E.J. Manuel

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 10 Florida State

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2011 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in ACC (2nd-tie in Atlantic)

2011 postseason: Champs Sports Bowl (18-14 win over Notre Dame)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 23/No. 23

Head coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8 in two seasons at Florida State)

Offensive coordinator: James Coley (fifth season at FSU, third as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 104th rushing offense (112.1 ypg); 33rd passing offense (257 ypg); 77th total offense (369.1 ypg); 39th scoring offense (30.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Mark Stoops (third season at FSU, third as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 2nd rushing defense (82.7 ypg); 20th passing defense (192.3 ypg); 4th scoring defense (15.1 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: eight

Location: Tallahassee, Fla.

Stadium:  Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300; grass)

Last league title: 2005

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
That defense the Seminoles possessed in 2011 was really good; with eight starters returning this season, and with the talent available to plug-in for the lost starters, it could be even better in 2012.  The loss of three-time tackles leader Nigel Bradham would be a significant blow for most teams, but it’s merely a blip for FSU; that’s how loaded this unit, at least on paper, will be.  Another good comes from the other side of the ball, with starting quarterback E.J. Manuel and most of Manuel’s top receiving targets returning.  Consistency hasn’t been a Manuel trademark, although he showed signs in the spring that he’s growing more comfortable in the Seminoles’ scheme.

The Bad
Chicken or the egg: were FSU’s struggles in the running game the result of a below-average line, or was the line made to look worse than what it actually was due to the backfield components?  The number of sacks given up by the line in 2011 would lead one to lean toward the former.  If the Seminoles have any hope of living up to yet another preseason of high expectations, head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff must somehow, some way find a way to shore up the line.  A stifling defense can only do so much in today’s era of offensive fireworks.

The Unknown
Special teams were already a question mark, an unanswerable made even more pronounced by the dismissal of premier punt returner Greg Reid.  Reid was also a starting corner, meaning his departure leaves a hole in two units, although with the talent in the secondary the Seminoles’ possess, his loss will be felt more on special teams than on defense.

Make-or-break game: vs. Clemson, Sept 22
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” the old chestnut goes.  In FSU’s and the ACC’s case, the best in 2011 was Clemson.  And, as both are in the Atlantic Division, the Seminoles will be forced to leapfrog the Tigers if it entertains any shot at claiming its first ACC title since 2005.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback E.J. Manuel
With just over 2,800 yards of total offense and a combined 22 touchdowns in his first year as FSU’s season-opening starter, Manuel is considered by some analysts to be on the verge of greatness at this level.  Inconsistency, however, was an issue last season.  With another offseason under his belt, however, Manuel and his coaches are confident the senior is ready to take his game to the next level, a jump that would most certainly place him squarely in the Heisman discussion.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Hip issue forces Mizzou RB Morgan Steward to retire

Morgan Steward
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Thomas Tyner isn’t the only Power Five running back forced to step away from the sport because of injury.

Back in November of 2014, Morgan Steward sustained a hip injury during the early portion of Missouri’s summer camp.  Specifically, the running back said at the time, “[m]y hip joint popped out of place, tore things around, pulled off some of the bone.”

Surgery that November sidelined him until camp the following year, but Steward managed to play the first three games of the 2015 season. Unfortunately, the back was shut down in late September for the remainder of the year; five months later, he’s being shut down permanently as Mizzou officials have confirmed that Steward will be forced to retire from the sport and end the playing portion of his football career.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2012 recruiting class, Steward ran for 84 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman. Prior to the hip injury the following year, Steward was viewed as a back who could potentially shoulder a significant portion of the running-game load, rushing for 117 yards and three touchdowns in a scrimmage during spring practice in 2014. Post-injury, he ran for 18 yards in the three 2015 games.

The good news for Steward is that he has his degree from Mizzou in business communications.

Ole Miss QB Ryan Buchanan opts to quit football

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 22:  Ryan Buchanan #9 of the Ole Miss Rebels throws a pass in the fourth quarter of a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Rebels 30-0.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Ole Miss had already lost one quarterback to a transfer the past couple of months.  Now, the Rebels are losing another via different means but essentially for the same reason.

