Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-body-slams-kid-pool
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With fall practice right around the corner, coaches and players are trying to squeeze in the last bit of free time or vacation before the season begins in force. Even though Ohio State is focused on winning another national championship, there’s still plenty of time for the Buckeyes to relax and get away from the summer heat.

 

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback job with J.T. Barrett, but the junior isn't one to be bothered by pressure. 

 

On Sunday, Jones and a few teammates were hanging out at a pool. And needless to say, just a simple hangout at the pool wasn’t in order for Jones. Instead, the quarterback had a little fun and put a couple of WWE moves on a child at the pool.

 

Teammate Tyvis Powell captured the wrestling moves on video:

 

Teaser:
Cardale Jones Body Slams Kid Into Pool
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 11:07
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-coaches-hot-seat-2015
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College football coaches are always on the hot seat. The pressure to win now is greater than it was 15-20 years ago. With the 24-hour news cycle, social media and message boards, coaches, teams and players are always on the spotlight.

 

The terms “hot seat” and “under pressure” don’t necessarily mean a coach is entering a year with concerns about job security, but there are a handful of coaches needing a big season to return in 2016.

 

Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Virginia’s Mike London and Miami's Al Golden top the hot seat list from Power 5 programs for 2015, while Hawaii’s Norm Chow and San Jose State’s Ron Caragher lead the way from Group of 5 teams. 

 

College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015

 

1. Tim Beckman, Illinois

Record at Illinois: 12-25 (3 years)

 

It’s been a difficult offseason for Beckman, as allegations of player mistreatment surfaced in May, adding to the pressure for a program that is just 12-25 over the last three years. Illinois has showed some improvement under Beckman, jumping in wins from just two in 2012 to four in 2013, followed by a 6-7 mark last season. The Fighting Illini needs to get back to a bowl in 2015 to save Beckman’s job.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

2. Mike London, Virginia

Record at Virginia: 23-38 (5 years)

 

Recruiting talent to Virginia hasn’t been a problem for London. Since 2011, the Cavaliers rank No. 6 among ACC teams with an average of 31.8 in recruiting rankings. However, there’s room to improve in the on-field performance. Virginia has only one winning season during London’s tenure (2011) and has just five ACC victories over the last three years. London’s 5-7 record in 2014 bought him another season, but the Cavaliers need to get to a bowl in 2015.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

3. Norm Chow, Hawaii

Record at Hawaii: 8-29 (3 years)

 

Chow was a popular hire for the Rainbow Warriors, but the Hawaii native and long-time assistant needs to show progress in 2015. Hawaii is just 8-29 under Chow’s watch but recorded its best mark (4-9) of his tenure last year. Prior to taking over as the head coach for the Rainbow Warriors, Chow was regarded as an assistant during stops at UCLA, USC, Utah, NC State and BYU. 2015 is a make-or-break year for Chow in Honolulu. 

 

Related: Mountain West Predictions for 2015

 

4. Al Golden, Miami

Record at Miami: 28-22 (4 years)

 

Is Miami ready to win the ACC Coastal? That question has surrounded the Hurricanes each offseason in recent memory, and the pressure on Golden is increasing in intensity after a 6-7 record last year. Simply, Miami has too much talent to finish with a losing record in ACC play two times in the last four years. Golden inherited a few issues in Coral Gables, including the NCAA/Nevin Shapiro investigation. However, Miami ranks as the No. 3 roster in the ACC and is just 16-16 in conference play over the last four seasons. 

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

5. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

Record at San Jose State: 9-15 (2 years)

 

Mike MacIntyre set the bar high for Caragher at San Jose State. In three years with the Spartans, MacIntyre went 16-21, including a 10-2 mark (prior to the bowl) in 2012. While reaching 10 wins at San Jose State isn’t easy, Caragher and San Jose State are trending in the wrong direction. After a 6-6 mark in 2013, the Spartans regressed to 3-9 last season. Caragher reeled in a solid recruiting class in the spring, and the third-year coach may need big contributions from a handful of freshmen in 2015.

 

6. Willie Taggart, USF

Record at USF: 6-18 (2 years)

 

Taggart was a promising hire for a USF program coming off an 8-16 record from 2011-12 under Skip Holtz. However, the Bulls are only 6-18 over the last two seasons and is picked by most to finish near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. Taggart has recruited well, so talent isn’t an issue. However, there’s a lot of youth on the roster, and assistant/scheme changes on both sides of the ball. USF has enough returning talent to reach a bowl. But there’s also enough concerns to finish 4-8 again.

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2015 Predictions

 

7. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Record at Indiana: 14-34 (4 years)

 

Indiana is one of the Big Ten’s toughest jobs, and Wilson was handed a serious setback after quarterback Nate Sudfeld was lost midway through 2014 with a shoulder injury. The Hoosiers have made progress under Wilson’s watch and nearly made a bowl in 2014 with a 5-7 mark. After a 1-11 record in Wilson’s first year (2011), Indiana has won at least four games in each of the last three seasons. The pressure on Wilson is building, but progress has been noticeable and a postseason trip is within reach for 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015

 

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Record at Iowa: 115-85 (16 years)

 

Ferentz is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the nation, entering his 17th season at the helm in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have played in 12 bowls under Ferentz, finished in the Associated Press poll five times and posted four years of double-digit wins. That’s the positive side of Ferentz’s tenure. However, the Hawkeyes have not won more than eight games and have only one winning mark in Big Ten play since 2009. Ferentz has done a lot of good things for Iowa. But it’s not easy to maintain success at one program for an extended period of time. 2015 probably isn’t a make-or-break year, but Ferentz needs to show this program isn’t growing stale under his watch. 

 

9. Paul Haynes, Kent State

Record at Kent State: 6-17 (2 years)

 

Maintaining success as been difficult at Kent State. Darrell Hazell guided the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 mark in 2012, which was the program’s first double-digit win total in school history. However, Kent State has struggled under Haynes’ direction, going 6-17 over the last two years. The Golden Flashes went 2-9 last season and won only one game in conference play. 

 

10. Ron Turner, FIU

Record at FIU: 5-19 (2 years)

 

Turner was a surprising hire at FIU, and the program slumped to a 1-11 record in his first season (2013). However, there were some signs of life by the Panthers last year, as Turner guided the program to a 4-8 mark. With 14 starters returning, FIU has a chance to show more progress in 2015.

 

Getting Warm?

 

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Record at Virginia Tech: 231-115-2 (28 years)

 

This will be an interesting scenario to watch. It’s unlikely Virginia Tech will fire Beamer, but the Hokies have been trending in the wrong direction since 2011. This program is 22-17 over the last three years and is coming off its worst conference record (3-5) since joining the ACC.  

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Record at Vanderbilt: 3-9 (1 year)

 

James Franklin set the bar high after three successful years in Nashville, and Mason is looking for improvement after a 3-9 record in his debut.

 

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Record at Iowa State: 29-46 (6 years)

 

Iowa State is easily one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football. However, since guiding the Cyclones to three bowl appearances in four years, Rhoads is just 5-19 over the last two seasons.

 

Scott Shafer, Syracuse

Record at Syracuse: 10-15 (2 years)

 

Shafer had a solid debut (7-6), but the Orange regressed to 3-9 last season. Injuries hit this team hard last year, and the offense managed only 17.1 points a game. With a new athletic director, Shafer needs to make a good first impression.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/usf-unveils-new-uniforms-and-alternate-jerseys-2015
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USF is searching for improvement in coach Willie Taggart’s third season, and the Bulls hope their quest for a turnaround is bolstered by some sharp new uniforms for 2015.

 

Some of these designs have been used before, but USF appears to have a new alternate, which features yellow and green stripes on the shoulders (along with bright yellow numbers).

 

Check out USF’s sharp new uniforms for the 2015 season: 

 

Teaser:
USF Unveils New Uniforms and Alternate Jerseys for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/why-baylor-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
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Baylor is a program on the rise under coach Art Briles. The Bears have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four years and just missed out on a playoff appearance last season. There’s no doubt Briles has raised the expectation level in Waco, and this program has staying power as an annual contender to win the Big 12 and compete for playoff appearances.

 

As the 2015 season approaches, Baylor should be considered one of the favorites to claim a spot among the four playoff teams. The offense will be explosive once again, and the defense should improve with nine starters returning.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Baylor will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Bears won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Baylor Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. New Quarterback, No Problem

TCU has been picked by most as the preseason favorite in the Big 12, and it’s no secret the Horned Frogs have the league’s best quarterback in senior Trevone Boykin. While quarterback play is always a critical component to winning a conference championship, the turnover under center isn’t cause for concern at Baylor. Coach Art Briles is one of the top offensive minds in the nation, and the Bears have reloaded with ease at quarterback in recent years, as Nick Florence and Bryce Petty kept the offense firing on all cylinders after Robert Griffin III left for the NFL. Has Baylor developed into a program that can easily transition between starters and suffer little or no drop in production for the passing attack? It certainly seems that way. Expect Seth Russell to thrive in his first year under center for the Bears.

 

2. Abundance of Playmakers

It’s not unrealistic to think Baylor might have the nation’s top collection of skill talent. Running back Shock Linwood returns after rushing for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, and there’s plenty of depth in the form of Devin Chafin, Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams. At receiver, the Bears boast the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps. Corey Coleman and KD Cannon are All-America candidates after combining for 19 touchdown scores last season. Antwan Goodley will be missed, but Jay Lee (15.4 ypc in 2014), Davion Hall, Ishmael Zamora and Chris Platt are more big-play threats ready to emerge in 2015.

 

3. Best Line of Scrimmage in the Nation?

It’s an overused cliché at times, but teams have to be strong in the trenches to compete for a national title. Baylor’s lines of scrimmage are the best in the Big 12 and among the top teams nationally. The Bears return five starters on an offensive line that allowed 19 sacks in nine Big 12 contests, with senior All-American Spencer Drango anchoring the line from the left tackle position. Briles and coordinator Phil Bennett have significantly upgraded the talent on defense in recent years, starting with a line that is tough against the run and also capable of getting to the quarterback. This unit is headlined by end Shawn Oakman, while tackle Andrew Billings might be one of the nation’s most underrated players.

 

Baylor's 2015 Schedule
DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 4at SMU1024-8
Sept. 12Lamar--
Sept. 26Rice897-5
Oct. 3Texas Tech (Arlington)486-6
Oct. 10at Kansas1031-11
Oct. 17West Virginia368-4
Oct. 24Iowa State743-9
Nov. 5at Kansas State447-5
Nov. 14Oklahoma179-3
Nov. 21at Oklahoma State288-4
Nov. 27at TCU510-2
Dec. 5Texas337-5

Three Reasons Why Baylor Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. November Road Schedule

The biggest obstacle to Baylor’s college football playoff hopes has little to do with its personnel. Instead, the Bears playoff bid could be derailed by a brutal November road slate. Baylor plays at Kansas State on Nov. 5, followed by a home date against Oklahoma, then back-to-back road games against Oklahoma State and TCU. While non-conference scheduling has been a source of criticism for Baylor, the Bears will have one of the nation’s toughest November stretches in the nation.

 

2. Quarterback Play Isn’t an Easy Transition

All signs point to Seth Russell having an easy transition into the starting role for Baylor. After all, Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence was easy, followed by a seamless transition from Florence to Bryce Petty. But what if it doesn’t go well? Russell should cruise through the first three games against non-conference opponents. How will he perform in his first Big 12 start against Texas Tech? Will he be completely settled into the starting job against Kansas State on Nov. 5?

 

3. Defense Doesn’t Improve

Baylor’s defense certainly wasn’t bad last year. The Bears held opponents to 25.5 points per game, ranked 16th nationally in rush defense and gave up 5.3 yards per play in 2014. However, there’s certainly room to improve. Baylor allowed at least 40 points in two out of its last three games and surrendered 34 passing plays of 30 yards or more. With nine starters back, improvement should be noticeable on the stat sheet for coordinator Phil Bennett. However, if this unit doesn’t improve, stopping TCU’s high-powered offense in a game that could decide the Big 12 title will be a huge challenge. 

 

Final Verdict

 

Don’t expect a repeat of 2014. The Big 12 will get one team into the college football playoff. TCU is getting most of the preseason attention as the favorite in the Big 12, but Baylor has all of the necessary pieces to win the conference crown. Sure, replacing quarterback Bryce Petty is going to be a challenge. However, Seth Russell looks to be a capable option, and the Bears have a loaded receiving corps and supporting cast to ease the transition. And of course, Baylor hasn’t had much trouble replacing starting quarterbacks recently. The defense has to improve, but Briles has reason to be optimistic with nine returning starters. The road trip to TCU will be a huge challenge and could decide which team wins the Big 12. If the transition to Russell is seamless, and the defense continues to improve, Baylor will repeat as Big 12 champions and earn a spot in the playoff. 

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 3

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big 12)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 10.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 10

Teaser:
Why Baylor Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-or-jt-barrett-who-should-start-ohio-state-2015
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Ohio State's quarterback battle is officially down to Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Although coach Urban Meyer didn’t fully commit to Braxton Miller at receiver in interviews on Thursday night, all signs point to the senior playing in an all-purpose/receiver and special teams returner for the Buckeyes in 2015.

 

While coach Urban Meyer’s decision got a little easier with Miller moving to receiver, there’s still a huge decision to make between Jones and Barrett. Should Meyer stick with Jones? After all, Barrett wasn’t at full strength in the spring, and Jones had the opportunity to work with the first-team offense. Or should Barrett return to the starting spot? Remember, prior to his season-ending leg injury, the redshirt freshman was among the nation’s top quarterbacks.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Regardless of who starts, Ohio State’s offense is going to be among the best in the nation. However, will one quarterback see the majority of snaps? Or will the Buckeyes find a way to involve both signal-callers in game action this fall?

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of both quarterbacks:

 

Cardale Jones

Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

- Finished the year as Ohio State’s No. 1 quarterback after injuries to Miller and Barrett.

 

- Thrived under pressure by guiding Ohio State to wins in each of its last three games, including the national championship over Oregon.

 

- Possesses big-time arm and tough for opposing defenses to bring down at 250 pounds.

 

- Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s performance increased after Jones was the starting quarterback.

 

J.T. Barrett

Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

- Placed into difficult role last year after Braxton Miller was lost due to injury and grew into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and 34 scores and added 938 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

 

- More dynamic runner than Jones and also connected on 23 passing plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.

