Scout's Take: OT Sione Angilau to Texas 

December, 12, 2017
Dec 12
1:36
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Texas has picked up its 17th ESPN 300 commit with the addition of OT Sione Angilau Jr.. Read below to see what type of development path he might take in Austin:

videoHere's our ESPN 2017 All-Big 12 team:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield: Won the Heisman Trophy while leading OU to the College Football Playoff and a third consecutive Big 12 title.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
West Virginia QB Will Grier: Passed for 3,490 yards and 34 TDs before a broken finger prematurely ended his season.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Iowa State's Matt Campbell: Before this season, Iowa State had beaten only one top-five team in its history. In October alone, Campbell’s Cyclones defeated two on their way to qualifying for a bowl.

Baker Mayfield Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma QB Baker Mayfield won the Heisman after passing for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season.

OFFENSE
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Became the first Heisman Trophy winner to begin his career as a walk-on.

RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State: Topped the Big 12 with 1,347 yards and 14 TDs on the ground.

RB David Montgomery, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in broken tackles is one of three Big 12 players with more than 1,000 yards rushing.

FB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma: Scored eight total TDs (four rushing, four receiving) as OU’s Swiss Army knife.

TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma: Won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and was also an ESPN All-American.

WR James Washington, Oklahoma State: Won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver and was also an ESPN All-American.

WR David Sills V, West Virginia: A Biletnikoff finalist who led the nation with 18 TD catches.

WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State: Iowa State’s all-time leading receiver caught the game-winning TD that knocked off Oklahoma.

OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma: A finalist for the Outland Award and was also an ESPN All-American.

OG Matt Pryor, TCU: Stepped up when Patrick Morris missed much of the season with an injury.

C Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State: The anchor up front for the nation’s No. 3 offense.

OG Ben Powers, Oklahoma: Was an ESPN All-Big 12 selection last season, too.

OT Bobby Evans, Oklahoma: Overshadowed by Orlando Brown, but a dominating force at OU’s other bookend.

All-purpose Keke Coutee, Texas Tech: Trailed only Justice Hill in all-purpose yards in the Big 12.

DEFENSE
DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma: Third in the Big 12 with eight sacks and second with 17.5 tackles for loss.

DT Poona Ford, Texas: The biggest reason Texas held opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing seven times.

DT Will Geary, Kansas State: Iowa State’s Ray Lima also warranted consideration, but Geary thrived while taking on double-teams on a regular basis.

DE Ben Banogu, TCU: Got the slight nod over teammate Mat Boesen, who was also terrific. The two have combined for 20 sacks.

LB Malik Jefferson, Texas: Bounced back in a big way from a disappointing sophomore season to tie for second in the Big 12 with 110 tackles.

LB Travin Howard, TCU: Will go into the bowl game boasting 333 tackles over the past three seasons.

LB David Long Jr., West Virginia: Came back from a preseason knee injury to finish eighth in the Big 12 with 69 tackles in conference play.

CB Ranthony Texada, TCU: Trailed only DeShon Elliott in the league in “disrupted dropbacks” (sacks/interceptions/batted passes/passes defended).

S Nick Orr, TCU: The backbone of the TCU secondary, he had the game-clinching pick in the win at Oklahoma State.

S DeShon Elliott, Texas: A Thorpe finalist and an ESPN All-American, he led the Big 12 with six interceptions.

CB Brian Peavy, Iowa State: Despite playing cornerback, finished third on Iowa State with 81 tackles and had a 70-yard interception return in a win over TCU.

All-purpose Joel Lanning, Iowa State: Third in the Big 12 with 110 tackles while playing situational quarterback through much of the season.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K Matthew McCrane, Kansas State: Nailed 21 of 26 field goal attempts, including three from 50 yards or more.

P Michael Dickson, Texas: Won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter.

Returner D.J. Reed, Kansas State: Also a standout corner, leads the nation in both kick and punt return average.

videoLOS ANGELES -- Every time Clay Helton sits at the desk inside his USC office, two of his sanctuaries are in full view.

To his left, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Trojans’ practice fields. On the wall directly in front of him sits a giant photo of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum littered with cardinal and gold on game night.

When Helton talks about being home, that practice field and that stadium -- in which he's 16-0 -- are it. Which is why it’s fitting that the Southern transplant-turned-hopeful USC lifer has shielded what lies behind that massive photo.

Approximately 10 miles away and almost directly behind the picture stands Los Angeles’ famous Hollywood sign. It’s a beacon for the city, hovering over a football program that is every bit the celebrity as any of the stars strolling down Rodeo Drive.