In an interview with Scout.com, Ryan Buchanan confirmed that not only is he leaving the Ole Miss football team, but he’s leaving the sport, period.  Buchanan’s decision to step away from the game is actually the culmination of a process that began midway through a 2015 season that would see the Rebels win 10 games and a Sugar Bowl title.

“I came to the conclusion a few months ago that football would not be my future and it was time to start applying myself 100% to my future,” he said. “It’s time for me to find my passion beyond football.”

Buchanan, who said he briefly flirted with transferring to another school, informed head coach Hugh Freeze and his position coach, Dan Werner, of his decision a couple of weeks ago.

If Buchanan had decided to return to Oxford, he would’ve been no better than third on the depth chart. All-SEC quarterback Chad Kelly is firmly entrenched as the starter, while five-star 2015 signee and future at the position Shea Patterson is poised to be Kelly’s backup for a season before taking over the reins in 2017. There’s also no guarantee that the sophomore could beat out redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin for the No. 3 spot.

A four-star member of the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class, Buchanan was rated as the No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Mississippi.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Buchanan attempted 22 passes and served as Ole Miss’ holder on kick attempts in 2014.  This past season, he attempted 13 passes, two of which went for touchdowns.

In early December, DeVante Kincade, a three-star recruit in Buchanan’s class, announced his decision to transfer from the Rebels.

Arkansas loses RBs coach to NFL for second straight year

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 5:  Head Coach Bret Bielema of the Arkansas Razorbacks talks with a official during a game against the UTEP Miners at Razorback Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Miners 48-13.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Whatever the reason, the big boy league of football has taken a shining to one particular position on Bret Bielema‘s Arkansas coaching staff.

On Instagram Friday night, Jemal Singleton confirmed that he will be leaving Bielema’s football program.  While he didn’t specify it in his post, the running backs coach will be leaving for the same job with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

The 40-year-old Singleton had spent just one season coaching that same position with the Razorbacks.

A photo posted by coachsings (@coachsings) on Feb 5, 2016 at 5:23pm PST

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This marks the second straight year that Bielema will be forced to replace a running backs coach to the NFL.  Almost a year to the day, Joel Thomas left Fayetteville for the same position with the New Orleans Saints.

Thomas owed the university $50,000 as part of his buyout last year; Singleton will owe $100,000, per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  If Singleton had waited until Feb. 16, that buyout figure would’ve been halved.

Unlike the post right before this one, there were signs of an impending on and around National Signing Day earlier this week.

He was notably absent from a signing day event at Walton Arena on Wednesday, and he did not attend another event to discuss the signing class Thursday in Little Rock, fueling speculation he was being courted by another program.

Singleton’s job with the Colts will be the Air Force graduate’s first at the NFL level.

Nebraska ‘parts ways’ with DL coach Hank Hughes

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 5: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Mike Riley points out a missed call during their game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Memorial Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Surprisingly, Mike Riley has a self-made hole on his Nebraska coaching staff.

In a move that wasn’t on most if any radars, Hank Hughes will not return in 2016 as NU’s defensive line coach, Riley revealed Friday.  No reason was given for the the departure of the assistant.

“I want to thank Hank for his hard work and contributions to our football program over the past year,” Riley said in a statement. “We continue to build our program with the pursuit of championships always at the forefront of everything we do, and we will look for a great coach, teacher and recruiter to enhance our defense.”

Regardless of the reason or reasons — and the fact that Riley made certain to note that a replacement would be “a great coach, teacher and recruiter” points to at least a couple — it wasn’t an expected development. From the Lincoln Journal Star:

There was no sign of such a move Thursday night, with Hughes present at the Big Red Bash that celebrated the 2016 recruiting class.

Hughes had just completed his first season with the Cornhuskers. Additionally, it was his first season as an assistant on a Riley-led coaching staff.

As the Journal Star notes, Hughes was in the midst of a two-year deal that was to pay him $300,000 annually.