Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/sec-west-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.


The SEC West is college football’s toughest division and the going isn’t expected to get any easier in 2015. Alabama and Auburn appear to be the early favorites, but any of the seven teams have a case to be picked at the top this preseason. This spring, quarterback battles will be under the spotlight at Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU, while defense is the focus at Auburn and Texas A&M.


What are the key questions and storylines shaping all seven teams in the SEC West and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the 7 teams and the priority list for each coach. 


SEC West Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch


(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)


1. Alabama

2014 Record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 2, Defense – 7


Key Coaching Changes:

Tosh Lupoi (LBs coach)
Mel Tucker (DBs coach)

Alabama’s Spring Priorities


1. Jake Coker’s Offense
After transferring in from Florida State last offseason, high expectations surrounded Jake Coker in the quarterback battle. However, Blake Sims edged Coker for the starting job. This spring is Coker’s chance at claiming the job once again, but he will be pushed by David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman. This is Coker’s job to lose.

2. New Targets at WR
Amari Cooper was the best receiver in college football last season, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores. And Alabama isn’t just replacing Cooper, as DeAndrew White and Christion Jones are also out of eligibility. Which players will emerge this spring at receiver?

3. Secondary Issues
Alabama’s defensive backs allowed 19 plays of 30 yards or more last season, which ranked near the bottom of the SEC. This unit has room to improve in 2015, but safeties Landon Collins and Nick Perry must be replaced. At cornerback, will Cyrus Jones, Tony Brown, Eddie Jackson and Marlon Humphrey provide the secondary with more consistency to eliminate the big plays?


2. Auburn

2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7


Key Coaching Changes:

Will Muschamp (defensive coordinator)
Travaris Robinson (DBs coach)
Lance Thompson (LBs coach)

Auburn’s Spring Priorities


1. Will Muschamp Takes Over the Defense
After giving up 32.8 points per game in SEC contests last season, coach Gus Malzahn decided to make big changes to his defensive staff. Three new coaches join Auburn for 2015, including former Florida coach Will Muschamp as the team’s new coordinator. Muschamp should make a big difference with this unit, and there’s a solid core of talent in place with seven starters returning. This spring is Muschamp’s first opportunity to put his system in place.

2. Carl Lawson’s Return at DE
In addition to Muschamp’s arrival, one of the biggest reasons for optimism for Auburn's defense is the return of end Carl Lawson from injury. Lawson missed all of 2014 due to a torn ACL but is expected to participate in spring practice. Even though the sophomore won’t take a full load of snaps in the spring, getting Lawson back in the mix and knocking off the rust will be beneficial for the fall.

3. Reloading on Offense
Auburn returns only five starters on offense, but there’s not much concern about how this unit will perform in 2015. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a breakout candidate, the backfield is loaded with talent - including junior college recruit Jovon Robinson - and there’s enough of a core in place on the offensive line to withstand the departure of center Reese Dismukes. 


3. LSU

2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6


Key Coaching Changes:

Kevin Steele (Defensive Coordinator)
Ed Orgeron (DL coach)
Tony Ball (WRs coach)

LSU’s Spring Priorities


1. Improvement in the Passing Game
Total yardage isn’t necessarily the best way to judge an offense’s effectiveness, but LSU averaged only 140.6 passing yards per game in SEC contests. Both quarterbacks – Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris – struggled to consistently move the offense through the air. Jennings will open spring ball as the starter, but can he show improvement after completing only 48.9 percent of his passes in 2014?

2. Reloading at DE
LSU has been a factory for talent at defensive end in recent years. However, the pass rush has dipped over the last two seasons, and the Tigers finished 2014 with just 19 sacks. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter have departed Baton Rouge, leaving new coordinator Kevin Steele and line coach Ed Orgeron with a few holes to fill at end. Who steps up here this spring?

3. Depth at RB/WR
There’s no doubt running back Leonard Fournette will be one of the nation’s leading rushers in 2015. But with the departure of Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, coordinator Cam Cameron needs to restock the depth behind Fournette this spring. At receiver, Travin Dural produced plenty of big plays in 2014. Can the Tigers find a consistent No. 2 and No. 3 option? This is a big spring for Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre and John Diarse at receiver.


4. Ole Miss

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7


Key Coaching Changes:

Corey Batoon (Sp. Teams/Safeties)


Ole Miss’ Spring Priorities


1. Quarterback Battle
With Bo Wallace expiring his eligibility, the Rebels open spring with a three-way battle for the starting quarterback spot. Junior college recruit Chad Kelly will have a shot to unseat DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, but none of the three players have a career start. Will coach Hugh Freeze find an answer at quarterback this spring?

2. Shuffling the OL
The offensive line was a concern for the Rebels heading into 2014, and this unit had its share of struggles, giving up 31 sacks and clearing the way for rushers to average only 3.9 yards per carry. Improving this unit is critical for Ole Miss’ chances at moving up in the West Division pecking order, but injuries are a factor. Tackle Laremy Tunsil and guard Aaron Morris are recovering from significant leg injuries. Major improvement this spring with Morris and Tunsil sidelined is unlikely, but it’s critical for Freeze to get a look at his options.

3. Filling the Voids in the Secondary
The Rebels return seven starters on defense and should once again be among the best in the SEC. But if there’s one concern for coordinator Dave Wommack, it has to be in the secondary after the departures of cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt. The cupboard isn’t bare though, as C.J. Hampton and Tony Conner are back at safety, and cornerback could be addressed with the return of Tee Shepard from injury. Junior college recruit Tony Bridges will also provide help at cornerback.


5. Arkansas

2014 Record: 7-6 (2-6 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 9 , Defense – 5


Key Coaching Changes:

Dan Enos (Offensive Coordinator)
Vernon Hargreaves (LBs coach)
Jemal Singleton (RBs coach)

Arkansas’ Spring Priorities


1. Continued Improvement in the Passing Game
New coordinator Dan Enos shouldn’t have to change the formula for success for the Razorbacks. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams form one of the nation’s top duos at running back, and the line is one of the best in the SEC. But for Arkansas to take the next step in the West, the passing game has to take another step forward. Quarterback Brandon Allen returns, and top targets Keon Hatcher (WR) and Hunter Henry (TE) are also back. Can the Razorbacks find a couple more options to help the passing game grow in 2015?

2. Reloading on the DL
Not only is Arkansas losing its best pass rusher (Trey Flowers), but its best defensive tackle (Darius Philon) bolted early to the NFL. Coordinator Robb Smith has to restock the trenches this spring and will be looking for development from players like JaMichael Winston (DE), Taiwan Johnson (DT) and Bijhon Jackson (DT).

3. Replacing Martrell Spaight
Spaight may have been one of the SEC’s most underrated players in 2014. In 13 games, Spaight recorded 128 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and forced two fumbles. Brooks Ellis (72 tackles) is the top returner at linebacker, but this will be an area of focus as Smith and new linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves look to replace Spaight in 2015.


6. Texas A&M

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6


Key Coaching Changes:

John Chavis (Defensive Coordinator)
Aaron Moorehead (WRs coach)
Dave Christensen (OL/Run Game Coordinator)

Texas A&M’s Spring Priorities


1. Getting Defensive
It’s no secret the defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest problem since joining the SEC. However, coach Kevin Sumlin took a big step in fixing the defense by hiring John Chavis away from LSU. Chavis is one of the best defensive signal-callers in the nation and inherits a unit with some promising young talent. How far can Chavis get this defense to improve in the spring?

2. Kyle Allen’s Time to Shine
Allen ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and didn’t disappoint in his first season in College Station. He started the final five games of 2014 and finished the year with 1,322 passing yards and 16 scores. Allen is entrenched as the starter this spring, but touted freshman Kyler Murray arrives this summer. Can Allen solidify his place at the top of the depth chart?

3. Revamped OL
New line coach Dave Christensen inherits a unit that returns three starters but must replace standout tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. The Aggies allowed 26 sacks last season and need to shuffle the starting five with Ogbuehi, Garrett Gramling and Jarvis Harrison leaving College Station. Center Mike Matthews is a good building block, but how will Christensen build the starting five? This spring is his first opportunity to work with this group. 


7. Mississippi State

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 3


Key Coaching Changes:

Manny Diaz (Defensive Coordinator)

Mississippi State’s Spring Priorities


1. New Faces on the OL
The Bulldogs return only four starters on offense in 2015, but quarterback Dak Prescott turned down the NFL for one more season in Starkville. Prescott’s return is huge for Mississippi State’s hopes of another 10-win season, and the focus of spring should be revamping the line to protect their senior quarterback. Three key linemen departed from the 2014 team, including standout center Dillon Day and guard Ben Beckwith. Junior college recruit Martinas Rankin should help replace left tackle Blaine Clausell.

2. Replacing Josh Robinson
Josh Robinson left Starkville for the NFL after a successful 2014 season. Robinson rushed for 1,203 yards and 11 scores last year, while Prescott was the team’s second-leading rusher with 986 yards. The battle to replace Robinson begins this spring, as Brandon Holloway, Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams will compete for carries.

3. Manny Diaz Returns to Coordinate the Defense
Geoff Collins left to become the co-defensive coordinator at Florida this offseason, and coach Dan Mullen turned to a familiar face to lead Mississippi State’s defense. Manny Diaz is back after leaving for Texas in 2011. Diaz will be a busy man this offseason, as the Bulldogs return only three starters and suffered significant losses at each level of the defense. This spring will be his first opportunity to find replacements for big names like end Preston Smith and linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

SEC West 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-new-helmet-2015-spring-practice

Oregon State is slated to open spring practice on Tuesday, March 3, and there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the team with the hire of new coach Gary Andersen.

In addition to the new era of Oregon State football, the Beavers plan to unveil a new helmet for spring practice.

The Twitter account of Oregon State equipment’s team tweeted out this picture on Monday night of the helmets: 

Who knows how much Oregon State will wear these helmets in the regular season, but this variation (with a tip of the cap to the past) is a pretty solid look for the program.

Oregon State Unveils New Helmet for 2015 Spring Practice
Post date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-coach-steve-spurrier-joins-twitter-internet-rejoices

College football coaches use Twitter accounts for various reasons, and some are better follows than others.

However, the Internet rejoiced on Monday, as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier joined Twitter. Who knows how Spurrier will use this account, but he’s one of the best quotes in college football and perhaps this will produce a few gems along the way.


The Ol’ Ball Coach can be followed at

Here’s proof of Spurrier’s account:

And of course, Spurrier's Twitter account generated some fun conversation:

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier Joins Twitter, Internet Rejoices
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 12:12
Path: /college-football/sec-east-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.


Georgia is the early favorite in the SEC East for 2015, but the Bulldogs will be pushed by Florida, Missouri and Tennessee. The Volunteers are a team on the rise under coach Butch Jones, while the Gators have the talent to rebound in coach Jim McElwain’s first year. The Tigers have key personnel losses to address, but coach Gary Pinkel’s team always seems to find the right answers to reload the roster.

What are the key questions and storylines shaping each SEC East’s roster and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the seven teams and the priority list for each coach. 


SEC East Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)


1. Georgia

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Brian Schottenheimer (offensive coordinator)

Rob Sale (OL coach)
Thomas Brown (RB coach)


Georgia's Spring Priorities

1. Quarterback Battle
New play-caller Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t need to overhaul the offense with Nick Chubb leading the way at running back, but the Bulldogs have question marks in the passing game. Who will replace Hutson Mason at quarterback? Will it be Brice Ramsey (24 of 39 for 333 yards last year)? Or will Faton Bauta or Jacob Park push for the job this spring?

2. Who Emerges at WR?
The Bulldogs are losing their top two receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett) from last year. If Malcolm Mitchell can stay healthy, he could be one of the top receivers in the SEC. While Mitchell and tight end Jeb Blazevich are solid targets, Georgia needs a few more playmakers to emerge this spring.

3. Development of the Secondary
Georgia’s secondary entered last season with plenty of question marks but allowed only 10 touchdown passes in SEC contests. This unit loses only two key players from the 2014 depth chart and the overall experience and snaps in coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense should help the secondary improve in 2015. How will this unit replace cornerback Damian Swann after he earned second-team All-SEC honors last year?


2. Missouri

2014 Record: 11-3 (7-1 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense - 6, Defense - 6


Key Coaching Changes:


Barry Odom (defensive coordinator)

Ryan Walters (Safeties coach)


Missouri’s Spring Priorities

1. The Next Standouts at DE?
Missouri consistently produces standouts at end under line coach Craig Kuligowski. Will that trend continue in 2015? The odds are in the Tigers’ favor, but this is a big spring for Marcus Loud, Charles Harris and Rocel McWilliams. Junior college recruit Marcell Frazier will arrive this summer.

2. New Targets for QB Maty Mauk
In his first season as a starter, Maty Mauk had his share of ups and downs. Mauk completed only 48.9 percent of his throws in SEC games but also limited his interceptions to just four over the final seven contests. How much will Mauk improve this offseason? It’s critical for the junior to take the next step for Missouri to contend in the East.

3. New Receivers
Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White all depart, leaving Nate Brown (five receptions) and Wesley Leftwich (three receptions) as the top returning wide receivers. Mauk’s development could be tied to how quickly Missouri can reload in the receiving corps.


3. Tennessee

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Key Coaching Changes:


Mike DeBord (offensive coordinator)

Tennessee’s Spring Priorities

1. Improving the OL
Tennessee allowed 43 sacks in 13 games last season. But there’s reason for optimism in 2015 with the return of four starters and improved depth. How much will this group progress? This spring will provide the first glimpse for coach Butch Jones.

2. Development of QB Joshua Dobbs
New coordinator Mike DeBord is tasked with getting quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the next level in his development. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 469 yards and eight scores over the final six games. If the junior takes another step forward this offseason, he should be in the mix for All-SEC honors in 2015.

3. Next Step on Defense
After allowing 6.1 yards per play in SEC-only contests in 2013, the Volunteers lowered that number to 5.4 in 2014. With eight starters back, it’s possible Tennessee takes another noticeable jump in defensive production. End Derek Barnett is one of the nation’s rising stars at defensive end, and the addition of tackle Kahlil McKenzie is another example of how the team’s talent level has improved under coach Butch Jones.  



