CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 24 Boise State

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2013 record: 8-5 overall, 6-2 in Mountain West (2nd in Mountain division/tied 3rd in conference)
2013 postseason: Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl vs. Oregon State Beavers  (38-23 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Not ranked
Head coach: Bryan Harsin (7-5 overall; first season at Boise State)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Sanford (first season)
2013 offensive rankings: 33rd rushing offense (198.3 ypg); 27th passing offense (277.7 ypg); 20th total offense (476 ypg); 19th scoring offense (37.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Marcel Yates (first season)
2013 defensive rankings: 64th rushing defense (164.2 ypg); 88th passing defense (249.2 ypg);  75th total defense (413.4 ypg); 50th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Boise, Idaho
Stadium: Albertsons Stadium (36,387; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2012

THE GOOD
The Broncos’ skill positions are talented and athletic. Quarterback Grant Hedrick returns at the team’s starting quarterback. Hedrick played in all 13 games last year and threw 16 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Hedrick is rejoined in the backfield by running back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi finished second in the Mountain West Conference last year with 1,425 rushing yards. And the team’s top two receivers from last season, Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes, are also back. Miller finished last year strong with 540 receiving yards in the final four games, including a 206-yard effort against the Oregon State Beavers in the Hawai’i Bowl. The Broncos had to reshuffle their offensive line in the off season, but if they can keep Hendrick upright the Broncos will be able to score plenty of points.

THE BAD
During Chris Petersen’s eight-year tenure as head coach, last season’s defense was by far the worst unit statistically. On top of that, the unit lost a dynamic pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence to the NFL. And key pieces such as Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe, Kharyee Marshall and Tyler Gray left after exhausting their eligibility. Last year’s group had to grow after returning four starters from the 2012 campaign. The silver lining to last year’s defensive struggles is this year’s unit is far more experienced entering the season. New defensive coordinator Marcel Yates has eight returning starters. Yates returns to Boise State after a two-year stint as Texas A&M’s co-defensive coordinator. The Aggies finished 109th in total defense last season.

THE UNKNOWN
Boise State has a new football coach for the first time since 2006. Now that Petersen finally accepted one of the rumored jobs he was so often linked to — in this case, the Unversity of Washington — the school turned toward one of its prodigal sons, Bryan Harsin. Harsin, a graduate of Boise State, served on the Broncos’ staff from 2001-10 before leaving to become the offensive coordinator at the University Texas. Harsin used Texas as a stepping stone to get his first head coaching gig at Arkansas State. Harsin spent one year leading the Red Wolves, and the team finished 7-5. Harsin is a young coach that hasn’t had much time to establish himself or an identity, and Boise State took a chance in hiring him. If Harsin blossoms like Petersen did when given the opportunity, the Broncos will continue to be successful. Otherwise, a step back will take the program out of the national spotlight.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Ole Miss, Aug. 28
The Broncos built their reputation over the past decade by stepping up big in spotlight games. For most teams, the first game of the season usually isn’t considered a “must win” contest. Most teams aren’t in the Broncos’ situation. For the Broncos to return to national prominence, they’ll need to prove they can beat a talented SEC squad during a national televised game to start the season.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Jay Ajayi
It’s been five years since a running back won the Heisman Trophy, and only two workhorses have been handed the hardware since the turn of the century. In a sport that is consistently more about spreading defenses and throwing the football, elite running backs tend to get overlooked. Ajayi, however, is a dark horse candidate to win the award due to a nose for the end zone and punishing running style. The 216-pound back is the nation’s fifth-leading returning rusher with 1,425 yards in 2013. Ajayi is also tied for first among returning backs with 18 rushing touchdowns. Boise State has multiple games slotted in prime time. If Ajayi shines in the spotlight and the Broncos make another run toward a major bowl appearance, Ajayi could work his way into legitimate Heisman contention.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Shea Patterson announces transfer to Michigan, helping Wolverines solve QB riddle

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One of the continued frustrations of Michigan’s offense since the hiring of Jim Harbaugh has been the lack of play at the quarterback position. In 2018, that may not be quite the uphill climb it was this season. Shea Patterson is heading to Ann Arbor.

Patterson announced his decision to leave Ole Miss for Michigan with a released statement, via Twitter. Patterson thanked Ole Miss coaches, teammates and more in his brief statement.

Patterson may be eligible to play right away for Michigan. Because Ole Miss is under sanctions from the NCAA, seniors on the team were granted a free transfer without having to sit out a season. Patterson, a sophomore, would be required to have a waiver approved in order to be ruled eligible right away in 2018. Winning that immediate eligibility may just be a mere formality as players look to challenge their transfer restrictions from Ole Miss.

Regardless of the transfer eligibility for 2018, Michigan is landing a solid quarterback recruit one way or the other. Patterson passed for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns this season with nine interceptions in seven games. His 2017 season was cut short due to a knee injury.

Iowa safety Brandon Snyder arrested for drunk driving

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Iowa safety Brandon Snyder spent the early Sunday hours in a jail cell after being arrested for drunk driving. After being pulled over just after 3:00 a.m. in the morning on Sunday, Snyder admitted to drinking and failed a breathalyzer test.

“We are aware of the incident involving Brandon,” a statement from Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “While we are currently gathering additional facts, we are very disappointed to learn of Brandon’s involvement. Brandon is subject to the rules and regulations of the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, and the rules and regulations of our football program.”