 

- Limited in spring due to leg injury but is expected to be at full strength by fall practice.

 

- Accurate. Completed 64.6 percent of his throws in 2014. 

 

Who Should Take the First Snap of the Year for Ohio State?

 

Should Meyer stick with Jones after his impressive three-game stretch to close 2014? Or should Barrett – regarded for his leadership and dynamic play-making ability – as a redshirt freshman in 2014 – regain the starting job?

 

Athlon’s editors and contributors chime in with a few picks before fall camp starts for Ohio State on Aug. 10:

 

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott): J.T. Barrett

The Buckeyes would not have been in position to make the College Football Playoff in 2014 without Barrett's play. The offense is designed to be run most efficiently by a player with his skill set, regardless of the success Jones had in the postseason.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games in Ohio State's Quest to Repeat in 2015


Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich): J.T. Barrett
Both quarterbacks will play, especially in the early portion of the season, but look for Barrett to emerge as the starter.  Not only did Barrett have an exceptional 2014 season before his injury, but Barrett may have the edge on Jones with regards to leadership that Urban Meyer wants from his quarterback.

 

Related: Why Ohio State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Cardale Jones

This is a good problem for Urban Meyer. Two quarterbacks with the potential to be the best in college football or win the Heisman Trophy are vying for the starting spot this fall. I’ve gone back and forth on this question, but I would stick with Cardale Jones as the starter – at least for the opener. I think both quarterbacks make a start this year, but my guess is Jones takes the first snap against Virginia Tech.

 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB): Cardale Jones

You really cannot go wrong with either option if you are Urban Meyer, which must be nice. Even if J.T. Barrett’s ankle is in good shape and despite his experience of leading the offense in the regular season, Cardale Jones has shown what he can do with a big arm and frame against the best of the best and he certainly is not lacking in confidence.

 

Related: James Franklin is Setting the Foundation for Future Success at Penn State

 

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR): Cardale Jones

J.T. Barrett didn't do anything to "lose" the starting job, but you also can't ignore what Jones did in the College Football Playoff after starting out the season as the third-string guy. The Buckeyes will be just fine at QB regardless of who starts, but the opening assignment should go to the guy who ended the season with the gig.

Teaser:
Cardale Jones vs. J.T. Barrett: Who Should Start for Ohio State in 2015?
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 12:19
Path: /college-football/nebraska-big-ten-west-divisions-sleeper-team-2015
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It’s a new era for Nebraska football in 2015. Mike Riley was hired to replace Bo Pelini, and the former Oregon State coach inherits a team that has won at least nine games in each of the last seven seasons. However, the bar in Lincoln is higher than just getting to nine victories. Competing for conference championships is a must, and the Cornhuskers have all of the necessary resources to be a top 15-20 team on a consistent basis.

 

As Riley heads into his first year, Nebraska isn’t considered the favorite in the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin is a consensus favorite among the preseason prognosticators, with Ohio State the clear pick to win the Big Ten.

 

Related: Nebraska’s Maliek Collins Ranks as One of College Football's Top 50 Players

 

While the Badgers are the favorite in the West Division, the Cornhuskers shouldn’t be overlooked and could be a sleeper pick to make the trip to Indianapolis in early December.

 

Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?

 

(Here are a few reasons to buy the Cornhuskers as a West Division title contender in 2015)

 

1. Manageable Big Ten Schedule

A crossover game against Michigan State is challenging, but Nebraska misses Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State from the East Division, and Wisconsin and Iowa visit Memorial Stadium in 2015. The upcoming slate certainly isn’t easy, especially with the crossover matchup against the Spartans and the road trip to Minnesota. However, if Nebraska knocks off Wisconsin in October, it would give Riley’s team a chance to position itself for a run at the West Division title in November.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

2. Improvement Behind a First-Year Coach

Every year, it seems there are a handful of teams that make a jump in the standings based on the strength of a new coaching staff and schemes. Could Nebraska get the first-year bump in 2015? Riley’s career record at Oregon State was just 93-80, but winning in Corvallis is no easy task. Riley knows how to get the most out of a roster and discover hidden gems on the recruiting trail. Both of those tactics should work well in Lincoln. Riley’s biggest challenge in terms of personnel will be getting quarterback Tommy Armstrong to adapt to the new pro-style approach.

 

Related: Setting the Expectations for Mike Riley in 2015

 

3. Dangerous Offense…If the Pieces Fall Into Place

Make no mistake: There are question marks about Nebraska’s offense. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to play better and adapt to the new scheme, standout running back Ameer Abdullah must be replaced, and three new starters must be found on the offensive line. But if all of the pieces fall into place, this is a dangerous offense. After all, the Cornhuskers averaged 37.8 points per game last season. That number could climb in 2015 if Armstrong develops, and Terrell Newby, Imani Cross and Adam Taylor handle the workload at running back. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is a rising star to watch this fall.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

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4. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine

Stopping opposing offenses starts in the trenches for most defenses. Nebraska needs to develop a few pass rushers, but the tackle combination of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine is among the best in the nation. Both players check in over 300 pounds and should have no trouble wreaking havoc against opposing offensive linemen or quarterbacks. Some teams may choose to add double teams to Collins or Valentine, which should help alleviate some of the pressure on the younger players, allowing more one-on-one matchups to get to the quarterback. 

 

Related: Big Ten's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

5. Turnover Margin

Nebraska lost two of its three conference games by five points or less last season. What could be the difference in close matchups? Turnovers. In Big Ten games last year, the Cornhuskers were a minus-two in turnover margin. Luck plays a big part in recovering turnovers, but Nebraska could do a better job of holding onto the ball. In eight conference matchups, the Cornhuskers gave away 20 turnovers.

 

6. Talent

Recruiting rankings are never going to be 100 percent accurate, but there is some truth in the data. Earlier this offseason, Athlon examined the Big Ten team recruiting rankings, with Ohio State and Michigan ranking as the top two rosters in the conference. But No. 3 could be a surprise to some: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have averaged a No. 27 finish nationally in recruiting rankings over the last five years, with Wisconsin – Nebraska’s biggest challenger in the West – at No. 41. Again, the recruiting rankings aren’t everything. But there is plenty of talent for Riley to work with in his debut in Lincoln.

Teaser:
Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-states-qb-battle-takes-shape-braxton-miller-shifts-receiver
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Ohio State’s quarterback battle is officially down to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Braxton Miller was expected to push Barrett and Jones for the starting job in the fall, but in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, the senior has indicated he will shift to receiver/H-back in the fall.

 

“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. …God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”

 

Although Miller was one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks prior to his injury, recovering from shoulder surgery complicated his return under center, and the Buckeyes have two talented and proven options in Jones and Barrett. Miller missed all of 2014 due to injury and was limited in spring recovering from shoulder surgery.

 

Miller’s future in the NFL was at receiver or running back and the transition in 2015 allows the senior to grow into the receiver/H-back position and develop before reaching the next level.

 

Podcast: ACC, Big 12 Media Days and Talkin’ Season



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Miller’s shift to receiver adds another versatile weapon in coach Urban Meyer’s arsenal. The Buckeyes had one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten headed into 2015, and Miller’s playmaking ability adds to a group that already features Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson.

 

With Miller officially transitioning to receiver, Jones and Barrett will compete to take the first snap of the season. While the decision gets a little easier for Meyer, both Jones and Barrett are capable of contending for the Heisman Trophy and leading Ohio State to a national championship. Could there be packages for both players to get on the field at the same time? Or perhaps Jones starts with a package of plays for Barrett? That's the task for Meyer and co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner. 

 

Ohio State’s quarterback battle was college football’s biggest storyline headed into fall practice. Even though Miller has moved to receiver, the battle between Barrett and Jones is just beginning. Regardless of who starts under center, the Buckeyes are loaded for another run for the national title. And the addition of Miller to the receiving corps just adds another weapon for Barrett or Jones in the passing attack. 

Teaser:
Ohio State's QB Battle Takes Shape as Braxton Miller Shifts to Receiver
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 22:13
Path: /college-football/10-first-year-starting-qbs-who-could-win-college-footballs-national-title-2015
Body:

Projecting the outcome of a college football season, playoff teams and national champion is no easy task. Several factors go into predictions, including the schedule, coaching changes, returning starters, in-depth statistics, results from the previous year, breakout players and recruiting – just to name a few.

 

Experience and star power at quarterback is another factor that most would consider important for preseason predictions.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

However, just how important is quarterback experience? Six of the last 10 teams to play in the title game had a first-year starter at quarterback.

 

Since the BCS era, 12 quarterbacks played for the national title or reached the playoffs in their first season:

 

1998: Tee Martin, Tennessee - W

1999: Michael Vick, Virginia Tech - L

2002: Craig Krenzel, Ohio State - W

2007: Matt Flynn, LSU - W; Todd Boeckman, Ohio State

2009: Greg McElroy, Alabama - W

2010: Cam Newton, Auburn - W; Darron Thomas, Oregon

2011: AJ McCarron, Alabama – W

2012: Everett Golson, Notre Dame – L

2013: Jameis Winston, Florida State – W; Nick Marshall, Auburn – L

2014: Blake Sims, Alabama – L

 

Will the trend of successful first-year starters continue in 2015? Here are 10 teams that fit the mold this year:

 

Top 10 Contenders to Win National Title as a First-Year Starter at QB


(Note: To be considered a returning starter at quarterback, a player must have started seven overall games or the last six contests of last season)

 

1. Cardale Jones, Ohio State

It seems odd to list Jones here, but by the definition of a returning starter, the junior fits the criteria. The Ohio native opened 2014 as the third-string quarterback for coach Urban Meyer, but an injury to Braxton Miller in fall camp pushed Jones into the backup role. Jones attempted only 14 passes through the first 11 games but was pressed into the No. 1 spot after J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury against Michigan. Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and threw for 243 yards in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. And Jones was solid once again in the national championship, recording 280 total yards in the 42-20 win over the Ducks. Will Jones pickup where he left off? Or will the Buckeyes turn to Miller or Barrett under center? Let the quarterback battle begin in Columbus.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

All signs point to Johnson as one of college football’s breakout stars of 2015. The junior is the triggerman for a high-powered offense and started one game for Auburn last season. In seven appearances in 2014, Johnson threw for 436 yards and three scores. He also started one game in 2013, passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns against Western Carolina. The Montgomery native brings a different skill-set to the offense than former starter Nick Marshall, as Johnson – a 6-foot-5 quarterback – should add to the explosiveness of the Auburn passing attack and allow Duke Williams to make even more plays downfield this season.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

3. Seth Russell, Baylor

Art Briles has developed one of college football’s top offenses at Baylor, and while Bryce Petty expired his eligibility and is taking snaps in the NFL, the Bears won’t miss a beat on offense. Russell is the next standout quarterback for Briles, and the junior already has a good chunk of snaps under his belt. Petty missed one start due to injury, allowing Russell to torch Northwestern State for 438 yards and five scores in 2014. While Russell still needs to show he can be successful in Big 12 games, the supporting cast and scheme is among the best in the nation. 

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

4. Jake Coker, Alabama

Alabama is projected to finish No. 2 in the final 2015 rankings by Athlon Sports, but Coker drops a few spots on this list due to the ongoing quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. Coker was expected to win the job last season after transferring from Florida State. However, Blake Sims edged Coker and started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide. Coker finds himself in a similar spot this fall, as he enters practice as the favorite to take the first snap. However, redshirt freshman David Cornwell isn’t far behind. Regardless of which quarterback wins the job, expect Alabama to lean heavily on its defense and rushing attack.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

It’s a tossup between Florida State and Clemson for the No. 1 spot in the ACC Atlantic. However, a healthy year from Watson would boost the Tigers’ title chances as they hope to unseat the Seminoles in 2015. Injuries limited Watson to eight games last season and his 2014 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL suffered against Georgia Tech. Watson was one of the top recruits in last year’s signing class and threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even though play-caller Chad Morris left to be the head coach at SMU, Clemson’s offense should be lethal with Watson under center.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

6. Vernon Adams, Oregon

Adams hasn’t officially arrived on campus in Eugene as of July 22. However, all signs point to the Eastern Washington transfer participating in fall practice and pushing Jeff Lockie to be the new starter for the Ducks. Marcus Mariota leaves big shoes to fill, but Adams is a dynamic option to keep Oregon’s high-scoring offense on track. The senior accounted for 11,670 yards and 121 total scores in three years with the Eagles. How quickly will Adams adjust to the FBS level?

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top Graduate QB Transfers for 2015

 

7. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Zaire’s path to the starting job was cleared after Everett Golson left South Bend for Florida State at the end of spring practice. After playing sparingly for the first 11 games in 2014, Zaire completed 9 of 20 passes against USC and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s bowl win over LSU. Zaire has dual-threat ability, but the Fighting Irish have to be careful about the wear and tear on their sophomore quarterback. Without an experienced backup, the Fighting Irish need a full (and healthy) year from Zaire to challenge for the College Football Playoff. 

 

Related: Why Notre Dame Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

8. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State

Arizona State’s offense averaged 36.9 points a game in 2014 and won’t miss a beat despite the departure of quarterback Taylor Kelly. Bercovici started three games after Kelly was injured in 2014 and finished the year with 1,445 yards and 12 scores. Adding to the impressive stint for Bercovici was key performances against USC (510 yards in a 38-34 win) and a 245-yard effort in a 26-10 victory over Stanford. The senior will be throwing to a revamped receiving corps, but the Sun Devils will be explosive on offense once again.

 

Related: Why Arizona State Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

9. Brice Ramsey, Georgia

Ramsey and Faton Bauta concluded spring practice locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback spot. However, the Bulldogs added competition to the quarterback battle with the addition of Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert. Ramsey completed 24 of 39 passes for 333 yards and two scores in a relief role last season. He’s the favorite to start, but Georgia will continue to lean on its defense and rushing attack until the passing game takes a step forward.

 

10. Sean Maguire, Florida State

Maguire left spring with the edge to replace Jameis Winston. However, Everett Golson transferred to Tallahassee from Notre Dame and is expected to win the starting job in the fall. Maguire has one career start (Clemson, 2014) and completed 25 of 49 passes for 339 yards last season.

 

5 Others to Watch in 2015

 

Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

Emerging star in the SEC but also has to hold off talented freshman Kyler Murray. Aggies also need to significantly improve defense to challenge for a playoff spot.

