In late May, Stephen Davis Jr. opted to transfer from Auburn to South Carolina. Nearly three months later? He gone.
Davis is no longer listed on USC’s online football roster, with a university spokesperson confirming to The State that the walk-on running back is no longer a part of the football team. No specific reason for Davis’ abrupt departure was given.
According to the newspaper, Davis had been practicing with his fellow backs the past three weeks but wasn’t at practice Monday.
A three-star 2016 signee, Davis was rated as the No. 7 player at any position in the state of South Carolina. Ongoing rehab for a torn ACL he sustained in high school forced Davis to redshirt his true freshman season.
Davis, the son of former Auburn star running back Stephen Davis Sr., would’ve had to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
Let’s start with the good news: it can’t get any worse.
After a season in which the conference produced its first ever 9-0 champion in its 6-year round-robin era, yet that champion was effectively eliminated from contention by the third week of September, the Big 12 missed the College Football Playoff for the second time in the system’s 3-year history. On top of that, Texas started strong but then crashed and burned, Baylor was an ongoing public-relations garbage fire, Texas Tech fielded a defense that would’ve struggled to stop FCS offenses, TCU was uncharacteristically down, Kansas was still the worst Power 5 team (but managed to beat Texas) and Iowa State was actively rebuilding.
Heading into 2017, though, every single team in the conference has an active reason to believe it will be as good or better than it was in 2016. Who knows if that will be enough to reach the Playoff, but it should make for a fun, competitive season.
1. Oklahoma (11-2, 8-1 Big 12): There’s reason to believe the Sooners will take a step back in 2017. The vast majority of their wildly efficient offense now collects NFL paychecks, plus the heart and soul of their defense in linebacker Jordan Evans. And, uh, that Bob Stoops guy. Still, if you’re in the prognostication business you’d much rather be made a fool by picking OU too high than too low, particularly when they return the best quarterback in the conference in Baker Mayfield.
2. TCU (11-2, 8-1 Big 12): Gary Patterson is always dangerous when coming off a losing season. His last two squads to do such a thing went a combined 23-2, won at least a share of their respective conference championships and finished in the top-10. This time around, TCU is tied for third nationally in returning starters, including quarterback Kenny Hill. The Frogs lose only to Oklahoma, once in Norman and once in the re-inaugural Big 12 Championship.
3. Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12): Mike Gundy‘s best team since his coulda-woulda-shoulda national champions of 2011 trips and falls early against TCU, then is effectively removed from contention after falling at Texas but salvages the season by knocking Oklahoma out of Playoff contention with a Nov. 4 upset in Stillwater.
4. Kansas State (9-3, 6-3 Big 12): Kansas State is different from the rest of the Big 12. When everyone else plays in a race to 45 points, K-State is happy to sit on the ball and score 24 points, as long as you score 23. In what is very possibly Bill Snyder‘s final season, that formula will work quite well for them.
5. Texas (8-4, 6-3 Big 12): Tom Herman has the front-line talent to compete with anyone in the Big 12. Problem is, the depth isn’t there. At least not yet. The ‘Horns will drop games to USC, Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State, but close the year winning five of their final six games. Coupled with what will be the Big 12’s best recruiting class, the sky will be the limit for Texas in 2018.
6. West Virginia (6-6, 4-5 Big 12): West Virginia is notoriously the hardest team in the Big 12 to peg. Add in that Florida transfer Will Greer, an enigma himself, will start at quarterback and it gets even tougher. But the Mountaineers return only eight starters, the third-lowest in FBS, and three off of that fabulous defense. Give them a year to rebuild.
7. Iowa State (5-7, 3-6 Big 12): Coaching matters more in college football than any other sport. That will be evident with Matt Campbell‘s troops at Iowa State. The Cyclones won’t get there in 2017, but pencil this team in for a bowl in ’18.
8. Baylor (5-7, 3-6 Big 12): Baylor is in phase one of the transition from Art Briles to Matt Rhule. The Bears are battling depth issues due to the Briles-era fallout and may start true freshman Zach Smith at quarterback. Let’s check back in a year or two.
9. Kansas (4-8, 1-8 Big 12): Are you sitting down? I hope so, because there’s an outside chance Kansas starts this season 6-0. The Jayhawks face Southeastern Missouri State, Central Michigan and Ohio to open the season, then get West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State to begin conference play. I believe KU will win four of those and get skunked in the second half. But, hey, progress is progress.
10. Texas Tech (2-10, 1-8 Big 12): Look at it this way: Texas Tech lost its top-10 pick quarterback with a you-can’t-teach-that ability to make things happen on the fly, but it returns the worst defense in FBS. And it’s not as if the Red Raiders imported a bunch of 5-star defenders in the meantime. The Red Raiders are simply too good offensively to go 0-fer on the season, but with a non-conference schedule that features Arizona State, Eastern Washington and a road trip to Houston, there isn’t a single layup on the schedule.
Monday, Clemson named its replacement for a long-time starter under center. A day later, another ACC team did the same.