4. Florida

2014 Record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

Jim McElwain (head coach)
Doug Nussmeier (offensive coordinator)
Geoff Collins (defensive coordinator)
Randy Shannon (co-defensive coordinator, LB coach)

Florida's Spring Priorities

1. Quarterback Battle
Treon Harris started the last six games as a true freshman last season and passed for 1,140 yards, nine scores and 10 picks. Can he build on his freshman campaign or will he be pushed for time by redshirt freshman Will Grier?

2. Rebuilding the OL
While the quarterback position will garner most of the offseason storylines, the offensive line could be a bigger problem spot for Florida in 2015. Only one starter (Trip Thurman) is back, as this unit must replace center Max Garcia, left tackle D.J. Humphries, guard Tyler Moore and tackle Chaz Green. How will this unit jell in the spring?

3. Replacing Dante Fowler
With seven starters back, the defense should once again be the strength of this team. But the Gators have one critical void to address, as end Dante Fowler left early for the NFL. Fowler led the team with 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in 2013.  



5. South Carolina

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Jon Hoke (Co-defensive coordinator)

South Carolina’s Spring Priorities

1. QB Battle
Dylan Thompson departs after guiding South Carolina to a 7-6 record in his only full season as the starter. Sophomore Connor Mitch (2 of 6 in 2014) holds the inside track to replace Thompson, but the battle in Columbia is far from finished. Can Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia or incoming freshman Lorenzo Nunez unseat Mitch this offseason?

2. Restock the OL
South Carolina has significant personnel losses at each offensive unit. But the offensive line might have the biggest shoes to fill with the departure of standouts Corey Robinson (LT) and A.J. Cann (guard). Could Brandon Shell flip from right tackle to the left side?

3. Finding Answers on Defense
South Carolina’s defense ranked 12th in the SEC by allowing 30.4 points per game in 2014. Coach Steve Spurrier is turning to a familiar face in Jon Hoke to find some answers this spring. Six starters are back from last season, and a handful of young players should benefit from another spring to develop. Improving the pass rush and secondary will be two areas of specific focus for Hoke.


6. Kentucky

2014 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Shannon Dawson (offensive coordinator)
Andy Buh (OLB coach)


Kentucky’s Spring Priorities

1. Replacements at Defensive End
Mark Stoops and coordinator D.J. Eliot have some major renovations ahead at end this spring. Gone are Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, two standout performers who recorded 12 of Kentucky’s 27 sacks last season. Junior college recruit Alvonte Bell could help, but he won’t arrive until this summer. Expect junior Jason Hatcher to play a key role in replacing Dupree and Smith.

2. Patrick Towles
In his first full season as the starter, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 scores and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Can he take the next step in his development this spring? Redshirt freshman Drew Barker was a touted prospect from the 2014 signing class and will have a chance to push for the job this offseason.

3. Improvement on the OL
Only one team (Tennessee) allowed more sacks in SEC games than Kentucky last season. The Wildcats gave up 27 sacks in eight games and must replace left tackle Darrian Miller this spring. This is a big spring for returning starters Zach West, Jon Toth, Ramsey Meyers and Jordan Swindle to build chemistry for 2015.



7. Vanderbilt

2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 9


Vanderbilt’s Spring Priorities

1. Find a Quarterback
New coordinator Andy Ludwig inherits an offense that managed only 12.8 points per game in SEC contests. Improving the offense starts with finding a quarterback. The Commodores aren’t hurting for options under center, as three players have started a game and Shawn Stankavage is ready to push for time after a redshirt year. Can Ludwig settle on a clear No. 1 passer?

2. Development at WR
New receivers coach Cortez Hankton opened spring practice looking for more playmakers. With inconsistency at quarterback, evaluating the Vanderbilt receiving corps isn’t easy, but only two receivers – C.J. Duncan and Latevius Rayford – caught more than 20 passes in 2014. Can young players like Caleb Scott, Ronald Monroe, Rashad Canty and Trent Sherfield emerge as threats to help Duncan and Rayford in 2015?

3. Derek Mason’s Defense
In addition to his duties as the head coach, Derek Mason is now Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator. That’s a lot on Mason’s plate, but as his tenure at Stanford showed, he’s one of the nation’s top defensive signal-callers. With Mason having a full spring to work with a unit that returns nine starters, how much can the Commodores’ defense improve in 2015?

SEC East 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/acc-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.


Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are the early favorites to win the ACC in 2015, and each team opens spring ball with plenty of question marks. Who will replace Jameis Winston at quarterback for the Seminoles? How quickly will the Tigers reload in the trenches? And for the Yellow Jackets, can they find a few options at running back and continue to develop on defense?

What are the key questions and storylines shaping all 14 teams in the ACC and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the 14 teams and the priority list for each coach. 

ACC Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)


ACC Atlantic


1. Florida State

2014 Record: 13-1 (8-0 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense - 7


Key Coaching Changes:

Brad Lawing (DE/OLB coach)


Florida State’s Spring Priorities


1. QB Battle
All eyes in Tallahassee this spring will be on the quarterbacks. Who replaces Jameis Winston in 2015? Sean Maguire has the edge in experience, but he will be pushed by redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino.

2. Revamping the OL
Line coach Rick Trickett is going to be busy this spring. Florida State loses four all-conference performers in the trenches, including Cameron Erving and guard Tre Jackson. Sophomore Roderick Johnson is a key part of the rebuilding effort, but who steps up at the other four spots?

3. Defensive Line/Secondary
Florida State returns seven starters are defense, but the personnel losses are heavy. Gone are defensive linemen Mario Edwards Jr. and tackle Eddie Goldman, along with cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams. There’s no shortage of talent at either position, it’s just a matter of finding the right mix for coordinator Charles Kelly.

2. Clemson

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 2


Key Coaching Changes:


Jeff Scott (co-offensive coordinator)

Tony Elliott (co-offensive coordinator)

Brandon Streeter (QB coach)


Clemson’s Spring Priorities

1. Rebuild the DL
The Tigers were hit hard by departures on the defensive line, as six key players from last year’s rotation expired their eligibility. The biggest losses are end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett – a pair of first team All-ACC selections in 2014. End Shaq Lawson is a breakout candidate, and the incoming freshman class should provide some immediate help.  

2. Tony Elliott/Jeff Scott
Chad Morris was one of the nation’s top offensive coordinators, and there’s no doubt his departure will have some impact on Clemson’s offense in 2015. Quarterback Deshaun Watson won’t practice this spring due to ACL surgery, but this is Scott and Elliott’s first chance to coordinate the offense. What tweaks or changes will they unveil?

3. Answers on the OL?
Although Clemson has one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Watson) and a loaded group of receivers, the offense won’t click unless a few answers are found in the trenches. Left tackle Isaiah Battle and center Ryan Norton are the only returning starters from a group that allowed 27 sacks in 2014. Who steps up this spring?

3. Louisville

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 4

Key Coaching Changes:


Louisville’s Spring Priorities

1. Settle on a QB
Three quarterbacks made a start for Louisville last season, and the competition will add a fourth name this spring with Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA rules. Can the Cardinals settle on a starter?

2. Revamped OL
Replacing receiver DeVante Parker will be a challenge, but a bigger concern for Louisville has to be the offensive line. Three starters are back for 2015, including center Tobijah Hughley and tackle Aaron Epps. However, the three departing players each earned at least honorable mention All-ACC honors last season from a unit that allowed 40 sacks.

3. Replacements on Defense
Each unit on Louisville’s defense will be replacing a key player for 2015. Gone are standouts in rush end Lorenzo Mauldin, end B.J. Dubose and defensive backs Charles Gaines, James Sample and Gerod Holliman. The cupboard isn’t completely bare for coordinator Todd Grantham, but there will be some retooling this spring. Keep an eye on Georgia defensive back transfers Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

4. NC State

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

George McDonald (WRs coach)

NC State’s Spring Priorities

1. New Names at WR
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is coming off a solid first season as NC State’s starter (23 TDs, 5 INTs). However, Brissett is losing a couple of his receivers from last season, including standout Bo Hines (45 catches) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. This is a big spring for receivers Bra’Lon Cherry and Johnathan Alston and tight end David Grinnage.

2. New Tackles
Solidifying the offensive line will be a key spring storyline for NC State as it hopes to climb in the Atlantic Division next year. The line allowed 22 sacks in eight ACC contests and must replace both starting tackles (Rob Crisp and Tyson Chandler). Will replacements emerge this spring?

3. Next Step on Defense
NC State allowed 5.4 yards per play in ACC games last season, a sizeable decrease from the 6.3 allowed in 2013. There’s room for improvement with seven starters returning, but the front seven has a few holes to address with the losses of end Art Norman, tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill and linebacker Rodman Noel.


5. Boston College

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense –4, Defense – 6


Key Coaching Changes:

Todd Fitch (offensive coordinator)
Brian White (WR coach)
Coleman Hutzler (Special Teams/OLB coach)


Boston College’s Spring Priorities


1. Replace QB Tyler Murphy
Tyler Murphy’s one season at Boston College was a success, and coach Steve Addazio opens spring ball looking for his next signal-caller. Sophomore Darius Wade (3 of 6 in 2014) opens as the frontrunner, with Elijah Robinson and Troy Flutie also in the mix.

2. Revamp the OL
Adding to the overall uncertainty on offense is the departure of four starters from one of the ACC’s top lines. Harris Williams is the unit’s top returning option after missing nearly all of last season with an ankle injury. How quickly will this group jell?

3. Few Holes on Defense
With six starters back, the defense should be a strength for coach Steve Addazio. There are a few key personnel losses to address, including end Brian Mihalik (4.5 sacks), linebacker Josh Keyes (66 tackles) and defensive backs Manuel Asprilla and safety Dominique Williams. With a new quarterback and offensive line, the defense may have to carry Boston College early in 2015.

6. Syracuse

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 3

Key Coaching Changes:

Tim Lester (first full year as OC)
Bobby Acosta (moves from TE to WRs coach)
Jake Moreland (TE/OT coach)
Joe Adam (OG/C coach)

Syracuse’s Spring Priorities

1. Settle on a QB
Terrel Hunt missed the final seven games of 2014 due to a leg injury, and in his absence, three other quarterbacks received playing time. Hunt is the favorite to win the job once again, but sophomore AJ Long showed promise in a limited stint. The spring will also be Tim Lester’s first as the full-time play-caller for Syracuse.

2. New Options at RB
Lester has some work to do at running back this spring, as Syracuse lost Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore. Ervin Phillips is slated to move to a hybrid running back/receiver role, leaving George Morris II and Devante McFarlane as the top options at running back. Will Morris II or McFarlane claim the job? Or could the Orange turn to an incoming freshman in the fall?

3. New Faces on Defense
Only three starters are back on defense, and this unit suffered critical losses with the departure of end Micah Robinson, nose tackle Eric Crume, linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch, and safety Durell Eskridge. Coach Scott Shafer and coordinator Chuck Bullough will be busy restocking each unit and getting a look at several different options this spring.  

7. Wake Forest

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7


Key Coaching Changes:



Wake Forest’s Spring Priorities

1. Addressing the OL
Wake Forest allowed a whopping 48 sacks in 2014. And it wasn’t just pass protection that was a problem, as the Demon Deacons managed only 1.3 yards per carry. Two starters depart, including guard/center Cory Helms. Can this unit take a step forward?

2. Find a Threat at Running Back
In addition to addressing the offensive line, Wake Forest has to find a threat at running back to take the pressure off of quarterback John Wolford. Dezmond Wortham and Isaiah Robinson are the team’s top returning options, but incoming freshmen Rocky Reid and Matt Colburn could compete for playing time in the fall.

3. New Starters at CB
The combination of Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel was one of the nation’s underrated duos at cornerback. Both are off to the NFL and leave big shoes to fill for 2015. Josh Okonye and Brad Watson were listed as the backup corners last season and figure to get first crack at the starting jobs in the spring.

Coastal Division


1. Georgia Tech

2014 Record: 11-3 (6-2 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense - 7

Key Coaching Changes:


Georgia Tech’s Spring Priorities

1. Restock the Backs
Quarterback Justin Thomas is back, but the Yellow Jackets need to retool their options at the A-back and B-back positions. Synjyn Days, Deon Hill, Charles Perkins, B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon and Zach Laskey all depart. Broderick Snoddy and Dennis Andrews are the top returning backs, but other players need to emerge. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman C.J. Leggett.

2. Find the Next Standout at WR
Micheal Summers (seven catches) and Antonio Messick (one reception) are the only returning receivers with a catch from 2014. DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller combined for 13 touchdown receptions last year and will be missed. Can Georgia Tech find another go-to option (or two) for Thomas?

3. Filling a Few Voids on Defense
Seven starters return from a defense that allowed 25.7 points per game in 2014. This unit could improve with its core returning largely intact, but the departure of tackle Shawn Green, linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and safety Isaiah Johnson creates a few question marks for coordinator Ted Roof to address this spring.

2. Virginia Tech

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Key Coaching Changes:


Zohn Burden (WRs coach)

Virginia Tech’s Spring Priorities

1. Improvement at QB
In his first season as Virginia Tech’s quarterback, Michael Brewer threw for 2,692 yards and 18 scores. While Brewer had some solid performances for the Hokies, he also tossed 15 interceptions. With another spring to work under coordinator Scot Loeffler, Brewer should be more comfortable in this offense in 2015.

2. Solidifying the OL
The Hokies have allowed at least 30 sacks in back-to-back seasons. This unit has to take a step forward for this team to contend in the Coastal Division, and there’s plenty of uncertainty with three starters departing. Guard Wyatt Teller is a promising building block for 2015.

3. New Safeties
With eight starters back, combined with the return of tackle Luther Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson, the Hokies should have the best defense in the ACC next year. If there’s one concern for coordinator Bud Foster, it has to be at safety with the loss of Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner. Who will emerge to fill this void?


3. North Carolina

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 10, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Gene Chizk (defensive coordinator)

John Papuchis (LB coach)

Charlton Warren (DBs coach)

North Carolina’s Spring Priorities

1. Mitch Trubsiky’s Time to Shine
With Marquise Williams out for spring practice due to injury, Mitch Trubisky will take control of the offense. Williams is still expected to be the starter in the fall, but this is Trubisky’s opportunity to put a little pressure on Williams.

