Penn State, UGA young guns give ray of hope for future

Leave a comment

Coming into the season, John Brantley replacing Tim Tebow at Florida was the overriding storyline when it came to quarterbacks who would be starting full-time for the first time in their collegiate careers in 2010.

Brantley’s debut Saturday afternoon was, shall we say, less than stellar.  Another pair of first-time starters, however, showed against admittedly inferior competition that fans can be comfortable in the knowledge that there’s quality upside at the position.

Both Penn State’s Robert Bolden and Georgia’s Aaron Murray were on center stage this afternoon, the former as a true freshman and the latter as a redshirt freshman.  And both, statistically speaking, were outstanding.

In Bolden’s case, it’s one of the more amazing stories of the young season.  The true freshman was unable to enroll early and thus didn’t participate in spring practice this year, instead arriving in the summer after his competition for the job got what was thought to be a significant leg up the previous six months.  That was strike one.  Strike two was the fact that Joe Paterno had never in his 44 previous years in Happy Valley started a true freshman at quarterback in the opener.

Instead of looking and taking a called strike three, Bolden took his rips at the plate and eventually went yard in summer camp, drawing raves for his outstanding preseason performance and, against many long odds, officially beating out three other challengers for the job earlier this week.  And in his first start, Bolden showed exactly why the Penn State coaching staff had no other choice but to put a college quarterbacking virgin under center.

In PSU’s 44-14 win over Div. 1-AA Youngstown State, Bolden was 21-of-29 for 239 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.  In the portions of the game I was able to catch, the only thing more impressive than the freshman’s cannon for an arm was decision-making ability that belied his youthfulness.  As I wrote on Twitter (follow us, while we’re here), the kid just looks like a quarterback and a future star at the position.

Oh, and Bolden accomplished all of this while playing in the shadow of the graduated Darryl Clark, one of the most underrated college QBs of the last decade.

While not nearly the “rags-to-riches” story that was Bolden, Murray was impressive in his own right given where he’d come from.  Redshirted last season, Murray entered spring practice in a three-way battle for the starting job.  Exiting spring, and following the dismissal of one of the challengers, Murray had a stranglehold on the job.

At least for one day, Murray repaid that confidence.

On their way to an easy win over Louisiana-Lafayette — UGA was up 55-7 with less than seven minutes left as this is being written — Murray completed 17-of-26 passes for 194 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.  Additionally, Murray rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown in roughly three quarters of work before giving way to Hutson Mason.

As for Brantley, well, he didn’t get inured by one of Mike Pouncey‘s wayward shotgun “snaps”.  That’s one of the more positive things you could say about that debut.  Bogged down by that head-scratching issue, as well as drops and a general offensive malaise for most of the game, Brantley’s stats were very pedestrian: 17-of-25, 114 yards and two touchdowns in the closer-than-it-looked 34-12 win over Miami of Ohio.

There’s little doubt Brantley possesses nearly every physical tool you want in a college QB.  Now, it’s just a matter of working out the kinks and synching up an offense that’s spent the past three years leaning heavily on the departed Tebow.  At least, that’s what head coach Urban Meyer & Company are banking on.

Again, it was just the first of many, many games for these three players.  Much like you shouldn’t put too much stock in the “greatness” of Bolden and Murray considering their level of competition, one shouldn’t look for a roof from which to cannonball off of if you’re part of Gator Nation.

All three players hold tremendous promise.  It’s just after one game, the hope is shining a little bit brighter for two of ’em.

Nearly three-fourths of 2017 first-round NFL draft picks were 4- or 5-star recruits

Associated Press
1 Comment

For those who completely dismiss recruiting rankings, the NFL draft showed again last night that they do mean something.

The 2017 version of the annual player selection meeting kicked off Thursday night in Philadelphia, with a total of 32 players selected in the opening round.  Of those 32, nearly 75 percent — 22 to be exact — were either four- or five-star recruits.  Nine were the latter, 13 the former.

Four of the first six selections, and three of the first four, were five-star recruits.  Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, the No. 1 overall pick, was the No. 2 player in the 2014 recruiting class; LSU’s Leonard Fournette, drafted fourth by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was the top recruit in that same class.

Just two of the 32 selections came from non-Power Five conferences, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Temple’s Haason Reddick.  Davis was one of two two-star recruits, Missouri’s Charles Harris being the other, while Reddick began his career with the Owls as a walk-on.

There were also six three-star recruits drafted, the highest being Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 overall.  He was also the second quarterback taken, behind only Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina (four-star).

Add all of those up, and you get 31 of the players selected last night.  The 32nd?  Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk, who had an interesting, to say the least, route to major college football.  From Ramczyk’s NFL.com draft profile:

Ramczyk (pronounced RAM-check) is a rare case of a Division III student-athlete making the jump to major college football. Even though he was an all-state pick from Wisconsin, he chose to turn down offers from FBS and FCS schools (one from Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, who was at Pitt at the time) to attend a local technical college. After a year off, he decided to play at his hometown school, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Ramczyk was a two-time all-conference pick there at left tackle before deciding to transfer to play for Chryst at Wisconsin.