In a not-so-surprising move, Miami announced Tuesday morning that Malik Rosier has been named as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback. The redshirt junior had spent the past two seasons backing up Brad Kaaya, who left the ‘Canes as their all-time leader in passing yards.
Rosier and Evan Shirreffs had been the two main competitors to replace Kaaya.
“Malik has been named the starting quarterback,” head coach Mark Richt said. “Evan is currently number two on the depth chart. The young guys, N’Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon, will continue to learn and compete.”
Rosier has played in 13 career games, with 10 of those appearances coming the past two seasons. The Alabama native has just one career start to his credit, but it was a memorable and controversial one as The U beat Duke, which had scored the go-ahead touchdown with six seconds left, on the strength of a wild eight-lateral play on the ensuing kickoff.
In his career, Rosier has thrown for 370 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Of his 61 career pass attempts, 29 of them came in the Duke game, as did 272 of his yards.
It was not so long ago ACC commissioner was setting the challenge to the entire ACC membership to start representing the conference better on the national stage in spotlight opportunities. In 2016, the ACC could not have done much better. The conference took all of the bragging rights with an impressive bowl record, the national champion (taking down the SEC champion in the process), and the Heisman Trophy winner. So, what does the ACC do for an encore?
1. Florida State (10-3 in 2016; won Orange Bowl vs. Michigan)
After watching division rival Clemson capture back-to-back ACC crowns and play in two consecutive national championship games, the 2016 season appears to be Florida State’s time to ascend back to the top of the conference to wave the ACC banner in the College Football Playoff. Florida State, the preseason favorite in the ACC this fall, will have one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, starting with a season-opening tilt against Alabama in Atlanta. The offense must replace Dalvin Cook and hope Deondre Francois blossoms as a sophomore in an offense lacking in returning starters but not in potential and talent. FSU’s defense will be in much better shape at the start of the year with a loaded unit with plenty of starting experience, highlighted by safety Derwin James.
2. Clemson (14-1, ACC champion, won College Football Playoff national championship vs. Alabama)
To say Clemson football lost its identity with the departure of so many key players from their championship run would be a slight exaggeration. Dabo Swinney is still the coach and the Tigers will still be a talented bunch despite having big shoes to fill. Expect Clemson to take a slight step back, but the Tigers will still be in the way of Florida State. They even get the Noles at home. Early back-to-back tests against Auburn (home) and Louisville (away) will give an early idea of whether or not there is a championship hangover with Clemson. With a stacked offensive line in gear, whoever takes over at quarterback (likely Kelly Bryant) should be protected.
3. Louisville (9-4, lost Citrus Bowl vs. LSU)
After the way last season ended, the theme to the 2017 season for the Cardinals should be something along the lines of “unfinished business.” The Cardinals dropped the last three games of the season, including a 26-point loss at Houston, a three-point loss to in-state rival Kentucky and a 20-point setback against LSU in the bowl game. After the red-hot start Lamar Jackson and the offense got off to, the end to the year was stunning. Jackson still won the Heisman Trophy and the schedule sets up well for another hot start this fall. But three new offensive line starters must be filled and the offense must cut down on turnovers if Louisville is to make a push in the division.
4. North Carolina State (7-6, won Independence Bowl vs. Vanderbilt)
If there is one thing to like about NC State in 2017, it will be the amount of starting experience the team brings back. This is especially true on the defensive side of the football where a front four led by defensive end Bradley Chubb and three other seniors could cause problems for even the best offenses in the ACC. The offensive line is also looking to be in solid shape with veteran starting experience across the line to protect junior quarterback Ryan Finley. Dave Doeren is in his fourth year with the program, and this one could be his best team yet.
5. Boston College (7-6, won Quick Lane Bowl vs. Maryland)
Head coach Steve Addazio could find himself back on the hot seat at some point this season, even after seemingly cool the temperature with a positive finish to the 2016 season to take into the offseason. The Eagles return a good number of starters on both sides of the football, but the talent gap between Boston College and some of the other teams in the division and conference is telling. Dual-threat quarterback Anthony Brown, a freshman, could provide a spark to the offense, but expect the Eagles to keep pounding the ball in the hands of running back Jon Hilliman. On defense, Boston College has one of the top defensive players in the ACC in defensive end Harold Landry and an experienced defensive mid and backfield to rely on.
6. Syracuse Orange (4-8)
Dino Babers has started to put together a game plan for the Orange with the idea of having a long way to go to restoring pride in the program. With some glimpses at what could be coming for the Orange showed last season (including an upset of Virginia Tech), Babers can count on having a roster returning nearly all of its starters from a year ago on both sides of the football, including quarterback Eric Dungey and linebacker Zaire Franklin. If experience counts for something, then the Orange could be in decent shape to get back to a bowl game. Getting to the postseason will be a challenge. After three winnable games to start the season, Syracuse plays at LSU and later must play games at Florida State and Louisville. They also have a crossover game against Miami to worry about.
