CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 16 Virginia Tech

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2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in ACC (1st in Coastal)

2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 loss to Clemson); Sugar Bowl (23-20 OT loss to Michigan)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 21/No. 18

Head coach: Frank Beamer (251-121-4 overall, 209-98-2 in 25 seasons at Virginia Tech)

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Stinespring (23rd season at VT, 11th as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 28th rushing offense (186.9 ypg); 66th passing offense (226.1 ypg); 35th total offense (413 ypg); 57th scoring offense (27.9 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: three

Defensive coordinator: Bud Foster (26th season at VT, 18th as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 14th rushing defense (104.1 ypg); 31st passing defense (200.6 ypg); 10th total defense (304.6 ypg); 7th scoring defense (17.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: nine

Location: Blacksburg, Va.

Stadium: Lane Stadium (66,223; grass)

Last league title: 2010

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
For eight straight seasons, and 11 of the past 13, the Hokies have finished the season with at least 10 wins; with nine returning defensive starters from a Top 10 unit in 2011, you might as well go ahead and pencil in nine straight 10-plus win seasons.  A possible reason to reach for the Sharpie?  Quarterback Logan Thomas, a player who for whatever doesn’t get a lot of run nationally but is nonetheless an absolute star at the position.  The schedule also sets up nicely, with ACC home games against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Virginia

The Bad
Gone is running back David Wilson, who set the school’s single-season rushing mark last season.  Also gone are four starting linemen, three top receiving threats, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.  That’s a significant amount of turnover in one offseason, especially at the skill positions.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that two of the toughest conference games on the slate come on the road — at Clemson and at Miami in back-to-back weeks.  Perhaps it’s time to back off the Sharpie and put the pencil back firmly in hand.

The Unknown
To be blunt, who the hell is going to replace the production lost with Wilson’s departure?  Between him and third-leading rusher Josh Oglesby — Thomas was second with 469 yards — the twosome combined for 2,080 of the 2,147 non-Thomas rushing yards; both are no longer Hokies.  The top three players on the depth chart entering summer camp are some combination of Michael Holmes, Martin Scales, J.C. Coleman and Daniel Dyer.  That quartet combined for a total of 30 yards and as many touchdowns as I had in 2011.  In fairness, Holmes redshirted as a true freshman last season while Coleman was an early enrollee member of Tech 2012 recruiting class.  The point still stands, however — the running back position is the biggest question mark for the Hokies entering the 2012 season.  Well, that and the offensive line, which is a potentially lethal 1-2 combo for Beamer and his Hokies.

Make-or-break game: vs. Florida State, Nov. 8
The Hokies reside in the ACC Coastal, and their stiffest competition is some combination of apathy, boredom and lack of resistance.  Miami and Virginia are likely a year or two away from serious contention; Duke is, well, Duke; North Carolina is on probation and thus ineligible for the postseason.  That leaves the Hokies with Georgia Tech, and leads me to the Seminoles of the Atlantic as the most pivotal game for the Hokies’ 2012 future on the national stage.  The best news for the Hokies is they get the Seminoles in Blacksburg.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Logan Thomas
As I hinted at above, I’m borderline astonished at the lack of attention Thomas gets nationally.  As a sophomore last season, Thomas set school records with nearly 3,500 total yards and 30 total touchdowns.  The ceiling is high for a player as talented as Thomas; expect him to reach that this season even as he will be surrounded far and wide by inexperience.  And, Hokie fans, enjoy him while you can as he’s not long for Blacksburg as the NFL is already sniffing around the immense potential.

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Iowa TE Noah Fant threatened with a gun while at Omaha park

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Iowa tight end Noah Fant’s return home to Omaha, Nebraska for the summer became a lot more newsworthy than he would have liked this week.

According to a local police report, Des Moines TV station 13WHO reports that Fant was approached by a area man on Tuesday night who pointed a handgun at the sophomore football player and told him to leave the area:

Fant left the park and called police.  He initially told them he didn’t want to press charges but said if police were able to find him he would.  He told officers he believed the suspect lived in a house near the park because he’d seen the man before in the area.

As officers were searching the area near the park they spotted a man matching the description provided by Fant run into a home.  Police were able to talk to the man’s mother who convinced him to come to the door.  Officers reported the man, 23-year-old Matthew Trimble, was heavily intoxicated and placed him in the back of their cruiser for their own safety.  Trimble’s mother says her son told her that he had confronted a group he believed to be smoking marijuana in the park.  She agreed to turn over his handgun to officers.  Police say the gun was loaded with one round in the chamber and 11 in the magazine.

