Articles By Steven Lassan
The offensive line is often the most overlooked position for any college football team. While the linemen in the trenches don’t get enough credit, they are often the most important piece to a successful offense. Flashy skill talent and quarterbacks take home all of the accolades and headlines, but neither position can thrive without a solid offensive line.
Which teams are strongest in the trenches heading into the 2015 season? Five SEC teams rank among college football's best lines, while Ohio State and Michigan State give the Big Ten two teams inside of the top three.
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 2015 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference. These rankings reflect projection for 2015, not solely what teams have accomplished in 2014.
CFB's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015
New line coach Rob Sale couldn’t ask for a better way to begin his tenure in Athens. This unit allowed only 12 sacks in SEC games and excelled in run blocking by clearing lanes for rushers to average 6.0 yards per carry. All-SEC center David Andrews will be missed, but Sale’s group is set with the return of rising star Greg Pyke at guard, along with the standout tackle duo of John Theus and Kolton Houston. Brandon Kublanow is the favorite to replace Andrews at center.
The Spartans boasted one of the nation’s top offensive lines last season, and this unit is only getting better with the return of four starters, along with the emergence of sophomore guard Brian Allen. Left tackle Jack Conklin and center Jack Allen headline a group that gave up only 11 sacks last season and allowed rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. Senior guard Donavon Clark and right tackle Kodi Kieler anchor an experienced right side.
3. Ohio State
After a shaky start to the 2014 season, no line in the nation progressed as much as Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes gave up seven sacks in the loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 but allowed only 15 sacks in Big Ten games, and quarterback Cardale Jones was sacked once in the national title win over Oregon. Four starters are back, and the Buckeyes expect this group to be even stronger. Left tackle Taylor Decker and right guard Pat Elflein are the unit’s top performers and first-team Athlon Sports All-Americans for 2015. Jacoby Boren returns at center, while Billy Price (left guard) and Chase Farris (right tackle) round out the starting five.
The success of Baylor’s high-powered offense starts in the trenches. Left tackle Spencer Drango considered an early jump to the NFL, but the three-year starter is back and is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2015. Three other seniors join Drango up front, including guard Blake Muir and tackle Pat Colbert. Center Kyle Fuller started all 13 games last year and will push for all-conference honors in 2015. The coaching staff wants to develop more depth, but there are few concerns about the starting group. This unit gave up only one sack every 22 pass attempts and allowed Baylor rushers to average 4.5 yards per carry.
The Razorbacks return four starters from the nation’s largest offensive line. This unit cleared the way for rushers to average 5.1 yards per carry and allowed only 14 sacks in 2014. All five projected starters for 2015 weigh over 300 pounds, with converted guard Denver Kirkland slated to anchor the line at left tackle. Kirkland and Dan Skipper are among the SEC’s best up front, and the tackle duo will have plenty of support from the starters on the interior. Sebastian Tretola is a mauling 322-pound guard, and senior Mitch Smothers enters 2015 with 21 career starts. Sophomore Frank Ragnow is the only new starter for this unit.
The Tigers must replace standout center Reese Dismukes and guard Chad Slade, but this unit remains a strength for coach Gus Malzahn. Three starters are back, including tackle Avery Young and left tackle Shon Coleman. The return of guard Alex Kozan from a back injury should bolster the interior, while Austin Golson and Xavier Dampeer are locked into a tight battle to replace Dismukes at center. Promising sophomore Braden Smith is expected to start at right guard. This unit allowed only 10 sacks in SEC play last season.
LSU’s passing offense is once again surrounded in mystery. However, there’s no doubt about the strength of the Tigers’ offense. The rushing attack should be among the best in the SEC and is anchored by rising star Leonard Fournette. The line is also a big part of LSU’s success on the ground, as three starters return from a unit that helped the Tigers average 224.5 rushing yards per game in 2014. Tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins are among the best in the SEC, while Ethan Pocic (a returning starter) is penciled in at left guard. Freshman Will Clapp (center) and Garrett Brumfield (right guard) should round out the starting five.
The Crimson Tide’s offensive line is undergoing some renovations with the loss of three starters. However, line coach Mario Cristobal has plenty of talent to develop, while the two returning starters – left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly – are among the best in the nation at their position. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is expected to start at left guard, while Bradley Bozeman and Alphonse Taylor are battling for snaps at right guard. Senior Dominick Jackson has the inside track at right tackle.
The Trojans need to settle on a starting five, but this unit has plenty of promise and talent leading the way for one of the nation’s top offenses. Solidifying the left tackle position is critical, as junior Chad Wheeler is working his way back from a knee injury suffered in 2014. Toa Lobendahn could start at left tackle if Wheeler isn’t ready, or the talented sophomore could shift inside to left guard. Max Tuerk is arguably the nation’s best center, while the Trojans also boast returning starters at right tackle (Zach Banner) and right guard (Viane Talamaivao).
Protecting quarterback Trevone Boykin won’t be a problem for TCU in 2015. The Horned Frogs return four starters from a unit that allowed 23 sacks in 13 games last season. Hala Vaitai missed time in the spring due to a shoulder injury, but the senior is penciled in at left tackle after starting on the right side last year. Center Joey Hunt is among the nation’s best, while fellow seniors Jamelle Naff and Brady Foltz round out the returning starters.
12. Notre Dame
13. Texas Tech
14. Boise State
15. Georgia Tech
18. Texas A&M
19. Ole Miss
23. Kansas State
25. North Carolina
27. Oklahoma State
30. Bowling Green
The balance of power in the Big Ten clearly rests with Ohio State and the East Division in 2015. The Buckeyes are a heavy favorite to repeat as college football’s national champion, and one look at the expert poll results for the best players in the Big Ten solidifies why coach Urban Meyer’s team is the No. 1 pick for 2015.
Ohio State had four players voted among the top six, including two quarterbacks – J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones – while defensive end Joey Bosa was voted No. 1 among the experts polled by Athlon Sports. Additionally, Michigan State had two of the top six selections in this poll, and no player from a West Division team finished among the top 10 in this vote.
With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who are the best 15 players in the Big Ten for 2015?
In order to rank the top 15 players in the Big Ten for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.
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.
Ranking the Big Ten's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
(24 first-place votes)
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
(7 first-place votes)
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
(2 first-place votes)
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
(2 first-place votes)
|5||Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State||317|
|6||Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State||243|
|7||Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State||238|
|8||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State||225|
|9||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State||214|
|10||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State||183|
|11||Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin||169|
|12||Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State||153|
|13||Jack Allen, C, Michigan State||116|
|14||Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska||96|
|15||Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers||68|
|16||Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State||63|
|17||Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State||56|
|18||Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State||46|
|19||De'Mornay Pierson-El, WR/RS, Nebraska||32|
|20||DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State||29|
|21||Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State||27|
|22||Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin||23|
|23||Drew Ott, DE, Iowa||22|
|24||Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan||21|
|25||Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern||14|
|26T||Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota||11|
|26T||Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana||11|
|26T||Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State||11|
|29||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State||10|
|30T||Pat Elflein, OG, Ohio State||9|
|30T||Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State||9|
|32T||Jake Butt, TE, Michigan||7|
|32T||De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota||7|
|34T||William Likely, CB, Maryland||6|
|34T||Tyler Marz, LT, Wisconsin||6|
|34T||Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska||6|
|34T||Tanner McEvoy, WR/S, Wisconsin||6|
|34T||Brad Craddock, P, Maryland||6|
|39T||Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State||5|
|39T||Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois||5|
|39T||Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue||5|
|39T||Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska||5|
|43T||Jake Rudock, QB, Michigan||4|
|43T||Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin||4|
|45T||Jake Duzey, TE, Iowa||3|
|45T||Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, Minnesota||3|
|47||Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana||2|
|48T||Frankie Williams, DB, Purdue||1|
|48T||Sam Foltz, P, Nebraska||1|
|48T||Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin||1|
|48T||Lawrence Thomas, DE/DT, Michigan State||1|
There’s plenty of uncertainty at quarterback in the SEC for 2015, but talent certainly isn’t an issue among the league’s 14 teams. And needless to say, pairing down the SEC’s talent to the top 15 players is no easy assignment. However, that’s the task Athlon recently assigned over 40 experts.
With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who are the best 15 players in the SEC for 2015?
In order to rank the top 15 players in the SEC for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.
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.
Ranking the SEC's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
(20 first-place votes)
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
(11 first-place votes)
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
(3 first-place votes)
|4||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss||398|
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
(3 first-place votes)
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
(2 first-place votes)
A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
(1 first-place vote)
|8||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M||250|
|9||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee||229|
|10||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss||228|
|11||Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina||179|
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
(2 first-place votes)
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
(1 first-place vote)
|14T||Duke Williams, WR, Auburn||134|
|14T||Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama||134|
|16||Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn||96|
|17||Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia||74|
|18||Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas||61|
|19||Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia||46|
|20||Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn||44|
|21||Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU||41|
|22||Jalen Mills, DB, LSU||29|
|23||Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri||23|
|24||Joshua Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M||20|
|25||Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas||18|
|26||Curt Maggitt, DL/LB, Tennessee||16|
|27||Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss||15|
|28T||Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee||14|
|28T||Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss||14|
|30T||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU||12|
|30T||Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas||12|
|32T||Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee||11|
|32T||The Entire Arkansas OL||11|
|32T||Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State||11|
|35T||Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama||9|
|35T||Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee||9|
|35T||Jamal Adams, S, LSU||9|
|38T||Jovon Robinson, RB, Auburn||8|
|38T||Greg Pyke, OL, Georgia||8|
|38T||Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida||8|
|41T||Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU||6|
|41T||Melvin Lewis, DL, Kentucky||6|
|41T||Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri||6|
|44||Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss||5|
|45T||Dan Skipper, OT, Arkansas||3|
|45T||Sebastian Tretola, OG, Arkansas||3|
|45T||Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn||3|
|45T||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama||3|
|45T||Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M||3|
|50T||Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama||2|
|50T||Patrick Towles, QB, Kentucky||2|
|50T||Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn||2|
|50T||Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M||2|
|54T||De'Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State||1|
|54T||Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt||1|
|54T||Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas||1|
|54T||Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M||1|
|54T||Russell Hansbrough, RB, Missouri||1|
Nebraska’s offense suffered a setback on Wednesday, as receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El was ruled out for six to eight weeks after a foot injury in fall camp. Pierson-El was slated to be a key piece of the Cornhuskers’ passing game in 2015 under new coach Mike Riley.
Pierson-El finished third on the team with 23 catches for 321 yards and four touchdowns last season but expected to see more passes in his direction with the departure of Kenny Bell, along with Nebraska’s new offense under Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
The overall receiving totals don’t explain how valuable Pierson-El was to Nebraska last season. As a freshman in 2014, he was a dynamic punt returner, averaging 17.5 yards per return and scored three times.
In addition to his role on special teams, Pierson-El was pegged as an all-purpose threat for the Cornhuskers’ offense. At Oregon State, Riley and Langsdorf frequently used receivers on handoffs on fly sweeps or in quick passes in space. Pierson-El has the ability to be a dynamic gamechanger for the offense, and the new role was a great fit for his talent.
While Pierson-El’s absence will be felt on an offense transitioning to more of a pro-style approach from a spread, he could return for the meat of Nebraska’s season. The Cornhuskers play BYU, South Alabama, Miami, Southern Miss and Illinois before a critical Big Ten West showdown against Wisconsin on Oct. 10. There’s a good shot Pierson-El is back in the lineup before the game against the Badgers, which could decide the Big Ten West.
In the meantime, Nebraska can lean on an experienced core of Jordan Westerkamp, Jamal Turner, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore at receiver. But does this offense have a versatile, all-purpose threat to lean on until Pierson-El is back? That’s the key task for Riley and Langsdorf to decide in the remaining days of fall camp.
