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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#81 South Florida Bulls

NATIONAL FORECAST

#81

American Athletic PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Willie Taggart, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Paul Wulff | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Bresnahan

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 81 South Florida.

Previewing South Florida’s Offense for 2014:

Willie Taggart’s mantra — “Do Something!’’ — seemed like a hollow promise through most of last season. Offensively, USF did very little. The Bulls managed just 11 offensive touchdowns.

Taggart, in his first season after arriving from Western Kentucky, was stunned by that development. In retrospect, he was mostly coaching players he didn’t recruit, athletes who came to USF expecting to play a different style. The first season is over, though, and Taggart has promised vast improvement.

It starts with the quarterback, where Taggart wants to see intelligence, mobility and toughness. Sophomore Mike White, seemingly ticketed for a redshirt year, started the last five games and showed enough flashes to make Taggart believe better days were ahead.
Without a running game, Taggart’s bruising style won’t get off the ground. It’s still not known whether USF possesses a go-to runner, although senior Michael Pierre and sophomore Darius Tice had promising moments. It looks like a position-by-committee.
Taggart believes the offensive line will be better after an offseason in the weight room. Four starters return, paced by three-year starting center Austin Reiter.

Although the Bulls hope to become a run-first offense, Taggart wants to take his shots down the field. Senior receiver Andre Davis is the team’s primary option. The continued development at tight end, with junior Sean Price and senior Mike ­McFarland, also bears watching.

Previewing South Florida’s Defense for 2014: 

By the end of last season, the Bulls’ defense was playing exceptionally well, finishing the year ranked No. 21 in the nation. Learning the system of Chuck Bresnahan, while incorporating a handful of young players, the Bulls matured into a unit that ran to the ball and created turnovers.

It began up front with pressure, but after losing much of their defensive line depth, the Bulls must hope for more youthful contributions. Sophomore Derrick Calloway, the prize of Taggart’s first recruiting class in 2013, is expected to rule the interior while getting help from experienced junior Todd Chandler.

Senior outside linebacker Reshard Cliett, last season’s second-leading tackler, is expected to help fill the leadership chasm created by the loss of middle linebacker DeDe Lattimore, a four-year starter. The Bulls are equally enthused by the emergence of Nigel Harris, who became a freshman starter and showed no sign of nerves.

At one point late last season, the secondary played with four freshmen. That’s bound to pay off with sophomores such as Nate Godwin, Johnny Ward, Hassan Childs and Lamar Robbins playing with unmistakable confidence. But the biggest impact might come from junior college transfer Jamie Byrd, a take-no-prisoners strong safety.

Previewing South Florida’s Specialists for 2014:

Placekicker Marvin Kloss began last season trying to replace Maikon Bonani, the school’s all-time leading scorer. Kloss ended last season as one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Meanwhile, Mattias Ciabatti had a successful first season as the starting punter, averaging 40.2 yards, getting 20 punts inside the 20 and having 14 of 50 yards or greater.

Final Analysis

Give Taggart credit for this: Even after a horrendous 53–21 home loss against McNeese State to open the season, even after watching his offense struggle mightily just to move the chains, he remained undaunted. He insists his approach will work. It just needs patience and hard work.

The up-and-coming program that once upset the likes of Notre Dame, Auburn, Clemson and West Virginia? That’s now ancient history. USF must rebuild from the ground up. The intermediate goal is obvious. If Taggart can coax USF’s first bowl trip since 2010, then the Bulls are definitely on their way back.




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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#78 Kansas Jayhawks

NATIONAL FORECAST

#78

Big 12 PREDICTION

#10

HEAD COACH: Charlie Weis, 4-20 (2years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: John Reagan | DEF. COORDINATOR: Clint Bowen

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 78 Kansas.

Previewing Kansas’ Offense for 2014: 

One of KU’s biggest issues during Charlie Weis’ tenure has been its quarterback play, and the coach will be going with his third different starting QB in three years after naming sophomore Montell Cozart the starter at the end of spring practice. Cozart is a dual threat, as he was named offensive MVP in the spring game after rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns while also completing 6-of-10 passes. His question mark is accuracy; he connected on just 23-of-63 passes in 2013.