 

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

Tennessee is improving, but the Volunteers are likely a year away from winning the SEC East. Dobbs played well over the second half of 2014, including a huge effort (301 passing yards, two scores and 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns) against South Carolina.

 

Brandon Harris, LSU

Talent certainly isn’t an issue for the Tigers. However, the passing attack remains the team’s biggest mystery going into fall practice. Can Harris pass Anthony Jennings this fall?

 

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

Kelly isn’t guaranteed to start, as the junior college product (and former Clemson signal-caller) has to hold off Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Expect the defense to carry the Rebels in 2015.

 

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Mayfield left spring as the favorite to start this fall, but there’s still work to be done as Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas remain in the mix. The Texas Tech transfer passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Red Raiders in 2013.

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Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.

 

Related: College Football’s Top 50 Players for 2015

 

The Pac-12 is loaded with potential breakout stars at some of the top title contenders in the conference. USC receiver JuJu Smith could vault into All-America consideration as quarterback Cody Kessler’s go-to target. Oregon defensive back/receiver Charles Nelson is also one of the top dual-threat players in the nation. Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici and running back Demario Richard should lead an explosive offense for coach Todd Graham.

 

Predicting the Pac-12's Breakout Players for 2015

 

Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State

Bercovici is no secret in the Pac-12 after a solid stint as Arizona State’s starting quarterback last season. After Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado, Bercovici threw for 488 yards against UCLA in a 62-27 loss and passed for 510 yards and five scores in a thrilling 38-34 win over USC. Bercovici has a strong arm and isn’t afraid to take chances downfield. He won’t have top receiver Jaelen Strong, but Bercovici could push for a spot among the Pac-12’s best at quarterback.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

DJ Calhoun/Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State

Arizona State’s linebacker unit should be among the best in the Pac-12. Coach Todd Graham and coordinator Keith Patterson should have no trouble finding four starters and capable backups this year, and the development of Calhoun and Sam can only add to the potential of this group. Both players enter their sophomore year on the rise, as Calhoun recorded 35 stops and two sacks last season, and Sam registered 16 tackles and a sack in 13 games.

 

Related: Why Arizona State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

Tevin Carter, S, Utah

Utah enters fall practice with a few question marks at cornerback, but the safety position should be a strength. Even though Carter enters 2015 with just four appearances in his Utah career, the senior is poised to be an impact player. Before a season-ending injury last year, Carter recorded 16 tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two interceptions. Carter should be a difference maker in the secondary for coordinator John Pease.

 

Related: Pac-12's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Seth Collins, QB, Oregon State

Collins still has some work to do in order to win the starting job, but the future is bright at Oregon State with this freshman at the controls. In the Beavers’ spring game, Collins completed 12 of 22 passes for 208 yards and two scores and added 84 yards on the ground. Collins ranked as a three-star prospect in the 2015 signing class, and the dual-threat California native is expected to take the first snap for new coach Gary Andersen.

 

Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015

 

Deon Hollins, LB, UCLA

UCLA’s pass rush needs a spark after recording only 29 sacks in 13 games last season. Could Hollins be the answer for new coordinator Tom Bradley? The Texas native led the team with nine sacks, with six of those coming over the final four games of 2014. Hollins recorded three sacks against Kansas State and one in the 38-20 win over rival USC. The junior’s ability to get to the quarterback should help UCLA create a lot of havoc at the line of scrimmage. 

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Jones and fellow sophomore Budda Baker are two critical pieces in an improving Washington secondary. Although Baker is getting most of the preseason hype, Jones shouldn’t be overlooked. In 13 games as a true freshman last year, the California native recorded 61 tackles and two interceptions. 

 

Peter Kalambayi, LB, Stanford

Kalambayi should be the next star linebacker for coach David Shaw. After a redshirt year in 2013, the North Carolina native played in all 13 games last season and finished with 32 tackles and 6.5 sacks. With A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters departing, there should be more snaps available for Kalambayi in 2015.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Alex Kelley, C, Colorado

With quarterback Sefo Liufau and receiver Nelson Spruce returning, Colorado’s offense should continue to improve after averaging 28.5 points per game in 2014. The line is also in good shape with the return of three starters, and Kelley could emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top centers in 2015. The California native started all 12 games for the Buffaloes in 2014 and earned a mentioned on the Rimington Award watch list for 2015.

 

Robert Lewis, WR, Washington State

Lewis didn’t post monster numbers last season, but he was a valuable security blanket for the Washington State passing attack. In 12 games, Lewis grabbed 41 receptions for 370 yards and two scores. After working as a backup to Rickey Galvin at the “H” position in 2014, the starting spot is expected to go to Lewis this fall. And it’s no secret: Starting receivers in Washington State’s offense usually post big numbers.

 

Related: Pac-12 Wild Card Players for 2015

 

Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Despite the departure of end Nate Orchard and tackle Sese Ianu, the Utes still have one of the Pac-12’s top defensive lines. A big reason why Utah ranks among the best in the league is the return of end Hunter Dimick, but Lotulelei is an unsung hero and key piece of the defensive front. As a freshman in 2014, the Utah native recorded 33 tackles (4.5 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble. Lotulelei should be an all-conference performer this season and is a tough matchup for opposing offensive linemen at 310 pounds.

 

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Stanford’s string of six consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher was snapped in 2014. But the Cardinal could reverse that trend with McCaffrey a bigger part of the offense in 2015. As a true freshman last season, McCaffrey rushed for 300 yards on 42 carries and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey is poised to emerge as one of the nation’s top all-purpose players.

 

Steven Mitchell/Isaac Whitney, WR, USC

Even though JuJu Smith is mentioned later in this column, Mitchell and Whitney are both deserving of a spot. Mitchell caught seven passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns last season and continued his development with a huge spring. Whitney was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for coach Steve Sarkisian and ranked as the No. 33 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite.

 

DaVonte’ Neal, CB, Arizona

Considering the depth and talent at receiver for Arizona, Neal is making the switch from the offense to defense to see an increased role in 2015. Neal played in 13 games for the Wildcats last season and recorded 27 receptions. Playing cornerback in the offensive-minded Pac-12 won’t be easy, but Neal is too talented to sit on the bench and should transition well to the defensive side.

 

Charles Nelson, DB/WR, Oregon

There’s no doubt Nelson is poised to see a bigger role for Oregon in 2015. However, where Nelson plays the majority of snaps is uncertain. The two-way threat will see time at defensive back or receiver this season or could be utilized on both sides of the ball in any contest. Nelson caught 23 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns last season and scored twice on punt return touchdowns.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Hardy Nickerson, LB, California

Identifying breakout players for California is a challenge, as the offense is largely set and the defense enters the fall with a handful of positions up for grabs. Michael Barton has already established himself as one of the leading candidates for All-Pac-12 honors at linebacker, but Nickerson is due for his best season at California. In 12 games last year, Nickerson recorded 69 tackles and one interception. It’s no secret the Golden Bears have to improve on defense. With Nickerson improving, along with Barton returning at linebacker, this unit should be a strength for coordinator Art Kaufman.

 

Peyton Pelluer, LB, Washington State

New coordinator Alex Grinch is tasked with improving a defense that allowed 38.6 points a game in 2014. Grinch plans on making a few tweaks to the scheme and a handful of positions are up for grabs. Pelluer had a solid debut in 2014, playing in all 12 games for the Cougars and recording 39 stops (5.5 for a loss) and one sack. The Washington native started the final five games at middle linebacker last year and should be a key cog in Grinch’s revamped defense.

 

Dante Pettis, WR, Washington

With John Ross out for the year due to injury, Washington will be relying on Pettis to take on an increased role in the receiving corps. Pettis grabbed 17 receptions for 259 yards and one score last year and should easily see those numbers increase in 2015.

 

Related: The Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

Washington’s front seven needs an overhaul after the departures of linebacker Shaq Thompson, rush end Hau’oli Kikaha and tackle Danny Shelton. Qualls played sparingly as a backup last season, recording 13 tackles (two for a loss) in 14 games. The No. 116 recruit in the 2013 signing class has a lot of untapped potential and needs to have a big season to replace some of the production lost by Kikaha, Shelton and Thompson.

 

Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State

Just how high is Arizona State on Richard and fellow sophomore Kalen Ballage at running back? The coaching staff moved senior D.J. Foster out to receiver for the 2015 season. There was a huge need at receiver with the loss of Jaelen Strong, but there’s plenty of confidence in the available options at running back for coach Todd Graham. Richard averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 84 attempts last year, finishing 2014 with 478 rushing yards and four scores.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

Erick Dargan departs after leading the team with 95 stops in 2014, but the Ducks have a capable replacement in Robinson ready to emerge in 2015. As a backup to Dargan last season, Robinson played in all 15 games and recorded 36 tackles. The sophomore is penciled in as one of the starters at safety and has the talent to push for All-Pac-12 honors.

 

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen still needs to win the job, but it’s hard to imagine the true freshman sitting for long this season. The California native was a five-star recruit in the 2015 signing class and the No. 1 ranked quarterback by the 247Sports Composite. Rosen enrolled in time for spring practice and is expected to take the first snap of the year in UCLA’s opener against Virginia. If Rosen is as good as advertised, the concerns about the quarterback spot after losing Brett Hundley will dissipate.

 

JuJu Smith, WR, USC

It’s a bit of a stretch to consider Smith here since he grabbed 54 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns last year. However, expect Smith to go from all-conference contender to a potential All-American receiver in 2015. The sophomore should be quarterback Cody Kessler’s No. 1 target this fall.

 

Related: Contenders to Keep the Heisman Trophy in the Pac-12

 

Freddie Tagaloa, OT, Arizona

Arizona must replace three starters from last year’s solid offensive line. Tagaloa is a name to watch as one of the replacements, as the California transfer is penciled in as the new starter at left tackle. Tagaloa started seven games at California from 2012-13 and sat out 2014 as a result of NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-8 tackle could be an all-conference candidate in 2015.

 

Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

The defensive line is the biggest concern for coordinator Lance Anderson. Needless to say, the Cardinal will be asking a lot from Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett, as well as Thomas after a redshirt season. The Texas native was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class, and the 6-foot-3 end should be an impact performer for the Cardinal in a position of need in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Bright Ugwoegbu, LB, Oregon State

Oregon State’s defense is desperately looking for new standouts to emerge with just two returning starters set for 2015. Ugwoegbu redshirted last season and was regarded for his work with the scout team defense. The Texas native should be able to build off a strong spring and find a starting spot in Oregon State’s linebacking corps in 2015.

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Florida is one of the premier jobs in college football. The location in a fertile recruiting area allows the Gators to have access to some of the nation’s top talent, and the program won two BCS national championships under Urban Meyer. However, Florida slipped under former coach Will Muschamp. After winning 13 games in three out of four seasons from 2006-09, the Gators went 28-21 in Muschamp’s four years in Gainesville. Jim McElwain was hired from Colorado State to return Florida back into a SEC title contender, along with pushing the Gators back into the national title conversation.

 

McElwain went 22-16 in three years at Colorado State and has experience in the SEC from his time as a coordinator at Alabama. McElwain is known for his ability to coach offense, which is an area of significant concern for the Gators in 2015.

 

While all of the positives for Florida as a program are clear, the Gators have their share of roster concerns for 2015. Just because the recruiting rankings suggest the talent is in place, Florida has a lot of work to do and obstacles to overcome to contend for the SEC title.

 

Is McElwain the right fit at Florida? Can he elevate the program to win SEC Championships? Let’s take a look at the former Colorado State coach and his outlook for 2015 and beyond.

 

Jim McElwain's Job History

 

2012-14: Colorado State – Head Coach

2008-11: Alabama – OC/QBs

2007: Fresno State – OC/QBs

2006: Oakland Raiders – QBs

2003-05: Michigan State – Asst. HC/WRs/Sp. Teams

2000-02: Louisville – WRs/Sp. Teams

1995-99: Montana State – OC/WRs/Sp. Teams

1987-94: Eastern Washington – QBs/WRs

1985-86: Eastern Washington – Graduate Assistant

 

Key Obstacles to Overcome in 2015

 

Quarterback Play

Considering the high school talent in the state of Florida, along with the success of Florida’s offense under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, it’s hard to imagine the Gators struggling to score points. However, that’s been the case in recent years. In each of the last four seasons, Florida has ranked seventh or worse (SEC-only games) in scoring offense. Reversing that trend starts in the trenches and at quarterback. Last year, the Gators threw only seven touchdown passes and completed just 50 percent of their throws in SEC contests. Treon Harris replaced Jeff Driskel as the starter last season, but the job could switch hands again, as Will Grier (a redshirt freshman) is expected to start. Grier is a good fit for McElwain’s offense and will have two non-conference games as tune-ups before Florida’s SEC opener at Kentucky on Sept. 19.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Offensive Line

While most of the offseason attention on Florida is focused on the quarterback battle, the play in the trenches is a bigger concern for McElwain. This unit was hit hard by departures, as D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore left for the NFL, Rod Johnson’s career was cut short by injury and Max Garcia and Chaz Green expired their eligibility. Senior Trip Thurman is the lone returning starter, and depth is a major concern. True freshman Martez Ivey could start at one of the tackle spots this season, and Fordham graduate transfer Mason Halter should find a spot on the two-deep. Needless to say, line coach Mike Summers has his work cut out for him in 2015. This group is young, inexperienced and lacking in overall proven options. How quickly will Summers and McElwain find the right answers?

 

Playmakers…?

In addition to the positions above, finding playmakers is going to be a priority this fall for McElwain and new coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Kelvin Taylor, Adam Lane and Jordan Scarlett are a capable trio at running back, but more punch is needed from this group. At receiver, can the Gators find another go-to target to help take the pressure off of Demarcus Robinson? 

 

Team Strengths for 2015

 

One of the Top Defenses in the SEC?

Lost in all of the offensive woes under Will Muschamp, Florida’s defense remained one of the best in the SEC. And that’s quite an accomplishment considering the bad situations the defense inherited throughout the year. Last season, the Gators held SEC opponents to 25.8 points per game and finished second in the conference in 2013. New coordinator Geoff Collins inherits seven returning starters, including one of the nation’s top defensive backfields. End Dante Fowler will be missed, but there’s enough returning talent to keep this unit near the top of the SEC.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Playmakers…?

This section of the roster was also mentioned under obstacles to overcome, but there’s also reason to be optimistic. Demarcus Robinson is one of the SEC’s top receivers, tight end Jake McGee is back from injury, and running back Kelvin Taylor has recorded back-to-back 500-yard seasons. While Florida needs more from its playmakers, there’s a solid core in place to build around. 