What adjustments will the Cornhuskers make for the opener? How will the offense change? Those are two key questions to watch against BYU, which certainly isn’t a guaranteed victory. And the road date at Miami gets a little tougher too with Pierson-El sidelined.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of fall camp for any college football team. While Pierson-El’s injury has to alter Nebraska’s gameplan just a bit early in the season, the dynamic sophomore should return in time for the biggest game on the schedule (Wisconsin). Not having Pierson-El for a full year is a setback. However, getting the sophomore back in time for a the Big Ten stretch is a huge plus for Riley and Langsdorf, as well as Nebraska's hopes of winning the Big Ten West Division.
TCU or Baylor? That’s the big question at the top of the Big 12 in 2015. The Bears and Horned Frogs shared the conference crown last season, with Baylor claiming the head-to-head victory in a 61-58 shootout in early October.
The debate between Baylor and TCU continued this offseason, and the Big 12 player rankings reflect the balance of power in the conference. In Athlon’s expert poll, the Bears and Horned Frogs claimed four of the top six spots.
With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who are the best 15 players in the Big 12 for 2015?
In order to rank the top 15 players in the Big 12 for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.
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.
Ranking the Big 12's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
(18 first-place votes)
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
(1 first-place vote)
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
(1 first-place vote)
Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor
(1 first-place vote)
|5||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State||231|
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
(1 first-place vote)
|7||Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma||158|
|8||Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia||149|
|9||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor||126|
|10||Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech||120|
|11||Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma||92|
|12||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU||84|
|13||Pete Robertson, DE, Texas Tech||50|
|14||Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor||45|
|15||Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma||44|
|16||Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State||39|
|17||Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State||33|
|18||Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, West Virginia||20|
|19T||KD Cannon, WR, Baylor||19|
|19T||Cody Whitehair, OT, Kansas State||19|
|21||Davion Pierson, DT, TCU||18|
|22||Joey Hunt, C, TCU||17|
|23||Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State||16|
|24||Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia||14|
|25||Seth Russell, QB, Baylor||13|
|26||Aaron Green, RB, TCU||9|
|27||Tyler Orlosky, C, West Virginia||6|
|28||Danzel McDaniel, CB, Kansas State||5|
|29T||Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia||4|
|29T||Ryan Simmons, LB, Oklahoma State||4|
|31T||Derrick Kindred, S, TCU||1|
|31T||DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech||1|
|31T||Sam Richardson, QB, Iowa State||1|
* TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin ranked No. 1 or No. 2 on all 22 ballots.
* Baylor led all teams with seven selections. TCU ranked second with six picks, while West Virginia was third with five players receiving votes.
* Kansas and Texas were the only teams to not have a player receive a vote in the expert poll.
* The top 10 players receiving votes were split evenly among the offense (five) and defense (five).
The Pac-12 is generally known for its high-scoring offenses. While there’s plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball in 2015, the Pac-12 returns two of the nation’s top defenders in UCLA’s Myles Jack and Arizona’s Scooby Wright. This linebacker duo earned the top two spots in Athlon’s Pac-12 media expert poll, but the offense playmakers and top quarterbacks weren't far behind.
With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who are the best 15 players in the Pac-12 for 2015?
In order to rank the top 15 players in the Pac-12 for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.
Ranking the Pac-12's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
|1||Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona|
(16 first-place votes)
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
|3||Cody Kessler, QB, USC|
(2 first-place votes)
|4||Jared Goff, QB, California||181|
|5T||Devontae Booker, RB, Utah||175|
|5T||Su'a Cravens, LB, USC||175|
|7||DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon||160|
|8||Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon||154|
|9||Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR, USC||151|
|10||Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA||82|
|11||Max Tuerk, C, USC||81|
|12||D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State||61|
|13||Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado||48|
|14||Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford||44|
|15||Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA||43|
|16||JuJu Smith, WR, USC||27|
|17||Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona||24|
|18||Budda Baker, S, Washington||21|
|19||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford||20|
|20||Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon||19|
|21||Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon||16|
|22||Hunter Dimick, DE, Utah||9|
|23||Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona||8|
|24||Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon||7|
|25T||Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State||6|
|25T||Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford||6|
|27T||Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State||5|
|27T||Pharoh Brown, TE, Oregon||5|
|27T||Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA||5|
|30T||Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State||4|
|30T||Kenny Lawler, WR, California||4|
|32T||Gionni Paul, LB, Utah||3|
|32T||Tom Hackett, P, Utah||3|
|32T||Jake Brendel, C, UCLA||3|
|35||Joshua Garnett, OL, Stanford||2|
|36T||Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado||1|
|36T||Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA||1|
|36T||Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon||1|
|36T||Deon Hollins, LB, UCLA||1|
* UCLA and Oregon tied at seven with the most selections by team.
* Balance of power? 23 of the 39 players receiving votes play in the South Division. Additionally, seven of the top 10 selections play for teams in the Pac-12 South.
* 11 of the Pac-12’s 12 teams were represented in this poll.
* Seven quarterbacks received votes, including UCLA freshman Josh Rosen.
Alabama’s quarterback battle is one of the biggest in college football this fall, and the ongoing competition to replace Blake Sims took an interesting turn on Monday. Senior Jake Coker – considered by some to be the favorite – missed practice due to a minor foot injury and will be out “several days” according to AL.com.
With Coker out indefinitely, the focus in Tuscaloosa shifts to redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett. Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman are also competing for snaps, but Cornwell was considered Coker’s biggest challenger, and Barnett was a five-star recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite.
After suffering a knee injury as a high school senior in 2013, Cornwell benefitted from a redshirt season in 2014. The strong-armed Oklahoma native also has nearly the same amount of experience as Coker within coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense.
In the spring game, Cornwell completed 12 of 24 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown, while Coker led all quarterbacks with 183 yards on 14 completions.
Barnett might have the most all-around ability of any Alabama quarterback on the roster, but how quickly can he adapt to the offense? Would the Crimson Tide start a true freshman at quarterback?
Considering Cornwell was already pushing Coker for the No. 1 job, Monday’s news of a foot injury for Coker could alter this race. With Week 1 preparations right around the corner, the opportunity to stake a claim for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart is getting smaller.
While Alabama’s quarterback battle will draw plenty of attention and is surrounded with significant uncertainty, it’s important to remember just how this team is built. The Crimson Tide won’t need a 300-yard passer every week. With one of the nation’s top defenses and rushing attacks, the quarterback simply needs to be efficient and eliminate the big mistakes.
With another scrimmage coming on Saturday, Alabama could have clarity in its quarterback battle. However, after Coker’s injury, the focus under center has shifted to the freshmen: Barnett and Cornwell.
Will Cornwell (a pocket passer) or Barnett (more of a dual-threat option) stake a claim for the starting job this week or in the final scrimmage?
The door is open for both players to make a move while Coker is sidelined.
Some of the ACC’s biggest names and best players from the 2014 season are playing on Sundays this fall, but the league still has a strong core of talent for 2015. The ACC boasts a solid overall group of quarterbacks and talent on defense with the return of Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller.
With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who is the best player in the ACC this year?
In order to rank the top 15 players in the ACC for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.
Podcast: Complete 2015 ACC Preview and Predictions
Ranking the ACC's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
|1||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (7 first-place votes)||281|
|2||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (6)||278|
|3||James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh (7)||276|
|4||Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech||242|
|5||Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh (1)||227|
|6||Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech||152|
|7||Jeremy Cash, S, Duke||122|
|8||Quin Blanding, S, Virginia||109|
|9||Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech||105|
|10||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State||103|
|11||Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami||77|
|12T||Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina||69|
|12T||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson||69|
|14||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson||44|
|15||Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State||39|
|16||Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson||35|
|17T||Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State||29|
|17T||Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State||29|
|19||Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina||28|
|20||Everett Golson, QB, Florida State||26|
|21||Terrance Smith, LB, Florida State||23|
|22T||Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech||22|
|22T||Devonte Fields, DE/LB, Louisville||22|
|24||Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville||20|
|25||James Burgess, LB, Louisville||19|
|26||Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville||14|
|27||Nate Andrews, DB, Florida State||12|
|28||Jon Hilliman, RB, Boston College||10|
|29T||Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh||6|
|29T||Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina||6|
|29T||Mario Pender, RB, Florida State||6|
|32||Ken Ekanem, DE, Virginia Tech||5|
|33T||Matt Skura, C, Duke||3|
|33T||Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech||3|
|35T||Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech||2|
|35T||Brandon Chubb, LB, Wake Forest||2|
|35T||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson||2|
|38T||Reggie Northrup, LB, Florida State||1|
|38T||Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson||1|
|38T||Matt Dayes, RB, NC State||1|
* Four players received first-place votes. Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Pittsburgh running back James Conner received the most first-place votes (seven). Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson received six, while Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd received one.
* Four of the top 12 players in this poll were quarterbacks. According to the voting panel, Watson is No. 1, followed by Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and North Carolina’s Marquise Williams.
* Seven different teams were represented in the top 10.
* Despite the uncertainty surrounding his status for 2015, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook ranked No. 10 in this expert poll.
* Florida State (nine) had the most players voted for in this expert poll. Clemson was second with six, followed by Virginia Tech (five) and Louisville (four).
Arkansas’ mighty ground attack suffered a setback this weekend, as the school announced running back Jonathan Williams will miss an extended period of time after a foot injury in a weekend scrimmage.
According to a release from the school, Williams’ left foot injury will require surgery and the timetable for his return is uncertain.
Williams is one of the nation’s top running backs after recording 1,190 yards and 12 scores last season. The senior turned down an opportunity to head to the NFL for one more year with the Razorbacks.
While the timetable for Williams’ return is uncertain, Arkansas’ schedule is manageable in most of September. The Razorbacks host UTEP, Toledo and Texas Tech before the SEC opener against Texas A&M.
The matchup against the Aggies is arguably the first game where Williams would be needed. That’s over a month in terms of a recovery. Optimistically, a return in the Sept. 26 neutral site affair would be the best-case scenario for Williams. On the negative side, Williams could be out even longer.
While Williams is a key piece of Arkansas’ offense, the good news is junior Alex Collins is capable of carrying the rushing attack and is also one of the top running backs in the nation.
Collins rushed for 1,100 yards and 12 scores last season and led the team with 1,026 yards in 2013. The junior has been pushed by coach Bret Bielema this offseason and went into fall camp in better shape.
Collins has been one of the SEC’s top running backs over the last two years and a little extra commitment and improved speed is a dangerous thought for defensive coordinators in the SEC.
After working as co-No. 1’s in Arkansas’ backfield over the last two years, Collins is now the go-to back for the Razorbacks until Williams is back in action.
How much will Arkansas utilize Collins early in September? Without Williams, keeping Collins healthy is now a priority. Expect to see Kody Walker and Rawleigh Williams III filling in for Williams during the non-conference action, which should allow Collins to stay fresh and limit the wear and tear until SEC play on Sept. 26 against Texas A&M.
There’s no doubt Arkansas will miss Jonathan Williams. However, Collins, Walker and Williams III are capable of keeping the ground attack in good shape through the non-conference portion. Additionally, the Razorbacks expect quarterback Brandon Allen to improve in his senior year.
Assuming Williams returns in time for late September or early October, Arkansas shouldn’t miss a beat and will be positioned for improvement in SEC play. If Williams is out longer, his injury becomes a bigger issue for the Razorbacks and a hindrance to the hopes of improving into the top of the SEC West. Even if Williams is out for more than a month, the ground attack is in good shape with an improving (and more dangerous) Collins toting the ball 25-30 times a game.
Vanderbilt unveiled its new alternate uniforms for 2015 during its annual Dore Jam, and the school hit a home run with this design.
The alternate look is the nicknamed “Deep Water” and features a gray uniform with a chrome helmet.
The new alternate look goes with the traditional black, white and gold uniforms the school will wear in 2015.
Check out Vanderbilt’s new alternate uniforms:
#DeepWater (@VandyFootball) August 16, 2015
Jim Harbaugh’s fingerprints are all over the Michigan football program in 2015, and the first-year coach reportedly plans on making an alteration to the Wolverines’ away uniforms.