Snyder was not expected to play in Iowa’s appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl this season due to injury, but it remains to be seen just what his official status will be in light of this weekend’s legal trouble.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, the 22-year old was pulled over near Kinnick Stadium. The police report notes Snyder was wearing multiple wristbands, suggesting he made a couple of stops to consume alcohol during the course of the night. He was released from a county jail at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.

AP All-American Team highlighted by Mayfield and Sooners on First Team

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The Oklahoma Sooners will bring three AP First Team All-Americans into the College Football Playoff this year, including Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press on Monday, and he is joined by fellow Sooners offensive tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, and Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell were also named to the AP’s First Team to combine to match Oklahoma’s First Team total. Other First Team All-Americans included Heisman finalist and Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love of Stanford, Biletnikoff Award winner James Washington. Lombardi Award winner Saquon Barkley of Penn State was named to the First Team as an all-purpose player, and the nation’s leading rusher, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State joined Love as a First Team running back.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma.

Running backs — Bryce Love, junior, Stanford; Rashaad Penny, senior, San Diego State.

Tackles — Orlando Brown, junior, Oklahoma; Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame.

Guards — Quenton Nelson, senior, Notre Dame; Braden Smith, senior, Auburn.

Center — Billy Price, senior, Ohio State.

Tight end — Mark Andrews, junior, Oklahoma.

Receivers — James Washington, senior, Oklahoma State; Anthony Miller, senior, Memphis.

All-purpose player — Saquon Barkley, junior, Penn State.

Kicker — Matt Gay, junior, Utah.

DEFENSE

Ends — Bradley Chubb, senior, North Carolina State; Clelin Ferrell, sophomore, Clemson.

Tackles — Hercules Mata’afa, junior, Washington State; Maurice Hurst, senior, Michigan.

Linebackers — Roquan Smith, junior, Georgia; Josey Jewell, senior, Iowa; T.J. Edwards, junior, Wisconsin.

Cornerbacks — Josh Jackson, junior, Iowa; Denzel Ward, junior, Ohio State.

Safeties — Minkah Fitzpatrick, junior, Alabama; DeShon Elliott, junior, Texas.

Punter — Michael Dickson, junior, Texas.

———————-

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville.

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, freshman, Wisconsin; Kerryon Johnson, junior, Auburn.

Tackles — Mitch Hyatt, junior, Clemson; Isaiah Wynn, senior, Georgia.

Guards — Cody O’Connell, senior, Washington State; Will Hernandez, senior, UTEP.

Center — Bradley Bozeman, senior, Alabama.

Tight end — Troy Fumagalli, senior, Wisconsin.

Receivers — David Sills V, junior, West Virginia; Michael Gallup, senior, Colorado State.

All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, senior, Washington.

Kicker — Daniel Carlson, senior, Auburn.

DEFENSE

Ends — Sutton Smith, sophomore, Northern Illinois; Nick Bosa, sophomore, Ohio State.

Tackles — Ed Oliver, sophomore, Houston; Christian Wilkins, junior, Clemson.

Linebackers — Malik Jefferson, junior, Texas; Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, senior, Oklahoma; Dorian O’Daniel, senior, Clemson.

Cornerbacks — Jalen Davis, senior, Utah State; Carlton Davis, junior, Auburn.

Safeties — Derwin James, junior, Florida State; Justin Reid, junior, Stanford.

Punter — Johnny Townsend, senior, Florida.

———————-

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State.

Running backs — Ronald Jones II, junior, Southern California; Devin Singletary, sophomore, Florida Atlantic.

Tackles — David Edwards, sophomore, Wisconsin; Jonah Williams, sophomore, Alabama.

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, junior, Wisconsin; Tyrone Crowder, senior, Clemson.

Center — Frank Ragnow, senior, Arkansas.

Tight end — Jaylen Samuels, senior, North Carolina State.

Receivers — Steve Ishmael, senior, Syracuse; A.J. Brown, sophomore, Mississippi.

All-purpose player — D.J. Reed, junior, Kansas State.

Kicker — Eddy Piniero, junior, Florida.

DEFENSE

Ends — Austin Bryant, junior, Clemson; Mat Boesen, senior, TCU.

Tackles — Vita Vea, junior, Washington; Harrison Phillips, senior, Stanford.

Linebackers — Micah Kiser, senior, Virginia; Tremaine Edmunds, junior, Virginia Tech; Devin Bush, sophomore, Michigan.

Cornerbacks — Andraez Williams, redshirt freshman, LSU; Jack Jones, sophomore, Southern California.

Safeties — Armani Watts, senior, Texas A&M; Quin Blanding, senior, Virginia.

Punter — Mitch Wisnowsky, junior, Utah.

Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead declares for NFL Draft

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After three seasons in a Pitt football uniform, safety Jordan Whitehead is ready to turn pro. Whitehead announced his intention to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft on Monday morning with a brief statement.

“After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to begin preparing for the next step in my career and enter the 2018 NFL Draft,” Whitehead said in a released statement, via Twitter. “It has been an honor and a privilege to play for this university, Coach [Pat Narduzzi], and this coaching staff for the past three years. I would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, but feel I am ready to take the next step in achieving my dreams.”

The former ACC Rookie of the Year and three-time All-ACC player will be one of the top underclassmen at the safety position on the NFL Draft board in the spring. He is the second Pitt player to declare for the NFL a year early, joining wide receiver Quadree Henderson in doing so.

Whitehead had one interception and 60 tackles in nine games this season. Whitehead also picked up some assignments in the running game and special teams, showcasing his ability to contribute in a variety of ways for the Panthers, and that could be used to improve his draft outlook moving forward.