Helton embraces the Hollywood glitz and glamour, but he also doesn’t let it distort his vision. Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell might patrol USC’s celebrity-filled sidelines. But it's former USC stars such as Marcus Allen, Matt Leinart and Ronnie Lott who catch his eye.

“Those are my movie stars,” Helton told ESPN.

The Gainesville, Florida, native has jumped out of his comfort zone, going from a small-town background to trying to conquer one of the world’s most celebrated metropolises. He has balanced the Hollywood mystique to return the Trojans to the national conversation. Sure, USC isn’t competing for a national championship, but adding a Pac-12 championship to back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl appearances in only two seasons as USC’s full-time head coach is impressive, when you consider the recent turmoil within this program.

Clay HeltonAP Photo/Jae C. HongClay Helton is 27-9 with nine wins over AP Top 25 teams as USC's head coach.

College Football Playoff absence aside, Helton said the 2017 season has been his biggest accomplishment in 22 years of collegiate coaching.

Getting the interim tag ripped off at USC in October 2015 was great and last year’s thrilling Rose Bowl win over Penn State was fantastic, but when you consider there was something of a youth movement on offense this season and that early injuries hampered the Trojans, Helton believes USC exceeded its true expectations with 11 wins (its most since 2008) and the school’s first Pac-12 title in nine years.

“I’m really proud of this group of kids, especially this group of seniors, to accomplish what they have,” Helton said.

Before the first snap of spring camp, USC had to overcome losing five players to the 2017 NFL draft and nine more to NFL free agency.

Golden boy quarterback Sam Darnold was working with a very unproven receiving corps.

The Trojans entered the season with top tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, an All-America candidate, dealing with a hip injury that would force him to miss seven games.

Up-and-coming running back Stephen Carr went from 119 yards against Stanford and being part of arguably one of the nation’s best running back duos with Ronald Jones II to missing five games because of injury.

Coming out of the loss to Washington State, USC found itself down three starting offensive linemen.

Regardless of the lofty preseason prognostications, these Trojans weren’t built for anything more than what they accomplished.

“We tested everybody’s heart rate, we tested everybody’s soul in this season, but [Helton] brought them to the Pac-12 championship, we beat a good, resounding, solid Stanford football team, and now we’re going on to the [Goodyear Cotton Bowl],” USC athletic director Lynn Swann told reporters after the Trojans’ 31-28 Pac-12 title game win over Stanford.

"From the outside, you can say it was an underachieving season, but this [Pac-12 title] is our primary goal. This is a building process. You don't come in one year because you have a great Rose Bowl win and one great recruiting class for a first-year head coach and suddenly you're supposed to be a national championship team. That's a little lofty; that's a little presumptuous."

Swann also gave Helton, who now has nine wins over AP Top 25 teams, including three top-five teams, a public vote of confidence after a roller-coaster year for the program. But according to the Los Angeles Daily News, Swann wasn't happy with Helton during the season. Sloppy wins, a blowout loss to Notre Dame in front of the entire country and no playoff berth can irritate someone running one of the most prestigious programs in college football.

Helton knows that. USC hasn't played for a national championship in more than a decade, and that isn't acceptable.

Sam Darnold and Clay HeltonJayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsAfter winning the 2017 Rose Bowl, Sam Darnold, left, and Helton are headed to their second straight New Year's Six game, taking on Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.

“This place, we know where the bar is set, and the bar here is championships,” said Helton, who is now 27-9 as USC's head coach. "That’s the reality and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what we demand.

“This is our opportunity to hit that first step.”

Helton’s players have total confidence that he’s the man to make sure this program takes a commanding next step. To them, they have a coach who truly appreciates being at USC. This isn’t just a job for Helton, “it’s a dream come true,” he said.

That resonates with his players, who have seen him sleep in his office a few nights a week during the season.

They see someone who didn’t change after going from interim to full-time head coach. He's as enthusiastic now as he was when he was auditioning for the job. He's also as compassionate, caring and motivating with his players.

“He preaches it and lives it,” Trojans linebacker Cam Smith said of Helton.

“It’s 'Groundhog Day' for him every day.”

As Imatorbhebhe added, “I’d follow him anywhere.”

To Darnold, it is Helton’s sincerity that has impressed him the most. Helton might not always tell you what you want to hear, but he’s at least going to be straight with you and he will not try to cut corners.

“He knows that 18-to-20-year-olds can smell bulls--- when it’s there,” Darnold said. “He’s always going to be brutally honest with us and never someone he’s not.”

The brutal honesty with the Trojans is that they're every bit the No. 8 team in the country and the Pac-12 champ they should have been. Now they enter their Cotton Bowl matchup with No. 5 Ohio State, another team running from its lofty preseason praise with a ton of momentum after winning its past five games, with three coming by double digits.

