Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/notre-dame-unveils-uniforms-shamrock-series-game-vs-purdue
Body:

Notre Dame’s uniforms haven’t changed much in its program history, but the Fighting Irish break out an alternate look for the Shamrock Series every year.

On Tuesday, the program unveiled its 2014 Shamrock Series uniforms for its Sept. 13 date against Purdue.

The special edition uniforms feature a helmet with the “ND” logo and alterations to the jersey and pants.

Here’s a look at Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series uniforms:

Teaser:
Notre Dame Unveils Uniforms for Shamrock Series Game vs. Purdue
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 16:22
Path: /college-football/impact-braxton-millers-injury-ohio-state-and-big-ten
Body:

Ohio State’s playoff and Big Ten title hopes suffered a significant blow on Tuesday, as quarterback Braxton Miller was ruled out for the 2014 season as a result of a shoulder injury suffered at practice on Monday, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Miller reportedly suffered the shoulder injury in a non-contact drill Monday. The senior had shoulder surgery during the spring and was slow to return to full work in Ohio State’s offense due to his recovery. Prior to his injury, Miller was being eased into a full workload for the opener against Navy.

 

The Buckeyes were projected to finish No. 3 by Athlon in the 2014 preseason magazine, but Miller’s injury will have a profound effect on the upcoming year.

 

Here’s a look at how Miller’s injury impacts the Big Ten, Ohio State, college football playoff and who is up next under center in Columbus.

 

What’s Next for Ohio State

 

The No. 1 priority for coach Urban Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman over the next 10 days is to get J.T. Barrett ready to play. The redshirt freshman recently passed Cardale Jones for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart and spent some time with the No. 1 offense due to Miller’s limited workload.

Barrett brings a similar skill set to the offense that Meyer and Herman were able to use with Miller. The Texas native is a dangerous runner and is regarded for his quick release in the passing game.

While Miller’s impact — one of the best quarterbacks in the nation — will be felt, Barrett is a talented option, and Ohio State isn’t short on skill talent. Barrett ranked as the No. 137 recruit in the 247Sports Composite in the 2013 signing class and spent 2013 learning under Miller and Kenny Guiton.

With Barrett likely to suffer a few growing pains in his first season under center, expect the Buckeyes to lean more on their defense and running backs. The back seven on defense needs to take a step forward under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, but the defensive line could be the best in the nation. And even though Carlos Hyde is no longer at running back, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn are capable options on the ground.

 

Barrett’s mobility will be valuable with an offensive line that must replace four starters. Left tackle Taylor Decker is an All-Big Ten candidate, and guard Pat Elflein is a rising star after playing well against Michigan State in the conference title game.

 

 

Ohio State Can Still Contend

 

Yes, losing Miller is a huge loss. However, Ohio State’s Big Ten title hopes aren’t over. The Buckeyes own the Big Ten’s No. 1 roster (according to recruiting rankings), and coach Urban Meyer ranks as Athlon’s No. 2 coach. The two toughest games on Ohio State’s schedule — at Michigan State and at Penn State — are both past the midway point of the 2014 season.

With time for Barrett to develop until the showdown against Michigan State, along with an elite defensive line and crop of skill players, Ohio State is still slated to be a factor in the Big Ten. Prior to Miller’s injury, the Buckeyes were considered by most to be the favorites. But with Miller sidelined, the expectation only drops the No. 2 spot in the East Division and 10-11 wins is still a realistic goal.

 

Impact on Big Ten East

 

Michigan State is now the favorite in the East. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship last year and return 10 starters from a team that finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll. An offense that features quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford is set to improve after finishing No. 7 in the Big Ten in scoring last season. The defense allowed only 13.2 points per game in 2013 and returns a standout at each level.

While Miller’s injury would seem to benefit Michigan State the most in preseason predictions, this should allow Michigan and Penn State to close the gap in the division.

 

Impact on CFB Playoff

 

Ohio State was a popular pick for the college football playoff, but Miller’s injury adds another element of uncertainty to the new format. Florida State is a heavy favorite to claim one of the four spots, and the SEC champion — projected by Athlon to be Alabama — is expected to be a lock for the playoff. But what happens outside of those two spots? Can a 12-1 Michigan State team with a loss to Oregon rank in the top four? Assuming the Spartans beat Ohio State, how does Miller’s injury impact how the committee views the Buckeyes? Regardless of how much talent is still in Columbus, this is not the same team. How the committee will determine and view strength of schedule is up for debate, but Michigan State’s playoff hopes could take a hit without a win over a top-five (and Braxton Miller-led) Ohio State team.

If the Big Ten doesn’t have a playoff contender, this would help the odds of a two-loss Pac-12 team (with a strong schedule) or a second SEC team making it into the new four-team format.

 

What Happens Next for Braxton Miller?

 

With a redshirt year available, Miller could spend this season rehabbing his shoulder in Columbus for a chance to lead Ohio State into the playoff in 2015. However, Miller could choose to forego one more year in college and enter the 2015 draft.

Considering the slow recovery from shoulder surgery and the significant injury this fall, the odds of a return to Ohio State seem likely for the Ohio native.

If Miller returns in 2015, the Buckeyes would be one of the favorites once again for a spot in the playoffs. Ohio State could start only three seniors on defense and five on offense this year. A good chunk of the roster talent is in the sophomore and junior ranks in 2014, including skill talent at receiver and in the back seven on defense.

Even if Miller doesn’t return, Ohio State would be in good shape in 2015 with Barrett having a full year of starting experience.

While this injury is a significant setback to the Buckeyes’ national title hopes in 2014, whether it’s Miller or Barrett under center next year, Ohio State will be a factor for the top spot in 2015.

Teaser:
Braxton Miller's Injury has Major Impact on Ohio State, Big Ten and CFB Playoff
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 13:40
Path: /college-football/ranking-top-15-players-pac-12-2014-experts-poll
Body:

The SEC is college football’s No. 1 conference, but the Pac-12 isn’t far behind. With playoff contenders in Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and USC, the league has a deep group of teams pushing for a spot among the top 10 this year. And the depth of the Pac-12 is strong, highlighted by Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona. Strong quarterback play highlights the Pac-12, including Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley.

 

In order to rank the top 15 players in the Pac-12 for 2014, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2014 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2014.

 

A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.

 

The Voters:

 

Steven Lassan, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonSteven)
Tyler Lockman, FoxSportsArizona.com, (@TylerLockman)
Braden Gall, AthlonSports.com, (@BradenGall)
Kyle Kensing, CFBHuddle.com, (@kensing45)
Mitch Light, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonMitch)
Andrew Greif, The Oregonian, (@AndrewGreif)
Ryan Kartje, OCRegister.com, (@Ryan_Kartje)
Jeremy Mauss, MWCConnection.com, (@JeremyMauss)
Mark Ross, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonMarkR)
Avinash Kunnath, PacificTakes.com, (@PacificTakes)
Ryan Abraham, USCFootball.com, (@InsideTroy)
Nick Krueger, HouseofSparky.com, (@NickPKrueger)
Jon Woods, RalphieReport.com, (@RalphieReport)
Jeff Nusser, CougCenter.com, (@NussCoug)
Jack Follman, PacificTakes.com, (@JackFollman)
Chris Huston, HeismanPundit.com, (@HeismanPundit)
David Fox, AthlonSports.com, (@DavidFox615)

 

Ranking Pac-12's Best Players for 2014
RankPlayerTeam12345678910Total
1Marcus Mariota, QB14300000000252
2Leonard Williams, DE1744001000222
3Brett Hundley, QB0643301000214
4Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB1041631010191
5Andrus Peat, OT0123120220147
6Myles Jack, LB1013112101143
7Taylor Kelly, QB0012312100113
8Sean Mannion, QB000122120298
9Hroniss Grasu, C000003222297
10Jaelen Strong, WR000002301289
11Ty Montgomery, WR000000224287
12Nelson Agholor, WR000011023180
13Shaq Thompson, LB000001222177
14Henry Anderson, DE000001000026
15Eric Kendricks, LB000000010025
16Byron Marshall, RB000000001123
17Hayes Pullard, LB000000000222
18Hau'oli Kikaha, DE001000000021
19Marcus Peters, CB000000000013
20A.J. Tarpley, LB000000010013
21Danny Shelton, DT000000000011
22Jordan Richards, S000000010011
23Su'a Cravens, S00000000007
24D.J. Foster, RB00000000007
25Alex Carter, CB00000000007
26Darryl Monroe, LB00000000006
27Thomas Tyner, RB00000000006
28Jamil Douglas, OL00000000005
29Cyler Miles, QB00000000005
30Isaac Seumalo, OL00000000005
31Bryce Treggs, WR00000000004
32Buck Allen, RB00000000004
33Dres Anderson, WR00000000003
34Connor Halliday, QB00000000003
35Greg Henderson, CB00000000001
36Addison Gillam, LB00000000001
37Fabian Moreau, CB00000000001
A Few Observations:


* Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota recorded 14 of the 17 first-place votes. Mariota did not rank lower than second on any ballot.

* Three of the top nine players in this experts poll are from Oregon: Mariota, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu.

* The top 10 players in this experts poll are split evenly: Five from the North, five from the South.

* Arizona is the only team to not have a player represented in this poll.

* Four of the top 10 players are quarterbacks: Mariota, Mannion, Kelly and Hundley.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Top 15 Players in the Pac-12 for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-breakout-players-2014
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Whether it’s a true freshman playing for the first time, a junior college recruit stepping into the lineup or a player on the roster that’s finally ready to assume a starting job, predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

 

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of 50 breakout players for 2014 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar.

 

50 College Football Breakout Players for 2014

 

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Had Alexander not suffered a groin injury in fall camp, it’s likely he would have played a major role in Clemson’s secondary last season. Alexander ranked as the No. 30 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and was widely considered one of the nation’s top freshmen on the defensive side. Although the groin injury prevented Alexander from getting involved last year, it allowed him extra time to learn the defense. The redshirt freshman is slated to crack the starting lineup for the opener against Georgia.

 

Devon Allen, WR, Oregon

With a knee injury expected to sideline Bralon Addison for the 2014 season, the Ducks need new targets to emerge for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Addison isn’t the only loss at receiver in Eugene, as Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins (85 receptions in 2013) have expired their eligibility. Allen closed out a breakout spring with two catches for 94 yards and two scores in the spring game. And the gridiron isn’t the only place Allen is making news this offseason. He won the U.S. track title in 110 hurdles in late June and won USA Track & Field athlete of the week honors in early July. Allen has the speed and athleticism to become one of the Ducks’ top playmakers in 2014.

 

Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks earned the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s No. 1 receiver last season, so Bolden and the other Oregon State receivers have big shoes to fill in 2014. Despite the loss of Cooks, the Beavers still have options in the passing game. Junior Richard Mullaney caught 52 passes last season, and tight end Connor Hamlett is back after grabbing 40 catches in 2013. Bolden caught only six passes for 62 yards, but he averaged 20.6 yards per kickoff return. The sophomore is projected for a bigger role in the passing game in 2014, and his explosiveness will help quarterback Sean Mannion stretch the field this year.
 

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Baylor’s receiving corps is one of the deepest in the nation, headlined by Antwan Goodley (18.9 yards per catch in 2013) and seniors Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller. But with Tevin Reese departing, the Bears are looking for a new speed threat for quarterback Bryce Petty. Coleman impressed as a freshman in 2013, catching 35 passes for 527 yards. And in a good sign for Coleman’s development, the best game (seven receptions for 88 yards) of his 2013 campaign was the Fiesta Bowl. Expect the sophomore to become an even bigger target for Petty in 2014.
 

Stacy Coley, WR, Miami

Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Hurricanes, expect to see more of Coley in Miami’s gameplan this year. As a true freshman in 2013, Coley caught 33 passes for 591 yards and seven scores. And Coley showed plenty of big-play ability, averaging 17.9 yards per reception. The freshman seemed to get stronger as the year progressed, catching 11 passes over the final three weeks, including five receptions for 81 yards against Virginia. The ACC has a handful of talented receivers, but Coley will be one of the ACC’s best in 2014.

 

Maliek Collins/Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska

Nebraska’s defensive line is young, but there’s no question the coaching staff has to be excited about the talent in place. End Randy Gregory is one of the top defensive players in the nation, and the combination of Collins and Valentine is a promising duo for coordinator John Papuchis. Valentine got better as the season progressed in 2013, capped by recording a sack and two tackles for a loss against Iowa. He finished 2013 with 21 tackles (five for a loss) and one sack. Collins wasn’t as active on the stat sheet last year, recording 12 tackles and one sack. However, Collins and Valentine both will see a larger role in the defense in 2014. And with both players checking in over 300 pounds, opposing offenses won’t have much room to run on the interior against Nebraska.
 

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper didn’t make a huge impression on the stat sheet last year, recording 202 rushing yards, 29 passing yards and three receptions for 54 yards. However, expect that to change significantly in 2014. The sophomore is an all-purpose threat for the Gamecocks and should see some snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. Cooper is also expected to handle returns this year.

 

Su’a Cravens, S, USC

Cravens was one of the top defensive players in the 2013 recruiting class and ranked as a five-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite. And as a true freshman, Cravens certainly didn’t disappoint last year. He earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors after recording 52 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble. Cravens should benefit from the addition of coordinator Justin Wilcox, as well as another year to participate in offseason practices. Expect Cravens to push for All-America honors this year.
 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Carlos Hyde was the first back to top 1,000 yards under coach Urban Meyer, and his departure to the NFL is a big loss for Ohio State’s offense. Hyde’s tough running will be missed, but the Buckeyes aren’t hurting for options. Elliott is expected to handle the bulk of the carries, with Dontre Wilson, Warren Ball, Curtis Samuel, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn all expected to contribute to the rotation in 2014. Elliott impressed in limited action last year, rushing for 262 yards on 30 carries (8.7 ypc). He may not handle 250 carries, but Elliott will headline a deep and talented Ohio State backfield.
 

Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

It’s a bit of a stretch to put Floyd on this list after he recorded 55 tackles (9.5 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks last year. However, we think the sophomore goes from All-SEC contention to All-America honors and earning national recognition. Floyd should anchor one of the edges in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense, and the sophomore is expected to push for 10 sacks.

 

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The No. 1 player in the 247Sports Composite rankings for 2014 could have a monster season in Baton Rouge. The LSU offensive line is one of the best in the SEC with four returning starters, and with a young quarterback (Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings) slated to start, expect the Tigers to lean on the ground attack. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Fournette has the size and skill-set to be an every-down back in the SEC. If he gets enough carries, the Louisiana native could finish near the top of the conference in rushing yards.


Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater is gone, but with Bobby Petrino at the controls, Louisville’s offense is expected to be one of the best in the ACC. Gardner is the frontrunner to replace Bridgewater under center and this will be the Georgia native’s first taste of extended snaps. In six appearances last year, Gardner threw for 112 yards and two touchdowns on eight completions. Gardner will have a few growing pains in his first season as the starter, but Petrino’s track record suggests quarterback play won’t be a problem at Louisville in 2014.