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

Florida's Roster Rank in the SEC for 2015: 5

 

YearConference RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
201510211732
2014791581
20132313132
2012248132
20115117111

Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but it’s notable the Gators have ranked No. 7 and No. 10 among SEC teams over the last two years. The overall five-star prospects brought to Gainesville has remained steady, as three have arrived over the last two seasons. However, the four-star prospects have dropped from at least 11 each year from 2011-13 to just 11 over the last two seasons. Florida finished No. 21 in last year’s signing classes, but it’s tough to evaluate the Gators recruiting efforts since McElwain didn’t have a full year to build a class. While the talent level has dipped slightly, attrition is also a concern at certain spots, especially on the offensive line. 

 

Schedule Analysis

 

Crossover Games Versus West Division: Ole Miss, at LSU

Bye Week: Oct. 24

 

Five Critical Conference Games for Florida in 2015

 

1. Georgia (Jacksonville, Oct. 31)

2. at Tennessee (Sept. 26)

3. at Missouri (Oct. 10)

4. Ole Miss (Oct. 3)

5. at LSU (Oct. 17)

 

Best Non-Conference Game: Florida State (Nov. 28)

 

Final Analysis

 

Georgia is the favorite in the East, with Tennessee picking up steam as a darkhorse candidate. In order for Florida to challenge for the division title, a lot has to go right. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, as Ole Miss and LSU are the crossover opponents, and road trips to Kentucky and Missouri will be a challenge. Not only is the schedule an obstacle, but Florida has to find a quarterback and develop an offensive line short on depth and experience. McElwain is known for his background on offense and should help to improve a struggling Florida attack in 2015. But expectations need to be lowered. While this is one of the best jobs in college football and recruiting talent won’t be a problem, patience is needed in Gainesville. The Gators need another season to bolster the depth up front and find a quarterback, and the schedule isn’t friendly for a coach breaking in new schemes. Athlon’s 2015 projection has Florida on the optimistic side of the win total at eight victories. However, if the quarterback play and offensive line are slow to develop, a 7-5 or 6-6 record is realistic. McElwain is the right fit for Florida, but the former Colorado State coach could have his share of ups and downs in year one. 

 

Athlon 2015 National Projection: No. 26 nationally, No. 3 SEC East

Athlon 2015 Record Projection: 8-4, 5-3 SEC

Bovada Over/Under Odds: 7.5

CG Technology Odds: 7

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 7.5

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Bo Pelini won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons as Nebraska’s head coach. But the standard in Lincoln is much higher than just nine wins a year. Mike Riley was hired away from Oregon State to elevate the Cornhuskers back into Big Ten title contention and return the program into a factor on the national scene once again. Nebraska has finished in the final Associated Press top 25 poll three times in the last four years. However, 24th was its highest finish. 

 

Riley has a different coaching style than Pelini, but will it translate into success at Nebraska? Riley’s ability to develop talent and find underrated prospects on the recruiting trail should help the Cornhuskers over the next few years. But is that enough to knock off Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin on a consistent basis?

 

Related: Ranking the Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Is Riley the right fit at Nebraska? Can he elevate the program to win Big Ten Championships? Let’s take a look at the former Oregon State coach and his outlook for 2015 and beyond.

 

Mike Riley’s Job History

 

2003-14: Oregon State – Head Coach

2002: New Orleans Saints – Assistant Head Coach/Secondary

1999-2001: San Diego Chargers – Head Coach

1997-98: Oregon State – Head Coach

1993-96: USC – Assistant Head Coach/OC/QB

1991-92: San Antonio Riders (WLAF) – Head Coach

1987-90: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Head Coach

1986: Northern Colorado – Defensive Coordinator

1983-85: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Secondary Coach

1977-82: Linfield College – Defensive Coordinator/Secondary

1976: Whitworth College – Graduate Assistant

1975: California – Graduate Assistant (Defense)

 

Key Obstacles to Overcome in 2015

 

Adapting to New Schemes

As with any coaching change, the biggest obstacle to immediate success is how quickly a team adapts to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Nebraska is switching to a pro-style offense, while Mark Banker plans on a more aggressive approach on defense. The transition on offense is a bigger obstacle for the Cornhuskers, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to become more of a pocket passer and rely less on mobility. The junior threw for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and must increase his completion percentage after posting a 53.3 mark in 2014. Will there be a seamless transition to the pro-style attack on offense? Or will it take a year for the offense to adjust?

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Replacing Ameer Abdullah

There’s no doubt Nebraska will miss Abdullah in 2015. In 13 games last season, Abdullah rushed for 1,611 yards and 19 scores. Talent certainly isn’t an issue at running back, as Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross are a capable trio to rely on in 2015. However, Abdullah was one of the best in the nation. Will the Cornhuskers match their production on the ground through the committee approach? Or will one of those players emerge as a consistent go-to option and keep the rushing game at a similar level (240.2 ypg in 2014)?

 

Linebackers

This is the biggest personnel concern for new coach Mike Riley. Nebraska does not return a player with a full season of starts from 2014. Senior David Santos was expected to anchor this group but transferred in June. The departure of Santos leaves juniors Josh Banderas (50 tackles) and Michael Rose-Ivey as the top options. Assuming Banderas and Rose-Ivey stay healthy, the Cornhuskers should be set at two of the starting spots. However, depth is a major issue here, with freshmen Dedrick Young, Luke Gifford, Adrienne Talan, Mohamed Barry and Tyrin Ferguson expected to push for snaps or crack the fall two-deep.

 

Team Strengths for 2015

 

Skill Position Talent

There’s no doubt Ameer Abdullah will be missed. However, Nebraska isn’t hurting for talent on offense. The ground attack could be more of a committee approach, and Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross should be a capable trio. Assuming quarterback Tommy Armstrong settles into the new offense, there’s a lot of potential for the passing attack. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats, and junior Jordan Westerkamp is back after catching 44 passes for 747 yards and five scores in 2014.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

Defensive Tackles

Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine might be the nation’s most underrated duo at defensive tackle. Both played in 13 games last season and combined for 21 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Depth and proven options are short at defensive end for coordinator Mark Banker. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you have to be strong in the trenches to win in the Big Ten. Having Collins and Valentine is a good place to start for Banker as he searches for answers at defensive end.

 

Favorable Schedule

This aspect differs from the roster pieces mentioned above, but Nebraska has a favorable path to push Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. The Cornhuskers host the Badgers in a game that could decide the division title, along with home matchups against Michigan State and Iowa in November. The road trip to Minnesota won’t be easy, but the schedule could be a boost for Nebraska’s division title hopes. 

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

Nebraska's Roster Rank in the Big Ten for 2015: 3

 

YearConference RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
20154311630
20146362220
20133221670
2012430980
20112161190

* All rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

Nebraska’s recruiting rank has consistently ranked in the top half of the Big Ten. However, what’s notable about the recruiting trends is the drop in four-star prospects. The Cornhuskers signed 24 from 2011-13 but have only five over the last two years. Can Riley reverse that trend going forward? 

 

Schedule Analysis

 

Crossover Games Versus East Division: at Rutgers, Michigan State

Bye Week: Nov. 21

 

Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

Four Critical Conference Games for Nebraska in 2015

 

1. Michigan State (Nov. 7)

2. Wisconsin (Oct. 10)

3. at Minnesota (Oct. 17)

4. Iowa (Nov. 27)

 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Miami (Sept. 19)

 

Final Analysis

 

Wisconsin is the consensus favorite in the Big Ten’s West Division. But how big is the gap between the Badgers and Nebraska? Maybe not as much as some think. The Cornhuskers rank No. 29 in Athlon’s projected final 2015 poll, while Wisconsin ranks No. 19. With a home game against the Badgers, the Cornhuskers have an opportunity in early October to stake their claim for the division title. A crossover matchup against Michigan State is difficult, but Iowa visits Lincoln this year. The schedule isn’t overly taxing. However, the adjustment to new schemes on both sides of the ball will define just how high Nebraska climbs in the Big Ten West. Can quarterback Tommy Armstrong adapt quickly to the new offense and become the necessary passer needed in the pro-style attack? Will the Cornhuskers fill the voids at defensive end at linebacker? Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but the trends suggest this roster is the best in the West. However, just having talent isn’t going to win games. Nebraska got an upgrade when it hired Riley. But year one could have its share of growing pains with the transition on both sides of the ball. Eight or nine wins is a realistic expectation for the first year. If the transition is smooth, and Armstrong develops into an all-conference quarterback, 10 victories is certainly within reach.

 

Athlon 2015 National Projection: No. 29 nationally, No. 2 Big Ten West

Athlon 2015 Record Projection: 8-4, 5-3 Big Ten

Bovada Over/Under Odds: 8

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

Teaser:
Setting First-Year Expectations for Nebraska's Mike Riley
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/why-lsu-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
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LSU TigersLSU’s win total in SEC play has declined for three straight seasons, and the Tigers are coming off an 8-5 campaign, which was the lowest overall victory total for the program since 2008. However, there’s no shortage of optimism for coach Les Miles’ team.

 

The Tigers are loaded with promising young talent, starting on offense with running back Leonard Fournette and receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. On defense, LSU is anchored by sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux, junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams.

 

While the talent is there, LSU must adapt to a new defensive coordinator and generate more production from the passing attack.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why LSU will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Three Reasons Why LSU Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Roster Talent

Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate or the most effective way to evaluate a college football team. However, according to the final class rankings from the last five years, LSU ranks No. 4 in the nation in overall talent. The only teams ahead of the Tigers? Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – the last three national champions. Assembling elite talent is only half of the battle for college coaches, as development and building successful schemes also come into play. LSU has the necessary talent in place to win a national title. Can the coaching staff squeeze big contributions out of the young players on this roster?

 

2. Best Secondary in College Football?

It’s a close call between Florida and LSU for the No. 1 spot as the best defensive backfield in college football in 2015. Even if the Gators edge the Tigers in most preseason ranks for best secondary, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has an elite group. Two starters – cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jalen Mills – return from a unit that held opposing quarterbacks to just 10 touchdown passes last year. The two open spots in the secondary could go to elite recruits (safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Kevin Toliver II). And there’s no shortage of depth with Ed Paris, Donte Jackson, Rickey Jefferson and Dwayne Thomas competing for snaps.

 

3. Leonard Fournette

Fournette showed why he was arguably the best recruit in the 2014 signing class last season, rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores in 13 games. However, 187 carries simply isn’t enough work for the sophomore. Expect coordinator Cam Cameron to have Fournette more involved this year, and the New Orleans native will be running behind a line that returns three starters and should be among the best in the SEC. There’s no doubt Fournette has elite talent and will challenge for the Heisman if he has enough opportunities. Even with the question marks at quarterback, Fournette can carry LSU’s offense into SEC West title contention. 

 

LSU's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank
for 2015
Projected Record
Sept. 5McNeese State--
Sept. 12at Mississippi State217-5
Sept. 19Auburn410-2
Sept. 26at Syracuse853-9
Oct. 3Eastern Michigan1271-11
Oct. 10at South Carolina377-5
Oct. 17Florida268-4
Oct. 24WKU699-4
Nov. 7at Alabama212-1
Nov. 14Arkansas168-4
Nov. 21at Ole Miss119-3
Nov. 28Texas A&M207-5

Three Reasons Why LSU Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Quarterback Play

LSU’s quarterback position might be the biggest wild card in the SEC. In conference-only matchups last season, the Tigers averaged only 19.1 points per game. The passing attack ranked 13th in the SEC by averaging a paltry 140.6 yards a game in conference action. Additionally, LSU quarterbacks tossed only seven touchdowns in SEC games. While the Tigers don’t have to pass for 300 yards each week, improvement is a must here. Anthony Jennings had an off-field incident in the summer but is expected to be available for the opener. However, Jennings will be pushed by talented sophomore Brandon Harris. With a strong rushing attack and solid defense in place, the passing attack is the missing piece on a LSU roster built with enough talent to challenge for the SEC West title.

 

2. Discovering a Pass Rush

Athletic edge rushers with the ability to get to the quarterback seemed to be in abundance in Baton Rouge just a few years ago. The Tigers led the SEC with 38 sacks in 2011, but that number has declined significantly over the last few seasons. LSU recorded only 27 in 2013 and then dropped to 13th in the SEC by generating just 19 sacks in 2014. New coordinator Kevin Steele plans on utilizing more 3-4 looks this season, and this unit will be a work in progress with players adjusting to new positions and schemes. Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are considered the favorites to start at end but combined for zero sacks in 2014. Could true freshman Arden Key push for snaps in the fall?

 

3. The November Schedule

Every schedule in the SEC is difficult. However, LSU’s slate in September and October is relatively manageable. Catching Mississippi State in Week 2 is ideal with the Bulldogs’ personnel losses, and Auburn has to visit Death Valley the following Saturday. However, take a look at the November stretch. LSU has to play at Alabama, followed by a physical affair against Arkansas the next Saturday, a road trip to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 and the regular season finale against Texas A&M (and former defensive coordinator John Chavis). That’s a tough four-game stretch for any team, especially without a bye week after physical affairs against Alabama and Arkansas. 

 

Final Verdict

 

On paper, it seems LSU has too much talent to finish 8-5 once again. However, it’s also fair to consider this team the biggest wild card in the SEC. The Tigers have the talent to win the SEC and earn a playoff spot. But there’s also enough question marks to finish 8-5. How high LSU climbs in the SEC West will depend on two factors: Quarterback play and the defensive line. In a brutal division, there’s little margin for error. Will those two areas emerge as a strength for Les Miles? Or will quarterback concerns hinder this offense once again?

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 15

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 8.5

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

Teaser:
Why LSU Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-unveils-new-adidas-uniforms-2015-season
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Miami officially joined forces with Adidas on Saturday night at the Fontainebleau’s LIV nightclub. The Hurricanes unveiled their new uniforms under the Adidas banner, and the new designs aren’t a drastic switch from the color scheme the program has used in previous years. Miami will have orange, white and green uniforms and alternate looks are expected during the year.

