Articles By Steven Lassan
The ACC has experienced a few changes through realignment over the last couple of years, and the final piece of the puzzle appears to be the addition of Louisville as the No. 14 team in the league. Maryland is off to the Big Ten, and the Cardinals will slide into the Atlantic Division in 2014. Stability is crucial for the ACC, as the conference seems to have momentum after what transpired on the gridiron last season.
Florida State ended the SEC’s national title streak with a last-minute victory over Auburn in Pasadena in the BCS Championship. The Seminoles are loaded for another national championship run, and coach Jimbo Fisher continues to bring in elite talent on the recruiting trail. Florida State is clearly the class of the conference heading into 2014, but Clemson should be a top 15-20 team. The Tigers return 11 starters, and three options will battle to replace Tajh Boyd under center this spring.
The pecking order in the Atlantic Division is clear, but things are murky in the Coastal. Miami is likely to open 2014 as the favorite, and it’s time for Al Golden to take this team to the conference championship game. If the Hurricanes aren’t the favorite, North Carolina or Duke can make a compelling case for the top spot. The Tar Heels are loaded on offense, and the Blue Devils return most of the core from last year’s team. Virginia Tech is a wildcard heading into spring practice. As usual, the Hokies should be strong on defense. However, the offense remains a work in progress and may struggle to top last season's totals.
|Lost Early to the NFL||Returning Offensive Starters||Returning Defensive Starters|
Atlantic Division Spring Outlook
Starting over on offense:
With quarterback Chase Rettig, running back Andre Williams and receiver Alex Amidon expiring their eligibility, Boston College’s offense is essentially starting over in 2014. Williams and Rettig combined for 4,243 of the Eagles’ 4,774 yards last season, while Amidon caught 77 of the team’s 164 receptions. Needless to say, coach Steve Addazio and coordinator Ryan Day will be busy this spring. The news isn’t all bad for Addazio and Day, as Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse are a good foundation at running back. At quarterback, Florida transfer Tyler Murphy has experience, and the staff was able to redshirt James Walsh last year. Spiffy Evans and Harrison Jackson are back at receiver, and the offense can build around a solid line that returns three starters. This spring is Addazio’s first look at the replacements, and the offense can begin to develop some clarity at quarterback, running back and receiver.
Life without Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd begins this spring:
The offseason was a mixed bag of news for Clemson. There was good news: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris didn’t leave Death Valley. But there was also plenty of bad news, as quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Roderick McDowell expired their eligibility, and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant left early for the NFL Draft. Morris and coach Dabo Swinney have a rebuilding effort ahead on offense, but there shouldn’t be too big of a drop-off in production. Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and incoming freshman Deshaun Watson will compete for the starting quarterback job. Stoudt has the edge in experience, but Watson is a star in the making. The receiving corps also has talent, headlined by Adam Humphries, Mike Williams and Gerome Hopper. Charone Peake also returns to the lineup after missing most of last season with an injury. The first priority for Clemson is the quarterback battle. Is this Stoudt’s job to lose? Or do all three candidates have a shot to open the year as the No. 1 quarterback? This spring will be the first opportunity for Swinney and Morris to sort out their options on offense.
Restocking at defensive tackle:
With 13 starters returning, the Seminoles are in good shape to defend their national championship. Repeating as college football’s national champion won’t be easy, but Florida State has no shortage of talent waiting to step onto the field. New coordinator Charles Kelly should ensure there’s little drop in production on defense, but there’s a big concern at defensive tackle. Timmy Jernigan was one of the nation’s best last season, and he bolted early for the NFL. Additionally, Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McAllister expired their eligibility. With Jernigan, McDaniel and McAllister gone, the depth is thin at tackle. Nile Lawrence-Stample is the top returner on the interior, with Desmond Hollin, Justin Shanks, Eddie Goldman and Keith Bryant battling for snaps this spring. The Seminoles will add more talent to the mix in the fall when Adam Torres, Arthur Williams, Derrick Nnadi, Fredrick Jones and Demarcus Christmas arrive for their freshman season. Not all of the incoming freshmen will compete for time, but some could be needed for depth in 2014. Finding answers at defensive tackle is even more critical when you consider the losses at linebacker (Telvin Smith and Christian Jones), along with active defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks.
Adjusting to the new 3-4 defense:
Replacing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is no easy task, but Will Gardner has potential and played well in limited action last year. While the quarterback situation is something to watch, Bobby Petrino should push the right buttons on offense. With Petrino back on the sidelines in Louisville, the focus of spring practice should shift to the defense. The Cardinals led the nation against the run last season and finished second in points allowed. However, only four starters return from last year’s unit, and there’s a transition period as new coordinator Todd Grantham shifts the personnel to a 3-4 scheme. Lorenzo Mauldin is expected to be an All-ACC performer, and the senior will move from end to linebacker this spring. Other personnel moves are anticipated, especially as Louisville looks for replacements at safety with the departure of Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor. Charlie Strong isn’t leaving the cupboard bare on defense, but it may take some time for the players to adjust to a new 3-4 approach.
Jacoby Brissett’s time to shine:
The Wolfpack had a revolving door at under center last season, with five quarterbacks attempting passes. But 2014 is expected to be a different story in Raleigh. Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is clearly NC State’s No. 1 quarterback and is an upgrade over last year’s options. Brissett has talent (No. 75 player by Rivals in 2011 signing class) but has thrown only 74 passes in two seasons at Florida and completed 4 of 10 passes for 59 yards and one touchdown in NC State’s 2013 spring game. The Wolfpack have a solid supporting cast in place to help Brissett, including running back Shadrach Thornton and receivers Bryan Underwood and Jumichael Ramos. As a first-year starter, Brissett is going to have his share of ups and downs. However, he should be an upgrade over last year’s options. This spring is all about getting him ready to take the first snap of 2014.
The front seven on defense:
The Orange have a few question marks on both sides of the ball, but this team is positioned to make another bowl in Scott Shafer’s second season. Quarterback Terrel Hunt grew more comfortable as the starter late in the year, and there are promising receivers with Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime. With the offense expected to take another step forward in 2014, the focus of spring practice should on defense. Seven starters are back, but this unit loses tackle Jay Bromley and linebacker Marquis Spruill. Bromley was one of the ACC’s underrated defenders last season and recorded 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss. Without Bromley, who steps up to be the difference maker in the trenches? Senior Eric Crume is an option, and massive junior college recruit Wayne Williams (335 pounds) could be a name to watch on the interior. In addition to securing the interior of the line, Spruill’s production at middle linebacker must be replaced. Luke Arciniega was listed as his backup last season, but the defense also needs more from Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch.
Rebuilding from scratch:
New coach Dave Clawson has plenty of experience in rebuilding. After going 3-19 in his first two years at Fordham, Clawson guided the program to a 26-10 mark over the final three seasons. Clawson used the same blueprint at Richmond, taking the Spiders from 3-8 in 2004 to 9-4 in 2005. At Bowling Green, Clawson went 14-23 in his first three seasons but finished with an 18-8 mark over the final two years with a MAC Championship in 2013. Clawson has his work cut out for him this season, as Wake Forest returns just eight starters and loses quarterback Tanner Price and standout receiver Michael Campanaro. This spring is all about finding playmakers on offense, along with developing Tyler Cameron at quarterback. The defense returns five starters but nose guard Nikita Whitlock must be replaced. The Demon Deacons have a handful of question marks and concerns, but this spring is the first step in Clawson’s rebuilding plan to get the program back on track.
Coastal Division Spring Outlook
Starting over on the defensive line:
After going 10-4 and playing in the ACC Championship last year, Duke is coming off one of the best seasons in program history. The Blue Devils return 14 starters in 2014, but there are a few concerns heading into spring practice. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper left for Florida, and Cutcliffe promoted from within, giving the play-calling duties to Scottie Montgomery. Considering Cutcliffe’s track record on offense, this unit shouldn’t suffer too much on the stat sheet. But a concern for Duke is the departure of three key players on the line, including standout end Kenny Anunike. In addition to Anunike, end Justin Foxx and tackle Sydney Sarmiento depart after starting up front in 2013. Cutcliffe and co-coordinators Jim Knowles and Jim Collins shifted Kyler Brown from linebacker to end to help alleviate the losses there. The Blue Devils are also counting on Dezmond Johnson, Jonathan Jones and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo to step up their production this season. The spring will be the first look at a rebuilt defensive line, which will be a critical unit to watch as Duke hopes to repeat as the Coastal Division champion.
New faces in the backfield:
Despite having winning ACC records in five out of his six seasons at Georgia Tech, coach Paul Johnson is starting to feel a little heat from the fanbase. The Yellow Jackets are 14-13 over the last two years and will be picked near the bottom of the Coastal in 2014. In order for Georgia Tech to contend for a division crown, Johnson has to find new playmakers in the backfield. Quarterback Vad Lee left for James Madison at the end of the year, leaving Justin Thomas as the team’s No. 1 option under center. Thomas is a good athlete and should be a good fit in Georgia Tech’s offense. At running back, David Sims and Robert Godhigh depart after each player rushed for over 700 yards last year. Zach Laskey is the team’s leading returning rusher (485 yards), but the Yellow Jackets need to find more playmakers on the ground.
Looking for improvement on defense:
Sure, there’s a quarterback battle set to take place in Coral Gables this spring, but most of the attention for the coaching staff should be on the defense. The Hurricanes ranked 13th in the ACC in total defense last season, which came one year after finishing last in the conference. The numbers weren’t pretty for Al Golden’s defense, which allowed 6.2 yards per play in ACC-only games and gave up 32.8 points per game in eight conference contests. For a team that has the No. 2 ranked roster in the ACC, the ongoing defensive struggles are a mystery. While the numbers from last year are ugly, there’s hope for improvement with seven starters returning, while another solid recruiting class will help with overall depth. Each level of the defense has a potential impact player, starting with Anthony Chickillo at defensive end, Denzel Perryman at linebacker and Tracy Howard at cornerback. But can coordinator Mark D’Onofrio develop or find more difference makers on defense this spring?
Replacements on the offensive line:
The top spot in the Coastal Division is expected to be up for grabs once again next year. The Tar Heels finished 2013 by winning six out of their final seven games, and with seven starters back on both sides of the ball, Larry Fedora’s team is positioned for a run at the division title. Marquise Williams will have to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting quarterback job, but the promising junior is expected to win the No. 1 spot. The Tar Heels are loaded with talent at the skill positions, including receiver Quinshad Davis and running back T.J. Logan. If there’s a concern on offense, it’s a line that loses two standout players in left tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine. Guards Caleb Peterson and Landon Turner and tackle Jon Heck provide a solid foundation, but left tackle and center are arguably the two most-important positions on the line. Can Fedora and new coordinator Seth Littrell find answers in the spring? One name to watch is incoming freshman Bentley Spain – the No. 115 prospect in the 247Sports Composite – who enrolled early to compete this spring.
Filling the voids on defense:
With a favorable schedule and promising young talent on offense, the Panthers are a team on the rise in the Coastal Division. But in order for Paul Chryst’s team to jump into division title contention, the defense has to fill a few holes to fill. Tackle Aaron Donald will be difficult to replace after earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, and the Panthers also lose fellow tackle Tyrone Ezell, linebacker Shane Gordon, cornerback K’Waun Williams and safety Jason Hendricks. Pittsburgh’s defense ranked a respectable fifth in conference-only games in fewest yards allowed. However, the Panthers gave up 27.2 points per game and struggled on defense inside the red zone and on third downs. With Matt House calling the plays for the second season, will this defense show improvement despite losing its best player? This spring is a big opportunity for players like tackle Darryl Render and end Shakir Soto as Pittsburgh looks to replace Donald’s production and improve off last year’s totals.
Quarterback play under the spotlight:
Talent certainly isn’t an issue at Virginia (No. 6 roster in the ACC), but the Cavaliers have won just six games over the last two years. Coach Mike London enters 2014 on the hot seat, and a tough schedule is on tap for his team once again. For Virginia to surpass last year’s two victories, it needs more from quarterback David Watford. In eight ACC contests, Watford threw only five touchdowns and tossed eight interceptions on 203 attempts. Backup Greyson Lambert didn’t fare much better, completing only 44 percent of his throws and tossing two picks on 75 attempts last year. Watford should enter spring with an edge on Lambert to start, but this battle could extend into the fall once freshman Corwin Cutler arrives on campus. With Kevin Parks returning at running back and an experience at receiver and tight end, there’s potential with this offense. However, Virginia’s passing game won’t improve unless the quarterback play is better in 2014.
Finding a spark on offense:
The final numbers for Virginia Tech’s offense weren’t pretty last season. The Hokies finished 13th in the ACC in total offense and averaged just five yards per play. Under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler, Virginia Tech managed just 28 points in its final two games and scored under 20 points seven times in 2013. This unit enters spring practice with a myriad of question marks, starting under center where Logan Thomas expired his eligibility after the Sun Bowl loss to UCLA. Mark Leal is the favorite to replace Thomas, but he has just 48 pass attempts in his career. Leal needs to prove he has control of the No. 1 spot this spring, while Loeffler has to provide the senior with more help in the supporting cast. The Hokies averaged just 3.2 yards per carry last season, while inconsistency was a concern in the receiving corps and on the offensive line. Virginia Tech will be fine on defense, but it’s hard to see improvement off last year’s 8-5 mark without significant growth on offense.
Stanford opens spring practice with a few holes to fill and some new faces on the coaching staff, but the program is poised to build off last year’s 11-3 mark. The Cardinal has won at least 11 games in each of the last four seasons and has claimed back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Coach David Shaw is an impressive 25-4 in Pac-12 contests (including conference championship games), while Stanford is looking for its third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl in 2014.
The Pac-12 is one of the top conferences in college football, and Stanford will be up against a North Division that features Oregon and an improving Washington team. Shaw has been a model of consistency through his first three years on the Farm. And as any college football program has success, new challenges are created. That motto holds true for the Cardinal in 2014, as there’s some key personnel and coaches to replace.
Stanford Cardinal 2014 Spring Preview
2013 Record: 11-3 (7-1 Pac-12)
Spring Practice Opens: February 24
Spring Game: April 12
Five Things to Watch in Stanford's 2014 Spring Practice
|Aug. 31||UC Davis|
1. New faces on the coaching staff. Considering Stanford’s success, it’s no surprise its assistants have been targeted by other programs. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason left to be the head coach at Vanderbilt, Mike Sanford was named the offensive coordinator at Boise State, and David Kotulski followed Mason to Vanderbilt. Shaw promoted Lance Anderson to defensive coordinator, hired Peter Hansen to replace Kotulski and Lance Taylor was brought aboard to coach running backs. Shaw has one more opening to fill, but there’s not expected to be a significant transition period under the new staff. Anderson has worked at Stanford since 2007, and his experience under Mason should ensure the defense remains one of the best in the Pac-12.
2. Who steps up at running back? Stanford has produced a 1,000-yard rusher for six consecutive seasons. Will that streak run to seven? Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson combined for 2,062 yards last season but expired their eligibility after the Rose Bowl. The cupboard isn’t completely bare for coordinator Mike Bloomgren, as Remound Wright, Barry Sanders and Ricky Seale return. Sanders was a four-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and high expectations surround the Oklahoma native. But Sanders won’t have to carry the entire workload, as Wright and Seale have experience, and incoming freshmen Christian McCaffrey and Isaiah Brandt-Sims are capable of playing this season. While running back is a question mark, there’s enough talent returning for Shaw and Bloomgren to feel alright about this position.
