Leonard Fournette

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

7 Comments

College football recruiting can be a cutthroat business. Every coaching staff is looking for the one player that can change the fortunes of its program.

In recent years, college football fans have seen freshmen such as Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston take their programs to the next level.

Incoming players now hold leverage when teams are recruiting them due to the program’s willingness to do nearly anything — within NCAA guidelines, of course — to acquire these types of game-changing talent. The promise that is most often made revolves around early playing time. More freshmen than ever are given starting spots from the moment they step on campus.

There will undoubtedly be numerous freshmen CFT could have pegged to make an impact this season. There will certainly be plenty left off this list that will. But here are the Top 10 impact freshmen we’ve identified entering the season:

1. LEONARD FOURNETTE, LSU, RB
This is the easy choice. Fournette was considered, at least by one of the major recruiting services, as the No. 1 recruit in the country. At 6-1 and 226 pounds, Fournette is a tailor-made running back for the SEC and LSU’s offense. Fournette also benefits from the Tigers losing two of the team’s top three leading rushers to the NFL. Fournette will still surrender some carries to Kenny Hillard and Terrence Magee, but the freshman is expected to get the bulk of the work. Another benefit for Fournette is playing in LSU’s run-heavy offense. The Tigers ran the ball 62 percent of the time in 2013. They should be expected to do the same behind the team’s massive offensive line.

2. CAM ROBINSON, ALABAMA, OT
During spring practice, the Crimson Tide held a competition at left tackle to replace Cyrus Kouandjio. Robinson, an early enrollee, was able to step in and claim the top spot on the depth chart. Very few offensive linemen are physically ready to start from Day 1, particularly at left tackle. Robinson, however, has a combination of size (6-6, 323 pounds) and athleticism that makes him a rare exception to the rule. Alabama head coach Nick Saban already complimented Robinson by stating, “He’s a very good pass blocker.” Whichever quarterback starts behind center this year for the Crimson Tide will know they have one of the most talented freshmen blocking their blindside.

3. RAEKWON MCMILLAN, OHIO STATE, LB
Since Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State, the coach’s goal was to become faster and more athletic on both sides of the football. Linebacker, in particular, was a sore spot for the team. Depth and play-making ability were lacking sans Ryan Shazier. While McMillan has yet to earn a starting spot, Ohio State’s coaching staff clearly has high expectations for the freshman. At the start of fall camp, McMillan was practicing with the the team’s veterans instead of with the other freshmen. Meyer stated his reason behind doing so was because McMillan acts like a “grown man.” A grown man that will eventually be asked to fill the role vacated by Shazier.

4. JABRILL PEPPERS, MICHIGAN, CB
The Wolverines’ defense was far too prone to giving up big plays against the pass last season. Peppers has the potential to be a dynamic play maker in the secondary to combine with the experience returning  at cornerback in Blake Countess and Ramon Taylor. Peppers’ athleticism projects to multiple positions in the secondary. He’s a cornerback by trade, but the Wolverines could start him at free safety to let him roam the field. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison could use him as the team’s nickel corner. Or he can do all of the above. Where the Wolverines will use Peppers will be decided throughout fall camp.

5. K.D. CANNON, BAYLOR, WR
The Baylor Bears can never have too much talent at wide receiver. Four of the team’s top five targets from last season return this fall. Although, there is one key omission. The team will be without the services Tevin Reese, who was a dynamic deep threat. Cannon has the potential to fill the role Reese left behind and take the top off of defenses.

6. DA’SHAWN HAND, ALABAMA, DE
Hand, who was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2014 class by Rivals.com, may have been a little higher on this list if not for the depth Alabama already has along its defensive line. Although, with A’Shawn Robinson’s status currently up in the air, Hand should benefit from extra repetitions in camp and may be asked to make a bigger impact in the fall than initially anticipated.

7. JALEN TABOR, FLORIDA, CB
A year ago, Florida fans wondered how Vernon Hargreaves III would assimilate into the Gators’ lineup. For Hargreaves, it was a seamless transition, and he quickly developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the country. Florida’s coaching staff hopes Tabor will have a similar learning curve. The freshman will have an opportunity to prove himself after Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins and Marcus Roberson left Florida for the NFL.