Though KU loses James Sims at running back, it should be just fine at the position. Senior Brandon Bourbon, a big back with surprising speed for his size, should get the first crack at carries. Darrian Miller, blessed with good balance, was expected to serve as the No. 2 back, but he transferred in June. Senior Taylor Cox and junior college transfer De’Andre Mann will provide depth.

The biggest reason for optimism at receiver is senior Nick Harwell, a transfer from Miami (Ohio) who posted three straight 800-yard receiving seasons with the RedHawks. Also starting will be Rodriguez Coleman, who shined in the spring, and speedy senior Tony Pierson, who has been KU’s best playmaker during the past two seasons. Senior Jimmay Mundine, who battled drops in 2013, returns as KU’s best offensive threat at tight end.

The offensive line figures to be one of the team’s biggest unknowns heading into 2014, as the Jayhawks lost a lot of experience from a group that already was an area of weakness. The strength of the unit most likely will be the guard spots, as seniors Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg combined for 20 starts in 2013.

Previewing Kansas’ Defense for 2014:

Senior Keon Stowers is the star of the defensive line at the nose tackle spot, while Ben Goodman made the transition from outside linebacker to defensive end after adding some weight in the offseason. The Jayhawks also will rely on the athletic-but-raw Andrew Bolton at the other end spot while hoping that fall newcomers provide additional depth.

Senior middle linebacker Ben Heeney is KU’s best bet to earn All-Big 12 honors, as the high-motor player was a second-team all-league pick a year ago. Junior Jake Love is a solid-but-not-flashy player at the other inside linebacker spot. Michael Reynolds is KU’s best pass-rusher at Buck outside linebacker.

The secondary figures to be KU’s greatest strength. Two players stood out most in 2013 — senior Dexter McDonald, a tall corner who often had opponents throwing the other direction, and junior safety Isaiah Johnson, who was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after ranking second in the league with five interceptions. Cornerback Kevin Short, a former junior college transfer who redshirted in 2013, also emerged in the spring and appears to have locked up a starting spot.

Previewing Kansas’ Specialists for 2014:

The strength of the special teams is senior punter Trevor Pardula, who averaged 43.7 yards per kick a season ago while booting a school-record 84 punts. KU’s biggest concern is at kicker, as student-tryout-hopeful-turned-starter Matthew Wyman remains the team’s top option after making 5-of-10 field goals in 2013.

Final Analysis

During his first two years at KU, Weis was careful to not set specific win total goals for his rebuilding football team. That’s changed this season, as he enters Year 3 with the most talent he’s had and a solid base of upperclassmen.

“Before you can be a perennial winning program, the first thing you’ve got to do is get to .500,” Weis says.

Though this probably isn’t a “bowl or bust” season for the Jayhawks, Weis likely will need to improve his win total to avoid the hot seat in the third year of a five-year contract.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#63 Arkansas Razorbacks

NATIONAL FORECAST

#63

SEC West PREDICTION

#7

HEAD COACH: Bret Bielema, 3-9 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jim Chaney | DEF. COORDINATOR: Robb Smith

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 63 Arkansas.

Previewing Arkansas' Offense:

Brandon Allen’s lackluster passing numbers in his first year as the starter shouldn’t have come as a surprise. His ascension to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart coincided with the loss of high-end talent at the receiver position and the introduction of a run-first philosophy by new coach Bret Bielema. Allen completed 49.6 percent of his passes, and his accuracy fell to 47.7 percent in SEC games, worst among conference starters. Allen, who played with an ailing throwing shoulder most of the season, should produce better results this fall. Both his backups are untested — redshirt freshman Austin Allen (his brother) and true freshman Rafe Peavey.

Alex Collins led the nation’s freshmen with 1,026 rushing yards, joining Darren McFadden as the only Arkansas freshmen to hit the 1,000-yard mark. Collins did it while sharing time with Jonathan Williams, who compiled 900 rushing yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Both return, with help from speedster Korliss Marshall and big fullback Kody Walker. A better passing attack should help the run game.