3. Restocking the trenches. The Cardinal expect quarterback Kevin Hogan to take another step in his development this spring, and Shaw and Bloomgren want to rely on their ground game to set the tone on offense once again. But there’s a glaring issue on the offense. The line was hit hard by personnel losses, with guards David Yankey and Kevin Danser, tackle Cameron Fleming and center Khalil Wilkes all departing. That’s the bad news. The good news? Talent isn’t an issue. Left tackle Andrus Peat is a future All-American, and Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy are highly-touted prospects waiting for their chance to start. Graham Shuler is the frontrunner to replace Khalil Wilkes at center, while Johnny Caspers is likely to replace Danser at right guard. There’s no question Stanford has talent here. But how quickly can this line jell?
4. Filling the voids in the front seven. Not only must Stanford’s defense adapt to a new coordinator (Lance Anderson), but this unit suffered some key losses in the front seven. The Cardinal must replace standout ends Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro, and linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov also depart. Much like the offense, there’s talent waiting in the wings to step into the starting lineup. Henry Anderson earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season and is due to become an even bigger piece of the line in 2014. Blake Lueders and Luke Kaumatule shifted from other positions to the defensive line and join Anderson as key cogs in the trenches. Aziz Shittu is another name to watch at end, but Anderson also needs to develop more depth behind tackle David Parry. While the losses on the line are huge, the departures at linebacker are even bigger. Murphy and Skov’s production and leadership will be difficult to replace, but there’s a solid foundation to build around in A.J. Tarpley and Kevin Anderson. James Vaughters, Joe Hemschoot, Blake Martinez and Noor Davis are other names to watch this spring.
5. Who replaces Ed Reynolds at safety? The losses in the defensive line and linebacking corps were more significant, but Reynolds will be tough to replace. He recorded 87 tackles and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season. Of course, having a standout like Jordan Richards back at the other safety spot will help Stanford’s secondary remain one of the best in the Pac-12. The Cardinal has options to replace Reynolds, including converted receiver Kodi Whitfield and converted quarterback Dallas Lloyd. Devon Carrington was listed as the backup to Reynolds last year and expired his eligibility after the Rose Bowl. If Lloyd or Whitfield doesn’t win the job, Zach Hoffpauir or Kyle Olugbode could be the answer.
2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
Yes, Stanford has some personnel losses and a few changes on the coaching staff. But David Shaw won’t allow the Cardinal to fall too far in the win column. Assuming the line jells early in the year, quarterback Kevin Hogan should take another step forward in his development. It’s a lot to ask the defense to replicate last year’s numbers without Murphy, Skov, Reynolds, Gardner and Mauro. However, this unit is still one of the best in the Pac-12. Stanford will be in the mix for another BCS bowl and will contend with Oregon for the North Division title.
The Big 12 didn’t have a banner year in 2013 with only three teams finishing in the final Associated Press poll. Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State combined for 32 victories last season, while the rest of the conference combined for 38 wins. While last season left a lot to be desired, the Sooners defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Kansas State has momentum after a strong close to the year.
As spring practice opens in the Big 12, each team has a handful of question marks the coaching staff hopes to find solutions for over the next few months. Oklahoma is considered a slight favorite over Baylor for the top spot in the conference, but Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas will be tough outs for the rest of the Big 12.
Texas Tech is a darkhorse to watch this season, but the Red Raiders have a few significant question marks on defense. Assuming a quarterback emerges, TCU should rebound after going 4-8 last year. And West Virginia has enough returning talent to expect a run at a bowl game after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the teams heading into spring practice with personnel losses from last season and returning starters on both sides of the ball.
|Seniors Departing||Lost Early to NFL Draft||Returning Offensive Starters||Returning Defensive Starters|
Key Storylines Around the Big 12 for Spring Practice
First look at the new faces on defense:
An underrated part of Baylor’s Big 12 championship last season was the defense. The Bears held opponents to 4.8 yards per play in 2013 after allowing 6.3 in 2012. Coordinator Phil Bennett has a busy spring ahead if he wants his defense to improve off of those totals in 2014. Only four starters return from last year’s unit, and All-Big 12 performers in safety Ahmad Dixon, linebacker Eddie Lackey and end Chris McAllister have expired their eligibility. Baylor’s recruiting has improved under Art Briles, and there’s talent waiting to step onto the field. Defensive end Shawn Oakman is a name to remember after recording 33 tackles last year, while help is also in the way in the form of three junior college transfers this spring. Will this unit continue to build off the improvement showcased last season? Or will all of the new faces create a transition year in 2014?
Is Grant Rohach ready to emerge as the No. 1 quarterback?:
The Cyclones have question marks on both sides of the ball, but Rohach’s development is the key to the season. The California native finished 2013 by throwing for 631 yards and six touchdowns over the final two games, leading Iowa State to back-to-back victories. New coordinator Mark Mangino should help Rohach’s growth, and the Cyclones are bringing in a potential impact recruit at receiver in Allen Lazard. Iowa State’s schedule is tough. But if Rohach builds off the final two performances of 2013, the Cyclones could push for six wins this season.
Improving the passing attack:
When you win four games in two years, it’s hard to call many areas of that team a strength. Kansas has some pieces to build around, including running back Darrian Miller, all-purpose threat Tony Pierson and All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney. However, for the Jayhawks to show significant improvement in the win column, quarterback play and the receiving corps needs to show progress this offseason. Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart each played significant snaps at quarterback last year, but neither showcased enough to have the full-time job going into the spring. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard will get a chance to unseat Heaps and Cozart, and Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell should provide the quarterback a No. 1 target. But can the Jayhawks find a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver? Is Justin McCay ready to live up to the hype?
Finding a No. 1 running back:
With John Hubert and Robert Rose expiring their eligibility, Kansas State’s returning leaders in rushing yards are quarterbacks Daniel Sams (807) and Jake Waters (312). And there’s little in the way of returning experience at running back for coach Bill Snyder. Demarcus Robinson was a four-star recruit by Rivals but has only 11 carries in two years. Sophomore Jarvis Leverett Jr. was a three-star recruit in 2012 and will be in the mix to replace Hubert, while incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack is a name to watch this fall. A wildcard option to watch in the ground attack is Sams, as he could spend time at running back or receiver this season. Kansas State has a few other voids to fill, including spots at linebacker, cornerback and at tackle. However, this team is positioned to compete for a spot among the top 25 in many preseason polls.
Can Trevor Knight build off his Sugar Bowl performance?:
With 16 starters returning, and momentum from the Sugar Bowl win against Alabama in place, Oklahoma is considered a slight favorite over Baylor for the Big 12 title in 2014. The Sooners return most of their core from last season, and Knight’s performance in the bowl has provided plenty of optimism that Oklahoma is ready to contend for a playoff spot. Knight gashed Alabama’s defense for 348 yards and four touchdowns – easily his best performance of 2013. Should we expect to see similar numbers in 2014? Or was that just an aberration? With Blake Bell moving to tight end, it’s clear Knight has the starting job. Now it’s time for the sophomore to take the next step in his development, which will be a challenge with Jalen Saunders and Lacoltan Bester gone at receiver.
The quarterback battle:
Mike Gundy’s team returns only nine starters next year, but Oklahoma State should still be a factor in the Big 12 title picture. The Cowboys have not won fewer than eight games since a 7-6 mark in 2007, and there’s promising young talent on offense, including running back Desmond Roland and receiver Jhajuan Seales. However, all eyes this spring will be on the quarterback battle. Junior J.W. Walsh has the experience, but incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early and is expected to push for time. Daxx Garman and Richard Lagow are also in the mix, but the job is expected to go to Walsh or Rudolph. Walsh is a dual-threat option, while Rudolph is a prototypical pocket passer. Will a quarterback claim the job this spring? Or will Rudolph and Walsh take their battle into the fall?
Rebuilding on offense:
Despite the defense leading the Big 12 in fewest yards per game (conference-only contests), the Horned Frogs finished with their worst record under Gary Patterson. After watching the offense manage just 349.1 yards per game in Big 12 action, Patterson made changes to his offensive staff. Doug Meacham was hired away from Houston to call the plays, while Sonny Cumbie joins the staff after four years at Texas Tech. Meacham and Cumbie were solid additions, but both coaches will have their work cut out for them this preseason. The Horned Frogs need to find a quarterback, as Casey Pachall has expired his eligibility, and Trevone Boykin could slide to receiver. If Boykin doesn’t stay at quarterback, there’s not much in the way of proven options under center. Zach Allen, Tyler Matthews and Carson Snyder have combined for just three pass attempts, while incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein will have an opportunity to win the job this preseason. The question marks on TCU’s offense extend to the line where two starters depart from a unit that struggled in 2013. The Horned Frogs also need more consistency from the receiving corps and at running back. This spring is the first step to finding answers for TCU.
Finding answers on offense:
In what seems to be an ongoing question mark, the Longhorns enter spring practice looking for answers on offense. Texas has not ranked higher than sixth in the Big 12 in scoring in each of the last four years and averaged only 5.1 yards per play in conference action in 2013. New coach Charlie Strong and co-offensive coordinators Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline will be looking for solutions this spring, starting under center where David Ash returns after missing most of last year with a concussion. Ash will face competition from Tyrone Swoopes this spring, while touted freshman Jerrod Heard arrives this summer. In addition to finding a quarterback, Texas has to replace three starters on the line, while receiver Mike Davis departs after averaging 14.3 yards per catch last season. Wickline has a strong track record of developing offensive linemen, and with a strong backfield returning, Texas can lean on the ground until the passing attack stabilizes. However, for the Longhorns to be a factor in the Big 12 title picture, a quarterback needs to step up before the season opener.
Restocking the defensive line and secondary:
The Red Raiders finished 2013 with a fury, handling Arizona State 37-23 in the Holiday Bowl. Kliff Kingsbury has Texas Tech on the right track, but there are a few glaring concerns heading into spring practice. The receiving corps needs to reload after losing Eric Ward and Jace Amaro, but a bigger concern is on defense where only three starters return. The line must replace standout end Kerry Hyder, while the secondary loses three starters, including safety Tre Porter. To help with the personnel losses, Texas Tech dipped into the junior college ranks, bringing five players who can help this season. It’s always risky relying on junior college recruits to make an immediate impact, but the Red Raiders needed players who can play right away and help with depth this season. Finding two new starting cornerbacks and developing depth up front will be critical to Texas Tech’s chances at beating last year’s eight wins.
The quarterback battle:
Considering West Virginia had to replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, it was no surprise the offense took a step back from its 2012 production in 2013. However, the drop-off was greater than most anticipated. The Mountaineers still averaged 410.8 yards per game, but the scoring average dropped by 13 points. Quarterback play has been a strength in Dana Holgorsen’s offenses and spring practice will be critical to developing a pecking order under center after a season of lackluster play from the quarterbacks. Three players started under center last year, but Ford Childress left the team before spring practice, and Clint Trickett is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Paul Millard is the team’s No. 1 quarterback – for now – but keep an eye on junior college recruit Skyler Howard. Will Millard take a step forward in 2014? Or will he leave the door open for Howard, incoming freshman William Crest or Trickett to eventually win the job in the fall?
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s status for spring practice is uncertain, as the Heisman Trophy candidate will have minor shoulder surgery. ElevenWarriors.com first reported the news on Thursday night.
Miller’s shoulder injury occurred in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, but he finished with 234 passing yards on 16 completions.
Miller’s injury is to his throwing shoulder, but the surgery is regarded as minor.
It’s uncertain if Miller will be forced to miss any practices or if he will just be limited. If Miller is out or limited for any of the practices, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett will have an opportunity to work as the No. 1 quarterback.
With spring practice already underway for some college football teams, the countdown to the 2014 season has officially started. There’s still a long way to go before August and the season opener, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which players are ready for a big jump in production.
There’s no question quarterback is the most important position on the field. And the scrutiny on signal-callers is at an all-time high with college football’s playoff set to start in 2014. While some teams like Florida State or Oregon have zero concerns about their starting quarterbacks, other programs are searching for an answer in spring practice.
But there’s also another category for teams to fall into. Teams like Georgia, Missouri and Pittsburgh are technically breaking in a new starter, but there’s not much concern over the quarterback position.
Although names like Missouri’s Maty Mauk, Georgia’s Hutson Mason and Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik are far from household names, these players could play a key role in determining a division or conference title.
In addition to Mauk, Mason and Voytik, here are a few other quarterbacks that could be breakout stars in 2014.
College Football's Top 10 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2014
Jacob Coker, Alabama
With Jameis Winston entrenched for at least one more year in Tallahassee, Coker took advantage of the graduate transfer rule and left Florida State for Alabama for a chance to win a starting job in the SEC. Although Coker has to compete with a host of options this spring (Blake Sims, David Cornwell, Alec Morris, Parker McLeod and Cooper Bateman), he is considered to be the favorite to start Alabama’s season opener against West Virginia. The junior doesn’t have a ton of experience from his two years in Tallahassee, but there’s also a lot to like about the Alabama native. Coker completed 21 of 41 throws for 295 yards and one touchdown in two seasons with the Seminoles. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds – along with a strong arm – Coker has all of the intangibles coaches want in a quarterback. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best in the nation at developing quarterbacks, and Coker gave Winston a run for the starting job in the fall. Although Coker doesn’t have a start on the collegiate level, there’s no shortage of talent or potential as he looks to win Alabama’s starting job this preseason.
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Bowling Green made one of the offseason’s top hires in Dino Babers, and the Falcons should be the frontrunner to win the MAC in 2014. The former Baylor assistant built one of the top offenses in the FCS ranks last year, as Eastern Illinois averaged 48.2 points per game and averaged 372.4 passing yards per contest. Johnson appears to be the perfect triggerman for Babers’ offense after throwing for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first season as a starter in 2013. The Pennsylvania native also tossed only seven picks in 369 attempts and added 230 yards and five scores on the ground. As long as Johnson quickly adapts to the new offense, he should have a monster season under Babers’ direction.
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
It’s hard to put too much stock in what happens in bowl games, but it’s also hard to ignore Knight’s performance against Alabama. After throwing just 90 passes during the regular season, Knight hoisted 44 attempts against the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, completing 32 of those for 348 yards and four scores. The performance against Alabama was easily the best of Knight’s 2013 season. However, there were other bright spots for the Texas native throughout the regular season. Knight threw for 171 yards and added 82 on the ground against Kansas State, while he rushed for 123 yards in a 48-10 win against Iowa State. If Knight can build off his bowl performance, he could elevate Oklahoma into contention for a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff. The Sooners need to reload in the receiving corps, but there’s still talent on the offensive line, and with Blake Bell moving to tight end there’s no question which quarterback will be taking snaps in Norman this fall.
Hutson Mason, Georgia
Aaron Murray’s late-season knee injury was a huge blow for Georgia’s offense, but it also created an opportunity for Mason to secure the No. 1 spot heading into spring practice. In relief of Murray against Kentucky, Mason completed 13 of 19 passes for 189 yards and one score. In his first career start, Mason rallied Georgia to a 41-34 overtime win against Georgia Tech by throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Considering the sloppy conditions, the Gator Bowl isn’t the best judge of Mason’s ability, but he did manage to throw for 320 yards in that game. Mason is still largely unproven despite his performances at the end of 2013. However, Georgia’s supporting cast is strong, and Mason has spent the last four years waiting for this chance. With a strong grasp of the offense, Mason should take full advantage of his opportunity to be the Bulldogs’ starter.
