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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Heisman Watch List

Heisman Trophy

And now we come to one of the most fruitless and frustrating portions of preview season: the preseason Heisman watch list.

Last year around this time, Johnny Manziel, fresh off becoming the first freshman to ever claim the Heisman, was being viewed as the co-favorite to become just the second-ever to stake his claim to a pair of stiff-armed trophies. AJ McCarron, still basking in the glow of becoming the first starting quarterback with back-to-back BCS title-game wins, was viewed as a potential challenger to Johnny Football. So too were Braxton Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and a whole host of other players.

And then, of course, Jameis Winston happened. A 35-1 longshot last August, Winston went on to claim the 2013 Heisman in near-record fashion, joining Manziel as the only freshmen to win the award.

Winston, as you can expect, will be the favorite heading into the 2014 season. Is there, though, another Jameis out there this year? Let’s take a snapshot look at the reigning winner as well as 20 players, in alphabetical order so as not to (gasp!) offend anyone, who could snatch the trophy from the preseason front-runner.

JAMEIS WINSTON, FLORIDA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 257-of-384 passing (66.9%) for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 88 carries for 219 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: There’s really not much to say here that hasn’t already been said.  Winston was the best player in college football last season, and also happened to play on the best team for good measure.  He’s lost a couple of weapons, but twice as many returned to go along with the obligatory growth of some of the younger skill players who should see their roles expand in 2014.  Also remember that Winston was in his first year as a starter; if his skill-set makes even a nominal jump, look out Archie Griffin… especially if he can avoid the negative off-field headlines.

AMEER ABDULLAH, NEBRASKA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 281 carries for 1,690 yards (6.0 ypc) and nine touchdowns; 26 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Unbeknownst to quite a number of people I’d suspect, Abdullah, not Melvin Gordon (see below) or anyone else, led the Big Ten in rushing last season.  As you can see by his receiving numbers, he’s quite adept at coming out of the backfield as well.  If you’re looking for a Heisman darkhorse, you could do worse than focusing on Abdullah as he will be the focal point of the Cornhuskers’ offense yet again..

RAKEEM CATO, MARSHALL, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 298-of-499 passing (59.7 %) for 3,916 yards, 39 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 99 carries for 294 yards (3.0 ypc) and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The first of two players on this list from non-Power Five conferences, and the one who has the best chance of crashing the December New York City Heisman party as a finalist.  The 2013 stats speak for themselves, and should do nothing but improve in 2014.  What separates Cato from the rest of the “have-not” pack is his team: there’s a very good chance that Cato and the Herd roll through the regular season unbeaten, and do so very, very easily.  Will the fact that exactly zero of the 12 opponents come from Power Five conferences impact Cato’s chances?  Possibly, but if the quarterback jabs voters in the face with a left-right combo of stats and team success, they won’t have a choice but to pay attention.

MIKE DAVIS, SOUTH CAROLINA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 203 carries for 1,183 yards (5.8 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; 34 receptions for 352 yards
QUICK HIT: One of the most underrated players in the country at any position, Davis will get the opportunity, especially early on, to carry more of the offensive workload as Dylan Thompson establishes his footing as the full-time starter for the first time.  As with Abdullah, his work in the passing game is an overlooked facet that provides an extra dimension for his offense — and another consideration for voters.

MELVIN GORDON, WISCONSIN, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 206 carries for 1,609 yards (7.8 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 10 yards
QUICK HIT: Gordon may not have led his conference in rushing as mentioned earlier, but he did lead the country in yards per carry for those backs with at least 200 carries.  In fact, he was one of just two running backs in the country who had 200-plus carries and averaged over seven yards a carry, with the other being Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (7.3).  With running mate James White (1,444 yards, 13 touchdowns) off to the NFL, the path is cleared for Gordon to double-up on his 2013 production — and I’m only slightly exaggerating.

TODD GURLEY, GEORGIA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 165 carries for 989 yards (6.0 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 37 receptions for 441 yards and six touchdowns
QUICK HIT: An injury cost this Bulldog three games in the month of October.  When healthy — and he’s expected to be just that to start the season — he’s arguably the most talented back in the country.  Add in Georgia being one of a handful of SEC teams breaking in new quarterbacks, and Gurley should be at or near the top of most Heisman watch lists throughout the season.

CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, PENN STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 231-of-392 passing (58.9%) for 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 49 carries for -68 yards (-1.9 ypc) and four touchdowns
QUICK HIT: One of just two true sophomores on this list, Hackenberg flourished under QB guru Bill O’Brien.  With O’Brien off to the NFL, how will Hackenberg handle new head coach James Franklin and an entirely different offensive system?  Based on watching a kid who just oozes talent and confidence, I’m guessing he’ll adapt just fine, thank you very much.

BRETT HUNDLEY, UCLA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 248-of-369 passing (67.2%) for 3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 160 carries for 748 yards (4.7 ypc) and 11 touchdowns; one reception for seven yards and a touchdown
QUICK HIT: All Hundley has done in two seasons as the Bruins’ starter is throw for over 6,800 yards and 53 touchdowns, all while completing a ridiculous 67-percent of his passes (nearly).  Oh, and he’s added more than 1,100 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on the ground for good measure.  If he’d have been putting up those numbers for a team that played in a conference east of the Mississippi, you could be looking at the biggest challenger to Winston’s crown.  Instead, you’re looking at a player still fighting for the respect he richly deserves.  Hopefully voters look west and beyond their narrow focus on a certain Duck if Hundley continues to put up the numbers he has.

MYLES JACK, UCLA, LB/RB
2013 STAT LINE: 75 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions, one return touchdown; 38 carries for 269 yards (7.0 ypc) and seven touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Jack is the other of the two true sophomores.  As a true freshman, he was a two-way highlight machine, finishing fifth on the Bruins in tackles while landing behind only Hundley in rushing touchdowns.  If Jack goes both ways again this year — and that appears to be the plan — and does it all season, there’s little doubt he’ll be on the tip of many a Heisman voter’s tongue come November.

DUKE JOHNSON, MIAMI, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 145 carries for 920 yards (6.3 ypc) and six touchdowns; four receptions for 77 yards; 14 kick returns for 396 yards (28.3 yards per return)
QUICK HIT: A devastating ankle injury cost Johnson the final five games of last season and sidelined him for all of spring practice as well.  Johnson, at 100-percent, can put scores on the board rushing, receiving and in the kick-return game.  A healthy Johnson will be a factor in both the ACC and Heisman races, especially given the very unsettled nature of The U’s quarterback situation.

CHUCKIE KEETON, UTAH STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 136-of-196 passing (69.4%) for 1,388 yards, 18 touchdowns, two interceptions; 55 carries for 241 yards (4.4 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: The second of just two non-Power Five conference players on the list.  Also one of the ones coming off a significant injury, one suffered in the sixth game of the year that cost the Aggie senior more than half the season.  If he can get back to the form he displayed in 2012… if USU can maintain its presence as a 10-win(ish) mid-major… if he can put on a show in Knoxville against Tennessee in the opener… if those three things take place, you never know.  Watching a potential mid-major between Keeton and Cato develop would be fascinating, though.

TAYLOR KELLY, ARIZONA STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 302-of-484 (63.4%) for 3,635 yards, 28 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 173 carries for 608 yards (3.5 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: If I were a gambling man, I’d bet you I’d put a little bit of money on Mr. Kelly and his 100/1 odds for the 2014 Heisman.  Call it a hunch.  Kelly has been flying underneath the national radar the last two seasons; entering his third year as a starter, he’s ready to break out and become a household name.  Again, a hunch.

TREVOR KNIGHT, OKLAHOMA, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 79-of-134 passing (59%) for 819 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions; 67 carries for 445 yards (6.6 ypc) and two touchdowns
QUICK HIT: This one may be the first real stretch in the group, so much so that I think I just felt something pop.  Which Knight will show up this year, the one who had issues hanging on to the job in his first season as a starter or the one that torched Alabama for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl?  From this vantage point, I’ll say somewhere in between, with a big jump the deeper we get into 2014 and on into the 2015 season.