2. More Development From the OL
All five starters return from an offensive line that gave up 25 sacks in ACC contests. In addition to providing better protection for Williams and Trubisky, this unit needs to get a better push for the rushing attack (just 3.7 yards per carry in conference games).

3. Defensive Improvement

If North Carolina can improve slightly on defense in 2015, this team can contend in the Coastal Division. The good news is coach Larry Fedora hired a good defensive staff, headlined by coordinator Gene Chizik. Additionally, six starters are back from a unit that also has plenty of young players returning after garnering valuable experience last year. There should be improvement in 2015. But how far along can Chizik bring this defense?

4. Miami

2014 Record: 6-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 5

Key Coaching Changes:

Kevin Beard (WRs coach)
Randy Melvin (DL coach)


Miami’s Spring Priorities


1. More Improvement on Defense
On defense last season, the Hurricanes showed some improvement on the stat sheet by cutting their yards per play allowed from 5.8 in 2013 to 4.8 in 2014. While that’s a positive step, more is needed from the defense in 2015. Five starters are back, but this unit loses standout linebacker Denzel Perryman.


2. New Targets at WR
Quarterback Brad Kaaya should push for All-ACC honors in 2015, but question marks exist about the receiving corps this offseason. Big-play threat Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford have expired their eligibility. Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios and Malcolm Lewis are talented, but all three need a big offseason to help replace some of the production left behind by Dorsett and Walford.


3. Restocking the OL
The Hurricanes had one of the better offensive line units in the ACC last season, allowing only 21 sacks and helping rushers average 5.3 yards per carry. Three starters are gone from last season, but there’s enough returning personnel to keep the line performing at a high level. How quickly will this unit jell in spring practice? 

5. Pittsburgh

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:


Pat Narduzzi (head coach)

Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator)

Josh Conklin (defensive coordinator)

Pittsburgh’s Spring Priorities


1. More Help for Chad Voytik
Voytik isn’t necessarily guaranteed the starting job, as Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman is expected to provide competition. Regardless of which quarterback starts, the receiving corps needs more consistent options to emerge. Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the nation, but the passing game would benefit if another receiver or two take a step forward.


2. Defensive End
The Panthers are thin on proven options at defensive end after Shakir Soto and Rori Blair. Expect to see coach Pat Narduzzi and coordinator Josh Conklin spending plenty of time evaluating their options at this position, and there’s some help on the way in the form of junior college recruit Allen Edwards this summer.


3. Improving the Secondary
Pittsburgh’s secondary finished 43rd nationally in pass efficiency defense last year but also gave up 12 plays of 40 yards or more. This unit returns nearly intact, with safety Ray Vinopal the lone departing player with significant experience. This will be a big spring for young players like Avonte Maddox and Reggie Mitchell in the new defensive scheme.


6. Duke

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:


Matt Guerrieri (safeties coach)

Duke’s Spring Priorities

1. Thomas Sirk at QB
Duke has nearly completed spring practice, and Sirk seemed to distance himself from the other quarterbacks this offseason. Coach David Cutcliffe is one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should develop Sirk into a solid starter for this team. Sirk’s progression will be critical for Duke’s chances at winning at least nine games for the third season in a row.

2. Restocking the OL
An underrated part of Duke’s improvement under Cutcliffe has been the play of the offensive line. But this unit enters 2015 with a few missing pieces, including standouts Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield. Can line coach John Latina keep this unit performing at a high level?

3. Revamping the DL/LB
The Blue Devils allowed 192.9 rushing yards per game last season and lose five key performers from last year’s unit. Linebacker David Helton (134 tackles) is a big loss, but the return of Kelby Brown should alleviate some of the concerns for this unit. Revamping the defensive line should be the bigger concern for Cutcliffe.

7. Virginia

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 4

Key Coaching Changes:


Chris Beatty (RBs coach)
Dave Borbely (OL coach)

Virginia’s Spring Priorities

1. Rebuilt Front Seven
The Cavaliers allowed only 5.1 yards per play on defense last season. Repeating that total in 2015 could be difficult with the departure of end Eli Harold and linebackers Max Valles, Henry Coley and Daquan Romero. This is a big spring for talented sophomore tackle Andrew Brown and senior Kwontie Moore to help fill the voids in the front seven.

2. Consistency at QB
In his first full season as Virginia’s starter (nine games), Greyson Lambert threw for 1,632 yards and 10 scores. With another set of practices to work as the starter, the coaching staff hopes Lambert takes the next step in his development. If not, Matt Johns (8 TDs, 5 INTs) was effective in limited action and could push for more snaps.

3. Better OL Play
Virginia was solid in pass protection (16 sacks allowed last year), but the offensive line helped to generate only 3.7 yards per carry. Three full-time starters are back from last season, and the Cavaliers regain the services of Ryan Doull (guard) and Jay Whitmire (tackle) for 2015 after both players missed time due to injuries in 2014. Can this unit develop under new coach Dave Borbely?

ACC 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/sec-stadiums-enjoy-snow-day

A few SEC stadiums looked a little different on Thursday morning thanks to Mother Nature.


A late February snow storm provided a winter blast for a few SEC programs, which produced some cool images – and a snowball fight.


Here’s a look at a Snow Day in the SEC:






Ole Miss

Mississippi State

SEC Stadiums Enjoy a Snow Day
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 14:41
Path: /college-football/smu-unveils-new-blue-patriotic-helmet-2015

SMU made one of college football’s top offseason coaching moves when it hired Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris as its next head coach.

And Morris has wasted no time adding a new look to the Mustangs uniform assortment.


It’s uncertain when SMU will wear this helmet, but it’s certainly patriotic and a clean look for the Mustangs.



SMU Unveils New Blue Patriotic Helmet for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 12:19
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pre-spring-top-25-2015

The start of college football’s 2015 season is still a few months away, but spring practice is already here for a handful of teams. With each day of spring practice, the picture on every FBS team starts to clear, and the rankings and predictions for 2015 become more refined.


While many changes lie ahead as it relates to predictions and rankings for the upcoming season, it’s still never too early to think about them. With that in mind, Athlon Sports is here with its pre-spring top 25 for 2015. 


College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 for 2015


1. Ohio State
Returning Starters:
Offense – 7, Defense – 7

It’s tough to go back-to-back as college football’s national champion, but the Buckeyes are in good shape to do so in 2015. Seven starters return on both sides of the ball, including standout defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee, running back Ezekiel Elliott and three quarterbacks capable of contending for the Heisman Trophy. The biggest question mark in Columbus will be the development of the receiving corps and finding replacements on defense for cornerback Doran Grant and tackle Michael Bennett.

2. TCU
Returning Starters:
Offense – 10, Defense – 5

Gary Patterson’s team just missed the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014, but the Horned Frogs are positioned to be one of the favorites in '15. Quarterback Trevone Boykin headlines an explosive offense, while the defense is reloading this spring with just five returning starters. The secondary and linebacking corps should get the most attention from Patterson in the spring, as standouts Paul Dawson (LB), Kevin White (CB) and safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter have departed Fort Worth.

3. Alabama
Returning Starters:
Offense – 2, Defense – 7

Talent certainly isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has inked the No. 1 signing class in each of the last five years, but coach Nick Saban has plenty of work to do with just nine returning starters. While the defense has a few holes to address in the secondary, the offense is the biggest concern for Saban and coordinator Lane Kiffin. Is Jake Coker ready to assume the quarterback job? And will a receiver emerge to replace Amari Cooper?

4. Baylor
Returning Starters:
Offense – 8, Defense – 9

The Bears have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four seasons. Despite the departure of quarterback Bryce Petty, linebacker Bryce Hager and receiver Antwan Goodley, coach Art Briles’ team will be in the mix for a playoff spot. Whether it’s Seth Russell, Chris Johnson or Jarrett Stidham under center, the offense will be among the best in the nation. And the new starter at quarterback inherits a talented group of skill players and an offensive line that could be the best in the Big 12. Nine starters are back on defense, and this unit features talented playmakers like end Shawn Oakman, linebacker Taylor Young and tackle Andrew Billings.

5. Auburn
Returning Starters:
Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Alabama is a slight favorite to win the SEC West in 2015, but Auburn isn’t far behind. New quarterback Jeremy Johnson should push for All-SEC honors as one of the league’s top breakout players, and junior college transfer Jovon Robinson will be an impact option at running back. The addition of Will Muschamp as coordinator, along with the return of end Carl Lawson will help a defense that allowed 32.8 points per game in SEC contests last year.

6. Michigan State
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Most of the offseason chatter in the Big Ten has focused on Ohio State’s bid to repeat as national champions, and Jim Harbaugh’s return to Michigan as head coach. While those storylines will be popular all offseason, Michigan State quietly goes about its business. The Spartans return 13 starters from a team that suffered its only defeats (two) last season against playoff teams (Oregon and Ohio State). Dantonio may lean on his offense a little more with coordinator Pat Narduzzi leaving to be the head coach at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Connor Cook returns, and four starters headline an offensive line that will be among the best in the Big Ten. End Shilique Calhoun is back for his senior year, but the defense has a few holes to address at linebacker and in the secondary.

7. USC
Returning Starters:
Offense – 7, Defense – 7

Can second-year coach Steve Sarkisian lead USC back into Pac-12 title contention in 2015? The pieces are certainly there for the Trojans to make their first appearance in the conference title game. Quarterback Cody Kessler loses top target Nelson Agholor and running back Buck Allen, but a young offensive line should continue to jell this offseason. USC is counting on its 2015 recruiting class to provide help at the skill positions, including running back Ronald Jones II and junior college recruits Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton at receiver. Finding a replacement for end Leonard Williams and solidifying the secondary are two challenges for coordinator Justin Wilcox this spring.

8. Oregon
Returning Starters:
Offense – 7, Defense – 5

The Ducks are easily one of the most intriguing teams to watch this offseason. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams is expected to replace Marcus Mariota at quarterback, but he won’t arrive on campus until this summer. While Mariota will certainly be missed, the Ducks can ease Adams into the starting job with a strong supporting cast. Replacing center Hroniss Grasu and left tackle Jake Fisher will be a challenge for coordinator Scott Frost. Oregon’s defense suffered a key loss at each level, but the biggest concern has to be up front after the early departure of end Arik Armstead.


9. Georgia
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the teams in the SEC East next season. Tennessee and Florida should be better, but the Bulldogs have to begin spring practice as the favorite – almost by default. However, coach Mark Richt’s team certainly isn’t without question marks. There’s a quarterback competition set to begin in spring ball under new play-caller Brian Schottenheimer, and the receiving corps needs playmakers to emerge with the departure of Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Six starters return from a defense that limited opponents to 24.4 points per game in SEC action last year, and this unit should take another step forward under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in 2015.


10. Florida State
Returning Starters:
Offense – 3, Defense – 7

The Seminoles are 27-1 over the last two years, and even though there are some significant personnel issues to address, coach Jimbo Fisher’s team still has enough talent to push for 10 wins in 2015. The battle to replace quarterback Jameis Winston will be the top storyline to watch this offseason, but the defense loses a handful of standouts, including end Mario Edwards Jr., tackle Eddie Goldman and cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook should be one of the best in college football next year.

11. Clemson
Returning Starters:
Offense – 4, Defense – 2


It’s a toss up for the title of early favorite in the ACC Atlantic next season. Much like Florida State, Clemson has personnel concerns to address. However, there’s also a lot of talent returning to Death Valley for 2015. Quarterback Deshaun Watson headlines an explosive offense, which includes receiver Artavis Scott and running back Wayne Gallman. The departure of coordinator Chad Morris will have an impact on the offense, but Watson, Scott and Gallman should keep the unit performing at a high level. Bigger question marks exist on defense, as the Tigers were decimated with heavy departures in the front seven. How quickly can coordinator Brent Venables reload in the trenches?


12. Notre Dame

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 10

The Fighting Irish have potential to climb even higher in the post-spring edition of the top 25. With 18 starters returning, a rising star at quarterback in Malik Zaire and better health on defense next year, Notre Dame could easily push for 10 wins in 2015. Zaire still needs to hold off Everett Golson for the starting job, but the sophomore should have the edge under center after a solid performance in the Music City Bowl. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem with four starters back on the offensive line and a talented group of skill players, but the spring focus should be on a defense that allowed 29.2 points per game in 2014. Immediate help for coordinator Brian VanGorder should come in the form of cornerback KeiVarae Russell and end Ishaq Williams, both of whom were suspended in 2014.


13. LSU
Returning Starters:
Offense – 7, Defense – 6

If the Tigers develop their passing game this offseason, coach Les Miles' team certainly has the talent to win the SEC West in 2015. The battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris could last into August, but the offense won’t stray too much from its plan of getting the ball to sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele inherits six starters, and a secondary that should be among the best in the SEC. Can new line coach Ed Orgeron find the next standouts at defensive end this spring?

14. Ole Miss
Returning Starters:
Offense – 9, Defense – 7

The Rebels are trending up in coach Hugh Freeze’s fourth season. Over the last three seasons, Ole Miss has averaged a 13.3 finish in the national recruiting rankings. With better talent and roster depth, the Rebels are poised to push higher than last year’s 9-4 mark. Quarterback play will be under the microscope once again in 2015, as junior college recruit Chad Kelly headlines a three-way battle set to unfold in the spring. Regardless of which quarterback starts, the offense will benefit from a healthy Laquon Treadwell at receiver and an improving offensive line. Standout safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson are the biggest losses for a defense that limited opponents to just 4.7 yards per play in 2014.

15. Georgia Tech
Returning Starters:
Offense – 7, Defense – 7


The Yellow Jackets emerged from a wide-open Coastal Division to finish 11-3 and claim the Orange Bowl title last season. Coach Paul Johnson has a few holes to fill this spring, but Georgia Tech should be the favorite in the Coastal in 2015. Quarterback Justin Thomas is back after a standout debut as the full-time starter, and seven starters return from a defense that forced 29 turnovers in 2014. The biggest question mark for Johnson will be finding new rushing options at the A-back and B-back positions.