Maty Mauk, Missouri
Mauk appears to be the next in a line of successful quarterbacks produced by Missouri. After James Franklin suffered a shoulder injury against Georgia, Mauk’s production helped to keep the Tigers in contention for the SEC East title. In his first start against Florida, the Ohio native threw for 295 yards and one touchdown on 18 completions. Mauk threw for five touchdowns against Kentucky and passed for 163 yards and three scores against Tennessee. Even though his 1,071 yards and 11 passing scores from last year were impressive, the most important number from Mauk’s final stat line was just two interceptions in 133 attempts. Mauk’s completion percentage could use a little work (51.1 percent), but he averaged nearly 16 yards per completion (15.7). He will have a few ups and downs in his first full season as the starter, but all signs point to a breakout year for Mauk.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
After finishing last season on a three-game winning streak, along with the return of 16 starters, Dan Mullen could have the best team of his tenure coming back to Starkville. Prescott is one of the driving forces behind Mississippi State’s hope for a breakout 2014, as the Louisiana native finished the season by throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns in the 44-7 blowout win over Rice in the Liberty Bowl. Prescott showed flashes of promise in SEC play by recording 303 total yards against Texas A&M and led Mississippi State to a comeback win over Ole Miss in the regular-season finale. Prescott still has room to improve, but with Tyler Russell expiring his eligibility, he will spend all preseason working with the No. 1 offense. The junior is a perfect fit for Mullen’s offense and could approach 1,000 rushing yards after leading the Bulldogs with 829 yards on the ground last year.
Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Paul Chryst got a glimpse of the future when Tom Savage suffered an injury in the bowl win over Bowling Green. Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t miss a beat with Voytik at the controls, as the Panthers posted 13 points in the second half and punted only once on five drives. Voytik completed 5 of 9 passes for 108 yards against the Falcons and rushed for 24 yards on two attempts. The Tennessee native threw only 11 passes last season, but there’s no question about his talent, ranking as the No. 16 quarterback recruit in the 2012 signing class. As evidenced by his work at Wisconsin, Chryst knows how to develop quarterbacks and make the most out of his talent. Voytik has the talent and intangibles and should flourish under Chryst’s tutelage this season. And it certainly doesn’t hurt Voytik’s development that he will be throwing to standout receiver Tyler Boyd and protected by a line that returns four starters.
P.J. Walker, Temple
Temple started 0-6 last year but rallied to win two out of their final six games, including a 41-21 road contest at Memphis in the season finale. A key reason for the turnaround was Walker’s emergence as the team’s starting quarterback. The New Jersey native started the final seven contests and finished the season with 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns, while tossing only eight picks on 250 attempts. Walker also added 332 yards and three scores on the ground. Another positive sign for Temple was Walker’s completion percentage (60.8), as well as a solid 13.7 yards per completion. Even though top receiver Robby Anderson won’t return, Walker is poised to emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
Davis Webb, Texas Tech
With Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield transferring, Webb enters spring practice entrenched as Texas Tech’s No. 1 quarterback. With a clear path to the starting job, along with a standout performance in the Holiday Bowl, Webb appears to be on his way to emerging as Texas Tech’s next star quarterback. As a true freshman last year, the Texas native threw for 2,718 yards and 20 touchdowns on 361 attempts, while tossing only nine picks. Webb completed 62.6 percent of his throws and threw for at least 385 yards in five out of his last six games. The Red Raiders need to replace standout receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, but Kliff Kingsbury should have this offense performing at a high level once again.
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
The Tar Heels were one of the hottest teams in the ACC by the end of 2013, and Larry Fedora’s team should be a factor in the Coastal Division title picture this fall. Williams was one of the top factors behind the late-season turnaround, taking over starting quarterback duties after Bryn Renner was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. The North Carolina native’s first career start came against Virginia Tech in early October, passing for 277 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-17 road loss. The Tar Heels fared better in Williams’ next start, winning a 45-14 matchup against Virginia, followed by a 34-27 road win at Pittsburgh. Williams was sharp in an easy win over Old Dominion, gashing the Monarchs defense for 469 total yards and four touchdowns. Fedora has assembled one of the ACC’s top running back corps, along with a handful of talented weapons at receiver. Williams will face competition from redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky, but all signs point to the junior building off a successful finish to the 2013 season.
Other Names to Watch
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Armstrong will have to compete with Johnny Stanton and Zack Darlington for the starting spot, but he showed flashes of promise in his redshirt freshman season, throwing for 966 yards in nine games, including 163 in the bowl win over Georgia.
Drew Barker, Kentucky
True freshman passer is a key piece for Mark Stoops’ rebuilding effort in Lexington. Barker ranked as the No. 119 prospect in the 247Sports Composite this season and will have an opportunity to win the starting job this spring.
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
The Wolfpack struggled on offense last season, but improvement should be noticeable in 2014. With former starters Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell no longer in the picture following a disappointing 2013 campaign under center, Brissett is a welcomed upgrade. He was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school and threw for 455 yards in two seasons at Florida.
Will Gardner, Louisville
There’s no doubt Louisville will miss Teddy Bridgewater. But Gardner is an intriguing option for new coach Bobby Petrino. The Georgia native completed 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards in mop-up duty last year and has upside to develop in the Cardinals’ new offense.
Jared Goff, California
Goff had his share of freshman mistakes last year, but he finished 2013 with a respectable stat line – 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns. Under the direction of Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin, Goff should be in for a significant jump in production in 2014.
Terrel Hunt, Syracuse
Hunt averaged only 9.8 yards per attempt last year, but the New York native played his best in Syracuse’s final two games. In the win against Boston College, Hunt threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 90 yards and one score. In the 21-17 victory over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl, Hunt completed 19 of 29 passes for 188 yards and added 74 yards and two scores on the ground. Both games should serve as a sign of progress for the Orange's offense under coordinator George McDonald heading into 2014.
Jaquez Johnson, FAU
Finished first season at FAU with six passing touchdowns over final two games and led the team with 772 rushing yards. Johnson was named as Conference USA’s Newcomer of the Year last season and accounted for 2,648 of FAU’s 4,615 yards in 2013.
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Kiel ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2012 signing class but never played a snap at Notre Dame. The Indiana native threw for 4,831 yards and 61 touchdowns in two seasons at Columbus East High School and was the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in 2011. Kiel has all of the physical tools necessary to succeed at Cincinnati, and with Munchie Legaux likely sidelined until this summer, he should have a clear path to the starting job.
Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre and coordinator Brian Lindgren were instrumental in developing San Jose State passer David Fales. Liufau showed promise in limited action last season, finishing the year with 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 completions. Liufau closed the year by throwing for seven touchdowns and just three interceptions over his final three games.
Wes Lunt, Illinois
Lunt threw for 1,108 yards and six scores for Oklahoma State in 2012, and the Illinois native should be a good fit in Bill Cubit’s offense. However, the receiving corps for the Fighting Illini is a concern.
Cyler Miles, Washington
Miles was suspended indefinitely in early February due to an off-the-field incident. If he returns to the team, the sophomore should be a breakout player in the Pac-12. Miles completed 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns last year. He made one start (Oregon State) and led the Huskies to a 69-27 victory over Oregon State.
Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
Mullens was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season and seemed to get better with every snap. He finished 2013 with 1,776 yards and 13 touchdowns but arguably had his best performances in the final two games (MTSU and UAB). In the Golden Eagles’ 62-27 dismantling of UAB, Mullens threw for 370 yards and five scores. The Alabama native will have some extra guidance in 2014, as his high school coach (Chip Lindsey) was hired by Todd Monken as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson ranked as the No. 41 prospect in the 247Sports Composite ranking for the 2014 signing class. He will have to compete with Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly for the starting job, but Watson has upside and talent to emerge as Clemson’s starting quarterback. And enrolling early to get a jumpstart on learning Chad Morris’ offense certainly doesn’t hurt.
Mike White, South Florida
White did not play at all in the first six games but finished 2013 as South Florida’s No. 1 quarterback. The final stat line wasn’t too kind for White (3 TDs, 9 INTs), but the true freshman threw for 311 yards against Houston and nearly led South Florida to a win over UCF. White needs more help from his supporting cast, and the sophomore should benefit from a full offseason to work as the No. 1 passer.
Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from the team on Tuesday due to a violation of team rules.
Harvey-Clemons was already slated to miss the first three games of 2014 due to a suspension, but coach Mark Richt decided to dismiss the safety permanently this week.
Harvey-Clemons was regarded as a five-star prospect by Scout.com in the 2012 signing class. He played in 14 games as a freshman, recording 14 tackles and one pass breakup.
As a sophomore, Harvey-Clemons was expected to emerge as one of the key players on Georgia’s defense. He missed two games but recorded 66 tackles and one interception.
Harvey-Clemons has two years of eligibility remaining and could transfer to another FBS school.
Major news: Josh Harvey-Clemons has been dismissed from the Georgia football team for a violation of team rules, UGA announces.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) February 18, 2014
Michigan tight end Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL during winter conditioning drills and is out indefinitely. The news of Butt’s injury was announced through the team’s website on Thursday.
As a true freshman last season, Butt caught 20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Eight of his receptions came over the final two games, including a touchdown catch in the 42-41 loss to Ohio State.
Butt has seven months to heal until the season opener, but it’s uncertain if he will be at full strength by late August.
In order for Michigan to improve off its 7-6 record from last season, the Wolverines have to give quarterback Devin Gardner more help. Unfortunately for Gardner, Butt’s injury is a setback for the receiving corps, especially with the departure of Jeremy Gallon. The cupboard is far from bare at tight end with Devin Funchess returning. However, Butt appeared to be on his way to being a significant piece of Michigan’s passing attack in 2014.
Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux has been granted an eligibility extension, and the Louisiana native will return to the Bearcats’ team in 2013.
The extra year was granted to Legaux after he missed nearly all of 2013 due to a leg injury. Prior to the season-ending injury against Illinois, Legaux threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns.
Legaux will have one season of eligibility remaining, and he is expected to compete with Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel to be Cincinnati’s starting quarterback in 2014. However, as a result of his leg injury, Legaux is not expected to return to practice until this summer.
Rutgers and the American Athletic Conference have reached an agreement to allow the Scarlet Knights to depart for the Big Ten in time for the 2014 football season.
There was little doubt Rutgers would play in the Big Ten next year, but there was a question about how much the school would have to pay to leave the American Athletic Conference.
On Wednesday, Rutgers announced it will pay $11.5 million to leave for the Big Ten.
According to the Star-Ledger, the Scarlet Knights have already paid $5 million of the exit fee and the rest will be paid over the next four years.
The Scarlet Knights (along with Maryland) will officialy join the Big Ten on July 1.
College football’s national signing day is essentially the start of a new season for every coaching staff. With the recruiting class officially in place, all coaches can turn the page to the next season and have a clear view of the roster for the upcoming year. But while most of the talk on national signing day centers around which true freshman can make the biggest impact for a program for that upcoming season, don’t overlook junior college recruits. While recruiting a JUCO prospect is risky, they are solid stop-gap solutions and a short-term answer for a team that might be short on depth at a particular position.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham dipped into the junior college ranks for help in defending the Pac-12 South title. The Sun Devils return only two starters on defense, which is where Graham looked for immediate help. Linemen Dalvon Stuckey and Edmond Boateng will help replace Will Sutton, while defensive back Kweishi Brown should factor into the mix to replace Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby in the secondary.
Arizona State was just one of a handful of programs looking for immediate help, as Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all signed potential instant impact players. The Crimson Tide signed two potential standouts for the defensive line, while the Cowboys added Tyreek Hill, a potential gamebreaker on offense.
Identifying which junior college prospects will make the biggest impact is no easy task. Athlon has compiled a list of 15 impact junior college transfers, as well as a list of other players to watch in 2014.
15 Impact Junior College Recruits for 2014
Dontavius Blair, OL, Tennessee
Blair is just one recruit in Tennessee’s whopping 35-man class, but the Alabama native is one of the most important signings for 2014. The Volunteers lose all five starters on the offensive line, including standout tackles Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James. Blair ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college ratings and comes to Knoxville after a two-year stint at Garden City Community College. Adjusting to life in the SEC is no easy assignment for a junior college lineman, but Blair played his high school ball in Anniston, Ala., so he’s no stranger to the expectations within the conference. At 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, Blair has the necessary size to start at one of the tackle spots for Tennessee in 2014.
Terrell Clinkscales, DL, Kansas State
Clinkscales is one of nine incoming junior college recruits for Kansas State, ranking No. 10 in the 247Sports Composite ratings. Clinkscales played in 2011 at Grand Rapids Community College, recording only 13 tackles in six games. After Grand Rapids disbanded its program, Clinkscales sat out 2012 before landing at Dodge City Community College. In 2013, the Illinois native was a second-team NJCAA All-American and recorded 7.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games. Kansas State isn’t in dire need of talent on the line, as end Ryan Mueller will contend for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Travis Britz returns after earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season. However, Clinkscales should be a key piece in the line rotation up front and could earn a starting spot before the first game.
Jermaine Eluemunor/Avery Gennesy, OL, Texas A&M
Even with first-team All-SEC tackle Jake Matthews departing, the Aggies should still have a formidable offensive line. Guards Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi and center Mike Matthews are back, while tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turned down an opportunity to leave early for the NFL. But you can never have enough talent or depth on the offensive line in the SEC, so Kevin Sumlin and his staff landed two top-10 offensive linemen this signing class. Eluemunor is rated slightly higher by scouting services, checking in as the No. 7 player in the 247Sports Composite, while Gennesy is No. 9. According to Texas A&M’s signing day release, Eluemunor could play tackle or guard, while Gennesy is mentioned just as a tackle. While those positions could change in spring practice, both players are likely to factor prominently into the Aggies’ offensive line this year.
Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State
Hill is listed as an athlete in Oklahoma State’s signing day release, and the Georgia native is expected to be an all-purpose threat for the Cowboys’ offense in 2014. How Hill will be utilized by coordinator Mike Yurcich isn’t exactly certain, but the 5-foot-9 speedster is a key piece of the rebuilding effort on offense next year. Hill ranks as the No. 3 junior college prospect per 247Sports' Composite ratings and he averaged 16.6 yards per reception in 2013. Speed is one of Hill’s best assets, as evidenced by his 20.14 seconds mark in the 200 meters. Desmond Roland should be set as Oklahoma State’s starting running back, but the coaching staff will find ways to get the ball in Hill’s hands out of the backfield or as a receiver.
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia
Quarterback play is usually an automatic strength in a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense. But that wasn’t the case last season, as the Mountaineers started three different players under center, and the offense finished with just 16 touchdown passes. Ford Childress is no longer on the team, leaving Paul Millard and Clint Trickett as the most experienced options heading into 2014. Trickett is not expected to play this spring due to shoulder surgery, which leaves Millard and Howard battling for the starting role. The Texas native played only one season at Riverside City College (coached by former San Diego State coach Tom Craft), throwing for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns. Howard also displayed nice mobility, rushing for 343 yards on 108 attempts. Considering he has only one year of starting experience on the collegiate level under his belt, Howard will need some time to adjust to playing in the Big 12. However, he was rated as the No. 89 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and shows good timing and anticipation on his junior college film. Howard is listed at 5-foot-11, but he is a good fit for West Virginia’s spread attack.