SEAN MANNION, OREGON STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE:
QUICK HIT: One of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country statistically in 2013, Mannion was hamstrung by one simple fact — his seven-win Beavers were just a fair-to-middling squad.  If OSU can get closer to 10 wins than five, and Mannion can put up similar numbers — won’t be easy with the loss of Brandin Cooks — he should be on the radar through October and on into November.

MARCUS MARIOTA, OREGON, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 245-of-386 passing (63.5%) for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns; four interceptions; 96 carries for 715 yards (7.4 ypc) and nine touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Simply put, Mariota is one of the best — THE best in my opinion — quarterbacks in college football.  You’ve heard all of the well-deserved superlatives, so there’s no need for me to drop to my knees as well.  He’ll be a factor in the Heisman race from Game 1 through Game 12 and on into the Ducks’ (expected) appearance in the Pac-12 championship game.

NICK MARSHALL, AUBURN, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 142-of-239 passing (59.4%) for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns, six interceptions; 172 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns; one reception for 35 yards
QUICK HIT: Marshall’s first season as a starter wasn’t statistically overwhelming, but it was deadly in its efficiency.  Marijuana citation aside, Marshall is said to have had a very good offseason, improving his throwing mechanics and becoming more and more comfortable in Gus Malzahn‘s offense.  If true, and if the passing aspect of his game improves, that could prove to be bad news for the SEC in general and the West specifically.

BRAXTON MILLER, OHIO STATE, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 162-of-255 passing (63.5%) for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 171 carries for 1,068 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Miller improved in nearly every statistical category in his third season as a starter.  Entering his fourth year, it’s time for the 2013 preseason Heisman favorite to take the next step, which means becoming more of a passing quarterback and less of a running one.  A greater threat in the passing game while maintaining the “holy crap, he may take off” aspect of his run threat would prove to be a lethal combination that not many quarterback’s possess — and not many coordinators would stand a chance of counteracting.

TY MONTGOMERY, STANFORD, WR
2013 STAT LINE: 61 receptions for 958 yards (15.7 ypc) and 10 touchdowns; 36 kick returns for 1,091 yards (30.3 ypr)
QUICK HIT: Montgomery’s long-shot candidacy may have suffered a fatal blow before it even started as shoulder surgery leaves him questionable for the first two games of the year.  One missed game would all but end the candidacy; two missed games would kill it for a receiver.  Still, I felt, given the immense two-way talent Montgomery is, he at least deserved a mention.

BRYCE PETTY, BAYLOR, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 250-for-403 passing (62%) for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions; 94 carries for 209 yards (2.2 ypc) and 14 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: Along with Winston, Miller and Mariota, Petty is widely viewed as a quarter of the four-headed Heisman favorite.  While the passing yards and touchdowns certainly catch the eye, the fact that Petty threw just three picks in 403 attempts is enough to drop the jaw to the floor.  Art Briles‘ system just chugs along — at warp speed — year after year; don’t expect anything to change in Petty’s second year as the Bears’ triggerman.

KEENAN REYNOLDS, NAVY, QB
2013 STAT LINE: 68-of-128 passing (53.1%) for 1,057 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions; 300 carries for 1,346 yards (4.5 ypc) and 31 touchdowns
QUICK HIT: How could you not put a player like Reynolds on a list like this?  Yes, the Midshipmen have somewhat of a penchant for running the ball and utter disdain for throwing it, which means Reynolds won’t have the gaudy passing stats that catch a voter’s attention the way a set of jingling keys catches a toddler’s.  Still, any player with 31 rushing touchdowns — 31!!!!!! — in a single season deserves a shout-out.  Especially one who comes from one of our nation’s great service academies.