16. Arizona State
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Standout quarterback Taylor Kelly and receiver Jaelen Strong will be missed, but Arizona State still has enough pieces in place to contend in the Pac-12 South next year. New quarterback Mike Bercovici already has three starts under his belt, and the coaching staff hopes moving D.J. Foster to a running back/receiver role will help ease the loss of Strong. Coach Todd Graham likes an aggressive approach on defense, and this unit recorded 39 sacks last season. With nearly all of its key players returning, Arizona State’s defense should be able to cut its points (27.9) and yards per play allowed (5.6) from 2014.

17. UCLA
Returning Starters:
Offense – 10, Defense – 8

Quarterback play will be under the spotlight for coach Jim Mora this spring. Talented true freshman Josh Rosen enrolled in time to compete with Jerry Neuheisel this spring, but the battle may extend into the fall. Outside of replacing quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins return largely intact on offense. Running back Paul Perkins is back after a 1,575-yard season, and the line should be improved with the return of five starters. Three key defenders depart, but linebacker Myles Jack, end Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Ishmael Adams are plenty for new coordinator Tom Bradley to build around next season.

18. Arizona
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 5


While USC is considered the favorite in the Pac-12 South, very little separates the next tier between UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. The Wildcats are the defending Pac-12 South champs and should be explosive on offense once again with the return of quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson. Replacing standout offensive tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, as well as continuing to improve on defense will be the spring storylines to watch in Tucson.

19. Wisconsin
Returning Starters:
Offense – 5, Defense – 7

New coach Paul Chryst inherits a team capable of winning the Big Ten’s West Division in 2015. Sure, running back Melvin Gordon will be missed, but Corey Clement figures to be Wisconsin's next standout ball carrier. This spring, the Badgers need to jumpstart their passing game and replace three key players on the offensive line. The return of coordinator Dave Aranda should keep Wisconsin’s defense near the top of the Big Ten. 


20. Missouri
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

The Tigers had a rocky start to their SEC experience, but since a 5-7 mark in 2012, coach Gary Pinkel’s team is 23-5 and has claimed back-to-back East Division titles. Pinkel and his staff will have plenty of personnel issues to address this spring, as both sides of the ball have key players to replace. On offense, quarterback Maty Mauk is looking to take the next step in his development, but the top three receivers – Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White – are gone. New defensive coordinator Barry Odom was one of the top assistant hires in the SEC this offseason. Odom has few concerns in the back seven, but the line must replace ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray.    


21. Arkansas
Returning Starters:
Offense – 9, Defense – 5

The Razorbacks showed marked improvement in coach Bret Bielema’s second season. After finishing winless in SEC play in 2013, Arkansas won two conference games and lost four others by a touchdown or less. This team should take another step forward in the win column in 2015, especially if quarterback Brandon Allen and the receiving corps develops under new play-caller Dan Enos. And the running back duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams will be among the nation’s best. The defense took a step forward under coordinator Robb Smith in the second half of 2014, but defensive end Trey Flowers, tackle Darius Philon and tackle Martrell Spaight will be missed.

22. Texas A&M
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

There’s little doubt Texas A&M will field one of the SEC’s best offenses in 2015. Quarterback Kyle Allen will be pushed by talented freshman Kyler Murray, but the Aggies have some of the top skill talent in the conference. But for this program to take the next step, the defense has to improve. That’s exactly what new coordinator John Chavis was brought in to do. Chavis is regarded as one of the top coordinators in college football and inherits a defense that returns rising star Myles Garrett at defensive end, linebacker Otaro Alaka and safety Armani Watts.


23. Oklahoma
Returning Starters:
Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Coach Bob Stoops certainly isn’t sitting idle after last year’s 8-5 record. The Sooners made staff changes after the disappointing 2014 season, as Lincoln Riley was hired from East Carolina to call the plays, Kerry Cooks was brought aboard from Notre Dame to coach defensive backs, Dennis Simmons from Washington State to coach outside receivers, and Diron Reynolds arrives from Stanford to work with the defensive line. The revamped staff inherits plenty to work with in terms of personnel, but Riley has the biggest challenge in trying to find an answer at quarterback.

24. Mississippi State

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 3


Dan Mullen has clearly elevated the program, and the Bulldogs should be able to reload at a faster level than in previous years thanks to three top-25 recruiting classes over the last four seasons. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s return was huge for a team that returns just seven starters in 2015. The Bulldogs must replace running back Josh Robinson, three starters on the offensive line, receiver Jameon Lewis and key defenders in Benardrick McKinney (LB), Preston Smith (DE) and P.J. Jones (DT). The SEC West is brutal but having a quarterback like Prescott will help Mullen rebuild in 2015.


25. Oklahoma State
Returning Starters:
Offense - 10, Defense - 7


Mike Gundy’s team found a spark at the end of the 2014 season with the emergence of quarterback Mason Rudolph. Over the final three games, the true freshman had six touchdown passes and completed 65.4 percent of his attempts in the bowl win over Washington. Rudolph should be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors in 2015, but the Cowboys also need to solidify the offensive line and find a consistent option at running back. The defense returns seven starters, including end Emmanuel Ogbah (11 sacks in 2014), cornerback Kevin Peterson and linebacker Ryan Simmons.


Teams to Watch (alphabetical order): Boise State, BYU, Florida, Louisville, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia Tech

College Football's Pre-Spring Top 25 for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-running-backs-rise-2015

Spring practice is officially underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts are the first step to building a depth chart and getting an idea of what all 128 squads will have in 2015.


Quarterback battles will receive most of the attention in spring practice, but there are a handful of key playoff contenders losing a starter at running back or have a player poised for a breakthrough season. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at running backs.


Players like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, California's Daniel Lasco and Oregon’s Royce Freeman could certainly fit into this column, but we tried to identify and focus more on players who may have went under-the-radar last season or running backs that are poised for a significant jump in production in 2015.


Let’s take a look at 20 running backs on the rise for 2015, followed by a few other names to watch:


College Football's Top 20 RBs on the Rise for 2015


Corey Clement, Wisconsin

Melvin Gordon leaves big shoes to fill at running back for Wisconsin, but new coach Paul Chryst is inheriting a rising star in Clement. The New Jersey native was Gordon’s top backup in 2014 and rushed for 949 yards and nine scores on 147 attempts. Clement never recorded more than 17 rushing attempts in a game last year, so there’s plenty of room for his overall production to grow with more carries in 2015. He also rushed for 547 yards as Wisconsin’s No. 3 running back in 2013. Clement may not match Gordon’s 2,587 rushing yards from last season, but he should be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in 2015.


Dalvin Cook, Florida State

With quarterback Jameis Winston off to the NFL, the focus for Florida State’s offense shifts to the ground attack and talented sophomore Dalvin Cook. As a true freshman last season, Cook rushed for 1,008 yards and eight scores and caught 22 passes for 203 yards. The Miami native averaged 141.3 rushing yards over his final three games, including 6.9 yards per carry in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Cook was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and is poised to push for All-American honors in 2015.


Imani Cross, Nebraska

New coach Mike Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf has some work to do this spring. The Cornhuskers must replace three offensive linemen, receiver Kenny Bell and standout running back Ameer Abdullah. While the losses are heavy, Riley and Langsdorf have options at running back. Cross, Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor all appear capable of keeping the ground attack performing at a high level. Cross is the early guess as frontrunner to handle the bulk of carries for Riley, as the Georgia native finished third on the team with 384 yards and five scores last year. Over the last three seasons, Cross has rushed for 1,155 yards and 22 scores. 


Tarean Folston, Notre Dame

Folston quietly led the way for Notre Dame’s rushing attack in 2014, recording 889 yards and six scores on 175 attempts. Through the first six games, Folston eclipsed more than 50 yards only twice and did not score a touchdown through his first five appearances. However, the Florida native was more effective in the second half of the season, recording four 100-yard efforts over the final seven games. With a solid offensive line returning in 2015, the arrow on Folston and teammate Greg Bryant’s production is clearly pointing up.


Leonard Fournette, LSU

Fournette was regarded as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and certainly didn’t disappoint in his Baton Rouge debut. In 13 appearances, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores. He also made an impact on special teams, averaging 26 yards per kickoff returns and one touchdown. With LSU struggling to find consistent production from its passing game, the ground attack will have to carry the offense in 2015. With Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard out of eligibility, Fournette should see an uptick in carries and production next year and should be considered a lock for first-team All-SEC honors this offseason.


Wayne Gallman, Clemson

The Clemson depth chart is loaded with young talent, headlined by quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Artavis Scott. But the rushing attack shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with Gallman expected to capitalize off a strong freshman campaign in 2015. In 13 games last season, Gallman led all Clemson players with 769 yards and a solid 4.8 yards per carry mark. After recording only two efforts of 55 yards or more through the first seven games, Gallman rushed for at least 55 yards in five out of the last six games. He also contributed 24 receptions for 108 yards in 2014.


Aaron Green, TCU

TCU’s offense showed significant improvement under new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham in 2014. The Horned Frogs return most of their core for 2015, including standout quarterback Trevone Boykin and one of the Big 12's top offensive lines. Green became the starter after B.J. Catalon was sidelined due to injury and averaged 108.8 rushing yards over the final five contests. He rushed for 171 yards in a 41-20 win over Kansas State and recorded 68 on 18 attempts against a tough Ole Miss defense in the bowl game. Green also scored five touchdowns in his final four games and produced 10 rushing plays of 20 yards or more. The Nebraska transfer is a rising star in the Big 12.


Josh Hicks/Robert Martin, Rutgers

Rutgers has a few tweaks coming to its offense in 2015, as coordinator Ralph Friedgen stepped down, the offensive line lost three starters, and quarterback Gary Nova expired his eligibility. New coordinator Ben McDaniels inherits some talent to work with, including a solid stable of running backs and standout receiver Leonte Carroo. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin showed promise as true freshmen last year, combining for 874 yards and nine scores. Hicks closed out 2014 on a high note, gashing North Carolina’s defense for 202 yards on 19 attempts in the Quick Lane Bowl. Paul James and Desmon Peoples also return for 2015, giving McDaniels plenty of options in the backfield next year. Hicks and Martin may not have huge numbers, but both players are rising stars to watch in the Big Ten.


Jon Hilliman, Boston College

Boston College has ranked inside of the top 20 nationally in rushing offense in back-to-back years under coach Steve Addazio. While Andre Williams did most of the heavy lifting in 2013, Addazio used more of an all-around effort to attack opponents on the ground last year. Quarterback Tyler Murphy led the team with 1,179 yards, while Hilliman finished second with 860 yards on 211 attempts. Myles Willis and Marcus Outlow also chipped in as key contributors at running back. With uncertainty at quarterback heading into 2015, Addazio can lean on Hilliman and the rest of the Boston College backs to carry the offense (at least early in the year). The offensive line must be revamped, but Hilliman could easily eclipse 1,000 yards with 50-75 more touches in 2015.


Jalen Hurd/Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

In addition to the emergence of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, one of the biggest reasons for optimism in Knoxville in 2015 is the tandem of Hurd and Kamara at running back. The Volunteers averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season and finished near the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards per game. But with Hurd having another offseason under his belt, combined with Kamara’s arrival, Tennessee’s rushing attack is expected to take a significant step forward. Hurd rushed for 899 yards and five scores last season as a true freshman, while Kamara arrives in Knoxville after spending 2014 at Hutchinson Community College (1,469 yards of total offense in 2014). The former Alabama running back is an instant-impact recruit for the Volunteers.


Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Jackson might have been the quietest 1,000-rusher in the nation last season. In 12 games, Jackson recorded 1,187 yards and 10 scores and caught 22 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown. Jackson’s emergence on the ground was critical after expected starter Venric Mark left the team prior to the season. After an under-the-radar performance in 2013, Jackson will be among the Big Ten’s top running backs for 2015. And the Illinois native will be under even more pressure to perform next season as Northwestern enters the offseason with uncertainty under center. While his performance in 2014 might have been lost in the shuffle with the talent in the conference at running back, Jackson certainly won't go unnoticed in 2015.


Akeel Lynch, Penn State

Improving the offensive line and rushing attack are two areas of focus this offseason for second-year coach James Franklin. And if Franklin can get more production from his offensive line, it should help to spark a rushing attack that averaged only 2.9 yards per carry in 2014. Lynch led the Penn State offense with 678 rushing yards last season and finished second to Bill Belton with four rushing scores. With Belton and Zach Zwinak out of eligibility, Lynch is slated to receive more of the workload in 2015. The Canada native gave the offense a spark over the final four games, which included 100-yard performances against Temple and Illinois. Lynch should push for All-Big Ten honors next year.


Marlon Mack, South Florida

Mack is a key cog in coach Willie Taggart’s rebuilding efforts at South Florida. As a true freshman in 2014, the Florida native led the Bulls with 1,041 yards and nine scores. Mack averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry and also grabbed 21 receptions for 160 yards. South Florida is making a few tweaks to its offense in 2015, but Taggart isn’t going to go away from giving Mack around 15-20 carries per game and a shot at back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.


Taquan Mizzell, Virginia

Mizzell has spent the last two years as a backup to Kevin Parks, but the former four-star recruit is slated to become the go-to back for the Cavaliers in 2015. The Virginia Beach native has 464 rushing yards and three scores through his first two years on campus, while also catching 68 passes for 435 yards and one touchdown. Mizzell has only one game of 10 or more carries in his career with the Cavaliers. Expect that to change in 2015, as Mizzell should live up to his recruiting hype with a standout campaign this fall.


Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

For the first time since the 2007 season, the Cardinal did not have a rusher reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. That one-year 1,000-yard rusher drought could be short-lived, as McCaffrey is primed for a breakout season in 2015. As a true freshman in 2014, he recorded 300 rushing yards (seven yards per carry) and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey recorded at least 57 rushing yards in three out of the final four games, including 77 against Utah on Nov. 15. 


Demario Richard, Arizona State

The future of the Arizona State backfield appears to be in good hands with Richard leading the way in 2015. The Sun Devils also return D.J. Foster (1,081 rush yards in 2014), but the senior is expected to shift to more of a running back/receiver role in 2015. Richard was solid in limited action last year, rushing for 478 yards and four scores on 84 attempts. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark against a tough Utah defense on Nov. 1 and contributed 41 yards on seven attempts in the bowl win over Duke. Richard should have no trouble exceeding last year’s numbers in 2015.