 

Even though the Hurricanes have made a few alterations to their uniforms in recent years, the “U” is still one of college football’s most recognizable helmets. While the color scheme didn't change much, these uniforms are much closer to the design the top Miami teams wore in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

Here’s an overview of Miami’s new uniforms with Adidas for 2015:

Teaser:
Miami Unveils New Adidas Uniforms for 2015 Season
Post date: Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 21:29
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/why-clemson-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
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Clemson enters 2015 looking to reload after the departure of several key players from last year’s team. However, momentum in Death Valley remains strong, as the Tigers have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman contender, and there’s no shortage of young talent in the mix for a breakout season on both sides of the ball. Even with five returning starters for 2015, Clemson is one of the favorites to win the ACC

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Clemson will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Clemson Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Deshaun Watson and a Loaded Group of Skill Players

It’s not far-fetched to suggest Deshaun Watson could be the nation’s best quarterback by the end of 2015. The No. 41 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite lived up to the hype as a true freshman, completing 93 of 167 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Watson also added 200 rushing yards and five scores. An ACL injury from November will be healed in time for the opener, and the sophomore is Athlon’s pick to be the first-team All-ACC quarterback in December. But it’s not just Watson leading the way on offense for Clemson. Sophomore running back Wayne Gallman is back after rushing for 769 yards last year, and the Tigers are loaded at receiver. Sophomore Artavis Scott and junior Mike Williams are the top targets for Watson, but freshman Deon Cain is too talented to sit on the sidelines. The offense should be explosive once again in 2015.

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

2. Talent Waiting in the Wings

Similar to Florida State, Clemson has a promising core of young talent waiting to emerge. But here’s the million-dollar question: How quickly will the young talent mesh? Can everything come together before the road trip to Louisville on Sept. 17? Or is the Oct. 3 date against Notre Dame more realistic? Using team recruiting rankings over the last five years, Clemson ranks as the No. 2 roster in the ACC. The five-year average among all 128 teams is 13.2, while Florida State has a 4.4 mark. The Tigers won’t have many senior starters this season, but that’s not a bad thing considering all of the talent in the freshman, sophomore and junior ranks.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

3. Schedule

It’s unfair to say Clemson’s schedule is easy, but the Tigers did catch a few breaks. Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech all visit Death Valley this year, and coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in its other crossover game with the Coastal (Miami). A road trip to Louisville in mid-September will be tough, and the rivalry matchup at South Carolina certainly won’t be easy. Clemson is 0-3 in its last three trips to Columbia and has won just one out of the last six meetings against the Gamecocks. 

 

Clemson's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 5Wofford--
Sept. 12Appalachian State908-4
Sept. 17at Louisville387-5
Oct. 3Notre Dame129-3
Oct. 10Georgia Tech188-5
Oct. 17Boston College566-6
Oct. 24at Miami437-5
Oct. 31at NC State399-3
Nov. 7Florida State911-2
Nov. 14at Syracuse853-9
Nov. 21Wake Forest824-8
Nov. 28at South Carolina377-5

Three Reasons Why Clemson Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. The Offensive Line

The Tigers had question marks up front at the conclusion of spring practice, and the concerns grew after Isaiah Battle declared for the NFL supplemental draft. With Battle leaving, Clemson returns only one starter (center Ryan Norton) and true freshman Mitch Hyatt will likely start at left tackle. Additionally, this unit wasn’t necessarily a strength in 2014. The Tigers allowed 27 sacks last season, while rushers only generated 3.5 yards per carry. With Deshaun Watson coming off a torn ACL, protecting the quarterback is even more essential for Clemson’s offense in 2015. This unit will be under the spotlight early in the year.

 

Related: Position Groups on the Hot Seat in the ACC

 

2. Too Many Holes to Fill on Defense

As mentioned above, it’s no secret Clemson has a plethora of promising young talent. However, will the personnel losses on defense be too much to overcome? The Tigers were hit hard with departures at each level. End Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett will be missed up front, the linebacking corps must replace Stephone Anthony, and the secondary lost second-team All-ACC cornerback Garry Peters. On the positive side for Clemson, coordinator Brent Venables is one of the best in college football. Junior end Shaq Lawson is a good place to start the rebuilding effort up front, and sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander is already one of the best in the ACC. However, can this unit count on bring contributions from true freshmen like Albert Huggins, Mark Fields and Christian Wilkins?

 

3. Departure of Chad Morris

This is the biggest x-factor surrounding Clemson in 2015. Chad Morris was one of the premier play-callers in college football and will be missed. Swinney promoted from within to fill Morris’ position, tapping Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott as co-coordinators. Elliott is expected to call the plays, and his first audition in the Russell Athletic Bowl (40 points against Oklahoma) was a huge success. However, developing a gameplan for a bowl with weeks to prepare is a different task than the grind of the regular season. How much will Morris be missed in Death Valley this year? If Elliott and Scott continue to keep this offense performing at a high level, Clemson will push Florida State for the ACC title. 

 

Final Verdict

 

The Sept. 17 game at Louisville will be a huge chance for Clemson to show its offensive line and rebuilt defense is up to the task of winning the ACC title. With Watson under center, combined with one of the best sets of skill talent in the nation, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, Morris’ departure is something to watch. Athlon Sports picked Florida State to win the ACC in 2015 but little separates these two teams. The oddsmakers like Clemson around the nine-win mark this year. If that scenario plays out, the Tigers’ losses could look something like this: at South Carolina, Florida State and at Louisville. That’s reasonable. However, it’s also reasonable to expect Clemson to win all three of those games but lose against Georgia Tech or at NC State. The Tigers will be entertaining and explosive on offense. However, there’s just enough personnel concerns to miss out on a playoff spot.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 14

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8.5

Teaser:
Why Clemson Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/bret-bielema-calls-play-against-texas-borderline-erotic
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College football’s media days are usually filled with a bunch of coach speak or comments that aren’t bulletin board material for other teams in its conference.

 

However, that wasn’t the case for Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.

 

Arkansas finished its 2014 season with a blowout win over Texas in the Texas Bowl. But that’s not the highlight of Bielema’s comments about the game from SEC Media Days.  

 

That's certainly an interesting way to describe the ending of a huge victory for Arkansas. 

 

But should we surprised? Here's a comment from Bielema last year on one of his defensive tackles:

And after putting its offensive line on the media guide, Bielema had this to say about this group:

Teaser:
Bret Bielema Calls a Play Against Texas 'Borderline Erotic'
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 16:45
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Kickoff for the 2015 college football season is just around the corner. With fall camps underway, it won’t be long before teams are officially preparing for the opening week.

 

With the season countdown under 15 days until kickoff, it’s time to take a look at the best 50 players in college football for the upcoming year.

 

Ranking the best 50 players in college football is no easy assignment. Every aspect of a player was weighed in this evaluation: Pro potential, positional importance, college statistics and awards, projections for 2015 and coaching changes or personnel losses.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Just missed the top 50: Michigan State C Jack Allen, Virginia Tech DE Dadi Nicolas, Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander, Ohio State DT Adolphus Washington, Ohio State OG Pat Elflein, Arkansas TE Hunter Henry, Oklahoma LB Eric Striker, Ohio State S Vonn Bell

 

* Florida State RB Dalvin Cook was removed due to the uncertainty of his status for 2015.

 

College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

50. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska

In his first full season as a starter, Collins was a force on the interior for the Cornhuskers. He recorded 14 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in 13 games.

 

49. Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State

Higgins was one of the top players from the Group of 5 ranks last season, catching 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 scores. New coaching staff and quarterback could have an impact on his statistics in 2015.

 

48. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Buckner is a physically imposing lineman at 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, and the Hawaii native is starting to scratch the surface of his potential. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season after recording 81 tackles (13 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble.

 

47. Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff had a breakout campaign last season directing coach Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense. In 12 games in 2014, Goff threw for 35 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Here’s a scary thought for the Pac-12: He’s only going to get better in 2015.

 

46. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

Hill is recovering from a season-ending leg injury sustained in the 35-20 loss to Utah State. When healthy, Hill is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. Hill threw for 2,938 yards and 19 scores in 2013 and also rushed for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

45. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

300-pound tackle developed into one of the Big 12’s most underrated players last season. Billings recorded 37 stops (11.5 for a loss) and one forced fumble in 2014. The Texas native will team with end Shawn Oakman to form one of the nation’s top defensive lines. 

 

44. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

When he’s not tackling trees, Zettel is attacking opposing Big Ten quarterbacks. In 13 games in 2014, Zettel recorded 42 tackles (17 for a loss), eight sacks and three interceptions. The senior was a big reason why Penn State held opponents to just 18.6 points a game last year.

 

43. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

All signs point to Johnson as college football’s breakout star for 2015. Johnson completed 28 of 37 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns in limited action last year.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

42. Duke Williams, WR, Auburn

Williams could easily rank much higher on this list by December. In his first year with the Tigers, he averaged 16.2 yards per catch and grabbed 45 receptions in 10 games. Williams has been in coach Gus Malzahn's doghouse this falll, but he should be the go-to target for quarterback Jeremy Johnson. 

 

41. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is arguably the top all-purpose threat in college football. He averaged 108.5 total yards per game last season and needs to be South Carolina’s top playmaker once again in 2015.

 

40. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

In addition to setting the FBS single-game rushing record (427 yards), Perine finished 2014 with 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman. Even with Oklahoma changing offensive schemes and coordinators, Perine and the rushing attack is still a major focal point for the Sooners.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

39. Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC

With the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12, having a player with the versatility of Cravens is huge for USC. The hybrid linebacker/safety has recorded 120 stops and seven interceptions in two years with the Trojans. Cravens was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last season.

 

38. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

Hackenberg struggled behind an inconsistent offensive line last season. However, the junior has all of the necessary talent to be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

 

37. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Starting as a true freshman in the SEC at left tackle is no easy assignment, but Robinson anchored the line for Alabama for all 14 games in 2014. The Louisiana native is already one of the top offensive linemen in the nation.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

36. Adoree’ Jackson, CB/WR, USC

Expect to see plenty of Jackson in 2015. The sophomore will line up on both sides of the ball and is a dynamic threat on special teams. Jackson recorded 49 tackles and caught 10 passes for 138 yards and three scores. He also averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return and took two for a touchdown.

 

35. Max Tuerk, C, USC

Tuerk is a versatile lineman for USC and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2014. Over the last three years, Tuerk has started games at guard, tackle and center. The senior is considered one of the top draft prospects in the trenches for the 2016 NFL Draft.

 

34. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

Conner was the ACC’s Player of the Year last season after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 scores in 13 games. In conference-only matchups, Conner averaged 6.2 yards per carry and posted 16 rushing touchdowns.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

33. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

2015 will be Henry’s time to shine. After working in a backup/No. 2 role to T.J. Yeldon over the last two seasons, Henry will be Alabama’s go-to option. He led the Alabama offense with 990 yards and 11 rushing scores last year.

 

32. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Lee was one of the top freshmen in the nation last season. In 15 starts for Ohio State, he recorded 81 tackles (16.5 for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. Lee was also a key cog in the playoff run, recording two tackles for a loss and two sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

31. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker enters 2015 with 29 consecutive starts and is regarded as one of the NFL’s best tackle prospects for 2016. Over the last three games of 2014, the Buckeyes averaged 292.7 rushing yards per game – a clear sign of just how dominant the offensive line can be for Ohio State.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

30. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

From walk-on to one of the Big Ten’s top offensive linemen. That’s Conklin’s story entering 2015, as he’s started 26 games over the last two years for the Spartans. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2014 and will be the anchor for Michigan State’s line this season.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

29. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Treadwell’s 2014 season was cut short by injury, but all signs point to the junior returning to full strength this fall. After catching 72 passes for 608 yards and five scores as a freshman in 2013, Treadwell grabbed 48 receptions for 632 yards and five touchdowns last season.

 

28. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

Boyd has been Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver since stepping onto campus in 2014. Over the last two seasons, Boyd has recorded 163 catches for 2,435 yards and 15 touchdown catches. With quarterback Chad Voytik returning, along with new coordinator Jim Chaney calling the plays, Boyd should be a lock for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

 

27. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense has to improve if the Fighting Irish want to make a run at a playoff spot in 2014. Smith is one of the impact defenders for coach Brian Kelly, starting all 26 games in his career. In 13 contests last season, Smith recorded 112 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

 

26. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Is Ragland the next first-round pick at linebacker for the Crimson Tide? It’s certainly possible. The senior was steady as the leader for Alabama’s linebacker corps in 2014, recording 95 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and one forced fumble.

 

25. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The No. 2 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite lived up to the hype as a freshman. In 13 games, Garrett recorded 53 tackles (14 for a loss) and 11.5 sacks. He’s only going to get better as a sophomore in 2015.

 

24. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

Ogbah was underrated nationally last season, but Big 12 offenses know just how good this junior is for Oklahoma State. The Texas native won the Big 12’s defensive lineman of the year award in 2014 after recording 49 tackles (17 for a loss) and 11 sacks.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

23. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor

Drango is the anchor for Baylor’s offensive line, which is one of the best in college football. The senior has 35 career starts and is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2015.

 

22. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Tennessee is a team on the rise entering 2015, and coach Butch Jones is starting to put all of the pieces together to build one of the SEC’s top defenses. Barnett was an impact freshman in 2014, recording 72 tackles (20.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. The Nashville native was at his best in SEC games, recording all 10 of his sacks in conference action.

 

21. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

With Eric Kendricks off to the NFL, Jack is now the unquestioned leader of UCLA’s defense. And in addition to his production on defense, Jack remains a threat to steal a few carries on offense and continue as a two-way threat. In 13 games last season, Jack recorded 88 tackles and rushed for 113 yards and three scores.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

20. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Calhoun has been a consistent force off the edge for coach Mark Dantonio. After recording only six stops in 2012, Calhoun has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 37 tackles and has 15.5 sacks in that span. The senior is a big reason why Michigan State should have one of the nation’s top defensive lines in 2015.

 

19. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

Oakman is physically one of college football’s most impressive players. At 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, Oakman has all of the tools to be a top selection in next year’s draft. And Oakman’s talent is starting to match his production. In 13 games last season, Oakman recorded 51 tackles, three forced fumbles and 11 sacks.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

18. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Even though play-caller Chad Morris left Clemson to be the head coach at SMU, the Tigers hope the offense won’t miss a beat behind Watson. Before suffering a torn ACL against Georgia Tech, Watson threw for 1,466 yards and 14 scores. Assuming Watson stays healthy, he should make a push for All-American honors this year.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

17. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

USC is loaded for a run at the playoffs this year, and if the Trojans are going to reach the top four, they will have to do it on the strength of an offense that averaged 35.8 points per game in 2014. Kessler threw for 3,826 yards and 39 scores in 13 games last season.

