College football’s regular season is complete, and all that’s left of the 2014 season is 39 bowl games, including the first four-team playoff format in FBS history. While the season is over and fans for some teams are already planning for next season, it’s never too early (or late) to look back at the year that was and honor some of the top players, teams and coaches.
Athlon concludes its slate of regular season honors with the 2014 national awards, as well as a look ahead at some of the rising stars, coaches on the hot seat and coordinators to watch in 2015.
College Football’s 2014 National Awards
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota was the best player in college football this season – and it wasn’t close. The junior passed for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns and added 669 yards and 14 scores on the ground. Mariota was incredibly efficient, completing 68.3 percent of his passes and tossing only two interceptions on 372 attempts. The junior led the nation by averaging 10.2 yards per pass attempt in 2014.
2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
4. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
5. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Defensive Player of the Year: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Wright’s breakout season was a key cog in Arizona’s Pac-12 South title. The sophomore recorded 153 tackles (28 for a loss), 14 sacks and forced six fumbles. Wright’s 28 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles led the nation, and the California native acquired plenty of hardware this offseason, winning the Lombari, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards.
2. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
3. Nate Orchard, DE, Utah
4. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
5. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Breakout player: Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
Coleman led Indiana with 958 rushing yards last season and was expected to see an increase in production after playing in only nine games in 2013. However, Coleman easily shattered preseason expectations by rushing for 2,036 yards and 15 scores. The junior averaged 7.5 yards per carry and managed his production despite Indiana’s passing offense struggling after an injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
2. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
3. Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville
4. Martrell Spaight, LB, Arkansas
5. William Likely, CB, Maryland
Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
Patterson pushed all of the right buttons to get TCU back on track after a 4-8 record in 2013. The hire of Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie as co-offensive coordinators paid big dividends for the offense, while the defense led the Big 12 in fewest points allowed. The Horned Frogs were just a play or two away from making the college football playoff, which is quite a turnaround for a program that went 6-12 in its first two years in the Big 12.
2. Justin Fuente, Memphis
3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
5. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Coordinator of the Year: Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Three. That’s how many starting quarterbacks Ohio State has cycled through since August, as Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in fall workouts, and redshirt freshman backup J.T. Barrett was lost for the year with a leg injury against Michigan. But under Herman’s direction, the Buckeyes never missed a beat on offense. Sophomore Cardale Jones made his first start in the Big Ten Championship and completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three scores, guiding Ohio State to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin. Despite the injuries at quarterback and four new starters on the offensive line, the Buckeyes averaged 45.2 points per game and averaged seven yards per play in 2014.
2. Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
3. Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
4. Dave Steckel, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
5. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
Best New Coach Hire for 2014: Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
With Georgia Southern transitioning from the FCS to FBS ranks, the Eagles were unable to play for a bowl. But that shouldn’t diminish Fritz’s first season, as the former Sam Houston State coach guided Georgia Southern to a 9-3 mark and nearly recorded wins over NC State and Georgia Tech. The Eagles were unbeaten in Sun Belt play and led the nation with an average of 379.9 rushing yards per game. Georgia Southern is a program with a strong track record on the FCS level, and under Fritz’s direction, the Eagles will be one of the top programs in the Sun Belt.
2. Bill Clark, UAB
3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
4. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
5. Charlie Strong, Texas
Best Coordinator Hire for 2014: Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham and fellow co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie provide an instant fix for TCU’s offense. The Horned Frogs averaged only 25.1 points per game in 2013 and ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in yards per play. However, in Meacham’s first year, TCU emerged as one of the top offenses in the nation, and quarterback Trevone Boykin showed significant improvement after struggling under center in 2013. The Horned Frogs averaged 6.8 yards per play (ranked No. 1 in the Big 12) and 46.8 points per game. TCU’s improved offense is a big reason why this team had a chance at a playoff spot in 2014.
2. Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
3. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
4. Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator, Stanford
5. Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Biggest Surprise: TCU
TCU entered the season with low expectations after a 4-8 mark last season. Combine the losing record with a new offensive coordinator, uncertain quarterback situation and only three starters returning on offense, it’s easy to see why the Horned Frogs were picked outside of the top 25 in most preseason polls. But TCU quickly showed why it was one of the nation’s most-improved squads, beating Oklahoma 37-33 in early October and nearly defeating Baylor (61-58) a week later. The Horned Frogs were expected to show improvement after last season’s 4-8 mark. However, finishing 11-1 with a chance to make the playoffs was quite a surprise for coach Gary Patterson’s team.
2. Mississippi State
4. Western Michigan
Biggest Disappointment: Oklahoma
Everything seemed to suggest Oklahoma was ready to emerge as a national title contender in 2014. The Sooners won 11 games in what most considered a rebuilding year (2013), defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and returned 14 starters with a chunk of those earning all-conference honors this preseason. Instead of building off last year’s 11-win season, Oklahoma slumped to 8-4 and lost three games at home. The Sooners finished fourth in the Big 12 with a 5-4 conference record and lost to rival Oklahoma State in the regular season finale. Oklahoma has the talent to rebound in 2015, but this team will enter next year with lower expectations after underachieving this season.
2. South Carolina
3. Virginia Tech
Best Freshman: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Barrett ensured Ohio State’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat with Braxton Miller sidelined in August with a shoulder injury. The redshirt freshman passed for 2,834 yards and 34 scores and rushed for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns prior to a season-ending leg injury against Michigan. Barrett also earned fourth-team All-America honors by Athlon Sports for 2014.
2. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
3. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
4. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
5. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Best All-Around in 2014: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson was the nation’s top two-way player in 2014, and not only was the junior one of Washington’s top defenders, but a case could be made he was also the team’s top offensive threat. Thompson ranked fourth on the team with 71 stops (two tackles for a loss), recorded one sack, one interception and forced three fumbles. On offense, Thompson rushed for 456 yards and two scores and averaged a healthy 7.5 yards per carry.
Most-Improved Player: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Boykin went into the season as a question mark but exited as a Heisman candidate. The junior thrived under new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, passing for 3,714 yards and 30 scores. Boykin also completed 60.5 percent of his passes and added 642 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. The junior was named the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Five Coaches on the Rise
1. Justin Fuente, Memphis
Fuente inherited a mess from former coach Larry Porter, but the Oklahoma native quickly transformed Memphis into a bowl team. The Tigers went 9-3 this year (Fuente’s third season) and claimed a share of the American Athletic Conference title.
2. Matt Wells, Utah State
Wells navigated a season-ending knee injury to quarterback Chuckie Keeton last year to make the Mountain West Championship and lost his top three passers this season to injuries. However, Utah State finished 9-4 overall and 6-2 in Mountain West play. Wells is 18-9 in two seasons in Logan.
3. Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Fritz guided Georgia Southern to a 9-3 mark and a perfect 8-0 record in Sun Belt play this year. Expect Fritz to keep the Eagles near the top of the Sun Belt in the coming seasons.
4. Bill Clark, UAB
Led UAB to a 6-6 mark in 2014, which was a three-game improvement from 2013. Clark is an excellent coach looking for work after UAB’s program was wrongfully discontinued.
5. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Despite an injury to starting quarterback Matt Johnson, Babers guided Bowling Green to the MAC East title. In three season as a head coach (Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green), Babers has a 26-13 record.
Five Coordinators on the Rise
1. Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham’s has provided two programs (Houston and TCU) with a quick turnaround on offense. His next stop should be as a head coach on the FBS level.
2. Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
Under Norvell’s direction, Arizona State’s offense has not finished lower than third in the Pac-12 in scoring.
3. Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
The Badgers returned only three starters on defense this year, yet held opponents to 20 points per game and 4.8 yards per play.
4. Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
Frost has continued to build on Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon, as the Ducks averaged 46.3 points per game in 2014.
5. Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons’ offense didn’t give their defense many breaks this season, but Elko developed a group that held opponents to 5.2 yards per play and ranked fifth in the ACC in sacks (conference-only games).
Five Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015
1. Norm Chow, Hawaii
Hawaii is a tough job, and Chow is a native of Honolulu, so the veteran coach won’t be rushed out the door. However, the Warriors are just 8-29 under Chow’s watch and 4-20 in Mountain West play.
2. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Injuries woes at quarterback hampered the Hoosiers in 2014, but Wilson has made progress during his four seasons in Bloomington. Indiana is one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten and another 5-7 season could be enough for Wilson to return in 2016.
3. Ron Caragher, San Jose State
The Spartans have been trending in the wrong direction since Mike MacIntyre left for Colorado. Caragher went 6-6 in his debut but regressed to 3-9 in 2014. On a positive note, San Jose State returns a good chunk of its depth chart for 2015. With a good base of talent returning, the Spartans could take a step forward next year.
4. Mike London, Virginia
London saved his job by finishing 5-7 in 2014. The Cavaliers have recruited well, so talent isn’t an issue in Charlottesville. London needs to get Virginia back in the postseason next year.
5. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Similar to Mike London, Beckman saved his job with a successful 2014 campaign. Illinois went 6-6 and finished 3-5 in the Big Ten this year, elevating the program to its first bowl trip since 2011. Despite the 6-6 record, the Fighting Illini is just 12-24 under Beckman’s watch.
Five Players on the Rise in 2015
1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
True freshman emerged as Florida State’s best running back over the second half of the season. Expect bigger and better things from Cook in 2015.
2. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Explosive playmaker averaged 16.7 yards per catch in 2014. The freshman should be an even bigger piece of Baylor’s passing offense next season.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Assuming Jameis Winston leaves for the NFL, Watson will be the top quarterback in the ACC next year.
4. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Johnson has impressed in limited action, completing 28 of 37 passes for three touchdowns in 2014. Look for Johnson to assume the controls of coach Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense.
5. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon is off to the NFL after the Outback Bowl. Clement is Wisconsin’s next standout at running back.
Three Programs on the Rise for 2015
Bret Bielema has Arkansas trending in the right direction after the Razorbacks improved their total by three games from 2013 to 2014. Bielema’s team also lost to Alabama by just one point, by seven to Mississippi State and by seven in overtime against Texas A&M. This team was much closer to 8-4 or even 9-3 than some may realize.
The Volunteers are back in the postseason this year after a three-season absence. Coach Butch Jones is recruiting well and several young players made a significant contribution in 2014. That’s a positive sign for Tennessee in 2015 and beyond, as Jones should have the Volunteers around the top 25-30 teams in the nation next year.
New coach Tom Herman’s background on offense should pay dividends for the Cougars in 2015. Whether it’s Greg Ward or John O’Korn under center, Houston has the pieces to have one of the top offenses in the American Athletic Conference. And it’s not out of the question the Cougars contend for the conference title in 2015.