Kenny Iloka, S, TCU
Defense is always a strength for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, and TCU should have one of the best units in the Big 12 next season with the return of eight starters. The secondary is Patterson’s biggest concern with the departure of standout cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode. Iloka is the brother of former Boise State safety George Iloka and ranked as the No. 61 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. At Tyler Junior College in 2013, Iloka recorded 126 tackles and 3.5 sacks. At 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, Iloka has the size to be an impact safety and should have an easy transition into TCU’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Dominick Jackson, OL, Alabama
With left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio leaving early for the NFL, and guard Anthony Steen expiring his eligibility, Alabama has two significant holes on its offensive line. Spring practice is a key period for this unit, as the Crimson Tide once again has all of the pieces to win the national championship. However, the offensive line and quarterback play will determine how far this team can go in 2014. Kouandjio is a huge loss at tackle, but the cupboard is far from bare for line coach Mario Cristobal. Leon Brown was listed as Kouandjio’s backup and played in nine games last season. Talented sophomore Grant Hill and incoming freshman Cameron Robinson could all compete for time at left tackle. But Jackson also is squarely in the mix for snaps after a successful stop at the College of San Mateo. The 6-foot-7 tackle ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college rankings and was a member of the PrepStar JUCO All-America Team. Jackson will have a tough transition from the junior college ranks to playing on the SEC level. However, he appears to have the size and skill set necessary to play a big role in Alabama’s offensive line next year.
Abu Lamin, DT, South Carolina
South Carolina’s defense ranked second in the SEC by holding opponents to just 20.3 points per game. Repeating that number in 2014 will be a challenge, especially as the line looks to replace ends Chaz Sutton and Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. The Gamecocks still have talent in the trenches, led by sophomore end Darius English and senior tackle J.T. Surratt, but Clowney, Sutton and Quarles leave big shoes to fill. Lamin is expected to be a part of the solution up front next year. The North Carolina native redshirted in his first season at Fort Scott Community College and recorded 34 tackles with 1.5 sacks in 2013. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Lamin already has the required size to be a factor in the SEC. And with the Gamecocks returning a few experienced options in the trenches, Lamin can serve as a rotation player until he is ready to push for a starting spot.
Derrick Moncrief, S, Auburn
Improving the defense is one of the top priorities this spring for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, and the Tigers brought in three junior college recruits to provide competition with the returning options on the roster. Defensive linemen DeVonte Lambert and Devaroe Lawrence will play a lot, but Moncrief could have the biggest impact on the defense. The Alabama native spent two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and recorded seven interceptions during that span. Moncrief ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is expected to play a significant role in the secondary.
Claude Pelon, DL, USC
Steve Sarkisian has a few holes to fill next year, but the Trojans could rank as a top 10-15 team in most preseason polls. The defense returns nearly intact, starting up front with ends Leonard Williams and J.R. Tavai and nose tackle Antwaun Woods. Pelon was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, as he will help with depth right away in the trenches. The Florida native was a Prep Star JUCO All-American and recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss last season. Pelon ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is likely headed for a spot on the interior of USC’s line. Even with Woods returning at nose tackle, Pelon is due for a role on USC’s defensive front in 2014.
D.J. Pettway/Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
If you are signed as a junior college prospect at Alabama under Nick Saban, you certainly aren’t brought in to sit on the bench. Pettway and Reed will help replace Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan and will also add to an embarrassment of riches that Saban has assembled up front, including A’Shawn Robinson, Brandon Ivory, Darren Lake, Jonathan Allen and incoming freshman D’Shawn Hand. Pettway was dismissed from Alabama last February after an off-the-field incident, but he returned to Tuscaloosa after spending 2013 at East Mississippi Community College. Reed was a teammate of Pettway’s last season and ranks as the No. 13 prospect in the 247Sports Composite ratings. With Pettway and Reed poised to make an immediate impact, Alabama should have one of the top defensive lines in the SEC next year.
Dalvon Stuckey, DT, Arizona State
The Sun Devils lost a plethora of talent on defense, including standout defensive tackle Will Sutton, linebacker Carl Bradford and both starting cornerbacks (Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor). To help with the rebuilding effort, coach Todd Graham is bringing in four junior college transfers to help on defense. Stuckey is one of the key recruits in the 2014 signing class, ranking as the No. 34 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. The Florida native checks in at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds but can be explosive at the point of attack. At Pearl River Community College, he recorded 23 tackles for a loss as a freshman and posted two sacks as a sophomore in 2013. Stuckey should help Arizona State replace the production lost by Sutton and ends Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway.
Tui Talia, DL, Oregon
New defensive coordinator Don Pellum returns a solid core for 2014, but the Ducks have a significant need for players to emerge at defensive tackle. Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli expired their eligibility after the Alamo Bowl, leaving Alex Balducci and Sam Kamp as the team’s top tackles for next season. Talia is the No. 22 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after spending two years at Diablo Valley College. The California native recorded 19 sacks over the last two years and is expected to be a key piece of the Oregon defensive line next year. Talia’s 270-pound frame suggests he will likely end up on the outside, but the Ducks could play him on a handful of snaps on the inside.
D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn
Even though running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson left early for the NFL, Auburn’s offense should once again be among best in the SEC. But 2014 could signal a slight shift in play calling for Gus Malzahn, as Nick Marshall should be more comfortable in his second year under center, and the Tigers return one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. This group got even deeper during the offseason with the addition of Williams from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Louisiana native ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after catching 51 passes for 733 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Williams is a big target at 6-foot-3 and should be another valuable weapon for Marshall.
Rika Levi/Keland McElrath/Marcus Smith/Brandon Thorpe, DL, Texas Tech
We generally list one player in this spot, but let’s cheat a little and cover all of Texas Tech’s junior college signings on the defensive line in this space. The Red Raiders are bringing in four junior college prospects up front, with Levi rated the highest as the No. 119 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. As evidenced by the four incoming prospects, the defensive line is a significant need for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Texas Tech has to replace Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and this unit struggled to stop the run last year (98th nationally). Even if none of these four players become impact performers for Texas Tech, the defense has more options to rotate in the trenches and the overall depth seems to be improved.
Other Names to Watch in 2014
Geronimo Allison/Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
The Fighting Illini desperately need receivers to emerge for quarterback Wes Lunt. The top three targets from last season are gone, leaving Allison and Stone-Davis with a chance to play right away.
Kareem Are/Chad Mavety, OL, Florida State
Neither player is expected to start, but Are and Mavety will bolster Florida State’s depth in the trenches.
Devante Averette, LB, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys need to overhaul their linebacking corps with Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey expiring their eligibility.
Tarow Barney, DL, Penn State
Barney is a rare junior college prospect headed to Happy Valley. He’s a key pickup for a Penn State defense that needs more depth on the defensive line and has to replace DaQuan Jones.
Edmond Boateng, DL, Arizona State
Boateng should help Arizona State’s need for talent on the defensive line. The Virginia native will participate in spring practice.
Kweishi Brown, DB, Arizona State
Brown is due for a significant role in Arizona State’s secondary with the departure of Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby.
Jarell Broxton, OL, Baylor
The Bears tapped into the junior college ranks to help replace three starters on the line. Broxton could play at tackle or guard.
Jamie Byrd, DB, South Florida
Rated as the No. 85 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Expected to push for a starting role in a young South Florida secondary this preseason.
Darrius Caldwell, LB, Arizona State
Another junior college player likely to make an impact at Arizona State. Caldwell will help the Sun Devils replace Carl Bradford and Chris Young at linebacker.
Fahn Cooper, OL, Ole Miss
Has some work to do in order to get eligible, but Cooper would be a key pickup for Hugh Freeze’s rebuilding effort on the offensive line.
Andre Davis, WR, Kansas State
Averaged 20.5 yards per reception at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2013. Wildcats need another receiver to team with Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton after Tramaine Thompson expired his eligibility after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Kenya Dennis, CB, Missouri
Dennis is rated as the No. 100 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and is the only junior college prospect signed by Missouri in this year’s class. He should help fill the void left behind by departing senior E.J. Gaines.
D’Vonta Derricott, LB, Kansas State
Kansas State is in need of impact players at linebacker with Blake Slaughter out of eligibility. Jonathan Truman is settled in at one spot, but the other two positions are up for grabs.
Dominique Harrison, CB, Oregon
Harrison is a cousin of Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch and will help the Ducks replace Terrance Mitchell in 2014.
De’Chavon Hayes, RB, Arizona State
D.J. Foster should be Arizona State’s go-to back, but there will be carries available for Hayes.
David Hedelin/Miguel Machado, OL, Michigan State
Hedelin and Machado help bolster the depth in the trenches for Michigan State, as the Spartans lost three starters from last season.
Calvin Heurtelou/Michael Wyche, DL, Miami
Hurricanes need more depth and talent on the defensive line. Heurtelou and Wyche will help both of those areas in 2014.
Cory Johnson, DT, Kentucky
Johnson could team with incoming freshman Matt Elam to anchor Kentucky’s defensive tackle spots in 2014.
Jonathan Johnson/Trevor Kelly, DL, California
With a new coordinator (Art Kaufman) and the return of a few players from injury, California’s defense should show improvement in 2014. Adding players like Johnson and Kelly will only help improve the talent and depth for next season.
Akeem Judd, RB, Ole Miss
Rated as the No. 31 prospect in the 247Composite, averaging 5.9 yards per carry at Georgia Military College in 2013. Judd should factor into Ole Miss’ backfield rotation, which returns I’Tavius Mathers, Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton.
Joe Keels, DE, Nebraska
Keels is listed as the No. 29 prospect in the 247Composite and will help fill the void created by the departure of Avery Moss.
Josh Keys, DB, Texas Tech
Another key pickup for Texas Tech on the recruiting trail. Could factor into the mix at safety or cornerback.
Nick Kurtz/Devon Blackmon, WR, BYU
BYU’s receiving corps is set for a major makeover next season, as Cody Hoffman, JD Falslev and Skyler Ridley have all expired their eligibility. Kurtz and Blackmon – and UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie – will head the rebuilding effort in Provo.
Davonte Lambert/Devaroe Lawrence, DL, Auburn
Lambert and Lawrence will help the line replace the production lost by the departure of Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae.
Devin Lauderdale, WR, Texas Tech
Red Raiders need a few targets to emerge with the departure of Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro.
Eric Lauderdale, WR, Arizona State
Sun Devils need a No. 2 receiver to emerge to pair with Jaelen Strong. Is Lauderdale the solution?
Jeremy Liggins, ATH, Ole Miss
Massive 6-foot-4, 295-pound prospect could play tight end, defensive end or even quarterback for the Rebels.
Haniteli Lousi, OL, Oregon
Lousi is rated as the No. 20 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will compete for one of the starting guard spots this offseason.
DeAndre Mann, RB, Kansas
Should help the Jayhawks replace 1,000-yard rusher James Sims.
Von Pearson, WR, Tennessee
The Volunteers had success in the junior college ranks with former receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and Butch Jones hopes Pearson can provide the same type of impact. The Virginia native caught 93 passes at Feather River College in 2013.
Jerrard Randall, QB, Arizona
Expected to battle Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon and Texas transfer Conner Brewer for the starting job in Tucson.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
Another weapon for Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.
Chris Sanders, DB, Baylor
Former Georgia defensive back comes to Baylor after two years at Eastern Arizona College. Sanders picked off three passes last season.
Drew Sarvary, OT, Florida
Gators need immediate help in the trenches. Sarvary is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports and will have a chance to earn snaps this spring.
Justin Scott/Sylvester Townes, OL, West Virginia
Scott and Townes should compete for a spot on West Virginia’s line this preseason, which returns only two starters in 2014.
Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss
Former Notre Dame commit was a late flip to Ole Miss. Shepard should help upgrade the overall depth and talent in the secondary for the Rebels.
Sebastian Tretola, OL, Arkansas
The Razorbacks must replace standout center Travis Swanson, but there’s reason for optimism with young linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper back after each started eight games in 2013. Tretola should factor into the mix at tackle next year.
Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
The defense was a huge liability in Champaign last year. The Fighting Illini ranked 104th in scoring defense and 110th in yards allowed. Ward ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will have a chance to start or make an immediate impact next year.
Chris Weatherd, LB, Tennessee
Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Weatherd is expected to help Tennessee’s pass rush next year.
Kenderius Whitehead, DE, Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets need help on the defensive line with the departures of Jeremiah Attaochu, Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings.
Blake Whiteley, TE, Texas
Whiteley is a native of Vancouver and ranks as the No. 51 product in the 247Sports Composite.
Owen Williams, DL, Tennessee
Rebuilding both lines will be a priority for coach Butch Jones this offseason. Williams was the No. 113 prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Worthy, DT, Arizona
Former Boise State lineman was a key pickup for Rich Rodriguez as Arizona looks to upgrade its defense.
With Trevor Knight entrenched as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, Blake Bell is looking for a way to get on the field. Bell started eight games at quarterback in 2013, but the coaching staff plans to move the Kansas native to tight end this spring.
Knight finished the season with a standout performance against Alabama, completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.
Bell came into the 2013 season as a potential All-Big 12 quarterback but never settled into the No. 1 role.
At 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, Bell has the size to be a nightmare matchup for opposing defensive backs. And with Oklahoma losing Lacoltan Bester and Jalen Saunders, more weapons for Knight are needed in 2014.
On paper, this seems like a good move for Oklahoma. If Bell transitions to his new role, he could be a valuable piece of the passing game next season.
Washington quarterback Cyler Miles and receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow were suspended indefinitely by coach Chris Petersen on Thursday afternoon. According to a release from the school, the players were suspended due to a violation of team rules.
The Huskies are scheduled to start spring practice on March 4, and it’s unclear if there will be any clarification on either player’s status for 2014 by then.
Both players are slated to have significant roles in Washington’s offense this season. Miles completed 31 of 67 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns last year and is expected to be the starting quarterback when spring practice opens. Stringfellow caught 20 passes for 259 yards as a true freshman and was scheduled to see more playing time in 2014.
If Miles does not return to the team in time for spring practice, Troy Williams or Jeff Lindquist will get the nod at quarterback.
With National Signing Day in the books, coaches have a clear view of their roster for the upcoming season. Although most recruits won’t arrive on campus until the summer, the coaching staff now has a better idea of what the depth chart might look like for the next year.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini finished his sixth season in Lincoln with a solid 9-4 mark, and the Cornhuskers enter spring practice with momentum after beating Georgia in the Gator Bowl.
Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his six years at Nebraska. However, the expectations in Lincoln are to win a Big Ten championship, and Pelini and his staff hopes the 2014 signing class is another step in claiming a conference title.
Where Nebraska’s 2014 Signing Class Came From
The Cornhuskers signed a total of 24 prospects in the 2014 signing class and will bring on 18 players as walk-on recruits.
While some programs can live off in-state recruiting to fill out a class, Nebraska has to go outside of the state borders.
The Cornhuskers inked prospects from 13 states, including four from Texas, three from Florida and two from Missouri.
Here’s the full breakdown of Nebraska’s recruiting class:
|Texas - 4||Nevada - 1|
|Florida - 3||Wisconsin - 1|
|Nebraska - 3||Kansas - 1|
|Louisiana - 3||Virginia - 1|
|Missouri - 2||Alabama - 1|
|Illinois - 2|
|Mississippi - 1|
|Georgia - 1|
Of note: 22 of the 24 prospects signed came from the high school ranks, with only two junior college recruits.