7. Wake Forest (7-6, won Military Bowl vs. Temple)
The Demon Deacons could cause some trouble for most teams on their schedule, but Dave Clawson will have to overcome a good amount of youth on the roster this season in order to coach the team back to a bowl game. Wake Forest has struggled to score with an offense that fails to protect its quarterback and a running game that can easily be stopped at the line. The good news is Clawson feels this is the best offensive line he has had since coming to Wake Forest, although depth will be a significant concern. But at least there won’t be rogue radio broadcasters trying to sell off and distribute Wake Forest’s game plan this season, hopefully.
1. Miami (9-4 in 2016, won Russell Athletic Bowl vs. West Virginia)
Get ready to ask all of your college football friends a familiar question at some point this season. Is Miami back? The Hurricanes should take some steps forward as a program and could end up winning its first division since joining the ACC, but there is still a good amount of ground to makeup to be on the same level as Florida State and Clemson, and maybe Louisville. But in this division, anything could go. Miami will play some defense with linebacker Shaq Quarterman leading the charge, but the Hurricanes have a serious quarterback question following the loss of Brad Kaaya to the NFL. Florida State on the road is tricky, but home games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech could be good.
2. Virginia Tech (10-4, ACC Coastal champion, won Belk Bowl vs. Arkansas)
The defending division champs could just as easily get back to the ACC Championship Game this season, especially if redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson brings some versatility to the offense in Year 2 under head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies also have new starters at running back and tight end and a couple of spots on the offensive line, but the defense should be in solid shape with a load of experience at linebacker (hello there, Andrew Motupuaka). The Hokies have a tough November with road games at Miami and Georgia Tech and they draw Clemson in inter-divisional play. Regardless, this looks like a solid top 25 team.
3. Pittsburgh (8-5, lost Pinstripe Bowl vs. Northwestern)
The Pitt Panthers scored wins against the eventual national champions (Clemson) and Big Ten champions (Penn State), yet they lost a total of four games by seven points or fewer. Can the Panthers flip a few of those close calls the other way? Pitt must replace James Conner but running back Qadree Ollison can do some damage on the ground. Former USC quarterback Max Browne also takes over at quarterback with one of the top wide receivers in the ACC to throw to (Quadree Henderson). How it all comes together with a new offensive coordinator remains to be seen, and the schedule is not kind with non-conference matchups at Penn State and home vs. Oklahoma State and conference road trips to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech before closing out the year at home against Miami. But no Florida State, Clemson, or Louisville gives the Panthers as healthy a conference schedule as possible for a run to the division title.
4. Georgia Tech (9-4, won TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Kentucky)
Never underestimate a team coached by Paul Johnson. This is especially true when he returns a good number of starters. After closing out the 2016 season on a four-game winning streak, including a bowl victory over Kentucky, the Yellow Jackets are not to be taken lightly. In fact, Georgia Tech may be the best sleeper pick you will find in the ACC as they bring back the most experience in a division that always seems to be up for grabs. Georgia Tech’s running game will always be the strength of the team, which will help ease the pressure on a defense that is lacking in overall talent.
5. North Carolina (8-5, lost Sun Bowl vs. Stanford)
Everything about UNC appears to be a valid question this season. Can the defense keep improving under a new defensive coordinator? Can the offense work with a quarterback who struggled at times at LSU? Who is going to make plays for the team? After losing Mitch Trubisky to the NFL, the UNC Tar Heels will place the football in the hands of former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris this season. He may be handing off to a freshman running back with Michael Carter being molded to carry the load.Special teams is also a concern for UNC after losing key special teams players from last year like Ryan Switzer and T.J. Logan. This could be a rough season in Chapel Hill.
6. Duke (4-8)
The Blue Devils could look like a dangerous team as the season plays out, and there is a schedule that gives Duke an opportunity to turn some heads if they can manage to win a couple of home games against Northwestern and Baylor. But despite Duke’s recent trend of being a team that catches you off guard, the 2017 season could end up only marginally better in the win column than 2016 ended. David Cutcliffe will continue to develop quarterback Daniel Jones, but a lack of playmakers to throw the ball too means Duke’s offense won’t be likely to keep opposing defensive coordinators up all night leading up to a game. The defense returns linebackers Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, but the defense has concerns across the field as well. Getting to a bowl game this season would be a major accomplishment for Duke in 2017.
7. Virginia (2-10)
Virginia may still be in good hands with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, but he realized fairly quickly how much work was needed to make the Cavaliers competitive again. Virginia will have to take some baby steps forward as a program in 2017, because the player development and recruiting is going to take some time before Mendenhall has Virginia even thinking about going to a bowl game. Virginia will have to rely on a veteran-led defense to keep games close, and the scheduling gods have given Virginia a break with no crossover games against Clemson and Florida State, but they do have to go to Louisville and they travel to Boise State for a non-conference matchup. Virginia also misses Notre Dame on the rotation this season. Quarterback Kurt Benkert will look to have a rebound season after a rough 2016 season.
ACC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Florida State over Miami