Jovon Robinson, Auburn

Auburn’s top three rushers from last season – Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Nick Marshall – have expired their eligibility. Robinson originally committed to Auburn in 2012 but was forced to make a two-year detour at Georgia Military College. He was selected as the NJCAA 2013 national player of the year after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 scores that season. The Tigers aren’t hurting for talent at running back with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas also in the mix, but Robinson is expected to receive the bulk of the carries. 


L.J. Scott/Delton Williams, Michigan State

The battle to replace Jeremy Langford begins this spring in East Lansing, and the Spartans aren’t hurting for talent in the backfield with Scott, Williams, Madre London and Gerald Holmes competing for time. Perhaps a true starter doesn’t emerge from this group, and co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner can use all four throughout the 2015 season. While split carries among a couple of players is certainly possible, Scott has the edge in talent and could eventually claim the No. 1 job. The Ohio native ranked as the No. 59 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and will be tough for coach Mark Dantonio to keep on the sidelines. Williams – 316 yards and five scores last year – is the team’s most experienced running back headed into 2015.


David Williams, South Carolina

Even though Mike Davis left early for the NFL, the cupboard is far from bare for coach Steve Spurrier. Williams and Brandon Wilds are expected to handle the bulk of the carries next season, and both players have been effective in limited action. Williams is a back with significant upside, rushing for 256 yards (5.7 ypc) and two scores on 45 attempts last year. It’s only a matter of time before the former four-star recruit is in the mix for All-SEC honors.


Joseph Yearby, Miami

The Hurricanes already have one of the nation’s top rising stars at quarterback in sophomore Brad Kaaya, and Yearby is due for a breakout year as the new starter at running back in Coral Gables. Duke Johnson left for the NFL after rushing for 1,652 yards and 10 scores last season, leaving Yearby and Gus Edwards as the backs in contention for the majority of snaps. Yearby impressed as a true freshman last year, recording 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 attempts. The Miami native was a teammate to Florida State’s Dalvin Cook at Miami Central High School, and both players are near the top of the ACC in rushing yardage in 2015.


Other Running Backs to Watch in 2015


Corey Avery, Kansas

The Kansas offense is short on proven playmakers next season. While the receiving corps needs to be revamped, and uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position, the rushing attack should be in good hands with Avery after he rushed for 631 yards and five scores last year.


Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois

Bouagnon is poised to become the new go-to back in Northern Illinois’ high-powered offense with Cameron Stingily out of eligibility. The 6-foot-2 rusher finished third on the team with 655 yards in 14 appearances last season.


Chris Carson, Oklahoma State

Carson was mentioned as one of Athlon’s instant-impact junior college recruits for 2015. The Butler Community College product could start this year for Oklahoma State.


D’Onta Foreman/Donald Catalon, Texas

Johnathan Gray is slated to open spring ball as the No. 1 back at Texas, but there’s room for a No. 2 option to emerge. Foreman recorded 74 yards on 16 attempts as a true freshman, while Catalon spent 2014 as a redshirt.


Alex Gardner, FIU

Gardner was a bright spot for a FIU offense that averaged only 23 points per game last season. The true freshman rushed for 582 yards and one score before missing the final four games due to injury.


Brian Hill, Wyoming

Hill stepped up as Wyoming’s go-to back after Shaun Wick was lost for the year due to injury. He rushed for 796 yards and seven scores in 2014 as a true freshman, including 281 yards in a 45-17 win over Fresno State.


LaJuan Hunt, Utah State

Hunt only recorded one game of more than 11 carries (Hawaii), but he finished with a team-high 545 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman in 2014. The Florida native is poised to take on a bigger role in the backfield next season.

Ty Isaac, Michigan

It’s no secret new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh likes to win the battle in the trenches and pound the rock between the tackles. Isaac – a USC transfer – sat out last year due to NCAA rules, but the former four-star recruit could add some punch to an offense that averaged only 138.8 rushing yards in Big Ten games in 2014.


Treyous Jarrells, Colorado State

New Colorado State coach Mike Bobo’s offenses at Georgia recorded at least 500 rushing attempts in three out of the last four years. The Rams will miss Alabama transfer Dee Hart, but Jarrells (5.2 ypc, 450 yards) showed potential in his first year with the Rams.


Jeff Jones, Minnesota

Jones ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and redshirted in his first year in Minneapolis due to academic issues. He should compete with Berkley Edwards and Rodrick Williams in spring practice to replace David Cobb (1,626 yards in 2014).


Ronald Jones II, USC

Buck Allen is off to the NFL after rushing for 1,489 yards and 11 scores last season. Jones II ranked as the No. 39 overall recruit in the 2015 signing class by 247Sports. He could play a major role in the USC backfield next season.


Ray Lawry, Old Dominion

Prolific quarterback Taylor Heinicke has expired his eligibility, and the Monarchs may need a little more from their ground attack until a quarterback emerges. As a true freshman last season, Lawry rushed for 947 yards and 16 scores (7.1 ypc) and caught 17 balls for 155 yards. Lawry should take the next step in his development in 2015 and emerge as one of C-USA’s top running backs.


C.J. Leggett, Georgia Tech

Leggett is a three-star recruit from the 2014 signing class that redshirted in his first year on campus. With the Yellow Jackets losing four out of their top five rushers from last year, the Georgia native could make an impact next season.


Sony Michel, Georgia

Nick Chubb is the unquestioned starter in Athens. However, the Bulldogs frequently use a second back, and Michel is expected to fill that role in 2015. As a true freshman last season, he rushed for 410 yards and five scores in eight games.


Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

Mixon was suspended in 2014 due to an off-the-field incident. He ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose back by 247Sports in the 2014 signing class, and even with Samaje Perine returning, Mixon is too talented to keep on the bench.


Devon Spalding, Central Michigan

Thomas Rawls expired his eligibility at the end of 2014, but the Chippewas have two intriguing options at running back. Spalding showed flashes of promise as a freshman (5.1 ypc) last season, and Saylor Lavallii has over 1,000 yards the last two years. Spalding rushed for 147 yards and two scores against Miami, Ohio in 2014.


D.J. Vinson, South Alabama

Vinson rushed for 670 yards and nine scores as a backup to Jordan Howard at UAB last year. He transferred to South Alabama after UAB’s team was eliminated at the end of 2014 and should thrive under coordinator Bryant Vincent in 2015.


Dalvin Warmack, Kansas State

Kansas State’s rushing attack averaged only 134.2 yards per game in 2014, and two of the team’s top three leaders in yardage – running back Demarcus Robinson and quarterback Jake Waters – have expired their eligibility. The Wildcats need more production from their supporting cast with Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett off to the NFL, and Warmack will be a name to watch this spring. The Missouri native was a three-star recruit in 2014 and redshirted in his first season in Manhattan.


Dwayne Washington, Washington

Big things were expected of Washington in 2014 in replacing standout Bishop Sankey. He led the team with 697 yards and nine rushing scores, but the California native could be poised for even bigger things in 2015 after rushing for 100 or more yards in three out of the final four games.  


Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s offense struggled last season, but Webb was a bright spot and a player for new coordinator Andy Ludwig to build around in 2015. The Florida native rushed for 907 yards and four scores as a redshirt freshman last year.


Aeris Williams, Mississippi State

With the departure of Josh Robinson, the Bulldogs are looking for a new go-to back in 2015. Williams ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports in 2014 and redshirted in his first year on campus. This talented Mississippi native is one to watch in 2015.

College Football's Top 20 Running Backs on the Rise for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-quarterbacks-rise-2015

College football’s spring practice session is already underway for some teams, which means the countdown to the 2015 season can officially start.


Quarterback play is always under a microscope and several playoff or conference title contenders are breaking in a new starter in 2015. While pinpointing breakout players is easier after spring practice, it’s never too early to examine some of the top rising stars at quarterback.


The list of quarterbacks on the rise takes into account players that were not a starter for a full season of games in 2014.


10 College Football Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2015


Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Aggies have averaged 41.3 points per game. Life after Johnny Manziel presented a few challenges in 2014, but the arrow on Texas A&M’s offense is pointing up headed into 2015. Allen started the final five games for coach Kevin Sumlin, including a four-touchdown performance against Auburn and a 294-yard effort against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The Arizona native finished 2014 with 1,322 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Allen will be pushed by talented freshman Kyler Murray this offseason, but the edge in experience should help the sophomore hold onto the starting job. With a talented receiving corps returning, Texas A&M’s passing offense should be among the SEC’s best once again in 2015.


Mike Bercovici, Arizona State

Bercovici steps into the spotlight in 2015 as he assumes the keys to Arizona State’s high-powered offense from Taylor Kelly. The California native is already a known commodity for coordinator Mike Norvell, as Bercovici started three games in place of Kelly due to injury in 2014. Bercovici torched USC for 510 yards and five scores and threw for 245 yards and one touchdown in a 26-10 win over Stanford last year. In his Arizona State career, Bercovici has thrown for 1,478 yards and 12 scores. He also boasts a 62.2 percent completion percentage and produced three passing plays of 40 yards or more in 2014. The Sun Devils will miss receiver Jaelen Strong, but Bercovici is more than capable of keeping Arizona State’s passing attack firing on all cylinders.


Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

The insertion of Dobbs into the starting lineup in late October sparked Tennessee to a 4-2 finish over its last six games. The Georgia native threw for 192 yards against Alabama after replacing Nathan Peterman in the first half and guided the Volunteers to a 45-42 upset win over South Carolina by accumulating 467 total yards and five scores. Dobbs also played well in the bowl win over Iowa by accounting for 205 yards and three scores. The junior should have more help from his supporting cast in 2015, as Tennessee should be healthier at receiver, and a young offensive line has a full offseason to grow. Dobbs should push for All-SEC honors in 2015.


Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

Johnson varies slightly in style to former starter Nick Marshall, but Auburn’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat in 2015. The Alabama native ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 signing class and has played well in limited action over the last two years. Johnson completed 29 of 41 passes for 422 yards and six scores in 2013 and threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. He also has two starts under his belt, including one against Arkansas (2014). Johnson may not have the dynamic mobility of Marshall, but the junior is going to have a huge season directing the offense for coach Gus Malzahn. 


Josh Rosen, UCLA

Perhaps it’s too early to place much pressure on Rosen, but there’s little doubt the freshman is ready to push for the starting job at UCLA in 2015. With Brett Hundley off to the NFL, the Bruins have an open battle for the quarterback spot this spring, with Jerry Neuheisel and Rosen considered the favorites. Rosen ranked as the No. 12 overall recruit and as a five-star prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. While Neuheisel has the edge in experience, Rosen has more overall talent and upside. And since he enrolled in time to compete this spring, Rosen should have plenty of time to pickup the UCLA offense. Needless to say, the future is bright for the Bruins with Rosen at the helm.


Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

It’s no coincidence Oklahoma State’s improvement on offense late in the year came with Rudolph at the helm. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in five games against Power 5 opponents. Rudolph was the quarterback for two of those efforts, including an impressive 38-35 win over Oklahoma and a 30-22 bowl win over Washington. The South Carolina native finished 2014 with 853 passing yards and six scores in three appearances. Rudolph needs more help from his supporting cast in 2015, but the potential is certainly there for the sophomore to earn All-Big 12 honors.


Seth Russell, Baylor

Over the last five seasons, Baylor’s starting quarterback has averaged 4,031 yards and 30 touchdowns. With Bryce Petty off to the NFL, the keys to a high-powered offense are in Russell’s hands. Of course, he has to hold off a challenge this offseason from sophomore Chris Johnson and talented true freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, there’s a clear edge in experience for Russell, as he has one start under his belt and completed 48 of 85 passes in 2014. The Texas native torched Northwestern State for five scores and 438 yards last year and completed 8 of 17 passes for 82 yards in relief of Petty against Texas Tech. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps in place, Russell – if he wins the job – will be next standout quarterback for coach Art Briles.


Greg Ward, Houston

New coach Tom Herman has to be excited about Ward’s potential in 2015. The converted receiver replaced John O’Korn under center and started the final eight games at quarterback. Ward showcased his dual-threat potential in the bowl win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 92 yards on 14 attempts. He also passed for 360 yards against Cincinnati and 336 against Tulane and finished the year with 573 rushing yards and 2,010 through the air. Ward is far from a finished product, but the potential is there for a monster season in Herman’s offense for the Cougars in 2015.


Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and has a good shot at extending that streak to five in 2015. Watson is the biggest reason for optimism and potential at contending for the ACC Championship, as the sophomore is expected to be at full strength in his recovery from a torn ACL by the season opener. The Georgia native ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2014 signing class and completed 93 of 137 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 scores in his debut. Watson also rushed for 200 yards and five scores last season. The departure of coordinator Chad Morris was a big loss for Clemson, but with Watson’s return and a talented group of skill players, the Tigers will be among the ACC’s best on offense in 2015.


Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Zaire isn’t guaranteed the starting job for 2015, as Everett Golson remains in the mix after throwing for 3,445 yards last season and enters next season with 23 starts under his belt. However, all signs point to Zaire emerging as Notre Dame’s No. 1 option under center. In seven appearances last season, Zaire completed 21 of 35 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 187 yards and two scores. The Ohio native’s most-impressive outing took place against LSU in the Music City Bowl, throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown, while adding 96 yards and a score on the ground in the upset win over the Tigers. With a strong supporting cast in place, Zaire has all of the necessary pieces for a breakout year.


Other Quarterbacks to Watch in 2015


Kurt Benkert, East Carolina

Shane Carden posted big numbers in East Carolina’s offense over the last three years. Coordinator Lincoln Riley also departed this offseason, but the Pirates aren’t expected to change much on offense. Benkert – a sophomore – will have the first shot at replacing Carden this spring.


Jake Coker, Alabama

The Florida State transfer was supposed to win the job last season but never made a start thanks to the emergence of Blake Sims. Now that Coker has a year of experience in coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense, will the Alabama native claim the starting job?