According to thewolverine.com, Michigan is changing its road uniforms to an all-white design. Usually, the Wolverines wear white jerseys and maize pants in away games. The new all-white look is a tribute to the 1974 team and could be used in all of Michigan’s road contests in 2015.
Here’s a look at Michigan’s new all-white uniforms for 2015:
The pants: pic.twitter.com/udd3aGHjhf— Chris Balas (@Balas_Wolverine) August 15, 2015
This is the 1974 road uniform that Michigan will wear this season: pic.twitter.com/OvJijhFCKV— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) August 15, 2015
The battle to replace Marcus Mariota as Oregon’s starting quarterback is officially underway. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams passed a math test on Thursday, allowing the senior quarterback to receive his undergraduate degree and join the Ducks in time for fall practice.
Adams announced his intentions to transfer to Oregon prior to spring practice but was unable to officially join the team until graduating from Eastern Washington. In three years with the Eagles, Adams recorded over 10,000 total yards and threw 110 touchdown passes.
Oregon started fall camp on Aug. 10, so Adams is joining his new team a few days late in fall camp. Additionally, Jeff Lockie had a good spring and was able to spend the summer working as the No. 1 quarterback and build a rapport with the supporting cast.
Here’s a quick overview of the Lockie-Adams battle:
Enters fourth season on Oregon’s roster. Redshirted as a freshman but played as Mariota’s backup in each of the last two years. Has an edge in experience and grasp of system.
Working with the No. 1 offense in the spring was a boost for Lockie’s chances of winning the starting job.
Edge in talent goes to Adams.
Made strides within the offense in the spring but has just 41 career pass attempts with the Ducks.
Not as dynamic of a runner as Adams or Mariota.
Dynamic playmaker and a good fit for Oregon’s offense as a dual-threat option.
Has an edge in overall talent against Lockie.
Most experience as a starting quarterback on the Oregon roster.
Late arrival to fall practice makes it difficult to win the starting job before the opener.
How quickly will it take Adams to adjust to the FBS level of competition?
Not the biggest quarterback (around 6-foot). Will finding throwing lanes against bigger and more talented defenses prove problematic?
How’s this for a storyline? Oregon’s first game of the year is against Vernon Adams’ old team – Eastern Washington. Although Adams holds the edge in talent and is a good fit for the Ducks’ high-powered offense, Lockie’s experience within the system is will be tough to beat after a late arrival to fall camp. Although Mariota will be missed, Lockie and Adams are reliable options for coach Mark Helfrich. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both quarterbacks play significant snaps in the first few games.
Prediction: Lockie opens the year as the starter, but Adams eventually takes over the job.
Rankings are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s preseason projections or the in-season polls from the playoff committee, rankings generate discussion and interest from all 128 fanbases.
While some argue preseason rankings have too much of an impact on the actual in-season product, the reality is a playoff contender or national champion can come from anywhere. Need proof? Auburn was unranked to start 2013, yet played in the national championship against Florida State.
Could another surprise team (or two) sneak their way into playoff contention in 2015? Using Athlon’s projected final top 25 for this season, let’s examine a few dark horse playoff contenders and biggest concerns for all 10 teams.
College Football's Top 10 Dark Horse Playoff Contenders
(Note: Only teams outside of Athlon's projected top 10 for 2015 were selected for this article)
1. Notre Dame
Why Notre Dame Can Make the College Football Playoff: Experience isn’t a necessity to contend for a playoff bid. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt Notre Dame’s cause to have 16 returning starters. Quarterback Malik Zaire showed promise in limited snaps last season and assumes the starting role after Everett Golson transferred to Florida State. Zaire lacks experience, but he’s got potential to thrive in coach Brian Kelly’s system. The Fighting Irish also have a strong supporting cast for Zaire, including a standout offensive line and top four receivers from 2014. The defense struggled with injuries, coordinator transition and the loss of a two key players before the start of last season. A year later, Notre Dame’s only “new” starter for 2015 is KeiVarae Russell off academic suspension. Improvement should be noticeable for Kelly’s defense this fall.
Biggest Concerns: It’s dangerous to read too much into trends, but it is worth noting Notre Dame has won more than nine games just once over the last five years. Making the leap from eight to 11 or 12 victories will be a challenge, especially with eight bowl teams dotting the schedule in 2015. Zaire is one of the top breakout candidates this season, but will there be growing pains in his first year as the starter? The defense allowed 29.2 points and over 400 total yards per game last year. While the added depth and experience will help, can the Fighting Irish make the necessary leap from struggling defense to shutdown group?
Why Clemson Can Make the College Football Playoff: The path to an ACC Championship isn’t overly difficult for the Tigers. Georgia Tech and Florida State visit Death Valley, and the Tigers catch Notre Dame at home in non-conference play. Even though Chad Morris is now the head coach at SMU, the offense should continue to perform at a high level behind quarterback Deshaun Watson and one of the nation’s top groups of skill talent. The defense returns only two starters, but coordinator Brent Venables should keep this unit near the top of the ACC.
Biggest Concerns: Sure, the schedule is favorable. But the Tigers still have to navigate road trips to Louisville and NC State in conference action. Will Watson hold up for a full season after recovering from ACL surgery? The offensive line is coach Dabo Swinney’s biggest concern, as only one starter is back from last season, and true freshman Mitch Hyatt will anchor the left tackle spot.
3. Ole Miss
Why Ole Miss Can Make the College Football Playoff: Defense. The Rebels limited opponents to just 16 points a game last season and could be even stingier in 2015. Seven starters return for coordinator Dave Wommack, including tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Conner. It’s not a stretch to say Ole Miss could have the SEC’s best defense this fall. Quarterback play and establishing the run are question marks for the offense, but the receiving corps should be among the best in the nation, especially with standout Laquon Treadwell back to full strength. The offensive line struggled last season but improvement should be noticeable with five returning starters and better depth. Matchups against Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU take place in Oxford, and the Rebels miss Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee in crossover play with the East Division.
Biggest Concerns: Even though the defense needs to solidify the linebacking corps and has two new starters at cornerback, there’s very little for coach Hugh Freeze to worry about. The offense? Well, that’s a different story. Will the Rebels end fall camp with an answer at quarterback? Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade are competing for the No. 1 job, with Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback and JUCO transfer – considered the favorite to start the opener. The Rebels averaged only 155.5 rushing yards last season. Will the offense develop a consistent ground attack? Road trips to Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn are challenging.
Why LSU Can Make the College Football Playoff: Any of the seven teams in the rugged SEC West has an opportunity to reach one of the four spots in the playoff. Strength of schedule is on the West Division’s side, and the No. 1 from this league will have an opportunity to earn several marquee wins. LSU also has one of the nation’s most talented rosters. Over the last five years, the Tigers average a 6.8 finish in national recruiting rankings, which checks in No. 4 nationally. The three teams ahead of LSU? Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – the last three national champions. The secondary is among the best in the nation, and linebacker Kendell Beckwith’s emergence provided a boost to the run defense in the second half of 2014. The offense has its share of question marks, but running back Leonard Fournette could be the best in college football. Three starters return on one of the SEC’s top offensive lines.
Biggest Concerns: Quarterback play. Talent level and strength of schedule at the end of the year will matter little if LSU doesn’t get better quarterback play than it did in 2014. The Tigers averaged only 162.9 passing yards per game and tossed only seven touchdowns in SEC action. The battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris is expected to last until the end of fall camp. While the talent level is strong on defense, the pass rush hasn’t been as dominant in recent years. Also, will this defense struggle with the transition to new coordinator Kevin Steele?
5. Boise State
Why Boise State Can Make the College Football Playoff: Outside of Ohio State, there’s not a team with an easier path to an unbeaten record. Boise State should be favored in nearly all of its games in 2015, with road trips to BYU, Virginia, Colorado State and Utah State the toughest contests for coach Bryan Harsin’s team. The Broncos need to find a new starting quarterback and running back, but the rest of the depth chart is in great shape. Boise State’s offensive and defensive lines should rank among the top 10-15 nationally, and the secondary ranks as the best in the Mountain West.
Biggest Concerns: Boise State usually has no trouble finding the next stars at quarterback or running back. However, until the new faces clearly emerge, the quarterback and running back spots will be a question mark. The Broncos also need to do a better job eliminating big plays allowed. In 14 games last season, Boise State’s defense gave up 34 plays of 40 yards or more. The secondary also has room to improve after giving up 39 plays of 20 yards or more (ranked 11th in the Mountain West). But the big question about Boise State isn’t about personnel. Will an undefeated record or 11-1 mark get the Broncos in consideration for a playoff bid?
Why Oklahoma Can Make the College Football Playoff: Oklahoma’s final record in 2014 was only 8-5, but the Sooners weren’t far off from winning 10 games last season. Coach Bob Stoops’ team lost by three in overtime to Oklahoma State, by one to Kansas State and by four to TCU. After recording a negative turnover margin (-5) in 2014, getting into the positive side of the turnover battle could swing a couple of games in Oklahoma’s direction. Also, despite last year’s disappointing record, the Sooners still have one of the Big 12’s most talented rosters. Could the new scheme and addition of coordinator Lincoln Riley catch the Big 12 by surprise? The change in offensive coordinators certainly worked with TCU last season. Oklahoma’s backfield is arguably the best in college football, and the receiving corps has options with Sterling Shepard and intriguing junior college recruit Dede Westbrook.
Biggest Concerns: Who will start at quarterback for Riley? Although the Sooners won’t go away from Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Alex Ross on the ground, the passing attack has to show progress for Oklahoma to win the Big 12. Additionally, four new starters must be found on the offensive line. The defense has star power with the return of linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zack Sanchez. However, question marks remain up front and in the secondary. The road schedule in conference play features trips to Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
7. Texas A&M
Why Texas A&M Can Make the College Football Playoff: Once again, Texas A&M’s offense should be among the best in the SEC. The Aggies are loaded with skill talent, return three starters on the line and a rising star at quarterback in Kyle Allen. The defense has lagged at times since joining the SEC, but there’s reason for optimism with the addition of John Chavis at coordinator. The overall talent and depth level has improved on defense under coach Kevin Sumlin, especially in the trenches where the Aggies return standout sophomore Myles Garrett, talented freshman Daylon Mack and seniors Alonzo Williams and Julien Obioha. The schedule is also favorable for a run at the SEC West title. Texas A&M plays Vanderbilt and South Carolina in crossover games with the East Division and hosts Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama.
Biggest Concerns: Can the Aggies find the next star at left tackle? Cedric Ogbuehi departed College Station for the NFL, leaving a massive void on the left side. Junior Avery Gennesy could be the answer at left tackle and will be under the spotlight early in 2015. The line also needs to generate a better push on the ground. In eight SEC games last season, Texas A&M averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. While defensive improvement should be anticipated under Chavis, is this group a year away from drastically changing the numbers on the stat sheet? The secondary is the biggest concern for Chavis after this unit allowed SEC quarterbacks to complete 60.9 percent of their passes in 2014.
Why Arizona State Can Make the College Football Playoff: Todd Graham has transformed Arizona State into a consistent Pac-12 title contender in just three years. The Sun Devils have back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 1972-73. Even with a few personnel concerns, the Sun Devils should be in good shape to reach 10 wins once again in 2015. New quarterback Mike Bercovici shined in limited action last season, and the coaching staff bolstered the receiving corps with the addition of graduate transfer Devin Lucien and D.J. Foster's move from running back. Graham’s aggressive defense returns seven starters from a group that forced 27 turnovers and 39 sacks in 2014.