 

Joshua Garnett/Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford 

Four starters depart from a Stanford offensive line that was one of the best in the nation last year. However, there’s not much concern from coach David Shaw about the protection for quarterback Kevin Hogan. Left tackle Andrus Peat is an Athlon Sports All-American for 2014, and the line has breakout players like Garnett and Murphy ready to emerge. Murphy played in 13 contests last year, while Garnett made an appearance in 14 and started against Washington State. Both Garnett and Murphy should push for All-Pac-12 honors this year.

 

Jared Goff, QB, California

Some may not consider Goff a breakout player after he threw for 3,488 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. However, with California expected to improve overall in the second year under coach Sonny Dykes, along with the return of a talented receiving corps, Goff could approach 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2014. As expected with any freshman quarterback, Goff had his share of ups and downs last season. He threw for 336 yards and one touchdown against Washington and completed 32 of 58 passes for 489 yards against Washington State. Goff finished the year by throwing for less than 200 yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and Stanford. With another offseason under his belt, look for Goff to take a step forward in his development and show a better overall command of the offense.
 

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Fans around the SEC are familiar with Henry through recruiting and his limited playing time last year, but it’s time for the rest of the nation to take notice. Henry rushed for 382 yards and three scores last season, capped by a 100-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl. The Florida native should provide the thunder to T.J. Yeldon’s lightning in 2014, as his 6-foot-3, 241-pound frame is a handful for opposing defenses. Don’t be surprised if Henry surpasses the 1,000-yard mark in 2014.

 

Darian Hicks, CB, Michigan State

The Spartans no longer have Darqueze Dennard manning the “No Fly Zone” in East Lansing. But coordinator Pat Narduzzi isn’t too worried about his secondary in 2014, as junior Trae Waynes is a likely All-American and Hicks is ready to step up and replace Dennard at the other cornerback spot. Hicks played in all 14 games and recorded only two tackles, but the sophomore is primed for a bigger role in Michigan State’s defense this year.
 

Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State

Hill drew significant praise from coach Mike Gundy at Big 12 media days, and it’s clear the junior college recruit is going to play a major role in Oklahoma State’s offense this year. Gundy and coordinator Mike Yurcich plan to use Hill in an all-purpose role and indicated the junior will touch the ball 15-20 times each week. The Georgia native possesses elite speed and won the Big 12 indoor 200 meters title this year. Expect Gundy to get Hill involved in a variety of ways in 2014.
 

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

For any first-year starting quarterback, a potential All-American at tight end is a nice security blanket to have. That’s the case for junior quarterback Jacob Coker in his first season in Tuscaloosa, as Howard should be one of the top tight ends in the nation after a solid freshman campaign. Howard caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two scores last year, averaging 19.2 yards per reception. Expect Howard to be an even bigger part of the Crimson Tide offense this season, likely doubling his catches under new coordinator Lane Kiffin.


Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

There’s no clear favorite in the MAC West this year, and the Rockets have a chance to unseat Northern Illinois as the division champ in 2014. Toledo has a new quarterback under center, but the rushing attack should be the strength of this offense. The line is one of the best – if not No. 1 – in the MAC this year, and Hunt is ready for a breakout year after rushing for 866 yards on 137 attempts last year. Hunt recorded five 100-yard efforts over the final six games in 2013.

 

Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State

Jones ranked as the No. 18 overall player in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100, and the Mississippi native didn’t disappoint as a true freshman. Jones recorded 32 tackles (seven for a loss), three sacks and three pass breakups. He was at his best late in the year, recording three tackles for a loss and a sack against Ole Miss. After a solid freshman year, the best is yet to come from Jones. With a full offseason to work in the weight room and learn under coordinator Geoff Collins, Jones should build off a promising finish to 2014 and challenge for All-America honors.

 

Denver Kirkland/Dan Skipper, OL, Arkansas

Bret Bielema wants to establish a run-first, smashmouth mentality at Arkansas, and the second-year coach has two budding stars in the offensive line in sophomores Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. Both players started eight games last year and earned all-freshman honors by Athlon Sports. Considering Bielema’s track record from Wisconsin on recruiting and establishing offensive lines, look for Skipper and Kirkland to develop into future stars for the Razorbacks.


Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame

With DaVaris Daniels’ status in doubt due to academic issues, Notre Dame is searching for new weapons in the passing game for quarterback Everett Golson. Koyack is slated to replace Troy Niklas at tight end in 2014, and the senior is poised to build off a promising junior campaign. In 13 games, Koyack caught 10 passes for 171 yards (17.1 ypc) and three scores. A tight end has caught at least 30 passes in three consecutive years for the Fighting Irish. Expect Koyack to increase that number to four in 2014.  

 

Geno Lewis, WR, Penn State

Allen Robinson accounted for 97 of Penn State’s 241 receptions last season, leaving little in the way of proven options for quarterback Christian Hackenberg in 2014. While there’s not much in the way of proven receivers, the Nittany Lions aren’t hurting for talent. Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman headline a deep group of tight ends, while Lewis is a rising star on the outside at receiver. After redshirting in 2012, Lewis caught 18 passes for 234 yards and three scores in his first season of action with Penn State. The Pennsylvania native closed out 2013 on a high note, grabbing three receptions for 91 yards and two scores against Wisconsin. Freshmen DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, Saaed Blacknall and De’Andre Thompkins are names to watch in the fall, but Lewis should be the top receiving target for Hackenberg.
 

Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia

Aaron Murray’s late-season knee injury allowed Mason to gain valuable experience in 2013, and the senior heads into 2014 with two starts under his belt. Mason threw for 189 yards and one score in relief of Murray against Kentucky, threw 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-34 victory over rival Georgia Tech and completed 21 of 39 throws for 320 yards and one score in the Gator Bowl versus Nebraska. Mason has waited his turn by sitting four years behind Aaron Murray. Expect the senior to deliver a big season in his first chance at the full-time starting job in Athens.

 

Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri

Most around the SEC are probably familiar with Mauk after his short stint as Missouri’s No. 1 quarterback in 2013, but the sophomore is poised for bigger and better things in 2014. Mauk threw for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, while recording 229 rushing yards. The Ohio native needs to improve his completion percentage (51.1), but he should continue Missouri’s run of successful quarterbacks under coach Gary Pinkel.

 

Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State

With quarterback Connor Halliday and one of the Pac-12’s top receiving corps returning, the Cougars’ offense will be tough to stop in 2014. Washington State led the nation with 756 pass attempts last year, so there’s plenty of opportunities for players like Mayle to catch passes. Gabe Marks led the team with 74 receptions last season, but Mayle is a name to remember after finishing his first season in Pullman with 42 catches for 539 yards and seven scores. The 6-foot-3 target slimmed down during the offseason, and all signs point to Mayle becoming a more prominent target for Halliday.

 

Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn

Melifonwu started all 12 games as a redshirt freshman last season and finished with 70 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. The Massachusetts native is one of just five returning starters on defense for the Huskies this year and helps senior Byron Jones anchor a secondary that could be one of the best in the American Athletic Conference. Melifonwu should be one of the key pieces in new coach Bob Diaco’s rebuilding effort at UConn in 2014.

 

Cyler Miles, QB, Washington

Miles was suspended for spring practice due to an off-the-field incident but was reinstated to the team in May. The sophomore is behind Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams in learning Washington’s new offense, but Miles is expected to claim the starting job for 2014. The Colorado native ranked as the No. 105 overall prospect in the 2012 signing class by the 247Sports Composite and worked as the backup to Keith Price in 2013. Price missed time against UCLA due to injury, and Miles completed 15 of 22 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in relief. A week later, Miles threw for 162 yards and one score in a 69-27 victory over Oregon State. The sophomore has plenty of upside, and with an ability to hurt defenses through the air or on the ground with his legs, Miles is a quarterback to watch in 2014.
 

Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina

With the departure of ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton, along with tackle Kelcy Quarles, the Gamecocks may use more 3-4 looks in 2014. The linebacking corps should be the strength of Lorenzo Ward’s defense, as Moore led the team with 56 tackles as a true freshman last year. Moore also intercepted four passes and recorded 3.5 tackle for a loss in 2013. Expect Moore to challenge for All-SEC honors this season.

 

DaVonte’ Neal, WR, Arizona

After a one-year stint at Notre Dame, Neal transferred to Arizona and sat out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Neal didn’t make a huge impact in his one year with the Fighting Irish, but he’s poised to emerge as a key contributor for the Wildcats. Arizona is loaded with talent at receiver, including senior Austin Hill who returns after missing all of last season due to a torn ACL. In addition to Hill, the Wildcats return Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant and Trey Griffey in the receiving corps. With a crowded receiving corps, expect Arizona coaches to use Neal some in the backfield to take advantage of his athleticism and speed.

 

Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech

In a wide-open ACC Coastal Division, the one constant among the contenders is Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies have finished first or second in scoring defense (conference-only games) in the ACC for six consecutive seasons. With one of the conference’s top defensive backfields and lines in 2014, expect much of the same from the Hokies. Nicolas appears to be the next star on the front line for Virginia Tech, recording 32 tackles and four sacks in 13 games last year. The Florida native should easily shatter those totals in a full-time role in 2014.

 

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Yes, as the No. 1 recruit from the 2013 signing class, it seems obvious to mention Nkemdiche as a breakout player. However, the Georgia native seemed to find his role late last year. Nkemdiche finished with 34 tackles (eight for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble. Six of Nkemdiche’s 10 starts came at defensive end, with the other four coming at tackle. The Rebels will regain the services of end C.J. Johnson (missed most of last year due to injury), and the other end spot is expected to go to FIU transfer Fadol Brown. With Brown and Johnson anchoring the end positions, Nkemdiche should settle back into the interior. The sophomore played better as the season progressed in 2013 and should build off that momentum.

 

Speedy Noil/Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M

With Mike Evans, Derel Walker and Travis Labhart departing, the Aggies will be young (and very talented) at receiver in 2014. Redshirt freshman Ricky Seals-Jones ranked as the No. 25 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and caught three passes for 84 yards and one score before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Noil – a Louisiana native – ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and could see touches in a variety of ways – special teams, catches or handoffs – for coach Kevin Sumlin.
 

Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

At 6-foot-9 and 275 pounds, Oakman is an imposing figure off the edge for Phil Bennett’s defense. The Pennsylvania native started his career at Penn State but transferred after a redshirt year. Oakman’s first game experience in college occurred last season, as he played in all 13 games, recorded 33 tackles (12.5 for a loss) and two sacks. Most of Oakman’s production came early in the year, including 3.5 tackles for a loss against Wofford and two against Iowa State. He only recorded 0.5 tackles for a loss over the final six games, but the experience gained by Oakman through his first extended playing time should be valuable in 2014. Expect the junior to be one of the top defensive ends in the Big 12 this year.

 

Chikwe Obasih, DE, Wisconsin

The Badgers are breaking in several new faces on defense in 2014, as only three starters return from a unit that held opponents to 16.3 points per game last year. Obasih redshirted in his first season in Madison and was one of the spring standouts for coordinator Dave Aranda. Obasih ranked as the No. 343 player in the 247Sports Composite and recorded two tackles in the spring game. At 245 pounds, Obasih is undersized against traditional power offenses, but he has the speed and quickness off the edge to be a disruptive force in the backfield.
 

Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan

We could list a couple of Michigan defenders here, but Peppers is just too talented to leave off the list. Peppers ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and is slated to push for a starting job in the fall. The New Jersey native could play a number of roles in the Michigan secondary in 2014, as he might start at cornerback or safety or play in the nickel role for coordinator Greg Mattison. Regardless of where he lines up, Peppers is too valuable for the Wolverines to keep on the sidelines. The true freshman could be a difference maker in Michigan’s secondary and also could see time on special teams this year.
 

Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU

A number of LSU defenders could earn a mention in this space, but Robinson is Athlon’s pick to have a breakout year on defense for coordinator John Chavis. The 6-foot-3 corner has the size to matchup against the bigger receivers in the conference, along with the speed to prevent big plays in the passing game. Robinson was a late arrival to preseason camp last year but finished with 16 tackles and broke up three passes in 12 games. The emergence of Robinson and sophomore Tre’Davious White should give LSU one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation.

 

Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

The Ducks have a few holes to fill in the secondary, but this unit is headlined by All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Three starting spots were up for grabs this spring, with Robinson in the mix at the safety position. The California native ranked as the No. 150 recruit in the 2013 247Sports Composite and used a redshirt year in his first season on campus. At 6-foot-4, Robinson has the size and athleticism to be a future star in Oregon’s secondary.
 

Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma

With Aaron Colvin departing, Oklahoma is counting on Sanchez to be the top cornerback on a defense that should be one of the nation’s best. Most Sooner fans are familiar with Sanchez after a standout freshman season, but the Texas native is poised to emerge as one of the Big 12’s top defensive backs. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Sanchez started all 13 games, recorded 46 tackles and intercepted two passes. With Colvin on the other side last year, it was no surprise Sanchez was frequently targeted. However, he responded by defending 15 passes. Opposing Big 12 quarterbacks will likely stay away from Sanchez this season.

 

Jhajuan Seales, WR, Oklahoma State

There’s a significant amount of roster turnover for Oklahoma State in 2014. The Cowboys return only eight starters and lost 28 seniors from last season’s team. Despite the turnover, Mike Gundy’s team can still push for eight wins. For Oklahoma State to push for a spot among the top four teams in the Big 12, quarterback J.W. Walsh has to play with more consistency after an up-and-down stint in 2013. But Walsh should have plenty of help at the skill positions, as running back Desmond Roland rushed for 811 yards last year, and Seales is primed for a breakout year at receiver. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Seales grabbed 39 receptions for 571 yards and three scores. The Texas native is a physical presence on the outside but also has the speed to be a big-play threat for Walsh.
 

William Stanback, RB, UCF

Storm Johnson bolted early for the NFL, but UCF’s backfield is set with Stanback returning after a solid freshman season. In 13 games, Stanback rushed for 443 yards and six touchdowns on 105 attempts. His best performance came against Houston (74 yards), while also rushing for 65 yards against Louisville. UCF must replace quarterback Blake Bortles, but the Knights can lean on Stanback until Justin Holman is settled under center.
 

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida

Running back is a position of strength for new coordinator Kurt Roper, as the Gators return three running backs that recorded at least 330 yards last year. Mack Brown led the team with 543 yards, but Taylor turned plenty of heads as a true freshman. In 10 games, Taylor rushed for 508 yards and four scores, including 90 or more yards in two out of his last three outings. If the offensive line is improved, Taylor could push for 1,000 yards.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Donte Moncrief’s big-play ability will be missed in Oxford, but quarterback Bo Wallace won’t have to look far for his replacement. Treadwell caught 72 passes for 608 yards and five scores as a true freshman last year and is slated to move from the slot to the outside in 2014. Treadwell averaged only 8.4 yards per catch in 2013, but that number could easily double in 2014.
 

Chad Voytik, QB, Pittsburgh

Paul Chryst got a glimpse of the future when Tom Savage suffered an injury in the bowl win over Bowling Green. Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t miss a beat with Voytik at the controls, as the Panthers posted 13 points in the second half and punted only once on five drives. Voytik completed 5 of 9 passes for 108 yards against the Falcons and rushed for 24 yards on two attempts. The Tennessee native threw only 11 passes last season, but there’s no question about his talent, ranking as the No. 16 quarterback recruit in the 2012 signing class. As evidenced by his work at Wisconsin, Chryst knows how to develop quarterbacks and make the most out of his talent. Voytik has the talent and intangibles and should flourish under Chryst’s tutelage this season. And it certainly doesn’t hurt Voytik’s development that he will be throwing to standout receiver Tyler Boyd and protected by a line that returns four starters.
 