William Crest/Skyler Howard, West Virginia

Crest was poised to spend 2014 as Clint Trickett’s backup at West Virginia but a shoulder injury ended his freshman season. The Baltimore native has tremendous upside and should benefit from another offseason to learn under coach Dana Holgorsen. If Crest is unable to win the job, the Mountaineers have a good fallback option in Skyler Howard, who threw for 829 yards and eight scores in 2014.


Luke Falk/Peyton Bender, Washington State

Falk was pressed into the starting job in 2014 after Connor Halliday suffered a season-ending leg injury against USC. The former walk-on threw for 601 yards against Arizona State but also tossed six picks over his last two games. Falk will be pushed by Bender – a three-star recruit in the 2014 signing class – for time this spring. The winner of this battle will post huge numbers in coach Mike Leach’s high-powered passing offense.


Tyler Ferguson, Louisville

Three quarterbacks – Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin – started for coach Bobby Petrino’s team in 2014. Ferguson should push for time next season, as the Penn State transfer is eligible after sitting out last year. In his only season with the Nittany Lions, Ferguson completed 10 of 15 passes for 155 yards and one score.


Ryan Finley/Brett Rypien, Boise State

The Broncos have personnel voids to address on offense with the departure of quarterback Grant Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi, but expect coach Bryan Harsin to find the right answers this offseason. The quarterback battle between Ryan Finley (a sophomore) and Matt Rypien (a true freshman, four-star prospect) will be one to watch this spring. Finley has the edge in experience, but Rypien was a big pickup on the recruiting trail for Boise State.


Brooks Haack, UL Lafayette

The Ragin’ Cajuns must replace quarterback Terrance Broadway, but coach Mark Hudspeth has a few talented options in place. Haack was a three-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite in 2012 and the Texas native has been solid as a backup over the last two years, completing 41 of 58 passes for 403 yards and three scores.


Ben Hicks, SMU

Hicks seems to be the perfect fit for new coach Chad Morris’ high-powered offense. The Texas native ranked as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite for the 2015 signing class and should push Matt Davis for the starting job this offseason.


Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

In its first season of FBS play, Appalachian State quietly finished 2014 on a six-game winning streak. Lamb turned in a promising freshman campaign, throwing for 2,381 yards and 17 scores and rushing for 483 yards and four touchdowns. The Georgia native started the final 10 games and led the Mountaineers to an average of 34.8 points per contest in that span.


Jack Milas, Ball State

Milas emerged as Ball State’s starter midway through 2014 but missed the last game of the year due to a wrist injury. The Illinois native showed promise by throwing four touchdowns and 326 yards against Western Michigan and completed at least 60 percent of his passes in three out of his six games.


Brice Ramsey, Georgia

Ramsey isn’t guaranteed the starting job next season, as he will be pushed for time by Jacob Park and Faton Bauta. However, regardless of whether it’s Ramsey, Park or Bauta under center, there’s a good chance the starter puts up solid numbers in Georgia’s offense.


Hayden Rettig, Rutgers

Rettig – the brother of former Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig – will compete with Chris Laviano to start in 2015. After sitting out a year due to a transfer from LSU, Rettig will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Rutgers will have a new play-caller in 2015 after Ralph Friedgen decided to step down, and coach Kyle Flood promoted receivers coach Ben McDaniels to coordinator.


Thomas Sirk, Duke

Coach David Cutcliffe is one of the top quarterback gurus in college football. And assuming Sirk holds off Parker Boehme, the Florida native should be the next solid quarterback from Durham. In limited action last season, Sirk completed 10 of 14 passes for 67 yards and three scores. He also rushed for 238 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014.


Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Northwestern hopes to get back to a bowl after a two-year absence, and the first step to a winning record will be settling the quarterback battle. Thorson will compete with Zack Oliver and Matt Alviti for the starting job this spring, and the talented redshirt freshman will be tough to keep off the field. Thorson ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2014 signing class and was the No. 188 overall recruit in the 247Sports Composite. 

College Football's Top 10 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-jt-barrett-showcases-recovery-ankle-injury-removed-screws-photo

Ohio State’s quarterback situation will be one of the nation’s most intriguing battles to watch this offseason.


Out of the trio competing for the No. 1 spot – Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett – Jones is the only passer healthy for spring ball.


While Miller and Barrett aren’t expected to participate in spring ball, both have indicated via social media over the last few weeks that they are getting closer to full strength.


On Tuesday, Barrett posted a picture on Instagram of the screws from his ankle, which was injured against Michigan:


Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett Showcases Recovery From Ankle Injury With Removed Screws (Photo)
Post date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 17:06
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-impact-juco-transfers-2015

Incoming freshmen usually steal the spotlight on college football’s signing day, but there’s no shortage of intrigue and potential surrounding the junior college recruits that may have inked signed in December.


While the transition from junior college to the FBS level is challenging, prospects already have at least one year of playing experience and are usually recruited to fill a specific void for the upcoming season.


The 2015 recruiting haul of junior college prospects is no exception, as several key transfers are headed to the SEC, with Auburn’s Jovon Robinson expected to be an impact performer. Outside of the SEC, Penn State tackle Paris Palmer, Florida State’s Lorenzo Phillips and USC receiver De’Quan Hampton are other names to watch.


Here’s a quick look at some of the key impact junior college recruits for 2015:


15 Impact Junior College Transfers for 2015


Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 7 Overall, No. 1 CB


The Rebels had one of the stingiest pass defenses in the SEC last season, limiting opponents to just 12 touchdown passes and 192.1 yards per game. This unit has some offseason work ahead, as standout cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt have expired their eligibility. Golson’s ball skills will be missed after he recorded 10 interceptions and eight pass breakups last year. Bridges was a late flip to Ole Miss from Auburn, and the 6-foot-2 defensive back arrives in Oxford after earning NJCAA first-team All-America honors in 2014.


Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 23 Overall, No. 4 RB


Carson was a late flip from Georgia to Oklahoma State, and the Georgia native should be an instant-impact performer for the Cowboys. With three quarterbacks receiving snaps under center and a revamped offensive line, 2014 was a transition year for Oklahoma State’s offense. The Cowboys averaged only 121.7 rushing yards per game in Big 12 action. With Desmond Roland (770 yards) out of eligibility, combined with the dismissal of Tyreek Hill (534 yards), Rennie Childs (294 yards) is the team’s top option at running back. Expect Carson to at least earn a split of the carries in 2015, as his 6-foot-2 frame should add some punch to the rushing attack.


Davon Durant, LB, Arizona State


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 6 Overall, No. 1 ILB


Arizona State’s defense returns largely intact next season, but Durant is expected to carve out meaningful playing time in coach Todd Graham’s aggressive scheme. Durant is expected to push for time at the Devilbacker position (defensive end/linebacker hybrid) in 2015, but even if he doesn’t start there, the South Carolina native will carve out snaps somewhere in the linebacking corps and add depth to a unit that already features Viliami Moeakiola, Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino. Durant played in five games at Butler Community College in 2014 and recorded 45 tackles and three sacks. 


Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 29 Overall, No. 3 S


It’s no secret Texas A&M needs to upgrade its defense in order to win the SEC West. The Aggies took a big step towards that goal by hiring John Chavis away from LSU to coordinate the defense, and coach Kevin Sumlin also reeled in another elite class to upgrade the talent. Evans will have an opportunity to earn immediate playing time this season after the Aggies allowed 15 passing scores in SEC play. The Mississippi native intercepted six passes over the last two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and earned first-team All-MACJC honors in 2014. 


Devonte Fields, DE, Louisville


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 5 Overall, No. 1 WDE


Fields is easily the most accomplished player on this list. The Texas native had a standout freshman campaign at TCU in 2012, earning AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the year honors after recording 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss. After an off-field incident prior to 2014, Fields was dismissed from TCU and landed at Trinity Valley Community College. Last season, Fields appeared in 12 games and recorded 6.5 sacks. With Lorenzo Mauldin and B.J. Dubose out of eligibility, Louisville is counting on Fields to help keep the pass rush near the top of the ACC. Fields has potential to earn All-ACC honors in 2015.

De’Quan Hampton, WR, USC


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 13 Overall, No. 2 WR


High expectations surround USC in 2015, and the Trojans could be a national title contender if all of the pieces fall into place. One area coach Steve Sarkisian will be watching this spring is the receiving corps. Top target Nelson Agholor left for the NFL after grabbing 104 receptions in 2014. JuJu Smith is back after a standout freshman campaign (54 catches), but quarterback Cody Kessler needs a No. 2 and No. 3 target to emerge. Could Hampton – a 6-foot-4 physical target – be one of the answers? Kessler and Sarkisian certainly hope Hampton can help ease the departure of Agholor, while teaming with Smith, fellow junior college recruit Isaac Whitney and Darreus Rogers to keep USC’s passing offense performing at a high level.


D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 4 Overall, No. 1 DT


The Rebels have upgraded their talent and overall depth up front in recent years, and coach Hugh Freeze and line coach Chris Kiffin appear to have another standout coming to Oxford in Jones. The South Carolina native spent two years at East Mississippi Community College and recorded 12 sacks in that span. At 310 pounds, Jones has the size to push for snaps on the interior, which should help to spell Robert Nkemdiche and Issac Gross. Look for Jones to be a disruptive force for Ole Miss in 2015.


Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 2 Overall, No. 2 RB


Coach Butch Jones continues to elevate the talent level in Knoxville, and the 2015 signing class could feature a handful of impact newcomers. One of the top names to watch is Kamara, as the former Alabama running back should team with sophomore Jalen Hurd to form one of the top one-two backfield combinations in the SEC next year. Kamara redshirted at Alabama in 2013 and spent 2014 at Hutchinson Community College. In his only year in the junior college ranks, Kamara rushed for 1,211 yards and 18 scores. 


Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 37 Overall, No. 1 QB


If the Rebels can find an answer at quarterback, coach Hugh Freeze’s team certainly has the talent to win the SEC West next year. Kelly redshirted at Clemson in 2012 and played in five games with the Tigers in 2013. The New York native was dismissed in the spring of 2014 and landed at East Mississippi Community College. Kelly threw for 3,906 yards and 47 scores last season in the junior college ranks. The 6-foot-3 quarterback had an off-field incident in December, but assuming he stays out of trouble, Kelly has a good chance to start the opener against UT Martin.


Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT, Arkansas


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 18 Overall, No. 2 DT


Coach Bret Bielema has Arkansas headed in the right direction, and the Razorbacks should take a step forward in the win column in 2015. Coordinator Robb Smith was one of the SEC’s top assistant hires last season, as Arkansas’ defense made steady gains throughout the year. Smith will have his work cut out for him in the spring, especially up front where end Trey Flowers and defensive tackle Darius Philon are off to the NFL. Ledbetter was an active defensive lineman at Hutchinson Community College the last two seasons, recording 22.5 career sacks and second-team NJCAA All-American honors in 2014. He should help soften the blow of Philon’s early departure to the NFL.


Marquavius Lewis/Dante Sawyer, DE, South Carolina


247Sports Composite Rank: Lewis: No. 3 Overall, No. 1 DE, Sawyer: No. 16 Overall, No. 2 WDE


South Carolina’s defense is looking for answers after allowing 6.2 yards per play and giving up 36.8 points per game (SEC-only contests) in 2014. Coach Steve Spurrier adjusted the coaching staff to provide help, hiring Jon Hoke to team with Lorenzo Ward as co-defensive coordinators. The Gamecocks also dipped into the junior college ranks by bringing in Sawyer and Lewis. Both players are expected to help jumpstart an anemic pass rush that registered only eight sacks in SEC play last season. Lewis recorded 18.5 sacks in two years at Hutchinson Community College.


Paris Palmer, OT, Penn State


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 12 Overall, No. 2 OT


Improving the offensive line is expected to be the biggest area of focus for coach James Franklin and line coach Herb Hand this spring. The Nittany Lions allowed 44 sacks last season and had their scoring average drop from 28.7 in 2013 to 20.6 in 2014. Adding to the preseason concerns for this unit was the departure of left tackle Donovan Smith to the NFL. Palmer is expected to help ease the loss of Smith and strengthen the line at one of the tackle spots after playing two years at Lackawanna College. 


Lorenzo Phillips, LB, Florida State


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 17 Overall, No. 1 OLB


Florida State’s defense has to room to improve after allowing 5.5 yards per play last season. The Seminoles enter spring with a few question marks, starting up front with the departure of tackle Eddie Goldman and end Mario Edwards Jr., while the linebacking corps dealt with numerous injuries last season. Linebacker Reggie Northrup’s availability for the 2015 season is also in question due to a torn ACL. Playing time in the front seven is certainly available for Phillips, as the Louisiana native is an instant-impact recruit for the Seminoles. In 2014, Phillips recorded 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss at East Mississippi Community College. Phillips won’t arrive until the summer, but he has potential to help in the front seven as an edge rusher.


Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 9 Overall, No. 1 OT

Mississippi State returns one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in senior Dak Prescott, but the line loses three starters, including left tackle Blaine Clausell. However, the Bulldogs may not see a drop in performance by the offensive line if Rankin is able to secure a starting spot this offseason. The Mississippi native enrolled in time to compete in the spring after earning All MACJC honors in 2014. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Rankin already has the size needed to compete right away in the brutal SEC West. 


Jovon Robinson, RB, Auburn


247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 Overall, No. 1 RB


Robinson originally committed out of high school to Auburn but was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor at his high school (Wooddale) changed one his grades to help the running back qualify in 2012. Robinson was the NJCAA player of the year in 2013 after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 scores. With Cameron Artis-Payne, Nick Marshall and Corey Grant departing, the Roc Thomas (214 yards) and Peyton Barber (54) are the top returning options at running back. Robinson is expected to win the starting job and push for 1,000 yards for coach Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense in 2015.