Biggest Concerns: Will the Sun Devils reload in the trenches after losing both starting offensive tackles from 2014? Will Bercovici continue to play at a high level for the full season? The defense is in relatively good shape, but Graham needs to find a player to fill the Devilbacker role and eliminate some of the big plays this unit allowed last year. Arizona State ranked last in the Pac-12 by giving up 40 plays of 30 yards or more last season. The schedule isn’t kind, as the Sun Devils play Texas A&M in a neutral site affair to open the year, host USC, Arizona and Oregon, while making road trips to UCLA, Utah and California.
Related: Pac-12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
Why UCLA Can Make the College Football Playoff: The Bruins are experienced and loaded for a run at the Pac-12 championship. UCLA has won at least nine games in each of coach Jim Mora’s three seasons and finished No. 10 in last year’s final poll. The Bruins return 17 starters, including defensive standouts Myles Jack (LB), Eddie Vanderdoes (DL) and rising star Kenny Clark (DT). The addition of Tom Bradley as the team’s coordinator is also another reason to believe UCLA can own one of the Pac-12’s top defenses in 2015. While a quarterback must emerge to replace Brett Hundley, the supporting cast is in place to ease the new signal-caller into the lineup. The Bruins return standout running back Paul Perkins, five starters on the offensive line and the top five receivers from last season.
Biggest Concerns: UCLA’s hopes of winning the Pac-12 and contending for the playoffs relies heavily on settling the quarterback battle between Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen. Neuheisel has the edge in experience, but Rosen is one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2015 signing class and enrolled in time to compete this spring. Is it asking too much for a true freshman to lead UCLA to the Pac-12 title? The offensive line played better in the second half of last season but still surrendered 40 sacks. While the defense should be among the best in the conference, linebacker Eric Kendricks and end Owa Odighizuwa will be missed.
Why Stanford Can Make the College Football Playoff: For the first time under coach David Shaw, Stanford is coming off a season of fewer than 11 wins. However, the Cardinal is positioned for a quick turnaround after an 8-5 mark in 2014. The offense finished the year on a high note, scoring at least 31 points in each of its last three games. Quarterback Kevin Hogan was a catalyst during that span, throwing for 234 yards and two scores against UCLA and 189 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland. Assuming Hogan picks up where he left off, Stanford’s offense should show marked improvement on the stat sheet. The offensive line is among the best in the Pac-12, sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey is poised for a breakout year, and the coaching staff has assembled a good collection of receivers and tight ends. Despite returning only four starters, Stanford’s defense shouldn’t slip too far on the stat sheet. The Cardinal also catch a break in scheduling, hosting Arizona, UCLA, California, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Biggest Concerns: Will Stanford’s offense pickup where it left off last year or resort to the sluggish version that showed up for a large portion of 2014? The defense returns enough pieces to prevent a significant drop in performance, but the line is thin on depth, and the secondary lost three starters. Just how fast will this unit mesh the new additions to the lineup with the returning starters in September?
UCLA’s classic white and blue uniforms are some of the best in the Pac-12, but the program has mixed in new alternate designs in recent years. On Thursday, UCLA and adidas unveiled a new “City” alternate for the Bruins to wear in 2015.
The new all-black alternate features metallic classic UCLA stripes, as well as metallic gold numbers with a blue outline. Additionally, the Bruins will swap out the gold helmet for a black design.
Check out the full release from the school on the new alternate uniforms for 2015:
It’s a new era for Nebraska football in 2015. Bo Pelini was jettisoned after leading the Cornhuskers to at least nine wins in every year from 2008-14. Needless to say, the bar is set high in Lincoln, and Nebraska expects to contend (and win) Big Ten titles.
New coach Mike Riley inherits a team capable of winning the West Division, but also a roster with question marks on both sides of the ball and a transition in schemes.
How will Mike Riley’s first season at Nebraska pan out? Will the Cornhuskers finish with nine wins once again? Or can Riley make an immediate impact in his first season in Lincoln?
Athlon polled a few writers to get their take on Nebraska’s realistic 2015 win/loss projection.
Nebraska Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2015
If Tommy Armstrong improves his accuracy and a pass-rusher, or two, emerges, there’s potential in Mike Riley’s first season. The offense could be pretty good — yes, even with Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell playing on Sundays. Jordan Westerkamp, De’Mornay Pierson-El and Jamal Turner are talented targets who will make plays, often in exciting highlight fashion. The running game, while inexperienced and unproven, has some nice depth. As for the defense, it’s impossible not to like the tackle tandem of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine, massive bodies who should make finding the aforementioned pass rusher(s) a little easier.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I'll probably have my Omaha home egged for saying this, but the only "gimmies" on Nebraska's schedule are South Alabama and Southern Miss. BYU to open the season is no slouch, but the Huskers are the better team talent-wise and playing at home, so I'll count that as a win. They have Miami on the road, but I like Nebraska's matchups enough to favor the Huskers in that one.
Once conference play comes, I see losses at Minnesota and at home to Wisconsin and Michigan State. The road trips to Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers are all more difficult that meets the eye. They'll lose one of those, and my guess is it'll be at Rutgers.
I believe Nebraska has the talent to prevail over Northwestern at home. As was the case against Miami, the Huskers match up well enough with Iowa to slow down what the Hawkeyes want to do.
I'm probably off by a game here or there, but an 8-4 record seems like the most likely scenario for the 2015 Nebraska squad.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
When I look at Nebraska’s roster I struggle to see a 10-win team that runs through Big Ten play, but when I start going through the schedule I just feel as tough everything seems to work in Nebraska’s favor. Getting Wisconsin and Michigan State at home could be a nice edge to have in what should be a pair of close contests.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This isn’t a daunting or overly difficult schedule for first-year coach Mike Riley. The Cornhuskers host key games against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa and BYU visits Lincoln for the opener.
However, as with every first-year coach, transition is a key word to keep in mind. Nebraska has the talent to push Wisconsin for the Big Ten West Division, but how quickly will the new schemes fall into place on both sides of the ball? Quarterback Tommy Armstrong must adapt to a new offense, and standout running back Ameer Abdullah must be replaced. The defensive tackle duo of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine is arguably one of the best in the nation. However, Nebraska is thin at linebacker and defensive end.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this team finishes 9-3, but I think there’s enough personnel concerns and transition among the coaching staff to drop to 8-4 in Riley’s debut.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Even though he consistently won at least nine games, the timing was right for Nebraska to sever ties with Bo Pelini. I really liked the Mike Riley hire and expect the transition to go fairly smoothly. Although I am a little worried about the potential drop off in the running game with Ameer Abdullah now in the NFL, as long as Tommy Armstrong embraces what Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf want from him and enough playmakers step up, this should be a fairly balanced and potent attack.
Defensively, I don’t think we’ll see the return of a vintage Blackshirts unit, but I do expect this side of the ball to perform very well because of the combination of experience returning and the fact that I think the defense will play more disciplined and work together better. Schedule-wise, Nebraska has its work cut out for it in both the non-conference and Big Ten, but the only real landmines I see are the trip to Miami, and of course Wisconsin and Michigan State. Bottom line, I think Cornhusker fans are going to be really pleased with Year One of the Riley era, even if it does produce Pelini-esque results in the win-loss column.
The Rebels are an intriguing team to watch in 2015, as new coach Tony Sanchez was hired from the high school ranks to turn around a program that has played in only bowl since 2001.
Earlier this offseason, UNLV unveiled new helmets and uniforms, which highlight some of the perks of Vegas. And the field takes full advantage of the program’s location, featuring the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” logo in the endzone, as well as diamond designs on the yardage markers and a special 50-yard design to highlight the starburst from the endzone’s “Welcome to Las Vegas” logo.
Check out UNLV’s new Vegas-themed field design for 2015:
Quarterback is the toughest position to play at any level. And regardless of team or conference affiliation, college football quarterbacks are always under the spotlight to produce. Good quarterback play or improvement at the position could be the difference between winning a national title or finishing outside of the playoff mix.
Even though quarterbacks are always under the spotlight, there’s always a few names that fly under the radar every preseason. 2015 is no different, as names like NC State’s Jacoby Brissett, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch or Colorado’s Sefo Liufau earn a spot on Athlon’s list of underrated quarterbacks to watch this fall.
College Football's 10 Most Underrated Quarterbacks for 2015
Brandon Allen, Arkansas
With a strong defense and rushing attack in place at Arkansas, Allen isn’t going to be asked to throw for 300 yards or more on a weekly basis. But Allen’s 2014 season was largely overlooked in the SEC. In 13 games, Allen threw for 2,285 yards and 20 scores and tossed only five picks on 339 attempts. A shoulder injury limited Allen in 2013 but he rebounded with a solid 2014 campaign and should benefit from the addition of Dan Enos as the Razorbacks’ new coordinator in 2015. The senior won't have to carry the offense with his arm, but Allen's efficiency and the ability to limit turnovers will be huge for Arkansas' hopes of moving up in the SEC West standings.
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Even though Florida State’s Jameis Winston is off to the NFL, the ACC is one of college football’s top quarterback leagues for 2015. North Carolina’s Marquise Williams, Florida State’s Everett Golson, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas are getting the bulk of the preseason headlines among ACC quarterbacks, but Brissett shouldn’t be overlooked. In his first year as the Wolfpack starter, Brissett threw for 2,606 yards and 23 scores. He also tossed only five picks (fewest among full-time ACC starters) and ranked fourth in the conference in quarterback rating.
Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
Hare may not be as dynamic or productive as Jordan Lynch or Chandler Harnish, but the Missouri native should challenge for a spot among the top quarterbacks in the MAC this year. In 14 games last season, Hare threw for 2,322 yards and 18 scores and recorded 900 yards on 159 rushing attempts. Hare didn’t open the year as the starter, but he led the offense over the final 12 games and guided Northern Illinois to a 7-1 mark over its final eight contests. Even though the MAC has plenty of proven options – UMass’ Blake Frohnapfel, Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson and Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell – returning for 2015, Hare shouldn’t be overlooked among MAC quarterbacks.
Driphus Jackson, Rice
David Bailiff has elevated Rice into one of the top programs in Conference USA’s West Division, as the Owls have won at least seven games in each of the last three years. Jackson showed promise as a reserve in 2012-13 and thrived in his first season as a starter in 2014. In 13 appearances, Jackson threw for 2,842 yards and 24 scores, while his 401 rushing yards ranked third among Rice players in 2014. The Owls return only seven starters this season, but Jackson’s emergence should keep Bailiff’s team in the mix for the West Division title.
Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
Appalachian State’s quick transition to the FBS level was capped by a six-game winning streak to close 2014. Lamb didn’t open the year as the starter, but he passed Kameron Bryant on the depth chart early in the season and guided the offense to an average of 35 points per game in Sun Belt contests in 2014. Lamb threw for 2,381 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and added 483 yards and four scores on the ground. After earning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in 2015, Lamb should push for all-conference honors behind an explosive (and experienced) offense this year.
Joe Licata, Buffalo
Buffalo hit a home run with the hire of Lance Leipold as the program’s new head coach. Under Leipold’s watch, Wisconsin-Whitewater won 109 games from 2007-14 and had one of Division III’s most prolific offenses by averaging 40.1 points per game last season. The addition of Leipold and coordinator Andy Kotelnicki should be a boost to Licata as he hopes to close out his career with a huge season and guide the program to another bowl trip. Licata has been steady for the Bulls over the last three seasons, recording back-to-back years of at least 24 passing scores. The senior is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in the MAC and should end his career as Buffalo’s all-time leader in passing yardage.
Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Good quarterback play and explosive offenses are the norm in the Pac-12. This season, the league is loaded with intrigue and proven options at quarterback, starting with USC’s Cody Kessler and California’s Jared Goff. And the depth in the league extends to Arizona’s Anu Solomon, Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. Considering Colorado is just 6-18 over the last two seasons, Liufau can be lost in the mix when examining the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. However, in his first full year as the starter in 2014, Liufau threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores. Additionally, Liufau completed 65.3 percent of his passes. By no means is the junior a finished product, but Liufau is a reason for optimism and improvement for Colorado in 2015.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Lynch has been a key cog in Memphis’ rebuilding efforts under coach Justin Fuente and should push Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds for top honors among American Athletic Conference quarterbacks in 2014. Lynch redshirted in 2012 and took his share of lumps during a rebuilding year for Memphis in 2013. However, behind a solid defense and an offense that averaged 36.2 points a game, the Tigers surged to a 10-3 mark in 2014. Lynch threw for 3,031 yards and 22 scores last season, including 306 yards in the bowl win over BYU. And despite his size (6-foot-7), Lynch has surprising mobility (321 yards and 13 rushing scores). Expect Lynch to only get better under Fuente’s watch in 2015.
Sam Richardson, Iowa State
The Big 12 has several new faces slated to step into the lineup at quarterback in 2015. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is the unquestioned No. 1 option in the league, but new faces like Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Baylor’s Seth Russell and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes are under the spotlight in their first full year as the starter. Richardson ranks second among Big 12 quarterbacks in career starts and threw for 2,669 yards and 18 touchdowns in 11 games last season. Injuries to the offensive line and receiving corps hit the Iowa State offense hard in 2014, but with Richardson more comfortable in coordinator Mark Mangino’s scheme and better health from the supporting cast in 2015, the senior should post the best statistical season of his career.
Related: Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Sudfeld’s 2014 season was derailed by a shoulder injury suffered in the 45-29 loss to Iowa in early October. Prior to his injury, Sudfeld had 1,151 yards and six passing scores and guided the Hoosiers to at least three games of at least 30 points scored in the first half of 2014. While Sudfeld’s 2014 season ended in disappointment, there’s plenty of promise ahead for 2015. After all, Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns for Indiana in 2013. The receiving corps is a concern, and running back Tevin Coleman will be missed. However, Sudfeld’s return should be a boost for the Hoosiers’ bowl hopes this season.
With fall camps opening across the nation, all 128 college football teams are putting the final stamp on depth chart battles and preparations for the upcoming season. And as is the case every year, all teams in the national title picture have question marks that must be answered in order to win the college football playoff.
Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as the national champion, with Alabama, Auburn, TCU, Baylor and USC mentioned in the next group of contenders.
Will any team knock off Ohio State in 2015? And which team will emerge to push the Buckeyes this season? Here’s a look at the biggest title concerns for Athlon’s projected top 15 teams for 2015:
Biggest Concerns for National Title Contenders
1. Ohio State: Defensive End
The Buckeyes are loaded with proven talent and depth, so it’s hard to pinpoint one concern that could derail their national title hopes. Repeating as a national champion isn’t easy, and Ohio State’s biggest obstacle could be...Ohio State. The week-to-week pressure of the playoff quest and the challenge to be perfect for 15 games is no easy assignment. But if there’s a specific position to watch in fall camp, it has to be at defensive end where the Buckeyes are searching for a replacement for Steve Miller/Rashad Frazier. Additionally, Joey Bosa is suspended for the opener, leaving Ohio State with two new starters at end against Virginia Tech. How quickly will the Buckeyes sort out their options in the trenches?
Key Player to Watch: DE Tyquan Lewis/Sam Hubbard/Jalyn Holmes/Jashon Cornell
2. Alabama: Wide Receiver/Quarterback
With one of the nation’s top defenses and rushing attacks, Alabama doesn’t necessarily need an explosive passing offense to win the SEC. However, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the offense as fall camp opens. Will Florida State transfer Jake Coker win the quarterback job over redshirt freshman David Cornwell? The growth of the quarterback is something to watch this fall, but a bigger concern for coordinator Lane Kiffin has to be at receiver. Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones have departed Tuscaloosa. That leaves Chris Black (11 catches), Robert Foster (six catches), ArDarius Stewart (12 catches), Oregon State transfer Richard Mullaney and true freshman Calvin Ridley as the top targets at receiver.
Key Player to Watch: WR Calvin Ridley/QB David Cornwell
3. Baylor: Secondary
The good news for coordinator Phil Bennett is all four starters in last year’s secondary return in 2015. The bad news? This unit allowed 20 passing scores in Big 12 games and surrendered 28 passing plays of 30 yards or more. With one of the nation’s best defensive lines leading the way up front, the Bears’ secondary may not have to cover for too long. However, after taking their lumps in 2014, Baylor needs its secondary to take a step forward in order to claim a playoff spot in 2015.
Key Player to Watch: CB Xavien Howard
4. Auburn: Depth in the Secondary
There’s not a glaring concern for coach Gus Malzahn to address this fall. Sure, the receiving corps outside of Duke Williams (assuming he plays in 2015) needs to emerge, and the pass rush has to step up. However, the Tigers are in relatively good shape for a run at the SEC title. The four starting spots in the secondary are expected to go to Jonathan Jones (CB), Tray Matthews (safety), Blake Countess (cornerback) and Johnathan Ford (safety). However, proven depth is a concern, and new coordinator Will Muschamp may have to utilize a couple of true freshmen for major snaps.
Key Player to Watch: CB Carlton Davis
5. TCU: Back Seven on Defense
TCU has a strong track record of success on defense under coach Gary Patterson, but this unit enters 2015 as the biggest obstacle to a playoff spot. How quickly will the Horned Frogs find replacements in the back seven? Gone from last year’s standout defense are linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, along with defensive backs Kevin White, Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. Cornerback Ranthony Texada and safety Derrick Kindred are two proven pieces for Patterson to build around in 2015.
Key Player to Watch: CB DeShawn Raymond/S Kenny Iloka
6. USC: Defensive Line
Is there another Leonard Williams on USC’s defensive line? The cupboard certainly isn’t bare for coordinator Justin Wilcox, but the Trojans may not have a standout performer up front. Williams generated seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss last season and was among the nation’s best at defensive end.
Key Player to Watch: DE Delvon Simmons
7. Michigan State: Secondary
The secondary has been an annual strength in recent years for the Spartans, but this unit enters 2015 as the biggest question mark on defense. Gone are All-Big Ten performers in Trae Waynes and Kurtis Drummond, leaving junior Darian Hicks and RJ Williamson as new leaders for this group. However, Hicks is out indefinitely with mononucleosis, leaving Arjen Colquhoun, Jermaine Edmondson, Demetrious Cox and Vayante Copeland as the top options at corner. While the concerns at cornerback may take a few games to sort out, the situation is much better at safety. Williamson and rising star Montae Nicholson should be a standout duo.
Key Player to Watch: CB Vayante Copeland/S Montae Nicholson
8. Oregon: Offensive Line
Even though Oregon will miss quarterback Marcus Mariota, the offense should be in good hands whether Jeff Lockie or Vernon Adams takes the first snap of the year against Eastern Washington. And despite the loss of running back Thomas Tyner, the ground attack is in good shape with Royce Freeman. While there are minor concerns for the Ducks’ high-powered offense in the backfield and the personnel turnover on defense, the biggest issue resides up front on the offensive line after the departure of Hamani Stevens, Hroniss Grasu and Jake Fisher. The return of Tyler Johnstone from a knee injury should solidify the left tackle spot, and Notre Dame transfer Matt Hegarty will bolster the interior.
Key Player to Watch: OL Matt Hegarty/Tyrell Crosby
9. Florida State: Defensive Improvement
Quarterback play is going to steal all of the offseason headlines in Tallahassee. However, coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s top quarterback gurus, and the offense should be in good shape regardless of whether Sean Maguire or Everett Golson takes the first snap. The defense is a bigger concern for Fisher, as the Seminoles finished ninth in the ACC in points allowed and gave up 5.5 yards per play. With the departure of end Mario Edwards Jr., tackle Eddie Goldman and cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, how much will this unit improve in 2015? The linebacker corps is a major concern with depth and injury issues, while the coaching staff hopes to generate more of a pass rush under new line coach Brad Lawing.
Key Player to Watch: DE Lorenzo Featherston/S Derwin James/LB Reggie Northrup
10. Georgia: Passing Attack
The Bulldogs are set at running back with Nick Chubb entrenched as one of the nation’s best. And the defense should be solid with six returning starters, along with the addition of elite recruit Trent Thompson on the defensive line. However, Georgia’s hopes of winning the SEC and earning a playoff spot hinge on the development of the passing game. There’s a three-way battle at quarterback, with sophomore Brice Ramsey holding an edge over Greyson Lambert and Faton Bauta. At receiver, will the Bulldogs get a healthy year from Malcolm Mitchell? And will a No. 2 and No. 3 target emerge at receiver?
Key Player to Watch: QB Brice Ramsey/WR Isaiah McKenzie and Terry Godwin
11. Ole Miss: Quarterback Play
Uncertainty at quarterback is a theme among SEC teams for 2015. The Rebels are loaded on defense, but coach Hugh Freeze’s team won’t be able to win the conference and push for a playoff bid without a better output on offense. Last season, Ole Miss averaged 28.3 points per game and scored just 34 points over the final three games. Finding a quarterback is Freeze’s biggest preseason concern, and three candidates – Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade – open fall practice with a chance to win the job. Will one quarterback emerge as the clear starter? Or will this battle continue into the season?
Key Player to Watch: QB Chad Kelly
Related: SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015
12. Notre Dame: Defensive Line
Injuries and suspensions hit Notre Dame’s defense hard last season, as this unit allowed 29.2 points per game and struggled to stop the run (171.2 yards per game allowed). While last year’s defense took its share of lumps in the second half of 2014, improvement should be noticeable in 2015. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell is back from an academic suspension, and coordinator Brian VanGorder has 10 returning starters to work with in the second year of this scheme. Stopping the run and generating a better pass rush are two critical areas for the Fighting Irish to improve on in 2015. Senior Sheldon Day is among the nation’s top linemen, but Notre Dame needs more from Isaac Rochell, Jarron Jones and Romeo Okwara.
Key Player to Watch: DT Jarron Jones/DE Andrew Trumbetti/DT Jerry Tillery
13. Arizona State: Pass Rusher
The receiving corps is also worth a mention after Jaelen Strong left for the NFL, but the Sun Devils landed graduate transfer Devin Lucien from UCLA and moved D.J. Foster from running back to alleviate some of the concerns on the outside. Coach Todd Graham likes to be aggressive with his blitz packages, and despite the loss of Marcus Hardison (10 sacks) and touted junior college recruit Davon Durant, the pass rush won’t regress too much. However, Graham would like to find a dominant edge rusher, and running back Kalen Ballage is spending some time at the Devilbacker position. Can Ballage or Ismael Murphy-Richardson or another player fill the void?
Player to Watch: RB/LB Kalen Ballage
14. Clemson: Offensive Line
The Tigers return just two starters on defense, but coordinator Brent Venables should keep the unit performing at a high level. The bigger concern for coach Dabo Swinney has to be with the offensive line. After all, quarterback Deshaun Watson is coming off a torn ACL. The line returns just one starter (center Ryan Norton) and has a combined 29 career starts from the projected lineup.
Key Player to Watch: LT Mitch Hyatt
15. LSU: Quarterback
It’s no secret LSU had issues at quarterback last year. The Tigers completed only 50 percent of their throws and managed just seven passing scores in SEC games. The edge in talent goes to sophomore Brandon Harris. However, Anthony Jennings has a better grasp of the offense.
Key Player to Watch: QB Brandon Harris
With 128 teams in the FBS and around 100 players on a roster, there are certainly some interesting names that pop-up throughout the course of production for Athlon's 2015 college football magazine.
We took a look through the rosters for the 128 teams and pulled out some of the funniest and more interesting names in college football for the 2015 season.