Though USC’s embarrassing 49-14 loss at Notre Dame was an ugly stain on the season, it served as a springboard for the Trojans' final run. Immediately after the game against the Fighting Irish, Helton said, he walked into a locker room filled with frustration, anger and leadership.

Finally the Trojans were mad and wanted to do something about a season quickly getting away from them.

“There was no pointing fingers or bitching,” Helton said. “It was, ‘Hey, we know that’s not us. Let’s go play our brand of ball and get back on the horse.’”

So here they are: a two-loss, Pac-12-crown-wearing group of misfits with more wins than 120 other FBS teams out there. They’ve enjoyed exponential growth at the wide receiver position, and they still have possibly the first pick in next year’s NFL draft in Darnold.

The Trojans didn’t hit their stride until late in the campaign, but they were good enough to become a nugget in the final playoff conversations -- something no one expected when they were 6-2.

Helton has done his job in making USC a talking point again, and he's having a blast doing it. He knows this team has a long way to go to get back to the top nationally, but he embraces the challenge of making that climb.

“To see where we started Game 1 to where we are now ... this is one of those situations that’s never been a job,” he said. “I wake up smiling every day. I don’t got to do this, I get to do this."

Scout's Take: OG Trey Hill to Georgia 

December, 11, 2017
Dec 11
8:36
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video Playoff-bound Georgia remains hot both on the field and on the trail. Monday, the Bulldogs added No. 1 guard Trey Hill to their top-five 2018 class:

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videoMichigan has started four different quarterbacks during Jim Harbaugh's three seasons in Ann Arbor with varying levels of success. The only constant at Harbaugh's native position during that time has been quarterback competitions. And he just upped the ante in that department in a big way.

Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson declared Monday via Twitter that he intends to join the Wolverines for what remains of his college football career. Patterson was considered the top pro-style prospect in the nation two years ago when he joined the Rebels. If the NCAA grants him permission to play next fall at Michigan, he will immediately jump into the top tier of quarterback talent in the Big Ten, along with the likes of Trace McSorley at Penn State and Ohio State's heir apparent, Dwayne Haskins.

That won't, however, guarantee Patterson a starting job with Michigan. His decision doesn't immediately answer the biggest question facing Michigan this offseason.

Shea PattersonJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsShea Patterson announced on Twitter he is leaving Ole Miss and will play at Michigan in 2018.

Patterson will join rising redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters and redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey, among others, this offseason in the quarterback room -- competing at a position that troubled Michigan as much as any other during an 8-4 regular season this past fall. When he's inevitably asked who will lead the charge into spring practice, Harbaugh will almost certainly answer with some version of the response he has given every offseason since he returned to his childhood hometown.

"It will be a meritocracy at its best," Harbaugh said in 2015. The next year he added, "Roll the balls out there and let them play."

Harbaugh, throughout his coaching career, has been a fervent worshipper at the altar of competition. Pursuing Patterson and adding him to the current group of touted, yet largely unproven quarterbacks means that the coach is doubling down on one of his core principles in hopes of solving what has been maybe his team's most vexing issue in the last couple years.

Doubling down, of course, usually comes with the caveat that the next card you get had better be a good one. Michigan will once again have a championship-level defense in 2018. It will return most of its starters on offense. It remains a playmaking quarterback away from competing for championships. If Patterson isn't the guy to push Michigan over the considerable hump of winning at least a division title (or the guy who pushes Peters to do the same), the mountain of nitpicking that will come from Michigan's sizable fan base will make even Harbaugh's final year with the San Francisco 49ers seem like a friendly work environment.

The Wolverines could have stuck with Peters as their sure starter heading into this offseason -- although the outgoing transfers of former starter Wilton Speight and veteran reserve Alex Malzone create good reason to search for additional depth at the position. Peters showed promise in his four games leading the offense this November. He was trending upward when a head injury knocked him out of close game against then-undefeated Wisconsin.

Harbaugh's chief critique of the 6-foot-5, strong-armed Peters was that he was a bit too quiet to command authority under center. An offseason as the big man on campus could have aided his growing confidence and positioned him as an anchor on Michigan's burgeoning, talented roster. There are plenty of coaches who support the school of thought that having a solid and certain quarterback in place helps a team find its identity during a critical offseason.

That has never been Harbaugh's approach, and it's no surprise he's sticking to his guns this time around. Patterson threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games before injuring his leg this season at Ole Miss. Many believe the 2018 season -- as long as he's eligible to play -- will be a one-year pit stop en route to a bright NFL future for Patterson.