Areas of Focus
|Defensive Backs - 5||Running Backs - 2|
|Wide Receivers - 4||Tight End - 1|
|Offensive Line - 4||Kicker - 1|
|Defensive Line - 4||Linebacker - 1|
|Quarterbacks - 2|
With Nebraska set to lose guards Spencer Long and Andrew Rodriguez, center Cole Pensick and tackles Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles, the offensive line was one of this team’s biggest needs in 2014. Ideally, the Cornhuskers will be able to redshirt their four recruits on the line. However, signing four players will help keep the numbers at a stable level for Pelini. Illinois native Tanner Farmer is the highest rated lineman of the bunch, ranking No. 251 nationally in 247Sports Composite rankings. Nevada’s Nick Gates ranks No. 293 in the same evaluation, while D.J. Foster ranks No. 474 nationally.
As we mentioned above, the signing class in 2014 isn’t necessarily about answering the needs for the upcoming year. Instead, a recruiting class is often the answer for the next two or three seasons. But in Nebraska’s case, with cornerbacks Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, along with safety Andrew Green departing, more depth was needed right away in the secondary. Five defensive backs were signed, including junior college recruit Byerson Cockrell. The other four defensive backs inked by Pelini were all three-star recruits, including Nebraska native Luke Gifford (No. 867 in 247Sports Composite).
Four receivers signed in the 2014 signing class, which is clearly a need with Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell set to expire their eligibility at the end of this season.
Another area of focus was the defensive line, as a total of four prospects are slated to join that unit. Junior college recruit Joe Keels and freshman Peyton Newell are two names to watch this preseason.
Byerson Cockrell, DB (East Mississippi Community College)
Recorded 33 tackles and three interceptions at East Mississippi Community College last season.
Zack Darlington, QB (Apopka High School)
Missed most of senior year due to injury. Rated as the No. 440 national recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite rankings.
Joe Keels, DE (Highland Community College)
Rated as the No. 43 junior college recruit by ESPN.
Potential Impact Recruits for 2014
Zack Darlington, QB
Tommy Armstrong should have the inside track to win the starting job, but redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton and Darlington will have a chance to make their case for the No. 1 spot this preseason.
Tanner Farmer, OL
At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Farmer has the necessary size to play as a true freshman. Even if Farmer doesn’t start, he could be a valuable piece of the two-deep on the offensive line.
Nick Gates, OL
Another potential future stalwart on the offensive line will likely factor into the two-deep.
Joe Keels, DE/Byerson Cockrell, DB
When you bring in junior college recruits, you don’t bring them in to sit on the bench. Expect Keels and Cockrell to find a place on the depth chart this year.
Drew Brown, K
Should battle to replace Pat Smith at kicker.
After finishing inside of the top 30 in the team recruiting standings from 2011-13, Nebraska slipped to No. 35 nationally in the 247Sports rankings. The slight drop comes after finishing No. 17 nationally in 2013. Is it a reason to panic? Not at all. As all college football fans know, recruiting rankings are an inexact science. The Cornhuskers wisely added players on the offensive and defensive lines, while offering spots to receivers who can help with depth in 2014 or an even bigger role in 2015. Most of Nebraska’s starting lineup next year is in good shape, so there may be only a few players from the 2014 signing class making an immediate impact.
On paper, this appears to be a solid all-around class by Nebraska. The Cornhuskers finished No. 6 in the Big Ten and signed 22 three-star recruits. There’s always room to improve, but Pelini and the staff added a group that will help Nebraska compete for the Big Ten West Division title in 2014.
National Signing Day is essentially Christmas morning for college football coaches. The first Wednesday in February officially marks the addition of 20-30 new players for each roster, which is the result of nearly a year of work on the recruiting trail. And of course, coaching staffs are relieved just to get the class on campus and not have to worry anymore about a player changing his mind at the last minute or wondering if the parents will agree to sign the letter of intent.
Recruiting evaluations and rankings are an inexact science. Some five-star players won’t pan out into All-Americans, while a handful of two or three-star recruits will develop into some of the top players in the nation.
But while there are misses in recruiting evaluations, some of the star ratings do turn out to be accurate. And with that in mind, it’s time to take a look at which players could make an impact in their first season on campus.
It’s never easy to predict which freshmen could make an early impact in 2014. However, here’s a quick look at 10 players that can make a splash on the gridiron next season, along with a handful of names to watch this preseason.
10 True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2014
Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
After two prolific seasons in College Station, Johnny Manziel decided to leave for the NFL. Manziel leaves big shoes to fill, but the Aggies seem to have three capable options waiting to battle for the starting spot. Sophomore Kenny Hill and senior Matt Joeckel have an edge in experience, but Allen’s talent and upside will be tough to keep off the field. The Arizona native was the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 247 Composite rankings, finishing his high school career with 8,201 yards and 86 touchdowns. Allen doesn’t have Manziel’s mobility, but the 6-foot-3 freshman has a quick release and is one of the most accurate passers in the 2014 signing class. Enrolling in time to participate in spring practice will help Allen’s development, and he is expected to push Hill and Joeckel for the starting job.
Tony Brown/Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
We will cheat just a bit in this space and list two players instead of one. Although Alabama finished No. 2 in the SEC in pass defense, the Crimson Tide need immediate help in the secondary. Deion Belue and John Fulton expired their eligibility, and the cornerback play wasn’t quite up to Alabama’s usual standards last year. Even though it’s tough for true freshmen to make an impact at cornerback in the SEC, Brown and Humphrey should help right away. In the final 247Sports Composite rankings, Brown ranked as the No. 9 recruit, while Humphrey was No. 12. Both players have the athleticism and talent to make an immediate contribution in the secondary. And it’s likely Brown and Humphrey will find their way onto several future All-SEC lists.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Running back is arguably the easiest position to play as a true freshman in college, and Cook is just one of a handful of incoming recruits that will likely make a significant impact on the 2014 season from this position. Cook is the No. 13 recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings and is regarded as a five-star prospect by Rivals. Playing time in the Florida State backfield is available right away, as James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman left early for the NFL. Karlos Williams converted from safety to running back during the 2013 season and is expected to open the year as the No. 1 option. However, Cook should see plenty of action. The Miami native has excellent speed and elusiveness and has the size (5-foot-11, 196 pounds) to be more than a specialty player for the Seminoles. Expect Jimbo Fisher to get Cook involved early and often in 2014.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
With Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry off to the NFL, the wide receiver position is a glaring need for LSU. Travin Dural is the team’s top returning statistical option at the position, catching only seven passes for 145 yards last year. Dural and Avery Peterson provide a solid foundation for new quarterback Anthony Jennings, but Dupre is a big catch on the recruiting trail. The New Orleans native turned down an opportunity to play at Florida State and committed to the in-state Tigers. Dupre was the No. 17 recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings and averaged 17.9 yards per catch as a high school senior. Expect Dupre to be prominently featured in LSU’s passing attack next year.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
As the No. 1 rated recruit in 247Sports Composite ranking, it should be no surprise Fournette makes an appearance on this list. The New Orleans native committed to LSU in early January and is already slated for a big role in the backfield in 2014. The Tigers lost Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue to the NFL Draft, leaving Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard as the top returning rushers. Magee and Hilliard are capable options, but Fournette is a special talent. At 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, Fournette has the size to be an every-down back, while also possessing good speed to break big plays on the ground. Look for Fournette to emerge as LSU’s No. 1 back (and a potential All-SEC player) in 2014.
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Even though Texas A&M has to replace Johnny Manziel, the defense is an even bigger concern for Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies allowed 6.4 yards per play in 2013 and finished last in the SEC by giving up 32.2 points a game. Youth and injuries played a role in the defensive struggles, but more talent and difference-makers are needed. That’s where Garrett comes into play. The 6-foot-4 defensive end registered 20.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a high school senior. Most scouting reports believe Garrett has room to improve as a pass rusher, but he has excellent athleticism and has the upside to grow into a dominant defensive end. Garrett is the type of player Sumlin needs to turn Texas A&M’s defense into a strength.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Not only is McMillan poised to claim a spot on the all-name team next season, the Georgia native is likely to be one of the top impact recruits in the nation. Ohio State had an uncharacteristic year on defense last year, finishing seventh in the conference in yards allowed per game and 11th against the pass. Urban Meyer wasn’t going to stand pat after 2013, and changes started on the coaching staff, with Larry Johnson Sr. joining from Penn State and Chris Ash coming from Arkansas to share the defensive coordinator title with Luke Fickell. The back seven of the defense will receive the most attention this preseason, especially after cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier left early for the NFL. McMillan is the No. 22 recruit in the 247Sports Composite ranking and is a five-star prospect by ESPN. The Georgia native is physically ready to play and can anchor the middle of the linebacking corps if he wins the starting job this preseason.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
With quarterback Trevor Knight coming off a strong performance in the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma is a team on the rise for the 2014 season. Can the Sooners build on that momentum and claim a spot in the playoffs? Much will depend on Knight’s development, but Oklahoma also needs a go-to back to emerge. Enter Mixon. Brennan Clay and Roy Finch have expired their eligibility, leaving talented, but inexperienced options in Keith Ford and Alex Ross as the top two running backs. Mixon was rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN, while 247Sports Composite rankings placed the California native No. 21 nationally. Mixon checks in at a sturdy 6-foot-1, 209 pounds and is regarded as one of the top all-around backs in the 2014 signing class. If Mixon is as good as advertised, he might be the final piece in Oklahoma’s run to a Big 12 title next year.
Cameron Robinson, OT, Alabama
Offensive linemen can significantly benefit from a redshirt year to develop in the weight room, but Robinson may not have that luxury. Alabama loses two starters from last year’s line, including standout left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. Robinson is the No. 4 recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings and is considered the top offensive line prospect in the 2014 signing class. The Louisiana native is a mammoth 6-foot-7 tackle prospect that has all of the tools to start for three years at tackle in Tuscaloosa. Although Robinson is eventually the answer to one of Alabama’s tackle spots, with Austin Shepherd returning after starting 13 games last year, and standout junior college recruit Dominick Jackson also on the way to Tuscaloosa, Robinson can ease his way into the starting lineup.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Replacing Tajh Boyd’s production will be no easy assignment for Clemson. That task is made even more challenging with the departures of receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. But the news in Death Valley wasn’t all bad so far this offseason, as offensive coordinator Chad Morris didn’t leave to be a head coach, and the receiving corps is still in good shape with Charone Peake, Adam Humphries and Mike Williams returning for next season. Watson enrolled early to compete with Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly this spring, and there’s a good chance the true freshman will win the No. 1 job. Watson accounted for 17,134 yards in his high school career and was the No. 41 prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. The Georgia native is also a dual-threat option, and if he quickly picks up the offense this spring, Watson could have a huge freshman campaign under Morris’ direction.
Five More Names Likely to Make an Impact
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Evans is from Auburn, Ala., yet decided to sign with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-3 linebacker is a good fit as an edge rusher for the Alabama defense.
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
Hurd is one of the top recruits in Butch Jones’ monster 36-man class. The Tennessee native is listed as a five-star prospect by 247Sports.
Ermon Lane, WR, Florida State
Lane is one of two elite receiver prospects to sign with Florida State. The Homestead native could be one of Jameis Winston’s top targets in 2014.
Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State
Rudolph is the second of Florida State’s instant impact recruits at receiver. The West Palm Beach native is regarded for his excellent hands and speed.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
The missing piece in Stanford’s offense last year? A tight end. Schultz should solve that problem in 2014.
Other Names to Know for 2014
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
LSU is loaded with talent in the secondary. Cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White anchor one of the top pass defenses in the nation next year, but safety Craig Loston must be replaced. Adams will likely find his way onto the field in some capacity in 2014.
Drew Barker, QB, Kentucky
Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith are back in the mix in 2014, but Barker will be tough to keep off the field. He ranked the No. 6 pro quarterback by 247Sports.
Saeed Blacknall, WR, Penn State
Blacknall was a late pickup in the recruiting process for James Franklin, and he could be one of Penn State’s key additions. With Allen Robinson off to the NFL, Blacknall will have an opportunity to earn immediate playing time.
Andrew Brown, DT/Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
Coming off a 2-10 season, it’s rare to see a program land a five-star recruit. However, the Cavaliers landed two five-star prospects, and Brown and Blanding should be on the field right away this year.
K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
Cannon could be Baylor’s answer to replacing Tevin Reese’s speed and big-play ability next season.
Lorenzo Carter, DL, Georgia
Even though the Bulldogs return nearly everyone on defense, Carter – the No. 18 prospect in the 247Composite rankings – will be tough to keep off the field for new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Matt Elam, DT, Kentucky
Elam is one of the key recruits for Mark Stoops’ second class in Lexington. He should play right away on Kentucky’s defensive line, especially with Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble departing at tackle.
Will Grier, QB, Florida
Tyler Murphy transferred to Boston College, but Jeff Driskel is returning from a leg injury that forced him to miss most of 2013. Driskel is Florida’s likely starter, but Grier will provide competition.
Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama
Nick Saban reeled in another elite recruiting class, which includes one of the top defensive line hauls in the nation. Hand is the No. 5 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and should find his way into the rotation next year.
Brandon Harris, QB, LSU
It’s never easy to start as a true freshman in the SEC. But if Anthony Jennings struggles in his first year as LSU’s starting quarterback, will the Tigers let Harris play?
Drake Harris, WR, Michigan
Although Michigan’s offensive line is the team’s biggest concern this spring, the Wolverines also need to develop more weapons for quarterback Devin Gardner. Harris may provide a boost to the receiving corps right away.
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
Even with Khris Francis, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris already in place at running back, North Carolina will have to find a way to get Hood on the field.
Adoree’ Jackson, CB/WR, USC
The No. 7 prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings was a Signing Day pickup for Steve Sarkisian. Jackson could play on offense or defense.
Jeff Jones, RB, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers held off a challenge from other BCS programs to land Jones in the 2014 signing class. Jones should team with David Cobb to give Minnesota an effective one-two punch.
Laurence Jones, S, Alabama
Landon Collins is set at one safety spot for Nick Saban, but who will replace the contributions from Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
Stephen Morris has expired his eligibility at Miami, leaving Kaaya, senior Ryan Williams, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and sophomore Gray Crow competing for the No. 1 job.
Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
It’s rare for Iowa State to sign a top-100 recruit, so getting Lazard to Ames is a big deal for Paul Rhoads. The Cyclones return Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs, but Lazard will be tough to keep off the field.
Damien Mama, OL, USC
The Trojans need bodies on the offensive line with two starters leaving. Mama will play for new coach Steve Sarkisian in 2014 and will take a two-year Mormon mission after his freshman season.
Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
As his nickname would indicate, Noil is fast, athletic and a potential game-changer for Texas A&M’s offense. The Aggies have one of the SEC’s top receiving corps, but Noil will have a place on the field in 2014.
Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan
Wolverines appear to be set at cornerback with Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, but Peppers will find a role in Greg Mattison's defense.
Damian Prince, OT, Maryland
The Terrapins have to upgrade their talent to compete in their new Big Ten home, and Prince – a five-star tackle – should help the offense in 2014.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
With Clint Chelf departing, the Cowboys will turn to J.W. Walsh and Rudolph to battle for the starting job this spring.
Foster Sawyer/Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU
Casey Pachall is gone, and Trevone Boykin will likely play in an athlete role on offense in 2014. Sawyer or Muehlstein have an opportunity to win the starting job.
David Sharpe, OT, Florida
The Gators need immediate help on the offensive line. Sharpe was selected to the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Arrion Springs, CB, Oregon
Could Springs help fill the void left by Terrance Mitchell’s early departure to the NFL?
Dylan Summer-Gardner, S, Boise State
Summer-Gardner ranks as the No. 87 overall recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings and is the prize of Bryan Harsin’s first recruiting class at Boise State.
Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
The Gators got a huge contribution from one true freshman at cornerback last season (Vernon Hargreaves III). Could Tabor make the same type of impact?