P.J. Walker, QB, Temple

Temple started 0-6 last year but rallied to win two out of their final six games, including a 41-21 road contest at Memphis in the season finale. A key reason for the turnaround was Walker’s emergence as the team’s starting quarterback. The New Jersey native started the final seven contests and finished the season with 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns, while tossing only eight picks on 250 attempts. Walker also added 332 yards and three scores on the ground. Another positive sign for Temple was Walker’s completion percentage (60.8), as well as a solid 13.7 yards per completion. Even though top receiver Robby Anderson won’t return, Walker is poised to emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
 

Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech

With Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield transferring, Webb is the clear starter in Lubbock this year. With a clear path to the starting job, along with a standout performance in the Holiday Bowl, Webb appears to be on his way to emerging as Texas Tech’s next star quarterback. As a true freshman last year, the Texas native threw for 2,718 yards and 20 touchdowns on 361 attempts, while tossing only nine picks. Webb completed 62.6 percent of his throws and threw for at least 385 yards in five out of his last six games. The Red Raiders need to replace standout receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, but Kliff Kingsbury should have this offense performing at a high level once again.

 

D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn

The Tigers may look to throw more in 2014, as running back Tre Mason departed for the NFL, and quarterback Nick Marshall should be more comfortable in his second year under center in the SEC. Auburn’s receiving corps is also deeper in 2014, largely due to the emergence of junior Sammie Coates and the arrival of Williams in the spring. Williams ranked as the top junior college recruit in the 247Sports Composite and caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.
 

Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State

Williams was a five-star talent out of high school and spent the first two years of his career on defense. But shortly after the win over Pittsburgh on Labor Day, the Florida State coaching staff moved Williams to offense, a move some believed should have taken place earlier in his career. As expected, Williams showcased his athleticism and speed in limited duty at running back in 2013, rushing for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns on 91 attempts. The Florida native averaged a whopping 8.0 yards per carry and is expected to open spring practice as the Seminoles’ No. 1 back. Williams won’t have to carry the entire workload for coach Jimbo Fisher, as top recruit Dalvin Cook will contribute right away, and Ryan Green and Mario Pender will be in the mix for snaps. Even if Williams doesn’t top 200 carries, it’s clear his athleticism and speed will be a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. Look for Williams to have a huge breakout season as the top back in Tallahassee.

 

Dontre Wilson, RB/WR, Ohio State

It seems Urban Meyer has been looking for the next Percy Harvin for a couple of years now, but Wilson could finally be the right fit as a hybrid receiver/running back. Wilson rushed for 250 yards and one score last season and caught 22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Expect Wilson to be more involved in the Buckeyes’ offense in 2014, as the departure of Carlos Hyde will open up more carries on the ground, while the receiving corps is searching for more playmakers.
 

Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia

Worley has generated plenty of buzz this offseason in Morgantown. As a true freshman, the 6-foot-1 cornerback from Philadelphia played in 11 games in 2013 and recorded 45 tackles and broke up five passes. Considering the offensive firepower in the Big 12, having a shutdown corner with the size to matchup against big receivers is a valuable asset for any defense. And the Mountaineers’ defense may have to shoulder more of the load in 2014, as the offense – especially the quarterback spot – is a work in progress. With another year to develop, expect Worley to challenge for all-conference honors this year.  

Teaser:
College Football's Top 50 Breakout Players for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-braxton-miller-could-miss-2014-due-shoulder-injury
Body:

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season due to a shoulder injury suffered in practice on Monday. The news of Miller’s injury was reported by the Columbus Dispatch’s Tim May.

Eleven Warriors has more details on Miller’s injury, which will keep the senior out for the 2014 season. Miller is eligible for a redshirt season and could return in 2015.

Miller suffered a shoulder injury in the Orange Bowl loss against Clemson and did not participate in contact drills during spring practice.

The senior appeared to be on track to return after shoulder surgery in February, but he was limited by soreness in his throwing arm this fall.

With Miller out for the season, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones will compete for the No. 1 job. Barrett recently moved ahead of Jones on the depth chart and would be the favorite to start the opener against Navy.

With Miller ruled out for 2014, Michigan State is the favorite in the Big Ten. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes in the conference title game last season and is a contender for a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff format.

Teaser:
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller Could Miss 2014 Due to Shoulder Injury
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 08:31
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-unveils-new-copper-themed-uniforms
Body:

Arizona State already has a variety of uniform and helmet choices to sport in 2014, but the program unveiled a new copper-themed look on Monday.

The uniform helps to honor the state’s history of copper producing and could be worn at some point during the 2014 season.

Check out Arizona State’s new copper-themed uniform for this season:

Teaser:
Arizona State Unveils New Copper-Themed Uniforms
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 17:45
Path: /college-football/ranking-top-15-players-big-12-2014-experts-poll
Body:

The Big 12 heads into 2014 looking to rebound on the national stage. Oklahoma is coming off a huge Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama, and Baylor is likely to rank as a top 10 team by most this preseason after winning the conference title last year. The Sooners are a threat to win the national championship, but for the Big 12 to move up in the conference pecking order, Texas has to take a step forward under first-year coach Charlie Strong.

In order to rank the top 15 players in the Big 12 for 2014, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2014 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2014.

 

A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.

 

The Voters:


Steven Lassan, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonSteven)
Braden Gall, AthlonSports.com, (@BradenGall)
Chris Anderson, Eersports.com, (@CMAnderson247)
Rich Cirminiello, Campus Insiders/CFN, (@RichCirminiello)

Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism.com, (@BlatantHomerism)
Chris Level, RedRaiderSports.com, (@ChrisLevel)
Aaron Dickens, RedRaiderSports.com, (@AaronDickens)
Jesse Newell, Topeka Capital-Journal, (@JesseNewell)
David Fox, AthlonSports.com, (@DavidFox615)
Kevin Flaherty, The Shiver, (@KFlaherty247)
Ben Kerchveal, Bleacher Report, (@BenKercheval)
Seth Jungman, Viva The Matadors, (@VivatheMatador)
Jamie Plunkett, Frogs O'War, (@TheDSportsRant)
Garrett Cullen, West Virginia MetroNews, (@GarrettCullen)
Mark Ross, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonMarkR)
Mitch Light, AthlonSports.com, (@AthlonMitch)

 

Ranking Big 12's Best Players for 2014 (Experts Poll)

RankPlayer Team  12345678910Total Points
1Bryce Petty, QB 13200000000228
2Tyler Lockett, WR21001011000206
3Antwan Goodley, WR1143122010174
4Ryan Mueller, DE0124400111164
5Eric Striker, LB0243202010163
6Cedric Reed, DE0032220300137
7Spencer Drango, OT001011302083
8Sam Carter, S001010010379
9Davis Webb, QB000022010073
10B.J. Finney, C000100111164
11Le'Raven Clark, OL000000132163
12Charles Tapper, DL000002112162
13Trevor Knight, QB000200110159
14Malcom Brown, DT000001020351
15Quandre Diggs, CB000001012048
16Malcolm Brown, RB000021100041
17Shock Linwood, RB000002001235
18Zack Sanchez, CB001001010031
19Chucky Hunter, DT000000001126
20Jake Waters, QB000000000121
21Shawn Oakman, DE000000001019
22Johnathan Gray, RB000001100019
23Ben Heeney, LB000000001014
24Daryl Williams, OT00000000009
25Quinton Spain, OG00000000008
26Daryl Worley, CB00000000007
27Sterling Shepard, WR00000000007
28Matt Joeckel, QB00000000005
29Bryce Hager, LB00000000004
30E.J. Bibbs, TE00000000004
31J.W. Walsh, QB00000000004
32Desmond Roland, RB00000000003
33Jakeem Grant, WR00000000003
34Karl Joseph, S00000000002
35Levi Norwood, WR00000000002
36Tyreek Hill, RB/WR00000000001
37Chris Hackett, S00000000001
A Few Observations
 

* In a conference that is usually dominated by Texas and Oklahoma, the top four players in the experts poll are from Baylor and Kansas State.

* Bryce Petty recorded 13 of the 16 first-place votes.

* Only three players made an appearance on all 16 ballots: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett and Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley.

* Who is the No. 2 quarterback in the Big 12 this year? Some have Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, but in this experts poll, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb ended up second in voting among quarterbacks.

* A few names to watch that could rank higher in this poll at the end of 2014: Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley and Texas running back Johnathan Gray.

Teaser:
Ranking the Top 15 Players in the Big 12 for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-chooses-kenny-hill-over-kyle-allen-quarterback
Body:

Texas A&M’s quarterback situation was one of the most intriguing battles of the offseason, as the Aggies looked for a replacement for standout Johnny Manziel. And at least for the opener, the starting job in College Station is slated to go to sophomore Kenny Hill. The news of Hill’s promotion to the top quarterback spot was announced by coach Kevin Sumlin.

Hill played sparingly in 2013, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one score. He also rushed for 37 yards on seven attempts.

The most action in Hill’s 2013 season took place against Sam Houston State, completing 5 of 6 passes for 74 yards and one touchdown.

Hill has big shoes to fill with Manziel’s departure, but he is surrounded by a strong supporting cast. The Aggies possess one of the SEC’s top offensive lines and receiving corps, while running backs Brandon Williams, Trey Williams and Tra Carson are all capable options.

Allen – one of the top prospects in the 2014 signing class – will have a chance to unseat Hill as the season progresses. The true freshman should have a good grasp on the offense after enrolling early and could play against South Carolina if Hill struggles.

One positive for Hill in his first start: South Carolina could use three true freshmen extensively at cornerback in the opener.

Texas A&M’s high-powered offense may not be as explosive as it was in 2013, but whether it’s Hill or Allen at the controls, expect plenty of points and high-scoring affairs involving the Aggies in 2014.

Teaser:
Texas A&M Chooses Kenny Hill over Kyle Allen at Quarterback
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/minnesota-unveils-alternate-helmet-2014
Body:

Minnesota became the latest team to unveil an alternate helmet for the 2014 season, as the school released photos of a gold design slated to appear a few games this year.

The traditional “M” logo appears on the sides, and there’s a stripe down the middle featuring the Ski-U-Mah slogan.

Check out a full gallery of Minnesota’s new helmets for 2014:

Teaser:
Minnesota Unveils Alternate Helmet for 2014
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-30-rb-units-2014
Body:

The running back position is full of talent for 2014, headlined by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. And talented rushers like South Carolina’s Mike Davis, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Miami’s Duke Johnson aren’t far behind.

 

While the individual talent is important, depth and the No. 2 option – especially in the era of committee approaches – are also key factors to consider when ranking a team’s backfield.

 

Ranking the individual units among each conference is no easy task. However, determining where each team stacks up among its conference peers for each of the position groups is critical to determining potential strengths and weaknesses on the roster and potential landmines to a league title.
 

How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2014 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams like are ranked largely due to one player, some may lack a superstar this year but have no shortage of depth.

 

They’re the teams within the team — those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context.

 

Whether it’s the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball — these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature.

 

Whether or not these units function as one can make the difference between winning and losing, and a single unit can carry a team to New Year’s Day — or beyond.

 

It’s entirely fitting, then, for us to honor the best of the best at each position with our 14th annual Athlon Awards. 

 

College Football's Top 30 RB Units for 2014

 

1. Alabama

T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry headline a Crimson Tide backfield that features six four- or five-star recruits. Yeldon led the team with 1,235 yards and 14 scores last season, while Henry finished with 382 yards and three touchdowns. Henry’s role increased late in the season, and he is expected to earn a larger share of the carries in 2014. Kenyan Drake (694 yards in 2013), Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenney and Tyren Jones provide depth and plenty of big-play ability for new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

 

2. Georgia 

This unit was hit hard by injuries last year, but with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall back at full strength, combined with the addition of talented freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the Bulldogs have one of the top backfields in the nation. In two years at Georgia, Gurley has averaged 6.1 yards per carry and rushed for 27 touchdowns. Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 but was limited to 246 yards last year due to a torn ACL. Michel and Chubb were both five-star recruits and should be future stars in Athens.

 

3. Wisconsin 

Melvin Gordon surprisingly turned down the NFL for one more year in Madison. In 2013, he was one of only two players to record 200 carries and average over seven yards per attempt, and his 1,609 yards ranked second in the Big Ten. With James White gone to the NFL, Gordon’s new sidekick in the Badgers’ backfield will be sophomore Corey Clement, who shined in a limited role last fall. Clement led the Big Ten by averaging 8.2 yards per rush on 67 attempts as a true freshman.

 

4. Nebraska 

Ameer Abdullah headlines a Nebraska backfield that returns players responsible for 94.2 percent of the team’s rushing production from last season. Abdullah led the Big Ten with 1,690 yards last year and had eight rushes of 30 yards or more. Imani Cross, a 230-pound junior, is a valuable asset on short-yardage situations. He led the Cornhuskers with 10 rushing scores and ranked second on the team with 447 yards in 2013. Terrell Newby (298 yards in 2013) is expected to fill the No. 3 role with Adam Taylor out indefinitely due to an ankle injury.

 

5. South Carolina 

Steve Spurrier was known for his passing offenses at Florida, but his South Carolina teams have been effective on the ground, averaging at least 190 yards per game in two out of the last three seasons. Mike Davis shined in his first year as the starter, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in SEC play. Davis is an Athlon Sports third-team All-American for 2014. The Gamecocks have plenty of depth behind Davis, as Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds both rushed for over 200 yards last year. Redshirt freshman David Williams is a name to watch.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

6. Oregon

Quarterback Marcus Mariota is short on proven targets at receiver, but the Ducks’ offense has a bevy of options at running back. Byron Marshall returns after recording 1,038 yards last year, and he will be pushed for time by talented sophomore Thomas Tyner (711 yards in 2013). True freshman Royce Freeman (229 pounds) is a bigger option than Tyner or Marshall and should help the Ducks in goal-line and short-yardage situations.


7. Miami

Assuming Duke Johnson returns to full strength, the Hurricanes should have the ACC’s top running back corps for 2014. Johnson rushed for 920 yards prior to a season-ending leg injury against Florida State. The junior is an Athlon Sports third-team All-American for 2014. Backing up Johnson will be touted true freshman Joseph Yearby (No. 7 running back in 247Sports Composite) and sophomore Gus Edwards (338 yards in 2013). Dallas Crawford finished No. 2 on the team with 558 yards last season, but he was moved to defensive back in the spring.


8. USC 

New coach Steve Sarkisian plans to install an up-tempo offense, but the former Washington coach isn’t going abandon the run. Buck Allen returns after leading the team with 785 yards and 14 scores last season. Allen finished 2013 by recording four 100-yard efforts over the final six games. He will be pushed for time by converted linebacker Tre Madden, who recorded four 100-yard games in the first five weeks of 2013. Justin Davis is expected to claim the No. 3 job.