He could be an ideal one-and-done answer as the Michigan coaching staff continues to try to develop talents like Peters and McCaffrey. But Patterson isn't being presented as an anointed stopgap savior within Michigan's walls. This guy wants your job, Harbaugh will tell his quarterbacks, would any of you care to fight him for it?

Michigan needs an answer at quarterback in 2018. Patterson's decision to come to Ann Arbor isn't a definite answer, but it's a step toward one. It's a sign that Harbaugh is betting big on the one fundamental belief that has led to a lot of success in his football life: The better the competition, the better the results. And the competition just got a lot more talented at Michigan.

Scout's Take: S C.J. Smith to Nebraska 

December, 11, 2017
Dec 11
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New Nebraska head coach Scott Frost landed his first ESPN 300 verbal -- safety C.J. Smith. Below, see why this Sunshine State prospect is a great start for Frost in Lincoln: What he brings: Smith is a long, explosive prospect who can be a ball-hawking safety. He needs to continue to develop his frame, add more mass and improve functional strength, but he possesses good height and length with physical upside. A fluid athlete with speed who reacts quickly, he can get to the football and make plays. He has also been utilized on offense as a wide receiver, has good ball skills, does a nice job of high-pointing the ball and can generate turnovers when the opportunity is there. He is also a willing and aggressive player in run support and should continue to improve in this area as he continues to physically develop. How he fits: This a good start on the recruiting trail for Frost. A prospect he already developed a relationship with from his time at UCF, Smith is an athletic player with upside who can help address a need. The Huskers' defense had mostly seniors and juniors contributing at the safety position and the unit as a whole will need to be improved under Frost and the new staff. Smith might need some developmental time which could limit his contributions and production early on, but he is a prospect with upside who can bring playmaking ability to their secondary. Reminds us of: This is likely a comfortable fit for Frost as Smith reminds us some of Frost's safety at UCF, Kyle Gibson. The new Nebraska commit possesses more height and length, but like Gibson he can be a ball hawk capable of making plays and being active in run support. How the class is shaping up: Frost has his work cut out for him after inheriting over a class that has dealt with multiple decommitments and is low in overall numbers. This was never expected to be a big class for the Cornhuskers, but they are in single digits in verbals. Smith gives them a third ESPN 300 prospect in this class along with No. 4 TE-H Cameron Jurgens and WR Cameron Brown. Smith is the lone commit out of Florida, but that will likely change before this class is complete.video

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Scout's Take: ATH Bryan Addison to UCLA 

December, 11, 2017
Dec 11
11:12
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Bryan Addison has become the first ESPN 300 commitment of the Chip Kelly era at UCLA. Read below to see what the future may hold for this legitimate two-way talent.

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videoTALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Willie Taggart had a ready answer when he was asked to describe the offensive system he plans to run at Florida State.

“Talkin’ about the Gulf Coast offense, huh?” he asked.

“How would I describe it?” Taggart paused, perhaps for effect.

“Lethal simplicity,” Taggart said.

Next to him, athletic director Stan Wilcox beamed. Those two words may have meant more than anything else Taggart said during his introductory news conference last week. Taggart has much to do during his first few months on the job, but among the most intriguing items on the checklist is how he will reimagine and modernize an offense that has been stuck in the past.

Willie TaggartAP Photo/Mark WallheiserNew Florida State coach Willie Taggart said that his offensive system will "allow our guys to go out and play football and play fast."

Let’s start with "lethal" first. Since Jameis Winston left Florida State, the Seminoles have become one of the most methodical offenses in the country. There’s nothing wrong with methodical, so long as productivity follows.

With a true freshman quarterback this season, these issues were exacerbated further, and Florida State averaged only 61 plays per game. That ranked in the bottom 10 nationally.

As college football has tilted more toward spread, tempo offenses, many schools have followed. Evolution has become necessary, and not much evolved under Jimbo Fisher. Just last month, he told reporters in Tallahassee that he has been running the same offense since the early 1990s during a discussion about his offensive philosophy and the way he has coached James Blackman.

Taggart began his career running a pro-style offense, too, but he has found ways to adapt based on his personnel. The Gulf Coast offense is a smash-up of what he has learned, using principles that allow his players more freedom to use their athletic abilities to make plays. South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers is a perfect example. He began to flourish only after Taggart quit trying to rein him in.

This is where the simplicity comes in. Far too often, those who played under Fisher or studied his offenses described them as "complex." Fisher balked at that assertion throughout the season when he was continually asked whether the offense was too complicated for a true freshman to run.