T.J. YELDON, ALABAMA, RB
2013 STAT LINE: 207 carries for 1,235 yards (6.0 ypc) and 14 touchdowns; 20 receptions for 183 yards
QUICK HIT: This bruising back has it all: speed, power, change of direction and surprisingly soft hands for a man his size.  He’s everything Nick Saban wants in a running back.  What he doesn’t have?  Sole ownership of the Tide’s running game load, the kind of ownership that would allow him to put up eye-catching numbers, because of the presence of Derrick Henry.  The reality is Henry is too good of a back and too much of a weapon to not utilize, which means Yeldon could still be one of the most Heisman-worthy players in the country and not have the stats to show it.  Such is life on Five-Star Island.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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SEC sets schedule for 2015 media days

Gus Malzahn

It’s March 3, but the 2015 college football season is (sort of) just around the corner.

The SEC, always the first out of the box with these things, announced its 2015 media days slate on Tuesday. The festival of football and frivolity begins July 13 (I swear it’ll be before July 4th by 2020) and ends July 16. That’s nearly two full months before the first games.

Most of the procedures are the same – Birmingham’s Wynfrey Hotel, SEC Network and ESPNU with 870 hours of live coverage – but the person unofficially kicking off the season will not be.

Monday, July 13
To-be-determined SEC commissioner
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Jim McElwain, Florida
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Tuesday, July 14
Steve Shaw, coordinator of officials
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Butch Jones, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 15
Nick Saban, Alabama
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Thursday, July 16
Les Miles, LSU
Mark Richt, Georgia
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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Report: Auburn LB Swain and punter leave program

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has yet to confirm the news, but multiple outlets are reporting he will be missing a couple of players for good. Linebacker Anthony Swain and punter Jimmy Hutchinson have reportedly left the team.

“I’m going to update our spring roster next Tuesday, so I’m going to wait until then and I’ll give you all the updates — not just with him, but with other people, too,” Malzahn said in a report by Al.com.

Both Swain and Hutchinson played mostly reserve roles on the Auburn roster. Swain put together 18 tackles and a sack during the 2014 season. Hutchinson was passed over for punting duties in favor of Daniel Carlson. His 22-yard punt against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl in January seems to be the last we will see of Hutchinson in an Auburn uniform. Why either player is leaving the program is unknown, or at least unconfirmed, at this time.

Swain had previously been in Malzahn’s doghouse for an undisclosed reason in the spring of 2014. He would eventually be reinstated by Malzahn after missing some spring practices.

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Idaho’s bowl ban has been lifted

Paul Petrino, Taylor Davis

The Idaho Vandals will be allowed to go to a postseason bowl game in the 2015 season, if they manage to reach the six-win minimum. The school released a statement confirming the football program has met the NCAA’s academic minimum in order to be eligible for postseason play. Idaho was banned from playing in the postseason last year for not meeting an academic progress report minimum as a program.

Idaho claims the football program’s latest APR score has been in the 950s and is projected to be in the 960s this year. The minimum APR score to participate in the postseason is 930 over a four-year period or 940 over a two-year period. Perhaps more costly to Idaho was the loss of practice time last season. The program was stripped of four hours of practice on a weekly basis as a result of the low APR scores. With the ban lifted, Idaho will also get back its ability to use a full practice schedule.

“We never make excuses, but that hurt. That’s big,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said.

Now Idaho just has to find a way to get to six wins in the fall in order to go to a bowl game. The program has not won more than one game in a season since 2011 and has not reached the six-win mark since 2010. Conference realignment has taken a toll on Idaho as well, stripping it of WAC membership as the conference crumbled and leaving the program to float as an independent before landing in the not so geographically friendly Sun Belt Conference. Now at least there is something to shoot for with the chance to play in a bowl game sitting there waiting to be taken by Idaho.

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Tressel says recruiting is key to keeping Michigan and Harbaugh in OSU’s rearview mirror

Michigan v Ohio State

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows a thing or two about the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Michigan, and he knows just how valuable having an edge in the series can be to a coach. With Jim Harbaugh taking over at Michigan this year the expectations are high for the Wolverines to start clawing back in the Big Ten, and perhaps lead Michigan to a more level playing field against their rivals across the state line.

“I think Jim Harbaugh will bring something to the Ohio State-Michigan storied rivalry,” Tressel said at a Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club event, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “He’s been successful wherever he’s been. He’s extremely hard-working. He has great pride in his alma mater.”