 

16. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette might have the most overall talent of any running back in college football. After rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores on 187 attempts last year, the sophomore should easily exceed those totals with more opportunities in 2015.

 

15. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Stanley has blossomed into the one of the nation’s top tackle prospects over the last two years. After starting 13 games on the right side in 2013, Stanley shifted to the left tackle spot and started every contest (13) for Notre Dame in 2014. He’s an Athlon Sports All-American for 2015.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

14. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Cook won’t post the monster statistical numbers of some quarterbacks on this list, but the senior has developed into a top NFL prospect and is 23-3 as a starter in East Lansing. Over the last two seasons, Cook has passed for 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

 

13. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

No running back in college football was performing at a higher level than Elliott at the end of 2014. Elliott delivered in some of Ohio State’s biggest games, including 154 yards against Michigan State, 220 against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, 230 against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and 246 in the national title win over Oregon.

 

12. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

It’s a close call between Chubb and Elliott for the No. 1 spot among running backs on this list. After Todd Gurley was lost to a suspension and ACL tear last season, Chubb kept Georgia’s rushing attack among the best in the SEC. He finished 2014 with 1,547 yards and 14 scores, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt.

 

11. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. However, all signs point to Tunsil returning to full strength by the fall. The junior has 20 career starts and earned first-team All-SEC honors last year.

 

Related: The SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015

 

10. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott was a big reason why Mississippi State reached double-digit victories for the third time in program history in 2014. In addition to earning first-team All-SEC honors, Prescott threw for 3,449 yards and 27 scores, while rushing for 986 yards and 14 touchdowns.

 

Related: SEC's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

9. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

Boykin was one of college football’s most improved players in 2014, and the senior has TCU among the favorites to earn a playoff spot in 2015. Under the guidance of new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, Boykin led all Big 12 quarterbacks with 3,901 passing yards and 33 scores. He also added 707 yards and eight scores on the ground.

 

Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions

 

8. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

Robinson’s contributions to the Alabama defense go beyond the box score. As a nose tackle/end in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 alignment, the Texas native isn’t going to produce huge numbers in the defensive scheme. However, Robinson anchors one of the nation’s top defenses up front and recorded 49 tackles last season.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
 

7. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche helped to anchor the defensive line for the “Landshark” defense, as Ole Miss limited opponents to 16 points a game in 2014. The Georgia native has recorded 69 tackles and four sacks over the last two years and earned first-team All-SEC honors last season.

 

6. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller is a lockdown corner for coordinator Bud Foster and is an Athlon Sports first-team All-American for 2015. The Baltimore native started all 13 games and earned second-team all-conference honors as a true freshman in 2013. Fuller started all 13 games again in 2014 and was a third-team All-American by Athlon Sports. With Brandon Facyson returning, Virginia Tech should have one of the nation’s top cornerback tandems.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

5. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Just like Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller, Hargreaves III has been an impact defender since the first day on campus. The Tampa native started the final 10 games in 2013 and earned All-SEC honors as a true freshman. Hargreaves III elevated his game even higher in 2014, earned Associated Press All-America honors and leading the SEC with 13 pass breakups.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

4. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

Wright wasn’t a huge prospect on the recruiting trail, but the California native has blossomed into one of college football’s best defenders. The 6-foot-1 linebacker started 12 games as a freshman in 2013 and recorded 83 stops. Wright was even more dominant in 2014, posting a whopping 163 tackles (29 for a loss), 14 sacks and six forced fumbles.

 

3. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

A strong case could be made for Ramsey to rank No. 1 on this list. After a standout debut in 2013 (49 tackles, one interception), the Tennessee native was a versatile and prolific defender for coordinator Charles Kelly. In 14 games, Ramsey recorded 79 stops (9.5 for a loss), three sacks, two interceptions and 12 pass breakups. With the departure of cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, Ramsey is expected to play cornerback in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

2. Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

Yes, we are cheating just a bit here. Instead of ranking J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones separately, let’s group the duo in one spot. Both players – Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett – are worthy of Heisman consideration if any can start a full season of games. But here’s the big question: Who will coach Urban Meyer pick?

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Dominant. That’s the best way to describe Bosa’s play for Ohio State over the last two years. As a true freshman in 2013, Bosa recorded 44 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. The Florida native continued to wreak havoc against offensive lines as a sophomore, recording 21 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Bosa’s play in the trenches sets the tone for Ohio State’s defense, and the junior has been projected by some as the top overall draft prospect for 2016.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/secs-top-players-returning-injury-2015
Body:

Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s a starting quarterback, a No. 2 receiver or a defensive lineman part of a deep rotation, injuries will always have an impact on a team.

 

To help preview the season, Athlon is taking a look at some of the injured players from 2014 and their return in 2015.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Players with a season-ending injury or ones that missed a major chunk of the 2014 campaign were considered for the article. Players that just missed a few games because of injuries and returned were not considered for this article.

 

Here’s a look at a handful of key players returning from injuries from the SEC in 2015:

 

SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury

 

Jeff Badet/Alexander Montgomery, WR, Kentucky

Badet and Montgomery combined for 38 receptions in 2013 but finished 2014 with zero catches due to injuries. Getting both players back will help improve the overall talent and depth at receiver for quarterback Patrick Towles.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Davis is expected to push for a starting job under new coordinator Geoff Collins, but the Georgia native is recovering from a knee injury suffered against South Carolina. Prior to his injury, Davis made one start and recorded 23 tackles last year.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

Drake suffered a season-ending leg injury in Alabama’s 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. Prior to the injury, Drake recorded 112 yards and four rushing scores and caught five passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Even though Derrick Henry is expected to be a workhorse and one of the nation’s top running backs, there’s plenty of carries for Drake as Alabama’s No. 2 option.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

A.J. Hilliard, LB, Texas A&M

The linebackers are under the spotlight in College Station this year, as last season’s group had its share of ups and downs. Hilliard was a starter for the Aggies in 2014 but missed 12 games after suffering a broken ankle in the opener against South Carolina. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn

Jones emerged as one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks in 2014. In 13 games last season, Jones recorded 36 tackles, 11 pass breakups and six interceptions. The senior had offseason foot surgery and is expected to be at full strength by the opener. 

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Alex Kozan, OG, Auburn

A back injury forced Kozan to miss all of the 2014 season, and the Colorado native’s return will be a huge addition to a solid offensive line. Kozan started all 14 games for Auburn in 2013 and earned freshman All-SEC honors. He should be among the nation’s best at guard this season.

 

Davonte Lambert, DL, Auburn

Lambert was a key pickup in the junior college ranks for coach Gus Malzahn, as the Georgia native played in 11 games and recorded 3.5 sacks last year. However, Lambert suffered a torn ACL late in the season and did not participate in the spring.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Auburn’s defense has struggled under coach Gus Malzahn, but there’s plenty of optimism entering 2015. New coordinator Will Muschamp was a one of the top hires of the offseason, and Lawson’s return should bolster a pass rush that managed only 10 sacks in SEC games. The Georgia native recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2013 and is expected to be at full strength from a knee injury by the fall.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

Kendrick Market, S, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are set at cornerback with Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun, but concerns remain at safety for coordinator Manny Diaz. Talented freshman Jamal Peters is expected to see significant snaps, but Market’s status for the upcoming year is uncertain after a torn Achilles in the Egg Bowl. In 12 games last season, Market recorded 49 tackles and one pass breakup.

 

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

After a promising freshman season (759 yards and eight scores), Marshall has been limited by injuries in each of his last two years. The North Carolina native has only played in eight games since 2013 and has 270 yards and one score in that span. If he can stay healthy, Georgia will find opportunities for Marshall as a backup to Nick Chubb.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Mike Matulis, OG, South Carolina

The Gamecocks have to retool their offensive line after the departures of guard A.J. Cann and tackle Corey Robinson. Matulis is expected to push for a starting job at guard, and the senior has missed a majority of snaps the last two years due to injuries. Matulis has 10 career starts.

 

Jake McGee, TE, Florida

McGee was a graduate transfer pickup from Virginia, but his 2014 season never got on track. The senior suffered a broken leg in the opener and missed the rest of the year. McGee caught 71 passes in his career with the Cavaliers.

 

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

After catching 85 passes through his first two years, Mitchell has played in just 10 games and caught 31 passes over the last two seasons. A knee injury has limited Mitchell since 2013, but the senior hopes to finish out his career on a high note. If healthy, Mitchell is an All-SEC receiver and needs to have a big season with the departures of Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Antonio Morrison, LB, Florida

Morrison was an All-SEC linebacker last season, finishing 2014 with 101 stops, one interception and one sack. However, Morrison suffered a significant knee injury in the bowl win over East Carolina. Will Morrison return to full strength by the opener?

 

Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss

The injury bug hit Ole Miss hard on both sides of the ball last season. Nkemdiche suffered a broken ankle in the loss at LSU and finished 2014 with 28 tackles and one sack. Getting Nkemdiche back to full strength will be a huge boost for coordinator Dave Wommack, as the senior can push for All-SEC honors in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Marquez North, WR, Tennessee

A shoulder injury derailed North’s hopes of building off a solid freshman campaign. In 2013, North caught 38 passes for 496 yards and one score. However, in 10 games in 2014, North grabbed 30 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The junior is expected to be the No. 1 target for quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss

Shepard has bounced around a lot in his collegiate career, signing with Notre Dame in 2012 and later playing one season with Holmes Community College. Shepard was poised to push for a starting job in the secondary last year. However, a toe injury in fall camp prevented Shepard from playing in 2014. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt

Scheu was one of Vanderbilt’s top offensive players last season, catching 39 passes for 525 yards and four scores. The Commodores need Scheu at full strength this year, but the senior suffered a leg injury in the spring and is questionable to play in the first game of 2015.

 

Dwayne Thomas/Corey Thompson, DB, LSU

Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond is getting a few reinforcements for 2015. Thomas played in only five games in 2014 due to a knee injury and finished the year with 24 tackles and one pass breakup. Thompson missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and was not at full strength in the spring. Thompson has played in 23 career games and made five starts from 2012-13.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The backstory on Treadwell’s leg injury has been well documented, and it was no secret the Rebels struggled without their No. 1 option. In the last three games against FBS opponents, Ole Miss scored only 34 points and was shutout against Arkansas. Treadwell’s recovery is on track, and the junior is expected to be at full strength by the opener. In nine games last season, Treadwell caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five scores.

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The development of Ole Miss’ offensive line is critical after this unit allowed 31 sacks in 2014. Tunsil is the key cog in the trenches, as the junior is the SEC’s top offensive lineman. However, Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. All signs point to Tunsil making a full recovery by the opener, and he will have two non-conference games to prepare before the showdown against Alabama in Week 3.

Teaser:
SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-breakout-players-2015
Body:

Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

The Big 12 has several names waiting to emerge as breakout players for 2015, including three quarterbacks in Baylor’s Seth Russell, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. There’s no shortage of talent on defense, as Oklahoma State’s Vincent Taylor and Texas’ Malik Jefferson are names to watch in the fall.

 

Predicting the Big 12's Breakout Players for 2015

 

Mike Freeze, LB, TCU

The back seven of TCU’s defense must be retooled this offseason. The Horned Frogs lost standout linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, and the secondary lost three all-conference performers. The linebacker position was a work in progress for coach Gary Patterson in the spring, but Freeze made a push for a starting job after enrolling early in spring practice. The three-star recruit is penciled in as one of TCU’s starting linebackers. 

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia

Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered offense is looking for new playmakers at receiver after the departure of Kevin White (109 catches in 2014) and Mario Alford (65 receptions). Jordan Thompson is the team’s leading option at receiver, but the Mountaineers have a collection of young receivers pushing for snaps. Gibson redshirted in his first season with the Mountaineers and caught four passes for 60 yards in 2014. The Ohio native took a step forward in the spring and caught four passes for 84 yards in the final scrimmage. Gibson should be one of the go-to targets for quarterback Skyler Howard in 2015.

 

Related: The Big 12's Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia

High expectations followed Henry in 2014, and the true freshman turned in a solid debut for coordinator Tony Gibson. In 13 games, Henry recorded 45 tackles (one for a loss), two interceptions and two pass breakups. With cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph established as stars, combined with Henry’s development, the Mountaineers should have one of the nation’s top defensive backfields. 

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson is only a true freshman, but high expectations surround the Mesquite, Texas native in 2015. Jefferson ranked as the No. 10 overall player in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in spring ball. Jefferson recorded five stops (one for a loss) in the Orange-White scrimmage and is expected to start at linebacker this season.

 

Related: Big 12's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State

With the departures of quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett, Kansas State has to lean on its defense in 2015. With six starters back, there’s plenty of talent for coordinator Tom Hayes to rely on. Lee is another impact defender to watch for Hayes, as he impressed in 13 games as a freshman last season. Lee recorded 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks in limited action and should push for all-conference honors in his first full year as a starter.

 

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes isn’t guaranteed the starting job yet, as he will compete with Davis Webb in the fall for the No. 1 spot. However, Mahomes showcased his upside as a true freshman and his case for the starting spot in seven games last season. He completed 105 of 185 passes for 1,547 yards and 16 scores and tossed only four picks. In the season finale against Baylor, Mahomes threw for 598 yards.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Mike Mitchell, LB, Texas Tech

After giving up 41.3 points per game last season, Texas Tech’s defense will be under the microscope in 2015. New coordinator David Gibbs should help this unit improve, and seven returning starters certainly helps the rebuilding process. Mitchell was a five-star recruit in the 2013 signing class and redshirted in his only year at Ohio State. The Texas native sat out 2014 due to transfer rules but is expected to be a key cog in Gibbs’ defense this season.

 

Steven Parker, S, Oklahoma

The Sooners certainly have room to improve in the defensive secondary after giving up 24 plays of 30 yards or more last season. Cornerback Zack Sanchez is one of the best in the nation, but new secondary coach Kerry Cooks is looking for players to step up at the other positions. Parker is expected to take on a bigger role this season after playing in 13 games in 2014. The sophomore recorded 31 tackles, one sack and six pass breakups in limited action. 