9. Arkansas 

Bret Bielema needs time to rebuild Arkansas into the smashmouth, run-first team he had at Wisconsin. The pieces are starting to come together though, as the Razorbacks have three potential standouts at running back. Alex Collins led the team with 1,026 rushing yards as a freshman and is expected to share carries with Jonathan Williams (900 yards in 2013) this year. Korliss Marshall was a spring standout and brings a big-play element to the backfield after averaging 8.6 yards per touch in 2013.


10. Florida State 

Despite the departures of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., there’s very little reason to expect a drop-off in performance for Florida State’s backfield. Coach Jimbo Fisher has assembled an embarrassment of riches here, starting with Karlos Williams. The converted safety averaged eight yards per carry last season and is expected to be one of the ACC’s top breakout players in 2014. In addition to Williams, true freshman Dalvin Cook and sophomores Ryan Green and Mario Pender will see snaps in the backfield.


11. Michigan State

The emergence of Jeremy Langford and quarterback Connor Cook was a big reason why Michigan State won the Big Ten title last year. Langford recorded eight 100-yard games over the final nine contests and finished with 1,422 yards and 18 scores on 292 attempts. Nick Hill (344 yards in 2013) and Delton Williams (238 yards) are expected to spell Langford in 2014. 
 

12. LSU

Freshman Leonard Fournette could have a monster season behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines. Fournette is expected to share carries with Terrence Magee (7.3 ypc in 2013) and Kenny Hilliard (310 yards, 7 TDs last year) in 2014.

 

13. Auburn

Tre Mason will be missed, but Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense still has options at running back. Corey Grant averaged 9.8 yards per carry on 66 attempts last year and will team with Cameron Artis-Payne to handle a bulk of the carries. Freshmen Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber also factor into the rotation.
 

14. Texas 

If Johnathan Gray returns to full strength from an Achilles injury, the Longhorns should rank much higher on this list by the end of 2014. Gray rushed for 780 yards and four scores in nine games last season. If healthy, Gray could be the best running back in the Big 12. Malcolm Brown returns after rushing for 904 yards and nine scores last season, but depth is a question mark after Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet were dismissed.

 

15. Ohio State 

Carlos Hyde is gone, but the Buckeyes aren’t hurting for options. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is in for a breakout season after averaging 8.8 yards per carry as a backup last year. Elliott is expected to be the leading rusher, but Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn, Curtis Samuel and Warren Ball will each see their share of opportunities.
 

16. Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel led the team in rushing over the last two seasons, but it’s likely the focus on the ground shifts to the running backs with a new quarterback under center. The Aggies have an underrated trio of backs, headlined by two transfers Tra Carson (329 yards in 2013) and Brandon Williams (269 yards). Trey Williams is a big-play threat (7.0 yards per carry last year) and should see more carries after recording only 58 last year. Redshirt freshman James White rounds out the backfield.
 

17. Penn State

New coach James Franklin inherits a backfield that returns two players (Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton) that combined for 1,792 yards last season. Zwinak scored 12 rushing scores in 2013, while Belton averaged 5.1 yards per touch. Akeel Lynch recorded 358 yards in his freshman campaign last year and should work in the No. 3 role once again in 2014.  
 

18. Baylor

Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be missed, but thanks to improved recruiting under Art Briles, the Bears are in good shape in the backfield. Sophomore Shock Linwood headlines the rushing attack after recording 881 yards (6.9 ypc) in 2013. Linwood will have plenty of competition for carries, including sophomore Devin Chafin and freshmen Terence Williams and Johnny Jefferson.

 

19. West Virginia 

Considering coach Dana Holgorsen’s track record of high-powered offenses and quarterback play, it seems odd to suggest the Mountaineers will be a run-first team in 2014. However, West Virginia’s offense could lean more on its ground attack this year, as Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell is eligible after sitting out 2013, and Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith return after combining for 715 yards last year. Freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams is another name to watch in 2014.

 

20. BYU 

Quarterback Taysom Hill led BYU in rushing yards with 1,344 yards last season, but Jamaal Williams wasn’t far behind with 1,233 yards. Williams will miss the opener against UConn due to suspension. However, Williams is ticketed for another 1,000-yard season. Backing up Williams should be Paul Lasike, Algernon Brown and Adam Hine. Each of those three backs accumulated at least 200 rushing yards last year.
 

21. Boise State 

Depth is a concern, but the Broncos have an All-America candidate in Jay Ajayi. He rushed for 1,425 yards and 18 scores last season, averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per touch. With Aaron Baltazar leaving the team, Jack Fields and Devan Demas are the top backups to Ajayi.


22. Virginia

The strength of Virginia’s offense rests with its ground attack. Senior Kevin Parks has rushed for at least 700 yards in three consecutive years, including a 1,000-yard effort in 2013. Sophomore Taquan Mizzell was the No. 60 overall recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and should take on a bigger role in the offense after rushing for 184 yards last season. Senior Khalek Shepherd rushed for 304 yards in 2013 and will factor into the backfield mix once again.


23. North Carolina

The Tar Heels might have one of the nation’s most underrated group of rushers. True freshman Elijah Hood is too talented to sit on the bench and should push sophomore T.J. Logan (533 yards) for snaps. Romar Morris and Khris Francis also return after combining for 532 yards in 2013.


24. Stanford

The Cardinal probably won’t have a clear No. 1 back in 2014, but a committee approach should work behind a deep group of options. Barry Sanders, Ricky Seale, Remound Wright, Kelsey Young and true freshman Christian McCaffrey will all factor into the backfield.

 

25. Oklahoma

The Sooners are a hard team to rank. There’s talent, but also a lot of question marks. Will Joe Mixon play in 2014? Keith Ford, Alex Ross and Samaje Perine are a capable trio if Mixon is out indefinitely.


26. Notre Dame

Three of the Fighting Irish’s top four leading rushers from 2013 are back, and former top 50 recruit Greg Bryant returns after redshirting due to injury. Sophomore Tarean Folston should see a bigger role in the offense after rushing for 470 yards on just 88 carries last year.


27. Louisville

Yes, Bobby Petrino likes the forward pass, but don’t forget about the successful running attacks during his Louisville and Arkansas tenures. Dominique Brown is back after rushing for 825 yards last year, while Michael Dyer is poised to make an impact in his senior season.
 

28. Iowa

The Hawkeyes go four-deep at running back. Mark Weisman led the team with 974 yards last season, but Jordan Canzeri should see more carries after averaging 6.5 yards per carry in 2013. Damon Bullock (467 yards last year) also returns, while sophomore LeShun Daniels is another promising option for coordinator Greg Davis.

 

29. Florida

Kelvin Taylor had a promising freshman campaign, rushing for 508 yards and four scores. He should see an increased role in 2014, while Matt Jones and Mack Brown contribute as the No. 2 and No. 3 backs.


30. Bowling Green

Travis Greene could be one of the best all-purpose backs in the nation after recording 1,749 yards in 2013. Greene is the unquestioned starter, but he will be spelled by backups Andre Givens (255 yards last year) and Fred Coppet (214 yards).


The Next Five


31. Tennessee
32. UL Lafayette
33. Pittsburgh
34. Arizona State
35. UCLA

Teaser:
College Football's Top 30 RB Units for 2014
Post date: Friday, August 15, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/tennessee-names-justin-worley-its-starting-qb
Body:

Tennessee’s three-man battle for the quarterback job is officially down to one. Coach Butch Jones picked Justin Worley as the team’s starter, edging sophomores Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs.

Worley played in eight games in 2013, throwing for 1,239 yards and 10 scores. He also tossed eight interceptions and completed just 55.6 percent of his throws.

In three years at Tennessee, Worley has 1,977 career passing yards and 10 starts under his belt.

Worley has a talented supporting cast at his disposal, including talented sophomore Marquez North and freshman Josh Malone. The running back tandem of Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd should be solid, but the offensive line has five new starters.

While Worley won the starting job this fall, it will be interesting to watch what transpires over the season. Can Dobbs or Peterman surpass Worley for the top spot if he struggles?

Tennessee’s passing offense ranked seventh in the SEC with 211.1 yards per game last season. With more consistency from Worley, along with development on the offensive line, the Volunteers have a chance to take a step forward on offense. 

Teaser:
Tennessee Names Justin Worley its Starting QB
Post date: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 17:08
Path: /college-football/northwesterns-offense-suffers-setback-transfer-rb-venric-mark
Body:

Northwestern’s offense suffered a major setback on Wednesday, as running back Venric Mark decided he would transfer from the program, and receiver Christian Jones was ruled out for the year due to a knee injury.

Mark was one of the Big Ten’s most explosive playmakers in 2012, rushing for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns and was a key weapon on special teams.

The senior plans to transfer to a school closer to his home in Texas.
 

With Mark out of the picture, expect senior Trevyon Green to handle the bulk of the carries, with Warren Long and Stephen Buckley providing depth.


Jones led Northwestern with 668 receiving yards last season and was slated to push for All-Big Ten honors in 2014.

 

While losing Jones is a big blow to the receiving corps, the offense does have experienced options on the depth chart. Junior Miles Shuler is a key transfer from Rutgers, and senior Kyle Prater was a top recruit coming out of high school. Senior Tony Jones and junior Cam Dickerson also return after combining for 66 catches in 2013.

Northwestern is a popular sleeper pick to watch in the Big Ten West Division in 2014, but the Wildcats will definitely miss Mark and Jones this season. 

Teaser:
Northwestern's Offense Suffers Setback With Transfer of RB Venric Mark
Post date: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/uab-upgrades-helmet-more-dragon-and-fire-2014
Body:

With the season starting in less than 15 days, most teams are finalizing their uniforms and helmets for the 2014 season.

Over the last few days, Boise State and Kansas released updated or alternate designs, and UAB unveiled a new look for this season on Tuesday.

The Blazers’ new design adds a bigger dragon and more fire. This might be the best new helmet of 2014:

Teaser:
UAB Upgrades Helmet With More Dragon and Fire for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 17:52
Path: /college-football/boise-state-unveils-orange-helmet-opener-against-ole-miss
Body:

Boise State opens the 2014 season with a highly anticipated showdown against Ole Miss on Thursday, Aug. 28.

And the Broncos will open the season with new alternate helmets, as the program unveiled an orange design for the matchup versus the Rebels.

Boise State’s orange helmet might be one of the best alternate designs for 2014.

Teaser:
Boise State Unveils Orange Helmet for Opener Against Ole Miss
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 12:13
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/kansas-unveils-bizarre-red-alternate-jersey
Body:

It’s official: Kansas takes the prize for the nation’s most interesting alternate uniform for 2014.

The Jayhawks unveiled a new red alternate jersey for 2014 on Tuesday, which is certainly a switch from the team’s usual blue or white jerseys.

The helmet features a large Jayhawk logo, along with logos on the sleeves of the jersey.

Check out Kansas’ new red alternate jerseys:

Teaser:
Kansas Unveils Bizarre Red Alternate Jersey
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 11:52
Path: /college-football/ranking-top-15-players-sec-2014-experts-poll
Body:

The SEC couldn’t close the BCS era with an eighth consecutive national championship, but the conference is still the best in the nation. With a conference deep in playoff contenders and top 25 teams, there’s no shortage of individual talent on all 14 rosters.

 

In order to rank the top 15 players in the SEC for 2014, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2014 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2014.

 

A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.


The Voters:


Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)  
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports (@BradenGall)
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com (@Josh_Ward
Matt Scalici, AL.com/Sports (@MattScalici)
Zac Ellis, SI.com (@ZacEllis)
Josh Kendall, TheState.com (@JoshatTheState)
Thomas Goldkamp, GatorBait.net (@Goldkamp247)
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report (@BarrettSallee)
Matt Wyatt, Head to Head Radio (@MaroonWyatt)
Russ Mitchell, CollegeFootballNews.com (@RussMitchellCFB)
David Fox, Athlon Sports (@DavidFox615)
Brad Crawford, SaturdayDownSouth.com (@BCrawfordSDS)
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports (@AthlonMitch)
SEC Logo, (@SEC_Logo)
Peter Flournoy, DrSEC.org (@TheDrSEC)
Ross Dellenger, The Advocate (@DellengerAdv)
Ben Roberts, Lexington Herald-Leader (@NextCats)        
Wess Moore, Fox16/93.3 The Source, (@Wess_Moore)

Jesse Johnson, VandySports.com, (@VandySportscom)
Mark Ross, Athlon Sports (@AthlonMarkR)

Jack Peglow, Rock M Nation (@JackPeglow)

Brian Hadad, Bulldog Sports Radio (@BulldogsRadio)
Chad Neipling, SEC Sports Insider (@SEC_Chad)

 

Ranking the SEC's Best Players for 2014 (Experts Poll)
RankPlayerTeam12345678910Overall
1Todd Gurley, RB19400000000341
2Vernon Hargreaves III, CB2545140010270
3Amari Cooper, WR1331313120220
4Cedric Ogbuehi, OT0543022110218
5T.J. Yeldon, RB0333102112183
6Nick Marshall, QB1211222202177
7Landon Collins, S0112323220161
8Mike Davis, RB0011412100128
9TRamik Wilson, LB0010221021110
9TLa'El Collins, OT0011113211110
11Dante Fowler, DL000110111176
12TA'Shawn Robinson, DL001000012363
12TA.J. Cann, OG001210000063
14Reese Dismukes, C000001010259
15Cody Prewitt, S000000113155
16Chris Jones, DL001010010049
17Dak Prescott, QB000002000148
18Laquon Treadwell, WR000000021144
19Benardrick McKinney, LB000102000041
20Robert Nkemdiche, DT000000001037
21Derrick Henry, RB000000120035
22Laremy Tunsil, OT000001101034
23TA.J. Johnson, LB001001000133
23TSammie Coates, WR000010003033
25O.J. Howard, TE000101000026
26TMarkus Golden, DE000000011020
26TTrey DePriest, LB000000100020
26TTrey Flowers, DE000000010220
29Maty Mauk, QB000000010117
30TLeonard Fournette, RB000000000111
30TArie Kouandjio, OG000010000011
32Bo Wallace, QB00000000017
33TGabe Wright, DL00000000006
33TJalen Mills, S00000000016
35Jordan Jenkins, LB00000000005
36TBud Dupree, DE00000000003
36TChristion Jones, WR00000000003
38Alex Collins, RB00000000002
39TJameon Lewis, WR00000000001
39TDrew Kaser, P00000000001
A Few Observations


* Georgia running back Todd Gurley received 19 of the 23 first-place votes. He was also the only player to appear on all 23 ballots.

* The East and West Divisions are represented almost equally in the top 10. Six players from the West make the top 10, while four make an appearance from the East.

* The T.J. Yeldon/Derrick Henry dynamic will be interesting to watch in Tuscaloosa this year. Yeldon ranked No. 5 in voting, while Henry ranked No. 21. There’s a good chance Henry pushes Yeldon for the team lead in rushing in 2014.

* The gap in total points between Dak Prescott and Bo Wallace was surprising. Prescott held a commanding 48 to 7 edge in voting, placing the Bulldogs’ passer as the No. 2 quarterback in the SEC in this experts poll.

* Alabama had the most players (nine) receive a vote. Ole Miss ranked No. 2 with five players receiving votes.