While the future may be bright for Michigan with Harbaugh leading the way, Tressel says Michigan should not be expected to catch up to Ohio State right away.

“Personally, I think they’re a ways away from being at the level where there’s going to be a Ten Year War. I think they’ve got some work to do to get to that. But if anyone can do it, Jim Harbaugh can. He’ll do a great job.”

Tressel also said the key to Ohio State maintaining an edge over the Wolverines (and anybody else in the Big Ten for that matter) is to lock down the top high school talent from within the state borders. Ohio is a state rich with football talent, and Ohio State tends to have the upper hand in those recruiting battles. That was the case when Tressel was head coach of the Buckeyes, and is the area Tressel thinks Ohio State needs to focus on to keep Michigan in the rearview mirror.

“How far behind (is Michigan)? It (depends) on how long that door stays closed,” Tressel said. “That’s the key. [Urban Meyer] will do a great job, they know how to win, they’ve got a great staff. But you’ve still got to keep it closed.”

Can Meyer lock the doors to Ohio’s recruits, or will Harbaugh have a key?

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Jim McElwain wants to turn Georgia into Gator Country

University of Florida Introduces Jim McElwain

You just have to love when a new coach takes over at a program and starts to try redrawing the recruiting borders. Of course, there are no boundaries when it comes to college football recruiting, but once a program crosses state lines things can get pretty tense, especially between rival schools.

As you might suspect, Florida head coach Jim McElwain is looking to win some more recruiting battles in the state of Georgia, and he and his staff have the connections to do just that. Florida added five players from the state of Georgia in the Class of 2015. Given how fertile the recruiting soil is in the state of Georgia, it only makes sense for Florida to try to tap the state whenever possible to add to the haul in can bring in from the sunshine state. In recruiting, it is all about having the connections in place.

“I think (it was due to a) couple of things,” McElwain told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited that area in the past. That obviously helps.”

McElwain is focused on setting up shop around Gainesville, and the net is fairly wide. Is it wide enough to turn Georgia into Florida territory? McElwain hopes that is the case.

“But for us, our thought is a five-hour radius of Gainesville,” McElwain said. “And with that being said, that (radius) goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

That should add some spice to the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

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Seven cities ready to bid for future College Football Playoff championship, seven more interested

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, South Florida, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara are among the cities expressing a desire to host a future College Football Playoff national championship game, but they may not be alone. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Arlington, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Orlando and Pasadena are other cities currently undecided but evaluating whether or not to place a formal bid. New Jersey has also expressed an interest.

The current games that are available for host bids are the 2018, 2019 and 2020 national championship games. Rather than designate the hosting duties to one specific host bowl game, as was the case under the BCS system, cities place bids for the title game similar to NFL Super Bowl bids. Cities have until late May to submit a bid proposal to the College Football Playoff. The cities winning the bid for one of the three championship games will be announced in October.

Cities can bid for a specific year’s championship game. South Florida reportedly will place a bid for the 2018 and 2020 games. The Orange Bowl in Miami is the host bowl for one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games in 2019. Minneapolis intends to apply for the 2019 and 2020 national championship games.

Last season’s national championship game was played in Arlington, Texas. This season’s championship game will be played in Glendale, Arizona. The 2017 championship game will move to Tampa, Florida.

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Toddler’s text among Ohio State’s 47 self-reported violations

Cute kid playing with cell phone

Many schools self-report numerous minor infractions to the NCAA on a regular basis. Ohio State has reported a total of 47 rules violations to the NCAA over the last year, and one of them may show just why parental controls on cell phones is a good idea.

Among the 47 violations reported by Ohio State to the NCAA is a text message to a recruit sent from the phone of wide receivers coach Zach Smith. But Smith says it was not he who sent the text, but his four-year old son. As the claim goes, Smith’s son picked up his phone when a recruit allegedly called the receivers coach. Upon picking up the phone, Smith’s son allegedly sent an automatic text reply.