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-Freshman Team

 

Dalton Risner, C, Kansas State

B.J. Finney leaves big shoes to fill on Kansas State’s offensive line. The All-Big 12 center started 52 consecutive games in his career and was a Rimington Trophy semifinalist in 2014. Risner redshirted in his first year on campus and is expected to anchor the center position for coach Bill Snyder in 2015.

 

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Rudolph’s emergence in the final three games of 2014 is one of the biggest reasons for optimism in Stillwater this season. Rudolph closed out last season by passing for 853 yards and six passing scores on 49 completions and guided Oklahoma State to a 2-1 mark in the final three games of the year. In the bowl win over Washington, Rudolph passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns. With an improving offensive line and a deep corps of receivers at his disposal, Rudolph should be able to build off a solid finish to 2014 and emerge as one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks.

 

Related: Ranking the Big 12's Stadiums for 2015

 

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty each produced big seasons in coach Art Briles’ offense at Baylor. And Russell has been handed the keys to the high-powered attack after completing 48 of 85 passes for 804 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. In each of the last four years, Baylor’s starting quarterback has surpassed 3,850 passing yards and 29 scores. Expect Russell to easily eclipse those marks in 2015.

 

Kent Taylor, TE, Kansas

Quarterback play is a big question mark for new coach David Beaty after Michael Cummings was injured in the spring game. It’s uncertain if Cummings will make it back by the opener, but if he doesn’t play in 2015, Beaty is expected to turn to Montell Cozart or true freshmen Carter Stanley or Ryan Willis. In addition to the quarterback concerns, the Jayhawks also lack proven options at receiver. Taylor should alleviate some of the concerns from this group, as the Florida transfer is eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA rules. Taylor ranked as the No. 79 recruit in the 2012 signing class.

 

Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State

Coordinator Glenn Spencer should have one of the most improved defenses in the Big 12 in 2015. The Cowboys return seven starters, and the overall depth and experience for this unit should be better this season. The defensive tackle position is one of the few positions of concern for Spencer, as last year’s starters – James Castleman and Ofa Hautau – expired their eligibility. Taylor played in 10 games in 2014 and recorded 13 tackles and continued his development with a strong spring performance. 

 

Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015

 

Ranthony Texada, CB, TCU

The secondary is usually a strength under Gary Patterson’s watch at TCU, but this unit will be a work in progress in 2015. The Horned Frogs must replace standout cornerback Kevin White, as well as All-Big 12 safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. Texada joins Derrick Kindred as the returning starters for Patterson, and both players will have to anchor the unit early in the year. Texada started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and recorded seven pass breakups and 31 tackles. Texada should be even better as a sophomore.

 

Demond Tucker, DT, Iowa State

After the Cyclones allowed 246.3 rushing yards per game last season, coach Paul Rhoads wasted no time searching for upgrades. Tucker is one of two junior college recruits brought to Ames to play immediately on the defensive line. The No. 38 recruit in the 247Sports Composite of junior college recruits and was a NJCAA first-team All-American in both years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Tucker has to adjust to the Big 12 level, but he could be a difference-maker for the defense.

 

Mike Warren, RB, Iowa State

Iowa State ranked ninth in the Big 12 by averaging only 124.1 rushing yards per game last season. Assuming the Cyclones have better luck in the health department up front, there should be more consistency and production from the ground attack. Of course, coordinator Mark Mangino also needs a go-to running back to emerge. Last season’s top two running backs (Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy), leaving Warren and sophomore Tyler Brown as the leading candidates. Warren was a three-star recruit and redshirted in his first season in Ames.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

It’s no secret Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard is one of the Big 12’s best receivers. But coordinator Lincoln Riley needs to find other options to take some of the pressure off of Shepard in 2015. Westbrook only recorded two touches in the spring game but finished with 50 yards. The junior college product has big-play potential for the Sooners and his explosiveness should help the passing attack stretch the field.

 

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Joe Wickline is one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation, and the Longhorns will be looking for improvement up front after inconsistent play in 2014. Four starters are back, but the lineup and starters may change with added competition through the recruiting ranks. Williams enrolled in time to compete in spring practice, and the true freshman is pushing for a starting spot. If Williams continues to develop in the fall, he should start at one of the tackle positions for Wickline.

Teaser:
Big 12 Football Breakout Players for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 13, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-rb-dalvin-cook-facing-battery-charge
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Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is considered one of the rising stars in the ACC, but the sophomore is facing some serious allegations after an incident on June 23.

 

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Cook was allegedly involved in the battery of a woman outside of a bar. The article from the Tallahassee Democrat indicates the police report was heavily redacted and noted the victim was intoxicated and suffered minor bruises.

 

Charges have yet to be filed, but ESPN reports Cook will be charged with misdemeanor battery. An arrest warrant is expected to be issued.

 

Additionally, the ESPN report indicates Cook allegedly punched the woman in the face several times.

 

Earlier this week, Florida State dismissed quarterback De’Andre Johnson after video was released of an incident at a bar, which the freshman punched a woman in the face.

 

Cook was a key part of the Seminoles’ playoff run last season and was considered one of the top running backs in the nation.

 

Needless to say, Cook’s future at Florida State will depend heavily on how this case plays out in the next few months.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/accs-10-most-underrated-players-2015
Body:

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.

 

Florida State hopes to win its fourth consecutive ACC title in 2015. However, the Seminoles are reloading – just like the rest of the conference. Clemson suffered heavy losses on defense, but the offense should be solid despite the departure of coordinator Chad Morris and the concerns up front. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are the frontrunners to win the ACC, but the personnel departures from each of those programs could open the door for a surprise team to emerge.

 

With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.

 

ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Sherman Alston, WR, Boston College

Alston quietly emerged as a promising all-purpose threat in 2014, and the New York native is only going to see his snap count increase in 2015. In 12 games, Alston rushed for 352 yards and two scores and caught 15 passes for 169 yards. Alston isn’t the biggest receiver (5-foot-6), but his speed and quickness will be an asset for taking handoffs in the spread or making plays in space as a receiver.

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Burns is coming off his first full season as a starter for the Hurricanes and registered 40 tackles and six pass breakups. The Miami native was considered a four-star recruit coming out of Miami Northwestern and played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2013. Burns was a key cog in a secondary that limited ACC quarterbacks to just six touchdown passes in 2014. The junior is not only a breakout candidate, but he’s also one of the ACC’s underrated cover men.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

David Dean, DT, Virginia

Run-stuffing defensive tackles are often overlooked because they won’t produce huge tackle or sack totals. Dean fits that mold, as the 295-pound senior recorded only 40 stops in 12 games last year. Eight of Dean’s tackles went for a loss, and he also recorded a forced fumble. The senior should be the anchor for Virginia’s front seven in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-Sophomore Team

 

DeVon Edwards, S, Duke

Duke’s secondary returns all five starters from a unit that held ACC opponents to 12 passing scores in 2014. Safety Jeremy Cash is the headliner for coach David Cutcliffe, but Edwards and cornerbacks Breon Borders and Bryon Fields are also under-the-radar performers. Edwards recorded 133 tackles (7.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and nine pass breakups last season. The junior is also a weapon for Duke on special teams, and his active all-around ability on defense is a huge asset.

 

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Most of the offseason attention for Clemson’s offense has revolved around the health of quarterback Deshaun Watson and the new co-coordinator setup (Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott) to replace Chad Morris. While Watson and the Tigers’ receiving corps should have no trouble moving the ball in 2015, the rushing attack has been overlooked. Gallman finished 2014 with 769 yards and four touchdowns on 161 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also closed out the season playing at a high level, gashing South Carolina for 191 yards and Wake Forest for 106 yards.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville

The clear strength of Louisville’s defense will be its front seven in 2015. End Sheldon Rankins – a second-team All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports for 2015 – anchors the 3-4 line for coordinator Todd Grantham. And the Cardinals should have the best linebacker unit in the ACC this season, as Kelsey and James Burgess could both finish 2015 with first-team all-conference honors. Kelsey started all 13 games for the Cardinals last year and recorded with 87 tackles. 

 

Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Lawrence-Stample was also mentioned in this list of key ACC players returning from injury. The Florida native was expected to be a key cog on the interior of Florida State’s defense last season, but a pectoral injury in September sidelined him until the Rose Bowl. The four-star recruit recorded six starts and played in 13 games in 2013, finishing the year with 15 tackles (1.5 for a loss). The Seminoles will miss Eddie Goldman’s presence on the interior, but Lawrence-Stample’s return should be a boost for coordinator Charles Kelly.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest

Either Lee or fellow linebacker Brandon Chubb deserves a mention in this space. The Demon Deacons quietly have one of the ACC’s top linebacker groups, as Lee, Chubb and Hunter Williams are in the mix for all-conference honors in 2015. In 12 games last season, Lee recorded 101 stops (12 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble. The Maryland native was a third-team All-ACC selection for 2015 by Athlon Sports.

 

Jack Tocho, CB, NC State

Tocho has been a key defender in coach Dave Doeren’s rebuilding effort in Raleigh. The North Carolina native played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2013 and recorded 25 tackles and two interceptions. Tocho played even better as a sophomore, starting all 13 games for the Wolfpack and recording with 41 tackles and 11 pass breakups. The ACC has three potential All-Americans returning at cornerback with Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller. However, Tocho should not be overlooked when filling out preseason all-conference ballots.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Chad Voytik, QB, Pittsburgh

The ACC has a solid group of quarterbacks returning, headlined by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Florida State’s Everett Golson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and two passers from the state of North Carolina in Marquise Williams (UNC) and Jacoby Brissett (NC State). Could Voytik join that tier as one of the top quarterbacks in 2015? In 13 games last year, Voytik threw for 2,233 yards and 16 scores and added 466 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Tennessee native closed 2014 by playing his best ball of the season, throwing only one interception over the last six games. New coordinator Jim Chaney is tasked with elevating Voytik’s performance, and the veteran play-caller should make a difference for Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015.

Teaser:
The ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-braxton-miller-ends-rumors-and-speculation-plans-competing-qb-job
Body:

The rumors and speculation about Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s future are officially over. Somewhat.

 

On Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch released an interview with the senior quarterback, and Miller states his intention is to return to Columbus in 2015 and not transfer to another school.

 

“I’m from Ohio, this is my home state,” Miller told the newspaper. “This is where I started and this is where I’m going to finish it.”

 

While Miller has officially declared he will be back at Ohio State, there’s still the other question to settle. Who will start for the Buckeyes in 2015 at quarterback?

 

Here’s Miller’s take from the article:

 

“As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football. If any competition wants to come my way, I’ve just got to be smart about things and just stay looking forward.”

 

Although Miller plans on competing at quarterback, his future in the NFL is likely as a receiver or running back. Considering his recent shoulder surgeries, a move to running back or receiver could accelerate his learning curve and allow J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones the opportunity to start a full season of snaps.

 

Regardless of which quarterback starts for Ohio State, all three are expected to be key cogs in the offense for coach Urban Meyer.

 

With Miller officially announcing his intention to remain in Columbus, the focus can shift to the three quarterbacks and the upcoming battle for the starting job in fall practice.

Teaser:
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller Ends Rumors and Speculation, Plans on Competing for QB Job
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 15:51
Path: /college-football/accs-top-players-returning-injury-2015
Body:

Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s a starting quarterback, a No. 2 receiver or a defensive lineman part of a deep rotation, injuries will always have an impact on a team.

 

To help preview the season, Athlon is taking a look at some of the injured players from 2014 and their return in 2015.

 

Players with a season-ending injury or ones that missed a major chunk of the 2014 campaign were considered for the article. Players that just missed a few games because of injuries and returned were not considered for this article.

 

Here’s a look at a handful of key players returning from injuries from the ACC in 2015:

 

ACC's Top Players Returning from Injury

 

Braxton Deaver, TE, Duke

Deaver was one of the ACC’s top tight ends in 2013 and is a key weapon back in the mix for new quarterback Thomas Sirk. The Charlotte native caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 and is expected to be at full strength from a torn ACL by the fall.

 

Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech

After a standout freshman campaign in 2013, big things were expected from Facyson in 2014. However, a shin injury suffered in the spring was aggravated in September, and the Georgia native sat out the rest of the season. Facyson was considered one of college football’s top freshmen in 2013, as he recorded 27 tackles and five interceptions in 12 games. If Facyson is at full strength, the Hokies could have the best secondary in the nation.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse

The return of Hunt should provide a boost for a Syracuse offense that managed just 17.1 points per game in 2014. The Orange never got their offense on track last season and switched coordinators five games into the year. In five appearances last season, Hunt completed 83 of 145 passes for 983 yards and one score. However, the numbers for Hunt were better in 2013, as he completed 61.2 percent of his throws for 1,632 yards and 10 scores.

 

Related: ACC All-Conference Team for 2015

 

Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Lawrence-Stample was expected to be a key piece of Florida State’s defensive line, but the Fort Lauderdale native suffered a pectoral muscle injury against Clemson and played in only four games. In limited action, Lawrence-Stample finished the year with 10 tackles. With Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman off to the NFL, Lawrence-Stample needs to be a force on the interior for coordinator Charles Kelly.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s defense should be among the nation’s best in 2015. Eight starters are back for coordinator Bud Foster, and two key players – Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson – are back from injury. Maddy started all 13 games for the Hokies in 2013 and earned All-ACC honors after recording 13.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. Maddy suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of 2014 and finished the year with nine tackles. He could be a candidate for All-America honors this season.

 

Kc McDermott, OT, Miami

The development of Miami’s offensive line is critical to its hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title. The Hurricanes return only one starter (Danny Isidora) and Taylor Gadbois (a projected starter) was dismissed in June. McDermott suffered a season-ending knee injury against Duke on Sept. 27 in 2014 but is expected to anchor one of the tackle positions for coach Al Golden.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Demetrious Nicholson, CB, Virginia

When healthy, Nicholson is among the ACC’s top cornerbacks. However, the Virginia Beach native has played in only six games over the last two seasons. As a freshman in 2011, Nicholson recorded 60 tackles and two interceptions. In 2012, Nicholson picked up 56 tackles and 15 pass breakups. The senior played in only one game last season and missed 11 contests with a toe injury. If Nicholson can stay healthy, Virginia should have a solid cornerback tandem with fellow senior Maurice Canady returning in 2015.

 

Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

Price has bounced between linebacker and defensive end during his four seasons with the Panthers. Additionally, Price has experienced some bad luck with injuries, as he’s played in only one full year (2011) and has only six appearances in the last three seasons. In 2011, Price recorded 27 tackles (6.5 for a loss) and four sacks. New coach Pat Narduzzi needs difference makers on defense. Having Price’s ability off the edge should help the Panthers in 2015.