Other Key JUCO Transfers to Watch in 2015


Chase Abbington, RB, Missouri

Cory Butler, DB, Utah

Johnathan Calvin, DL, Mississippi State

Malik Cuellar, OL, Missouri

Jeremy Cutrer, S, LSU

Jamal Danley, OL, Oklahoma

Allen Edwards, DL, Pittsburgh

Anthony Fotu, DL, Arizona

Marcell Frazier, DL, Missouri

Donald Gray, WR, Mississippi State

Paul Harris, WR, Louisville

Brandon Hodges, OT, Texas

Tyler Howell, OL, Missouri

Khalil Hunter, OL, Louisville

William Johnson, CB, Oklahoma

Traver Jung, LB, Mississippi State

Shalom Luani, S, Washington State

Justin Martin, CB, Tennessee

Kameron Miles, S, Boise State

Nehemiah Mitchell, DE/LB, Vanderbilt

Camion Patrick, WR, Indiana

Aaron Porter, LB, Washington State

Maurice Porter, OT, Baylor

Dominique Reed, WR, Arkansas

DeVondre Seymour, OT, Georgia

Jason Smith, QB/ATH, Auburn

Jeremy Smith, RB, Louisville

Maurice Swain, DT, Auburn

Jonathan Taylor, DT, Alabama

Demond Tucker, DT, Iowa State

Quincy Vasser, DL, Texas

Isaac Whitney, WR, USC

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2015
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/new-oak-trees-planted-auburns-toomers-corner

Toomer’s Corner at Auburn looks more familiar these days. Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. poisoned oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in 2010, leaving the memorable location looking quite different after the trees were removed in 2013.


However, Toomer’s Corner is on its way back after two new oak trees were planted over the weekend.


Check out some photos from the tree planting and the revival of Toomer’s Corner: 



New Oak Trees Planted at Auburn's Toomer's Corner
Post date: Monday, February 16, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-finds-its-replacement-marcus-mariota-transfer-vernon-adams

The battle at Oregon to replace quarterback Marcus Mariota was one of the biggest storylines set to unfold in college football’s spring practice, but coach Mark Helfrich found his answer on Monday with the announcement Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams would transfer to Eugene.


Adams has been a prolific quarterback at Eastern Washington for the last three seasons and was a runner-up for the Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) in 2013 and '14.

Here are a couple of things to watch with Adams leaving EWU for Oregon:


He will be Oregon’s starter in 2015:

With Mariota departing, Oregon’s quarterback battle expected to feature Jeff Lockie (41 career pass attempts), Ty Griffin (a Georgia Tech transfer), Taylor Alie (a walk-on) and freshmen Morgan Mahalak and Travis Waller. Adams has the mobility, accuracy, arm strength and skill set to thrive in Oregon’s offense. He’s the best quarterback on the roster.

Stepping up in competition/Previous FBS games:
This is without question the biggest question mark in regards to Adams’ transfer. How will he handle the FCS to FBS move? There’s a small sample size to examine, as Adams has played two FBS opponents at Eastern Washington. In those two contests, Adams combined to throw for 886 yards, 11 touchdowns and completed 54 of 76 throws. Adams also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State in 2013.

Adams won’t be around at Oregon in spring practice:
Outside of how he transitions to the FBS level, the biggest concern for Oregon has to be getting Adams acclimated to the offense. The California native won’t arrive until the summer, which limits his time to learn the offense and practice with the supporting cast. Adams should thrive in Oregon’s offense, but it’s likely he gets more comfortable and succeeds even more as the year progresses. While Adams needs time to settle into the offense, there’s a critical non-conference matchup (with potential playoff implications) at Michigan State on Sept. 12.

Oregon is still the (significant) favorite in the North:

Had Oregon went into the season without Adams, it’s likely most preseason predictions would have featured more debate and discussion on the North Division favorite. But now that the Ducks have a potential All-Pac-12 quarterback and dynamic playmaker in place, Oregon has to be the clear favorite in the North. While a non-conference road trip to Michigan State awaits in Week 2, most of the Ducks’ toughest Pac-12 games – at Arizona State, at Stanford and USC – are later in the year.

Adams won’t have to do it alone:

It’s going to take Adams a few games to get comfortable with the offense and playing at a higher level, but Oregon won’t have to ask him to win games on his own. The Ducks have a deep supporting cast, including running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner, a standout group of receivers, headlined by Devon Allen, Bralon Addison, Byron Marshall and Darren Carrington. The offensive line has a few holes to address, but several players received significant snaps due to injuries in 2014.


Oregon opens its season with…

Eastern Washington. How’s that for a storyline in 2015?


Here’s a look at Adams’ stats at EWU from 2012-14:

YearGamesCompletionsAttemptsPass YdsTDsINTsRush YdsTDs


I asked two writers that watched Adams during his career at Eastern Washington. What exactly does Adams bring to the table and what should we expect from the senior in 2015?

Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45), University Avenue and

"Despite getting zero recruiting interest from Pac-12 schools coming out of Southern California, Vernon Adams has proven he can hang with Pac-12 competition.


He's done so twice, in fact. Last year, he accounted for seven touchdowns total against a Washington defense that was loaded with NFL-level talent. In 2013, he went off for six touchdowns in an upset of Oregon State.


No knock on Eastern Washington, which is one of the premier FCS programs, but imagine what Adams can do to the Pac-12 when he's surrounded by more Pac-12-quality players.


I would imagine that's the outlook Mark Helfrich has in adding Adams for this one season. He's experienced, talented and at EWU, he played a style similar to what will be expected of him at Oregon.


Beau Baldwin is one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the FCS, so Adams should transition smoothly at Oregon.


He can run and does, but he's not a 'running' quarterback. It's more a nice weapon he can unleash if he has to, but Adams thrives more as a passer. He has tremendous arm strength and delivers the ball well on the move. That latter attribute should result in Oregon utilizing the pop pass more in 2015." 


Craig Haley, (@CraigHaley), FCS Executive Director for The Sports Network:


"Vernon Adams is an electric player and has a great chance to succeed at Oregon. He's a dual threat and will have to adjust from the spread to the read option, but he has the right skill set. He's already shown he can dominate Pac-12 competition. Clearly, he was underrecruited by the FBS when he was in high school. It's a huge loss for the FCS level."


Twitter Reaction:


Vernon Adams - Eastern Washington Highlights:

Oregon Finds its Replacement for Marcus Mariota in Transfer Vernon Adams
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 15:48
Path: /college-football/did-michigans-jim-harbaugh-take-shot-ohio-state-and-urban-meyer-over-recruiting

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is among the best in college football, and the intensity between these two programs went up a notch since Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor to return the Wolverines back to the Big Ten elite.  


While these two teams won’t meet until November, that won’t stop the fireworks between the two programs until the matchup on the gridiron.


Standout high school running back Mike Weber was committed to Michigan at one point but is headed to Ohio State after flipping to the Buckeyes late in the recruiting process. However, Weber’s position coach (Stan Drayton) recently left for the NFL. Needless to say, Weber (and his high school coach had some words for Urban Meyer) wasn’t happy with the news and tweeted this following the announcement.

Which brings us to this Harbaugh tweet from Saturday…was this directed at Ohio State? 

After Harbaugh's tweet, Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni tweeted this in response:

Are we reading too much into these tweets? Or was Harbaugh's tweet a jab at Ohio State over the Weber recruiting situation? Either way, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is certainly more interesting with Harbaugh back in Ann Arbor.

Did Michigan's Jim Harbaugh Take a Shot at Ohio State and Urban Meyer Over Recruiting?
Post date: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-fan-gets-urban-meyer-woody-hayes-and-archie-griffin-tattooed-arm

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott recently showed off an awesome tattoo celebrating the Buckeyes’ national championship win. And now a fan of Ohio State (Kevin Alexander) has added to the offseason artwork with an impressive tattoo of current coach Urban Meyer, former coach Woody Hayes and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.

In this story from, Alexander details his decision to get an Ohio State tattoo on Wednesday and why he decided to switch from a Block “O” to the Hayes, Griffin and Meyer artwork.

Check out the full story here

And here’s a few photos from Alexander’s new tattoos:


Ohio State Fan Gets Urban Meyer, Woody Hayes and Archie Griffin Tattooed on Arm
Post date: Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 16:23
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-impact-true-freshmen-2015

College football’s 2015 National Signing Day is officially in the books. Prospects from across the nation and for all 128 FBS programs inked a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, which should provide all coaches with a good snapshot of how their program looks for the upcoming season.


There will be several impact performers from the 2015 class this season, and it’s impossible to narrow the names down to just 10. However, now that signing day is complete, let’s take a look at 10 names to watch in 2015 and how they could impact their team in on-field action. 


10 Instant-Impact College Football Recruits for 2015


Byron Cowart, DE, Auburn

247Sports Composite: No. 1 Strong-Side Defensive End, No. 3 Nationally


Why You Need to Know About Cowart: With Will Muschamp calling the defensive signals at Auburn next year, expect the Tigers to show marked improvement on defense. Cowart is a key piece of the puzzle for Muschamp, as the Tigers need an improved pass rush to compete for the SEC title. In 2014, Auburn mustered only 21 sacks, with 10 of those coming in conference play. Cowart and the return of end Carl Lawson should significantly boost the Tigers’ performance in the trenches next year.

Breiden Fehoko, DT, Texas Tech
247Sports Composite:
No. 8 Defensive Tackle, No. 50 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Fehoko: Texas Tech’s defense is in need of a major fix after giving up 6.2 yards per play last season. While the numbers weren’t pretty from last year, there’s hope for a turnaround with the addition of new coordinator David Gibbs. And Gibbs has to be optimistic about his defensive line for next season, especially with Fehoko ranked as one of the top 50 recruits in the nation. The Hawaii native recorded 16 sacks and six forced fumbles at Farrington High School in 2014. Expect Fehoko to play right away for the Red Raiders in 2015.


Martez Ivey, OL, Florida

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 OT, No. 2 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Ivey: It’s a cliché, but winning championships and contending for SEC titles has to start in the trenches. New coach Jim McElwain has major holes to fill up front on the offensive side this offseason, as the Gators return just one starter on the line and lost four players with starting experience. Guard Trip Thurman is the lone returning starter from a group that gave up only 16 sacks in 2014. Ivey ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite, and while the increased physical demands of playing in the SEC will be a challenge, the playing time is certainly there for the talented tackle.

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
247Sports Composite:
No. 1 OLB, No. 10 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Jefferson: It’s no secret Texas coach Charlie Strong is one of the top defensive minds in college football. The Longhorns limited Big 12 offenses to just 23.4 points per game (No. 2 in conference) in 2014 and should be one of the best in the conference once again in 2015. Jefferson is an instant-impact defender for Strong and should play right away with Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond departing the linebacking corps.

Canton Kaumatale, DL, Oregon

247Sports Composite: No. 16 Nationally, No. 3 Strong-Side Defensive End

Why You Need to Know About Kaumatale: Oregon is losing end Arik Armstead and nose guard Sam Kamp, leaving a line that was already thin on depth with a need for instant-impact performers. Enter Kaumatale. The Hawaii native checks in at 290 pounds and will only get better and physically ready for Pac-12 play with an offseason in Oregon’s weight room. Kaumatule has good quickness off the line and a 6-foot-7 frame will allow him to provide plenty of headaches for opposing offensive linemen. Kaumatule should be a good fit in Oregon’s 3-4/4-3 scheme.

Iman Marshall, DB, USC

247Sports Composite: No. 1 CB, No. 4 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Marshall: USC signed one of the nation’s top classes this season, and Marshall could be the top freshman from the signing haul in 2015. The Long Beach native has coveted size for cornerbacks at 6-foot-2 and was regarded by coach Steve Sarkisian for his physicality at the line of scrimmage. USC gave up 20 passing scores in 2014, but with Marshall involved and the development of safety Su’a Cravens, this secondary should take a step forward on the stat sheet in 2015.


Kahlil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
247Sports Composite:
No. 2 DT, No. 6 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About McKenzie: Tennessee has a chance to surprise in the SEC East this year if the lines of scrimmage develop over the offseason. McKenzie is the type of difference maker that the Volunteers lacked on the interior this season, as Tennessee’s defense ranked ninth in the SEC against the run. McKenzie did not play his senior year of high school but dominated as a junior with 12 sacks and 74 tackles. At 327 pounds and a 6-foot-3 frame, McKenzie is the type of player coach Butch Jones needs to get Tennessee’s defense near the top of the SEC.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 WR, No. 11 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Ridley: Alabama recorded 290 receptions last season, and 183 of those catches are gone as DeAndrew White and Christion Jones expired their eligibility after the Sugar Bowl, while Amari Cooper left for the NFL. Chris Black (15 catches) and ArDarius Stewart (12 catches) are the top statistical returning wide receivers for 2015. Ridley was considered a five-star prospect and had a monster junior year by catching 41 passes for 1,131 yards and 12 scores in 2013. With Cooper, Jones and White leaving, there’s an immediate opportunity for Ridley to play major snaps in 2015. 


Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 Pro-Style QB, No. 12 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Rosen: Brett Hundley is gone, leaving a huge void under center for the Bruins. Jerry Neuheisel is the team’s most-experienced option at quarterback, but the job is expected to be a three-man battle this spring. Asiantti Woulard is also in the mix with Rosen and Neuheisel for snaps in 2015. Rosen enrolled in time to compete this spring, which should give the California native a chance to play right away. Starting as a true freshman quarterback in the Pac-12 is never easy, but Rosen has a chance to do just that in 2015. 

Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia

247Sports Composite: No. 1 DT, No. 1 Nationally

Why You Need to Know About Thompson: He’s the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Keeping Thompson in the state of Georgia and out of the hands of another SEC rival was a big deal for coach Mark Richt and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle should be poised for immediate playing time this fall, with nose tackle Mike Thornton and defensive ends Ray Drew and Toby Johnson expiring their eligibility. It’s always tough for linemen to physically prepare for the challenge of playing in the SEC, but all signs point to Thompson being up to the task. 

Other Players to Watch in 2015


Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama

Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri

Jake Browning, QB, Washington

Derwin James, S, Florida State

CeCe Jefferson, DE, Florida

Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss

Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

Jamal Peters, S, Mississippi State

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State

Kendall Sheffield, CB, Alabama

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

College Football's Top 10 Impact True Freshmen for 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/how-college-footballs-new-coaches-recruited-2015

Recruiting is the basic blueprint for any college football program. And recruiting isn’t just a one-month exercise, as coaches are essentially on the trail all year for multiple classes.