* Is South Carolina guard A.J. Cann underrated? The senior appeared on just six ballots but ranks as the No. 2 guard for the 2015 NFL Draft.

* 13 of 14 teams had a player receive a vote. Vanderbilt was the only team to not have a player receive consideration for the top 15. Two players who could end up on this list at the end of the year for the Commodores: Running back Jerron Seymour and linebacker Caleb Azubike.

* One player to watch: Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. The sophomore recorded 6.5 sacks last season and should push for first-team All-SEC honors under the direction of new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Floyd did not receive a top 15 vote in this experts poll.

Teaser:
Ranking the Top 15 Players in the SEC For 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-quarterbacks-2014
Body:

The quarterback position is stocked with talent in the college football ranks for 2014. Florida State’s Jameis Winston is the defending Heisman winner and should be the early favorite to go No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Winston is closely followed by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who suffered a late-season knee injury in 2013. Mariota’s injury hindered the Ducks’ offense late in the year, but the junior is back to full strength for 2014.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Baylor’s Bryce Petty aren’t far behind Mariota, as both players should challenge for All-America honors.

The depth at quarterback extends past the top 10 rankings, as players like Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds are due for big seasons from leagues outside of the Power 5 conferences.

Ranking college football’s top 35 quarterbacks is no easy assignment. It’s not as simple as just looking at stats on a page. To formulate the 2014 quarterback rankings, Athlon examined last year’s stats, career overview, recruiting rankings, level of competition, pro projection and a guess on what might happen in 2014. These rankings are not just a snapshot of the season right now. Instead, we tried to project how a quarterback will perform in 2014. 

 

Ranking College Football's QBs for 2014

RankPlayerTeamNotes
1Jameis
Winston
Tough to top 2013, but Winston is
poised for another run at the Heisman.
2Marcus
Mariota
Ducks need Mariota to stay healthy
to win Pac-12.
 
3Braxton
Miller
Shoulder injury a concern, but Miller has
back-to-back season of at least 3,000 yards.
4Bryce 
Petty
Tossed only three interceptions on 403
attempts last year.
5Brett
Hundley
Led Bruins in rushing (748). Completed
66.8 % of passes in 2014.
6Christian
Hackenberg
Could be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL
Draft. Will thrive under James Franklin.
7Nick 
Marshall
Should be more comfortable in 
Gus Malzahn's offense in 2014.
8Taylor
Kelly
Quietly accounted for 4,283 total yards
in 2013.
9Chuckie
Keeton
Suffered a torn ACL last year but all signs
point to a return to full strength in 2014.
10Taysom
Hill
Accounted for 4,282 total yards in 2013. 
Should improve as a passer in 2014.
11Connor
Cook
Was playing his best ball at the end
of 2013 in wins over Ohio State and Stanford.
12Rakeem
Cato
Has tossed at least 37 touchdown passes
in back-to-back seasons.
13Trevor
Knight
Significant upside. Finished 2013 by torching
Alabama for 348 yards and 4 passing TDs.
14Sean
Mannion
Led Pac-12 with 358.6 passing yards
per game in 2013.
15Everett
Golson
Returns to starting lineup after
missing 2013 due to suspension.
16Bo 
Wallace
Dr. Bo should rebound in 2014 after
nagging shoulder injury in '13.
17Maty
Mauk
Impressed in limited action. Needs to
improve completion percentage.
18Dak 
Prescott
Has a chance to be one of the top
QBs in MSU history.
19Shane
Carden
Top QB in AAC. Threw for 4,139
yards and 33 TDs last year.
20Davis 
Webb

Next star QB in Lubbock? Finished 2013 on a high note

by throwing for 403 yards vs. Arizona State.

21Devin
Gardner
Tossed only three picks in
Big Ten games last year.
22Nate
Sudfeld

Becomes clear No. 1 QB with
Tre Roberson's transfer.

23Matt
Johnson
Should post huge numbers under
first-year coach Dino Babers.
24Keenan
Reynolds
Set NCAA record for most rushing TDs in a season
by a QB with 31 in 2013.
25Jake 
Waters
Threw 10 of 18 touchdown passes in final four games.
A QB on the rise in 2014.
26Cody 
Kessler
Played better in second half of 2013. Threw for
345 yards and four scores in Las Vegas Bowl.
27Connor 
Halliday
Needs to cut down on INTs (22 last year). Tossed
six TDs in bowl loss to Colorado State.
28Cody 
Fajardo
Struggled with injuries last season. Recorded
nearly 4,000 yards of total offense in 2013.
29Marquise
Williams
Played well in relief of Bryn Renner in 2013. Expected
to thrive in Larry Fedora's offense.
30Hutson
Mason
Has big shoes to fill with departure of Aaron Murray.
Started final two games of 2013.
31Dylan
Thompson
3-0 as a starter. Should be a solid replacement for
the departed Connor Shaw.
32Kevin
Hogan
Completed 60% of passes in 2013. Should have
one of the Pac-12's top WR groups in 2014.
33Cole
Stoudt
Tajh Boyd will be missed, but coordinator Chad
Morris will keep offense near the top of ACC.
34Taylor
Heinicke
Prolific passer leads Old Dominion's
transition from FCS to FBS.
35Will
Gardner
The next star quarterback under Bobby Petrino?
10 QBs to Watch in 2014
 P.J.
Walker
 
 John 
O'Korn
 
 Kyle 
Allen
 
 Terrance
Broadway
 
 Chad
Voytik
 
 C.J. 
Brown
 
 Jared 
Goff
 
 Cyler
Miles
 
 Jacob 
Coker
 
 Jacoby 
Brissett
 

 

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Quarterbacks for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-breakout-players-2014
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Whether it’s a true freshman playing for the first time, a junior college recruit stepping into the lineup or a player on the roster that’s finally ready to assume a starting job, predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

 

The SEC is college football’s No. 1 conference, and there’s a handful of players waiting to emerge as stars in 2014. The SEC is losing several standout quarterbacks from last season, which opens the door for Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Georgia’s Hutson Mason to contend for all-conference honors. Mauk and Mason are joined on the offensive side with players like Texas A&M receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and Alabama running back Derrick Henry, On defense, sophomores Robert Nkemdiche and Chris Jones are two linemen due for a big season in 2014.

 

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2014 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar.

 

SEC Breakout Players for 2014

 

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper didn’t make a huge impression on the stat sheet last year, recording 202 rushing yards, 29 passing yards and three receptions for 54 yards. However, expect that to change significantly in 2014. The sophomore is an all-purpose threat for the Gamecocks and should see some snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. Cooper is also expected to handle returns this year.

 

Jordan Cunningham, WR, Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews dominated the stat sheet for Vanderbilt receivers last year, catching 112 of the Commodores’ 243 passes. With Matthews off to the NFL, it’s up to Cunningham and a host of youngsters to fill the void at receiver. Cunningham played in 13 games as a true freshman last year and caught 15 passes for 123 yards. The sophomore should be the No. 1 target for Vanderbilt’s offense in 2014.

 

Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

It’s a bit of a stretch to put Floyd on this list after he recorded 55 tackles (9.5 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks last year. However, we think the sophomore goes from All-SEC contention to All-America honors and earning national recognition. Floyd should anchor one of the edges in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense, and the sophomore is expected to push for 10 sacks.

 

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The No. 1 player in the 247Sports Composite rankings for 2014 could have a monster season in Baton Rouge. The LSU offensive line is one of the best in the SEC with four returning starters, and with a young quarterback (Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings) slated to start, expect the Tigers to lean on the ground attack. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Fournette has the size and skill-set to be an every-down back in the SEC. If he gets enough carries, the Louisiana native could finish near the top of the conference in rushing yards.

 

Kris Frost, LB, Auburn

Frost started just one contest for Auburn’s defense last year but played in all 14 games and finished fifth on the team with 59 tackles. The junior is slated to move into the starting lineup in 2014 and should team with Cassanova McKinzy to form a talented duo at linebacker. Frost also tied for the team lead on last year’s defense with two forced fumbles.
 

Braylon Heard, RB, Kentucky

Heard was a four-star recruit for Nebraska in the 2010 signing class, and the Ohio native rushed for 462 yards and four scores from 2011-12. Heard averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2012 and will team with Jojo Kemp to form a much-improved Kentucky rushing attack in 2014.

 

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Fans around the SEC are familiar with Henry through recruiting and his limited playing time last year, but it’s time for the rest of the nation to take notice. Henry rushed for 382 yards and three scores last season, capped by a 100-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl. The Florida native should provide the thunder to T.J. Yeldon’s lightning in 2014, as his 6-foot-3, 241-pound frame is a handful for opposing defenses. Don’t be surprised if Henry surpasses the 1,000-yard mark in 2014.

 

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

For any first-year starting quarterback, a potential All-American at tight end is a nice security blanket to have. That’s the case for junior quarterback Jacob Coker in his first season in Tuscaloosa, as Howard should be one of the top tight ends in the nation after a solid freshman campaign. Howard caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two scores last year, averaging 19.2 yards per reception. Expect Howard to be an even bigger part of the Crimson Tide offense this season, likely doubling his catches under new coordinator Lane Kiffin.
 

Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State

Jones ranked as the No. 18 overall player in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100, and the Mississippi native didn’t disappoint as a true freshman. Jones recorded 32 tackles (seven for a loss), three sacks and three pass breakups. He was at his best late in the year, recording three tackles for a loss and a sack against Ole Miss. After a solid freshman year, the best is yet to come from Jones. With a full offseason to work in the weight room and learn under coordinator Geoff Collins, Jones should build off a promising finish to 2014 and challenge for All-America honors.

 

Denver Kirkland/Dan Skipper, OL, Arkansas

Bret Bielema wants to establish a run-first, smashmouth mentality at Arkansas, and the second-year coach has two budding stars in the offensive line in sophomores Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. Both players started eight games last year and earned all-freshman honors by Athlon Sports. Considering Bielema’s track record from Wisconsin on recruiting and establishing offensive lines, look for Skipper and Kirkland to develop into future stars for the Razorbacks.

 

Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia

Aaron Murray’s late-season knee injury allowed Mason to gain valuable experience in 2013, and the senior heads into 2014 with two starts under his belt. Mason threw for 189 yards and one score in relief of Murray against Kentucky, threw 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-34 victory over rival Georgia Tech and completed 21 of 39 throws for 320 yards and one score in the Gator Bowl versus Nebraska. Mason has waited his turn by sitting four years behind Aaron Murray. Expect the senior to deliver a big season in his first chance at the full-time starting job in Athens.

 

Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri

Most around the SEC are probably familiar with Mauk after his short stint as Missouri’s No. 1 quarterback in 2013, but the sophomore is poised for bigger and better things in 2014. Mauk threw for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, while recording 229 rushing yards. The Ohio native needs to improve his completion percentage (51.1), but he should continue Missouri’s run of successful quarterbacks under coach Gary Pinkel.

 

Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina

With the departure of ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton, along with tackle Kelcy Quarles, the Gamecocks may use more 3-4 looks in 2014. The linebacking corps should be the strength of Lorenzo Ward’s defense, as Moore led the team with 56 tackles as a true freshman last year. Moore also intercepted four passes and recorded 3.5 tackle for a loss in 2013. Expect Moore to challenge for All-SEC honors this season.

 

Emmanuel Moseley, CB, Tennessee

The Volunteers will have a handful of young players receiving snaps on the defensive line and in the secondary this year, but Moseley has already made an impression on the coaching staff. Moseley was an early enrollee for spring practice and worked his way to the top of the depth chart at cornerback. The three-star recruit will be pushed for time in the fall, but he’s slated to play a key role in the Volunteers’ secondary this year.

 

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Yes, as the No. 1 recruit from the 2013 signing class, it seems obvious to mention Nkemdiche as a breakout player. However, the Georgia native seemed to find his role late last year. Nkemdiche finished with 34 tackles (eight for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble. Six of Nkemdiche’s 10 starts came at defensive end, with the other four coming at tackle. The Rebels will regain the services of end C.J. Johnson (missed most of last year due to injury), and the other end spot is expected to go to FIU transfer Fadol Brown. With Brown and Johnson anchoring the end positions, Nkemdiche should settle back into the interior. The sophomore played better as the season progressed in 2013 and should build off that momentum.

 

Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M

With Mike Evans, Derel Walker and Travis Labhart departing, the Aggies will be young (and very talented) at receiver in 2014. Redshirt freshman Ricky Seals-Jones also makes our list of top breakout players from the SEC, but Noil is also a name to remember. The Louisiana native ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and could see touches in a variety of ways – special teams, catches or handoffs – for coach Kevin Sumlin.

 

Marquez North, WR, Tennessee

North or running back Jalen Hurd deserves a mention in this space as a breakout player for Tennessee’s offense. North quickly established himself as one of the Volunteers’ top playmakers in the passing game in 2013, catching 38 passes for 496 yards and one score. The North Carolina native only had one 100-yard game last season, but his numbers should get better if Tennessee has more consistency at the quarterback spot.

 

Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri

The Tigers must replace both starting cornerbacks from last year’s defense, including standout E.J. Gaines. Two sophomores – Penton and John Gibson – should have an inside track to replace Gaines and Randy Ponder. Penton played in all 14 games (two starts) and recorded one interception and 16 tackles as a true freshman last year.

 

Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas

After redshirting his first season on campus, Philon quietly emerged as a force on Arkansas’ defensive line in 2013. The Alabama native played in all 12 games, recorded 46 tackles (nine for a loss) and three sacks). Philon recorded eight stops against Alabama and six against LSU in the regular season finale. Expect the sophomore to push for All-SEC honors in 2014.

 

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

It’s not easy starting as a true freshman on the offensive line in the SEC. However, that’s the likely assignment handed to Robinson in 2014. The touted true freshman – No. 4 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite – could start at left tackle for the Crimson Tide this year. The talent is certainly there for Robinson to have a standout freshman campaign similar to Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil last season.

 

Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

Dak Prescott will play a key role in Mississippi State’s rushing attack, but the Bulldogs need to find a new running back to replace LaDarius Perkins to take some of the pressure off of their quarterback. Robinson finished third on the team with 459 yards last season and averaged an impressive 5.9 yards per rush. Expect to see Robinson emerge as the No. 1 back in Starkville.

 

Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU

A number of LSU defenders could earn a mention in this space, but Robinson is Athlon’s pick to have a breakout year on defense for coordinator John Chavis. The 6-foot-3 corner has the size to matchup against the bigger receivers in the conference, along with the speed to prevent big plays in the passing game. Robinson was a late arrival to preseason camp last year but finished with 16 tackles and broke up three passes in 12 games. The emergence of Robinson and sophomore Tre’Davious White should give LSU one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation.

 

Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M

Seals-Jones was slated to be a key cog in Texas A&M’s receiving corps last season, but an injury sidelined him for the year after the first two games. The Texas native caught three passes for 84 yards and one score in the limited playing time. With Mike Evans departing, the Aggies are counting on Seals-Jones – the No. 25 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 – to become one of the top options in the passing game. Whether it’s Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill under center for coach Kevin Sumlin, expect to see Seals-Jones making his share of big plays in 2014.

 

Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

We could pencil in Tabor or fellow freshman corner Duke Dawson here. Tabor ranked as the No. 14 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete this spring. The Washington, D.C. native could start opposite of sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III at cornerback this year.