But various players pointed specifically to the complicated schemes and calls when describing what Blackman had to pick up as the starter. (Since Blackman is a true freshman, he was not allowed to speak to the media this season.)

Whatever the case, hindsight makes it blatantly clear that a fresh offensive look was necessary. Florida State brings in some of the best athletes in the country every single season. Now is the time to turn those athletes loose on offense, to use their speed, skill and talent to their advantage.

"We want to score fast and often, but be really simple when it comes to teaching our players,” Taggart said. “Not confusing them with what we need to do, but allow our guys to go out and play football and play fast.

“Score touchdowns. We all like touchdowns. I really like explosive plays. You’ll see a lot of explosive plays. ... I like to score fast and often and take pride in doing that.”

Let’s take this season as an example. Oregon, under Taggart, had 72 plays that went for 20 or more yards; Florida State had 52. Now, 2017 does serve as an exception at Florida State because the Seminoles played without Deondre Francois.

But when this offense hit its peak with Winston in 2013, Florida State had 109 plays that went over 20 yards in 14 games. Of course, it was not just Winston. The Seminoles also had Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, Nick O’Leary, Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. Among that group, only Wilder went undrafted.

Over the past two drafts, Dalvin Cook was the only Seminoles player at the offensive skill positions who was drafted. And heading into the 2018 draft, Florida State doesn’t have an elite prospect at any of those positions. The downturn has been hard to watch at times, a combination of a complex offense, unreached potential, injuries and questionable coaching, especially given the top-five signing classes Fisher brought in.

But all hope should not be lost, especially with a fresh start. Florida State returns a wealth of talent, from Cam Akers at running back to Auden Tate and Noonie Murray at receiver and a healthy Francois at quarterback. If Jacques Patrick returns, the Seminoles will have as good a 1-2 combination at running back as any team out there. And these are just the players who have seen time for Florida State.

The recruiting pitch should be an easy sell for Taggart, both on the trail and inside his own locker room. Every offensive player should want to sign up to make more plays in a simpler, faster offense.

Baker Mayfield has won the Heisman Trophy.

That’s nice and all, but what about next year?

For everyone not still shouting “Boomer Sooner!” toward Oklahoma’s senior quarterback, it’s time to look toward who could join him on stage at the Heisman ceremony in 2018.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that quarterbacks Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson will turn pro. Throw in the draft-eligible running backs (Bryce Love, Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones II, etc.) as well. And if that changes and any of them return, add them to this list retroactively.

Jonathan TaylorDan Sanger/Icon SportswireJonathan Taylor rushed for 1,847 yards as a freshman at Wisconsin.

With that caveat out of the way, here’s a look at the top candidates, in alphabetical order, to take home next year’s Heisman Trophy and a handful of contenders who deserve close attention:

Ohio State DE Nick Bosa: It’s not easy for a defensive player to get invited to New York, but the sophomore has two things going in his favor: brand and name recognition. He can thank big brother and his university for that. But what Bosa does on the football field should speak for itself. He’s a disruptor at defensive end, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2016 and a first-team All-Big Ten selection this past season, racking up 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in the process.

Clemson QB Kelly Bryant: His numbers don’t inspire you? So what? What Bryant did in his first season starting -- not to mention replacing a legend in Deshaun Watson -- says it all. Bryant led his team to the No. 1 ranking and threw for 2,678 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions in the process. He also ran for 646 yards and 11 scores. He has all the tools to be a star, if he isn’t already, and the experience and confidence he’s gaining now should lead to even better, possibly Heisman-caliber, numbers next season.

West Virginia QB Will Grier: The junior could enter the NFL draft. After all, other than winning a Big 12 title, what does he have left to prove? He threw for 3,490 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. He even ran for a couple of touchdowns, stating his case along with Mayfield as one the most productive quarterbacks in college football. But if he returns, he could be looking at a Mayfield-like Heisman run in 2018. If he posts similar numbers and wins a conference championship, he should get a trip to New York.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts: For all the consternation over his ability as a passer, all the sophomore quarterback does is make plays and win games. His overall record as starter speaks for itself: 25-2. He was the first true freshman to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year since Herschel Walker, and followed that up as a sophomore with 2,708 total yards, 23 touchdowns and just two turnovers this season. If he carries Alabama to a third straight playoff next season, it will be hard to deny the dual-threat QB a trip to New York.

Houston DT Ed Oliver: Wake up, people. Everyone sleeping on the Group of 5 needs to turn on the tape of Houston’s prodigious defensive lineman and soak it in. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound sophomore does things that no 6-3, 290-pound person should be able to do. Even from the interior of the line, he makes plays. Just look at his stat line the past two seasons: 135 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 12 passes defended, five forced fumbles and one blocked kick. If the Heisman voters sleep on him, you'd better believe the owners of the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft won’t.