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
Jeb Blazevich, TE, Georgia
Quaide Weimerskirch, RB, Georgia Tech
Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor
Cole Boozer, TE, Temple
Johnathan Boring, OL, Troy
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Soso Jamabo, RB, UCLA
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
Bozidar Antunovic, OL, SMU
Edgar Poe, WR, Army
Faton Bauta, QB, Georgia
Forrest Lamp, OL, WKU
Taiwan Deal, RB, Wisconsin
Chad President, QB, Tulsa
Ray-Ray McCloud III, WR, Clemson
Zander Diamont, QB, Indiana
Evan Butts, TE, Virginia
Squally Canada, RB, BYU
Julian Good-Jones, OL, Iowa State
Freddy Canteen, WR, Michigan
LA Ramsby, RB, Georgia Southern
River Cracraft, WR, Washington State
Freedom Akinmoladun, TE, Nebraska
Britain Covey, WR, Utah
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
Tank Davis, OL, Texas A&M
Riley Lovingood, OL, Tennessee
Mak Djulbegovic, OL, USF
Bear Fenimore, QB, Houston
Daxx Garman, QB, Maryland
Grant Lingafelter, OL, West Virginia
Tanner Farmer, OL, Nebraska
Will Clapp, OL, LSU
Tuli Wily-Matagi, TE, Oregon State
Lake Kirven, OL, Clemson
Taz Bateman, RB, Georgia State
Q’ Drennan, WR, New Mexico
Driphus Jackson, QB, Rice
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
Thor Jozwiak, OL, USF
Obe Fortune, WR, Georgia Southern
Brynjar Gudmundsson, OL, USF
Nyiakki Height, WR, Georgia State
Jazzmar Clax, FB, UConn
Brisly Estime, WR, Syracuse
Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Mikingson Marsaille, OL, FAU
Gunnar Holcombe, QB, Marshall
Tommy Mister, RB, Indiana
Jester Weah, WR, Pittsburgh
Ross Pierschbacher, OL, Alabama
Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU
Shug Oyegunle, WR, FIU
Rafe Peavey, QB, Arkansas
Michiah Quick, WR, Oklahoma
Devine Redding, RB, Indiana
Deric Phouthavong, WR, Bowling Green
Blaze Ryder, OL, Navy
Ja’Quay Savage, WR, Louisville
Stone Wolfley, TE/FB/ West Virginia
Harley Scioneaux, TE, ULM
Bruno Reagan, OL, Vanderbilt
Pig Howard, WR, Tennessee
Lawyer Tillman, RB, Auburn
Austin Apodaca, QB, New Mexico
Lucky Jackson, WR, WKU
Wolfgang Zacherl, OL, Charlotte
Bobo Beathard, WR, Appalachian State
Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB, UCLA
Easy Anyama, S, Texas State
Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
Jordan Diamond, OL, Auburn
Kermit Whitfield, WR, Florida State
Richie Worship, RB, Purdue
Chongo Kondolo, OL, Nebraska
Shawn Stankavage, QB, Vanderbilt
Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
Bar Milo, OL, Miami
Dawit Woldu, WR, Colorado State
Poet Thomas, OL, Texas Tech
Dillon Middlemiss, OL, Colorado
JaMycal Hasty, RB, Baylor
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
Devonaire Clarington, TE, Texas
Tiger Scheyd, QB, LSU
Juan Day, RB, Arkansas
Joshua Whippy, RB, BYU
Workpeh Kofa, WR, Charlotte
Tennessee Su’esu’e, OL, Boise State
Thaddeus Snodgrass, WR, Kentucky
Jazz Ferguson, WR, LSU
Daniel Imatorbhebhe, TE, USC
Gunner Hudspeth, QB, Cincinnati
Chico McClatcher, WR, Washington
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia
Rowdy Simon, RB, Tulsa
Stone Underwood, OL, West Virginia
Achilles Wynn, WR, Idaho
Hosey Williams, RB, Cincinnati
Maurice Ways, WR, Michigan
T.V. Williams, WR, Kentucky
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
Bearooz Yacoobi, OL, Purdue
Storm Norton, OL, Toledo
Sebastian Sock, TE, Kansas
Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss
Kenneth Santa Marina, OL, Tulane
Man Berg, WR, Illinois
Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky
Denver Kirkland, OL, Arkansas
Mason Sledge, OL, Charlotte
Tad France, OL, Kent State
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Mike Tyson, S, Cincinnati
Matt Smallbone, DL, Miami (Ohio)
Deuce Wallace, CB, ULL
Faith Ekakitie, DL, Iowa
Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
Bright Ugwoegbu, LB, Oregon State
Destiny Vaeao, DL, Washington State
Jeryl Brazil, DB, ULL
Poncho Barnwell, DE, Old Dominion
Chevy Graham, CB, Kansas
Deuce Mataele, DL, Boise State
Blair Manly, CB, New Mexico
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami
Gladimir Paul, LB, Virginia
Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss
Taylor Comfort, LB, Washington State
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Prentice McKinney, S, Oklahoma
Shadow Williams, LB, Old Dominion
Gussie Busch, LB, Alabama
Ryan Watercutter, LB, Indiana
Nick Czar, DL, Navy
Porter Gustin, LB, USC
Zykiesis Cannon, CB, Louisville
Simba Short, LB, Northwestern
Kingsley Opara, DL, Maryland
Illiad Kelly, DL, Southern Miss
Nomluis Fruge, LB, Houston
Justice Davila, S, Old Dominion
Hootie Jones, DB, Alabama
Blessuan Austin, DB, Rutgers
Mook Reynolds, DB, Virginia Tech
Imarjaye Albury, DL, FIU
Stody Bradley, DL, New Mexico State
King Newton, DT, UTSA
Olajuwon Tucker, LB, USC
Mufu Taiwo, DL, Old Dominion
Boise Ross, CB, Buffalo
C.J. Stalker, LB, Virginia
Micah Awe, LB, Texas Tech
Bull Barge, LB, South Alabama
Will Barrow, CB, Tulsa
Zeek Bigger, LB, East Carolina
Bam Bradley, LB, Pittsburgh
Winston DeLattiboudere, DL, Minnesota
Mookie Carlile, DB, UTEP
Lion King, DL, Eastern Michigan
Blake Countess, DB, Auburn
Skyler Cracraft, DB, Washington State
Evan Rambo, S, California
Mehdi El Attrach, DB, Boston College
Tee Sparrow, DB, Louisiana Tech
Armonze Daniel, DL, Marshall
Corn Elder, DB, Miami
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Prince Charles Iworah, DB, Western Kentucky
Step Durham, DB, Georgia Tech
Shattle Fenteng, DB, Georgia
Poona Ford, DT, Texas
Colton Thrasher, DL, Idaho
Justin Tranquill, DB, Western Michigan
Houston Glass, S, Buffalo
Alanmichael Harkness, DL, Appalachian State
Vegas Harley, S, Georgia Southern
Dedrick Shy, CB, Tulane
Hershey Walton, DL, Temple
Osazuwamen Igbinosun, DL, Ball State
Zaycoven Henderson, DT, Texas A&M
Marvell Tell, DB, USC
K’Hadree Hooker, DL, East Carolina
Jamez Brickhouse, CB, Old Dominion
Money Hunter, DB, Arkansas State
Prosper Mekoba, DL, Temple
Trevarris Saulsberry, DL, Tennessee
Prince Tega Wanogho, DE, Auburn
Great Ibe, LB, Eastern Michigan
Dee Liner, DL, Arkansas State
Abu Lamin, DL, South Carolina
Finesse Middleton, DE, Louisville
Chaiziere Malbrue, LB, ULL
Iggy Porchia, DL, UNLV
Praise Martin-Oguike, DL, Temple
Mercy Maston, CB, Boise State
SteveO Michel, LB, Colorado State
Zelt Minor, DL, SMU
Charmeachealle Moore, LB, Kansas State
Silverberry Mouhon, DL, Cincinnati
Leviticus Payne, DB, Cincinnati
Picasso Nelson Jr., DB, Southern Miss
Noble Nwachukwu, DL, West Virginia
Tito Odenigbo, DL, Illinois
Jock Petree, DL, UCF
Cody Poock, LB, Minnesota
Gimel President, DL, Auburn
Johnny Ragin III, LB, Oregon
Shy Tuttle, DL, Tennessee
Gusty Schwartzmeier, DL, Buffalo
Aziz Shittu, DL, Stanford
Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
Creed Richardson, LB, BYU
Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
Breeland Speaks, DL, Ole Miss
Weston Steelhammer, DB, Air Force
Finis Stribling, DB, Missouri
Dwellie Striggles, DB, Buffalo
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Wonderful Terry, DB, Western Kentucky
Toronto Thomas, LB, Appalachian State
Sir Calvin Wallace, DT, North Texas
Prince Mayela, DB, Charlotte
Maximo Espitia, LB, California
Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
Freedom Whitfield, LB, FAU
Psalm Wooching, LB, Washington
Carlutorbantu Zaramo, DL, Ball State
Mike Freeze, LB, TCU
D.J. Polite-Bray, DB, Texas Tech
Moose Bingham, K, BYU
Stone Wilson, K, FIU
Chris Blewitt, K, Pittsburgh
Jonathan Song, K, TCU
Colby Delahoussaye, K, LSU
Younghoe Koo, K, Georgia Southern
Worth Gregory, P, East Carolina
Logan McElfresh, P, Minnesota
College football’s long offseason is almost over. Kickoff for the 2015 season is less than 25 days away, and fall camps are underway across the nation. While every team is 0-0 and hopes of an undefeated season are still alive, all 128 FBS programs have key question marks to answer in fall camp. Optimism can only run high for so long. Eventually, the position concerns have to be answered this fall.
With kickoff just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at some of the biggest storylines to watch in fall camp. Whether it’s quarterback battles, new coach hires or offensive line development, every concern is under the spotlight with the season fast approaching.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to in fall camps:
College Football's Top 10 Fall Practice Storylines
1. Quarterback Battles at Top Programs
Every coach would prefer to open the season with clarity at quarterback, and fall camp is the final chance to develop a clear pecking order under center. And with some big names departing the quarterback position after 2014, several playoff contenders are looking for a new starter.
Here’s a look at some of the top quarterback battles to watch in fall practice:
1. Ohio State: J.T. Barrett vs. Cardale Jones
2. Alabama: Jake Coker vs. David Cornwell
3. Oregon: Vernon Adams vs. Jeff Lockie
4. Florida State: Everett Golson vs. Sean Maguire
5. LSU: Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris
6. Georgia: Brice Ramsey vs. Greyson Lambert vs. Faton Bauta
7. Ole Miss: Chad Kelly vs. Ryan Buchanan vs. DeVante Kincade
8. Michigan: Jake Rudock vs. Shane Morris
9. Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield vs. Trevor Knight vs. Cody Thomas
10. Texas: Tyrone Swoopes vs. Jerrod Heard
2. Jim Harbaugh's Work Continues at Michigan
After the summer of Jim Harbaugh, it’s time for new Michigan coach to get back to work on a team that finished a disappointing 5-7 in 2014. Harbaugh’s impact on the Wolverines should be noticeable in 2015. The Wolverines have enough talent to push for eight wins during the regular season. How quickly will Harbaugh and his staff find the right answers for an offense that generated only 20.9 points per game last year? Solidifying the quarterback spot – Iowa transfer Jake Rudock or Shane Morris – would go a long ways to helping Michigan’s offense in 2015.
Related: Michigan 2015 Fall Camp Preview
3. Taking the Next Step at Baylor and TCU
After missing out on the playoffs last season, TCU and Baylor begin 2015 among the favorites to reach the top four. And after the Bears and Horned Frogs finished 2014 with identical records in conference play, little separates these two teams this fall. Athlon picked Baylor to win the Big 12, but the Coaches Poll selected TCU at No. 2 to open 2015. How quickly can both teams answer key question marks in camp? For TCU, reloading the back seven is coach Gary Patterson’s biggest priority. A new starting quarterback (Seth Russell) takes over at Baylor, but there's little concern under center. The biggest question mark for the Bears remains on defense, as this unit has to take a step forward after allowing 29.2 points per game in conference matchups last season.
