. Kelly quietly led ASU to the best regular-season record in the Pac-12 last season and has a likely NFL future. His time in Tempe hasn’t been one big party, either. The Master’s candidate volunteers at local schools two days a week and is heavily involved in the Scholar Baller leadership and outreach program, for which he teaches high school students about leadership and character among other things. Kelly is also an accomplished drag racer, but that passion is currently on hold at the request of ASU coach Todd Graham. As a result of his vast car knowledge, Kelly has turned into the de facto mechanic for the ASU football team.

[+] EnlargeMariota
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsWhen Marcus Mariota isn't piling up big stats on the field, he can usually be found studying somewhere.
Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon: After passing up a good shot at being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to return to school, Mariota has all the makings of a Heisman Trophy favorite. And he won’t come with much controversy. If Andrew Luck set the standard for unassuming superstar quarterbacks in the Pac-12, Mariota isn’t far behind. He’s quiet, he’s polite, he’s humble and while pursuing a degree in General Science, he has developed a reputation as one of the most studious athletes on campus. For those looking for reasons to root against him, as an individual, it will be hard to justify.

Toni Pole, defensive tackle, Washington State: When Pole intercepted a Keith Price pass in overtime and nearly returned it for a touchdown in the 2012 Apple Cup, he created a memory Washington State fans will remember for a long time. For many, that is not the only lasting impression he has produced. Pole is a frequent volunteer in the Pullman community, and his philantrophic efforts have included helping to put on “Butch’s Bash,” a holiday party for local kids. He makes trips to the local senior center where he plays games with the residents and is musically inclined. When the Cougars are on the road, he can be found playing the piano in hotel lobbies and has sang the National Anthem at women’s basketball games.

Ty Montgomery, receiver, Stanford: Stanford coach David Shaw has said Montgomery has the talent to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but after big junior year with the Cardinal, Montgomery didn’t even consider a pre-graduation jump to Sunday football. He didn’t even ask for an evaluation from the NFL or for a draft-round projection, which is common for draft-eligible players. He chose Stanford largely for academic reasons and chose to stay for the same. As soft-spoken as they come, Montgomery has already been named to the Maxwell and Hornung Award watch lists and is one of the more dynamic kick returners in the country.

Stefan McClure, cornerback, Cal: After a solid true freshman season in 2011, McClure appeared on his way to a great career for Cal. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but it’s not for a lack of talent. He sat out the 2012 season rehabbing a torn ACL, then suffered another torn ACL five games into last season. If there is anyone who could use some good vibes coming his way, it’s McClure.

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