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham: As it turns out, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was right and Stidham did need a little bit of time to get his feet under him. But once the former Baylor transfer did, he showed why he was worth the hype. From Week 3 on, he completed an eye-popping 68.5 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions, leading Auburn into playoff contention. He even added a running element to his game, rushing for three scores. With a full year under his belt and most of his receivers back, he could be primed for a strong junior season.

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor: It’s OK if you’re late to the party on this 5-foot-11, 214-pound running back from New Jersey. He’s just a freshman, after all. But boy, can the young fella play, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors thanks to 1,847 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. No Power 5 back had more rushes of 10 or more yards this season than Taylor’s 60.

Arizona QB Khalil Tate: Speaking of being late to the party, let’s try not to fall victim to the Pac-12 After Dark conspiracy next year. Tate deserves that extra pot of coffee after dinner for everyone in the South and Northeast. All the man does is make plays. Five times he has combined for 300-plus total yards, and on three separate occasions he rushed for more than 200 yards in a game. After coming out of nowhere this season, he should be on everyone’s radar in 2018.

Five more to keep an eye on: Florida State RB Cam Akers, Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins, Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, Georgia RB D’Andre Swift.

Curtis Dunlap Jr.Phelan M. Ebenhack for ESPNCurtis Dunlap Jr. (right) is a big, strong, versatile offensive lineman who should at least initially be able to offer good depth for the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota secured a pair of key commitments Saturday along the offensive line in Curtis Dunlap Jr. and Daniel Faalele. Below, see why Dunlap is likely to make an early impact for the Gophers:

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Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry share Heisman bond, responsibility

December, 9, 2017
Dec 9
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Every so often, Derrick Henry makes his way over to the back corner of the Tennessee Titans' locker room near Marcus Mariota's resting spot. Henry picks up a putter and challenges Mariota to a one-hole game of mini golf. They use a Nike shoe box with a circle cutout to represent the makeshift hole.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more humble duo, but they compete. It's back and forth, even in a meaningless golf game. That competitiveness is a shared trait that led them both to win the Heisman Trophy and embark upon successful NFL careers.

"We talk about it a little bit," Mariota said, with a smile, about their Heisman bond. "We definitely talk who had the better season."

Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesDerrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, takes a handoff from 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

That's a little subjective, although Mariota had one of the most impressive résumés in recent college football history.

Mariota (2014 season): 4,454 passing yards, 68.3 completion percentage, 42 passing TDs, 4 INTs; 135 rushes for 770 yards, 15 rushing TDs; 1 receiving TD

Henry (2015 season): 395 rushes for 2,219 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 28 rushing TDs; 11 catches for 91 yards

Mariota and Henry are the most recent Heisman winners to play in the NFL, and they're among just seven Heisman winners currently playing in the league. The Titans are the only NFL team with two.

Neither Mariota nor Henry will attend the Heisman ceremony Saturday as they'll be in Phoenix preparing for an important Week 14 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, but their eyes light up when they recall their Heisman memories.

"Even when I got up after they called my name, I was stuck in the seat. I had to get the seat off me," Henry said. "Before they called my name, my heart was fixing to bust out my chest. I thought I was fixing to have a heart attack. Your nerves are going, but I'm glad they called my name."

Mariota added: "The entire event was unbelievable. It was surreal. I was really just trying to take it all in. It was probably one of the best memories of my life."

Henry said it ranks No. 2 in his top life moments just behind winning a national championship at Alabama.

There's even more pride in the duo's voices when they discuss the responsibility of being a Heisman winner.

"It's a fraternity of very few people," Mariota said. "Take it all in. Enjoy the moment. It's special and something you've worked your whole life for. Second, it's a responsibility. You have to hold that standard and you have to continue to uphold what it means to be a Heisman Trophy winner."

As for this year's Heisman race, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield is the heavy favorite. Mariota and Henry did not reveal their votes, but both said they believe it'll be a close race.

"I know everybody thinks it's one-sided, but we got some ballers in the three finalists," Henry said.

Whoever wins the Heisman would do well to follow the paths and mindsets of Mariota and Henry.

Texas teams enjoy a rare snow day

December, 8, 2017
Dec 8
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There's some snow in Texas, y'all.

In some parts of the country, people call this "football weather." In Texas, it's cause for celebration.

When real, live snow hit the ground on Friday morning across parts of central, south and southeast Texas, people were generally excited, because it's not something seen often around those parts. If you live in Houston, Austin, San Antonio or College Station, chances are your social-media feed was jam-packed with pictures and videos of citizens enjoying the winter weather.