Fortunately, the NCAA actually showed a good sense of humor about the whole incident and decided not to bother reviewing the case. But perhaps this should serve as a lesson about the importance of locking your phone and enabling any child-proof features on a phone for college football coaches.

The violations reported by Ohio State span all sports. According to The Lantern, just two are tied to the football program. In addition to the toddler text message, Ohio State reported a violation of impermissible on-campus contact in late September. Head coach Urban Meyer reportedly had contact with a junior college athlete on campus.

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Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska could gain advantage with Big Ten stipends

businessman with a burlap money bag

A new age in collegiate athletics is upon us with power conferences making a power play to provide more for student-athletes. That means power conference members handing out stipends to college athletes on top of a full scholarship to take care of other financial needs and obligations. How much each school will be able to provide to players will vary by school, and it is believed the divide within power conferences could widen between the top programs and the rest of the pack.

David Jones of The Patriot News dug into the numbers to see what the expected stipends for each Big Ten member could total. Based on the information made available by CollegeData.com, Penn State came out on top with a stipend of $4,788. Wisconsin’s stipend amount came out to $4,265 and Nebraska’s total added up to $3,544. Indiana ($3,036) and Maryland ($3,024) were the only other schools to have stipends over $3,000. By comparison, Ohio State’s stipend total is calculated to be $2,454. Michigan’s is $2,054 and Michigan State is at the bottom of the Big Ten with a stipend total of $1,872.

These numbers are subject to change and, as noted by Jones in his column, you should probably expect people like Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio to push internally for some adjustments in order to allow more stipend funds where possible. Otherwise, programs like Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and even Indiana and Maryland are going to have a nice recruiting chip up their sleeves that could have an impact with certain recruits.

Of course, Texas Athletics Director Steve Patterson previously went on record suggesting the Texas Longhorns could potentially hand out $10,000 stipends if it came to that point.

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BYU to discipline “10-ish” players for role in Miami Beach Brawl

Latanoa Pikula

The last we heard out of BYU regarding the ugly incident at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl against Memphis, BYU was not expected to release names of players serving suspensions or facing discipline for their role in a postgame melee in Miami. That has not changed, although BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has suggested the number of players facing some form of discipline will be in the double digits.

According to a report by Desert News, Mendenhall opened BYU’s spring practice by writing the word “discipline” on the whiteboard. The head coach of the Cougars later told reporters “10-ish” players will be disciplined for their actions following a bowl loss to Memphis. Specific suspensions may not be announced until the week of BYU’s season opener at Nebraska.

“We’ll try to maintain a competitive advantage as long as we can, and protect the kids as much as we can,” Mendenhall said in the report by Desert News. “I think everyone knows I thrive on accountability and don’t back away from it, especially at BYU. So I’m comfortable with who we’re disciplining and how. I’d like to protect our players as much as we can.”

For what it is worth, Memphis has suspended 12 players for their part in the brawl although names and length of suspension terms have not been disclosed to the public at this time. The disciplinary actions taking by Memphis have been endorsed by the American Athletic Conference as well.

BYU opens the 2015 season on September 5 at Nebraska of the Big Ten. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.

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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

USC v Minnesota

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”

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UNC hires Huskers DB coach Warren to fill vacancy

North Carolina has hired away Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to the same job in Chapel Hill. UNC announced the staff hiring Monday.

Warren was Nebraska’s defensive backs coach in 2014, but he had served on the coaching staff at Air Force prior to that. Warren is an Air Force graduate. Warren has a connection to Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora was an assistant with Air Force when Warren was playing for Air Force in 1997 and 1998.

Warren’s departure from Nebraska is not exactly to be unexpected given coaching turnover in Lincoln, although Warren was the only coach retained from the Bo Pelini regime by new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

North Carolina is in need of improving its defense, and the additions to the coaching staff this offseason appear to be addressing that need. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn national championship head coach Gene Chizik to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in one of the more notable assistant coaching hires of the year.

North Carolina finished last in the 14-team ACC in passing defense in 2014, allowing 257.4 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.35, which is 10 points higher than the next worst opponent passer rating allowed in the ACC (Syracuse, 140.08).

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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