 

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida

Running back is a position of strength for new coordinator Kurt Roper, as the Gators return three running backs that recorded at least 330 yards last year. Mack Brown led the team with 543 yards, but Taylor turned plenty of heads as a true freshman. In 10 games, Taylor rushed for 508 yards and four scores, including 90 or more yards in two out of his last three outings. If the offensive line is improved, Taylor could push for 1,000 yards.

 

Ryan Timmons, WR, Kentucky

Kentucky’s offense averaged only 20.5 points per game last year, but there’s hope for improvement with more consistent quarterback play expected in 2014. If Patrick Towles, Drew Barker or Reese Phillips stabilizes the passing game, look for Timmons to have a breakout year. As a true freshman last season, Timmons caught 32 passes for 338 yards and two scores.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Donte Moncrief’s big-play ability will be missed in Oxford, but quarterback Bo Wallace won’t have to look far for his replacement. Treadwell caught 72 passes for 608 yards and five scores as a true freshman last year and is slated to move from the slot to the outside in 2014. Treadwell averaged only 8.4 yards per catch in 2013, but that number could easily double in 2014.

 

D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn

The Tigers may look to throw more in 2014, as running back Tre Mason departed for the NFL, and quarterback Nick Marshall should be more comfortable in his second year under center in the SEC. Auburn’s receiving corps is also deeper in 2014, largely due to the emergence of junior Sammie Coates and the arrival of Williams in the spring. Williams ranked as the top junior college recruit in the 247Sports Composite and caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.

 

Andrew Williamson, S, Vanderbilt

New coach Derek Mason must replace all four starters in the secondary, but the coaching staff should be encouraged about the replacements. Williamson is one of the names generating buzz on West End, as he’s slated to step into a starting role after working as a top reserve in 2013. Williamson recorded 20 tackles and two interceptions last season and should emerge as one of the leaders for Mason in the secondary this year.

Teaser:
SEC Football Breakout Players for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/marshall-unveils-new-green-jerseys-2014
Body:

Marshall could be set for a special year in 2014, as the Thundering Herd has a favorable path to an undefeated record in the regular season.

And in college football’s new playoff format, a 12-0 regular season mark, combined with a C-USA Championship in early December, and Marshall could be the top team from the Group of 5 leagues to play in one of the premier bowl games.

Marshall unveiled new green jerseys for 2014 on Sunday, which features a new gradient number and black stripes on the sleeves.

Check out the Thundering Herd’s new green uniform for 2014:

Teaser:
Marshall Unveils New Green Jerseys for 2014
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-transfers-watch-2014
Body:

Free agency isn’t an option in college football, but player movement is still a big part of every offseason. The transaction wire was busy over the last year with several players changing homes for the 2014 campaign.

Several quarterbacks changed addresses for 2014, including graduate transfers Michael Brewer (Virginia Tech), Jacob Coker (Alabama), Jake Heaps (Miami), Matt Joeckel (TCU) and Stephen Rivers (Vanderbilt).

 

In addition to the graduate transfers, the quarterback position has a handful of names that sat out 2013 as a result of NCAA transfer rules. NC State’s Jacoby Brissett and Illinois’ Wes Lunt are two transfers expected to make a huge impact in 2014.

 

Key transfers weren’t just limited to quarterbacks, as running back Rushel Shell left Pittsburgh for West Virginia, receiver Jordan Leslie left UTEP for BYU, while defensive tackle Delvon Simmons transferred from Texas Tech to USC.

 

Which players might make an impact as a transfer in 2014? Let’s take a look:

 

Power 5 Conference Transfers at Quarterback

 

Conner Brewer, Arizona (from Texas)

Arizona opened fall practice with a wide-open battle for the starting job. Brewer redshirted in his only season at Texas and is battling Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall and Anu Solomon for time.

 

Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech (from Texas Tech)

Virginia Tech’s offense is searching for a spark after averaging only 22.5 points per game last season. Logan Thomas expired his eligibility as the No. 1 quarterback in Blacksburg, leaving Brewer, Brenden Motley and Mark Leal competing for the starting job. In two seasons at Texas Tech, Brewer completed 41 of 58 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Jacoby Brissett, NC State (from Florida)

NC State’s offense struggled to find consistency from its quarterback position in 2013. But the Wolfpack should show significant improvement on offense behind Brissett in 2014. In two seasons with Florida, Brissett completed 41 of 74 passes for 455 yards and three scores. NC State quarterbacks combined to throw only 11 touchdowns last year, but Brissett will easily surpass that mark in 2014.

 

Jacob Coker, Alabama (from Florida State)

With Jameis Winston entrenched as Florida State’s No. 1 quarterback, Coker left Tallahassee for a chance to start for Nick Saban. The Alabama native played sparingly in two years with the Seminoles, completing 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards and one interception in 2013. Coker has the size and arm strength coaches want in a prototypical quarterback. With a strong supporting cast, he won’t be asked to win many games for the Crimson Tide, but Coker’s performances in key SEC contests could decide whether or not Alabama returns to Atlanta in early December.

 

Jake Heaps, Miami (from Kansas)

Heaps ranked as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in the 2010 signing class and spent his first two years with BYU. Heaps threw 24 touchdown passes with the Cougars but transferred to Kansas after losing the starting job to Riley Nelson. In one year with the Jayhawks, the Washington native completed only 49 percent of his throws and tossed 10 picks. With Ryan Williams suffering a torn ACL in spring practice, and the suspension of Kevin Olsen, Heaps is slated to start the opener against Louisville.

 

Matt Joeckel, TCU (from Texas A&M)

In an effort to find a spark on offense, the Horned Frogs are changing offensive schemes to an up-tempo, spread attack in 2014. Trevone Boykin and Joeckel will battle to win the starting job, with Joeckel likely holding a slight edge due to his experience at Texas A&M in a similar offense. Joeckel completed 27 of 48 passes for 335 yards and two scores from 2012-13 with the Aggies. If Joeckel wins the quarterback battle, Boykin is expected to move to receiver.

 

Wes Lunt, Illinois (from Oklahoma State)

Tim Beckman’s hire of Bill Cubit as the team’s play-caller paid big dividends for the Illinois’ offense in 2013. The Fighting Illini averaged 29.7 points per game last year and could take that number even higher in 2014. Lunt – a former four-star recruit – is eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. In 2012 at Oklahoma State, Lunt threw for 1,108 yards and six touchdowns. With a struggling defense, expect Lunt and the Fighting Illini offense to be involved in plenty of shootouts in 2014.

 

Tyler Murphy, Boston College (from Florida)

Murphy played sparingly prior to last season, but an injury to Jeff Driskel pressed the Connecticut native into his first extensive action with the Gators. Murphy started six games and finished 2013 with 1,216 yards and six passing scores, while rushing for 61 yards. The Eagles are expected to shift to a spread attack in 2014, which fits Murphy’s skill-set better than the offense did at Florida in 2013. Murphy should take the opening snap for Boston College this year.

 

Stephen Rivers, Vanderbilt (from LSU)

First-year coach Derek Mason heads into 2014 hoping to improve an offense that managed only seven passing scores in SEC games last year. Mason and coordinator Karl Dorrell have options at quarterback, including Patton Robinette, Rivers and promising redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary. Rivers spent three years at LSU and misfired on both passes he attempted in limited action. The Alabama native lacks mobility, but has intriguing size (6’7”) and is the brother of NFL star Philip Rivers.

 

Kendal Thompson, Utah (from Oklahoma)

Thompson transferred to Utah after three years at Oklahoma. After redshirting in his first season, Thompson did not play in 2012 and only attempted 13 passes with the Sooners in 2013. If healthy, Travis Wilson is Utah’s starter, but Thompson adds more depth to a position that has been hit hard by injuries in recent years.

 

Group of 5 Transfers to Watch at QB

 

Rob Bolden, Eastern Michigan (from LSU)

Bolden was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2010 signing class. Fast forward to 2014 and Bolden is on his third school and vying for a chance to start at Eastern Michigan. Prior to his stop in Ypsilanti, Bolden was at Penn State for two years and had a two-season stint at LSU. Bolden threw seven touchdowns and 14 picks from 2010-11 at Penn State.

 

Brandon Connette, Fresno State (from Duke)

Derek Carr will be missed, but Fresno State is still in good shape at quarterback. Connette transferred from Duke after spring practice and is competing with Brian Burrell for the starting job this fall. Connette scored 27 total touchdowns for the Blue Devils in 2013.

 

Phillip Ely, Toledo (from Alabama)

Alabama transfer is part of a three-way battle to replace Terrance Owens. Ely was a three-star recruit by Rivals in the 2011 signing class and played in six games with Alabama in 2012.

 

Blake Frohnapfel, UMass (from Marshall)

With Rakeem Cato entrenched at Marshall, Frohnapfel transferred to UMass with an opportunity to start in 2014. Frohnapfel threw for 206 yards and three scores in limited snaps with the Thundering Herd in 2013.

 

Andrew Hendrix, Miami (Ohio) (from Notre Dame)

New coach Chuck Martin’s rebuilding effort at Miami (Ohio) will have some help from a couple of Notre Dame transfers, including Hendrix at quarterback in 2014. The former four-star recruit completed 25 of 58 passes for 360 yards and one score in three years with the Fighting Irish.

 

Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (from Notre Dame)

The Bearcats led the American Athletic Conference by averaging 6.3 yards per play in league games last year. Quarterback Brendon Kay has expired his eligibility, but Cincinnati’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat with Kiel at the controls. The Indiana native ranked as the No. 27 overall recruit in the 2012 signing class by 247Sports Composite and redshirted in his debut with the Fighting Irish. Kiel has yet to take a snap on the college level, but he’s a promising option for a Cincinnati team expected to contend for the American Athletic Conference title.

 

Nick Patti, UCF (from Boise State)

Patti is battling Justin Holman and Pete DiNovo to replace Blake Bortles. The Florida native is eligible immediately after transferring from Boise State.

 

Cody Sokol, Louisiana Tech (from Iowa)

Sokol transfers to Ruston after two years at Iowa. The former Scottsdale Community College quarterback did not record any statistics with the Hawkeyes and is competing with Ryan Higgins for the starting job.

 

Pete Thomas, ULM (from NC State)

Thomas is on his third stop in his collegiate career, transferring to ULM after a stint at NC State. The California native played from 2010-11 at Colorado State and tossed four touchdowns to nine interceptions with the Wolfpack in 2013. Thomas is competing with Brayle Brown for the starting job.

 

Other Key Transfers

 

RB Dee Hart, Colorado State (Alabama)

Former five-star recruit transferred to Colorado State after three years at Alabama. Hart is reunited with former coordinator Jim McElwain and could push for the starting job with the departure of Kapri Bibbs.

 

RB Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan (from Michigan)

Rawls moves two hours north from Ann Arbor to Mount Pleasant and joins the Chippewas after rushing for 333 yards in three years with the Wolverines.

 

RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia (from Pittsburgh)

Shell ranked as a five-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite in 2012 and played in 12 games as a freshman for Pittsburgh, recording 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 attempts. Shell is competing for time in a crowded backfield, but he could be an All-Big 12 player if he gets enough opportunities in 2014.

 

RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky (from Nebraska)

Heard was a four-star recruit for Nebraska in the 2010 signing class, and the Ohio native rushed for 462 yards and four scores from 2011-12. Heard averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2012 and will team with Jojo Kemp to form a much improved Kentucky rushing attack in 2014.

 

WR Nick Harwell, Kansas (from Miami, Ohio)

The Jayhawks have struggled to find playmakers at receiver in recent years, but the addition of Harwell and Nigel King should help. Harwell caught 229 passes in three years with Miami (Ohio) and posted a 1,000-yard season in 2011.

 

WR Cayleb Jones, Arizona (from Texas)

Arizona’s receiving corps could be one of the deepest in the nation in 2014. Jones – a Texas transfer – played in 10 games as a freshman in 2012 with the Longhorns and caught one pass. Jones was a four-star recruit in the 2012 signing class.

 

WR Nigel King, Kansas (from Maryland)

King was a late addition to Kansas’ roster this summer after catching 33 passes for 450 yards and four scores with Maryland in 2013. The North Carolina native adds talent to a position that has struggled for the Jayhawks in recent years.

 

WR Jordan Leslie, BYU (from UTEP)

Leslie should be a key piece of BYU’s passing attack in 2014. In three seasons at UTEP, the Texas native caught 125 passes and averaged 19.1 yards per catch in 2012. With Cody Hoffman departing, the Cougars need a new No. 1 target in 2014.

 

WR Davonte Neal, Arizona (from Notre Dame)

Neal is a name to remember this year, as the former Notre Dame receiver could play in an all-purpose role for the Wildcats. The Arizona native caught one pass for the Fighting Irish in 2012 but the sophomore has game-changing ability and should be a key piece in the offense in 2014.

 

WR Shakim Phillips, Boston College (from UConn)

The Eagles’ receiving corps is thin on proven options heading into 2014, but the return of Phillips should give Boston College a go-to target for quarterback Tyler Murphy. Phillips started his career with the Eagles but transferred to UConn for the 2012-13 seasons. The New Jersey native caught 28 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.

 

WR Marvin Shinn, South Alabama (from Alabama)

Shinn was a four-star recruit for Alabama in the 2011 signing class and played in 14 games in 2012 for the Crimson Tide. Shinn should be a key weapon for new quarterback Brandon Bridge.

 

WR Miles Shuler, Northwestern (from Rutgers)

Shuler is a key pickup for a Northwestern team hoping to rebound after a 5-7 mark in 2013. The New Jersey native caught five passes in two years with Rutgers from 2011-12 and adds another speed threat to the Wildcats’ receiving corps.

 

WR LeKendrick Williams, Fresno State (from Texas A&M)

Williams caught seven passes in three years at Texas A&M, but he should easily surpass that mark in 2014 with Fresno State. The Texas native will help replace some of the production left by Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse.

 

TE Jake McGee, Florida (from Virginia)

McGee is a significant pickup for a Florida offense that desperately needs playmakers in the receiving corps. The Virginia native caught 71 passes and seven touchdowns in three seasons with the Cavaliers. McGee should be a good fit in Gainesville under new coordinator Kurt Roper.

 

TE Alex Welch, Miami (Ohio) (from Notre Dame)

Welch caught only one pass during his time at Notre Dame, but the Ohio native is slated to start for the RedHawks in 2014.

 

OL Malcolm Bunche, UCLA (from Miami)

Bunche played in 31 games in three seasons with the Hurricanes, including 12 starts at left tackle in 2012. He could play at guard or tackle for the Bruins in 2014.

 

OL Cameron Jefferson, Arkansas (from UNLV)

Jefferson transferred to Arkansas after UNLV’s bowl ban (later rescinded) was announced. The Las Vegas native started all 13 games for the Rebels in 2012 and earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors in 2013.

 

OL Alex Lewis, Nebraska (from Colorado)

Lewis is expected to start at left tackle for Cornhuskers in 2014 after starting 12 games at Colorado in 2012.

 

OL Chad Lindsay, Ohio State (from Alabama)

Lindsay is a graduate transfer from Alabama and joins the Buckeyes after starting four games with the Crimson Tide in 2013. He could push for a starting spot on the interior this year.