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015
4. Braxton Miller’s Transition, Ohio State’s Repeat Bid
Ohio State’s road to a repeat is favorable, but coach Urban Meyer’s team has a few issues to address in fall camp. The defensive end position was already a concern with the departure of Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, and the Buckeyes won’t have All-American Joey Bosa in the opener against Virginia Tech due to a suspension. This is a critical fall for players like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes to emerge at end. On offense, Meyer and new co-coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner are working to settle the quarterback battle, as well as sort out the options at receiver for the opener with Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson suspended. Enter Braxton Miller. The converted quarterback will play a huge role in the opener, and the transition to receiver will be under the spotlight in fall camp.
5. Separation in the SEC West?
The SEC West is college football’s toughest division, and the path to a playoff spot for any of the contenders won’t be easy. Alabama and Auburn are considered the frontrunners, but both programs have their share of concerns. Can the Crimson Tide find a replacement for Amari Cooper at receiver? How much will Auburn’s defense improve under new coordinator Will Muschamp? Ole Miss has the defense to win the SEC. However, question marks remain at quarterback and running back. Will Mississippi State quickly reload after losing a handful of key players from last year? Is LSU’s passing attack on the right path? How much will Texas A&M’s defense improve under John Chavis? The depth and overall strength of this division is no secret. However, all seven teams enter fall camp with key questions to answer.
6. On the Mend
Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s spring practice, fall camp or in-season ailments, the injury bug will take a toll on all 128 teams. But with fall practice starting, this is a key milestone in the health of some players returning from injury. Just how healthy are the players on the mend? Fall camp should give everyone a clear picture of what to expect after recovery. Here’s a look at 12 of college football’s top returning players from injury to monitor in fall camp:
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
3. Laremy Tunsil, OL, Ole Miss
4. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
5. Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech
6. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
7. Braxton Miller, WR/QB, Ohio State
8. Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon
9. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
10. Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State
11. Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
12. Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State
7. Freshmen Emergence
The next wave of talent in the college football ranks arrived on campus this summer, and fall camp will be the first opportunity for some to impress in front of the coaching staff. Of course, some freshmen enrolled early and participated in spring practice to get early jump on staking a claim for playing time. Every season, there’s no shortage of an impact freshmen making an impression in fall practice or moving up the depth chart to see major snaps in the opener. Here’s a look at six freshmen to watch in fall camp:
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
2. Derwin James, S, Florida State
3. Kahlil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
4. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
5. Martez Ivey, OT, Florida
6. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
8. Impact of New Coach and Coordinator Hires
As we mentioned above, new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been in the news quite a bit this summer. While Harbaugh has dominated the buzz around new coaching hires, there are several other names that should make an impact in their new home. After a spring practice to build the foundation for their team, fall camp is the next opportunity to make adjustments and prepare a team for the upcoming season. What type of changes will the new staffs make? How quickly will the new coaches or coordinators find the right answers for the team’s biggest question marks?
Here’s a look at the top 10 coach hires for 2015, as well as the top coordinator moves:
Top 10 Coach Hires for 2015
1. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
2. Gary Andersen, Oregon State
3. Tom Herman, Houston
4. Chad Morris, SMU
5. Lance Leipold, Buffalo
6. Jim McElwain, Florida
7. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh
8. Mike Riley, Nebraska
9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
10. Mike Bobo, Colorado State
Best Coordinator Hires for 2015
1. Will Muschamp, Auburn (Defense)
2. John Chavis, Texas A&M (Defense)
3. Gene Chizik, North Carolina (Defense)
4. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma (Offense)
5. Barry Odom, Missouri (Defense)
6. David Gibbs, Texas Tech (Defense)
Related: Top Coordinator Hires for 2015
9. Offensive Lines in the ACC
Will an ACC team play its way into playoff consideration this year? The development of the offensive line at a few programs will be critical in answering that question. Clemson lost tackle Isaiah Battle to the supplemental draft, leaving just one starter (Ryan Norton) back for 2015. Florida State also returns just one starter (Roderick Johnson), while Louisville’s line allowed 40 sacks last season and lost three key performers. In the Coastal Division, can Miami and Virginia Tech find the right answers up front to push Georgia Tech for the title?
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
10. USC…Back Among the Nation’s Elite?
With Oregon replacing quarterback Marcus Mariota, two standout offensive linemen and a few key performers on defense from last year’s playoff run, it’s hard to pinpoint a clear favorite in the Pac-12. The Ducks are near the top, but USC, Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and Stanford are all contenders for the league crown. The Trojans finished 9-4 in coach Steve Sarkisian’s debut, with three losses coming by six points or less. Can USC capitalize off a tough, but open Pac-12 title race? The necessary pieces are in place for Sarkisian, starting with quarterback Cody Kessler and a talented array of skill players. But is the defense ready to challenge for a playoff bid without star end Leonard Williams? Additionally, USC’s path to a spot among the top four isn’t easy. Road trips to Arizona State, Notre Dame, California and Oregon dot the schedule in 2015, while Utah, Arizona, Stanford and UCLA visit the Coliseum. This may not be an elite USC team, but Sarkisian has enough firepower and talent to guide this team into the top four. Will USC emerge as the clear favorite? Or will the conference simply have too many good teams and not a standout playoff contender?
The ACC has a strong case as college football’s best conference for overall quarterback play in 2015. This league features plenty of proven options, rising stars and passers poised for a breakthrough year. In a 14-team conference, it’s rare to see few teams with concerns under center, but the ACC is relatively stable at quarterback in 2015.
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson leads the way in the power rankings for the upcoming year, and he’s joined by fellow sophomore Brad Kaaya (Miami) at the top. But Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas, North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett aren’t far behind.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2015.
ACC Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Injuries derailed Watson’s freshman season, but all signs point to a full recovery and a huge performance in 2015. Watson was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class and threw for 1,466 yards and 14 scores in eight appearances. He also added 200 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Clemson won’t have Chad Morris calling the shots in 2015, but this offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat with Watson at the controls.
Podcast: Complete 2015 ACC Preview and Predictions
2. Brad Kaaya, Miami
Kaaya was one of college football’s top freshman last season, finishing 2014 with 3,198 yards and 26 touchdown tosses. The future in Coral Gables looks bright for Kaaya, but the Hurricanes have question marks in the supporting cast for their quarterback. The offensive line returns only one starter, while running back Duke Johnson, tight end Clive Walford and standout receiver Phillip Dorsett must be replaced. Additionally, only one starter is back on the line. Will Kaaya build off his solid freshman season? Or will the supporting cast force a transition year?
Related: Miami 2015 Fall Camp Preview
3. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Thomas is a perfect fit in coach Paul Johnson’s option attack and should be one of the favorites to win ACC Player of the Year honors. En route to a Coastal Division title last season, Thomas rushed for a team-high 1,086 yards and eight scores and connected on 51.3 of his throws for 1,719 yards and 18 scores. Thomas will never post huge passing totals, but he tied for fourth among ACC quarterbacks with nine passing plays of 40 yards or more last season.
4. Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Scoring points won’t be a problem for Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels in 2015. North Carolina’s skill players and offensive line should be among the best in the ACC, and Williams returns as one of the league’s top quarterbacks after passing for 3,073 yards and 21 touchdowns and adding 783 yards and 13 scores on the ground. The senior ranked second in the ACC last season by completing 62.9 percent of his passes in league games.
5. Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Brissett might be the most underrated quarterback in the ACC. In his first season after transferring from Florida, Brissett threw for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns and guided NC State to a record of 8-5. Additionally, Brissett only tossed five picks and rushed for 529 yards and three scores. The senior could climb into the top three of ACC quarterbacks in 2015.
6. Everett Golson, Florida State
Golson’s place among ACC quarterbacks is tough to peg. There’s no denying his talent, but he also tossed 14 interceptions at Notre Dame last season and has to adapt to a new offense. And there’s also no guarantee he wins the starting job: Sean Maguire has spent the last three years in coach Jimbo Fisher’s system and finished spring at the top of the depth chart.
7. Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Voytik showed steady improvement in the second half of 2014 and closed the year by throwing only one interception over his final six appearances. Pittsburgh won’t deviate much from leaning on its ground attack to carry the offense under new coordinator Jim Chaney, but Voytik should benefit from the addition of the veteran play-caller. After an efficient and productive close to the 2014 campaign, Voytik is poised for an even better 2015 campaign.
8. Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville
Injuries took a toll on Louisville’s quarterback depth chart last season, as three players earned starts and none managed to play in all 13 contests. Bonnafon impressed as a true freshman, finishing second on the team with 864 passing yards, while rushing for 164 yards and five scores on the ground. Bonnafon has to hold off Will Gardner, Kyle Bolin and talented freshman Lamar Jackson, but all signs point to the sophomore taking the first snap of the year against Auburn.
9. Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
Improving the offense is a priority for Virginia Tech after averaging only 19.4 points in ACC games last season. Brewer had his share of ups and downs in his first year as the starter for the Hokies. He guided Virginia Tech to an upset win over Ohio State but also tossed 10 interceptions through the first five games. Brewer finished 2014 with 2,692 yards, 18 scores and 15 picks.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
10. Thomas Sirk, Duke
All signs point to Sirk as Duke’s next star quarterback under coach David Cutcliffe. The junior played in 12 games last season, completing 10 of 14 passes for 67 yards and three scores. While Sirk has to develop as a passer, there’s little doubt regarding his ability to make plays on the ground. On 47 carries in 2014, Sirk rushed for 238 yards and eight scores. The junior is one of the ACC’s top breakout options at quarterback.
11. Terrel Hunt, Syracuse
Hunt never had a chance to build off a promising end to the 2013 season, as a leg injury derailed his 2014 campaign. The senior is back to full strength and is a key cog in Syracuse’s hopes to improve in 2015. Prior to the season-ending leg injury, Hunt threw for 983 yards and one touchdown and added 292 yards and six scores on the ground. With Hunt back under center, along with the promotion of Tim Lester to coordinator, the Orange are in better shape offensively than they were at the end of 2014.
12. Matt Johns, Virginia
With Greyson Lambert transferring to Georgia, all signs point to Johns as Virginia’s starter for 2015. Johns showed potential last season in limited action, completing 54.9 percent of his passes for 1,109 yards and eight scores. The junior also showed a willingness to test defenses downfield, connecting on seven passes for 30 yards or more and one of 40 yards or longer. Improving the completion percentage is a priority for Johns after connecting on 54.9 percent of his passes in 2014.
13. John Wolford, Wake Forest
Wolford was placed into a difficult role last season, as Wake Forest’s offensive line and rushing attack was a major weakness. The Demon Deacons averaged only 3.4 yards per play, while the line surrendered 48 sacks in 2014. However, with a full year in coach Dave Clawson’s system, Wolford should be more comfortable as the starter. After throwing for 2,037 yards and 12 scores in 2014, the sophomore should be better – if the offensive line holds up – in 2015.
14. Darius Wade, Boston College
Wade ranks No. 14, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the sophomore finish higher on this list by December. Under coach Steve Addazio, Boston College molded the offense to fit the strengths of Chase Rettig in 2013 and Tyler Murphy in 2014. Wade played in four games last season and completed 3 of 8 passes for 23 yards and rushed for 12 yards on two attempts. Even with a revamped offensive line, Boston College can lean on its ground attack until Wade is settled under center.
Tyner missed part of 2014 due to a shoulder injury but was a key cog in the Ducks’ run to the national championship game. The report indicates Tyner continued to have pain in his shoulder and decided to have surgery. The talented junior should have two seasons of eligibility remaining once he returns in 2016.
In 11 games last season, Tyner rushed for 573 yards and five scores. After missing the final three contests of the regular season, Tyner gashed Florida State for 124 yards and added 62 on the ground versus Ohio State.
Losing Tyner is a significant setback for Oregon. The Ducks were already sorting out a quarterback battle between Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams this fall, and the offensive line lost its top two players – Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu – from last season.