That goes for the state's college football teams, too, who are accustomed to blistering summers and 70-degree Decembers.

How excited were they? The Longhorns took to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to have their own late-night snowball fights on the turf. It's all captured here, set to "Let it snow:"

Kyle Field, Texas A&M's 102,500-seat palace, was also quite picturesque as snow fell late Thursday night:

Houston got its share, too, though the red light makes it a challenge to see.

Sam Houston State, which hosts Kennesaw State in the FCS quarterfinals, took on some snow, too:

And just east of Texas, Louisiana got some snow. LSU was getting in the winter spirit as well. IT'S SNEAUXING Y'ALL:

Tiger Stadium looks just as intimidating in snow as it does on Saturday nights:

As you can see, Mike the Tiger took it all in, too.

The decommitment of five-star Brenton Cox sent shockwaves throughout the recruiting world this week, but he is just one of more than a dozen ESPN 300 prospects to back off of commitments in the last week. With the early signing period just 12 days away, two huge official visit weekends about to begin and a crazy coaching carousel having sent panic throughout the ESPN 300, here is a look at five prospects who could flip. Justin Fields | QB, 6-3, 221, Kennesaw, Georgia/Harrison, ESPN 300 No. 1 Commitment: Georgia Main competition: Florida, Texas A&M and Florida State Prediction: Georgia Fields has had positive conversations with new Florida head coach Dan Mullen and new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher this week, and both schools are working hard to get the nation’s top-ranked player on campus this weekend or on the weekend of the 15th. The message is simple, come to Gainesville or College Station and have a terrific opportunity to start as a true freshman or go to Georgia and compete with entrenched freshman starter Jacob Fromm. For Georgia, Fields is a prospect it can’t afford to lose. The Bulldogs are on their way to signing the No. 1 class in 2018, and only a Fields decommitment could derail the momentum.
Justin FieldsTom Hauck for Student SportsJustin Fields has been committed to Georgia since early October.
Emory Jones | QB, 6-3, 196, Franklin, Georgia/Heard County, ESPN 300 No. 20 Commitment: Ohio State Main competition: Alabama and Auburn Prediction: Alabama Jones’ commitment to the Buckeyes has been shaky for months, and he has spent his senior season looking at schools closer to home. While Auburn would like to add a second signal-caller to the class to go with Joey Gatewood, it’s the Crimson Tide that are perceived to be the biggest threat to Urban Meyer. Jones has been on campus in Tuscaloosa multiple times this season, including an October official visit. Optimism is higher in Columbus than earlier in the season, but it’s difficult to forget what began as smoke early on has turned into a smoldering fire. Joshua Moore | WR, 6-1, 171, Yoakum, Texas/Yoakum, ESPN 300 No. 36 Commitment: Nebraska Main competition: Alabama Prediction: No feel Moore has been committed to Nebraska since June, and is still committed after the hiring of Scott Frost. With that said, Alabama has received an official visit and Florida State has been heavily involved. With Fisher now in College Station and brother Jordan Moore committed to Texas A&M, the Aggies could figure prominently in Moore’s final decision. A number of programs continue to work to get the playmaker on campus, including Baylor.
Provided by 3Step SportsKeondre Coburn has connections to Texas but Texas A&M is gaining ground.
Keondre Coburn | DT, 6-3, 334, Houston, Texas/Westfield, ESPN 300 No. 49 Commitment: Texas Main competition: TCU, Texas A&M, Alabama, UCLA Predicition: Texas Since committing, Coburn has maintained he would make all five official visits. That continued theme coupled with a rough first year in Austin for Tom Herman has Longhorns fans feeling a bit queasy as Coburn posts social media pictures of in-home visits with competing coaching staffs. While TCU is set to receive an official visit Dec. 15, following this weekend’s trip to Texas, it’s Texas A&M that is perceived as the biggest threat. Should Fisher keep Terry Price as the Aggies defensive line coach, that would increase the chances that Coburn flips. The problem for the competition is Longhorns assistant coach Corby Meekins was Coburn’s high school coach before heading to the college ranks, and Meekins’ brother is currently the head coach at Westfield High. Otis Reese | OLB, 6-4, 206, Leesburg, Georgia/Lee County, ESPN 300 No. 221 Commitment: Michigan Main competition: Georgia Prediction: Georgia Reese has remained committed to the Wolverines. This recruitment has gone from Kirby Smart and staff hanging around, to the Georgia now operating with a tidal wave of momentum. The fact that Reese has been on campus as much as any target this season, Smart’s goal to lock down the Peach State and Georgia headed for the No. 1 ranked class makes this one it seems like the Bulldogs will win.