8. KYLE ALLEN, TEXAS A&M, QB
The last time Texas A&M had a freshman start at quarterback, he went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Granted, it was “Johnny Football” and he was a redshirt freshman, but these are the footsteps in which Allen will have to follow. Allen was considered the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation. Expectations will be very high for him to play this season, but he still has to beat out Kenny Hill for the starting spot.

9. QUIN BLANDING, VIRGINIA, S
Blanding has the potential to make a bigger impact on his particular program than anyone else on this list. Despite a 2-10 season last year, Blanding became the catalyst for a tremendous recruiting class for the Cavaliers. Blanding, a five-star recruit, has received first-team repetitions from the start of fall camp. If Blanding becomes the level of defender the Cavaliers expect, he can help push the entire program in the right direction.

10. ALLEN LAZARD, IOWA STATE, WR
When one is looking for impact freshmen, the first stop usually isn’t Ames, Iowa. Lazard is a completely different story. He chose Iowa State, because his brother was already on the roster. While the Cyclones are quite talented at wide receiver, there will be plenty of balls to go around in a passing offense under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Lazard will be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Derwin James, FSU’s freshman All-American DB, undergoes ‘minor’ foot surgery

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Kelvin Taylor #21 of the Florida Gators attempts to run past Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With rumors swirling around one of the top young defensive playmakers on Florida State’s roster, there’s some relatively positive news to report on that front.

Warchant.com reported that Derwin James did indeed undergo surgery on his foot two weeks ago to repair what was described as a small fracture.  The good news is that the procedure is described as being “minor” in nature.  Even better?  The timeline for a return of 4-5 weeks.

From the Rivals.com website:

With the start of football practice scheduled for August 9, which is right at four weeks following surgery, the Noles’ second-leading tackler from 2015 is expected to be able to participate. And he should be 100 percent recovered with no limitations in time for the second week of practice.

James was the most heralded member of FSU’s 2015 recruiting class, a five-star prospect rated as the No. 5 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.  And, suffice to say, James lived up to the plaudits.

As a true freshman, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94.  He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists.

Family of LSU kicker injured in crash that killed Neb., MSU punters ‘sincerely appreciates outpouring of support’

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 08: Colby Delahoussaye #42 of the LSU Tigers kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide during a game at Tiger Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A statement from Colby Delahoussaye expressed thanks for all of the thoughts and prayers he had received since the weekend.  Friday, his family expressed a similar sentiment.

On their way home from a kicking camp Saturday night, Cornhuskers punter Sam Foltz and ex-Spartans punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident as they were driving through a severe thunderstorm in Wisconsin.  Additionally, LSU placekicker Colby Delahoussaye, a backseat passenger in the Mercedes driven by Sadler, was injured in the crash that claimed the players’ lives.

In a statement, the Delahoussaye family said it “sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support for Colby since the accident” while also reminding people to “continue to pray for the families of Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz during this very difficult time.”

Our family sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support for Colby since the accident last weekend. The number of calls, emails and text messages that we have received from people throughout the country has been overwhelming and much appreciated. Colby is in good hands with treatment to his injuries and he’s making progress with his recovery.

“We ask that you continue to pray for the families of Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz during this very difficult time. Mike and Sam were wonderful young men who Colby had great admiration for. Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Delahoussaye sustained burns to his legs and lacerations that required stitches, but it’s the former injury that’s being credited with saving his life.

“All he remembers is that the fire was burning his leg and that woke him up,” Dwayne Delahoussaye, told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “He was knocked unconscious. The burning sensation revived him. That’s all he remembers. He doesn’t even know how he got out. He doesn’t know where he crawled out of.”

In 2013 and 2014, Delahoussaye, a senior walk-on with the Tigers, converted on a combined 24-of-29 field goal attempts.  He was replaced last season by Trey Domingue, who announced earlier this month that he was transferring from LSU after his scholarship wasn’t renewed before confirming this weekend that he’ll be continuing his collegiate playing career at Texas.

It’s unknown if Delahoussaye, expected to be the Tigers’ primary placekicker this season, will be healthy enough to participate in the start of summer camp, which kicks off early next month.