Rod Taylor, OL, Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze and his staff wasted no time getting top recruit Laremy Tunsil into the mix last year. With that in mind, Taylor could be in the mix for playing time this fall.
Racean Thomas, RB, Auburn
Tre Mason emerged as one of the top running backs in the nation but chose to leave Auburn for the NFL. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are back, but there’s room for Thomas to find a role in 2014.
Casey Tucker, OT, Stanford
Another standout offensive lineman heads to Stanford. Tucker was the No. 82 prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Tyler Whiley, WR, Arizona State
Whiley was listed by some recruiting services as a cornerback recruit, but he appears ticketed for a spot at receiver in 2014.
Dexter Wideman, DT, South Carolina
Wideman flipped from Florida State to South Carolina on Signing Day. His commitment is huge for a defense that has to replace standout tackle Kelcy Quarles.
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona
Someone has to replace Ka’Deem Carey. Is this Fresno native the next star running back under Rich Rodriguez?
Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami
Duke Johnson is expected to miss spring practice recovering from a leg injury suffered in the loss to Florida State. The junior should be at full strength for the season opener, but Yearby gives Miami a good fallback option if Johnson needs a lighter workload early in the year.
File Away for 2015
Keller Chryst, QB, Stanford
Kevin Hogan still has two more years of eligibility remaining, but Chryst will be a name to watch in 2015 or 2016 as Stanford’s quarterback of the future.
David Cornwell, QB, Alabama
It’s not out of the question Cornwell wins the starting job this offseason, but with Jacob Coker transferring in from Florida State, it’s hard to envision the true freshman starting in Week 1.
J.J. Cosentino, QB, Florida State
When it comes to quarterbacks, there’s not a better evaluator of talent than Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. 2014 could be Jameis Winston’s last season in Tallahassee, and with a redshirt year ahead, Cosentino could be in the mix to start in 2015.
Morgan Mahalak, QB, Oregon
If Marcus Mariota leaves for the NFL after 2014, Mahalak will be in the mix to take over as Oregon’s starter in 2015. A redshirt year makes sense for the California native with Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues returning as backups next year.
Sean White, QB, Auburn
Is White the replacement for Nick Marshall in 2015?
Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
With Todd Gurley returning and Keith Marshall back from a torn ACL, playing time could be limited for Michel in 2014. However, Gurley isn’t expected to stick in Athens for his senior year, which leaves Michel in position to take the top spot in the Georgia backfield in 2015.
Jacob Park, QB, Georgia
Hutson Mason should be set as Georgia’s starter in 2014. Park seems destined for a redshirt and an opportunity to compete for the starting nod in 2015.
Arizona has announced a small tweak to its football uniforms for 2014. The Wildcats used a gradient look on their numbers last season but will switch to a solid color in 2014.
The gradient numbers are an interesting look for jerseys, but the solid color is easier to identify.
Here’s a look at the updated jerseys for 2014:
New jerseys, helmets and color schemes are the latest craze in college football, and several new designs will likely be unveiled throughout the long offseason.
Indiana unveiled six helmet designs last season, but that may not be all that’s coming in the way of new headgear for the Hoosiers.
According to this picture posted by receiver Cody Latimer (entering the NFL Draft in 2014), Indiana has a more potential designs in the works, including a red matte helmet with a black stripe down the center.
The first Wednesday in February is essentially Christmas for every college football head coach. After months of hard work on the recruiting trail, coaches will hit the offices bright and early on Wednesday for National Signing Day to welcome a new class full of freshmen and maybe a few junior college transfers to chase a national championship. With a new crop of players joining the program on National Signing Day, each coach now has a good idea about how their roster looks for the upcoming season and beyond. While National Signing Day is an important moment in building a national title contender, it also signifies the official start of next year’s recruiting class.
With most college football teams signing around 25 prospects on Wednesday, there’s over 3,000 players coming to the FBS ranks next season. And it’s no surprise there are some rather entertaining names among the new group of college players. Athlon combed through the recruits for the 2014 signing class by using the databases at Rivals, Scout and ESPN and rounded up the best (and most interesting) names joining an FBS roster next season.
Note: Positions of players can very from recruiting service. Players in this article were listed by position according to Scout.
2014 College Football Recruiting All-Name Team
Raymond Crochet (Salmen) Slidell, Louisiana
Prince Dukes (Curtis) Staten Island, New York
Bear Fenimore (Westwood) Austin, Texas
Ramroth Finnegan (Whetstone) Columbus, Ohio
Chase Forrest (Mater Dei) Santa Ana, California
Hunter Fralick (Spanish Springs High School) Sparks, Nevada
Baron Gajkowski (Lone Peak) Highland, Utah
Justice Hansen (Santa Fe) Edmond, Oklahoma
Rip Kirk (South Panola) Batesville, Mississippi
Chipper Lucero (Alta) Sandy, Utah
Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur) Decatur, Texas
Rafe Peavey (Bolivar) Bolivar, Missouri
Nicodem Pierre (Coral Reef Senior High School) Miami, Florida
Gunner Roach (UMS Wright Preparatory) Mobile, Alabama
Roosevelt Appleton (Hightower) Sugar Land, Texas
Wadzaire Blanc (Lake Nona) Orlando, Florida
Squally Canada (Milpitas) Milpitas, California
Juan Day (North Little Rock) North Little Rock, Arkansas
Taiwan Deal (Dematha Catholic) Hyattsville, Maryland
Raekwon James (John Curtis Christian) River Ridge, Louisiana
Tommy Mister (St. Rita) Chicago, Illinois
Orange Mooney (Hutchinson C.C.) Hutchinson, Kansas
Devine Redding (Glenville) Cleveland, Ohio
Superiorr Reid (Mount San Jacinto) San Jacinto, California
Tomaria Stringfellow (Sam Houston) San Antonio, Texas
Forrest Town (Zachary) Zachary, Louisiana
Jay’Metric Tucker (Hudson Valley) Troy, New York
Solomon Vault (Gaithersburg) Gaithersburg, Maryland
Chip Wannamaker (Bamberg Ehrhardt) Bamberg, South Carolina
Papi White (Seminole) Seminole, Oklahoma
Ish Witter (Alonso) Tampa, Florida
Traevohn Wrench (Gardner Edgerton) Gardner, Kansas
Geronimo Allison (Iowa Western) Council Bluffs, Iowa
Kd Cannon (Mt. Pleasant) Mount Pleasant, Texas
Freddy Canteen (Eastern
Christian Academy) Elkton, Maryland
Marceles Clash (Muir) Pasadena, California
Bingo Morton (Langston Hughes) Fairburn, Georgia
Picasso Nelson (Oak Grove Attendance Center) Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Devante “Speedy” Noil (Edna Karr) New Orleans, Louisiana
Wisdom Offor (American Senior) Hialeah, Florida
Michiah Quick (Central High East Campus) Fresno, California
Hunter Sharp (Antelope Valley) Lancaster, California
Thaddeus Snodgrass (Springfield) Springfield, Ohio
Ryan Watercutter (Bishop Swenger) Fort Wayne, Indiana
T.V. Williams (McKinney) McKinney, Texas
Freedom Akinmoladun (Grandview Senior) Grandview, Missouri
Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte Christian) Charlotte, North Carolina
Evan Butts (The Episcopal Academy) Merion, Pennsylvania
Marvin Fanfan (ASA) Brooklyn, New York
Stoney Hawkins (Centennial) Frisco, Texas
Austin Rukthavornsakul (McQueen) Reno, Nevada
Cannon Smith (Hammond School) Columbia, South Carolina
Moral Stephens (Taylor County) Perry, Florida
Beau Benzschawel (Grafton) Grafton, Wisconsin
Will Clapp (Brother Martin) New Orleans, Louisiana
Tanner Farmer (Highland) Highland, Illinois
Hunter Knight (Providence Christian) Dothan, Alabama
Damien Mama (St. John Bosco) Bellflower, California
Justin Muehlheausler (St. John Vianney) Kirkwood, Missouri
Hunter Ponder (Mansfield) Mansfield, Texas
Messiah Rice (Orangeburg Wilkinson) Orangeburg, South Carolina
Thor Riemer (Osceola) Osceola, Wisconsin
Hunter Steel (Chartiers Valley) Bridgeville, Pennsylvania
Tennessee Su’esu’e (East) Salt Lake City, Utah
Bentley Spain (Providence) Charlotte, North Carolina
Z Stephenson (Bloomington High School North) Bloomington, Indiana
Bearooz Yacoobi (Dearborn) Dearborn, Michigan
Poncho Barnwell (Nassau) Garden City, New York
Demarcus Christmas (Manatee) Bradenton, Florida
Lion King Conway (Southfield) Southfield, Michigan
Fritz Desir (Gulf Coast) Naples, Florida
Poona Ford (Hilton Head) Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge) Woodbridge, Virginia
Hercules Mata’afa (Lahainaluna) Lahaina, Hawaii
Godspower Ogide (Bishop Kearney) Rochester, New York
Naquez Pringle (Carver’s Bay) Georgetown, South Carolina
Gasetoto Schuster (Polytechnic) Long Beach, California
Breeland Speaks (Callaway Senior) Jackson, Mississippi
Dexter Wideman (Saluda) Saluda, South Carolina
St. Pierre Anilus (Georgia Military) Milledgeville, Georgia
Cash Barden (College of the Canyons) Santa Clarita, California
Coult Culler (Emsley A. Laney) Wilmington, North Carolina
Colton Jumper (The Hun School) Princeton, New Jersey
Thor Katoa (Pine View Middle) St. George, Utah
Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest) Woodberry Forrest, Virginia
Boadie Matts (Sandalwood) Jacksonville, Florida
Raekwon McMillan (Liberty County) Hinesville, Georgia
Justice Rawlins (Monessen SHS) Monessen, Pennsylvania
Serge Trezy (Eastern Arizona) Thatcher, Arizona
Olajuwon Tucker (Junipero Serra) Gardena, California
Budda Baker (Bellevue) Bellevue, Washington
Jukobie Boatwright (Emanuel County Institute) Twin City, Georgia
Zykiesis Cannon (Carolina) Greenville, South Carolina
Mookie Carlile (Stephenville) Stephenville, Texas
Justice Davila (Timber Creek) Sicklerville, New Jersey
Dominique Fenstermacher (Mountain Pointe) Phoenix, Arizona
A.J. Greathouse (Hamilton) Chandler, Arizona
Breckin Gunter (Box Elder) Brigham City, Utah
Sky Manu (Bingham) South Jordan, Utah
Juju Smith (Polytechnic) Long Beach, California
Finus Stribling (Independence) Thompson’s Station, Tennessee
Wonderful Terry (Garden City) Garden City, Kansas
Deshaun Thrower (Muskegon) Muskegon, Michigan
Bright Ugwoegbu (Seven Lakes) Katy, Texas
Vlassios Pizanias (Hubbard) Hubbard, Ohio
After an extended search, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has finally hired his offensive and defensive coordinator for the 2014 season.
Joe Rossi held the title of interim defensive coordinator after Dave Cohen was fired, and Flood has decided to keep Rossi on the staff as the full-time coordinator.
On the offensive side of the ball, Rutgers will welcome a familiar face back the college football sidelines. Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has been hired as the Scarlet Knights’ offensive coordinator. Friedgen has been out of football since he was fired at Maryland after the 2010 season. However, prior to his exit in College Park, Friedgen was regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the ACC. He should significantly upgrade Rutgers’ offense next year.
The hires of Friedgen and Rossi are crucial for Rutgers. With a move to the Big Ten on tap for 2014, the competition is only going to get tougher for the Scarlet Knights, and Flood is on the hot seat after a 6-7 record in 2013.
With Cody Kessler entrenched as the starter, and Max Browne expected to push for playing time this spring, Max Wittek was the odd man out in the USC quarterback derby. And with limited playing time likely on tap for 2014, Wittek has decided to transfer from USC.
Since he will graduate from USC, Wittek will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.
In two years with the Trojans, Wittek completed 50 of 95 passes for 600 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions.
After Matt Barkley suffered a season-ending injury against UCLA, Wittek started the final two games in 2012, including a 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Even though Wittek struggled in his two seasons at USC, he was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and was a top-100 recruit by Rivals.
Considering Wittek has upside and immediate eligibility, several FBS are expected to be interested in the California native this spring.
College football’s BCS era ended with Florida State’s victory over Auburn on Jan. 6 in the national championship. With the playoff era set to start next season, lets look back at the BCS era and some of the coaching tenures that were a time to forget for certain fanbases.
Determining the worst coaching tenures for any period is no easy task. Each program has its own set of hurdles to overcome, and all coaches aren’t on equal footing when they take over a job.
In forming Athlon’s list of the top 25 worst coaching tenures of the BCS era, we placed an emphasis on what shape the program is before the coach arrived, how it fared during his tenure, and the short-term effect after his departure. Programs like Eastern Michigan or New Mexico State have traditionally been a difficult place to establish a winning tradition, so it’s hard to punish coaches from both schools (or similar circumstances), even if their record is uninspiring. On the other side, programs like Southern Miss or East Carolina have a track record of success recently. Which makes the 0-12 by Ellis Johnson and 3-20 by John Thompson among the worst tenures of the BCS era (since 1998).
College Football’s Worst 25 Tenures of the BCS Era
1. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
Record: 2-26 (2009-11)
Locksley was regarded as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches and recruiters when he left Illinois to join New Mexico in 2009. The Washington, D.C. native was able to attract some talent to Albuquerque, but it didn’t translate into results on the field. Locksley’s tenure at New Mexico lasted only three years, with his final season ending after the fourth game. Locksley won just two Mountain West games during his tenure and was suspended for one game due to an altercation with an assistant coach.
2. Larry Porter, Memphis
Record: 3-21 (2010-11)
Porter’s tenure is another example of why programs should be reluctant to hire ace recruiters with no head coaching experience. The former Memphis running back was hired as the Tigers’ head coach in 2010 and lasted only two years. Porter didn’t inherit a disaster at Memphis, as Tommy West went 15-23 over his final three years and played in a bowl game in 2008. Porter’s teams were largely uncompetitive, and his three wins came against MTSU (6-7 in 2010), Austin Peay (a FCS opponent) and Tulane (2-11 in 2011). After Porter’s unsuccessful tenure, Memphis got it right by hiring Justin Fuente, who went 4-8 in his first season with the Tigers.
3. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Record: 0-12 (2012)
There aren’t many one-year stints as a college football head coach. But it was clear to Southern Miss after just one season that Johnson wasn’t the right fit for the program. The Golden Eagles turned in arguably their worst season in school history, finishing with an 0-12 mark, with the offense ranking 110th nationally in scoring and the defense finishing 113th in points allowed. Southern Miss was replacing a handful of key contributors from its 2011 squad, but the Golden Eagles still had enough talent in the program to compete for a bowl bid. Johnson is an excellent defensive coordinator, but Southern Miss clearly made the right call to pull the plug after one season.
4. John Thompson, East Carolina
Record: 3-20 (2003-04)
After Steve Logan was fired in 2002, the Pirates made a big mistake by hiring Thompson. In the two years prior to Thompson’s arrival, East Carolina went 10-14. And in two seasons under Thompson, the Pirates slumped to 3-20. However, the program rebounded under Skip Holtz in 2005, winning five games and then seven in ‘06. Thompson is another case of a good coordinator that was not ready to be a head coach. And his record looks even worse when you consider two of his victories came against Army with the other one being Tulane.
5. Rob Ianello, Akron
Record: 2-22 (2010-11)
Prior to taking over at Akron, Ianello had no coordinator experience and was coming off a four-year stint on Charlie Weis’ staff at Notre Dame. The results were disastrous for the Zips. Ianello won just one game in each of his two years in Akron and went winless in MAC play in 2011. The Zips beat Buffalo in 2010 – a Bulls team that went 2-10 – and VMI in ‘11 under Ianello’s watch. Although Ianello’s tenure was a failure, the school deserves poor marks for firing him on the way to his mother’s funeral.
6. Greg Robinson, Syracuse
Record: 10-37 (2005-08)
Although Paul Pasqualoni has struggled at Connecticut, he went 26-23 over his last four seasons at Syracuse from 2001-04. While Robinson wasn’t inheriting a roster full of talent, he wasn’t getting a bare cupboard either. The Orange went from being a consistent bowl team to one that struggled just to get a couple of wins a year under Robinson’s watch. The Orange never won more than one Big East game in a single year under Robinson, and he recorded the program’s only double-digit losing seasons.
7. Todd Dodge, North Texas
Record: 6-37 (2007-10)
You have to credit North Texas for at least thinking outside of the box with Dodge’s hire. After being a successful high school coach in Texas, Dodge was supposed to turn North Texas back into a Sun Belt power. Instead, the Mean Green nosedived into being one of the worst teams in the nation. North Texas went 6-37 under Dodge’s watch and never won more than one conference game from 2007-10. Considering where North Texas is on college football’s food chain, a hire like Dodge is worth the risk. However, the Mean Green are still trying to dig out from his tenure, as Dan McCarney is just 9-15 over the last two years.
8. Turner Gill, Kansas
Record: 5-19 (2010-11)
Surprising. That’s the one word that comes to mind when mentioning Gill’s tenure at Kansas. Although his record at Buffalo – not an easy place to win – wasn’t overly impressive (20-30), he did lead the Bulls to a bowl game and a MAC Championship in 2008. Gill inherited a Kansas team that went 5-7 in Mark Mangino’s last season (2009), but the Jayhawks regressed in 2010-11. Kansas won just one Big 12 game under Gill’s watch – a 52-45 victory over Colorado – and finished 2011 on a 10-game losing streak. Considering the high expectations surrounding his arrival, Gill might be one of the most disappointing hires of the BCS era.
9. Carl Franks, Duke
Record: 7-45 (1999-2003)
It’s not easy to maintain success at Duke. But it’s also hard to ignore a 7-45 record over five years. Franks came to Durham from Florida, as he served as an assistant with Steve Spurrier from 1990-98 in Gainesville. Franks also had experience at Duke, as he played for the Blue Devils and later coached there from 1987-89. The high point of Franks’ tenure was a 3-8 mark in 1999, but that record was followed up by back-to-back 0-11 seasons. The Blue Devils never won an ACC game in Franks’ final full three years at Duke.
10. Ted Roof, Duke
Record: 6-45 (2003-07)
As mentioned with Carl Franks, winning at Duke is no easy task. However, the Blue Devils can be much more competitive than they were under Franks and Roof. After taking over for Franks in 2003, Roof guided Duke to a 2-3 finish, including a 30-22 win over rival North Carolina. However, the momentum was short-lived, as the Blue Devils won only four games over the next four years. Duke also went winless in ACC play from 2005-07 under Roof’s guidance.
11. Jon Embree, Colorado
Record: 4-21 (2011-12)
Even though Embree was a Colorado alum, he was a questionable hire from the start. The former Buffaloes’ tight end had no coordinator or head coach experience and was serving as a tight ends’ coach for the Redskins prior to his arrival in Boulder in 2011. Embree didn’t inherit the best situation following Dan Hawkins, but Colorado showed little improvement under his watch. The Buffaloes went 3-11 in Embree’s first year and managed to win two out of their final three games. However, Colorado was arguably one of the worst teams of the BCS era in 2012, losing to Colorado State and Sacramento State to start the year and was demolished by Fresno State 69-14 in Week 3. Embree played a lot of young players and dealt with some injuries to key personnel, but the Buffaloes struggled mightily and his 1-11 season is the worst in Colorado history.
12. Kevin Steele, Baylor
Record: 9-36 (1999-2002)
Steele is a highly regarded defensive assistant but had a dismal stint as a head coach at Baylor. The South Carolina native was hired at Baylor in 1999, after spending four years as an assistant with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Prior to his arrival in Waco, Steele had no head coaching experience – and it clearly showed. The Bears had three consecutive losing seasons before Steele’s debut, but Baylor backtracked under his watch. The Bears went 1-10 in 1999 and then 8-26 in the next three years. Steele’s biggest blunder came against UNLV in 1999, as he chose to run a play instead of kneeling down with 12 seconds left. Baylor fumbled on that play, and the turnover was returned by UNLV for a touchdown, giving the Rebels a 27-24 victory.
13. Bobby Wallace, Temple
Record: 19-71 (1998-2004)
After leading North Alabama to three Division II championships from 1993-95, Wallace appeared to be the right coach to make Temple competitive in the Big East. He managed to make some progress, as the Owls won four games for three consecutive years. Although four victories may not seem like much, Temple had not won more than three games in a season since 1990. However, Wallace didn’t make enough progress under his watch, and the Owls were dismissed from the Big East after the 2004 season. Temple was forced to play 2005 as an Independent and posted a dreadful 0-11 record. The highlight of Wallace’s tenure? A 28-24 win over then-Big East memberVirginia Tech in Blacksburg in 1998.
14. Vic Koenning, Wyoming
Record: 5-29 (2000-02)
When Koenning was promoted to replace Dana Dimel, Wyoming had put together seven consecutive years of six or more wins, including a 10-2 mark in 1996. However, Koenning was unable to continue that momentum, and the Cowboys fell into the bottom of the Mountain West. Under Koenning’s watch, Wyoming went 5-29, which included only one win in conference play and two others against FCS opponents. Koenning is a solid defensive coordinator but was overmatched as a head coach.
15. Terry Shea, Rutgers
Record: 11-44 (1996-2000)
Shea’s tenure started just outside of the BCS era, but his three years in the required timeframe were a struggle. Rutgers went 2-20 in his first two seasons and recorded a 9-24 mark over the final three years. Shea did manage to go 5-6 in 1998 but was blown out by Temple in 1999 and 2000 and went a combined 4-18 from 1999-2000. The cupboard wasn’t full for Shea when he arrived at Rutgers, as Doug Graber didn’t fare better than .500 in his final three seasons. However, Shea did little to build on the mild success Graber had in 1991 (6-5) and ‘92 (7-4).
16. Stan Parrish, Ball State
Record: 6-19 (2008-10)
If this was a list of all-time worst coaching tenures, Parrish’s 2-30-1 record at Kansas State from 1986-88 would rank near the top. While Parrish’s tenure at Ball State was bad, it wasn’t quite as bad as his previous stop at Kansas State. The Cardinals went 6-19 under his watch, which was a clear backtrack from the progress made under Brady Hoke (19-7 in 2007-08). The Cardinals also lost two games to FCS opponents under Parrish.
17. Todd Berry, Army
Record: 5-35 (2000-03)
Considering how difficult it has been to win at Army, it’s unfair to punish Berry too much in these rankings. However, his tenure in West Point was largely uncompetitive. Berry was hired to resurrect a program that had five losing seasons over the last six years, but he struggled mightily in his tenure, winning just one game in his debut season and posting a 1-11 mark in 2002. Berry was dismissed after an 0-6 start in 2003. Army is not an easy place to maintain success, but Berry’s decision to run a pro-style offense proved to be too difficult of a transition for a program that was acclimated to option attacks.
18. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Record: 15-21 (2010-12)
Tennessee was caught in a bad spot when the Seahawks hired Pete Carroll away from USC, which prompted Lane Kiffin to bolt Knoxville for Los Angeles. Kiffin’s mid-January move didn’t leave the Volunteers much time to find a new coach before Signing Day. Dooley came to Tennessee from Louisiana Tech after a 17-20 record in three years with the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech did make small gains under Dooley, which included a bowl game in 2008. However, he failed to bring much improvement to Knoxville, as the Volunteers went 15-21 under his watch and went 4-19 in SEC play. Considering the coaching turnover in Knoxville from Phil Fulmer to Kiffin to Dooley in just three years, Tennessee had to go through a lot of transition in a short time. However, Dooley winning just one SEC game in two years is simply unacceptable at a program that has all of the resources and tradition necessary to compete for SEC East titles.
19. Paul Wulff, Washington State
Record: 9-40 (2008-11)
At the time of his hire, Wulff seemed to be a good fit at Washington State. He was a former player with the Cougars and spent eight years at Eastern Washington, accumulating a 53-40 record. Wulff also took EWU to three playoff appearances. After a successful run under Mike Price, Washington State declined under Bill Doba, posting three losing seasons in five years. Wulff wasn’t inheriting a full cupboard, but the program wasn’t in terrible shape either. The Cougars were dreadful in Wulff’s first year, beating only Portland State and an 0-12 Washington team. Things didn’t get much better in year two, as Washington State went 1-11 and failed to win a Pac-12 game. The Cougars were more competitive in Wulff’s third season and won four games in 2011. However, that wasn’t enough for Wulff to return for 2012. Wulff’s tenure at Washington State ended with a dismal 4-32 record in Pac-12 play.
20. John L. Smith, Arkansas
Record: 4-8 (2012)
It’s unfair to pin all of Arkansas’ struggles in 2012 on Smith. The Razorbacks were left in a bad spot after Bobby Petrino was fired in April, and it’s no easy task finding a head coach in May for the upcoming season. No matter what coach was on the sidelines in Fayetteville last year, the transition from Petrino was going to cost Arkansas a couple of games. But after winning 21 games from 2010-11, the Razorbacks were one of college football’s biggest disappointments in 2012, and Smith has to shoulder a chunk of the blame. Arkansas’ 2012 season began to unravel in Week 2 after an overtime loss to ULM, and the Razorbacks were pummeled by Alabama 52-0 the following Saturday. Arkansas won three out of four games in the middle of the season, but it wasn’t enough. Considering the talent on that team, Arkansas’ 2012 campaign will be one of the most disappointing in school history.
21. Jim Hofner, Buffalo
Record: 8-49 (2001-05)
Hofner came to Buffalo in 2001, which was shortly after the Bulls moved from the FCS to the FBS ranks. While the transition to the FBS wasn’t expected to be easy, Buffalo was largely uncompetitive under Hofner’s watch. The Bulls went 8-49 in his tenure and never won more than three games in a season. Buffalo had back-to-back 1-11 seasons from 2002-03, and Hofner finished his tenure with a dismal 1-10 mark. One of the few highlights of the Hofner era was a 36-6 win over Central Michigan in Brian Kelly’s first season.
22. Chuck Long, San Diego State
Record: 9-27 (2006-08)
Despite having a location in a fertile recruiting area, San Diego State has struggled to maintain success. After the failed Tom “Air” Craft era, the Aztecs made a splash by hiring Long from Oklahoma. Although Long was regarded as one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, San Diego State didn’t show much progress under his watch. The Aztecs went 3-9 in 2006, 4-8 in ‘07 and slipped to 2-10 in ‘08. The program also lost twice to FCS opponent Cal Poly under Long’s direction.
23. Tom Holmoe, California
Record: 9-31 (1998-2001)
Holmoe inherited a California team that was coming off a 6-6 mark in Steve Mariucci’s one and only season in Berkeley. The Golden Bears went 8-14 in Holmoe’s first two years but faded over the final three seasons. California went 4-7 in 1999 and then recorded a 4-18 mark over the final two years of Holmoe’s tenure. The Golden Bears failed to win a Pac-10 game in 2001 and their 1-10 overall mark is the worst in school history. California also ran into NCAA trouble after Holmoe’s tenure, as the program was forced to forfeit four wins from 1999 and was banned from postseason play in 2002 due to the use of ineligible players. Holmoe failed to beat Stanford once during his tenure, and the program quickly rebounded once Jeff Tedford was hired, winning seven games in 2002.
24. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss
Record: 10-25 (2005-07)
Orgeron did a good job of assembling talent in Oxford, as his recruiting class in 2006 was ranked No. 15 nationally by Athlon Sports. But a good portion of the highlights from Orgeron’s tenure were on the recruiting trail. Ole Miss won only three SEC games from 2005-08 and never made a bowl appearance under Orgeron. Three of Orgeron’s wins came against Memphis and three more came against FCS opponents. In 2008, one year after Orgeron was fired, Houston Nutt went 9-4 and led the Rebels to a win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Orgeron was hired due to his recruiting ties, but he had no head coaching experience prior to his arrival in Oxford.
25. Walt Harris, Stanford
Record: 6-17 (2005-06)
After a respectable 52-44 mark in eight years with Pittsburgh from 1997-2004, Harris decided to leave the Steel City for the Farm. The veteran coach had a tough assignment taking over the program after Buddy Teevens went 10-23 in three years, but Stanford went 5-6 in Harris’ first year. However, things fell apart for Harris in his second season, as the Cardinal went 1-11 in 2006. Stanford’s offense struggled after quarterback Trent Edwards was lost for the year, but the Cardinal was largely uncompetitive all season. Harris caught a bad break with Edwards’ injury, but the program was headed in the wrong direction, and dismissing him after two years proved to be the right move.
Other Bad Tenures of the BCS Era
|Years at School||Record|
|Dean Pees, Kent State||1998-03||17-51|
|Mike DeBord, Central Michigan||2000-03||12-34|
|Buddy Teeves, Stanford||2002-04||10-23|
|Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville||2007-09||15-21|
|Gary Nord, UTEP||2000-03||14-34|
|Keith Burns, Tulsa||2000-02||7-28|
|Jeff Woodruff, EMU||2000-03||9-34|
|Brian Knorr, Ohio||2001-04||11-35|
|Jeff Genyk, EMU||2004-08||16-42|
|Tom Cable, Idaho||2000-03||11-35|
|Nick Holt, Idaho||2004-05||5-18|
|Brent Guy, Utah State||2005-08||9-38|
|Tyrone Willingham, Washington||2005-08||11-37|
|Mike Haywood, Pittsburgh||2010||0-0|
|Rich Rodriguez, Michigan||2008-10||15-22|
Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson recently announced his intention to transfer, and after considering a couple of schools, he has found a new home at Big Ten newcomer Rutgers.
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Nelson must sit out 2014 and will be eligible to play in 2015.
In two years at Minnesota, Nelson threw for 2,179 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 548 yards and six scores.
Nelson’s transfer to Rutgers comes at a good time for the Scarlet Knights. Gary Nova is likely to start in 2014, but he will expire his eligibility at the end of the season, leaving Nelson with a path to the starting spot.
College football’s 2014 season is still several months away, and spring practice won’t begin for many teams until March. However, it’s never too early to look ahead. With the official list of early entries into the draft finalized, a clear picture is starting to form on how the teams will stack up in 2014.
Texas A&M is just one school replacing key players, as quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans declared for the NFL Draft. Manziel’s replacement could be senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill or true freshman Kyle Allen.
Louisville is another team looking to fill a huge void under center. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to be one of the first players off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft, leaving big shoes to fill for the Cardinals. Sophomore Will Gardner is expected to replace Bridgewater, and he will have the luxury of throwing to standout receiver DeVante Parker in 2014.
In addition to Will Gardner and the quarterbacks at Texas A&M, we tried to identify 10 players under the spotlight replacing some of the biggest names in college football next year. This isn’t a complete list of replacements for the top players or departing All-Americans, but these players are just a small sample of names to watch next year.
10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in College Football in 2014
Kyle Allen/Kenny Hill/Matt Joeckel, QB, Texas A&M
Replacing a starting quarterback in college football is a difficult assignment for any team. But try replacing a Heisman winner that accounted for 9,989 yards and 93 touchdowns in two seasons. That’s the task facing Kyle Allen, Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel in College Station next season, as Johnny Manziel chose to leave for the NFL after two years. Hill ranked as the No. 24 quarterback in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports. He played in four games as a true freshman, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. Hill also rushed for 37 yards. Joeckel has the most experience of any quarterback on the roster, owning 49 career pass attempts. He started the season opener against Rice due to a one-half suspension for Manziel. While Hill and Joeckel own an edge in experience, Allen is the name to watch. The Arizona native ranks as the No. 10 overall prospect in the 2014 signing class by 247Sports and will enroll in time to compete in spring practice. Regardless of who wins the starting job, the supporting cast should be among the best in the SEC. If Allen quickly picks up the offense in spring practice, his talent will win out over the experience of Joeckel and Hill.
Ben Braden/Erik Magnuson, OT, Michigan
Michigan’s offense finished 2013 ranked a disappointing 10th in the Big Ten by averaging 373.5 yards per game. In order for the Wolverines to contend with Ohio State and Michigan State in the East Division in 2014, the offensive line has to improve. But that’s easier said than done, especially as the unit’s most consistent and best lineman have expired their eligibility (Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield). Lewan was a second-team Associated Press All-American and started 48 games in his career. The interior of the line was a huge problem in 2013 but losing Lewan and Schofield is an even bigger concern for new coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Filling Lewan’s place on the line could be Braden or Magnuson. Braden played in two games in 2013, while Magnuson made seven starts at guard. Considering all of the problems on the interior in 2013, Michigan’s problems aren’t limited to just one position. However, if Braden or Magnuson can’t anchor the left side of the line, the Wolverines’ offense will be stuck in neutral once again in 2014.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Since 2010, three Alabama linebackers have been selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, and departing senior C.J. Mosley is likely to increase that total in 2014. Is Foster next in the line of standout Crimson Tide linebackers? He was the No. 7 overall player in the 2013 signing class and played sparingly as a true freshman, recording 12 tackles in nine appearances. Foster was listed as the backup to Trey DePriest in the middle, but he will be tough to keep off the field next season. And at 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, Foster is already one of the Crimson Tide’s most physical defenders. Expect Foster to be a household name in the SEC next year.
Will Gardner, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater leaves big shoes to fill in the Louisville offense after throwing for 9,817 yards and 72 touchdowns over the last three seasons. But the Cardinals won’t slip too much on offense in their first season in the ACC. New coach Bobby Petrino is one of the top offensive minds in the conference, and receiver DeVante Parker decided to return for his final season at Louisville instead of entering the NFL Draft. Gardner is slated to replace Bridgewater this spring as the No. 1 quarterback. The Georgia native was a three-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and redshirted in his first season on campus after tearing his ACL. Gardner didn’t see a ton of action in 2013, completing only 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two scores. He did not record a pass attempt in the final five games of the season. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Gardner has the physical tools a coach wants in a quarterback. With Parker returning at receiver and Michael Dyer and Dominique Brown back at running back, Gardner won’t have to win games on his own next year.
Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
A staple of Stanford’s success over the last four seasons has been the offensive line. The Cardinal has owned one of the nation’s top groups during that span, but this unit has to be remodeled for 2014. Four starters are gone, including standout guard David Yankey and tackle Cameron Fleming. While offensive lines usually take a few games to jell, the Cardinal won’t be short on talent in the trenches. Left tackle Andrus Peat should be in the mix for All-America honors next year, while Garnett, Connor McFadden, Kyle Murphy, Johnny Caspers and Graham Shuler will battle to round out the starting five. Garnett was a key reserve in 2013 and made one start against Washington State. The Washington native was a four-star prospect by 247Sports in the 2012 signing class and played in all 14 games as a true freshman. Yankey will be missed, but Garnett is a future star on Stanford’s offensive line.
Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State
Florida State doesn’t lose much talent off its national championship team, but the Seminoles have a glaring concern at defensive tackle. Timmy Jernigan left early for the NFL after a standout junior campaign, leaving the defense with a group of talented, but largely inexperienced options. In addition to Jernigan, Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel also depart from the interior. Lawrence-Stample is the team’s top returning defensive tackle after starting six games and recording 15 tackles. The Florida native has played in 21 career contests and was rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports in the 2011 signing class. Lawrence-Stample doesn’t need to be Jernigan, but he also needs to have a bigger role in the defense next year. His 305-pound frame will be critical to stopping the run at the point of attack. Helping Lawrence-Stample on the interior will be Keith Bryant, Justin Hanks, Derek Mitchell and Desmond Hollin. There’s talent here, but how quickly will this group develop?
Darryl Render, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald closed out an outstanding career in the Steel City by winning the Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik and Outland trophies, along with garnering several first-team All-American honors in 2013. Donald’s production and attention he required from opposing offensive lines will be tough for Render to replace in 2014. However, Render has flashed plenty of ability over the last two seasons and should be a key cog in Pittsburgh’s line next year. As a true freshman in 2012, he made one start and recorded six tackles. Render was more active around the line of scrimmage as a sophomore, playing in all 13 games and registering 25 stops. With Donald and nose tackle Tyrone Ezell both out of eligibility, the interior of Pittsburgh’s line will have a different look next year. Render showed improvement as the 2013 season progressed, and all signs point to another year of growth in 2014.
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Spartans are losing a couple of key pieces from their Big Ten Championship defense, starting in the trenches with tackles Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds and continuing into the back seven with linebacker Max Bullough and in the secondary with Dennard and Isaiah Lewis. We could focus on any of those areas, but let’s put the spotlight on Waynes. Dennard was one of the nation’s top defensive backs over the last few seasons and a true shut down corner. Waynes started all 14 games for Michigan State in 2014 and finished the year with 50 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. With Dennard out of eligibility, Waynes will become the No. 1 cornerback for the Spartans. Is he up to the task of matching up against the top receiver against opposing offenses?
Myles Willis, RB, Boston College
Boston College was one of the biggest surprises in the ACC last season, finishing 7-6 under new coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles should be back in the mix for a bowl next year, but Addazio has some work to do on offense. Quarterback Chase Rettig, running back Andre Williams and receiver Alex Amidon all must be replaced. Williams led the nation with an average of 167.5 rushing yards per game. That type of production will be hard to replace, but Willis showed he is a capable replacement from a limited stint last season. The Georgia native rushed 60 times for 346 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. He was also a weapon on kick returns, taking one of his 30 attempts back for a touchdown. When Andre Williams missed time due to a shoulder injury at Syracuse, Willis rushed 17 times for 70 yards. Boston College should have a solid offensive line next year, and with a new quarterback taking over, the ground attack should be the focus of the offense. Willis is only 5-foot-9 and 187 pounds, so he isn’t likely to handle 250 or more carries. However, he should be a key cog in the Eagles’ offense next year.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Clemson’s passing game will look significantly different in 2014. Quarterback Tajh Boyd expired his eligibility, and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant left early for the NFL. But the news isn’t all bad for the Tigers. Coordinator Chad Morris didn’t leave for a head coaching gig, and the staff should feel confident in Boyd’s potential replacements (Deshaun Watson, Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly). With Watkins and Bryant leaving, Williams needs to step up and emerge as one of the top targets for the new quarterback. As a true freshman in 2013, Williams caught 20 passes for 316 yards and three scores. His best performance came against Citadel, catching three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Williams won’t be the only receiver returning for Clemson, as Adam Humphries and Charone Peake round out a talented trio of options. However, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds with plenty of upside, the Tigers are counting on Williams to be a breakout receiver in 2014.
South Florida is coming off a 2-10 season, but the program has momentum. The Bulls are set to reel in one of the American Athletic Conference’s top recruiting classes and there’s a solid cast of returning talent for next season.
And to help this team turn the page for next season, South Florida has unveiled two new chrome designs for its helmets.
The first features a matte green with a large USF logo, while the other helmet is a gold chrome design similar to what Baylor wore this season.
Overall, this is a solid concept for South Florida and should only help second-year coach Willie Taggart raise the profile of his program this offseason:
First piece of armor for for the revolution.. GO BULLS!! 2014 here we come!!! pic.twitter.com/FXnvU4mxPV— Eric Mathies (@CoachMathies) January 25, 2014
Alabama is set to land one of the nation’s top signing classes in early February, but Nick Saban’s most important recruit of 2014 isn’t a freshman. Instead, that honor falls to Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker, who announced he will officially transfer to Alabama after completing his degree in Tallahassee.
Coker will graduate from Florida State in May and is immediately eligible to play in 2014.
Who is Jacob Coker?
Coker has spent the last three years at Florida State, serving as a backup to Jameis Winston and EJ Manuel. After redshirting his freshman season, Coker completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards and one touchdown in mop-up duty in 2012. As a result of Florida State’s dominant performance and big leads in the second half in 2013, Coker’s playing time increased. He completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards and one pick.
A knee injury suffered against Wake Forest prevented him from playing in the final five games of 2013. However, in a small sample size, Coker is averaging 14 yards per pass attempt and has completed 55 percent of his throws.
Coker wasn’t an elite prospect coming out of high school, ranking as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.
However, he was not an easy prospect to evaluate out of St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, Ala.). Coker played in a wing-T offense until his senior season and finished his career by throwing for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011.
Coker has good mobility for a quarterback that is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. During his senior year at St. Paul’s Episcopal, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry, while averaging 21.9 points per game as a member of the basketball team.
Obviously, it’s hard to evaluate a quarterback with zero career starts. However, there’s a lot to like about Coker.
At 6-foot-5, he has the size and arm strength coaches want in their quarterback. Coker also has good mobility and learned under a quarterback guru in Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Also, Coker gave Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston a battle for the starting job in preseason practices.
Alabama’s Quarterback Battle
With Coker officially added to the roster, Alabama has six quarterbacks slated to battle for the top spot in spring practice.
Blake Sims has the most experience of any quarterback in Tuscaloosa, but all signs point to someone different starting in the opener against West Virginia.
There’s also a wildcard factor to keep in mind. Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin, and it’s expected he will make a few tweaks to the offense.
Here’s a look at the quarterbacks and where they ranked in high school:
|Year of Eligibility||Games Played at Alabama||Passes Thrown at Alabama||Recruiting Rank|
|Jacob Coker||JR||0 (11 at FSU)||0 (41 at FSU)|
Graduate Transfer Quarterbacks and Success
While there’s no shortage of hype surrounding Coker, there’s also no guarantee this will work out for Alabama.
In the recent history of graduate transfer quarterbacks, there are some success stories, but also a lot of duds.
|Comp.||Att.||Comp. %||Yards||TDs||INTs||Rush Yds||Rush TD||W/L Record|
|Drew Allen, Syracuse||68||122||55.7||666||2||9||0||0||7-6 (2013)|
|Chazz Anderson, Buffalo||230||406||56.6||2,454||11||9||309||7||3-9 (2011)|
|Taylor Bennett, La. Tech||66||167||39.5||873||2||6||55||0||8-5 (2008)|
|Allan Bridgford, USM||112||207||54.1||1,133||6||11||-81||0||1-11 (2013)|
|Dayne Crist, Kansas||103||216||47.7||1,313||4||9||-66||0||1-11 (2012)|
|Kirby Freeman, Baylor||6||13||46.2||49||1||2||0||0||4-8 (2008)|
|Garrett Gilbert, SMU||268||506||52.9||2,932||15||15||346||8||7-6 (2012)|
|Nick Hirschman, Akron||3||8||53.3||162||3||0||-23||1||5-7 (2013)|
|Jacob Karam, Memphis||3||7||42.9||22||0||0||-16||0||3-9 (2013)|
|Ryan Katz, SDSU||99||163||60.7||1,348||13||4||287||4||9-4 (2012)|
|Adam Kennedy, Ark. St||218||315||69.2||2,363||11||6||524||4||8-5 (2013)|
|Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss||167||296||56.4||2,039||14||13||544||6||4-8 (2010)|
|Ben Mauk, Cincinnati||235||386||60.9||3,121||31||9||376||3||10-3 (2007)|
|Brandon Mitchell, NC State||86||151||57.0||1,011||7||6||274||2||3-9 (2013)|
|Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin||52||86||60.5||523||3||1||-82||0||8-6 (2012)|
|Greg Paulus, Syracuse||193||285||67.7||2,024||13||14||-12||1||4-8 (2009)|
|Sean Schroeder, Hawaii||175||344||50.9||1,878||11||12||-169||1||3-9 (2012)|
|Jameill Showers, UTEP||107||188||56.9||1,263||11||4||195||4||2-10 (2013)|
|Clint Trickett, W. Virginia||123||233||52.8||1,605||7||7||-29||1||4-8 (2013)|
|Jordan Webb, Colorado||144||265||54.3||1,434||8||8||-135||2||1-11 (2012)|
|Russell Wilson, Wisconsin||225||309||72.8||3,175||33||4||338||6||11-3 (2011)|
Alabama is loaded for another run at the national championship. With one of the nation’s top backfields and receiving corps returning, all that’s missing on offense is a quarterback. And of course, a left tackle must be found to replace Cyrus Kouandjio.
If Coker is as good as advertised, then the Crimson Tide is landing their biggest (and most important recruit) for 2014. Alabama is picked as the No. 2 team in Athlon’s very early top 25 for next season and is a slight favorite to win the SEC West over Auburn.
However, there’s also the possibility this move could backfire for Nick Saban. With six quarterbacks on the roster, one or two could transfer after fall practice. And if Coker struggles, Alabama would be losing potential replacements.
This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Crimson Tide. Coker has the talent to succeed in this offense. And it’s not like Coker is being asked to win games all on his own. After all, Alabama has one of the nation’s top defenses and supporting casts on offense. With two years of eligibility remaining, Coker is a better acquisition than a one-year graduate transfer.
There’s a lot of pressure on Coker’s shoulders to perform (and perform well right away), especially with Alabama in the thick of the SEC and national championship discussion for 2014. Despite the immense pressure on Coker’s right arm, all signs point to this being a potential move that plays a significant role in shaping the SEC and national championship picture.
College football’s Heisman Trophy won’t be awarded until next December, but it’s never too early to think about the frontrunners for next season.
Bovada has released its early odds for 2014, and there’s a familiar face at the top. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the favorite to repeat, with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota a 7/2 favorite.
Quarterbacks own five out of the top seven spots in the early odds. Running backs T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) and Todd Gurley (Georgia) are the only skill players in the top seven.
Also of interest: No wide receivers make the early odds for 2014.
Here’s the early list of favorites to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy from Bovada:
|Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)||2/1|
|Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)||7/2|
|Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State)||4/1|
|T.J. Yeldon (RB Alabama)||5/1|
|Bryce Petty (QB Baylor)||6/1|
|Brett Hundley (QB UCLA)||12/1|
|Todd Gurley (RB Georgia)||12/1|
|Mike Davis (RB South Carolina)||15/1|
|Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin)||16/1|
|Everett Golson (Notre Dame)||25/1|
|Trevor Knight (QB Oklahoma)||25/1|
|Duke Johnson (RB Miami)||33/1|
|Karlos Williams (RB Florida State)||33/1|
|Matt Johnson (QB Bowling Green)||66/1|
|Rakeem Cato (QB Marshall)||66/1|