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Put simply: Alabama coach Nick Saban does not go on national television late Saturday night to lobby for a spot in the College Football Playoff if he thinks it’s an easy decision for the selection committee to make.

Normally, you can’t catch him saying a negative word about anyone else’s program, but there he was throwing shade at Ohio State when he told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter that they wouldn’t be talking if his team had lost a game by 30 points (see: the Buckeyes' 55-24 loss to Iowa).

It’s not something Saban should be a ashamed of, mind you. He did what he had to in order to give his team the best shot at contending for a national championship. His argument was succinct and, ultimately, effective: “Look at the whole body of work.”

Without having to strain to read between the lines, that roughly translated to: Look at what Alabama did in September and October, but please divert your eyes from what happened in November, when the Tide needed the final two minutes to beat Mississippi State and lost by 12 at Auburn.

Also, and maybe more importantly, he was asking the committee to trust that, given the month of December to rest and prepare, Alabama would look like Alabama again.

If not, Clemson will beat the brakes off the Crimson Tide, plain and simple.

First things first, Alabama needs to get healthy -- a matter that was further complicated when head trainer Jeff Allen was run over during the Iron Bowl and fractured his wrist and ribs. But Allen is tough and he’ll push through.

In the Auburn game alone, there were at least four key players not operating at 100 percent: offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher (ankle), inside linebacker Mack Wilson (foot) and outside linebackers Christian Miller (bicep) and Terrell Lewis (elbow).

Wilson came back a week earlier than the original four-to-six-week timeline. Meanwhile, Miller and Lewis, who were originally ruled out for the season after their injuries in Week 1, returned to practice for the first time only three days before the Iron Bowl. And that’s to say nothing of star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who didn’t appear to have his normal acceleration and range of motion after suffering a badly pulled hamstring against LSU.

Not that you should weep for Alabama, but remember that there was a true freshman (Dylan Moses) starting at middle linebacker where a month earlier he was the understudy to senior Shaun Dion Hamilton, the quarterback of the defense, who was lost for the season with a knee injury.

You want to know why the defense looked a little different against Auburn? That’s a good example. Same for the close win over Mississippi State, when Wilson, Miller and Lewis didn’t play. Pierschbacher was knocked out early with a high ankle sprain, Fitzpatrick was limited by his hamstring, and Moses was getting his first meaningful action.

But obviously there’s more to it than that. Fundamentally speaking, tackling must improve. Schematically, there are issues to address on both sides of the ball.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is now on his way out the door to become the next head coach at Tennessee, throwing a wrench into preparation. It’s the third straight season that an Alabama coordinator is in this position heading into the playoff. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was in this position last year, and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was in it the year before.

The offense as a whole needs further examination after what happened against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Jalen HurtsKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama largely abandoned the run in the second half against Auburn, and Jalen Hurts wasn't able to carry the heavy burden.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts had his worst quarterback rating all season, with the exception of a 59-0 blowout of Vanderbilt in which he didn’t need to lift a finger to win. Hurts held the ball too long at Auburn and turned the ball over for just the second time all year.

It didn’t help that his receivers dropped passes and the protection didn’t hold up, either.

Forgetting that third down was an absolute mess, what was perhaps most perplexing was the overall direction of the offense. Alabama, which has long been built on running the football, wasn’t committed to it despite a 79-yard touchdown drive to start the second half in which running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough were featured on every play.

From then on, Harris, who leads the Crimson Tide with 1,040 yards and averages 8.2 yards per carry, had just two rushes for a total of 8 yards. Scarbrough, meanwhile, got two carries for a total of 5 yards.

While sophomore Josh Jacobs provided a spark at running back, going away from two proven, veteran backs late in the game made little sense.

For Alabama to give Clemson a run for its money in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can’t settle for six carries and 51 yards from Harris. It’s clear now that Hurts needs a strong running game.

The good news for Alabama is that it got a mulligan and an opportunity to figure out what went wrong and make adjustments.

Whether Saban’s lobbying made any difference or not, the selection committee gave him a second chance.

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned here,” Saban said, “and I shared this with the team [Sunday] in our team meeting -- that because we didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to finish the season and didn’t play the way we’d like to play or to the standard that we’d like to play to, we put our fate in someone else’s hands. And you like to control the things that you can control. You can always control your behavior; you can always control your performance. But we didn’t do that, and we put our fate in somebody else’s hands.”

There was a “white-knuckle” time waiting to hear their future, Saban said, but now they’re in control of what happens next against No. 1 Clemson.

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