 

OL Ian Silberman, Boston College (from Florida)

Silberman is a graduate transfer from Florida and is slated to start at right tackle for Boston College in 2014. In three years with the Gators, Silberman appeared in 20 games and made four starts in 2013.

 

OL Christian Westerman, Arizona State (from Auburn)

Westerman ranked as a five-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite for the 2011 signing class, and he transferred to Arizona State after two years with Auburn. The Arizona native played in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech, but this will be his first extended opportunity at playing time since high school. Westerman is expected to start at left guard, allowing Jamil Douglas to play at left tackle in 2014.

 

DL Jordan Allen, Arizona (from LSU)

Allen is another key transfer pickup for coach Rich Rodriguez. In three years at LSU, Allen played in 17 contests and recorded two sacks. He will push for playing time on a line that is considered the weak spot on Arizona’s defense.

 

DL Houston Bates, Louisiana Tech (from Illinois)

Bates’ departure was a significant blow for Illinois’ defense and a huge gain for Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech. The Louisiana native was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2013 and finished his Fighting Illini career with 81 tackles (14 for a loss) and three forced fumbles. Bates should push for All-Conference USA honors in 2014.

 

DL Fadol Brown, Ole Miss (from FIU)

Brown is a promising sophomore for Ole Miss’ defense, as he transferred from FIU after just one season (eight tackles, 1.5 sacks). The South Carolina native adds depth to a line that could be one of the best in the SEC this year.

 

DL Jalen Grimble, Oregon State (from Miami)

Oregon State’s defensive line is under construction with only one returning starter (Dylan Wynn). Grimble was a four-star prospect by Rivals in the 2011 signing class and played in 15 games in his first two years at Miami. Grimble is slated to play significant snaps at defensive tackle in 2014.

 

DL Se’Von Pittman, Akron (from Ohio State)

Pittman was a top-100 recruit in the 2012 signing class and redshirted in his first season at Ohio State.

 

DL Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia (from Gardner-Webb)

Riddick is one of the most intriguing transfers for 2014. The Ohio native is eligible immediately after transferring from Gardner-Webb, where the 6-foot-6 defensive end earned FCS All-America honors in 2013. Riddick recorded 10.5 sacks from 2012-13 and is slated to push for a starting spot with the Mountaineers.

 

DL Josh Shirley, UNLV (from Washington)

Shirley is a late summer pickup for UNLV. The California native earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in 2013 and recorded 18 sacks at Washington from 2011-13.

 

DT Delvon Simmons, USC (from Texas Tech)

Simmons spent two years at Texas Tech, recording 27 tackles and two sacks in 2012. He is expected to play a key role in USC’s defensive line this year.

 

DL Gavin Stansbury, Houston (from Texas A&M)

Stansbury was expected to be a key piece of Texas A&M’s defensive line rotation, but he transferred to Houston this summer. Stansbury recorded 47 tackles and three sacks with the Aggies last year.

 

LB A.J. Hilliard, Texas A&M (from TCU)

Hilliard played in 11 games as a true freshman with TCU in 2012. He is expected to push for snaps in Texas A&M’s linebacking corps this season.

 

LB Gionni Paul, Utah (from Miami)

Paul transferred after two years at Miami and was expected to be a key piece of Utah’s linebacking corps in 2014 until a foot injury sidelined him in the spring. Paul recorded 61 stops for the Hurricanes in 2012.

 

DB Ty-Meer Brown, Boston College (from UConn)

Brown was a three-year starter for UConn, recording at least 45 tackles in every season from 2011-13. The Pennsylvania native missed the final five games of 2013 due to a neck injury and transferred as a graduate student to Boston College. Brown is expected to be a significant contributor for Eagles’ secondary in 2014.

 

S Harvey Jackson, BYU (from Nebraska)

BYU’s secondary got a late-spring boost with the addition of Jackson from Nebraska. The Texas native played in 35 games in three years with the Cornhuskers and recorded 54 tackles.

 

DB Lo Wood, Miami (Ohio) (from Notre Dame)

Wood is one of three Notre Dame players following new coach Chuck Martin from South Bend to the MAC. Wood played in 32 career games with the Fighting Irish and recorded 20 tackles.

 

CB Cody Riggs, Notre Dame (from Florida)

The Fighting Irish could have one of the nation’s top cornerback duos in 2014, as KeiVarae Russell is a standout junior on one side, and he will be joined by Florida transfer Cody Riggs. In three years with the Gators, Riggs recorded one interception, 107 tackles and one forced fumble.

 

Other Players Transferring in 2014

 

QB Luke Del Rio, Oregon State (from Alabama)

QB Matt Floyd, South Alabama (from USF)

QB Anthony Maddie, Northern Illinois (from Western Michigan)

QB T.J. Millweard, Kansas (from UCLA)

QB David Olson, Clemson (from Stanford)

QB Brent Stockstill, MTSU (from Cincinnati)

QB Mike Wegzyn, Tennessee (from UMass)

RB Justus Pickett, Tennessee (from Maryland)

RB Lucky Radley, San Diego State (from Utah)

RB Anthon Samuel, FIU (from Bowling Green)

RB Adonis Smith, Arizona (from UNLV)

WR Rodney Adams, USF (from Toledo)

WR Aaron Bradley, Ohio (from Nevada)

WR Trevor Davis, California (from Hawaii)

WR Gehrig Dieter, Bowling Green (from SMU)

WR Chandler Dorrell, Vanderbilt (from Stanford)

WR Eric Dungy, USF (from Oregon)

WR Nick England, Old Dominion (from FIU)

WR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois (from North Dakota)

WR Jeff Greene, Ohio State (from Georgia Tech)

WR Donovan Harden, Georgia State (from Illinois State)

WR Charlie Hegedus, Georgia (from NC State)

WR Alex Kenney, UMass (from Penn State)

WR D’Vario Montgomery, Iowa State (from USF)

WR Keanu Nelson, BYU (from Stanford)

WR Cam Oliver, Houston (from ULM)

WR Quinton Pedroza, Hawaii (from Utah)

WR E.J. Scott, Wake Forest (from Virginia)

WR Paul Turner, Louisiana Tech (from LSU)

WR Andrew Turzilli, Rutgers (from Kansas)

WR Jackie Williams, UCF (from UAB)

WR Cameron Wilson, Ohio (from Iowa)

TE Darien Bryant, West Virginia (from Vanderbilt)

TE Michael Cooper, Indiana (from Arizona)

TE Davis Dudchock, Vanderbilt (from Stanford)

TE Iona Pritchard, Oregon State (from BYU)

TE Evan Tatford, UL Lafayette (from Tulane)

TE Jacob Wark, Oregon State (from California)

OL James Bodanis, Michigan State (from Toronto)

OL Shane Callahan, Colorado (from Arizona)

OL Travis Cross, Houston (from Oklahoma State)

OL Ben Dew, Houston (from Hawaii)

OL Ethan Hutson, Troy (from Ole Miss)

OL Blake Muir, Baylor (from Hawaii)

DT Richard Ash, Western Michigan (from Michigan)

DL Jacoby Briscoe, UL Lafayette (from Miami)

DL Bruce Heggie, Ball State (from Notre Dame)

DL K’Hadree Hooker, East Carolina (from NC State)

DL Terrell Jackson, Bowling Green (from Pittsburgh)

DL Lawrence Lagafuaina, Hawaii (from Washington)

DL Langston Newton, Purdue (from Kentucky)

DL Ernest Suttles, Memphis (from Nebraska)

DL Sam Ukwuachu, Baylor (from Boise State)

DL Anthony Williams, Troy (from Georgia Tech)

DL Ricardo Williams, Marshall (from Miami)

DL Brandon Willis, UNLV (from UCLA)

LB Jeremy Castro, Hawaii (from UCLA)

LB Trey Grainer, UL Lafayette (from LSU)

LB Ruben Ibarra, Arizona State (from Purdue)

LB Harvey Langi, BYU (from Utah)

LB Cameron Nwosu, SMU (from Rice)

LB Deaysean Rippy, Colorado (from Pittsburgh)

LB Anthony Wallace, North Texas (from Oregon)

LB Eric Wilson, Cincinnati (from Northwestern)

DB Anthony Alford, Ole Miss (from Southern Miss)

S Cullen Christian, West Virginia (from Pittsburgh)

CB Bruce Dukes, Georgia State (from UCF)

S Justin Ferguson, Western Michigan (from Notre Dame)

S Josh Furman, Oklahoma State (from Michigan)

CB Daniel Gray, Utah State (from Tennessee)

DB Bryan Harper, Fresno State (from Arizona)

DB Lee Hightower, Houston (from Boise State)

CB Donaldven Manning, Marshall (from Virginia Tech)

S Reggie Mitchell, Pittsburgh (from Wisconsin)

CB Najee Murray, Kent State (from Ohio State)

DB Damian Payne, UTEP (from Houston)

DB Cleveland Wallace, San Jose State (from Washington)

CB Tyler White, Houston (from Utah)

K James Hairston, Rice (from LSU)

Teaser:
College Football's Top Transfers to Watch in 2014
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/examining-biggest-concerns-college-footballs-playoff-contenders
Body:

College football’s new four-team playoff has added extra intrigue to the upcoming season.

No one knows exactly how this year will play out and what the committee will value when it comes to evaluating and ranking the teams. However, with four teams getting a chance to play for the national championship, the margin of error has slightly increased.

Instead of trying to get to the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, teams can get into the No. 3 and No. 4 positions and still win the national title.

Despite the extra margin of error, every team in the nation has a concern or weakness heading into the season.

Some concerns are obvious, while some are just minor.

Using Athlon’s projected final rankings for the 2014 season, let’s take a look at the biggest concerns for the top 15 teams.


Top Concerns for College Football's Playoff Contenders

 

1. Florida State
 

Defensive tackle: The Seminoles have a few departures on the interior, including standout Timmy Jernigan. Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample are solid, but which players emerge to help with depth? Redshirt freshman Keith Bryant or one of the touted true freshman: Derrick Nnadi, Arthur Williams or Demarcus Christmas could help in 2014.

Wide Receivers: Talent certainly isn’t an issue here. The Seminoles boast an All-American receiver on one side in Rashad Greene, and a standout tight end Nick O’Leary attacking over the middle. But the spot opposite of Greene is up for grabs, with seniors Christian Green and Jarred Haggins competing for snaps, along with sophomore Jesus Wilson and freshmen Ermon Lane and Traivs Rudolph.

 

Punter: It’s easy to overlook special teams, but punting is an area of concern for coach Jimbo Fisher. Cason Beatty needs to be more consistent and will face competition from Jonathan Hernandez and Larry Lawson III.


2. Alabama

 

Cornerback: Opposing quarterbacks completed only 55.5 percent of their throws against Alabama’s defense in 2013, but the cornerback position is still a concern for Nick Saban heading into the fall. 11 of the 13 touchdown passes allowed by the Crimson Tide last season came in three games (Oklahoma, Auburn and Texas A&M), and cornerback Deion Belue must be replaced. Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart need more consistent production from their corners and could call on two true freshmen (Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey) to help in 2014.

 

Quarterback: This position has generated most of the offseason buzz in Tuscaloosa, but with a strong rushing attack and defense, Alabama won’t need too much from its quarterback position. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is considered the favorite to start over Blake Sims. Coker completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards with the Seminoles in 2013 but does not have a start in his college career. The Crimson Tide can win a lot of games with so-so quarterback play. However, when the game is on the line against Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss, can Coker or Sims make the necessary throws to elevate the Crimson Tide to a victory?


3. Ohio State
 

Offensive Line: It’s a tough call to pick the No. 1 concern for the Buckeyes, as the offensive line, receiving corps, secondary and linebacking corps are all worth a mention. However, the offensive line is perhaps the biggest concern for coach Urban Meyer, especially with quarterback Braxton Miller’s injuries last season. Keeping Miller healthy is the No. 1 priority this year, as Kenny Guiton is no longer around to provide insurance. Left tackle Taylor Decker is the lone returning starter, but guard Pat Elflein had a promising stint at the end of 2013. The left guard, center and right tackle spots are still up for grabs. Winning the Big Ten – especially on Nov. 8 at Michigan State – and contending for a playoff spot rests largely on how quick the Buckeyes can develop their offensive line.


4. Oklahoma
 

Playmakers for Trevor Knight: The Sooners return 14 starters from a team that went 11-2 last year, and there are few glaring concerns for coach Bob Stoops. Quarterback Trevor Knight ended 2013 with his best performance of the year, throwing for 348 yards and four scores against Alabama. For Knight to continue his growth as a passer, the coaching staff needs to find new weapons at receiver. Three of last year’s top four receivers are gone, including Jalen Saunders (61 catches). Junior Sterling Shepard is an All-Big 12 receiver, but who steps up into the No. 2 and No. 3 roles? Is it Durron Neal or K.J. Young? How about Dannon Cavil, Derrick Woods or Jordan Smallwood? True freshman Michiah Quick is another name to watch this fall.


5. Auburn

 

Lines of Scrimmage: It’s a bit cliché, but teams have to be strong in the trenches in order to win in the SEC. Auburn’s offensive line was one of the best in the nation in 2013 and was projected to rank near the top once again. However, guard Alex Kozan will miss 2014 due to a back injury, which adds to a giant void on the left side with Greg Robinson leaving for the NFL. The defensive front is also uncertain, as Carl Lawson could miss most of 2014 due to a torn ACL. Sophomores Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel are promising, and there’s depth with the addition of junior college recruits DaVonte Lambert and Devaroe Lawrence. However, after giving up 162.1 rushing yards per game last season, Lawson's injury, and the departure of Dee Ford to the NFL, the Tigers head into 2014 with concerns (albeit small) about the defensive line.


6. Oregon

 

Transition on defense: Second-year coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t have many glaring concerns to address this offseason, but the defense is under the direction of first-year coordinator Don Pellum after Nick Aliotti retired. Pellum is no stranger to Oregon football, as he’s worked in Eugene for the last 21 seasons. However, this will be his first opportunity to coordinate the Ducks’ defense. What tweaks will he install into the scheme? Personnel-wise, there’s not a ton of concerns, but Oregon needs to develop depth on the interior of the line and sort out its new starters in the secondary.


7. UCLA
 

Offensive line: The Bruins struggled to find consistency with this unit in 2013, and line coach Adrian Klemm now must find a replacement for standout guard Xavier Su’a-Filo. UCLA played a handful of young players up front last season, which should pay dividends for 2014. Additionally, Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche is expected to solidify a spot on the left side. With more snaps, this unit should emerge as a strength for the Bruins. However, this unit will be tested right away against an underrated Virginia defensive line in the opener and against Texas in Week 3. Another position to watch for UCLA: The rushing attack. Coach Jim Mora needs to find a consistent presence on the ground to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Brett Hundley.