Trimble was later charged with one count of Making a Terroristic Threat with a Firearm after Fant identified that he was in fact the one who pulled the gun on him.

Luckily Fant (or anyone else) was not injured in the incident and everything eventually played out somewhat peacefully. The Omaha native caught nine passes for 70 yards and one touchdown last season for the Hawkeyes and is expected to return to the team later on.

School officials did not release a statement on the incident involving Fant but did tell Landof10 that they were looking into the matter as of Thursday evening.

Northwestern WR Solomon Vault reportedly set to miss 2017 season after surgery

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Northwestern’s task of replacing the Big Ten’s leading receiver from a year ago appeared to take a hit on Friday.

InsideNU reports that wide receiver Solomon Vault will miss the upcoming 2017 season after undergoing “lower body surgery” and will now take a redshirt for the year.

The speedy pass-catcher had 15 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns last season for the Wildcats and was expected to step up and see a big increase in targets with all-Big Ten receiver Austin Carr off to the NFL. In addition to his duties catching passes from Clayton Thorson, Vault was also Northwestern’s first choice at kick returner after scoring a whopping five touchdowns on returns in the past three years.

Assuming that Vault does indeed take 2017 off, he’ll have just one year left to play in 2018 as a redshirt senior.

The school has not yet confirmed the report about Vault but it certainly seems that the Wildcats’ special teams are set to take a hit going forward if he even misses part of the upcoming campaign for the program. It was already going to be difficult to replace so much production at receiver too and this bit of news will only server to reinforce that point as Northwestern enters their summer workout programs in the next few weeks.

LSU coaches set to learn DL Arden Key’s status for 2017 next week

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LSU is all set to learn whether or not they’ll have the services of one of the nation’s best pass rushers for the 2017 season.

That’s according to Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who told reporters on Thursday that the coaching staff should learn defensive lineman Arden Key‘s status for the season next week.

“Arden’s been around, so I’ve seen Arden,” Aranda said, according to AL.com. “Arden’s looking good. We get back together next week with a full staff. … I anticipate at that time that we’ll hear about Arden’s direction and where he’s going and whether he’ll be with us or not.

“I’m very hopeful that he will be.”

Key announced back in February that he would be stepping away from the program this spring “for personal reasons.” It’s been vague as to what those reasons really are or if the edge rusher would even return to the field for LSU in 2017, but it appears we’ll know either way fairly soon. Key himself tweeted last month that he would not be sitting out his upcoming junior year — leading to speculation that he would indeed be back in the lineup for the Tigers.

Aranda’s comments also seem to indicate things moving in that direction but LSU fans and the rest of the opponents on the schedule will apparently have to wait another week in order to get confirmation on Key’s status for the upcoming season.

Lane Kiffin reportedly bringing Jim Harbaugh and Tennessee coaches to work FAU summer camp

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The calendar is just about ready to flip over to June and with that date change comes time to kick off plenty of summer camps for high school recruits around the country.

While all eyes will be on major outings such as USC’s annual Rising Stars Camp or Florida’s Friday Night Lights, there may be a smaller school’s camp that will draw just as much attention. The one in question? Well of course it would be Lane Kiffin’s first summer camp at Florida Atlantic.

While the draw of Kiffin alone is enough to elicit some higher than normal interest, the list of coaches tagging along for the Owls’ June 5th camp is even more eyebrow-raising than that of the hosts. Namely that includes Jim Harbaugh (and the rest of the Michigan staff per the Sun-Sentinelalong with a few familiar faces from the Tennessee staff, among others.

Yes, that’s right, Kiffin’s old employer is all set to buddy up with the ex-Vols coach down in Boca according to a report from FAUOwlAccess.com.

Given recent limits put on satellite camps by the NCAA, it certainly makes plenty of sense for schools like Michigan and Tennessee to send their staffs to work camps at places like FAU given the latter’s close proximity to so many top recruits. Likewise, it’s pretty understandable to see Kiffin bring in some even bigger names to his first summer camp in order to draw attention to the program he took over in the offseason.

Still, it should be more than a little interesting for many fans in the Volunteer State to see a few Tennessee coaches working alongside the man many blame for their program’s slide in recent years. It’s been several years (and coaching stops) since Kiffin left Knoxville so perhaps next month we’ll find out if time really does heal all wounds.

To the surprise of nobody though, FAU hasn’t even played a game under their new head coach and the Owls are already making waves and finding plenty of time in the national spotlight.