New coaches are often placed into a difficult position, as it takes a year or two to build relationships for a signing class. Most new coaches only have a couple of months (if that) to target their prospects to fit the new systems and fight for commitments on the recruiting trail.

Florida and Michigan are two programs that didn’t land top-10 classes in 2015 largely due to the coaching turnover and the short time to ink the 2015 prospects. Needless to say, we can’t read much into how new coaches recruited this season due to the short turnaround time. However, the numbers are certainly interesting. And it will be critical to see how these numbers change after each coach has a full year to recruit.


Sure, there are going to be hits and misses in the team and player projections each season, but there’s plenty of accuracy and meaning behind the final rankings.


Let’s take a look at how the new coaches for 2015 recruited (rankings and data from 247Sports)

Power 5 Conferences

PittsburghTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Paul Chryst (2014)23431820
Pat Narduzzi (2015)14621120

Big 12
KansasTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Charlie Weis (2014)25511910
David Beaty (2015)26721600

Big Ten
MichiganTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Brady Hoke (2014)1620781
Jim Harbaugh (2015)1438860
NebraskaTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Bo Pelini (2014)25362220
Mike Riley (2015)20311630
WisconsinTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Gary Andersen (2014)26332030
Paul Chryst (2015)20341720

Oregon StateTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Mike Riley (2014)30632200
Gary Andersen (2015)18701700
FloridaTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Will Muschamp (2014)2491581
Jim McElwain (2015)21211632

Group of 5 Conferences


HoustonTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Tony Levine (2014)26761900
Tom Herman (2015)1989700
SMUTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
June Jones (2014)2481900
Chad Morris (2015)23791200
TulsaTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Bill Blankenship (2014)2480900
Philip Montgomery (2015)19105300

BuffaloTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Jeff Quinn (2014)2397600
Lance Leipold (2015)19121300
Central MichiganTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Dan Enos (2014)19119200
TBA (2015)20101900


Mountain West
Colorado StateTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Jim McElwain (2014)2687500
Mike Bobo (2015)14119500


UNLVTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Bobby Hauck (2014)19117300
Tony Sanchez (2015)22115500


Sun Belt
TroyTotalNational Rank3 Stars Signed4 Stars Signed5 Stars Signed
Larry Blakeney (2014)17130100
Neal Brown (2015)23109700
How College Football's New Coaches Recruited in 2015
Post date: Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/recruit-chris-warren-uses-coin-flip-decide-between-washington-and-texas

Running back recruit Chris Warren had a hard time deciding between Washington and Texas on National Signing Day. So the high school senior used a coin flip to decide where he would spend the next four years of his collegiate career.

Here’s video of Warren’s coin flip:


Recruit Chris Warren Decides Between Texas and Washington With Coin Flip
Post date: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 12:31
Path: /college-football/byu-lands-biggest-recruit-everliterally

On college football’s signing day, the term “big recruit” is always tossed around at all 128 FBS programs. That term could be used to describe a recruit that fills a huge need or someone that the program fought hard to hold onto after other schools were looking for a late flip.

But in BYU’s case, the Cougars officially landed the biggest prospect of signing day. No, seriously.

Motekiai Langi was announced by BYU as a 6-foot-7 and 410-pound offensive or defensive lineman.


BYU Lands The Biggest Recruit Ever...Literally
Post date: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 11:53
Path: /college-football/tennessee-recruit-wears-most-ridiculously-awesome-outfit-signing-day

College football’s National Signing Day always brings a few interesting moments from recruits as they decide where to continue their playing career for the next four years.

Receiver Preston Williams signed with Tennessee on Wednesday and celebrated his announcement with an outstanding fashion statement.

Check out Williams’ outfit from Signing Day, complete with Tennessee helmet:  



Tennessee Recruit Wears Most Ridiculously Awesome Outfit for Signing Day
Post date: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-rb-ezekiel-elliott-shows-cfb-championship-tattoo

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of the key performers in Ohio State’s run to the college football national championship in 2014. The sophomore rushed for at least 220 yards in each of his final three games and is one of the early favorites to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

And Elliott isn’t going to forget the Buckeyes’ title anytime soon, as the St. Louis native recently had a tattoo added to his left arm that showcases the college football playoff trophy.

In addition to the championship trophy, Elliott’s tattoo also features the Ohio State Block “O” logo, his number (15) and the Gateway Arch.

Check out Elliott’s new tattoo:

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott Shows Off CFB Championship Tattoo
Post date: Monday, February 2, 2015 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/iowa-wr-tevaun-smith-breaks-odell-beckhams-record-41-one-handed-catches

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made some spectacular one-handed receptions as a rookie, and the LSU product recently grabbed 33 one-handed catches in 60 seconds to set a new record. The previous mark in the Guinness World Records was just 10.

After Beckham’s 33 catches in a minute, you can bet other receivers started to plot on how to break the new record.

Iowa’s Tevaun Smith (43 catches with the Hawkeyes in 2014) went after Beckham’s record on Friday and broke the mark with 41 in 60 minutes.

Check out Smith’s 41 one-handed catches:


Here's Odell Beckham's 33 catches from Super Bowl week:

Iowa WR Tevaun Smith Breaks Odell Beckham Jr.'s One-Handed Catch Record
Post date: Friday, January 30, 2015 - 16:46
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/early-heisman-odds-released-2015

College football’s 2015 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to think about the Heisman frontrunners.

Bovada is keeping the offseason chatter alive by releasing early 2015 Heisman odds, which features Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott as a 6/1 favorite, followed by Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott at 7/1.

There’s a few interesting odds in the first release, as Georgia running back Nick Chubb (12/1) is the same as UCLA running back Paul Perkins (12/1). And all three Ohio State quarterbacks – Cardale Jones (14/1), J.T. Barrett (16/1) and Braxton Miler (18/1) are in the first release.

Some names to watch: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (33/1), Florida State running back Dalvin Cook (33/1) and Oregon running back Royce Freeman (25/1).


Early 2015 Heisman Odds from Bovada
Player/Position/TeamEarly 2015 Odds
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State6/1
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State7/1
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU7/1
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU15/2
Cody Kessler, QB, USC12/1
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia12/1
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA12/1
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State14/1
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama14/1
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma14/1
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State16/1
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn16/1
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State18/1
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State20/1
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin25/1
D.J. Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State25/1
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon25/1
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami33/1
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State33/1
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson33/1
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh33/1
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech33/1
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona33/1
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor33/1
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State40/1
Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State50/1
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee50/1
Jared Goff, QB, California50/1
Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina50/1
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss66/1
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona66/1


Early Heisman Odds Released for 2015
Post date: Friday, January 30, 2015 - 13:01
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/10-players-replacing-biggest-names-college-football-2015

Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

Athlon has examined five key players leaving and their replacements by conference. Now, let’s take a look at the national scene and breakdown which 10 players are expected to step up in their absence in 2015.

Key Replacements for 2015: ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC

10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in CFB for 2015

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin


Replacing: Melvin Gordon (2,587 yards, 29 TDs in 2014)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Wisconsin has recorded a 1,000-yard rusher in 10 consecutive seasons, and it’s a safe bet to assume that streak will extend to 11 by the end of 2015. Melvin Gordon was the nation’s top running back last year, rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 scores on 343 attempts. New coach Paul Chryst could have certainly used Gordon in 2015, but the cupboard is far from bare. Clement is a breakout star waiting for his opportunity to start. On 147 carries in 2014, Clement rushed for 949 yards and nine scores. Overall, in his first two years in Madison, Clement has 1,496 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Gordon will be missed, but Clement should ensure Wisconsin’s ground attack doesn’t miss a beat.

Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn


Replacing: Nick Marshall (3,330 total yards in 2014)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott should be the early favorite to earn preseason first-team All-SEC honors next year. But don’t be shocked to see Johnson receive some consideration as the starter in a high-powered offense. The Montgomery native started two games over the last two seasons and appeared in 12 overall contests. In the 2014 season opener against Arkansas, Johnson started for Nick Marshall (suspension) and completed 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks. In his two-year career, Johnson has completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine scores. The junior isn’t as dynamic of a runner as Marshall was but has 40 rushing yards on 11 attempts in two seasons. Coming out of high school, Johnson was ranked as the No. 165 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite and was regarded as a four-star recruit. Malzahn’s offense is adaptable to mobile quarterbacks or pro-style passers. Expect Johnson to thrive in his first year as the starter for Auburn.

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Vic Beasley (33 career sacks, first-team AP All-American in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Clemson’s defense led the nation by holding opponents to 4.03 yards per play in 2014. The Tigers also limited opposing offenses to 16.7 points per game, recorded 45 sacks and led the nation in third-down defense. Matching those totals in 2015 will be a challenge for coordinator Brent Venables. Of the nine players listed in the trenches on the final 2014 depth chart, six expired their eligibility after the Russell Athletic Bowl. Lawson was listed as the backup to Vic Beasley and is a breakout candidate for 2015 after recording 34 tackles (11 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks last year.

Jeff Lockie, QB, Oregon

Replacing: Marcus Mariota (2014 Heisman Trophy Winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

There’s no doubt Lockie has the biggest shoes to fill of any player on this list. Needless to say, following a Heisman winner and replacing Marcus Mariota’s production will be nearly impossible for the Ducks in 2015. The quarterback battle in Eugene is up for grabs, but Lockie has to have a slight edge based on his experience for the last two seasons as the backup. In his brief Oregon career (2013-14) Lockie has completed 29 of 41 passes for 264 yards and one score, while adding 32 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Although Lockie enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, the battle to replace Mariota is far from finished. Freshmen Travis Waller and Morgan Mahalak are expected to push for time, while sophomore Ty Griffin is eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA transfer rules. Could the Ducks land a graduate transfer like Eastern Washington's Vernon Adams?

Marcus Loud/Charles Harris, DE, Missouri


Replacing: Markus Golden/Shane Ray (24.5 total sacks in 2014)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Missouri consistently churns out talent from the defensive line to the NFL. Three linemen were selected over the 2013-14 drafts, and the number drafted only grows if you expand into 2011 (Aldon Smith) and 2009 (Ziggy Hood and Stryker Sulak). The Tigers will add to that total in 2015, as Shane Ray (a likely first-round pick) and Markus Golden (a top-100 prospect) will be targeted high in the draft. Replacing productive linemen is nothing new for the Tigers, and the focus shifts in 2015 to Harris and Loud as they replace Golden and Ray in the starting lineup. Loud recorded 14 tackles in 14 games last season, while Harris registered 19 tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks in 14 appearances. Golden and Ray leave big shoes to fill, but Missouri also has a track record of finding the right answers at defensive end.

Sean Maguire, QB, Florida State

Jameis Winston (2013 Heisman winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Out of the five players mentioned in this article, Maguire has the biggest shoes to fill. The New Jersey native has played in 12 career games and made one start against Clemson in 2014. With Jameis Winston suspended against the Tigers, Maguire stepped into the starting lineup and completed 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards and one score. And in his career, Maguire has completed 38 out of 70 passes for 455 yards, three scores and four interceptions. Regardless of whether it’s Maguire, J.J. Cosentino, John Franklin III or an incoming freshman, Florida State’s quarterback in 2015 isn’t going to match Winston’s production and ability to perform in the clutch. However, coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the top quarterback gurus in the nation. The Seminoles will find enough production in the passing game to conted in the ACC in 2015.

Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford


Replacing: LT Andrus Peat (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

Stanford’s offensive line has been one of the Pac-12’s top units in recent years, placing a lineman on the first-team for all-conference honors for seven consecutive seasons. The Cardinal return four starters in 2015, but there’s a huge hole to replace on the left side. Andrus Peat finished his career with 27 consecutive starts at left tackle and should be a first-round pick in the 2015 draft after leaving with one season of eligibility remaining. Murphy started all 14 games at right tackle in 2014 and is a candidate to flip to the left side to replace Peat. Murphy earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014 and will be counted upon to replace Peat, as well as be the lead blocker for a Stanford ground attack that averaged 4.4 yards per carry in conference games last year.

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor


Replacing: Bryce Petty


2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Bryce Petty will be missed, but Baylor’s offense isn’t going to miss a beat with a new signal-caller at the controls. In each of the last five years, the Bears had a quarterback throw for at least 3,500 yards. And from 2011-13, Baylor signal-callers eclipsed the 4,00-yard mark. Coach Art Briles clearly has one of the top offensive systems in the nation, and Russell is expected to take control of the high-powered attack in 2015. In two years of playing time in Waco, Russell has completed 74 of 128 throws for 1,231 yards and 11 scores. The Texas native also has good mobility, rushing for 332 yards and six touchdowns on 56 attempts the last two years. Russell will be pushed by sophomore Chris Johnson and incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, he should get the first opportunity to replace Petty in 2015.

Cam Sims, WR, Alabama


Replacing: Amari Cooper (228 career catches)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Replacing Amari Cooper’s production will be more of a team effort than just one individual for the Crimson Tide in 2015. Cooper was one of college football’s top players in 2014, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores. While there’s no doubt losing an All-American receiver is a huge blow to any offense, Alabama also has to replace DeAndrew White (40 catches in 2014) and Christion Jones (19 catches in 2014). Sims was regarded as the No. 84 prospect in the 2014 signing class and caught seven passes for 62 yards and one score in his true freshman campaign. Sims was listed as the backup to Cooper at the “X” receiver position, and the 6-foot-4 Louisiana native figures to be an even bigger part of the receiving corps next season for coordinator Lane Kiffin.

JuJu Smith, WR, USC


Replacing: Nelson Agholor (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)


2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


USC is pegged as the early favorite in the Pac-12 South, but for coach Steve Sarkisian’s team to claim the conference title, the offense has to find a replacement for standout receiver Nelson Agholor. The first-team All-Pac-12 performer isn’t the only loss for USC, as top end Leonard Williams also must be replaced. Both sides of the ball have key holes to fill, but Smith is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars and caught 54 passes for 724 yards and five scores in his first season with the Trojans. The California native was a five-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and may play a few snaps on defense next year. Regardless of whether Smith is on offense or defense, he’s one of USC’s top playmakers and will play a key role in replacing Agholor.

10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in College Football for 2015
Post date: Friday, January 30, 2015 - 09:00