8. Georgia

 

Secondary: New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt inherits a defense with potential, but this unit allowed nearly 30 points per game in 2013. Pruitt helped Florida State’s defense rank among the nation’s best last season and should work a quick turnaround in 2014. The front seven is among the best in the SEC, but the secondary is a significant concern. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed prior to spring practice, and cornerback Shaq Wiggins transferred to Louisville, while safety Tray Matthews landed at Auburn. The overall depth has been depleted with the player departures, and Pruitt could look to the freshmen ranks for answers. Junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng is expected to help at cornerback or safety, while true freshman Malkom Parrish and redshirt freshman Aaron Davis are also in the mix. Considering the uncertainty with this unit, it’s critical Georgia’s front seven is able to generate a pass rush against opposing offenses – at least early in the 2014 season.


9. South Carolina

 

Cornerbacks/defensive line: Coordinator Lorenzo Ward will have his hands full through the first couple weeks of the season, as the Gamecocks take on three explosive offenses in Texas A&M, East Carolina and Georgia. The defensive line returns only one starter (J.T. Surratt), but there’s enough talent returning to ensure there’s not a huge drop in production from last year’s unit that featured Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles. But the secondary is a bigger concern for Ward, as South Carolina could lean on three true freshmen for major snaps: Carlos Lammons, Wesley Green and Al Harris Jr. With the turnover up front and in the inexperience in the secondary, the Gamecocks could use more 3-4 fronts in 2014.


10. Baylor

 

Revamped defense: Coordinator Phil Bennett has brought noticeable improvement to Baylor’s defense over the last few years, and the Bears ranked second in the Big 12 in 2013 (league-only games) by allowing only 4.8 yards per play. Just four starters return for 2014, but the defensive line could be one of the best in the Big 12, and senior Bryce Hager is back to anchor the linebacking corps. The biggest concern for this unit is the secondary, which has to replace standout safety Ahmad Dixon and cornerbacks K.J. Morton and Demetri Goodson. Also, keep an eye on offense with left tackle Spencer Drango. The standout lineman had back surgery last season and needs to quickly return to full strength in order for Baylor to repeat as Big 12 champs.

 

11. Michigan State

The Spartans check in at No. 11 in Athlon’s projected top 25 for 2014, but coach Mark Dantonio’s team should be higher. This team doesn’t have many glaring concerns, and the defense is one of the best in the nation. Finding replacements for a few defensive standouts (Darqueze Dennard, Max Bullough and Denicos Allen) is the biggest priority for the Spartans.

 

12. Stanford

A brutal schedule awaits Stanford in 2014. The Cardinal play five road games against teams projected to finish in the final top 25. Personnel-wise, coach David Shaw needs to find a replacement for running back Tyler Gaffney, as well as fill the voids on defense left behind by linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov, linemen Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro and safety Ed Reynolds.

 

13. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have concerns on both sides of the ball, but the offense should get a boost with the return of quarterback Everett Golson. A revamped front seven highlights the defense, as new coordinator Brian VanGorder has to replace standout linemen Louis Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt.

 

14. USC

New coach Steve Sarkisian’s biggest obstacle is depth. The Trojans are short on scholarships due to NCAA sanctions and an injury to a couple of players in the starting lineup could be difficult to overcome.

 

15. Wisconsin

The Badgers return only eight starters and have concerns at quarterback and on the front seven on defense. However, a favorable schedule should keep coach Gary Andersen’s team in the hunt for the West Division title. 

Teaser:
Examining the Biggest Concerns for College Football's Playoff Contenders
Post date: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/michigan-unveils-alternate-jerseys-under-lights-game
Body:

Michigan is set to host Penn State in a rare night game in Ann Arbor this year, and the Wolverines will wear a special uniform for the matchup against the Nittany Lions.

The uniforms aren’t drastically different from Michigan’s usual look, but there are some alterations.

 

The Wolverines will wear a blue jersey and blue pants, while the numbers feature laser-cut stripes.

 

Michigan-Penn State is slated for Oct. 11. 

Teaser:
Michigan Unveils Alternate Jerseys for "Under the Lights" Game
Post date: Saturday, August 9, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/gary-nova-named-rutgers-starting-qb-2014
Body:

One of the biggest fall question marks for Rutgers entering its debut season in the Big Ten was its quarterback position. However, just a few days into fall practice, the Scarlet Knights have found their starting quarterback in Gary Nova.

Coach Kyle Flood announced Nova as the team’s starter after practice on Aug. 6.

Nova is talented, but the senior has struggled with consistency over the last three years.

In 2013, Nova tossed 14 picks to 18 touchdowns and lost the starting job late in the season to Chas Dodd.

New coordinator Ralph Friedgen should help improve Rutgers’ offense, but Nova needs to do a better job of limiting mistakes if the Scarlet Knights want to make a bowl in their Big Ten debut.

Teaser:
Gary Nova Named Rutgers Starting QB for 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/northern-illinois-unveils-corn-fest-jerseys-season-opener
Body:

Northern Illinois opens its MAC West title defense with a home date against Presbyterian on Aug. 28.

The Huskies will open the season in style, as Rod Carey’s team is slated to wear an alternate uniform against Presbyterian.

The alternate uniform features yellow on the shoulder pads as a tribute to DeKalb’s Corn Fest. Check out more information here on Northern Illinois and the Corn Fest.

The “Corn Fest” uniforms will be auctioned to support three local causes.

 

Teaser:
Northern Illinois Unveils "Corn Fest" Jerseys for Season Opener
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-darkhorse-national-title-contenders-2014
Body:

Predicting college football's national champion is never an easy task. In addition to combing through schedules, returning starters, players lost and statistics, there are several factors impossible to account for. Injuries and luck will have a major impact on the 2014 season - and neither can be projected.

 

The impact of preseason polls on the national title race is overrated, but there’s no denying it’s better to start high than have to climb from outside of the top 25. However, starting outside of the top 10 isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Florida State and Auburn both ranked outside of that range in the first preseason poll in 2013 and met for the national championship in Pasadena.

 

While most of college football's national title winners are likely to come from within the top 10 of most preseason polls, there are always a few dark horses sneaking into the discussion.

 

What teams might fit that mold in 2014? Let’s take a look at 10 teams to watch for the upcoming season:

 

College Football’s Top 10 Dark Horse National Title Contenders for 2014

 

Clemson


Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 6

Key Games: 8/30 at Georgia, 9/20 at Florida State, 11/29 South Carolina


Replacing quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant won’t be easy, but the Tigers won’t take a huge step back in the win column. Clemson will turn to senior Cole Stoudt and true freshman DeShaun Watson at quarterback, while the receiving corps is stocked with promising talent. And as long as Chad Morris is calling the plays, the Tigers should be fine on offense. Six starters return from a defense that allowed just 22.2 points per game in 2013. Vic Beasley is one of the nation’s top defensive linemen, and the secondary will get a boost from a healthy Mackensie Alexander at cornerback. Settling the offensive line and getting Stoudt acclimated to the starting lineup will be two areas to watch early in the year. Unseating Florida State in the Atlantic is a tall order, but Clemson isn’t short on talent and has opportunities for key victories against the Seminoles, in-state rival South Carolina and SEC opponent Georgia in the opener.

 

Florida

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 3, Defense: 7

 

Key Games: 9/20 at Alabama, 11/1 Georgia, 11/29 at Florida State

 

Sure, Florida was a massive disappointment with its 4-8 record in 2013. However, there’s certainly no shortage of talent in Gainesville, and the Gators catch key East Division swing games against Missouri and South Carolina at home. Coach Will Muschamp is squarely on the hot seat and improving the offense was his top priority this spring. New coordinator Kurt Roper plans to speed up the tempo on offense and allow quarterback Jeff Driskel to work more out of the shotgun. Those changes should help an offense that averaged just 18.8 points per game last year. Driskel has to play better for Florida to challenge in the East, but a bigger problem on offense is the offensive line and the inconsistent play of the receivers. Lost in the struggles on offense last year was a defense that led the SEC in fewest yards per play allowed in conference games (5.09). Florida should be strong on that side of the ball once again in 2014, led by standout cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and end/linebacker Dante Fowler.
 

Georgia

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 9

Key Games: 8/30 Clemson, 9/13 at South Carolina, 11/15 Auburn

Everything that could go wrong seemed to go that way for Mark Richt’s team in 2013. The Bulldogs suffered a rash of injuries on offense, ranked near the bottom of the nation in turnover margin (-7) and lost four games by a touchdown or less. Expect Georgia to rebound in 2014, as 14 starters return, and the addition of Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator should pay immediate dividends. New quarterback Hutson Mason gained valuable experience after Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL late last year, while the Bulldogs have one of the SEC’s top collection of skill talent if running back Todd Gurley and receiver Malcolm Mitchell stay healthy. Georgia’s secondary is a significant concern – especially with Clemson and South Carolina to open the year – but the front seven should thrive under Pruitt’s watch.

 

Kansas State

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 5

 

Key Games: 9/18 Auburn, 10/18 at Oklahoma, 12/6 at Baylor

 

Never count out Bill Snyder’s team in the Big 12 discussion. The Wildcats finished 2013 on a tear, winning six out of their last seven games. During that stretch, Kansas State’s only loss was a 10-point defeat to Oklahoma. There’s plenty of optimism in Manhattan after the strong finish, as quarterback Jake Waters returns after throwing for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season with the Wildcats, and dynamic receiver Tyler Lockett is one of the best in the nation. Anchored by center B.J. Finney and tackle Cody Whitehair, Kansas State’s offensive line should be one of the best in the Big 12. Even with new faces set to emerge at running back, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for the Wildcats. However, there are concerns for a defense that returns only five starters. First-team All-Big 12 safety Ty Zimmerman will be missed, and linebacker Blake Slaughter departs after recording 110 stops last year. How quickly the new faces in the front seven emerge could be the difference in contending for the Big 12 title. With games against three projected top 10 teams (Auburn, Oklahoma and Baylor), Kansas State has a chance to build a strong case as a playoff team with victories in each contest.

 

LSU

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 6

 

Key Games: 10/4 at Auburn, 10/25 Ole Miss, 11/8 Alabama

 

It seems strange to place LSU in the dark horse national title category. After all, the Tigers have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. However, most believe LSU is due to take a step back in 2014, as this program has lost a significant amount of talent to the NFL over the last two years. Sure, this team will be young in a few spots, but Les Miles’ team isn’t short on talent. The passing attack may struggle early in the year with a new quarterback (Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris) under center, along with a revamped receiving corps. Expect to see the Tigers lean on one of the SEC’s top offensive lines and a backfield that features top freshman Leonard Fournette. Similar to the offense, defensive coordinator John Chavis will be relying on several underclassmen to improve a defense that allowed 5.7 yards per play in SEC contests last year. The biggest concern for Chavis has to be at defensive tackle, as the Tigers lose Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson are two of the rising stars in the SEC.
 

Notre Dame

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 4, Defense: 5

 

Key Games: 10/4 Stanford, 10/18 at Florida State, 11/29 at USC

 

The Fighting Irish’s hopes of a return trip to the national championship in 2013 were derailed with Everett Golson’s season-long suspension. Brian Kelly’s team still finished 9-4 last year, but most in South Bend expected a trip to a BCS bowl. Golson is back under center for Notre Dame this season, and his return should provide a boost for an offense that struggled with consistency in the passing attack in 2013. Golson will have plenty of help from a solid offensive line, along with an intriguing group of playmakers at running back. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has to rebuild the front seven, as nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt departed for the NFL. Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith is an emerging star, and cornerback KeiVarae Russell could challenge for All-America honors. Notre Dame will have strength of schedule on its side, playing 10 bowl teams from 2013. The Fighting Irish need their offense to carry the team early, but key matchups against Stanford, Florida State and USC are later in the year, which should allow Kelly’s team plenty of time to reload. 

 

Ole Miss

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 9

 

Key Games: 10/4 Alabama, 10/25 at LSU, 11/1 Auburn

 

The Rebels have made steady improvement under Hugh Freeze, winning 15 games over the last two seasons. The talent level in Oxford is also on the rise, as Ole Miss recruited the No. 8 class in 2013 and the No. 15 haul in 2014. With more talent and depth, combined with the roster turnover at Texas A&M and LSU, the Rebels are ready to make a move in the SEC West. The defense should rank among the best in the SEC, as the continued development of tackle Robert Nkemdiche should help a unit that allowed only 23.7 points per game last year. Safety Cody Prewitt is one of the nation’s most-underrated players. Depth on the offensive line is one of Freeze’s biggest concerns this season, but a healthy Bo Wallace at quarterback should make a big difference for the offense. With Auburn and Alabama visiting Oxford in 2014, Ole Miss will have a chance to play spoiler in the West.

 

TCU

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 3, Defense: 8

 

Key Games: 10/4 Oklahoma, 10/11 at Baylor, 11/8 Kansas State

 

Transitioning to the Big 12 from the Mountain West is a difficult assignment, and as expected, TCU has suffered its share of ups and downs over the last two years. But after a 4-8 mark last season, the Horned Frogs could be ready to turn a corner in 2014. Seven of TCU’s eight losses were by 10 points or less, with four coming by a three points or less. After struggling to win close games in 2013, coach Gary Patterson decided to switch schemes on offense, hiring Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) and Doug Meacham (Houston) to install a no-huddle, up-tempo attack. The scheme change should help TCU’s offense improve, especially if Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel settles into the starting quarterback role. The offense will be a work in progress in 2014, but the defense is one of the best in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs led the conference in rush defense and allowed only 4.8 yards per play in league contests last year. Expect another stingy defense from Patterson, while an improving offense should help TCU win their share of close games after struggling in that category in 2013.

 

Washington

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 7

 

Key Games: 9/27 Stanford, 10/18 at Oregon, 11/8 UCLA

 

Chris Petersen was one of the top hires of the 2014 coaching carousel, and the former Boise State coach inherits a Washington team that made steady improvement under Steve Sarkisian. Petersen is tasked with elevating the program to the next level, and the Huskies could be a factor in the Pac-12 North race this year. Cyler Miles is expected to start at quarterback, but the sophomore was suspended in spring practice due to an off-the-field incident. Miles was reinstated in time for summer workouts and should return to the top of the depth chart after serving a one-game suspension. While a new go-to running back must emerge to replace Bishop Sankey, the Huskies could have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines. Seven starters return from a defense that allowed only 22.8 points per game in 2013. This unit could be even better in 2014, as linebacker Shaq Thompson, cornerback Marcus Peters, end Hau’oli Kikaha and tackle Danny Shelton are all among the best defenders in the Pac-12. Petersen has work to do on both sides of the ball, but with UCLA and Stanford visiting Seattle, the Huskies can play spoiler in the North.

 

Wisconsin

 

Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 3

 

Key Games: 8/30 LSU, 11/15 Nebraska, 11/22 at Iowa

 

The Badgers return only eight starters from last year’s nine-win team, but a favorable schedule should soften the blow of the overhauled depth chart. As expected at Wisconsin, the offensive line and rushing attack will lead the way. Running back Melvin Gordon is a Heisman contender, and the line could be the best in the Big Ten. Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy are battling to start under center, and the Badgers need new faces to emerge at receiver with the departure of Jared Abbrederis. The revamped front seven on defense will get an early test with a matchup against LSU to open the season, but coach Gary Andersen has promising talent in freshmen ends Chikwe Obasih and Alec James, along with sophomore linebacker Vince Biegel. Helping Wisconsin’s case as a sleeper team in the playoff mix is a schedule that does not include Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State in crossover play with the East Division.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Dark Horse National Title Contenders for 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 07:15

Pages