Tight end Hunter Henry leads a pass-catching crew that includes senior Demetrius Wilson — who is back from a knee injury — Keon Hatcher, D’Arthur Cowan and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle.

The Hogs are trying to stockpile talent on the offensive line, which will feature senior right tackle Brey Cook and standout sophomores in left tackle Dan Skipper and right guard Denver Kirkland. 

Previewing Arkansas' Defense:

Robb Smith, previously with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers, will be Arkansas’ fourth defensive coordinator in the past four seasons. Smith inherited a unit that brings back four starters after ranking 76th nationally in total defense. The lone holdover assistant is linebackers coach Randy Shannon. Smith seems more willing to attack with blitzes than the previous defensive staff, which might help the Hogs improve on their paltry takeaway count of 14.

The pass rush should be solid with veteran end Trey Flowers taking on a leading role. Sophomore ends Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis and JaMichael Winston played well in the spring, and tackle Darius Philon could be ready for a breakout year alongside 343-pound run-stuffer DeMarcus Hodge.

The Hogs have struggled at the linebacker position in recent years. The expectation by the staff is that seniors Braylon Mitchell and Martrell Spaight and sophomore Brooks Ellis will play faster, be better run-stoppers and more authoritative tacklers.

Arkansas has a bounty of options at cornerback, where Tevin Mitchel is trying to rebound from a rough season, with help from Carroll Washington, Will Hines and others. The numbers at safety are still thin, but veterans Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines should pick it up a notch, and redshirt freshman De’Andre Coley could be the kind of hard-hitting ball-hawk the Razorbacks have lacked.

Previewing Arkansas' Specialists:

Australian Sam Irwin-Hill’s introduction to major-college football was action-packed. The ambidextrous punter ranked 13th in the nation with a 44.3-yard average, and he triggered several fourth-down gambles, running and throwing, with mixed results. The Razorbacks gave a scholarship to Texas legend Cole Hedlund, hoping he can follow Zach Hocker as the next four-year kicker in the program.

Final Analysis

Arkansas should be improved on both sides of the ball, but that doesn’t mean another winless SEC season is out of the question for the Razorbacks, who are still trying to stabilize and upgrade their roster after the disruption of the Bobby Petrino affair. Qualifying for a bowl berth would be a significant step in Year 2 under Bielema, as Arkansas chugs forward with a difficult rebuild.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#70 Kentucky Wildcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#70

SEC East PREDICTION

#7

HEAD COACH: Mark Stoops, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Neal Brown | DEF. COORDINATOR: D.J. Eliot

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 70 Kentucky.

Previewing Kentucky’s Offense for 2014:

The “Air Raid” didn’t exactly take flight in Year 1 under coordinator Neal Brown. Kentucky ranked 98th in passing offense in 2013 after Brown’s Texas Tech offenses ranked top-10 nationally in each of his three years in Lubbock. Blame a bad roster for some of those struggles — he inherited sparse talent and precious little depth — but Brown is not without regrets.

“What happens when you’re maybe not as talented as some of the teams you’re playing is you try to out-scheme some people and maybe deviate from the system you have in place,” Brown says. “I think we did that. We tried to maybe cover up some areas that were weaknesses for us, where if I had it to do over again I would just really concentrate on fundamentals and stuck with the system and not swayed off it as much.”

He’ll get back to that system — and his usual fast pace — this fall. Improved quarterback play will help. A pair of former four-star recruits, sophomore Patrick Towles and freshman Drew Barker, and redshirt freshman Reese Phillips staged a tight spring competition, with Towles holding a slight edge.

This year’s quarterback will benefit from a stacked backfield — four former four-star recruits, led by sophomore Jojo Kemp and junior Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard — and a veteran offensive line. Four starters return up front, including standout tackles Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle. At receiver, playmakers Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons are back along with the rest of UK’s top five wideouts from 2013.