Appropriately, Ramczyk was the last player selected in the first round, taken at No. 32 by the New Orleans Saints.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina, 2013 4-star (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford, 2014 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, 2014 5-star (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan, 2013 2-star (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU, 2014 5-star (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, 2013 4-star (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, 2014 4-star (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington, 2013 4-star (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech, 2013 3-star (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, 2014 4-star (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple, walk-on (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, 2014 4-star (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, 2015 4-star (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC, 2014 5-star (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Bolles, OL, Utah, 2016 4-star (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida, 2013 3-star (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, 2013 2-star (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss, 2013 3-star (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, 2013 4-star (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA, 2013 3-star (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU, 2013 4-star (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, 2013 4-star (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami, 2014 3-star (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin, 2013 3-star (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, 2013 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin, no rating (New Orleans Saints)

SEC remains atop NFL draft’s first-round perch

Getty Images
2 Comments

The ACC may have knocked the SEC off its postseason perch this past season, but the latter conference remains the go-to first-round conference for the NFL.

With the first round of the draft officially in the books, the SEC easily led all leagues in selections with a record-tying 12.  The only conferences even remotely within shouting distance of the SEC were the Big Ten (seven) and the Pac-12 (six).  The ACC finished the first day with four players picked.

And what of the remaining Power Five conference not previously mentioned?  The Big 12 had as many picks, one, as the AAC and MAC.   Wrap your head around that.

Individually, there were six schools with two or more first-round picks, and three of those qualified for the College Football Playoffs last season –Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.  The others were LSU, Michigan and Wisconsin.

‘Bama had four players drafted, tying the program’s record for the first round.  LSU and Ohio State had three each, with two of the former’s coming in the first six picks.

Below are a handful of draft nuggets related to college football programs, followed by the complete first-round order of selections for those whom suddenly found themselves under a rock Thursday night.

  • Myles Garrett is the first-ever No. 1 overall pick Texas A&M has produced.  Luke Joeckel, picked No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft, had previously held the record for highest-drafted Aggie.
  • Clemson’s Mike Williams and Deshaun Watson are the first wide receiver-quarterback combination from the same school to be selected within the first 12 picks since the common draft began in 1967.
  • New #DBU? The three Ohio State defensive backs selected in the first round tied the record for that positional group set by Miami in 2002.  The four defensive backs in general and three cornerbacks specifically selected the past two years sets a draft record as well.
  • Stanford had two players, Solomon Thomas (No. 3) and Christian McCaffrey (No. 8), drafted in the Top 10 for the first time since Bob Whitfield and Tommy Vardell in 1992.  Thomas and McCaffrey became the 24th and 25th first-round picks in the program’s history, with six of those coming in the six seasons under head coach David Shaw. Five of those picks under Shaw came on the offensive side of the ball.
  • Michigan’s two first-round picks this year were as many as the football program had in the last 10 years combined.
  • Derek Barnett was Tennessee’s first draft pick in any round, let alone the first, since 2014.
  • The Miami Hurricanes have had a player chosen in every draft the last 43 years, dating back to 1972.
  • Wide receiver Corey Davis, selected fifth overall by the Tennessee Titans, is the second first-round selection from Western Michigan in the program’s history, joining 27th-overall pick Jason Babin in 2004.  He’s also the 17th player from the MAC to be drafted in the first round.
  • For the first time since 2009, a player who played his high school football in the state of Florida was not selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Boles, OL, Utah (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin (New Orleans Saints)

Michigan, UCLA to do combined football camp this summer

Getty Images
2 Comments

A pair of teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 have decided to combine forces for a little camping action this summer.

During an interview Thursday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora revealed that his coaching staff as well as Michigan’s will work a football camp together in a couple of months. The camp will take place in June on the UCLA campus.

Mora’s counterpart at U-M, in case you were wondering, is expected to take part as well.

“We’re going to have a camp,” Mora told the Rich Eisen Show by way of mlive.com. “Michigan is going to send some of their coaches out, (Jim) Harbaugh is coming out – we’re going to do a combined camp with Michigan. It’s going to be fun.”

Interestingly, there is a very recent coaching connection between the two programs to add to the summer marriage.

The past two seasons, Jedd Fisch had served as the quarterbacks coach/wide receivers coach/passing-game coordinator for the Wolverines. In early January, it was announced that Fisch would be the Bruins’ new offensive coordinator. He’ll also serve as quarterbacks coach.

Football meets futbol as Texas A&M’s Kyle Field trying to host Manchester Derby friendly

Getty Images
1 Comment

Football could turn into futbol at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this summer.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the venue is on the short list to host English Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City for a stateside derby on July 20th this summer.

“We firmly believe Texas A&M is a world-class university, so you’re bringing world-class Premier League soccer teams to the campus,” Aggies senior associate athletic director Kevin Hurley told the paper.

For college football fans not aware, the two teams are some of the biggest soccer clubs in the world and annually stage a Manchester derby (think home-and-home series) several times a year for supremacy in the large, industrial English city. The upcoming game between the two in the United States is set to be part of the International Champions Cup, which has hosted several other major clubs from across Europe in matches at college football stadiums ranging from the Big House at Michigan to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Perhaps most interestingly, the DMN notes that Texas’ Memorial Stadium was originally in the running to host the game but organizers had to look elsewhere because of scheduling issues. The Longhorns and Aggies used to have one of the best rivalries in all of college athletics so it just makes sense for the two to have a bit and a back-and-forth when it comes to hosting a rivalry of a different kind.

Houston’s NRG Stadium (home of the Texans) is also reportedly in the mix but playing a soccer game at one of college football’s loudest venues seems like the no-brainer choice on novelty alone. It would be worth going to alone to see A&M fans explain ‘Gig’em’ and the ’12 Man’ to those from across the pond.