Suspended A&M assistant Jim Turner no stranger to controversy

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:  Offensive line coach, Jim Turner, of the Miami Dolphins coaches his players before their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

When it comes to being offensive, Jim Turner seems to have all of the bases covered.

Turner was one of two Texas A&M assistant coaches suspended two weeks without pay by head coach Kevin Sumlin Friday for a train wreck of a presentation at a women’s football clinic.  Photos leaked to various media outlets showed a slide show with various “pass-blocking rules” that included such helpful tips as “spread your legs,” “enter-front/not-behind, “get erect,” “stay erect” and “bang him hard.”

Turner came to the Aggies after a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.  Turner was fired by the NFL club after getting swept up in the maelstrom that was the Dolphins’ bullying and harassment scandal.  Turner subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming “his reputation and career have been unfairly affected” by the reports commissioned by the NFL.

One particular portion of the report has been making its way around the Internet, and it casts and more negative light on the current situation involving Turner.

Turner was aware of the running “joke” that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting. Around Christmas 2012, Coach Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. The gifts included inflatable female dolls for all of the offensive linemen except Player A, who received a male “blow-up” doll. [Jonathan] Martin and another player reported that they were surprised Coach Turner did this; Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it. Incognito and others agreed that this incident with Coach Turner occurred. When interviewed, Turner was asked if he gave Player A a male blow-up doll. He replied, “I can’t remember.”

“We want to sincerely apologize to the passionate Aggie fans and to women everywhere for our failed attempt at humor during this week’s Aggie Football Chalk Talk and fundraiser,” a statement from Turner and the other suspended assistant, special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Jeff Banks, began. “We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program or our Department. We must do better, and we will.”

Ex-A&M All-American Antonio Armstrong, wife shot and killed, 16-year-old son charged with murder

Antonio Armstrong
Texas A&M athletics
Leave a comment

Sadly, tragedy has hit the Texas A&M football program in one of the most gut-punching, heartbreaking ways imaginable.

Early Friday morning, Houston police were called to the home of Antonio Armstrong to investigate a shooting.  At the Bellaire-area home, police found Armstrong’s wife, Dawn, dead and Armstrong critically wounded with a gunshot wound to the head in their bed.

Armstrong was taken to a local hospital and was initially listed in critical condition before succumbing to the injuries later on Friday.

Adding to the tragedy, police have charged the Armstrong’s 16-year-old son with two counts of juvenile murder.  The daughter of Antonio and Dawn was in the home at the time of the shooting, but she was not injured.  A third child was not believed to be in the home.

Homicide investigators have said there was no history of domestic violence, and police had never been called to the home.

Armstrong, who went by the surname “Shorter” for the first three years of his Aggie football career, played at A&M from 1991-94, earning first-team All-American honors his senior season.  He was also a semifinalist for the Butkus Award that year, and was named All-SWC twice.

“Antonio was a special young man,” Armstrong former head coach, R.C. Slocum, said in a statement. “He was an All-American and an outstanding player, but he was an even better person. He was such a positive influence on his teammates. He always had a great big smile and was a joy to coach.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Antonio Armstrong and his family and the entire Aggie family,” a statement from current A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin began. “Our strength coach Larry Jackson was a teammate of Antonio’s and thought the world of him.

“This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts are broken.”

After injuries ended his pro career after a few seasons, Armstrong went on to become a fitness instructor, motivational speaker and associate pastor.  He and his wife ran First Class Training, a gym in Bellaire.

Below is Armstrong’s A&M bio provided by the school:

Was a cornerstone of the Texas A&M Wrecking Crew defense for four seasons from 1991-94 … Earned first-team Associated Press All-America honors as a linebacker as a senior in 1994 and was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to college football’s top linebacker … earned first-team All-Southwest Conference honors in 1993 and 1994 … Earned Defensive Player of the Game honors in the 1994 Cotton Bowl (vs. Notre Dame) … was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers in 1995 … Armstrong never lost a game on Kyle Field and helped the Aggies extend the nation’s then-longest home winning streak to 26 games … Armstrong led the SWC in QB sacks and tackles for losses as a senior in 1994 … finished his career with 154 total tackles, including 18 QB sacks and 31 total tackles for loss of yardage.