 

Artie Rowell, C/G, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s line was critical in clearing the way for running back James Conner to rush for 1,765 yards last season, and this unit should be a strength for new coach Pat Narduzzi in 2015. Three starters are back, but this unit suffered a setback when projected right tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith was ruled out for 2015 with a season-ending knee injury. But the offensive line should receive a boost with Rowell returning to the lineup. The Pennsylvania native started all 13 games for the Panthers in 2013 and the first two contests in 2014 before a season-ending knee injury.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Broderick Snoddy, RB, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s rushing attack was hit hard by departures in the backfield, as only three of the top 10 statistical rushers are back in 2015. And two of those players – Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly – are quarterbacks. Snoddy is Georgia Tech’s top returner at running back after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Clemson in 2014. In 10 games last year, Snoddy recorded 283 yards and three scores on 28 attempts.

 

Related: 14 Position Groups on the Hot Seat in the ACC

 

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

Thomas was a big-time, five-star pickup for Florida State on the recruiting trail, but the Miami native has been limited by injuries and served a six-game suspension to start 2014. Thomas played in eight games last year and recorded 26 tackles (2.5 for a loss). However, the sophomore had shoulder surgery in the spring and may not be ready by the opener. Getting Thomas back to full strength is critical for Florida State, as depth and proven options in the linebacking corps are a concern.

 

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Watson made only eight appearances as a true freshman last season, but the touted quarterback showed why he is already among the nation’s best at quarterback. Watson threw for 1,466 yards and 14 scores and completed 67.9 percent of his passes. The Georgia native torched North Carolina for 435 yards and six touchdowns and led Clemson to a 35-17 win over rival South Carolina by completing 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards. Watson’s ACL injury is expected to be fully healed by the opener. And the sophomore is Athlon’s pick to be the ACC’s top quarterback in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

Harris Williams, C, Boston College

Offensive line play has been a strength for Boston College under coach Steve Addazio, but the Eagles are essentially starting from scratch in the trenches. All five starters from last season are gone, including standout center Andy Gallik and tackle Seth Betancourt. Williams was expected to anchor one of the guard spots in 2014 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the opener against UMass. His return should give Addazio a potential All-ACC building block to starting the rebuilding effort in 2015.

 

Others to Watch

 

Travis Blanks, S, Clemson

Blanks missed 2014 due to a knee injury and did not participate in spring practice after aggravating the injury in bowl workouts. Can Blanks return to full strength by fall camp?

 

Ashton Broyld, WR, Syracuse
In addition to missing quarterback Terrel Hunt, Syracuse played most of 2014 without one of its top receivers. Broyld played in only five games and caught 15 passes for 174 yards. Coordinator Tim Lester plans on using Broyld in a hybrid H-back role in 2015.

 

Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

Gardner opened 2014 as Louisville’s starter and finished with 1,669 passing yards and 12 scores after a season-ending knee injury against Boston College. The junior has some ground to make up in the fall, as Reggie Bonnafon is considered the favorite to start under center.

 

Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami

Jenkins started 12 games for the Hurricanes in 2013 and recorded 46 stops and five pass breakups. The St. Petersburg native missed all of 2014 due to a back injury and is expected to push for one of the starting jobs at safety this fall.

 

Shai McKenzie, RB, Virginia Tech

McKenzie played in five games as a true freshman before suffering a torn ACL against Western Michigan. The knee injury was McKenzie’s second in two years, so the Hokies will be cautious with his return.

 

Marshawn Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

Williams was off to a promising start as a true freshman last season, recording 475 yards and four scores on 124 attempts. However, a season-ending knee injury against Duke sidelined him for the remainder of 2014. 

Teaser:
ACC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/big-tens-10-most-underrated-players-2015
Body:

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.

 

The Big Ten is home to college football’s defending national champions (Ohio State), but the conference is full of intrigue, especially as Jim Harbaugh returns to Michigan, and Penn State should improve in coach James Franklin’s second season. Additionally, Nebraska hopes new coach Mike Riley will elevate the program into Big Ten title contention. 

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions

 

With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.

 

Big Ten's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Jacoby Boren, C, Ohio State

Most of the attention on Ohio State’s offensive line revolves around standout left tackle Taylor Decker or guard Pat Elflein. But the play of Boren should not be overlooked, as the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best offensive lines entering the 2015 campaign. Boren played in 16 games as a backup prior to 2014 and started all 15 games for Ohio State last season.

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions

 

De’Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota

Minnesota’s defense held opponents to 24.2 points per game last season, and with seven starters back, the Golden Gophers could be even better on that side of the ball in 2015. Campbell was a key find for coordinator Tracy Claeys in the junior college ranks, as the Florida native has played in 26 games in his two years in Minneapolis. Campbell started all 13 games in 2014 and finished the year with 75 tackles and 2.5 sacks. With Damien Wilson departing, Campbell is now the leader of Minnesota’s linebacker corps.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois

Ferguson led the Illinois’ offense in rushing in each of the last two seasons, finishing 2014 with 735 yards and eight scores on 146 attempts. In addition to his production on the ground, the Illinois native has 100 receptions over the last two years. And despite inconsistent offensive line play, Ferguson managed to average at least five yards per carry in back-to-back seasons. Look for Ferguson to have his best statistical performance of his career in 2015. 

 

Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers

As Rutgers enters its second season in the Big Ten, improving the play in the trenches will be a priority for coach Kyle Flood. The defensive front allowed 212.3 rushing yards per game last season, and the coaching staff hopes Hamilton and sophomore end Kemoko Turay can elevate the performance of this group in 2015. Hamilton has been a productive force for Rutgers over the last three seasons, recording 11.5 tackles for a loss in back-to-back years. Additionally, Hamilton generated 10.5 sacks from 2013-14 and recorded two forced fumbles in his career.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Desmond King, CB, Iowa

The Hawkeyes had a stingy secondary in 2014, as this unit allowed only 12 touchdown passes in Big Ten play and held quarterbacks to a 48.7 completion percentage. King was one of the leaders for coordinator Phil Parker’s defense, recording 64 tackles and three interceptions in 2014. The Detroit native didn’t redshirt as a freshman and has played in 26 consecutive games to start his career at Iowa. After earning honorable mention all-conference honors in 2014, King should breakthrough with an all-conference season in 2015.

 

Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska

In his first year with the Cornhuskers, Lewis was a key cog in a ground attack that averaged 240.2 rushing yards per game. The Colorado transfer started all 13 games in 2014 and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. In addition to being one of the Big Ten’s most underrated linemen, Lewis is arguably one of Nebraska’s most valuable players. The Cornhuskers return just two starters on the offensive line and need Lewis to stay healthy in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State

The Nittany Lions boast one of the nation’s best defensive tackle combinations with Johnson and Anthony Zettel anchoring the interior for coordinator Bob Shoop. Zettel was among the nation’s best at the position last year, but Johnson’s contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. In 13 games, Johnson recorded 49 tackles (six for a loss), one sack and two fumble recoveries. At 325 pounds, the New Jersey native has the size and ability to dominate the line of scrimmage, as well as command double teams to free up Zettel or Penn State’s defensive ends.

 

Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin

With Shelton, Darius Hillary and Michael Caputo returning, Wisconsin’s secondary is quietly one of the best in the nation. Shelton was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2013, starting 12 games for the Badgers and recording 36 tackles and seven pass breakups. The Florida native continued the strong start to his career with 12 starts and 33 tackles in 2014.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

Either Spriggs or fellow lineman Dan Feeney deserves a mention in this space. Indiana’s offensive line has developed into a strength under coach Kevin Wilson, as this unit led the way for running back Tevin Coleman to eclipse 2,000 yards in 2014. Spriggs started every game in his first two years on campus and played in 11 games (with 10 starts) last season. Spriggs should push for All-Big Ten honors in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015

 

Lawrence Thomas, DL, Michigan State

The strength of Michigan State’s defense is in the trenches. End Shilique Calhoun is among the nation’s best, and there’s talent on the interior with Joel Heath, Damon Knox and Malik McDowell. Thomas has bounced between end and tackle during his Michigan State tenure and started all 13 games in 2014. The Detroit native has only recorded 34 stops and three sacks in his career, but that’s largely a product of playing on the interior and plugging the gaps up front. Thomas is expected to shift to defensive end in 2015, and his versatility is a huge asset for new co-coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel.

Teaser:
The Big Ten's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/big-12s-10-most-underrated-players-2015
Body:

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.

 

The Big 12 has two potential playoff teams in place for 2015, as Baylor and TCU should once again rank near the top of contenders for a spot in the four-team postseason. Both teams have starpower and All-American candidates, but underrated players could make a big difference in key games. Additionally, under-the-radar players at other programs in the Big 12 are critical to improvement for a specific unit or the development of the team for the upcoming year.

 

Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions

 

With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.

 

Big 12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Beau Blackshear, DT, Baylor

Blackshear won’t get the preseason accolades of fellow linemen Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings, but the senior should push for All-Big 12 honors in 2015. Blackshear enters 2015 with 38 career appearances and started all 13 games for the Bears last season. In 2014, Blackshear recorded 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks. With Oakman, Billings and Blackshear leading the way, Baylor’s defensive line will be among the best in the nation in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Travis Britz, DT, Kansas State

Britz has earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in each of the last two seasons and is due for his most productive year in Manhattan in 2015. The Missouri native played in 10 games in 2014 and recorded 27 stops (five for a loss), three sacks and two pass breakups. Britz started all 13 games for the Wildcats in 2013 and played in 11 contests as a true freshman in 2012. Interior linemen aren’t going to post monster statistics, which often pushes players like Britz out of the spotlight. The 293-pound senior is a key piece in Kansas State’s defense this year.

 

Related: Big 12 All-Conference Team for 2015

 

Daniel Burton, OG, Iowa State

Iowa State’s line allowed 30 sacks last year, but with three starters back, expect that total to decline in 2015. Burton started all 12 games for the Cyclones last season and started the first eight contests of 2013. An injury ended Burton’s 2013 campaign after the eighth game, but the Oklahoma native has been a mainstay on Iowa State’s offensive line the last two years. Burton should push for All-Big 12 honors this season.

 

Ty Darlington, C, Oklahoma

The Sooners have four new starters slated to step into the lineup up front this year. Darlington is the lone returning starter on the offensive line for new coordinator Lincoln Riley, and it’s critical for the senior to anchor a unit in transition with a change in scheme coming to Norman. Darlington started all 13 games last season and played in three games in 2013. Although the Florida native still has to be more consistent as a player, all of the necessary skills are in place for the senior to finish 2015 as one of the Big 12’s best centers.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Ben Goodman, DE, Kansas

It’s hard to pinpoint an underrated player for a team that returns just five starters for 2015. However, Goodman has been a steady performer for the Jayhawks over the last three years and enters 2015 with 24 consecutive starts. The Texas native recorded 21 tackles (two for a loss) and one sack last season. With a new coaching staff and a ton of roster turnover, Goodman will be one of the few senior leaders for David Beaty in 2015.

 

Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU

Josh Doctson headlined TCU’s receiving corps last season, catching 65 passes for 1,108 yards and 11 scores. While Doctson led the way for the Horned Frogs in the three main statistical categories for receivers, Listenbee averaged a healthy 18.4 yards per reception. The 18.4 average on catches ranked fourth among Big 12 receivers, and Listenbee tied for second in the conference by recording seven receptions of 40 yards or more. With another year to develop in TCU’s offense, look for Listenbee to be an even bigger piece of the attack for quarterback Trevone Boykin.

 

Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions

 

Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State

With 14 returning starters, Oklahoma State should be one of the Big 12’s most improved teams this season. The Cowboys will show marked improvement on defense after giving up 31.2 points per game in 2014, as each level on that side of the ball has the returning talent to rank near the top of the league. Peterson is coming off his best statistical season in Stillwater, as he recorded 59 stops, two interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 2014. The Oklahoma native should be among the Big 12’s top cornerbacks in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2015

 

Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas

Even with Malcom Brown leaving early for the NFL Draft, Texas is still in good shape up front. Desmond Jackson is back from injury at tackle, and the Longhorns have a good collection of depth and talent in place. Coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford will use a rotation of players to keep everyone fresh, but Ridgeway could be the unit’s top all-conference candidate. Ridgeway started 10 games in 2014 and recorded 43 tackles (11 for a loss) and six sacks.

 

Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia

Rushel Shell is West Virginia’s No. 1 back, but the Pittsburgh transfer isn’t the only option in the backfield for coach Dana Holgorsen. Smallwood finished 2014 with 722 rushing yards and two scores and caught 31 passes for 326 yards. With West Virginia losing top receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford, reinforcements are needed at receiver. Don’t be surprised if Smallwood fills the role as an all-purpose threat in 2015.

 

Related: College Football All-America Team for 2015

 

Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Texas Tech’s passing game usually grabs all of the attention in Lubbock. But don’t overlook the rushing attack from coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team in 2015. Running back DeAndre Washington rushed for 1,103 yards last season, and Stockton provided another big-play element by averaging 8.3 yards per attempt on 48 carries. Stockton is a big play waiting to happen and should see more than the 60 offensive touches he accumulated in 2014.

Teaser:
The Big 12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/bovada-releases-updated-heisman-odds-july
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The 2015 college football season is just over 50 days away, and media days are just around the corner. And once August hits, teams will report to camp and start the official preparations for the upcoming season.

 

Bovada released Heisman odds earlier this offseason, but the sportsbook has updated its list on Wednesday.

 

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is now the favorite by Bovada, with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott a close second.

 

Here’s the full list of odds:

 

Player/Position/TeamOdds
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU6/1
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State7/1
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State10/1
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn10/1
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia10/1
Cody Kessler, QB, USC12/1
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State12/1
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU14/1
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama16/1
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson16/1
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State20/1
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA20/1
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma20/1
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State25/1
Everett Golson, QB, Florida State251
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State25/1
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon33/1
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor33/1
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami40/1
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin40/1
D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State40/1
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State40/1
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh40/1
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech40/1
Jared Goff, QB, California50/1
Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame50/1
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State50/1
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona50/1
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU50/1
Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State100/1
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee100/1
Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina100/1
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona100/1
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh100/1

 

Teaser:
Bovada Releases Updated Heisman Odds for July
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 16:56

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