Previewing Kentucky’s Defense for 2014:

The defense should take a significant step forward in Year 2. Mark Stoops’ defenses at Arizona and Florida State did, and the Cats return eight starters plus add several talented newcomers. Few SEC teams will have a more formidable pair of defensive ends than 6'6", 264-pound Za’Darius Smith and 6'4", 267-pound Bud Dupree, who combined for 13 sacks last season.

Kentucky’s biggest loss is at middle linebacker, where Avery Williamson had 100-plus tackles each of the last two seasons and was a locker room leader. Junior Josh Forrest, a long, athletic former receiver and defensive back, will battle junior college transfer Ryan Flannigan for that job.

The most important area of improvement is the secondary. UK’s defensive backs intercepted just one pass last season and ranked 117th in passes defended. But they’ll get a boost at safety from junior college transfer A.J. Stamps and at corner from J.D. Harmon, who led the team in interceptions in 2012 but was academically ineligible last fall. Four freshman defensive backs — three of them four-star recruits — will also significantly upgrade the talent.

Previewing Kentucky’s Specialists for 2014: 

The Cats have a new special teams coordinator in Craig Naivar, a high-energy guy who blasts 1980s hair metal before meetings. They also have junior punter Landon Foster back in freshman form. He had 22 punts of 50-plus yards that year but just seven such bombs in 2013 thanks to a nagging quadriceps injury. He’s healthy now and averaged 45.6 yards on eight punts in the spring game. The new field-goal kicker is redshirt freshman Austin MacGinnis, a former top-three recruit nationally at his position.

Final Analysis

Stoops has done the impossible — keep fans and recruits excited after a 2–10 debut season. He signed a top-25 class and had 35,000 people show up for this year’s spring game, second-most in program history. Now he just needs to win. Although he posted exactly the same record that got Joker Phillips fired a year earlier, the Cats were more competitive in 2013, losing five games by two touchdowns or less and three by single digits. The big payoff is probably still a year away, but a four- or five-win season this fall would probably keep everyone happy.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#72 Virginia Cavaliers

NATIONAL FORECAST

#72

ACC Coastal PREDICTION

#7

HEAD COACH: Mike London, 18-31 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Steve Fairchild | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Tenuta

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 72 Virginia.

Previewing Virginia’s Offense for 2014:

There’s plenty of blame to go around for last year’s 2–10 season, but the root of Virginia’s problem was an anemic offense that lacked imagination and identity. Its lack of production put a lot on the shoulders of a defense decimated by injuries late in the year.

A second season in coordinator Steve Fairchild’s system is expected to pay dividends. Virginia also believes it has more playmakers than a year ago. Fans have heard that before.

The biggest change this year could be at quarterback, where Greyson Lambert is expected to unseat incumbent David Watford, who struggled in 2013. Lambert is not as elusive as Watford, but if he can be more accurate and less mistake-prone, it will be a net gain.
Kevin Parks, the leading returning rusher in the ACC, brings durability and between-the-tackles toughness to the tailback slot. Former five-star recruit Taquan Mizzell offers sizzle and big-play potential.

Both will depend on a rebuilt offensive line that must replace multi-season fixtures Morgan Moses and Luke Bowanko.

The decision of tight end-turned receiver Jake McGee to transfer turns up the heat on a largely unproven group. Sophomores Keeon Johnson and Kyle Dockins, part of a youth movement last year, bring size and toughness. Senior Darius Jennings, who has 106 career catches, is being counted on to improve on his 10.8 yards-per-catch average by stretching the field.

Previewing Virginia’s Defense for 2014:

When the band was all together last season, Jon Tenuta’s defense showed signs of becoming the type of marauding bunch the longtime coordinator craves. Injuries left the team short-handed, however, and forced Tenuta to dial back on his pressure schemes. With nearly everyone returning, and with another year to tinker with different fronts and packages, the group has the potential to bring the heat this year, particularly off the edge.

Defensive end Eli Harold is a speed-rusher who has the look of a possible breakout star. So does outside linebacker Max Valles, another long, lean athlete who should thrive in Tenuta’s attacking style.