While Tyner will be missed, Oregon still has plenty of capable options in the backfield. Sophomore Royce Freeman is one of the nation’s most talented running backs, and freshmen Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin are intriguing options. Additionally, receiver Byron Marshall could shift back to running back for a few carries.
Losing Tyner doesn’t hurt Oregon’s chances of winning the Pac-12 North, but it’s a setback for one of the nation’s best backfields. Without Tyner, Freeman will have to shoulder more of the workload. And if Freeman has to miss any snaps, the inexperienced duo of Brooks-James and Griffin will have to take on the bulk of the carries.
The Ducks certainly have their share of question marks in replacing Mariota, along with new faces on the offensive line and on defense. However, the rest of the North also has their share of concerns. Losing Tyner is a setback, but Oregon is still the team to beat in the Pac-12 North.
With fall practice underway, the long offseason is almost over and college football’s 2015 season is officially around the corner. The final preparations for the upcoming year have started, and coaches spend fall camp trying to finalize depth charts and rotations for the opener.
While there’s no shortage of critical position battles in the fall, the quarterback position is going to generate the most interest among fans. And there’s plenty of big-name programs looking for a starter in fall camp. Of Athlon Sports’ top 10 teams for 2015, five of them appear on this list.
Here’s a quick look at 20 key quarterback battles for the fall and a projected winner for each:
College Football's Top 20 QB Battles for Fall Practice
1. Ohio State
The Contenders: J.T. Barrett vs. Cardale Jones
Urban Meyer’s decision at quarterback got a little easier with the announcement that Braxton Miller would move to receiver in 2015. However, there’s still a tough decision ahead for the coaching staff. Do the Buckeyes stick with Jones after an impressive three-game stint to close last season? Or does Barrett regain the starting job after leading the Big Ten with an average of 314.3 total yards per game in 2014?
Projected Starter for the Opener: Barrett
The Contenders: Jake Coker vs. David Cornwell vs. Alec Morris vs. Blake Barnett vs. Cooper Bateman
Five quarterbacks are listed as contenders, but all signs point to Coker and Cornwell as the frontrunners to replace Blake Sims. Coker was considered the favorite to start after transferring to Alabama from Florida State. However, Sims started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide in 2014. Cornwell was a four-star prospect and ranked as the No. 79 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite. He’s ready to push for the starting job after a redshirt year.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Coker
The Contenders: Vernon Adams vs. Jeff Lockie
There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the battle to replace Marcus Mariota. Adams is expected to arrive on campus in early August, but Lockie had a good spring and has a chance to capitalize off Adams’ late arrival this fall. Adams is a dynamic player and accumulated over 10,00 total yards in his Eastern Washington career. Adapting to a new offense and FBS competition will be the graduate transfer’s biggest challenges. Lockie completed 21 of 28 passes for 207 yards and one score in 2014.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Lockie...but Adams takes over during the season
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
The Contenders: Everett Golson vs. Sean Maguire
Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill in Tallahassee. Maguire finished spring at the top of the depth chart, but Golson announced his intentions to transfer to Florida State in May. How quickly will Golson pickup Florida State’s offense? His mobility could be an asset behind four new starters in the trenches. Maguire has one career start (Clemson in 2014) and has passed for 455 yards and three scores over the last two seasons.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Golson
Related: Florida State 2015 Fall Camp Preview
The Contenders: Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris
LSU has enough talent to win the SEC West, but the Tigers need more from the passing attack. In SEC games last season, LSU quarterbacks completed only 46.4 percent of passes and managed only seven passing scores. Jennings started 12 of the Tigers’ 13 contests last season, but there’s more upside with Harris.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Harris
Related: SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015
The Contenders: Brice Ramsey vs. Greyson Lambert vs. Faton Bauta
Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap for coach Mark Richt, Georgia is going to lean heavily on its ground attack and defense. New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer won’t change much in regards to the overall offensive approach, but a leader at quarterback needs to emerge this fall. Ramsey finished spring at the top of the depth chart, and Lambert transferred to Georgia after starting nine games for Virginia in 2014. Bauta is a dual-threat option and has completed 4 of 5 passes in two years of snaps.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Ramsey
7. Ole Miss
The Contenders: Chad Kelly vs. Ryan Buchanan vs. DeVante Kincade
The Rebels have one of the SEC’s top defenses. Will the offense find the right answers at quarterback and running back to push for the SEC West title? Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback and junior college recruit – is the favorite to win the job, but Buchanan is slated to take the first snap in fall camp. Kelly is the team’s most talented option, while Buchanan and Kincade have the most experience within coach Hugh Freeze’s offensive scheme.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Kelly
The Contenders: Jake Rudock vs. Shane Morris
Settling the quarterback battle is the top priority for new coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have options, as Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris lead the way entering fall camp. Rudock passed for 2,436 yards and 16 scores as the Hawkeyes’ starter in 2014 but was supplanted as the No. 1 quarterback at the end of 2014. Morris completed 14 of 40 passes for the Wolverines last season. Freshmen Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone are wild cards to watch.
The Contenders: Baker Mayfield vs. Trevor Knight vs. Cody Thomas
Technically, this is still a battle. However, all signs point to Mayfield taking the first snap of the year for Oklahoma. The Texas Tech transfer passed for 2,315 yards and 12 scores with the Red Raiders in 2013 and is a good fit for new coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense. If Mayfield struggles, Knight (2,300 yards and 14 TDs in 2014) is expected to rank No. 2 on the depth chart.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Mayfield
Related: Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
The Contenders: Tyrone Swoopes vs. Jerrod Heard
Coach Charlie Strong has already indicated Swoopes and Heard will see time in the opener against Notre Dame. The Longhorns are looking for improvement on offense after averaging only 21.4 points per game in 2014. Swoopes showed flashes of promise but finished with 11 interceptions and struggled in losses against TCU and Arkansas. Heard spent 2014 as a redshirt and is considered the more dynamic playmaker on the ground.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Swoopes…but Heard takes over later in the season
The Contenders: Will Grier vs. Treon Harris
The Gators struggled to find their offensive identity and rhythm under former coach Will Muschamp. While this offense appears to be on the right track under new coach Jim McElwain, Florida could have its share of ups and downs in 2015 with an inexperienced offensive line and question marks remain in the receiving corps. Quarterback play also has its share of uncertainty, as Grier – a redshirt freshman – is expected to supplant Treon Harris as the starter in 2015. Harris started six games in 2014 and finished with 1,019 yards and nine passing scores. Grier ranked as the No. 48 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Grier
The Contenders: Jerry Neuheisel vs. Josh Rosen
Experience versus talent. That’s the storyline set to unfold this fall at UCLA. Neuheisel joined the program in 2012 and worked as Brett Hundley’s backup last season, throwing for 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards against Texas. While Neuheisel was solid in relief of Hundley last year, he’s not the favorite to win the job. Rosen – the No. 12 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite – enrolled in time to compete in the spring and is expected to start the opener.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Rosen
13. Boise State
The Contenders: Ryan Finley vs. Brett Rypien vs. Thomas Stuart vs. Alex Ogle
Boise State usually has little trouble finding the next standout quarterback. Expect coach Bryan Harsin to find the right replacement for Grant Hedrick early in 2015, as Finley finished spring with an edge for the No. 1 spot. The Arizona native played in five games last season and completed 12 of 27 passes for 161 yards and two scores. Rypien – a four-star prospect – is an intriguing option for the future. Stuart could be Finley’s biggest challenger this fall.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Finley
Related: Mountain West Predictions for 2015
14. Texas Tech
The Contenders: Patrick Mahomes vs. Davis Webb
Dynamic and high-scoring offenses are the norm at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are looking for more consistency this season after averaging 30.5 points per game in 2014. Regardless of which quarterback starts, it’s safe to assume Texas Tech will be among the Big 12’s best in scoring. Mahomes stepped into the starting lineup after Davis Webb was injured last year and finished with 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns. Although the numbers don’t reflect it (104 yards), Mahomes has enough mobility to give the offense an added dimension on the ground.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Mahomes
The Contenders: Reggie Bonnafon vs. Will Gardner vs. Kyle Bolin
Only three quarterbacks made the contender list, but Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson and freshman Lamar Jackson also deserve a mention in this space. However, all signs point to Bonnafon as the team’s starter for the opener against Auburn. In 10 games last season, Bonnafon threw for 864 yards and five scores and rushed for 164 yards and five touchdowns. Could Jackson see time as a change-of-pace option?
Projected Starter for the Opener: Bonnafon
Related: Louisville 2015 Fall Camp Preview
16. Kansas State
The Contenders: Joe Hubener vs. Jesse Ertz vs. Jonathan Banks vs. Alex Delton
Replacing Jake Waters won’t be easy for the Wildcats. However, don’t doubt Bill Snyder’s ability to quickly reload at the quarterback position. Former walk-on Joe Hubener is the favorite to start, but the junior has only eight career appearances and did not start a game at quarterback in high school. Sophomore Jesse Ertz, true freshman Alex Delton and junior college recruit Jonathan Banks are also in the mix.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Hubener
The Contenders: Jake Browning vs. K.J. Carta-Samuels vs. Jeff Lindquist
Will coach Chris Petersen look to the future with his quarterback choice? Or will the second-year coach choose experience? Browning is the team’s most talented option, ranking as the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. The California native also enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. Carta-Samuels redshirted last season, while Lindquist played in 13 games (with one start) and finished with completions on 10 of 30 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Browning
Related: Pac-12 2015 Quarterback Rankings
The Contenders: Zack Oliver vs. Clayton Thorson vs. Matt Alviti
The Wildcats are hoping to find a spark on offense after averaging just 21.3 points in Big Ten games last season. A three-way battle at quarterback is set to unfold in the fall, and there’s not much separating the candidates. Oliver has the edge in experience, throwing for 367 yards and two scores last season. He also started the season finale after an injury sidelined Trevor Siemian. The edge in talent goes to Thorson or Alviti, and both quarterbacks bring the added threat of the run to the offensive attack.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Thorson
The Contenders: Hayden Rettig vs. Chris Laviano
Gary Nova had his share of ups and downs at Rutgers, but he finished his career on a high note, throwing for 2,851 yards and 22 scores in 2014. With Nova out of eligibility, and coordinator Ralph Friedgen moving into an advisor role, the Scarlet Knights have a few big question marks to answer this fall on offense. Rettig – a transfer from LSU – has more physical tools but did not play with the Tigers in 2013 and sat out due to NCAA transfer rules in 2014. Laviano worked as Nova’s backup last season and completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and one interception.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Laviano
The Contenders: Wade Freebeck vs. Johnny McCrary
After starting four quarterbacks last season, second-year coach Derek Mason wants to end the quarterback roulette in 2015. Finding a starter and giving that player a chance to develop and not look over his shoulder is a big priority for Mason and new coordinator Andy Ludwig. Freebeck was pressed into action as a true freshman last year and finished with just one touchdown and a 47.2 completion percentage on 72 attempts. McCrary led the team with nine touchdown tosses but also threw eight picks and completed 51.3 percent of his passes.
Projected Starter for the Opener: McCrary
Texas A&M is breaking out new alternate uniforms for its Halloween matchup against South Carolina.
The Aggies host the Gamecocks on Oct. 31 at Kyle Field, and Adidas has unveiled a new black alternate uniform and matte black helmet.
Texas A&M’s uniforms and helmet designs from Adidas have looked sharp in recent years, and the new alternates for the Halloween matchup fall into that same category.
Check out the Aggies’ new alternates for Oct. 31:
Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie is expected to be one of the SEC’s top freshman in 2015. And by all accounts, the freshman is making quite an impression in fall practice.
On Thursday, video emerged from Tennessee’s practice, which features McKenzie destroying an offensive lineman during drills.
Needless to say, McKenzie is going to be a prominent member of Tennessee’s defensive line this season: