Articles By Steven Lassan
With fall practice underway, the long offseason is almost over and college football’s 2015 season is officially around the corner. The final preparations for the upcoming year have started, and coaches spend fall camp trying to finalize depth charts and rotations for the opener.
While there’s no shortage of critical position battles in the fall, the quarterback position is going to generate the most interest among fans. And there’s plenty of big-name programs looking for a starter in fall camp. Of Athlon Sports’ top 10 teams for 2015, five of them appear on this list.
Here’s a quick look at 20 key quarterback battles for the fall and a projected winner for each:
College Football's Top 20 QB Battles for Fall Practice
1. Ohio State
The Contenders: J.T. Barrett vs. Cardale Jones
Urban Meyer’s decision at quarterback got a little easier with the announcement that Braxton Miller would move to receiver in 2015. However, there’s still a tough decision ahead for the coaching staff. Do the Buckeyes stick with Jones after an impressive three-game stint to close last season? Or does Barrett regain the starting job after leading the Big Ten with an average of 314.3 total yards per game in 2014?
Projected Starter for the Opener: Barrett
The Contenders: Jake Coker vs. David Cornwell vs. Alec Morris vs. Blake Barnett vs. Cooper Bateman
Five quarterbacks are listed as contenders, but all signs point to Coker and Cornwell as the frontrunners to replace Blake Sims. Coker was considered the favorite to start after transferring to Alabama from Florida State. However, Sims started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide in 2014. Cornwell was a four-star prospect and ranked as the No. 79 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite. He’s ready to push for the starting job after a redshirt year.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Coker
The Contenders: Vernon Adams vs. Jeff Lockie
There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the battle to replace Marcus Mariota. Adams is expected to arrive on campus in early August, but Lockie had a good spring and has a chance to capitalize off Adams’ late arrival this fall. Adams is a dynamic player and accumulated over 10,00 total yards in his Eastern Washington career. Adapting to a new offense and FBS competition will be the graduate transfer’s biggest challenges. Lockie completed 21 of 28 passes for 207 yards and one score in 2014.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Lockie...but Adams takes over during the season
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
The Contenders: Everett Golson vs. Sean Maguire
Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill in Tallahassee. Maguire finished spring at the top of the depth chart, but Golson announced his intentions to transfer to Florida State in May. How quickly will Golson pickup Florida State’s offense? His mobility could be an asset behind four new starters in the trenches. Maguire has one career start (Clemson in 2014) and has passed for 455 yards and three scores over the last two seasons.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Golson
Related: Florida State 2015 Fall Camp Preview
The Contenders: Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris
LSU has enough talent to win the SEC West, but the Tigers need more from the passing attack. In SEC games last season, LSU quarterbacks completed only 46.4 percent of passes and managed only seven passing scores. Jennings started 12 of the Tigers’ 13 contests last season, but there’s more upside with Harris.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Harris
Related: SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015
The Contenders: Brice Ramsey vs. Greyson Lambert vs. Faton Bauta
Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap for coach Mark Richt, Georgia is going to lean heavily on its ground attack and defense. New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer won’t change much in regards to the overall offensive approach, but a leader at quarterback needs to emerge this fall. Ramsey finished spring at the top of the depth chart, and Lambert transferred to Georgia after starting nine games for Virginia in 2014. Bauta is a dual-threat option and has completed 4 of 5 passes in two years of snaps.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Ramsey
7. Ole Miss
The Contenders: Chad Kelly vs. Ryan Buchanan vs. DeVante Kincade
The Rebels have one of the SEC’s top defenses. Will the offense find the right answers at quarterback and running back to push for the SEC West title? Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback and junior college recruit – is the favorite to win the job, but Buchanan is slated to take the first snap in fall camp. Kelly is the team’s most talented option, while Buchanan and Kincade have the most experience within coach Hugh Freeze’s offensive scheme.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Kelly
The Contenders: Jake Rudock vs. Shane Morris
Settling the quarterback battle is the top priority for new coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have options, as Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris lead the way entering fall camp. Rudock passed for 2,436 yards and 16 scores as the Hawkeyes’ starter in 2014 but was supplanted as the No. 1 quarterback at the end of 2014. Morris completed 14 of 40 passes for the Wolverines last season. Freshmen Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone are wild cards to watch.
The Contenders: Baker Mayfield vs. Trevor Knight vs. Cody Thomas
Technically, this is still a battle. However, all signs point to Mayfield taking the first snap of the year for Oklahoma. The Texas Tech transfer passed for 2,315 yards and 12 scores with the Red Raiders in 2013 and is a good fit for new coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense. If Mayfield struggles, Knight (2,300 yards and 14 TDs in 2014) is expected to rank No. 2 on the depth chart.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Mayfield
Related: Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
The Contenders: Tyrone Swoopes vs. Jerrod Heard
Coach Charlie Strong has already indicated Swoopes and Heard will see time in the opener against Notre Dame. The Longhorns are looking for improvement on offense after averaging only 21.4 points per game in 2014. Swoopes showed flashes of promise but finished with 11 interceptions and struggled in losses against TCU and Arkansas. Heard spent 2014 as a redshirt and is considered the more dynamic playmaker on the ground.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Swoopes…but Heard takes over later in the season
The Contenders: Will Grier vs. Treon Harris
The Gators struggled to find their offensive identity and rhythm under former coach Will Muschamp. While this offense appears to be on the right track under new coach Jim McElwain, Florida could have its share of ups and downs in 2015 with an inexperienced offensive line and question marks remain in the receiving corps. Quarterback play also has its share of uncertainty, as Grier – a redshirt freshman – is expected to supplant Treon Harris as the starter in 2015. Harris started six games in 2014 and finished with 1,019 yards and nine passing scores. Grier ranked as the No. 48 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Grier
The Contenders: Jerry Neuheisel vs. Josh Rosen
Experience versus talent. That’s the storyline set to unfold this fall at UCLA. Neuheisel joined the program in 2012 and worked as Brett Hundley’s backup last season, throwing for 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards against Texas. While Neuheisel was solid in relief of Hundley last year, he’s not the favorite to win the job. Rosen – the No. 12 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite – enrolled in time to compete in the spring and is expected to start the opener.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Rosen
13. Boise State
The Contenders: Ryan Finley vs. Brett Rypien vs. Thomas Stuart vs. Alex Ogle
Boise State usually has little trouble finding the next standout quarterback. Expect coach Bryan Harsin to find the right replacement for Grant Hedrick early in 2015, as Finley finished spring with an edge for the No. 1 spot. The Arizona native played in five games last season and completed 12 of 27 passes for 161 yards and two scores. Rypien – a four-star prospect – is an intriguing option for the future. Stuart could be Finley’s biggest challenger this fall.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Finley
Related: Mountain West Predictions for 2015
14. Texas Tech
The Contenders: Patrick Mahomes vs. Davis Webb
Dynamic and high-scoring offenses are the norm at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are looking for more consistency this season after averaging 30.5 points per game in 2014. Regardless of which quarterback starts, it’s safe to assume Texas Tech will be among the Big 12’s best in scoring. Mahomes stepped into the starting lineup after Davis Webb was injured last year and finished with 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns. Although the numbers don’t reflect it (104 yards), Mahomes has enough mobility to give the offense an added dimension on the ground.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Mahomes
The Contenders: Reggie Bonnafon vs. Will Gardner vs. Kyle Bolin
Only three quarterbacks made the contender list, but Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson and freshman Lamar Jackson also deserve a mention in this space. However, all signs point to Bonnafon as the team’s starter for the opener against Auburn. In 10 games last season, Bonnafon threw for 864 yards and five scores and rushed for 164 yards and five touchdowns. Could Jackson see time as a change-of-pace option?
Projected Starter for the Opener: Bonnafon
Related: Louisville 2015 Fall Camp Preview
16. Kansas State
The Contenders: Joe Hubener vs. Jesse Ertz vs. Jonathan Banks vs. Alex Delton
Replacing Jake Waters won’t be easy for the Wildcats. However, don’t doubt Bill Snyder’s ability to quickly reload at the quarterback position. Former walk-on Joe Hubener is the favorite to start, but the junior has only eight career appearances and did not start a game at quarterback in high school. Sophomore Jesse Ertz, true freshman Alex Delton and junior college recruit Jonathan Banks are also in the mix.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Hubener
The Contenders: Jake Browning vs. K.J. Carta-Samuels vs. Jeff Lindquist
Will coach Chris Petersen look to the future with his quarterback choice? Or will the second-year coach choose experience? Browning is the team’s most talented option, ranking as the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. The California native also enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. Carta-Samuels redshirted last season, while Lindquist played in 13 games (with one start) and finished with completions on 10 of 30 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Browning
Related: Pac-12 2015 Quarterback Rankings
The Contenders: Zack Oliver vs. Clayton Thorson vs. Matt Alviti
The Wildcats are hoping to find a spark on offense after averaging just 21.3 points in Big Ten games last season. A three-way battle at quarterback is set to unfold in the fall, and there’s not much separating the candidates. Oliver has the edge in experience, throwing for 367 yards and two scores last season. He also started the season finale after an injury sidelined Trevor Siemian. The edge in talent goes to Thorson or Alviti, and both quarterbacks bring the added threat of the run to the offensive attack.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Thorson
The Contenders: Hayden Rettig vs. Chris Laviano
Gary Nova had his share of ups and downs at Rutgers, but he finished his career on a high note, throwing for 2,851 yards and 22 scores in 2014. With Nova out of eligibility, and coordinator Ralph Friedgen moving into an advisor role, the Scarlet Knights have a few big question marks to answer this fall on offense. Rettig – a transfer from LSU – has more physical tools but did not play with the Tigers in 2013 and sat out due to NCAA transfer rules in 2014. Laviano worked as Nova’s backup last season and completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and one interception.
Projected Starter for the Opener: Laviano
The Contenders: Wade Freebeck vs. Johnny McCrary
After starting four quarterbacks last season, second-year coach Derek Mason wants to end the quarterback roulette in 2015. Finding a starter and giving that player a chance to develop and not look over his shoulder is a big priority for Mason and new coordinator Andy Ludwig. Freebeck was pressed into action as a true freshman last year and finished with just one touchdown and a 47.2 completion percentage on 72 attempts. McCrary led the team with nine touchdown tosses but also threw eight picks and completed 51.3 percent of his passes.
Projected Starter for the Opener: McCrary
Texas A&M is breaking out new alternate uniforms for its Halloween matchup against South Carolina.
The Aggies host the Gamecocks on Oct. 31 at Kyle Field, and Adidas has unveiled a new black alternate uniform and matte black helmet.
Texas A&M’s uniforms and helmet designs from Adidas have looked sharp in recent years, and the new alternates for the Halloween matchup fall into that same category.
Check out the Aggies’ new alternates for Oct. 31:
Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie is expected to be one of the SEC’s top freshman in 2015. And by all accounts, the freshman is making quite an impression in fall practice.
On Thursday, video emerged from Tennessee’s practice, which features McKenzie destroying an offensive lineman during drills.
Needless to say, McKenzie is going to be a prominent member of Tennessee’s defensive line this season:
Utah is dipping into its past for throwback uniforms for the Oct. 10 matchup against California.
The retro uniforms unveiled on Thursday were used by the program in the 1960-70s. Overall, these are a sharp look for the Utes, which feature the interlocking U's on the helmet and the usual red and white look for Utah's uniforms.
Check out the Utes retro uniforms and helmets:
The Pac-12 features a loaded group of quarterbacks for the 2015 season. The conference features proven superstars poised to challenge for All-America honors, along with a few breakout candidates in UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oregon State’s Seth Collins. USC’s Cody Kessler ranks as the league’s top option, but California junior Jared Goff isn’t far behind.
Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for 2015.
Pac-12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Cody Kessler, USC
Kessler is a big reason why USC is considered a playoff contender in 2015. The senior’s 39 touchdown tosses in 2014 ranked second among Pac-12 quarterbacks last season, while his 69.7 completion percentage ranked third nationally. Kessler also finished the year playing at a high level, torching Notre Dame for 372 yards and six touchdowns and throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. Even though Nelson Agholor left for the NFL, USC is stocked at receiver to give Kessler an opportunity at pushing for All-America honors in 2015.
2. Jared Goff, California
California averaged 38.3 points and 6.1 yards per play last season. Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12: The Golden Bears could be even better on offense in 2015. Goff is among the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks after throwing for 3,973 yards and 35 scores in 2014. In conference-only games, Goff led all quarterbacks by averaging 341.1 yards per contest.
3. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Solomon was one of the nation’s top freshman quarterbacks last year and should continue to improve with another offseason of snaps in coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense. In 14 games in 2014, Solomon threw for 3,793 yards and 28 scores and also rushed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore struggled with an ankle injury late in 2014 but will be at full strength in the fall.
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
4. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Bercovici doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt, but there’s no shortage of confidence in the senior for 2015. While Taylor Kelly was sidelined due to injury against UCLA and USC, Bercovici threw for 998 yards and eight scores. The California native finished 2014 with 1,445 yards and 12 passing scores. The strong-armed senior will keep Arizona State’s offense near the top of the Pac-12.
5. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
With Stanford losing a couple of key players from last year’s shutdown defense, there’s pressure on the offense to pickup some of the slack in 2015. Hogan had his share of ups and downs in the regular season but finished with three solid performances (California, UCLA and Maryland) and tossed only one interception over his last four games. If Hogan picks up where he left off in 2014, Stanford’s offense should easily improve off last year’s 27.2 points per game average.
6. Vernon Adams, Oregon
Adams is the toughest quarterback to rank in the Pac-12 this season. The Eastern Washington transfer could be a few spots higher on this list, but he won’t arrive in Eugene until August and may miss the first few days of fall camp. Picking up a new offense and adjusting to the FBS talent level won’t be easy for Adams. However, Oregon is loaded with skill talent, and the senior is a good fit for coordinator Scott Frost’s up-tempo attack. Jeff Lockie was Marcus Mariota’s backup last season and had the opportunity to work as the starter in the spring. After a solid offseason, Lockie is the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. However, will he hold onto the No. 1 spot?
Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015
7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Liufau had a breakout season in his first full year as Colorado’s starter, and the junior is poised to take another step forward in 2015. In 12 games last season, Liufau threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores and completed 65.3 percent of his passes. The junior should have plenty of help from his supporting cast in 2015, as the Buffaloes possess one of the Pac-12’s top receivers in Nelson Spruce, along with three starters back on the offensive line. Liufau’s emergence is a big reason why Colorado is trending in the right direction under coach Mike MacIntyre.
8. Travis Wilson, Utah
The recipe for success for Utah isn’t going to change in 2015. The Utes will continue to rely on their rushing attack (Devontae Booker) and defense to win games. However, if Utah can improve its passing attack, taking another step forward in the Pac-12 South is within reach. Wilson started 11 games for the Utes last season, throwing for 2,170 yards and 18 scores to just five interceptions. Kendal Thompson started twice before a season-ending knee injury and is back to compete for the job this fall. However, it would be a major surprise if Wilson does not take the first snap of the year in Utah’s opener against Michigan.
Related: Pac-12 Wild Card Players for 2015
9. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Expect to see Rosen higher on this list in future seasons. The talented true freshman enrolled in time to compete in the spring and is expected to edge Jerry Neuheisel for the starting job this fall. Rosen ranked as the No. 12 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and has big shoes to fill with the departure of Brett Hundley. How quickly Rosen develops will determine just how high UCLA climbs in the Pac-12 South this season.
10. Luke Falk, Washington State
Regardless of whether Falk or Peyton Bender takes the first snap for coach Mike Leach, there’s no doubt Washington State will throw for its share of yardage and scores in 2015. Falk is the favorite to start this fall, as he was pressed into action last year after Connor Halliday was lost for the season due to injury. Falk threw for at least 346 yards in each of the final four games and tossed five touchdowns against Oregon State. Eliminating turnovers will be a priority for Falk after throwing six in Washington State’s final two games of 2014.
11. Seth Collins, Oregon State
Oregon State is a team in transition under new coach Gary Andersen. The Beavers return only nine starters, and have three freshmen competing for the starting quarterback spot. Collins is the favorite to start, and the California native is a breakout candidate to watch this year. In Oregon State’s spring game, Collins accumulated 292 total yards and two scores.
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
12. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning is mentioned here, but the battle to replace Cyler Miles is unsettled as fall camp opens for second-year coach Chris Petersen. Browning ranked as the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. The Washington native is the most talented quarterback on the Huskies’ roster, but redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and junior Jeff Lindquist will push for No. 1 spot.
The Big 12 is usually regarded as one of college football’s top quarterback conferences. However, this league features several question marks about its signal-callers for 2015. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is the clear No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 this season, and the senior should be among the favorites to win the Heisman and earn first-team All-America honors.
However, outside of Boykin, there’s a lot of inexperience and question marks. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes are breakout candidates for 2015, and Seth Russell should continue Baylor’s run of successful quarterbacks in a high-powered offense.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2015.
Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU
Boykin emerged as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks last season, thriving under the addition of new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. En route to leading the Horned Frogs to a share of the Big 12 title, Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 scores and rushed for 707 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior is among the favorites to win the Heisman in 2015.
2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State removed Rudolph’s redshirt late in the 2014 campaign, giving the talented freshman an opportunity to start the final three games of last season. The results were promising for Rudolph, as he guided the Cowboys to a 2-1 mark in that span and passed for 853 yards and six scores. With a full offseason to work as the starter, along with an improving offensive line, Rudolph should push for All-Big 12 honors this fall.
3. Seth Russell, Baylor
Art Briles’ high-powered offense has a new signal-caller, but the Bears won’t miss a beat on offense. The last three quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III, Bryce Petty and Nick Florence – in this offense have posted prolific numbers. Expect Russell to do the same in 2015. The junior started one game in relief of Petty last season and ended the year with 804 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Texas Tech opened fall practice with some uncertainty at quarterback, as Mahomes and Davis Webb are expected to compete for the starting job. However, all signs point to Mahomes as the starter for the opener against Sam Houston State. Mahomes impressed in limited action last year, throwing for 1,547 yards and 16 scores in eight games. The sophomore also has good mobility, giving Texas Tech’s offense an added dimension on the ground.
Related: Big 12 Breakout Players for 2015
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The biggest fall storylines in Norman revolve around the quarterback position and the transition to Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid attack. Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech and sat out 2014 as a result of NCAA transfer rules. In one year with the Red Raiders, Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards and 12 scores. Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas are also in the mix, but Mayfield is a heavy favorite to take the first snap.
6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
It’s safe to assume Dana Holgorsen will push the right buttons to keep West Virginia’s offense among the best in the Big 12 next season. Filling the voids at receiver with the departure of Kevin White and Mario Alford is the biggest question mark, and the Mountaineers hope Howard continues to develop after a promising end to the 2014 season. The junior college product has to improve his completion percentage (50.9 last year), but Howard threw for 285 yards and three scores in a win against Iowa State and tossed three touchdowns and 346 yards against Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl.
7. Sam Richardson, Iowa State
Richardson was one of the few bright spots for Iowa State last season. In eight Big 12 contests, Richardson passed for 1,912 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Florida native’s supporting cast was an issue last season, as the Cyclones had injuries up front and lost star receiver Quenton Bundrage with a torn ACL in the opener. With more stability up front, a healthy Bundrage and the second year under coordinator Mark Mangino, Richardson should quietly have a solid season in Ames.
8. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
Swoopes is under the spotlight this fall after throwing for 2,409 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Shawn Watson are looking for a spark on offense, and talented redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will have an opportunity to win the job in the fall. Strong has already indicated both quarterbacks will play in the opener against Notre Dame. Can the Longhorns settle on one quarterback early in the year?
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015
9. Joe Hubener, Kansas State
Former starter Jake Waters was arguably one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks in 2014. As Kansas State opens fall camp for 2015, four candidates are in the mix to replace Waters. Sophomore Jesse Ertz, true freshman Alex Delton, junior Joe Hubener and late junior college pickup Jonathan Banks are set to compete for snaps. Hubener is the favorite, but he never started a game at quarterback in high school and has played sparingly over the last two years.
Related: Big 12 Breakout Players for 2015
10. Montell Cozart, Kansas
New coach David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project, and the Jayhawks’ 2015 outlook didn’t get any easier after starting quarterback Michael Cummings suffered a knee injury in the spring game. Cummings is doubtful to play in 2015, leaving Cozart, T.J. Millweard and true freshmen Carter Stanley and Ryan Willis to compete for the starting job. Cozart has eight career starts over the last two years.
San Diego State is expected to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West this season, and the Aztecs will be pushing for a conference championship in style.
On Tuesday, the program unveiled new football uniforms and helmets for the upcoming year. And these uniforms and helmets have to be among the best of the offseason, as San Diego State incorporated the Aztec Calendar into the helmets and uniforms.
Read the full release from the school on the new uniforms. And here's a link to the full gallery from San Diego State.
Here’s a look at the new helmets and uniforms for 2015:
With fall camps set to open in August for all 128 college football teams, the 2015 season is officially around the corner. There’s no shortage of position battles or schemes to work on this fall, but quarterback competitions will steal the spotlight in August.
The SEC has an inexperienced group of signal-callers set to take over in 2015. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is the league’s most-proven option and the clear favorite to earn preseason first-team all-conference honors. After Prescott in the quarterback rankings is a combination of breakout candidates (Jeremy Johnson and Joshua Dobbs), along with veterans (Maty Mauk and Brandon Allen) looking to improve this season.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2015.
SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Mississippi State has some holes to fill around Prescott, but the senior quarterback is a big reason why the Bulldogs will remain a factor in the SEC West this season. Prescott recorded 4,435 total yards and 41 scores in 2014 and earned first-team All-SEC honors. The senior is one of the top contenders for the 2015 Heisman Trophy.
2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
All signs point to a huge season from Johnson in his first year as the starter. The junior isn’t as mobile as Nick Marshall, but the Montgomery native is a dynamic player for coach Gus Malzahn. Over the last two seasons, Johnson has completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine scores. He also has two career starts.
3. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
A redshirt year was planned for Dobbs in 2014, but the Georgia native was pressed into the starting lineup midway through the season. Dobbs played well in the 34-20 loss to Alabama (19 of 32 for 192 yards) and assumed the starting role for Tennessee’s next game against South Carolina. Dobbs started the final five games for the Volunteers and closed 2014 with 1,206 passing yards and nine scores, while adding 469 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. With a full year to work as the starter ahead, Dobbs is due for a breakout year.
4. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Allen is another quarterback poised for a breakout campaign. The Arizona native was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class and eventually replaced Kenny Hill as the starter in November. Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 scores in nine appearances, finishing 2014 with his best performance (22 of 35 for 294 yards and four scores against West Virginia).
5. Maty Mauk, Missouri
Mauk’s first year as a starter had its share of ups and downs, but he finished with 2,648 passing yards and 25 scores and guided Missouri to a SEC East title. The junior needs to take a step forward in SEC play after only completing 48.9 percent of his passes in nine conference games last season. There’s a lot of potential with Mauk, but he will be throwing to a revamped group of receivers after the departure of last year’s top three targets.
6. Brandon Allen, Arkansas
There’s no doubt Arkansas will be tough on defense and with its ground attack once again in 2015. For the Razorbacks to improve on last year’s win total, improving the passing game is a priority under new coordinator Dan Enos. Allen was solid in 2014, completing 190 of 339 passes for 2,285 yards and 20 scores. With Enos at the controls, Allen should take another step forward in 2015.
7. Patrick Towles, Kentucky
Towles is a bit of a wild card on this list. He could rank a spot or two higher or he could lose the starting job to talented redshirt freshman Drew Barker. In 12 games last season, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 scores and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. How quickly will new coordinator Shannon Dawson settle on a starter this fall?
8. Jake Coker, Alabama
For the second consecutive season, Coker is considered by some to be the favorite to take the first snap in Alabama’s opener. However, Coker was edged by Blake Sims for the starting job last season and only played in six games in 2014. Can the Florida State transfer hold off redshirt freshman David Cornwell this fall?
Related: SEC Predictions for 2015
9. Brice Ramsey, Georgia
The battle to replace Hutson Mason will extend into fall practice, as the Bulldogs added Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert to compete with Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Ramsey worked as Mason’s backup in 2014 and completed 24 of 39 passes for three scores and two picks. Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect to see a heavy dose of running back Nick Chubb for the Bulldogs in 2015.
10. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Ole Miss is another SEC title contender with uncertainty at quarterback. Bo Wallace expired his eligibility, and the Rebels had a three-way battle for the job in the spring. Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback – transferred from the junior college ranks and is considered the favorite to start over Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.
11. Will Grier, Florida
The arrival of new coach Jim McElwain and coordinator Doug Nussmeier should pay dividends for a Florida offense that averaged only 4.9 yards per play in SEC games last season. Treon Harris finished 2014 as the starter, but Grier is considered the favorite to start. The redshirt freshman ranked as the No. 48 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and should be a good fit in Florida’s new offense.
12. Anthony Jennings/Brandon Harris, LSU
Improving the passing attack is priority No. 1 for coach Les Miles. LSU averaged only 140.6 passing yards in SEC games last season and finished 2014 with just 17 passing scores. Jennings started 12 games last year, completed only 48.9 percent of his passes and finished with 1,611 yards and 11 scores. There’s more upside with Harris, but how quickly will the sophomore grasp the offense?
13. Connor Mitch, South Carolina
Mitch finished spring as the favorite to replace Dylan Thompson under center. Talented freshman Lorenzo Nunez is an intriguing player to watch in fall camp, but Mitch is expected to take the first snap in the opener against North Carolina. The sophomore played in two games last season and completed 2 of 6 passes for 19 yards.
14. Wade Freebeck, Vanderbilt
It’s a tossup between Freebeck and Johnny McCrary as Vanderbilt’s starter for 2015. McCrary threw for 985 yards and nine scores last season, while Freebeck (as a true freshman) completed 34 of 72 passes for 376 yards and one touchdown. Both players should benefit from the arrival of new coordinator Andy Ludwig, but the supporting cast – especially at receiver – has to step up.
Even with the departure of several key players from last season’s team, high expectations surround Florida State in 2015. Quarterback Jameis Winston is the biggest loss in personnel, but the Seminoles also lose four starters on the offensive line, receiver Rashad Greene and a couple of key defenders.
Needless to say, coach Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him in 2015. The Seminoles have won at least 12 games in each of the last three years. Can Fisher restock the starting lineup and settle the quarterback battle to lead Florida State to its fourth consecutive ACC Championship?
Florida State’s Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. The Quarterback Battle
Sean Maguire finished spring practice at the top of the depth chart, but the Seminoles added Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson in May. Although Maguire has more experience with Fisher’s offensive system and worked with the No. 1 offense in the spring, Golson is considered the favorite to win the job. Can Maguire stake his claim for the starting spot? Or will Golson win as expected?
2. Filling the Gaps on Offense
While the quarterback battle is going to grab all of the fall camp headlines in Tallahassee, Fisher has question marks at each of the other positions on offense. Running back Dalvin Cook’s status is uncertain for 2015 after an off-field incident, leaving Mario Pender and touted true freshman Jacques Patrick as the top options at running back. At receiver, the Seminoles lost the reliable and ultra-productive Rashad Greene, along with tight end Nick O’Leary. But the bigger concern for Fisher has to be up front, where four new starters will be looking to mesh.
3. Linebacker Problems
Florida State’s linebacker unit has been hit hard by injuries. Senior Reggie Northrup is recovering from a torn ACL, Terrance Smith was injured throughout 2014, and Matthew Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season after offseason shoulder surgery. The Seminoles use a lot of nickel defense, which should alleviate some of the depth and talent concerns about this unit. This fall will be a critical one for junior college recruit Lorenzo Phillips. Coordinator Charles Kelly and linebacker coach Bill Miller will be watching this unit closely during fall camp.
4. Upgrading the Pass Rush
The Seminoles recorded only 17 sacks last season and upgrading the play in the trenches is a priority for new line coach Brad Lawing. Standouts Eddie Goldman (DT) and Mario Edwards Jr. (DE) must be replaced, but there’s a handful of talented youngsters ready to emerge. Junior DeMarcus Walker and sophomore Lorenzo Featherston enter the fall as favorites to start at end, and Chris Casher, Rick Leonard and Jacob Pugh will provide depth. In addition to upgrading the pass rush, Florida State has to stop the run better after ranking No. 71 nationally in 2014.
5. Secondary Mix and Match
Jalen Ramsey is one of the best players in college football. The versatile junior is expected to start at cornerback this season, which leaves an open spot at safety. True freshman Derwin James is going to play a lot of snaps in 2015, but the top recruit could earn a starting spot. The other cornerback spot opposite of Ramsey is unsettled, with junior Marquez White the frontrunner over converted running back Ryan Green.
Cincinnati is making the switch from Adidas to Under Armour this season, and the Bearcats officially unveiled their new uniforms on Monday.
The Bearcats’ black uniform is one of the best in the American Athletic Conference, and Under Armour kept the overall look intact with a few tweaks.
Check out Cincinnati’s new uniforms for 2015:
Here are more looks at the Cincinnati uniforms pic.twitter.com/t5QtmnaDwO— Uniform Nation Blog (@UniNationBlog) August 3, 2015
With fall camps set to open in August for all 128 college football teams, the 2015 season is officially around the corner. There’s no shortage of position battles or schemes to work on this fall, but quarterback competitions will steal the spotlight in August.
The Big Ten has a solid group of quarterbacks returning in 2015, starting with the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett duo at Ohio State. While it’s uncertain which quarterback will take the first snap, this duo is the top quarterback depth chart in college football. Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg round out the top three passers in the Big Ten this fall.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2015.
Big Ten Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, Ohio State
Regardless of whether Barrett or Jones takes the first snap for Ohio State in 2015, the Buckeyes will have the Big Ten’s top quarterback. Jones delivered under pressure last season, guiding Ohio State to three consecutive victories to end 2014 after Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury. Prior to his leg injury, Barrett averaged 314.3 total yards per game last year.
2. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cook enters 2015 with a stellar 23-3 career record as Michigan State’s starter. After passing for 2,755 yards and 22 scores in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback, Cook topped those numbers in 2014 with 3,214 yards and 24 touchdown tosses. Cook is a big reason why Michigan State will be in the mix to play in one of college football’s top bowl games this postseason.
3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Hackenberg didn’t have the most productive 2014 campaign, but the Virginia native’s performance was tough to evaluate with a shaky offensive line. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Hackenberg, as he’s regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects for next year’s draft. As a freshman, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 scores. However, despite exceeding his 2013 yardage total (2,977) in 2014, Hackenberg tossed 15 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns. Assuming the offensive line is better in 2015, Hackenberg should show marked improvement in coach James Franklin’s second year.
Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions
4. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
It’s a close call for the No. 4 spot on this list. A case could be made for Armstrong, Lunt or Sudfeld. Armstrong gets the nod before fall practices open, but the junior has to adapt to a new offense and play-caller this season. Armstrong recorded 3,400 total yards in 2014 and 28 overall scores. Increasing his completion percentage (53.3 percent in 2014) is a priority in the new offense.
5. Wes Lunt, Illinois
If Lunt stays healthy, the junior should post huge numbers in coach Bill Cubit’s offense. However, keeping Lunt’s jersey clean will be a challenge for Cubit, as Illinois gave up 37 sacks in 2014, and this unit remains a concern headed into fall camp. Lunt played in only eight games last season due to a leg injury and finished with 1,763 yards and 14 scores.
6. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Similar to Illinois’ Wes Lunt, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sudfeld climb a couple of spots on this list in 2015. A shoulder injury limited Sudfeld to just six games last season, but he threw for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s starter in 2013. Finding Sudfeld help at receiver is a priority for coach Kevin Wilson, especially after J-Shun Harris was lost for the year with a torn ACL.
7. Jake Rudock, Michigan
With Jim Harbaugh taking over in Ann Arbor, expect Michigan’s offense to take a step forward in 2015. Harbaugh won’t elevate this attack into one of the best in the Big Ten in one year, but improvement should be noticeable. Rudock transferred from Iowa after throwing for 2,436 yards and 16 scores in 2014. Shane Morris is expected to push Rudock for the starting job in fall camp.
8. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
Minnesota’s strengths are no secret. Coach Jerry Kill plans to lean on the rushing attack and defense to contend in the Big Ten’s West Division. But if the Golden Gophers want to take the next step, improving the passing attack is a must. Leidner threw for 1,798 yards and 11 scores last season and added 452 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota doesn’t need 300 passing yards a game, but Leidner has to improve in 2015.
9. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
The Iowa coaching staff handed the keys to the offense to Beathard after the TaxSlayer Bowl loss against Tennessee. As a result of Beathard promoted into the starting role, Jake Rudock transferred to Michigan. The Hawkeyes hope Beathard adds more big-play ability to the offense, and the junior has played well in limited action, completing 52 of 92 throws for 645 yards and five scores in 2014.
10. Joel Stave, Wisconsin
Stave might be the biggest beneficiary of Paul Chryst’s return to Madison. Chryst is regarded for his work as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and the Badgers hope the new coaching staff helps to spark a passing attack that averaged only 148.7 yards per game in 2014. Stave doesn’t have to be overly prolific with Wisconsin’s defense and rushing attack in place, but the senior has room to improve after completing only 53.4 percent of his passes and tossing 10 picks in 2014.
11. Caleb Rowe, Maryland
Rowe suffered a torn ACL last season but is on track to return at full strength by the opener. The junior has 12 touchdown passes over the last three years and completed 63 percent of his throws (34 of 54) in 2014. He will be pushed for time by Oklahoma State graduate transfer Daxx Garman and junior Perry Hills.
12. Zack Oliver/Clayton Thorson/Matt Alviti, Northwestern
The Wildcats have a three-way battle for the starting job entering fall camp. Oliver has the most experience (61 career pass attempts), but the upside in this battle rests with Alviti and Thorson. Will Northwestern finish the fall with a clear starter? Or will this battle continue into the year? The guess here is Alviti or Thorson takes the first snap of 2015.
13. Austin Appleby, Purdue
Some clarity to Purdue’s quarterback battle was provided after Danny Etling transferred to LSU at the end of spring ball. With Etling out of the picture, the Boilermakers are down to Appleby, redshirt freshman David Blough and true freshman Elijah Sindelar. Appleby is the favorite to start after completing 144 of 272 passes for 1,449 yards and 10 scores last season. However, if Appleby struggles, Blough is an intriguing option for coach Darrell Hazell.
14. Chris Laviano, Rutgers
Laviano isn’t guaranteed to start, as LSU transfer Hayden Rettig will push for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in the fall. Laviano worked as Gary Nova’s backup last season and completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and one interception. The sophomore finished spring with a slight edge over Rettig, and both quarterbacks have to adjust to a new play-caller in Ben McDaniels.
College football media days are always better when the coaches and players set out to enjoy the moment and not take the interviews too seriously.
Count Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez as one who was enjoying the moment on Friday.
The Wildcats’ head coach was interviewed by the Pac-12 Network and had quite the story to tell about Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Check out Rodriguez’s story, which involved goggles, a lagoon and some swim attire:
The one-game suspension of four potential starters for Ohio State has slightly altered the outlook for the opener against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes won’t need any reminder about how difficult of a matchup this is, as Virginia Tech won in Columbus 35-21 last season.
Joey Bosa’s name was by far the biggest in Ohio State’s release of the suspensions for the opener against Virginia Tech. Bosa is considered one of the top players in college football and is a huge loss for defense. While it’s easy to overlook the three other players involved, receivers Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall accounted for 79 catches last season.
Needless to say, that’s a lot of receptions to replace in one game, especially against a secondary pegged by most to be among the best in the nation.
With Wilson, Smith and Marshall all sidelined, Ohio State will have to turn to a familiar face as an impact player: Braxton Miller.
Junior Michael Thomas (54 catches) will be the most-established target for J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, but Miller has a chance to make an immediate impact in his first game as a receiver.
While Miller is still recovering from a shoulder injury and is just beginning his transition to receiver, Ohio State needs the senior to be ready for a full workload against the Hokies.
Miller is expected to play in the H-back role and could see 10-15 touches in the opener in a variety of ways. Throwing a pass? A rushing attempt? Both should be on the table.
The timetable for Miller’s transition has been altered with the news of the suspensions. Ideally, Ohio State would like to ease Miller into the gameplan and not ask too much in Week 1 – especially for a player that missed all of 2014 due to a shoulder injury.
While the Buckeyes aren’t solely relying on Miller to anchor their receiving corps in the opener, Miller’s position move is under the spotlight against a tough Virginia Tech defense. Without three key playmakers, the importance of Miller's transition and Thomas' development are critical to Ohio State's hopes of starting 1-0.
How quick can Miller go from quarterback to dynamic playmaker? The guess here is right away. But Miller is just starting to learn and develop as a receiver and it may take a full year for the senior to learn all of the nuances of the position.
Against Virginia Tech - a team with a good secondary and defensive line - Miller's first opportunity to be a dynamic playmaker at receiver is going to get tested right away in a tough environment. The opener already had plenty of intrigue for the Buckeyes, but there's added pressure and interest in how Miller performs with the news of three receiver suspensions.
Ohio State will begin its national title defense without a couple of key players. According to a release from the school, defensive end Joey Bosa and receivers Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will be suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech.
Bosa is the biggest loss for the Buckeyes, as the junior is one of college football’s top players and a first-team All-American for 2015. In 15 games last season, Bosa recorded 55 tackles (21 for a loss) and 13.5 sacks. Bosa’s absence is an even bigger concern with the departure of last year's other starter at end (Michael Bennett) off to the NFL. Without Bosa, Ohio State is thin on proven experience at defensive end.
The quarterback battle is going to dominate the offseason headlines in Columbus, but the receiving corps is a concern for the opener with Marshall, Smith and Wilson suspended. The Buckeyes still have Michael Thomas (54 receptions in 2014), but Marshall, Smith and Wilson accounted for 79 catches last year.
With three key targets sidelined for the opener, Ohio State needs Braxton Miller to make a quick transition to receiver. The converted quarterback is now one of the Buckeyes’ top options in the passing attack (at least for the opener).
Before the suspensions were announced, Ohio State was considered a 13 or 14-point favorite in Vegas. Expect that line between the Buckeyes and Hokies to drop over the next month.
Repeating as a college football national champion isn’t easy. And Ohio State’s road to another title just got a little tougher. Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to pull off another upset over the Buckeyes. And without Bosa, Ohio State’s defense needs sophomore end Tyquan Lewis and senior tackle Adolphus Washington to elevate their performance.
One loss won't end Ohio State's national championship bid. After all, the Buckeyes lost to the Hokies in 2014 and still reached the playoffs and won the title game.
There’s still a month to dissect the on-field matchup between Virginia Tech and Ohio State. However, it’s safe to say this game now has some added intrigue and upset potential.
Florida State is coming off one of the best two-year runs by a program in recent memory. The Seminoles won 27 games from 2013-14, claimed the 2013 national championship and reached the playoffs last season. Additionally, Florida State has claimed three consecutive ACC titles and has four double-digit win seasons over the last five years.
Even though the Seminoles lost a handful of key players from last season, another run at the playoffs isn’t unrealistic. Of course, Florida State needs to answer several personnel questions and navigate a few tricky road tests, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best in the nation and is primed for a quick reload in 2015.
The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.
Here’s a look at three reasons why Florida State will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Seminoles won’t finish in the top four.
Three Reasons Why Florida State Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015
Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate, but there is plenty of value in the data. Using the 247Sports team rankings from 2011-15, Florida State’s five-year recruiting average (4.4) ranks No. 2 behind Alabama (1.0). There’s more to a roster and judging teams in the preseason than just pure talent from a recruiting perspective. However, there’s no shortage of potential and talent for the Seminoles. How quickly will coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff develop the young talent on the roster into key contributors? On paper, most of Florida State’s talent is in the freshmen and sophomore ranks for 2015.
2. Jimbo Fisher Will Find a Quarterback
The last three full-time starters at quarterback for Florida State under Fisher have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Extending that streak to four seems unlikely, but it’s safe to assume Fisher will find the right answer at quarterback. Sean Maguire finished spring at the top of the depth chart, and the junior has three seasons of experience within Fisher’s system. He also started the Sept. 20 showdown against Clemson – arguably the best defense in the nation – last year, completing 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards. However, Maguire isn’t guaranteed the starting job after former Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson announced he would transfer to Florida State in May. Golson is clearly more established as a quarterback on the FBS level, but he also faces a tough transition to a new offense. Regardless of whether Golson or Maguire takes the first snap, Fisher deserves the benefit of the doubt in finding the next quarterback.
3. Jalen Ramsey + Playmakers on Offense
While one player isn’t able to transform a defense into a shutdown group, defensive back Jalen Ramsey can make up for a lot of deficiencies for the Seminoles. The junior is arguably the best player in college football and is shifting from safety to cornerback in 2015. Ramsey’s all-around versatility on defense is a huge asset for second-year coordinator Charles Kelly. On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles have a core of young playmakers ready to emerge in 2015. The status of Dalvin Cook is uncertain after an off-field incident, but Jacques Patrick and Mario Pender should prevent a drop in the rushing performance. At receiver, sophomores Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane are rising stars. True freshmen George Campbell and Da’Vante Phillips are also worth watching as key contributors this season.
Florida State's 2015 Schedule
|Date||Opponent||Logo||Athlon Projected Rank for 2015||Projected Record|
|Sept. 5||Texas State||93||7-5|
|Sept. 18||at Boston College||56||6-6|
|Oct. 3||at Wake Forest||82||4-8|
|Oct. 24||at Georgia Tech||18||8-5|
|Nov. 7||at Clemson||14||9-3|
|Nov. 14||NC State||39||9-3|
|Nov. 28||at Florida||26||8-4|
Three Reasons Why Florida State Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. Too Many Holes to Fill
Even though the rankings indicate just how well Fisher and this staff have performed on the recruiting trail, this team is losing a ton of key players from last season. Offensively, quarterback Jameis Winston is the biggest loss, but receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary must be replaced, along with four starters on the offensive line. The defense ranked ninth in the ACC in points allowed last year and lost both starting cornerbacks, end Mario Edwards Jr. and tackle Eddie Goldman to the NFL. The linebacking corps is also thin on depth.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
2. Road Schedule
If Florida State is going to return to the playoffs in 2015, it will have to win a handful of critical games on the road. Trips to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida are key swing games for the Seminoles this season, and there’s an intriguing mid-September trip to Boston College – a team that has played Florida State tough over the last two years. Catching Miami, Louisville and NC State at home softens the road schedule a bit, but this is not an easy path for a rebuilding team in 2015.
3. Defensive Concerns
Charles Kelly’s first season as the defensive signal-caller had its share of ups and downs. The Seminoles finished ninth in the ACC in scoring defense and allowed 5.5 yards per play. However, Kelly’s halftime adjustments were a key cog in some of Florida State’s close victories. But this unit still has a ways to go in 2015, and a handful of key players left for the NFL. The defensive line may not have a dominant, first-team All-ACC performer this year, but there is depth and some promising young talent. The linebacking corps is arguably Kelly’s biggest concern with Reggie Northrup and Matthew Thomas recovering from offseason surgeries. Even though this unit has promising talent in spots and one of the nation’s top players in Ramsey, the Seminoles need another year of seasoning on defense.
Florida State is a team built to win in 2016 or 2017. Sure, there’s a lot of promising talent in place and a standout freshman class will add to the depth for Fisher. However, the Seminoles must replace four starters on the offensive line, break in a new quarterback and improve a defense ranked near the bottom of the ACC in the four main statistical categories. And there’s a schedule featuring road trips to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida. That's a lot to overcome. Finishing with 11 wins in the regular season isn’t out of the question. However, a 10-2 campaign is more realistic considering all of the personnel question marks and roster turnover this year.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 9
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-2 (6-2 ACC)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9.5
The SEC is in a two-year drought without a Heisman winner. After winning three trophies from 2007-10, the SEC has just one winner from 2011-14.
Can the SEC claim a Heisman winner in 2015? The conference has a few options among the nation’s leading candidates, especially at the running back position with Georgia’s Nick Chubb, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry.
Quarterbacks Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) are also squarely in the mix.
Here's a look at the top Heisman candidates from the SEC for 2015.
The Five Clear Favorites
1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb was slated to spend 2014 as a backup to Todd Gurley, but an early-season suspension and torn ACL to Gurley elevated Chubb into the starting lineup. The No. 33 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite ensured Georgia’s rushing attack didn’t miss a beat, recording 1,547 yards and 14 scores on 219 attempts. Chubb averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the last eight games of 2014.
Related: SEC Breakout Players for 2015
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
A strong case could be made for Fournette as college football’s most talented running back. As a true freshman in 2014, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores on 187 attempts. The former five-star recruit should see even more carries as LSU’s No. 1 back in 2015.
3. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Henry led Alabama with 990 rushing yards and tied for the team lead with 11 touchdowns on the ground. With T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry will anchor the rushing attack for coordinator Lane Kiffin. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound running back is a handful for opposing defenses to tackle, and he’s due for his first 1,000-yard campaign in Tuscaloosa.
4. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Quarterbacks are always going to have an advantage in the Heisman race, and Prescott is one of the leading candidates under center in 2015. Mississippi State is losing a handful of key players from 2014, but the Bulldogs will be a factor in the SEC West title picture. Prescott guided Mississippi State to just its third double-digit win campaign in school history last year and passed for 3,449 yards and 27 scores, while adding 986 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Related: SEC Predictions for 2015
5. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Johnson has only two career starts, but the junior should be among the top 10-15 favorites to win the Heisman in 2015. The Montgomery native is a different quarterback than Auburn’s last starter (Nick Marshall), as the junior is more of a drop-back passer and is poised to keep Gus Malzahn’s high-powered attack among the best in the nation. No. 5 might be too low for Johnson.
The Next Five Candidates
6. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
All signs point to Treadwell returning to full strength from a serious leg injury suffered in 2014. In nine games last season, Treadwell caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five scores. Quarterback play is under the spotlight for the Rebels in 2015 and will determine just how high Treadwell climbs in the Heisman discussion. He could be the best receiver in the nation in 2015.
7. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
Allen is the favorite to start for the Aggies in 2015, but touted freshman Kyler Murray will push for snaps. Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns in limited action last year, with his best performance (294 yards) coming against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The sophomore should have a breakout year at the controls of a high-powered offense in College Station.
Related: SEC Breakout Players for 2015
8. Alex Collins/Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
Splitting carries hurts the Heisman outlook for Williams and Collins, but both players should push for 1,000 yards in 2015. If Arkansas continues to improve in coach Bret Bielema’s third year, the stock of Williams and Collins will continue to rise.
9. Duke Williams, WR, Auburn
Expect to see Williams’ numbers increase in 2015 with the departure of Sammie Coates, along with the addition of quarterback Jeremy Johnson into the starting lineup. In his first year from the junior college ranks, Williams averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 45 receptions.
11. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Cooper is among the nation’s top all-purpose players, averaging 108.5 total yards per game in 2014. The junior needs more help in the win column to jump into the Heisman race.
Related: SEC Predictions for 2015
12. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
Pencil in a Tennessee candidate here. Dobbs gets a slight nod over running back Jalen Hurd as the favorite on Rocky Top to contend for the Heisman. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine scores over the final six games of 2014.
Three Darkhorses to Watch
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
Hurd led the team with 899 rushing yards last season but will face increased competition for carries from junior college recruit Alvin Kamara.
Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri
Mauk has a revamped receiving corps but should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter. He threw for 2,648 yards and 25 scores in 14 games last season.
Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky
Rising star for the Wildcats should be in for a bigger workload after averaging 6.6 yards per attempt on 74 carries last season.
Defensive Players to Watch
(A defensive player winning the Heisman is unlikely. But here’s a look at the best candidates if a defensive player will get into the Heisman discussion).
1. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Hargreaves III is arguably the top cover cornerback in the nation. The junior has earned back-to-back All-SEC honors.
2. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett was outstanding as a true freshman, ranking second among defenders in SEC games with 10 sacks.
3. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Don’t expect huge stats from Nkemdiche as the anchor of Ole Miss’ defensive line, but the junior is a force on the interior and a handful for opposing offensive linemen.
4. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett ranked as one of the top prospects in the 2014 signing class and didn’t disappoint in his first year with the Aggies. Garrett recorded 11.5 sacks in 12 games last season.
5. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Either Ragland or teammate A’Shawn Robinson deserves a mention here. The Crimson Tide should have one of the best defenses in college football.
IndyCar driver Graham Rahal will have the best-looking helmet in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course.
Rahal is a big Ohio State fan and unveiled on Wednesday night a Buckeye-themed helmet, complete with the college football playoff and stickers.
A couple of interesting details about the helmet were the No. 15 sticker on the back – Rahal’s number (which also happens to be Ezekiel Elliott’s number) and the 18 Buckeye stickers. The 18 stickers represent Rahal’s career podium finishes in the IndyCar series.
Coordinator changes in college football can have an immediate impact on either side of the ball. Every year, it seems a handful of teams show significant improvement in the win column or on the stat sheet as a result of a coordinator change.
Last season, TCU’s offense improved to one of the best in the nation after the hire of Doug Meacham as the team’s play-caller. Which teams will see the biggest jump from a coordinator hire in 2015? Texas Tech’s David Gibbs (defense), Texas A&M’s John Chavis (defense), Auburn’s Will Muschamp (defense) and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley are just a few names to watch this fall.
Here’s a look at some of the top coordinator hires to watch in 2015 from the Power 5 and Group of 5 teams in college football:
Top Coordinator Hires from Power 5 Programs
Tim Beck/Ed Warinner, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Beck and Warinner have big shoes to fill in 2015. This duo is tasked with replacing Tom Herman after he left to be the coach at Houston. Urban Meyer is always involved prominently with the offense, but the Beck/Warinner combination should be a good setup for the Buckeyes. Beck and Warinner worked together at Kansas from 2005-07, helping to guide a Jayhawk offense that averaged 42.3 points per game in 2007. Warinner is regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches.
Tom Bradley, Defensive Coordinator, UCLA
Bradley was a long-time assistant at Penn State from 1979-11 and departed Happy Valley prior to Bill O’Brien’s arrival in 2012. After sitting out the 2012-13 seasons, Bradley resurfaced at West Virginia as a defensive assistant in 2014 and was hired by coach Jim Mora to call the defensive signals in 2015. Under Bradley’s watch, the Nittany Lions led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed in 2009 and 2011.
Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Briles inherits the play-calling duties after Philip Montgomery left to be the head coach at Tulsa. Briles has worked on his father’s staff since 2008 and guided the Bears’ offense to an average of 7.9 yards per play in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.
Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh
Chaney is on his fourth stop in the FBS ranks as a play-caller, joining new coach Pat Narduzzi’s staff after a two-year stint in Arkansas. Chaney also called the plays at Purdue and Tennessee prior to joining the Razorbacks. The Missouri native has a versatile background, which includes experience with the spread and power rushing attacks.
John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
Defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest issue since joining the SEC in 2012. The Aggies gave up 36.5 points in SEC contests in 2013 and 36.6 in 2014. However, improvement should be noticeable in 2015. Chavis is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation and has worked as a play-caller in the SEC since 1995. The South Carolina native was a huge hire for coach Kevin Sumlin, and the Aggies are starting to trend in the right direction on defense.
Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina
Chizik returns to the sidelines for the first time since he was fired as Auburn’s head coach at the end of the 2012 season. Even though Chizik’s stints as a head coach were mixed – he did win a national championship with the Tigers and spent two years as the head coach at Iowa State – he is regarded for his work as a defensive coordinator. Chizik has previously called the plays at Texas, Auburn and UCF. He’s tasked with improving a defense that allowed 6.5 yards per play and surrendered 39 points a game last season.
Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida
The “Minister of Mayhem” should keep Florida’s defense near the top of the SEC. Despite a sluggish offense under former coach Will Muschamp, the Gators never finished lower than sixth in the SEC in points allowed from 2011-14. Mississippi State’s defense was a big reason why the Bulldogs won 10 games in 2014, and Collins inherits a solid core of defensive talent in Gainesville.
Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh
Conklin is a rising star in the assistant ranks and was picked by defensive guru Pat Narduzzi to call the signals for Pittsburgh’s defense. The Wyoming native started his coaching career in 2003 and was hired at Tennessee in 2012, before landing his first FBS coordinator position at FIU in 2013. The Panthers ranked third in Conference USA in scoring defense and generated 33 turnovers last season.
Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State
Diaz was considered a rising star when he was hired by Mack Brown at Texas in 2011. However, the Longhorns regressed on defense after a promising 2011 season, and Diaz was removed as the coordinator in 2013. Even though his tenure in Austin was a disappointment, Diaz bounced back at Louisiana Tech in 2014, as the Bulldogs led the nation with 42 turnovers and held opponents to 24.7 points per game. The Miami native returns to Starkville after working as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2010.
D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
The play of Florida’s defense was overlooked during the Will Muschamp era due to the struggles of the offense. Although Muschamp played a huge role in developing the defense, Durkin also deserves a lot of credit. The Ohio native is a highly-regarded assistant and is reunited with Jim Harbaugh after working at Stanford with the former Michigan quarterback from 2007-09.
Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas
Enos’ decision to leave his position as head coach of Central Michigan for a coordinator job came as a surprise. However, the Michigan native was a good hire for an Arkansas’ offense hoping to increase its passing output in 2015. Enos worked as a quarterback coach from 2004-05 at Cincinnati and 2006 at Michigan State. And at Central Michigan, the Chippewas averaged at least 25 points per game in MAC contests from 2011-14.
David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
Defense has been a major issue at Texas Tech in recent years. Since 2010, the Red Raiders have never ranked higher than seventh in the Big 12 in scoring defense and allowed a whopping 41.3 points per game in 2014. Gibbs takes over in Lubbock after coordinating an aggressive, turnover-driven Houston defense from 2013-14. The Cougars also limited opponents to 20.6 points per game last year. This should be one of the nation’s top hires in 2015.
Danny Langsdorf, Offensive Coordinator, Nebraska
Langsdorf is back in the collegiate ranks after a one-year stint with the Giants. Prior to 2014, Langsdorf worked as Oregon State’s coordinator from 2005-13 and also has stops on his resume from the CFL (Edmonton) and in the NFL (Saints). Langsdorf was a valuable assistant for coach Mike Riley in developing quarterbacks and passing attacks at Oregon State. The Beavers led the Pac-12 in passing offense in 2013 and finished second in 2012.
Jim Leavitt, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado
Leavitt is back in the collegiate ranks after a four-year stint as an assistant with the 49ers. The Texas native previously worked as the head coach at USF from 1996-09 and made a stop as a co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1992-95. Leavitt has a wealth of experience on defense, which is a huge asset to Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre as he looks to improve a defense that allowed 43 points per game in Pac-12 action in 2014.
Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn
Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Auburn in coach Gus Malzahn’s two-year tenure. However, the defense allowed 32.8 points per game in SEC contests in 2014 and surrendered 29.6 points per contests in 2013. Muschamp’s arrival should pay huge dividends for the Tigers this season, as he’s regarded as one of the top defensive minds in college football. Muschamp didn’t work out at Florida as a head coach, but he should have more success calling the defensive signals for Auburn.
Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
Memphis showed significant progress under Justin Fuente’s watch over the last three seasons. Fuente has been instrumental in the turnaround, but he also hired a good staff, including Odom as the defensive coordinator. The Tigers gave up 19.5 points per game in 2014 and limited opponents to 4.7 yards per play. As a former Missouri linebacker and Gary Pinkel assistant, Odom should provide Missouri with a seamless transition from Dave Steckel at coordinator.
Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
After last year’s disappointing 8-5 record, Bob Stoops wasted no time in overhauling Oklahoma’s coaching staff. Riley plans on implementing an Air Raid attack similar to the one he coordinated at East Carolina and learned under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The Sooners want to jumpstart their passing attack after ranking eighth in the Big 12 last season, but Riley won’t abandon the rushing game, especially with talented sophomore Samaje Perine leading the way. Under Riley’s watch (2010-14), East Carolina averaged at least 30 points a game in three out of the last four seasons.
Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Sanford is considered a rising star among coordinators and has been on a fast track through the assistant ranks. Sanford worked as a graduate assistant with UNLV in 2005-06 and later spent two seasons with Stanford from 2007-08. After one season at Yale, the former Boise State quarterback spent a year at WKU and returned to the Cardinal to work under David Shaw from 2011-13. Sanford coordinated Boise State’s offense last year, guiding the Broncos to an average of 39.7 points per game.
Kalani Sitake, Defensive Corodinator, Oregon State
Gary Andersen inherited a rebuilding project at Oregon State, but future looks bright in Corvallis with the former Utah State and Wisconsin head coach leading the way. Andersen also hired an outstanding staff, including Sitake as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Hawaii native was hired away from Utah after spending 10 years with the Utes, including six as the play-caller on defense. In 2014, Utah ranked No. 4 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense.
Top Group of 5 Coordinator Hires
Kent Baer, Defensive Coordinator, UNLV
A veteran coordinator like Baer is a huge asset to UNLV, as new coach Tony Sanchez makes the transition from the high school ranks. Baer was hired to Las Vegas away from Colorado after a two-year stint with the Buffaloes. In addition to his last job, Baer has worked as the defensive coordinator at San Jose State, Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, California, Idaho and Utah State.
Brian Borland, Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo
Buffalo made one of the offseason’s top hires with the addition of Lance Leipold from Wisconsin-Whitewater, and a few coaches followed Leipold to the FBS level. Borland worked as Wisconsin-Whitewater’s defensive play-caller from 2002-14, with the Warhawks holding opponents to just 12.2 points per game last season.
Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State
Clune coached at Utah State from 2009-13 before leaving for a season to coordinate Hawaii’s defense in 2014. The Rainbow Warriors defense showed significant improvement under Clune’s direction, allowing 26.8 points per game in 2014 after giving up 38.8 in 2013.
Brent Key, Offensive Coordinator, UCF
Key is known for his work on the recruiting trail but now has a chance to call the plays for UCF’s offense in 2015. The Birmingham native has worked as a full-time assistant at UCF since 2006.
Todd Orlando, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Houston
Orlando is part of a solid staff pieced together by new coach Tom Herman. The Pennsylvania native has worked as a defensive coordinator in the FBS ranks since 2005, including the last two with Utah State. The Aggies limited opposing offenses to 19.7 points per game last year.
Tyson Summers, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado State
Summers was picked by new Colorado State coach Mike Bobo to coordinate the Rams’ defense after a successful one-year stint as UCF’s defensive signal-caller in 2014. Under Summers’ watch, the Knights held opponents to 19.2 points per game.
Don Treadwell, Offensive Coordinator, Kent State
Treadwell struggled as a head coach at Miami (Ohio), but the Ohio native is regarded for his work as a play-caller, especially during a four-year stint at Michigan State from 2007-10.
Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama
Vincent returns to South Alabama after one season at UAB. In 2014, Vincent guided the Blazers to an average of 33.2 points per game and ranked fourth in Conference USA with 17 plays of 40 yards or more.
Brian Ward, Defensive Coordinator, Bowling Green
Bowling Green’s defense struggled mightily last year, giving up 33.5 points per game in coach Dino Babers’ first season. Ward returns only four starters, but the Falcons should be better on this side of the ball in 2015. Under Ward’s direction, Western Illinois ranked seventh nationally in total defense in 2013.
Bill Young, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Tulsa
Young is sharing the co-defensive coordinator title with former Baylor assistant Brian Norwood, and the veteran assistant should be a huge asset for new coach Philip Montgomery. Young has a wealth of experience as a coordinator, including recent stops at Oklahoma State (2009-12), Miami (2008) and Kansas (2002-07).
Rivalry games are a huge part of college football, but recent conference realignment has changed the outlook for some of these annual matchups. Missouri-Kansas and Texas-Texas A&M aren’t scheduled to play anytime soon, and Pittsburgh-West Virginia – known as the Backyard Brawl – is also in hiatus.
The Backyard Brawl is among the best rivalries in college football, but it’s future is up in the air.
New Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi was asked about the future of the rivalry when the ACC coaches visited ESPN this week:
Pat Narduzzi responding to Dana Holgorsen’s “we’re begging to play Pitt” comment: “I never beg"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 28, 2015
Pat Narduzzi on WVU series: “I’d love to play WVU someday but our instate rivalry (Penn State) is bigger than an out-of-state rivalry”— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 28, 2015
After Narduzzi’s comments were circulated, Holgorsen took to Twitter to issue a (rather perfect) response:
Mountaineers don't back out of a Brawl! #SweetCaroline...— Dana Holgorsen (@Holgorsendana) July 28, 2015
While the back-and-forth between the two coaches makes for excellent offseason discussion, there’s no reason for either program to avoid scheduling the other to renew the rivalry. After all, scheduling this game would meet two criteria: Better non-conference games and selling tickets.
Sounds like a win-win proposition doesn’t it?
Let’s get this game scheduled as soon as possible.
Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.
The SEC lost some big names at quarterback, which opens the door for new stars to emerge like Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen, Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs. On the defensive side of the ball, there’s no shortage of talent for college football's No. 1 league in 2015. Texas A&M’s Otaro Alaka is a rising star in the sophomore ranks, while true freshman defensive tackle Trent Thompson is poised to be a key part of the line rotation for Georgia.
Predicting the SEC's Breakout Players for 2015
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Adams was an impact freshman for coach Les Miles in 2014, and the expectations are even higher for the Texas native in 2015. In 13 games last season, Adams recorded 66 tackles, one sack and five pass breakups. The sophomore is expected to start this year and help anchor a secondary that is among the best in college football.
Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M
New coordinator John Chavis inherits a defense that allowed 28.1 points per game last season but has promising young talent to build around. Alaka is one of the players for Texas A&M’s core on defense, as the Houston native had an underrated debut with the Aggies in 2014. As a true freshman, Alaka recorded 33 tackles in 12 games and also forced two fumbles. After earning Defensive MVP honors in the Liberty Bowl, Alaka is poised to push for All-SEC accolades this year.
Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
Talented true freshman Kyler Murray is going to see some snaps this season, but Allen is expected to hold onto the starting spot this fall. Allen was one of the top quarterbacks in last year’s signing class and eventually replaced Kenny Hill as the Aggies’ starter. The Arizona native played in nine games and finished the year with 1,322 yards and 16 scores. Allen’s best performance came against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, tossing four scores in a 45-37 win by the Aggies.
Jeb Blazevich, TE, Georgia
Georgia’s receiving corps is a question mark, but the concerns over this unit could be eased if Blazevich is more involved in the passing attack in 2014. As a true freshman last year, Blazevich caught 18 passes for 269 yards and two scores. The North Carolina native should be in the mix for All-SEC honors in 2015.
Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss
The Rebels’ pass defense was among the stingiest in college football last season. While there’s a few personnel tweaks coming to the secondary in 2015, this unit should once again rank among the best in the nation. Bridges was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for coach Hugh Freeze, ranking as the No. 7 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer was a first-team NJCAA All-American last year and is penciled in as one starter at cornerback this season.
Nate Brown, WR, Missouri
There’s no shortage of available playing time in Missouri’s receiving corps in 2015. The Tigers must replace their top four statistical options in the passing game from 2014, with tight end Sean Culkin (20 catches) as the team’s most proven option. Brown played in nine games as a true freshman last season and caught five passes for 45 yards. He could emerge as the go-to target for quarterback Maty Mauk this fall.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
If Dobbs picks up where he left off in 2014, Tennessee should be in the race to win the SEC East. Over the final six games of last season, Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine scores and rushed for 469 yards and eight touchdowns. After posting big numbers against South Carolina and Kentucky in 2014, Dobbs is tasked with increasing his production against some of the SEC’s top defenses this year.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
LSU isn’t hurting for talent at receiver, but the success of the passing attack heavily depends on the development of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. Dupre was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and played in 12 contests last year. The New Orleans native caught 14 passes for 318 yards and five scores in his first season on campus and could easily double those totals in 2015.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster is known for his punishing hits, but the junior could be much more than a highlight-reel player in 2015. The Alabama native played in 11 contests last year and recorded 22 stops and one sack. Foster is expected to push for a starting job on the interior of the Crimson Tide’s linebacking corps and is primed for his best season in Tuscaloosa.
Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2015
Robert Foster, WR, Alabama
Alabama’s passing attack has to be retooled this offseason. Quarterback Blake Sims has expired his eligibility, and the Crimson Tide must replace the top three receivers from last year, including No. 1 target Amari Cooper (124 catches in 2014). Foster could be the new go-to receiver for coordinator Lane Kiffin after catching six passes for 44 yards in nine games last season. The former five-star recruit is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Gerri Green, LB, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs have to replace some key pieces from last year’s defense, starting with star linebacker Benardrick McKinney. However, the linebacking corps has plenty of talent in place, and coordinator Manny Diaz has to be excited about the potential of Green and fellow freshman Leo Lewis. Green redshirted in 2014 and should push for a starting job in the fall.
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Even though Shane Ray and Markus Golden have departed, there’s not a ton of concern at defensive end for Missouri. After all, the Tigers continue to produce standout ends under line coach Craig Kuligowski. All signs point to Harris as the next star off the edge. The sophomore played in all 14 games as a reserve last season and recorded 19 tackles and two sacks.
Jason Hatcher, LB/DE, Kentucky
With Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith off to the NFL, Kentucky is replacing two key members from a pass rush ranked No. 9 in the SEC in sacks last year. Needless to say, Dupree and Smith leave big shoes to fill, but there’s promise in the form of Hatcher. As a sophomore last year, Hatcher recorded 28 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. The hybrid end/linebacker is due for his best statistical year for coach Mark Stoops.
Bijhon Jackson, DT, Arkansas
With the departure of standouts Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, the Razorbacks are looking for new players to emerge up front. This group may not have a star performer in 2015, but Arkansas has solid depth and plenty of talent for coordinator Robb Smith. Jackson is a name to watch after playing in all 13 games as a true freshman last season. The Arkansas native finished 2014 with nine tackles and one pass breakup and will be a bigger part of the rotation in the trenches this year.
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Johnson’s mention in this column should come as no surprise. The junior has received plenty of offseason hype, and all signs point to Johnson emerging as an All-SEC quarterback in 2015. In limited action over the last two seasons, Johnson has passed for 858 yards and nine scores.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
Jalen Hurd returns after leading Tennessee with 899 rushing yards in 2014, but the Volunteers’ backfield will be even deeper with the addition of Kamara from the junior college ranks. Kamara started his career at Alabama and transferred after one year in Tuscaloosa. In nine games in 2014, Kamara rushed for 1,211 yards and 18 scores with Hutchinson Community College. Expect Kamara and Hurd to share the workload in Tennessee’s backfield, which has the potential to emerge as one of the best in the SEC this season.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s receiving corps was already one of the best in the nation, and the rich are about to get a little richer in 2015. True freshman Christian Kirk is expected to push for a starting job at one of the inside spots in Texas A&M’s receiver lineup. The Arizona native ranked as the No. 25 recruit in the 2015 247Sports and is expected to be one of the SEC’s top freshman performers in 2015.
Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2015
Marquavius Lewis, DE, South Carolina
Improving the performance of the defensive line is a huge priority for new co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke this offseason. The Gamecocks registered only 14 sacks last year and surrendered 212.2 rushing yards per game. Lewis is expected to be an impact junior college recruit for Hoke after two standout years at Hutchinson Community College. The South Carolina native was the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year and registered 11 sacks in 2014.
Alex McCalister, DE/LB, Florida
The strength of Florida’s team in coach Jim McElwain’s first year clearly rests on a defense that allowed only 21.1 points per game in 2014. Seven starters are back for coordinator Geoff Collins, but standout end Dante Fowler must be replaced. However, the drop in pass rush may be minimal with McCalister’s emergence last year. The North Carolina native recorded 23 tackles and six sacks in 12 contests and is due for a bigger role in the trenches this fall.
Markell Pack, WR, Ole Miss
With Laquon Treadwell returning to full strength from a leg injury by the fall, along with the return of proven targets Cody Core and tight end Evan Engram, the Rebels should boast one of the top receiving corps in college football. This group could get even deeper if Pack continues to develop. As a true freshman in 2014, Pack caught 14 passes for 173 yards, with four of those coming in the bowl against TCU. After a strong finish to 2014, bigger things are expected of Pack in 2015.
Jamal Peters, S, Mississippi State
Mississippi State’s cornerback duo of Taveze Calhoun and Will Redmond should be among the best in the SEC in 2015. But there’s some uncertainty at safety entering fall camp. Peters is a touted true freshman, ranking as the No. 58 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite. The Mississippi native will compete for a starting job in the fall.
Ross Pierschbacher, OG, Alabama
Alabama must replace three starters on its line, but this unit already has two of the better building blocks in the SEC with the return of left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly. Pierschbacher is penciled in as a starter at one of the guard spots, and the Iowa native is ready to be a key contributor for Alabama’s offensive line after a redshirt year in 2014. Pierschbacher ranked as the No. 74 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.
Brandon Powell, WR, Florida
The Gators are looking for a spark on offense after averaging 24.9 points in SEC games last season. Redshirt freshman Will Grier is the favorite to start at quarterback and could be another breakout candidate to monitor. However, Powell is an intriguing player for new coach Jim McElwain. A foot injury sidelined Powell for part of spring practice, but the sophomore made a successful transition from running back to receiver. He should be a solid No. 2 option in the receiving corps behind Demarcus Robinson.
Jovon Robinson, RB, Auburn
The Tigers have good depth at running back, but Robinson is likely to handle the bulk of the carries this season. The Memphis native ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite and rushed for 2,387 yards at Georgia Military College in 2013. Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber are expected to spell Robinson, but the junior college recruit will be tough to unseat at the top.
Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions
Fred Ross, WR, Mississippi State
Mississippi State already has one of the SEC’s top receiving corps, and this unit is going to benefit from the continued emergence of Ross this fall. In 13 games last season, Ross grabbed 30 passes for 489 yards and five scores. The 16.3 yards per catch average also ranked ninth among receivers in the SEC. Ross caught only nine passes as a freshman but showed steady progress as a sophomore and finished with 11 receptions over the final two games. Expect the junior to be more involved in the offense in 2015.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Pharoh Cooper is one of the SEC’s top playmakers, but South Carolina lacks proven options outside of its star receiver. Samuel is pushing for a starting spot after a redshirt year in 2014, and the South Carolina native finished spring by catching three passes for 94 yards in the final scrimmage.
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
The Razorbacks hope to upgrade their passing attack after managing only 188 yards per game last season. New coordinator Dan Enos needs more targets to emerge in the passing game to help quarterback Brandon Allen, and Sprinkle is a name to watch after a strong spring. Sprinkle caught seven passes for 84 yards and one score last year and should be more involved with the offense in 2015.
Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia
Thompson ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and is expected to play a key role in Georgia’s defensive line rotation this fall. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, the Georgia native is a good fit as the anchor for coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme.
Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt
Second-year coach Derek Mason is taking over the defensive play-calling after Vanderbilt allowed 33.3 points per game in 2014. Weatherly is one player for Mason to build around after the Georgia native recorded 55 tackles (12.5 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks last season. Mason needs edge rushers to emerge for the 3-4 approach to succeed this year, and Weatherly has the potential to double his sack total this fall.
Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky
If last season’s finale against Louisville was any indication of what to expect from Williams in 2015, the sophomore is in for a huge year. On 18 carries against the Cardinals, Williams recorded 126 rushing yards and two scores and caught three passes for 13 yards. Williams only received 74 carries, but he averaged a healthy 6.6 yards per carry and accumulated 115.9 all-purpose yards a game in 2014.
With fall practice right around the corner, coaches and players are trying to squeeze in the last bit of free time or vacation before the season begins in force. Even though Ohio State is focused on winning another national championship, there’s still plenty of time for the Buckeyes to relax and get away from the summer heat.
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback job with J.T. Barrett, but the junior isn't one to be bothered by pressure.
On Sunday, Jones and a few teammates were hanging out at a pool. And needless to say, just a simple hangout at the pool wasn’t in order for Jones. Instead, the quarterback had a little fun and put a couple of WWE moves on a child at the pool.
Teammate Tyvis Powell captured the wrestling moves on video:
College football coaches are always on the hot seat. The pressure to win now is greater than it was 15-20 years ago. With the 24-hour news cycle, social media and message boards, coaches, teams and players are always on the spotlight.
The terms “hot seat” and “under pressure” don’t necessarily mean a coach is entering a year with concerns about job security, but there are a handful of coaches needing a big season to return in 2016.
Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Virginia’s Mike London and Miami's Al Golden top the hot seat list from Power 5 programs for 2015, while Hawaii’s Norm Chow and San Jose State’s Ron Caragher lead the way from Group of 5 teams.
College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 12-25 (3 years)
It’s been a difficult offseason for Beckman, as allegations of player mistreatment surfaced in May, adding to the pressure for a program that is just 12-25 over the last three years. Illinois has showed some improvement under Beckman, jumping in wins from just two in 2012 to four in 2013, followed by a 6-7 mark last season. The Fighting Illini needs to get back to a bowl in 2015 to save Beckman’s job.
Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015
2. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 23-38 (5 years)
Recruiting talent to Virginia hasn’t been a problem for London. Since 2011, the Cavaliers rank No. 6 among ACC teams with an average of 31.8 in recruiting rankings. However, there’s room to improve in the on-field performance. Virginia has only one winning season during London’s tenure (2011) and has just five ACC victories over the last three years. London’s 5-7 record in 2014 bought him another season, but the Cavaliers need to get to a bowl in 2015.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
3. Norm Chow, Hawaii
Record at Hawaii: 8-29 (3 years)
Chow was a popular hire for the Rainbow Warriors, but the Hawaii native and long-time assistant needs to show progress in 2015. Hawaii is just 8-29 under Chow’s watch but recorded its best mark (4-9) of his tenure last year. Prior to taking over as the head coach for the Rainbow Warriors, Chow was regarded as an assistant during stops at UCLA, USC, Utah, NC State and BYU. 2015 is a make-or-break year for Chow in Honolulu.
Related: Mountain West Predictions for 2015
4. Al Golden, Miami
Record at Miami: 28-22 (4 years)
Is Miami ready to win the ACC Coastal? That question has surrounded the Hurricanes each offseason in recent memory, and the pressure on Golden is increasing in intensity after a 6-7 record last year. Simply, Miami has too much talent to finish with a losing record in ACC play two times in the last four years. Golden inherited a few issues in Coral Gables, including the NCAA/Nevin Shapiro investigation. However, Miami ranks as the No. 3 roster in the ACC and is just 16-16 in conference play over the last four seasons.
Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team
5. Ron Caragher, San Jose State
Record at San Jose State: 9-15 (2 years)
Mike MacIntyre set the bar high for Caragher at San Jose State. In three years with the Spartans, MacIntyre went 16-21, including a 10-2 mark (prior to the bowl) in 2012. While reaching 10 wins at San Jose State isn’t easy, Caragher and San Jose State are trending in the wrong direction. After a 6-6 mark in 2013, the Spartans regressed to 3-9 last season. Caragher reeled in a solid recruiting class in the spring, and the third-year coach may need big contributions from a handful of freshmen in 2015.
6. Willie Taggart, USF
Record at USF: 6-18 (2 years)
Taggart was a promising hire for a USF program coming off an 8-16 record from 2011-12 under Skip Holtz. However, the Bulls are only 6-18 over the last two seasons and is picked by most to finish near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. Taggart has recruited well, so talent isn’t an issue. However, there’s a lot of youth on the roster, and assistant/scheme changes on both sides of the ball. USF has enough returning talent to reach a bowl. But there’s also enough concerns to finish 4-8 again.
7. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Record at Indiana: 14-34 (4 years)
Indiana is one of the Big Ten’s toughest jobs, and Wilson was handed a serious setback after quarterback Nate Sudfeld was lost midway through 2014 with a shoulder injury. The Hoosiers have made progress under Wilson’s watch and nearly made a bowl in 2014 with a 5-7 mark. After a 1-11 record in Wilson’s first year (2011), Indiana has won at least four games in each of the last three seasons. The pressure on Wilson is building, but progress has been noticeable and a postseason trip is within reach for 2015.
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 115-85 (16 years)
Ferentz is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the nation, entering his 17th season at the helm in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have played in 12 bowls under Ferentz, finished in the Associated Press poll five times and posted four years of double-digit wins. That’s the positive side of Ferentz’s tenure. However, the Hawkeyes have not won more than eight games and have only one winning mark in Big Ten play since 2009. Ferentz has done a lot of good things for Iowa. But it’s not easy to maintain success at one program for an extended period of time. 2015 probably isn’t a make-or-break year, but Ferentz needs to show this program isn’t growing stale under his watch.
9. Paul Haynes, Kent State
Record at Kent State: 6-17 (2 years)
Maintaining success as been difficult at Kent State. Darrell Hazell guided the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 mark in 2012, which was the program’s first double-digit win total in school history. However, Kent State has struggled under Haynes’ direction, going 6-17 over the last two years. The Golden Flashes went 2-9 last season and won only one game in conference play.
10. Ron Turner, FIU
Record at FIU: 5-19 (2 years)
Turner was a surprising hire at FIU, and the program slumped to a 1-11 record in his first season (2013). However, there were some signs of life by the Panthers last year, as Turner guided the program to a 4-8 mark. With 14 starters returning, FIU has a chance to show more progress in 2015.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: 231-115-2 (28 years)
This will be an interesting scenario to watch. It’s unlikely Virginia Tech will fire Beamer, but the Hokies have been trending in the wrong direction since 2011. This program is 22-17 over the last three years and is coming off its worst conference record (3-5) since joining the ACC.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Record at Vanderbilt: 3-9 (1 year)
James Franklin set the bar high after three successful years in Nashville, and Mason is looking for improvement after a 3-9 record in his debut.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Record at Iowa State: 29-46 (6 years)
Iowa State is easily one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football. However, since guiding the Cyclones to three bowl appearances in four years, Rhoads is just 5-19 over the last two seasons.
Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse: 10-15 (2 years)
Shafer had a solid debut (7-6), but the Orange regressed to 3-9 last season. Injuries hit this team hard last year, and the offense managed only 17.1 points a game. With a new athletic director, Shafer needs to make a good first impression.
USF is searching for improvement in coach Willie Taggart’s third season, and the Bulls hope their quest for a turnaround is bolstered by some sharp new uniforms for 2015.
Some of these designs have been used before, but USF appears to have a new alternate, which features yellow and green stripes on the shoulders (along with bright yellow numbers).
Check out USF’s sharp new uniforms for the 2015 season:
Baylor is a program on the rise under coach Art Briles. The Bears have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four years and just missed out on a playoff appearance last season. There’s no doubt Briles has raised the expectation level in Waco, and this program has staying power as an annual contender to win the Big 12 and compete for playoff appearances.
As the 2015 season approaches, Baylor should be considered one of the favorites to claim a spot among the four playoff teams. The offense will be explosive once again, and the defense should improve with nine starters returning.
The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.
Here’s a look at three reasons why Baylor will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Bears won’t finish in the top four.
Three Reasons Why Baylor Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015
1. New Quarterback, No Problem
TCU has been picked by most as the preseason favorite in the Big 12, and it’s no secret the Horned Frogs have the league’s best quarterback in senior Trevone Boykin. While quarterback play is always a critical component to winning a conference championship, the turnover under center isn’t cause for concern at Baylor. Coach Art Briles is one of the top offensive minds in the nation, and the Bears have reloaded with ease at quarterback in recent years, as Nick Florence and Bryce Petty kept the offense firing on all cylinders after Robert Griffin III left for the NFL. Has Baylor developed into a program that can easily transition between starters and suffer little or no drop in production for the passing attack? It certainly seems that way. Expect Seth Russell to thrive in his first year under center for the Bears.
2. Abundance of Playmakers
It’s not unrealistic to think Baylor might have the nation’s top collection of skill talent. Running back Shock Linwood returns after rushing for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, and there’s plenty of depth in the form of Devin Chafin, Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams. At receiver, the Bears boast the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps. Corey Coleman and KD Cannon are All-America candidates after combining for 19 touchdown scores last season. Antwan Goodley will be missed, but Jay Lee (15.4 ypc in 2014), Davion Hall, Ishmael Zamora and Chris Platt are more big-play threats ready to emerge in 2015.
3. Best Line of Scrimmage in the Nation?
It’s an overused cliché at times, but teams have to be strong in the trenches to compete for a national title. Baylor’s lines of scrimmage are the best in the Big 12 and among the top teams nationally. The Bears return five starters on an offensive line that allowed 19 sacks in nine Big 12 contests, with senior All-American Spencer Drango anchoring the line from the left tackle position. Briles and coordinator Phil Bennett have significantly upgraded the talent on defense in recent years, starting with a line that is tough against the run and also capable of getting to the quarterback. This unit is headlined by end Shawn Oakman, while tackle Andrew Billings might be one of the nation’s most underrated players.
Baylor's 2015 Schedule
|Date||Opponent||Athlon Projected Rank for 2015||Projected Record|
|Sept. 4||at SMU||102||4-8|
|Oct. 3||Texas Tech (Arlington)||48||6-6|
|Oct. 10||at Kansas||103||1-11|
|Oct. 17||West Virginia||36||8-4|
|Oct. 24||Iowa State||74||3-9|
|Nov. 5||at Kansas State||44||7-5|
|Nov. 21||at Oklahoma State||28||8-4|
|Nov. 27||at TCU||5||10-2|
Three Reasons Why Baylor Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. November Road Schedule
The biggest obstacle to Baylor’s college football playoff hopes has little to do with its personnel. Instead, the Bears playoff bid could be derailed by a brutal November road slate. Baylor plays at Kansas State on Nov. 5, followed by a home date against Oklahoma, then back-to-back road games against Oklahoma State and TCU. While non-conference scheduling has been a source of criticism for Baylor, the Bears will have one of the nation’s toughest November stretches in the nation.
2. Quarterback Play Isn’t an Easy Transition
All signs point to Seth Russell having an easy transition into the starting role for Baylor. After all, Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence was easy, followed by a seamless transition from Florence to Bryce Petty. But what if it doesn’t go well? Russell should cruise through the first three games against non-conference opponents. How will he perform in his first Big 12 start against Texas Tech? Will he be completely settled into the starting job against Kansas State on Nov. 5?
3. Defense Doesn’t Improve
Baylor’s defense certainly wasn’t bad last year. The Bears held opponents to 25.5 points per game, ranked 16th nationally in rush defense and gave up 5.3 yards per play in 2014. However, there’s certainly room to improve. Baylor allowed at least 40 points in two out of its last three games and surrendered 34 passing plays of 30 yards or more. With nine starters back, improvement should be noticeable on the stat sheet for coordinator Phil Bennett. However, if this unit doesn’t improve, stopping TCU’s high-powered offense in a game that could decide the Big 12 title will be a huge challenge.
Don’t expect a repeat of 2014. The Big 12 will get one team into the college football playoff. TCU is getting most of the preseason attention as the favorite in the Big 12, but Baylor has all of the necessary pieces to win the conference crown. Sure, replacing quarterback Bryce Petty is going to be a challenge. However, Seth Russell looks to be a capable option, and the Bears have a loaded receiving corps and supporting cast to ease the transition. And of course, Baylor hasn’t had much trouble replacing starting quarterbacks recently. The defense has to improve, but Briles has reason to be optimistic with nine returning starters. The road trip to TCU will be a huge challenge and could decide which team wins the Big 12. If the transition to Russell is seamless, and the defense continues to improve, Baylor will repeat as Big 12 champions and earn a spot in the playoff.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 3
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big 12)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 10.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 10
Ohio State's quarterback battle is officially down to Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Although coach Urban Meyer didn’t fully commit to Braxton Miller at receiver in interviews on Thursday night, all signs point to the senior playing in an all-purpose/receiver and special teams returner for the Buckeyes in 2015.
While coach Urban Meyer’s decision got a little easier with Miller moving to receiver, there’s still a huge decision to make between Jones and Barrett. Should Meyer stick with Jones? After all, Barrett wasn’t at full strength in the spring, and Jones had the opportunity to work with the first-team offense. Or should Barrett return to the starting spot? Remember, prior to his season-ending leg injury, the redshirt freshman was among the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Regardless of who starts, Ohio State’s offense is going to be among the best in the nation. However, will one quarterback see the majority of snaps? Or will the Buckeyes find a way to involve both signal-callers in game action this fall?
Here’s a quick breakdown of both quarterbacks:
Year of Eligibility: Junior
- Finished the year as Ohio State’s No. 1 quarterback after injuries to Miller and Barrett.
- Thrived under pressure by guiding Ohio State to wins in each of its last three games, including the national championship over Oregon.
- Possesses big-time arm and tough for opposing defenses to bring down at 250 pounds.
- Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s performance increased after Jones was the starting quarterback.
Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
- Placed into difficult role last year after Braxton Miller was lost due to injury and grew into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and 34 scores and added 938 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
- More dynamic runner than Jones and also connected on 23 passing plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.
- Limited in spring due to leg injury but is expected to be at full strength by fall practice.
- Accurate. Completed 64.6 percent of his throws in 2014.
Who Should Take the First Snap of the Year for Ohio State?
Should Meyer stick with Jones after his impressive three-game stretch to close 2014? Or should Barrett – regarded for his leadership and dynamic play-making ability – as a redshirt freshman in 2014 – regain the starting job?
Athlon’s editors and contributors chime in with a few picks before fall camp starts for Ohio State on Aug. 10:
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott): J.T. Barrett
The Buckeyes would not have been in position to make the College Football Playoff in 2014 without Barrett's play. The offense is designed to be run most efficiently by a player with his skill set, regardless of the success Jones had in the postseason.
Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich): J.T. Barrett
Both quarterbacks will play, especially in the early portion of the season, but look for Barrett to emerge as the starter. Not only did Barrett have an exceptional 2014 season before his injury, but Barrett may have the edge on Jones with regards to leadership that Urban Meyer wants from his quarterback.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Cardale Jones
This is a good problem for Urban Meyer. Two quarterbacks with the potential to be the best in college football or win the Heisman Trophy are vying for the starting spot this fall. I’ve gone back and forth on this question, but I would stick with Cardale Jones as the starter – at least for the opener. I think both quarterbacks make a start this year, but my guess is Jones takes the first snap against Virginia Tech.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB): Cardale Jones
You really cannot go wrong with either option if you are Urban Meyer, which must be nice. Even if J.T. Barrett’s ankle is in good shape and despite his experience of leading the offense in the regular season, Cardale Jones has shown what he can do with a big arm and frame against the best of the best and he certainly is not lacking in confidence.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR): Cardale Jones
J.T. Barrett didn't do anything to "lose" the starting job, but you also can't ignore what Jones did in the College Football Playoff after starting out the season as the third-string guy. The Buckeyes will be just fine at QB regardless of who starts, but the opening assignment should go to the guy who ended the season with the gig.