“I believe that those two guys could be special,” London says. “I believe that you can do multiple things with them, whether their hands are on the ground or they’re standing up.”

The Cavaliers also look strong up the middle at defensive tackle and at middle linebacker, where senior Henry Coley is a stalwart. The secondary is loaded with experience, led by senior Anthony Harris, who led the nation in interceptions with eight last season.

Virginia increased its takeaways from 12 to 21 last year. Gambling led to some inevitable breakdowns. Minimizing those mistakes while remaining disruptive is the key.

Previewing Virginia’s Specialists for 2014:

Alec Vozenilek earned his scholarship last year, punting 85 times and downing more kicks inside the 20 than anyone in the ACC. He also filled in for the injured Ian Frye on field goals, hitting 12-of-15. Frye, who has more range as a placekicker, is back this season, good news for a team that must take points wherever it can find them.

Final Analysis 

For these keeping track, and everyone is, Virginia’s 2–10 finish last year represented its fewest wins since 1982. The Cavaliers were winless in the ACC for the first time since 1981.

London won’t survive another campaign like that. He might not even make it to midseason. With a maturing roster and the continuity that comes with a second season in offensive and defensive systems installed last year, Virginia should be better. The question, given a challenging schedule and a culture of coming up short, is how much that improvement will be reflected in the bottom line.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#65 NC State Wolfpack

NATIONAL FORECAST

#65

ACC Atlantic PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Dave Doeren, 3-9 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Matt Canada | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dave Huxtable

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 65 NC State.

Previewing NC State’s Offense for 2014:

Coach Dave Doeren declared quarterback Jacoby Brissett his starter last year, but the Florida transfer had to sit out the season. After juggling quarterbacks through a 3–9 season, Doeren is ready for some stability and production at the most important position. NC State’s starting quarterbacks combined to throw 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season, numbers Brissett will be counted on to improve significantly.

Junior running back Shadrach Thornton, who ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State’s stout defense, and senior receiver Bryan Underwood will be counted on to make plays for Brissett. So will freshman receiver Bo Hines, one of nine early enrollees and a standout in the spring game. “I like him a lot,” Brissett says. “He can catch the ball and make plays.”

NC State ranked 70th in total offense (403.5 ypg) and 97th in scoring (22.8 ppg) in 2013. To make a significant improvement, the offensive line will have to get better. Junior Joe Thuney showed versatility last season, moving from center to left tackle, and now he will slide over to left guard to make room for the return of Rob Crisp, who missed all but two games last year with a concussion.

Previewing NC State’s Defense for 2014:

With so many spread teams in the ACC, Doeren and second-year coordinator Dave Huxtable are switching to a base nickel defense with five defensive backs and two linebackers. Given the problems at linebacker — the drop-off since sending three linebackers to the NFL in 2010 and ’11 has been alarming — the decision makes sense, especially if the young secondary can develop ahead of schedule.

Starters Juston Burris (corner), Jack Tocho (corner) and Hakim Jones (safety) give the Wolfpack three experienced options. Redshirt freshman Josh Jones was one of the best players during the spring and will be counted on to help at safety, especially in the tackling department.

In the middle, junior M.J. Salahuddin takes over for Robert Caldwell (105 tackles). Seniors Rodman Noel and Brandon Pittman both figure to contribute from the outside slot.

The Wolfpack have plenty of experienced options up front with seniors T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal in the middle (39 starts between them), and senior Art Norman and junior Mike Rose back at end for another season. But Doeren might be most excited about the new additions to the defensive front. Freshman end Kentavius Street was the top-rated defensive player in the state and a four-star prospect by Rivals. Freshman tackle B.J. Hill enrolled early and won a starting job, over the veteran Teal. 

Previewing NC State’s Specialists for 2014:

Seniors Nik Sade (kicker) and Wil Baumann (punter) have started since their freshman seasons. They’ve both made progress, especially over the last year, and will be counted on again. Sade, in particular, was a bright spot on the season with a career-best 19 field goals, and he made a career-best 82.6 percent of his kicks. There was never any consistency to the return game, and Doeren will try a combination of players to make strides.

Final Analysis

Little went right for Doeren in his first season. The Wolfpack lost their final eight games and went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959. But with Brissett and a staggering 51 new true or redshirt freshmen on the roster, Doeren’s hoping the only way to go is up. With a manageable schedule, especially out of the league, there might be a way to speed up the rebuilding process and get back to a bowl game.

After such a poor finish in 2013, the Wolfpack do have motivation on their side.

“We want to make people forget last year," Underwood says. “This is us now, we’re a new team.”




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#64 Boston College Eagles

NATIONAL FORECAST

#64

ACC Atlantic PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Steve Addazio, 7-6 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Ryan Day | DEF. COORDINATOR: Don Brown

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 64 Boston College.

Previewing Boston College’s Offense for 2014:

Despite the loss of 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams, Boston College is still committed to the run game. The Eagles won’t replace Williams with one player. A committee will work, led by sophomore Myles Willis, a versatile back coming off a 346-yard freshman season.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy didn’t transfer from Florida to be a backup. The senior has one last chance to cement a winning career. The job to replace the steady yet unspectacular Chase Rettig is his to lose. Murphy went 2–4 as a starter in 2013 but played on an awful Florida team, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,216 yards.

Wideout is easily the team’s biggest void on offense. With Alex Amidon gone, the Eagles lose a player who was responsible for more than 50 percent of his team’s production at the position. Harrison Jackson, arguably the top returning wideout, tore his ACL in spring ball. The Eagles need Drew Barksdale, quarterback-turned receiver Josh Bordner or Charlie Callinan to emerge as reliable targets.

The strength of the offensive line starts in the middle after losing bookend tackles Matt Patchan and Ian White. 

Previewing Boston College’s Defense for 2014:

Boston College’s defense usually starts with solid linebacker play, but the Eagles lose two good ones in Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto. Good thing Steven Daniels, who finished the year with 88 tackles, is back. Boston College likes to rush the passer from the linebacker spot, and returner Josh Keyes (3.5 sacks as a reserve) will help in that area.

The defensive line is still relatively deep despite the loss of two starters, including All-ACC third team performer Kasim Edebali (9.5 sacks). Many returning linemen have played valuable snaps and showed potential but have yet to do it on a full-time basis. Defensive end Malachi Moore is a 6'7" sophomore who is a candidate to break out in 2014. Mehdi Abdesmad had 3.5 tackles for a loss before injuries derailed his 2013 campaign.

Don’t expect BC to finish last in the ACC in pass defense again. The Eagles return all four starters in the secondary, including potential star Dominique Williams. Corners Manny Asprilla and Bryce Jones each recorded two interceptions last year. 

Previewing Boston College’s Specialists for 2014:

The loss of kicker/punter Nate Freese, the school record-holder for field goals (70) and points (324), can’t be understated. The All-American made 86.4 percent of his attempts. Alex Howell steps in as the new placekicker, and he’ll also punt. David Dudeck should have the inside track on the kick return job after doing a serviceable job last year (15.6-yard average).

Final Analysis

Steve Addazio was responsible for one of the more underrated coaching jobs last year, boosting Boston College from two to seven wins in his debut season by packaging a power-run attack around Williams. Addazio’s creativity could be tested even more in 2014 since nearly all of the Eagles’ all-conference performers from a year ago are gone. Boston College is counting on the young players left over from the Frank Spaziani era and Addazio’s first two recruiting classes to form the Eagles’ identity.

The running game and solid line play will always be Boston College staples, but how will the Eagles stretch the field? They’ll need at least one or two young wide receivers to grow up in a hurry. The defense has a chance to improve after last year’s unit under coordinator Don Brown was opportunistic but not overwhelming in any one area.

A return to a bowl game is a realistic expectation, but the Eagles aren’t likely to pose much of a threat to the top teams in the ACC Atlantic Division.




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